Saturday, April 01, 2023

2023.04.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 20:1–16

Read Acts 20:1–16

Questions from the Scripture text: What had just ceased in Acts 20:1? Who called whom? What did he do to them? Where did he go? What were his travels there (Acts 20:2)? What was he doing as he went over the region? To where, then, did he come? How long did he stay in Greece (Acts 20:3)? Who plotted against him at that point? Where was he about to sail? Through where did he decide to return instead? Who accompanied him (Acts 20:4)? To where? From what three places are some of these companions mentioned? Where did they go and wait (Acts 20:5)? Where did Paul and Luke stay (Acts 20:6)? When did they leave there? How? How long did it take them to get to Troas? How long did they stay there? On which day do Acts 20:7-16 take place? Where did disciples go on that day? To do what? What was Paul ready to do, though he wouldn’t do it on that day? Until when did he preach? How were they able to sustain this (Acts 20:8)? Where was Eutychus (Acts 20:9)? What sort of person was he? What was happening to him? What finally happened? What did Paul keep doing? What happened to Eutychus? Where did Paul go (Acts 20:10)? What did Paul do? What did he say? Then where did he go (Acts 20:11)? And what did he do? And what did he do after the supper? For how long? Until what? What did he do at daybreak? What did they do with Eutychus (Acts 20:12)? With what effect? Where did Luke and the others go in Acts 20:13? Who would they pick up there? How did he get there? To where did they then sail (Acts 20:14)? And to where did they come when (Acts 20:15a)? And where, when, after that (verse 15b)? And when, where, after that (verse 15c)? Why Miletus (Acts 20:16a)? Where was he now going to skip spending time? To hurry where? By when?

What does the apostolic keeping of the Lord’s Day look like? Acts 20:1–16 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these sixteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the apostolic keeping of the Lord’s Day involved preparing beforehand so that the entire day might be kept in worship that climaxes in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. 

We already know (cf. Acts 19:21) that Paul plans to go from Ephesus, through Macedonia, to Achaia (Greece, cf. Acts 20:3) before he heads to Jerusalem, and that after that the Spirit has revealed that he will see Rome. The “trip” to Jerusalem takes a year, including the three months in Greece. He leaves Ephesus at the time of the Feast of Weeks (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:8), and he is hoping to be back in Jerusalem by the same time the next year (cf. Acts 20:16). 

The bulk of the passage, however, is spent on the minority of the time. It is already at least 5 days after the end of the Passover feast by the time he gets to Troas, so by Acts 20:7 there are just four weeks left to try to get to Jerusalem. The duration notations throughout the entire text communicate the urgency and efficiency of this travel.

How the apostle spent his time. Somewhere in the range of 6–7 months are spent in Macedonia “going over the region and encouraging them with many words.” It is the Word, through which we are sanctified and strengthened. Churches are strengthened through the strengthening of the souls of the disciples. This work is presented as a summary of Paul’s entire life for those months. We have seen him do this several times before (cf. Acts 14:21–23, Acts 15:41, Acts 16:5).

In fact, after three months in Corinth, he’s about to sail back to Syria, and a plot of the Jews convinces him to go on foot through Macedonia instead (Acts 20:3). So, back again he goes through Berea, Thessalonica, Derbe, and Philippi in Macedonia before sailing from Philippi. Along the way, men from those places were sent forward to Troas. Truly, for Paul, to live was Christ, and he was going to squeeze as much ministry as he could even out of his travel time.

How the apostle spent the Lord’s Day. From the resurrection of Christ on, our English Bibles translate a phrase that is quite literally “first of the Sabbaths” as “first day of the week” (Acts 20:7). But the common Greek had a different word for “week,” and the word “Sabbath” appears in the plural in all of the New Testament occurrences of this phrase. It seems, rather, that this was a title applied to the Christian Sabbath as “the first of the Sabbaths” or maybe “the first day Sabbath.” We know from Revelation 1:10 that what the late first century and early second century church commonly called “the Lord’s Day” was already called that by the end of the apostolic period.

In the languages of many Christian nations, the memory of one of these phrases is retained in the name for the day. But whether believers call it “the first day Sabbath,” or “the Christian Sabbath,” or “the Lord’s Day” or perhaps something not at all from the Bible (as many Americans today do), it is even more important that they see the way that the apostle and the apostolic church kept it follows closely upon how the Lord Jesus had kept the Sabbath prior to His own resurrection (cf. Luke 4:16–44; cp. Exodus 20:9; Leviticus 23:3; Isaiah 58:6–14).

Coming together to break bread. The breaking of the bread doesn’t take place until after midnight (Acts 20:11). We may suppose that there was other eating taking place (cp. 1 Corinthians 11:22, 1 Corinthians 11:34). The phrase “coming together to break bread” refers to that bread-breaking which is a primary purpose for their coming together: the Lord’s Supper (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:20). What will take just a few moments is described as the reason the disciples come together in Acts 20:7.

And so the whole day is a day for communion with God, and particularly communion with the Lord Jesus Christ as our God and our Savior. The cup that we bless is the communion of the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is the communion of the body of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16). 

Preparation for communion. We do much to be prepared for communion. One of the main things is to constantly eliminate the leaven of sin and be preparing the un-leaven of sincerity and truth (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7–8). We love to live for Him as we act upon His creation, so that we may come with a clear conscience whenever we come to act upon the Creator, Who is now our Redeemer, our new and heavenly life. 

So, there is a sense in which the whole Christian life is a preparation of communion. And that which is true on a weekly basis also applies to our life on earth viewed as a whole. Believers are pursuing holiness and purity (cf. Hebrews 12:1–3, Hebrews 12:11, Hebrews 12:14; 1 John 3:2–3; Colossians 3:1–4) in anticipation of when we will be present with Christ (2 Corinthians 4:17–5:9).  

But there is also a very practical form of preparation for a full day of communion with God. The apostle was ready by the end of the 7th day for what he was going to do at the beginning of the 2nd day: “ready to depart the next day” (Acts 20:7b). Apparently, so was the rest of the congregation, for they rather literally spent the entire  day. 

Though this has an exemplary quality to it, the Scripture gives us reason to believe that getting a healthful amount of sleep on the Sabbath is a right part of consecration just as much as is eating when hungry, so that they might have unbroken fellowship with the Lord Jesus (cf. Luke 6:1–5). Still, by telling us that the Corinthians were to be doing at home what would enable them to do well when they came together, and that the apostle and church from Troas made such preparations, the Spirit makes plain to us that we should be prepared for the Lord’s Day. We should be doing such things as eating rightly and getting everything ready for the day that follows the Lord’s day in order to be in bed in time the night before to be well-rested for a good, long Lord’s Day together in communion with Him.

Communion in the Word. Although Acts 20:7 describes them as “coming together to break bread,” the Lord’s Supper is not the primary fellowship of their time together. Rather, the time is spent primarily in hearing preaching. Paul sermon goes until midnight. 

How can they go this long? People can get up and do what is necessary. We mustn’t think that Paul himself didn’t take any breaks. Someone, for instance, took the time to light the lamps in Acts 20:8. Certainly many babies and toddlers were attended to in many ways. It is a weird sort of exegesis that assumes that unless there are children specifically mentioned that they were absent from a household or from a congregational assembly. They may well have been in the majority.

One young man in particular becomes famous for being overcome by a deep sleep and falling from the third story. The congregation’s communion in the Word is so central to the day that the resuscitation of the dead youth is accomplished quickly (and not even completely verified until the apostle has departed) so that the congregation will not trouble itself from hearing the sermon (Acts 20:7), taking the Lord’s Supper together (Acts 20:11a), and continuing to hear the sermon until daybreak.

Here is the great way of fellowship with God and the great way of Lord’s Day fellowship with one another: hearing and considering the Scriptures together under those whom the Lord has sent to proclaim them to us.

Which 24 hours? That a day is what we call 24 hours is indisputable. Many rebellious or confused have tried, but such folly does not actually call the truth into question. A day is that which is punctuated by an evening and a morning; it is the unit of which there are six of one sort in a week, and one of the other sort. The Spirit applies this both to the creation week and the weekly Sabbath. 

And, we can see when the apostle’s keeping of this 24 hour Lord’s Day is complete. At daybreak, the day that is consecrated to blessed communion with the Lord is completed, and he may once again resume his travel. This corresponds to the timing of what initiated the first, “first day Sabbath”—Christ’s resurrection at daybreak. Certainly his resurrection, and the apostolic pattern are a solid foundation upon which to determine “when” to keep the holy day.

What is your habit/practice for the evening before the Lord’s Day? What part does the Lord’s Supper have in your keeping of the day? What part does coming together with the church have? How do you go about arranging your travel in order to spend the entire Lord’s Day in worship? How has the way that you listen to sermons been shaped by viewing that listening as fellowship with the Lord?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for creating us and redeeming us for Yourself. And thank You that You are preparing us for unbroken fellowhsip with Yourself. And thank You that already, in this life, You give us seasons that anticipate that fellowship. 

Suggested songs: ARP84B “Advancing Still” or TPH152 “Safely through Another Week” 

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