Acts 20:7

Anonymous

The verse of scripture found in Acts 20:7 is quite famous, especially among Churches of Christ. This verse is used by members of Churches of Christ as a basis to substantiate by biblical example, the practice of assembling to observe the "institution" of the Lord's Supper every Sunday. I do not believe that the statement in Acts 20:7 furnishes sufficient evidence to conclude that a New Testament church met regularly for a specific purpose, thereby qualifying as a biblical example. Hopefully, I shall make clear my reasons, and trust that those who have never closely examined this passage will be enlightened as to its actual content when freed of the inferences that are often drawn from it.

The common idea that this passage teaches that the "disciples at Troas" regularly met on the first day of the week to observe the Lord's Supper could be largely due to the rendering of this verse in the King James Version: "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread. Paul preached to them..." This has led to a deeply imbedded assumption, by some, of the existence of a church at Troas. But the word "disciples" does not appear in the original [it does in a few manuscripts]; it was substituted by the translators for "we," which is the correct translation. It is significant that the New Testament nowhere expressly mentions any disciples, or a church at Troas! To base a practice on such uncertain evidence is not well-advised.

It is in order, then, to determine who met on this occasion, and for what purpose. The text states: "And upon the first day of the week when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight" (RV). The phrase "break bread" needs no special comment, and should be allowed to mean the partaking of a meal, as it does in Acts 2:42, 46; 20:11. But to whom does the "we" and the "them" refer? The answer is clear if we begin reading at verse 3 and notice particularly the people who are mentioned along with the "we/us" and the "these/them" statements. Verse 5 states: But these [those named in v. 4] had gone before, and were waiting for us [Paul and Luke] at Troas." Verse 6 states: "And we [Paul and Luke] sailed away ... and came unto them [those named in v. 4] to Troas .... " The phrase, "where we tarried seven days," no doubt refers to the entire company of travelers, including Paul and Luke. In verse 7, the "we" statement, following the natural flow of the context, refers to this same company of travelers: "Paul discoursed with them [those named in v. 4] until midnight." Again, there is no mention of a local church in Acts 20:7.

The careful reader of Acts will soon become aware of the graphic detail the writer exhibits when relating certain events and occasions, and Acts 20:7 is no exception. This fact is evidenced by his including several specifics concerning Paul's traveling companions, the journey, and the assembly itself; and any effort to attach some special significance to some of them could make the writer appear to say more then he intended. No doubt, the writer could have been equally specific by using the terms: "Lord's Day," "Lord's Supper," or the "church at Troas," had that been his express intention. Is it wise for us to take the liberty of even mentally inserting them?

So then, bearing in mind the above points and observations, can we not reasonably assume that the group mentioned in Acts 20:7 had met to share in an evening meal, and that it consisted primarily of Paul's traveling companions, along with possibly some visitors such as Eutychus?