What is the meaning of Acts 20:7?
by Kelly McDonald, Jr.
“6 But we sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.” (Acts 20:6-7, NIV emphasis mine throughout)
Some have said that these verses are an indication that Paul was making a shift away from Sabbath and towards Sunday observance. To clarify Paul’s actions in these verses, let us start with his example.
In the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul kept the Sabbath with Jews and Greeks.
Acts 13:14 “14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down….”
Acts 14:1 “At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed”
Acts 16:12 “From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. 13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer.”
Acts 17:1-2: “When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures…”
Before we arrive at Acts 20, there is an established pattern by Paul. It was his custom to attend gatherings on the Sabbath with both Jewish and Greek people.
Too often we use our Greek/Roman mindset to understand the Bible. Days do not end or begin at midnight. They end/begin at sunset.
It is important to remember that the Sabbath is from Friday sunset until Saturday sunset. All of us know that at certain times of the year, sunset can be earlier or later. Those of us who honor the Sabbath know that after service is over we typically sit around and fellowship. We pray with each other and talk about the Word of God. This often will go past sunset on Saturday, especially when the sun sets sooner. Potluck meals are often involved.
This is the case with Acts 20:7. At sunset, the Sabbath ended and they had a meal. Why did Paul continue to teach after sunset? The verse tells us plainly, “….because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight…” Paul had an urgent message for the brethren. He preached until midnight to finish sharing his final instructions with the brethren.
Also, notice he only did this once. For someone who might be trying to establish a custom to be practiced every week, one instance does not suffice. The Acts 20:7 meeting is clearly an exception tied to his soon departure. To learn more about Paul’s Sabbath observance, read this article: (Click here)
Moreover, look at Acts 20:6. In this verse, we learn that Paul kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread in Philippi. The Feast of Unleavened Bread has two annual Sabbaths in it (See Leviticus 23:4-9)! Paul wanted to make sure he honored this feast before he left Philippi.
Paul’s example shows that he continued to honor the Sabbath even with Gentiles for his entire ministry.
Kelly McDonald, Jr. is the BSA President. You can visit his website here: kellymcdonaldjr.com