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 Paul meeting on the first day of the week meant that he was making a shift away from Sabbath and towards Sunday. Is this true? Why did Paul do this? Paul’s example and some details in the text give us more understanding. First, let us start with the example of Paul. In the book of Acts, we see the Apostle Paul keeping 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, we have an established pattern by Paul. He went into the synagogue on Sabbath and his custom was to do so. He did this with both Greeks and Jewish people.
It is important to remember that the Sabbath is from Friday sunset until Saturday sunset. All of us know 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 up until sunset. Potluck meals are often involved.
This is the case with Acts 20:7. At sunset, the Sabbath ended and they held a potluck meal. Why did Paul continue with service. 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. 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. He preached on until midnight to finish sharing his final instructions with the brethren.
Also, look at the verse prior to this one. In Acts 20:6, the Bible mentions that Paul celebrated 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 kept this feast before he left Philippi. If he was trying to do away with the Sabbath or the annual Sabbaths, his example shows that he continued to do so even with Gentiles.
Kelly McDonald, Jr. is the BSA President. You can visit his website here: kellymcdonaldjr.com