ACTS 20:7

James Finley

On Sunday morning, when the disciples met to take the Lord's supper as commanded, Paul spoke to them. He continued his speech at the evening services and spoke past midnight because he was departing on Monday.

The above is taken from a very recent translation of the Bible. It is titled "THE BIBLE AS WE WANT IT". Such a translation, I am sure will bring joy to the hearts of many because it will agree with preconceived notions and therefore uphold some very cherished beliefs. The above translation of Acts 20:7 makes it clear that we are commanded to perform just exactly as we are already doing. We can read it and be very comfortable with our beliefs.

As you might imagine, this translation renders Acts 20:11 as follows:

When he came back up he was hungry, therefore, he ate some food before continuing his speech. He spoke until morning and departed.

We now have it all wrapped up in a neat little package, just like it should be. This new translation makes it abundantly clear. We can remain settled in our present practice and know that we are pleasing God. This translation has been needed for a long time and will surely be welcomed by all who strive to live according to God's Word. We can now know what the King James Version really means.

Surely, by now, the reader has determined that all of the above is fiction. As a certain song says, "If you believe that, I've got some ocean front property in Arizona". A translation such as the one described above has not been published. It is a product of my imagination and is written here only to illustrate what Acts 20:7 does NOT say. The problem is however, that such a translation does exist. It is written in the minds and hearts of many good and honest people. Please compare the above "translation" with what your Bible says. It will help in determining what Luke actually did say.

After making the comparison as suggested above, it should be clear that there are some things that Acts 20:7 does NOT say. Consider the following:

(1) The text does not say what time of day the people met.

(2) It does not say whether the writer was using Jewish time or Roman time, therefore, we can not know if the midnight mentioned is our Saturday midnight or Sunday midnight.

(3) The text does not say the people met "to eat the Lord's supper". "To break bread" could be a common meal or the Lord's supper.

(4) The text says nothing about a command.

(5) By the same token, verse 11 does not state the purpose of Paul's eating. It could have been to satisfy hunger or it could have been the memorial supper or both.

Now, let's look at what the text DOES say. Please read your Bible to see if it ACTUALLY says more.

(1) The text plainly states that the disciples came together or met.

(2) The meeting was on the first day of the week.

(3) Their purpose for meeting was to "break bread". This could have been a common meal, the Lord's supper, or both.

(4) It is clear that Paul was planning to leave the next day.

(5) Paul preached until midnight.

That is the total of what we can learn from verse 7. In the eleventh verse we are told that Paul returned to his preaching after being interrupted by Eutychus falling. We are further told that he ate bread. This was either early Sunday morning or early Monday morning. We do not know the purpose for his eating or if others also ate; and we do not know if he drank any fruit of the vine.

We have long tried to make a command out of Acts 20:7, but there is no command there. Verses 7 through 11 relate an event that occurred in Troas. The point of the record seems to be that Paul restored life to a man who had been killed by a fall from a third story window. That is an interesting bit of history but it does not set forth a command front God regarding the Lord's Supper. When God wants to give a command He can speak clearly and remove all doubts about His wishes.