|Volume 19 Number 7 July 2017||
Acts 20:7 and Biblical Authority
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Several articles about biblical interpretation appear in the archived pages of Gospel Gazette Online. Following are some links for a few of those pages.
In addition, in the free digital biblical library on Gospel Gazette Online are several books as PDF files. One of those books is about biblical interpretation, which you may read by selecting the following link.
Biblical interpretation involves three different ways of communicating the will of God to man: direct command, approved example and implication (from which we are obligated to infer only what is implied in Scripture without taking from or adding to it). These are the same three ways by which people communicate with each other, too.
Sometimes people attempt to disallow approved examples and divine implication in the Bible, supposing that only direct commands equal biblical authority. That is a serious error because it carelessly disregards divine instruction from God to mankind. For instance, without accepting implication from which man must infer what is implied in Scripture, not even direct commands found in the Bible would apply to anyone today, since no Scripture in the Bible was specifically written to anyone now living. For even a direct command to apply to anyone today, one must first see a biblical implication from which he correctly infers that the command not only applied to those to whom it was originally given, but that the same command also applies to people living today. Commands cannot apply today unless one accepts that biblical implication is authoritative.
Likewise, approved examples teach the will of God. Acts 20:7 is a prime example of biblical authority through an approved example. The apostle Paul (whose worship appears in Acts 20:7) as well as the inspired writing by Luke (who wrote the Book of Acts) show the approved example of observing the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week—Sunday on our calendars. Since there are no other New Testament Scriptures that show that the Lord’s Supper was observed by the first century—apostle-guided-church, the Lord’s Supper is only authorized by Scripture for observance on the first day of the week. However, observing the Lord’s Supper in an “upper room,” which appears in Acts 20:8, is not required because additional passages of Scripture indicate that worship was not always in an upper room (Acts 12:12). Instead, Scripture shows that the Lord’s Supper and other acts of worship were to be observed in a “place” (1 Corinthians 11:20; Acts 15:30) without reference to an upper room.
As long as one is interested in having Bible authority for practicing Christianity, he will appreciate the aspects of biblical interpretation, which include: direct command, approved example and divine implication. These three ways of communicating are standard for language communication, not only between God and man, but also between humans. The significance of biblical interpretation has to do with the message originating with God and God’s message itself.
Was the Lord’s Supper
Observed on Monday?
Regarding Acts 20:7, was the Lord’s Supper account therein observed on Monday? Acts 20:7 reads, “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight” (NKJV).
All standard English translations of the New Testament agree that the church in Troas (Acts 20:6) came together on the first day of the week to observe the communion or the Lord’s Supper. In the first place, irrespective of whether the apostle Paul’s preaching extended beyond the first day of the week into the next day, it remains that the church assembled to observe the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week—Sunday on our calendars, today.
In the second place, the Jewish concept of when a day began and ended differed from how Romans viewed the beginning and the ending of a day. Jewish reckoning of a day considered the day as beginning approximately at 6 p.m. or at sunset (Genesis 1:5, 8); to them, a day was from sunset to sunset (Leviticus 23:32). Therefore, if Jewish understanding of a day were applied to Acts 20:7, the day under consideration had begun at sunset or at about 6 p.m., in which case there was only six hours between the beginning of the day and “midnight.” From the Jewish perspective, then, even after midnight would have been still the same day—the first day of the week.
Regardless of whether Roman time—comparable to the contemporary determination of when a day begins—or Jewish time is applied to Acts 20:7, still, the Lord’s Supper was observed on the first day of the week—the day we call Sunday. There is neither evidence to prove that that early church observed the Lord’s Supper on Monday nor on Saturday night. Clearly, the text states that the brethren in Acts 20:7 observed the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week.
Were Some First
“Based on one of the qualifications for elders that a man must be ‘the husband of one wife’ (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6), were some first century Christians polygamists? Can Christians today be polygamists?” In short, the answers to these two questions are “maybe” and “no.”
Religiously, the first century was a period of transition from Judaism (and Patriarchy for non-Jews) to Christianity. As an example, the apostle Paul and other Christians evidently had initiated Jewish vows at a time when Judaism was effective, but they fulfilled those vows after Judaism was no longer God’s religious law in effect and after the commencement of Christianity (Acts 18:18; 21:23). Since Judaism and Patriarchy have both been replaced with Christianity about two millennium ago, the transition between Judaism and Patriarchy has long since ceased.
Polygamy was practiced by some under both Judaism (e.g., Solomon, 1 Kings 11:3) and Patriarchy (e.g., Abraham, Jacob). Polygamy, though, was not God’s ideal plan for marriage, evident from His creation of one man for one woman—Adam and Eve. The original instructions for marriage only allowed for one husband and one wife (Genesis 2:24-25). During His earthly ministry, Jesus restored God’s original plan for marriage when He was asked about the subject of divorce (Matthew 19:4-5).
Nevertheless, some in the first century may have been polygamists at the time when they became acquainted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They, then, found themselves in the situation of having entered into polygamy at a time (under Judaism or Patriarchy) when God tolerated polygamy. It may have been the case that some of these polygamists became Christians, though they had more than one wife at the time.
However, the New Testament teaches that under Christianity, God-approved marriage involves one husband and one wife (1 Corinthians 7:2; Ephesians 5:23). Even if there were some polygamists among first century Christians owing to them having become polygamists when Judaism and Patriarchy were still effective, no one today can be a polygamist and a faithful Christian at the same time, since no one living today ever lived under biblical Judaism or Patriarchy, both of which ended nearly 2,000 years ago. Under Christianity, sexual relations with more than with one’s wife is fornication or adultery and a defilement of marriage (Hebrews 13:4).