(Acts 20:7-12) 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. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.
9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.
As noted by Joe in a comment, Paul “broke bread” after midnight, which by the Roman calendar, would be on Monday. Monday! Now, this creates serious problems for the Regulative Principle argument. The argument runs like this —
* We have no command as to the day to gather. However, we have an example that the church in Troas gathered on the first day of the week to break bread.
* “Break bread” means to take communion.
* As we have authority — in the form of an example — to take communion on Sunday, but no authority to take communion any other day, the Regulative Principle dictates that we only take communion on Sunday.
Well, under the Roman calendar, Paul took communion on Monday. And he obviously could have paused his several hours of teaching long enough to get communion in on the Lord’s Day. Therefore, if we’re under the Roman calendar, Paul took communion on Monday. And that means taking communion on Monday is not a sin. And Jesus instituted communion on a Thursday evening. If that’s an approved example, then we are good with Sunday, Monday, and Thursday. Suddenly, Acts 2:46, which says the disciples broke bread in homes daily, sounds like an authoritative example, too.
But, it’s objected, Paul certainly was operating under the Jewish calendar, which has the days of the week begin each sunset. Hence, they were really meeting on our (the Roman) Saturday night, and Paul preached on into Sunday morning, which is when he took communion. Problem solved!
Okay. That’s quite possible. We reach the conclusion by assuming that communion can only be taken on a Sunday, which “proves” that Paul took communion under the Jewish calendar. It’s hardly a proof, but the theory is internally consistent. It could very well be true.
Now, Troas was a Grecian port city in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), built shortly after Alexander. The local calendar was unquestionably Roman. The man Paul resurrected, Eutychus, had a Greek name. Therefore, as Troas was not a Jewish city and the church was clearly not exclusively Jewish, why was the Jewish calendar used? Why determine the correct day of the week for communion by Jewish standards?
Plainly, that was Paul’s instruction. Paul was there. He preached past midnight. He wanted the church to use the Jewish calendar. The logic is plain. Hence, we can with great confidence refine our earlier argument —
* We have no command as to the day to gather. However, we have an example that the church in Troas gathered on the first day of the week to break bread — with first day being determined by Jewish practice, being the same practice surely used by Jesus and the apostles.
* “Break bread” means to take communion.
* As we have authority — in the form of an example — to take communion on Sunday – with first day being determined by Jewish practice — but no authority to take communion any other day, the Regulative Principle dictates that we only take communion on Sunday – with first day being determined by Jewish practice.
Some will argue that the choice of Roman or Jewish calendar is a mere incidental. But we plainly see that it was no incidental to Paul. But for his use of Jesus’ calendar, he’d have sinned by taking communion on a Monday. Surely no one thinks Paul is a sinner! If the choice of the day is a salvation issue, surely knowing when the day begins and ends is far more than a mere incidental!
Some will argue that the choice of calendar depends on where we are. When in Rome … When in Jerusalem … But they weren’t in Jerusalem. They weren’t in Palestine. They were land that had been Grecian for centuries.
Some will argue that the choice is to be made by the local congregation. We have no evidence of this. We have no evidence that any New Testament church used any system other the Jewish system. And the Jewish system goes all the way back to Genesis 1 — “the evening and morning was the first day” is considered by most commentators to be based on the Jewish calendar.
Many among us consider Sunday the Christian Sabbath — and the Sabbath is always from sunset to sunset. There’s considerable Patristic evidence for considering the Lord’s Day the Christian Sabbath. See Barnabas 15:8. Some Patristics speak of the “eighth day” in obvious parallel with the Jewish seventh day, surely reckoning the day by the same parallel. Epistle of the Apostles 18. Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews 4:1.
Now that the case has been demonstrated, we can safely draw some conclusions.
* Sunday begins at sunset on the American Saturday. It ends sunset on the American Sunday. “Sunset” is based on actual sunset, not the clock.
* Therefore, it is sin to take communion after sunset on Sunday — regardless of how early the sun sets in your part of the world. (Sorry, Vicki.)
* However, it perfectly okay to take communion after sunset on Saturday.
* Richland Hills is therefore not taking communion on the wrong day of week when they have a Saturday night service. However, countless Churches of Christ are in sin when their Providentially hindered members take communion after sunset on Sunday.
And if we’re not so confident in the obvious, plain logic laid out above, we can surely at least agree that the safe course — the only course that will surely keep us from damnation — is to take communion between midnight Saturday and sunset Sunday. This way, if we discern God’s intent incorrectly, we’re still safe. The safe course — and what eldership would risk souls just to be like the denominations and meet Sunday night at 6:00 regardless of the sunset? — the safe course is to take Sunday night communion before sunset. We must obey God and not men.
A church that fails to do this has completely abandoned the Bible. For such a church, the flesh overwhelms the Spirit. Such a church is guilty of will-worship, of binding the commandments of man as the commandments of God. Such a church has eaten of the fruit of liberalism, not respecting the inspiration of God’s holy word. We should not speak at lectureships that allow the preachers of such churches to speak. We should not sit on editorial boards with such men. We cannot condone error. Nor should we associate with those who do.
No! That’s wrong. Wrong for lots of reasons — but right if you buy into the Regulative Principle.
It’s wrong, wrong, wrong because —
* If “break bread” means to take communion, then the Jerusalem church took communion daily. If it doesn’t, then the scriptures are silent on the day we must take communion.
* Cinching an argument from the Patristics violates sola scriptura and “silent where the Bible is silent.” It binds mortal authority as though coming from God.
* God doesn’t work like this. The whole hermeneutic on which the foregoing argument is based is just as wrong as can be. It ignores the character and purposes of God. It ignores God’s repeated statements about what’s important to him. It is foreign to the gospel.
* It starts with the assumption — a false assumption — that God has a rule for such things. It’s really quite a circular argument, as once you assume there’s has to be rule, you’ll sure-enough find one.
* And it imposes a standard of doctrinal perfection on ourselves and each other that’s Gnostic. You see, although we’d never admit it, the truth is that we grant grace for moral sins and don’t grant grace for doctrinal sins. We tacitly assume that we are capable of doctrinal perfection but not moral perfection. And that’s Gnosticism. Which is wrong.