The Centrality of the Lord’s Supper
In Acts 20, the apostle Paul is in the midst of making his way through the Gentile churches to collect money for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:26). He passes through Macedonia, Achaia, back to Macedonia, and across the Aegean as accompanied by several men who likely served as Gentile guards and guarantors for the money the apostle was carrying to Jerusalem (Acts 20:1-4). These men sailed ahead of Paul and waited for him at Troas. On a Wednesday, Luke and Paul set sail from Philippi to meet up with these men in Troas. It took them five days against prevailing head winds to make the journey, but they arrived on Monday. Luke tells us that he, Paul, and all of these men stayed in Troas for seven days until the arrival of the first day of the week, Sunday (Acts 20:5-6).
Next, Luke writes, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” In English we have the dependent clause “when the disciples came together to break bread.” In Greek, this expression is known as a genitive absolute. Here it answers the question, “When did Paul preach to them?” It was when the disciples came together to break bread, and they did that upon the first day of the week. The expression “to break bread” in Greek incorporates an infinitive of purpose. It states the reason why the disciples came together upon the first day of the week. It was their weekly custom to “break bread,” that is, to observe the Lord’s Supper of which the first act is to break bread (1 Cor. 11:23-24).
Thus, the observance of the Lord’s Supper was the purpose of their gathering together upon the first day of the week. First Corinthians 16:2 teaches us that the disciples gathered upon every first day of the week. Hence, the disciples gathered upon every first day of the week for the purpose of observing the Lord’s Supper. Singing, praying, and studying God’s word may be observed by the Christian upon any day of the week. The Lord’s Supper and the collection must be observed upon the first day of the week. Acts 20:7 teaches us that the Lord’s Supper is central to congregational worship upon the first day of the week.
This does not imply that the Lord’s Supper is more important than any other aspect of worship; it simply means that the Lord’s Supper is the central purpose of corporate worship on the Lord’s Day. Most have forgotten this, or do not want to remember it as did the Christians in the New Testament. We know of many who place the Lord’s Supper on Thursday or Saturday night. But, this thwarts God’s purposes. It was God’s intention that the Lord’s death be remembered on the day He arose, not on the day he was betrayed, crucified, or buried. It is a perpetual memorial of Christ’s death on the day of His triumph over death. Any other day of the week fails to fulfill this ultimate significance.