Sermon for Sunday Evening, September 10th, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
[Act 20:1-16 ESV] 1 After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. 3 There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 4 Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days. 7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. 9 And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” 11 And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. 12 And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted. 13 But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. 14 And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. 15 And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus. 16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.
WHY do we gather for worship on SUNDAYS?
Perhaps you’ve had that question yourself. After all, God rested on the SEVENTH day. And it was the SEVENTH day which was the Sabbath to keep holy. And there are groups today who DO meet on the SEVENTH day, on Saturday. The Jews of course. But also the Seventh-Day Adventists. They are the most well-known of the Saturday observing Christian groups. But there are actually dozens of other small groups that also observe Saturday worship. Frankly, many of them are pretty strange, even cultic. But their strangeness alone doesn’t settle the argument.
Let us read from the Westminster Shorter Catechism as the “Divines” answered the question at hand:
Q. 59. Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly sabbath?
A. From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian sabbath.
They even give some Scriptural references. We’ll look into those shortly.
There is no doubt that from the Old Testament times, Sabbath rest and worship on the seventh day was a long-established practice.
But now we find that the Christians gathered to break bread on the FIRST day of the week.
Look at verse 7 of our text:
7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread,
First it is important that we establish that Luke (our author) here, when speaking of “breaking bread” is not speaking of a common meal, but of the religious observance of Holy Communion. They don’t need to gather for lunch, but they do need to gather to participate TOGETHER in Holy Communion.
Earlier in Acts, Luke uses the term “break bread.”
[Act 2:42 ESV] 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
You don’t devote yourself to dinner. Well, some of us might. But here it is speaking of Communion, remembering Jesus’ broken body with the breaking of bread. And this term “breaking of bread” isn’t to mean that they didn’t also have wine. “The breaking of bread” stands for the whole sacrament, bread and wine, prayer and Scripture reading.
So back to our text:
On the first day of the week, they gathered together to break bread.
The church, the “ekklesia” is literally “the gathering.” So we have it that the church gathered, on the first day of the week, Sunday, for worship.
But to break with that long-established pattern of meeting on Saturday. What happened? Something profound must have happened to make this change. Something big. Really big.
Jesus rose from the dead … and he did so on the first day of the week.
All of the Gospels agree on that fact:
[Mat 28:1 ESV] 1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
[Mar 16:2 ESV] 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
[Luk 24:1 ESV] 1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.
[Jhn 20:1 ESV] 1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
So Jesus rose on the first day of the week, and we find the Christians in Acts meeting on that day in celebration of Christ’s resurrection and in praise of God.
But this isn’t the only time that we find Christian’s gathering on the first day of the week. There is also:
[1Co 16:1-2 ESV] 1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
And, in all of the New Testament, there is NO reference to Christian’s worshipping on the seventh day. Those who promote such a view must argue to Old Testament practice, not New.
But, perhaps one might say, there is no explanation of WHY the Christians were now meeting on the first day of the week. I contend, the New Testament authors (Paul, Luke, etc.) didn’t need to explain WHY the Christians were meeting on the first day of the week. IT WAS OBVIOUS. It was obvious to them all, writer and recipient of the letters. They gathered to praise God for Christ’s resurrection which occurred on that day.
And certainly it is this first day of the week that is even referred to by John in his Apocalypse when he writes;
[Rev 1:10 ESV] 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet
ON THE LORD’S DAY. Which day is that? Is it not the day that the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead! That was indeed His day!
So we need not be bothered by the arguments of those, who like the Judaizers of old, desires to go back to the Old Testament ways. Sunday worship as the Christian Sabbath is established by the New Testament.
Now, look what happens in our text.
They were gathering on the first day of the week to break bread. Paul spoke for SO LONG that Eutychus fell asleep and fell through the third-story window to his death. You see, that phrase “talked to death” is literal here. Eutychus was talked to death.
He was “taken up dead.”
Does this mean he was merely thought to be dead, or that he was actually dead?
He was really dead. Pining for the fjords as John Cleese says. Not “taken for dead” but “taken up dead.”
But Paul says “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” By a miracle of God, Eutychus is brought back to life.
Isn’t it fitting that a resurrection occurs on resurrection day? Perhaps this is why their meeting on the first day was mentioned. Eutychus was resurrected just as Christ was on that day.
1. Well, we have a warning against not listening. Eutychus fell through a window.
2. We have the defense of gathering for worship on the first day of the week.
But these are not the central points of the passage. Rather, this third application is:
3. God has power over life and death.
God has power over life and death, and so we worship Him, praise him, especially for the fact of the resurrection, when Jesus, as the firstfruits, rose from the grave, showing that such is possible, and promising to eternal life to all who are united to Him in faith. And that is definitely something for us to celebrate. Praise God for Jesus Christ, resurrected on this day. “Christ the Lord is Risen TODAY.”