Paul's Sermon & Healing at Troas Part 2 of 3

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

7 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.

“And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread”
This is an important statement. It proves that it had become the established custom of the early church to gather for formal worship on the “first day of the week”; 1 Corinthians 16:2 substantiates this, as do the writings of the early church fathers. Where we have a record of the day on which the early church met, it is always the “first day of the week.” Paul tells the Corinthians that they are to bring their gifts on the “first day of the week.” We should also remember that the church was born on the “first day of the week” when the Spirit came at Pentecost. During the early years of the church, the believers did maintain some of the Jewish traditions, such as the hours of prayer (Acts 3:1). But as time went on, they’ve moved away from the Mosaic calendar and developed their own pattern of worship as the Spirit taught them.

The Jewish Sabbath was already obsolete; the date of the Lord’s resurrection had rung its death knell. Matthew’s way of recording it is most significant, especially because he wrote initially for Jews. “In the end of the sabbath,” he says, “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher” (Matthew 28.1). The end of the Sabbath. The “first day of the week.” An empty tomb! A risen Christ! No wonder the church adopted a new day for a new dispensation.

The church continued to meet on Sunday after the close of the New Testament period. Scripture does not require Christians to observe the Saturday Sabbath: (1) the Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant (Exodus 31:16, 17; Nehemiah 9:14; Ezekiel 20:12), whereas Christians are under the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3; Hebrews 8); (2) there is no New Testament command to keep the Sabbath; (3) the first command to keep the Sabbath was not until the time of Moses (Exodus 20:8); (4) the Jerusalem council (chapter 15) did not order Gentile believers to keep the Sabbath; (5) Paul never cautioned Christians about breaking the Sabbath; and (6) the New Testament explicitly teaches that Sabbath-keeping was not a requirement (Romans 14:5; Galatians 4:10, 11; Colossians 2:16, 17).

It seems, too, that in the early church not only was the “first day of the week” set aside for Christian gathering and worship, but it was the day when the Lord’s people commemorated the Lord’s Supper in obedience to His express command— “And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:24, 26). In the early times, it was the custom to receive the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s day, thus celebrating the memorial of Christ’s death. The “breaking of bread” in verse 7 refers to the Lord’s Supper, whereas in verse 11 it describes a regular “potluck” meal. By sharing and eating with one another the church enjoyed fellowship and also gave witness of their oneness in Christ. Slaves would actually eat at the same table with their masters, something unheard of in that day.

“The first day of the week” was a Jewish expression; the Jews and the Romans marked the days differently. By Jewish reckoning this would have been a “Saturday” night (as we would call it), since the new day started for them at sunset (6:00 p.m.), making a Saturday night the beginning of the first day of the week. But, because Luke speaks of “sunrise” and “the next day” (v. 11 and 7), he appears to be using Roman reckoning, according to which midnight, and for practical purposes sunrise, marked the beginning of the new day. In this event it would appear that the church had concluded an ordinary working day, hence the meeting was held at night (Sunday night). And in this assembly, Paul preached. The preaching of the gospel ought to go hand-in-hand with the sacraments.

“Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.”
In many of our churches today Paul would have been told what time to finish. Paul, however, was not to be governed by the clock on an occasion like this. He had much to say, and they might never see him again. This was a golden opportunity, never to come again.

Paul, the most considerate and thoughtful of men, on this occasion with so much to say, simply ignored the clock and “preached to midnight.” A visiting preacher who did that nowadays would never be asked back. “Don’t you know, Paul, many of these people are slaves? They have been up since before sunrise. They have toiled all day and are tired. They were unable to come to the assembly until their work was done. They have to be up again tomorrow with the crack of dawn.” That’s why the church met in the evening—Sunday was not a holiday during which people were freed from their daily employment. The believers met in an upper room because they had no church buildings in which to gather. Yet we hear no complaints from this group. It was a rare opportunity to have an apostle in their midst. Let him preach!

8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.

They had the place all lighted up. Candles and torches flamed in that crowded upper room. The place was almost certainly packed. These early Christians didn’t stay up until midnight whooping it up, but they were still up at midnight listening to the Word of God and praising Him. It was a warm spring evening, the torches were burning up the oxygen supply, and the atmosphere grew hot and heavy. And still, Paul preached. Some perhaps grew restless, the spirit indeed willing but the weak flesh demanding its due. Some were utterly absorbed, hanging in breathless suspense on every Spirit-filled word of the great apostle. Children settled down and slept. And still, Paul preached, setting forth one more time the great mysteries of the faith, the demands of the hour, the urgency of the task, all illustrated from his vast and rich experience in the Word and in the world. The Word of God was always declared in the Christian assemblies, and this included the public reading of the Old Testament Scriptures (1 Timothy 4:13) as well as whatever apostolic letters had been received (Colossians 4:16).

9 And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.

The upper room was on the third floor. The only spot where there might be any breeze at all was by the open “window.” A “young man” probably 8-14 years of age named “Eutychus”(“Fortunate”) was perched there. He fought against his weariness. His heavy lids came down over his eyes, his head drooped. He would jerk awake again, change his position and try to concentrate on Paul’s message, only to be overcome again by drowsiness. The apostle preached late into the evening and probably long past the lad’s normal bedtime—all these factors conspired against the youth. Can’t you just see this “Eutychus”? It says that “he sunk down with sleep.” He was sound asleep, and I can imagine that he was snoring. We can feel for him. We have all done it. I remember being seated across the aisle from a good friend who had worked all night and then came to church without having slept. It was the same every Sunday. I watched as his eyes would close and he would jerk awake. Sometimes his wife would elbow him in the side. But eventually he lost out to the “sleep” he so greatly needed, and as he did so he “fell” out of his seat and landed in the aisle. Everyone turned to see what caused the noise. Naturally, he was very embarrassed and the incident evoked a lot of laughter. Poor “Eutychus” finally stopped fighting it and “sleep” took over. Nobody seemed to notice. Everyone else was riveted on Paul. Suddenly there was a crash. “Eutychus” had fallen out of the “window,” and was killed.

Everyone rushed down the stairs. Paul followed, his message rudely interrupted. “Eutychus” was dead! Luke assures us of that. He was “taken up dead,” he says. Literally, it means he was taken up (picked up or lifted up) a corpse.

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