Thursday: Sunday Bible Teaching

Acts 20:1-12 In this study we observe changes that take place at this point in Paul’s ministry.
Sunday Bible Teaching

Before Luke describes the departure of this group for Jerusalem, he gives a glimpse into a normal day of worship of the church at Troas. Paul was delayed there seven days, probably because the winds were unfavorable or the ship was taking on cargo and couldn’t go. Whatever the reason, during those seven days the first day of the week, Sunday, rolled around, and the Christians got together. I find in the account of this day not only a glimpse into the worship of the people of this city, but also an indication of the importance of this day as well as of the elements that should generally be present in all Christian worship. 

1. They worshiped on Sunday. It is significant that the first day of the week is mentioned. It had been and continues to be the tradition of the Jews to worship on the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath. This is mandated in the Old Testament, and it is part of what one would expect Old Testament believers to do. But, significantly, when we come to the New Testament, we find that almost automatically—it would seem almost without any real thought—the Christians, most of whom (at least in the early days) were Jews and who were used to worshiping at least once a week, switched their normal day of worship to Sunday. 

This change obviously happened as a result of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which had occurred on the first day of the week. Here was a new beginning. When Christ rose from the dead old things really had passed away. A new era had begun. Christians began to worship not on the old day, the Sabbath, but on the new day, the Lord’s Day, which is what they called it. 

This change is a proof of the resurrection. I have sometimes said—often at Easter when talking about the evidences for the resurrection—that there are many evidences. The empty tomb, the graveclothes, the changed character of the disciples, the inability to explain the empty tomb by any other means, and so on—all these and other historical facts are powerful evidences for the factual nature of the resurrection of Christ. But among these many evidences, there is the change of the day of worship to Sunday. 

Why would that happen? Particularly, why would that happen among Jews who mostly made up the early Christian congregations and who were trained by centuries of tradition to worship on the seventh day? Why would they instinctively change from Saturday to Sunday and begin worshiping then, as we find them doing in this passage? There is only one explanation: Jesus rose from the dead on that day. The very fact that without argument, without any lengthy explanation of why it happened or what took place, without any of those things the very fact that Christians began to worship on that day is an evidence that Jesus was raised and that it was a real resurrection. 

2. Their worship contained much Bible teaching. We cannot fail to notice how much time was given to teaching on this particular Lord’s Day, in this case teaching by the Apostle Paul. He delivered what we would call a sermon or exposition of the Word of God, because from the very beginning this had been the prime element in the Christian services. 

Not everybody can (or should) preach as long as Paul did. We do not know when he began. I guess it would be after the end of the normal work day, after everybody had gotten together in this upper room of the house—perhaps seven o’clock at night, maybe later. But he was still going strong at midnight. That is a message of four or five hours. 

The fact that Paul had so much to say is important, for it reminds us of the importance of the Gospel message for Christianity. Whenever Christians have lost that emphasis and have begun to think of worship chiefly as entertainment, or that what is accomplished in worship is essentially an emotional response that can be worked up by the singing of certain hymns or choruses, or that worship should consist of a series of testimonies of how people were lost in sin (with a great deal of emphasis on the sin) and were then brought to Christ—when they have substituted these other elements for careful Bible exposition in sermons, the church has always been weakened and sometimes has even died. 

This is because the power of God is not in our emotions or experience but in the Word of God. This is what God has chosen to bless, and that is why in properly conducted Christian services we emphasize it. It is not the eloquence of the preacher or even his authority that blesses, but the Word of God. And God does bless it.

Study Questions
  1. Why did the early Christians change their day of worship to Sunday? What does this indicate?
  2. What do we learn from the amount of time Paul spent teaching the Bible on this particular Lord’s Day?

Reflection: Reflect on your worship service. Is careful and thoughtful Bible teaching found there? Are other elements, such as emotion or entertainment, used to fill the time in place of teaching?

Key Point: The power of God is not in our emotions or experience but in the Word of God.

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “The Long Way Home.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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