Breaking Bread at Troas: 1

Acts 20:7
It is of no inconsiderable importance to seek to arrive at a clear understanding, not only of the real intention of the saints at Troas, but of God's mind in the record of their assembling together on the occasion made memorable by the presence of the great apostle of the Gentiles (Acts 20:77And 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. (Acts 20:7)). For the practice of the early saints recorded thus by inspiration affords a certain guide for the observance of the church from that time onward; because in as far as their example is approvingly cited by the Holy Ghost, so far may saints follow with boldness and confidence.
A great distinction however must be made between the inspired account of the founding and development of the assembly of God in apostolic times, and that which proceeded in later but early days when men wrote no longer by the unerring power of the Holy Spirit. The difference is not in degree but in kind. While the Scripture is the adamantine rock, the productions of the so-called “Fathers of the church” are the treacherous quicksands: the one affords unyielding support, the others offer nothing but at best a dim uncertainty, coupled with the risk of following their departure from the truth.
The reason for this wide difference is not far to seek; though at the same time it is of such profound importance that no apology is offered for referring to it here. To some it may appear trivial and commonplace to insist upon the inspiration of Holy Writ and to contend that its inspired, character elevates it immeasurably above every other writing whether ancient or modern. But it is certain that none can in these days advance too far in reverence for the Scriptures, or hold too tenaciously that the voice of God is heard in every word from Genesis to Revelation.
The perfect and sufficient presentation of the mind and will of God, under the unerring operation of the Holy Ghost, is to be understood not in the statements of doctrine and in the revelations of the future only. The historical portions are no less divinely given and guarded. Even in recounting events that came under their direct cognizance, the writers were never suffered to pen just what their memories retained or their fancies dictated. The Spirit was there to secure the accomplishment of His own purpose in the Scripture as well as to preclude any human frailty or error.
Thus, in the instance before us, the writer, Luke the physician, was in no wise left to his own wisdom in the compilation of the history. While leaving the impress of his individuality upon his writings, and that so distinctly that they can never be confounded with those of Matthew, Mark, or John, the impress, nevertheless, was such as to include none of the prejudices, the distortions, the foibles, or the partialities that are common to every uninspired historian in a greater or less degree. For the “human element in inspiration,” to use a familiar phrase, never supposes or admits any taint of the weakness and wilfulness, the blindness and bias, which are altogether inseparable from fallen human nature.
Indeed in this latter particular the written word of God may be said to resemble the Incarnate Word. In Him, blessed be His holy Name, we have One Who was both God and Man. Since He was the Son and eternal God, He could and did reveal God and the Father. Since in grace He became Man, He revealed the Father in such a sort that we might see and hear, believe and know. Yet though He descended so low in order to bring the fullness of grace and truth to poor ruined man, He remained in that state of immaculate purity which was true of none but of Himself. Unsoiled, unstained, though in the semblance of sinful flesh, perfect without and within, of the Savior alone is it written that He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” that “He knew no sin.”
In like manner are the Scriptures divine. In the one case God reveals Himself in our nature; in the other He reveals Himself in our speech; but in both cases is there the most rigid exclusion of sinful imperfection. And the reason is patent. For in the word, God reveals Himself and the triumph of His ways of grace over the sin of man. And this is communicated by the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 2:1313Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:13)); for who indeed but He could write on such a theme? And since He graciously undertook to express the mind of God to man, how daring and impious to impute error in any way to the writings He has inspired for this purpose!
Still the revelation while emanating from the Spirit of God took a human form. It was given to men and intended for men; hence human phraseology and modes of speech were employed. Nay, even the actual state of the language, Hebrew or Greek, when employed, is reproduced there. Nevertheless it is of amazing comfort to know that every expression, however human, is cleansed from the moral imperfection, from the mistakes and misrepresentations, which under all other circumstances are to be found in the writings of even the most accomplished and illustrious authors. So that it is one of the most blessed characteristics of Holy Writ that it forms an absolutely immovable foundation on which the soul may rest. Remembering this truth we desire to examine the passage before us.
“And on the first [day] of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed to them, about to depart on the morrow, and prolonged the word till midnight1 (Acts 20:77And 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. (Acts 20:7)).
What is the teaching of this Scripture and its context as to the breaking of bread? Was it the general usage of the disciples to assemble on every first day of the week to break bread? In other words, had the breaking of bread such a paramount claim upon the disciples that it was the specific object before them in gathering together? On the other hand, was the breaking of bread deemed by them of such minor importance that the presence of Paul was a sufficient pretext for setting it in the background in favor of the apostle's ministry? The latter view is held by the apologists of ecclesiastical tradition, as well as by the upholders of all but universal modern practice; both of whom unite to rob the Scripture before us of its plain unequivocal meaning by using it to place the Lord's Supper in a subordinate position utterly unknown to either the Gospels or the Epistles. We do not now speak of those who pervert it into a sacrifice for the living and the dead, and the accompanying horrors of that unbelieving and superstitious system.
Let us consider the interesting and instructive circumstances of the breaking of bread at Troas, and notice the unobtrusive way in which they are woven into the texture of the narrative.
The voyage of the party from Philippi occupied five days (Acts 20:66And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days. (Acts 20:6)). This was probably longer than it might have been calculated that the vessel would take. At any rate we know that, when they crossed into Europe on a former occasion, the journey between the same towns was accomplished in two days only (Acts 17:11-1211These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 12Therefore many of them believed; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. (Acts 17:11‑12)). The extension of the two days to five proves pretty conclusively, that in this instance the progress of the ship must have been considerably hindered by contrary winds or the like, to account for the wide difference.
It would appear that the party landed in Troas during the latter part of the first day of the week, or the early part of the second; for they abode in that place seven days (Acts 20:66And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days. (Acts 20:6)), which brought them to the next first day of the week. The fact of this lengthened stay is highly significant.
For what reason did Paul protract his stay in Troas at a time when, as we know, he was hastening if possible to be at Jerusalem by the day of Pentecost (Acts 20:1616For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost. (Acts 20:16))? He deliberately avoided Ephesus because he would not be delayed on his journey. Yet here at Troas he spends no less than seven days. And it was immediately after leaving Troas that he asked the Ephesian elders to meet him at Miletus, a distance of thirty miles, that no time might be lost. Are we not bound to gather from these facts, that some important consideration was of sufficient weight with the apostle to cause him to tarry so long in Troas?
But the narrative supplies another circumstance which sheds considerable light on the motives of Paul and his companions. When the first of the week did come and the disciples had broken bread together, the apostle was so unwilling to lose another moment that, though he spent the whole of the night in the company of the saints, he set off (we are told) at break of day on foot to Assos. It is clear therefore that Paul remained the seven days in order to be present at the meeting of the church in Troas.
That the period of this stay should be just seven days and no more could hardly escape comment. And it is the more to be remarked upon since we find the mention of the same period at a later stage of this very journey to Jerusalem, and in like manner immediately followed by the departure of the travelers. Luke records that at Tire, “finding disciples, we tarried there seven days.” “And when we had accomplished these days, we departed and went our way” (Acts 21:4-54And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. 5And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed. (Acts 21:4‑5)).
Yet another instance occurs in this book. When describing the journey to Rome, Luke writes “we came the next day to Puteoli, where we found brethren; and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome” (Acts 28:13-1413And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli: 14Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome. (Acts 28:13‑14)). This then is the third recorded occasion in the Acts when Paul and his company after a sea voyage remain in the place of landing with the saints just seven days, and then at once recommence their journey.
The explanation that lies on the face of the narrative in Acts 20 supplies the key to the other cases, since no other is given, and the ground or motive is constant. The travelers through unexpected delays on the voyage landed at Troas just too late to join the usual weekly assemblage of the disciples to break bread. In order therefore to partake with them of the customary eucharistic remembrance of Christ, it was necessary to stay a week for the next occurrence.
There would be no such necessity to tarry until the first of the week in order to discourse to them. Of this he could and doubtless did avail himself as far as it was practicable on other days: so we know he subsequently did with the Ephesian elders. But the object of gathering at Troas, &c, was certainly not to hear Paul, though this was of deep interest and a very sufficient reason at other times for such as could be gathered. Here the standing or habitual purpose is expressly declared to have been “to break bread.”
At the same time it is noticeable that the purpose is stated without special emphasis or any word of enlargement. This indicates the all-importance, not the unimportance, of the motive of the disciples in so assembling. It attests not only the veracity of the historian but the divine design of the history to those that seek the truth. For there stands written the instructive fact that breaking of bread on the first day was the then established and regularly recognized institution of the Lord for the assembled saints in the apostolic age.
To be continued, ( D. V.)