Breaking Bread at Troas: 2

Acts 20:7
It therefore appears from the account in Acts 20 that the saints on that particular occasion came together in their ordinary and customary manner for the purpose of breaking bread on the first of the week.
It is true that, in earlier days, the disciples at Jerusalem broke bread more frequently. But they or at least many of the saints were specially found there then, as visitors unfettered by secular duties, rather than as residents; and in the love and joy of their hearts they took advantage of their opportunity, and day by day kept the feast at home (that is, in private houses in contrast with the temple). “And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house (at home) did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart” (Acts 2:4646And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, (Acts 2:46)). But at Troas we have the practice not of Jewish but of Gentile believers, and that as occurring under no such exceptional circumstances, but amid the general routine of their daily lives.
From both instances it is ours to profit. At the institution of the Supper, the Lord Himself made no restrictions. “This do in remembrance of Me” was His on word to the apostles of the circumcision; but nothing did He lay down as to the frequency of participation. Neither when making a special revelation to the apostle of the Gentiles,1 did the Lord define the interval that should separate the observances of the feast of remembrance. From His silence on this point therefore it may surely be gathered with the utmost certainty that He has left it to the love and fidelity of our hearts to respond to His own expressed desire by eating bread and drinking wine as often as circumstances will allow. And this we have seen was the practice in early days. In Jerusalem at the first the saints were able to break bread at home daily. In Troas the custom was to gather for that purpose on the first of the week. Considering both examples, we conclude that they were under neither the incitement nor the restriction of any rigid rule, but that they met together as often as was possible.
It must however be observed that the first of the week affords the most suitable occasion on which to celebrate this feast. What can be more fitting than that the Lord's Supper should be eaten on the Lord's day? To both the supper and the day the Lord has prefixed His title in a distinctive way, thus marking them out as His in a special sense (1 Cor. 11:20; Rev. 1:1010I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, (Revelation 1:10)). If the use of this term (κνριακός) elevates the supper above any ordinary meal, as the apostle argues in 1 Cor. 11, contrasting the “Lord's supper” with “their own supper,” it is none the less true that the Lord's day is in a similar manner distinguished from every other day of the week. Notably it was upon this day that the Lord arose. How salutary therefore that the joyful associations of His resurrection should be mingled with and tempered by the solemn remembrance of His death! It was also upon the first day of the week that the Lord twice appeared to the apostles when gathered together (John 20:19, 2619Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. (John 20:19)
26And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. (John 20:26)
); while upon the same day of the week the Holy Ghost descended at Pentecost to form and indwell the church of God on earth. So that there is no lack of reason for the settled custom of breaking bread on the Lord's day as shown to exist at Troas.
So much for the occasion or time upon which it was usual for them to gather together; let us now consider their intention in so assembling. This is lucidly and definitely expressed in the scripture before us, “and on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed to them.” Their professed object is thus specifically declared to have been “to break bread.” And this is stated without word or comment, which would certainly have been added had there been anything peculiar in this celebration.
It is well to note that, though Paul himself was there, his presence was not allowed to overshadow the claims of the Lord. For it was avowedly the breaking of bread that brought them together, showing what supreme control it had over their hearts, and that even the ministry of the great apostle himself ranked but as a secondary matter. No doubt the bulk of the saints were there; and after announcing the Lord's death, advantage was taken by Paul to discourse to them in a farewell fashion, “being about to depart on the morrow.”
It cannot but be believed that, in the previous week, the active and zealous servant of Christ used every opportunity to impart the truth to the brethren both in public and in private. But now he was on the point of leaving them—perhaps to see their faces no more. And the apostle loved them every one as a father loves his children. As he spoke, his heart swelled with that tender anxiety for their spiritual welfare peculiarly characteristic of Paul; so that he prolonged the word till midnight. Blessed season of refreshing without doubt! But the Holy Ghost is particular to record the facts in such a way as to leave it unmistakable that the saints, without in the least undervaluing apostolic gift, met together, not to hear the farewell discourse, but to break bread.
But another point deserves consideration. The correct reading, without question, is as already quoted, “when we were gathered together” etc. not “when the disciples came together” etc. The emendation is by no means unimportant and rests on ample authority. The action of gathering together is not referred to the local saints only, but the expression implies that the visitors also joined. Paul and his company were as much concerned in the assembling together as the disciples in Troas. In the revised form of the text there is not the slightest ground for the unworthy assumption that the band of laborers were themselves relieved from the responsibility, not to say privilege, of breaking bread, nor for the equally baseless inference that the Lord's Supper is a mere matter of local arrangement. On the contrary, the coming together was the united action of the whole assembly of God in Troas including the travelers.
In reference to the expression, “when we gathered together,” it should not be overlooked that while “we” is often used in the Acts to indicate Luke's own presence in connection with the events he is narrating, on the other hand “we” is the invariable word used in the New Testament to introduce what is characteristic of the whole of the saints of God, corporately or in the aggregate.
Thus, when Paul writes in Rom. 5:11Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (Romans 5:1), “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God,” can it be doubted that “peace with God” is the common portion of every soul justified by faith? So throughout the epistle the standing of believers is taught in a similar way. The apparent exception of “I” in Rom. 7:7-257What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 8But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. 9For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 10And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. 11For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. 12Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. 13Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. 14For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. 17Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:7‑25) proves the rule; for there the apostle takes up the case of one not brought into the knowledge of true Christian privilege but groaning under the law. Hence “we” would there be unsuitable, as the verses are not descriptive of the normal condition of the saints of God; consequently “I” is used to set forth what is a transitional state rather than the proper position of a soul in Christ.
So in 1 Cor. 15:51, 5251Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51‑52), to select another of the instances which occur almost in every chapter of the Pauline and catholic epistles.” Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” Here it is evident a revelation is made by the writer himself an apostle and prophet, concerning the whole and not a portion of the saints of God. It is manifestly not true of the Corinthian assembly nor of Paul and Sosthenes that they should not all sleep. They have all been put to sleep by Jesus long since. But the apostle had no such contracted thought, in saying “We shall not all sleep,” as to limit its application to his contemporaries. He expressed the common privilege of all the saints, inasmuch as there is no necessity for them to pass through death. In like manner, in writing to the Thessalonians, he says, referring to the coming of Lord, “we which are alive and remain shall be caught up etc.” (1 Thess. 4:1717Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)). Here as in the epistle to the Corinthians, he contemplates the saints who would be on earth at the Lord's return, without at all implying as some destructive critics suppose, that he had a mistaken assurance of being alive himself. The truth taught is that the general hope and cherished expectation of the saints of God was to be, that they might be not unclothed but clothed upon with their house which is from heaven (2 Cor. 5:2, 32For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: 3If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. (2 Corinthians 5:2‑3)).
In John's first epistle this form of expression is remarkably prevalent, as might be expected in a communication addressed, not to any local assembly, but to the whole family of God in its broadest and most general aspect. “We know” is a formula which constantly occurs.
In accordance with this too, we find in 1 Cor. 10:16, 1716The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? 17For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16‑17), where the principles of distinction between the Lord's table and the table of demons are laid down, that similar language is used. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread [and] one body; for We are all partakers of that one bread.” The unity of the “we” is expressly declared—one loaf, one body. It is the general truth that is in question, and would apply in Jerusalem, in Antioch, in Troas, as much as in Corinth. But in 1 Cor. 11 where the apostle takes up the particular malpractices of the Corinthian assembly in regard of the Lord's Supper, “ye” is used. “When ye come together therefore, this is not to eat the Lord's supper” (1 Cor. 11:2020When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. (1 Corinthians 11:20)). Here the local misbehavior is the subject, aid not universal practice.
In 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) therefore, as it stands in the corrected text, it is taught that it was the established custom of the assembly of God to come together on the first of the week for the express purpose of breaking bread. The words can mean nothing else; for none will seriously contend that “we” includes only Luke and those with him and that it was the party of travelers who came together to break bread, while the others gathered to hear Paul's discourse.
(To be continued, D.V.)