Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Attend to the Ministry of the Word

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on March 2, 2012 at 7:31 pm
Acts 20:7 
7Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

On the first day of the week

The Troas church met on ‘the first day of the week’—the Greek mia sabbaton means literally ‘the first (with reference to) the (Jewish) Sabbath’. This expression is used in six other places in the New Testament in reference to what we call Sunday (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; 1 Cor. 16:2). In Revelation 1:10, this is called the ‘Lord’s Day’. This is the Christian sabbath, the New Testament publication of the one-in-seven day of rest established at creation, inscribed in the fourth commandment of the moral law and promised in the eternal glory yet to be revealed (Gen. 2:2; Exod. 20:8–11; Heb. 4:9). The day is moved from the seventh to the first day of the week on account of the resurrection of Christ, but the sabbath principle was preserved.6 The Lord’s Day is, observes Matthew Henry, ‘a sign between Christ and them, for by this it is known that they are his disciples; and it is to be observed in solemn assemblies, which are, as it were, the courts held in the name of our Lord Jesus and to his honour’.7 Public worship is accordingly forever the centre-piece of the Christian keeping of the Lord’s Day.8

To celebrate the Lord’s Supper

The Troas believers assembled, Luke says, ‘to break bread’. He is referring to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. This probably included a fellowship meal, or ‘love feast’, which was so abused in Corinth (1 Cor. 11:20–22). Even allowing for Paul’s clear disapproval of ‘love feasts’, this strongly suggests that the Lord’s Supper was meant to be observed weekly, alongside the ministry of the Word. If this is so, the quarterly and even half-yearly observances of many churches can only be regarded as an unwarranted withholding of one of the means of grace from the Lord’s people. The notion that frequent communion is somehow equivalent to the devaluation of the sacrament finds no support in apostolic teaching or practice.

Attend to the ministry of the Word

Paul ‘spoke to the people’. That is, he preached a sermon. And, because he was to leave the next day, he preached until midnight—‘longer than usual’, says Calvin, on account of ‘the eagerness and attention of his audience’.9 As Stott points out, this conjunction of the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the sacrament has rightly been maintained in the church ever since.10 This ought to be a corrective to the tendency of our day to replace sermons with drama, puppets, magic and so-called ‘special music’. However legitimate such things may be in other Christian social contexts, they have no biblical warrant for incorporation into the worship of God, far less as substitutes for the preaching of the Word by the Lord’s appointed ministers. There was no such flummery in the service in Troas and there should be none in ours today! The biblical and apostolic primacy of preaching and the sacraments in the worship of God’s people is precisely what marks out true gospel churches from those of the ear-ticklers and the false prophets of our time.[1]

6 Francis Nigel Lee, The Covenantal Sabbath, Lord’s Day Observance Society, 1972, pp. 202ff.

7 Henry, Commentary, vol. 6, p. 258.

8 It should be noted that the proper designation for the New Testament sabbath is ‘the Lord’s Day’. The word ‘sabbath’ invariably refers to the Old Testament sabbath, which was the seventh day of the week. Consequently, Christians should use John’s name for the day (Rev. 2:10), even though the Lord’s Day is truly ‘the sabbath’ for the Christian era, to be remembered according to the principle of the Fourth Commandment.

9 Calvin, Acts, vol. II, p. 169.

10 Stott, The Spirit, the Church and the World, p. 321.

[1] Gordon J. Keddie, You Are My Witnesses: The Message of the Acts of the Apostles, Welwyn Commentary Series (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press., 2000), 248-49.

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