Strange Fire

 

Dozier 20:6 And we drove away from New York City after the Christmas holiday, and came to San Francisco in five days; where we stayed seven days.
7 And on Monday, when my family came together for supper, my daughter sang for us, ready to leave the next day; and she sang until midnight.

Questions:

1. Did these people stay in San Francisco seven days just for the supper on Monday?
2. Did they not eat supper all the other days they were there?
3. Do they get together every Monday and only on Monday for supper?

 

 Would We Give the Same Answers?

I think we know that the way we would answer these questions is not the way we answer them about Acts 20:6-7, although that passage is worded exactly the same way. And, no, changing the day, the places, and the event does not change the context nor does it change the meaning of the sentences. The sentences are exactly alike otherwise. Whatever we draw from Dozier 20:6-7 regarding frequency of the event is all we can rightfully draw from Acts 20:6-7.

Somehow, our assumption that the breaking of bread in Acts 20:6-7 is the Lord's supper and Paul's commandment to the Corinthians to save up money on the first day of the week, coupled with Jesus' resurrection on the first day of the week, cause us to declare the first day of the week to be the only day we may partake of the Lord's supper and be pleasing to God. But is this a necessary inference?

 

Paul's Golden Opportunity

1 Corinthians 11:26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

Although he had a perfect opportunity here to do so, Paul bound no particular day or time to partake of the Lord's supper. Instead, he said "as often as ye eat" (I Co 11:26). And indeed we know that we are not commanded anywhere in scriptures to commune upon a particular day.

 

Circumstantial Evidence

The truth is that if Acts 20:6-7 had mentioned the third day of the week instead of the first, we would make no attempt to bind a day. So it is the circumstantial evidence that prompts us to declare this day to be bound in heaven and on earth as the only day to partake of the Lord's supper and to proclaim any communing on Monday, Tuesday, or any day other than Sunday to be sin.

 

When Did They Break Bread?

Let's look at when they actually broke the bread.

Acts 20:7 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.

After this Paul brought Eutychus back to life.

Acts 20:11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.

It is at this point that Paul breaks bread, but it's after midnight and apparently on the second day of the week. Or perhaps they had come together Saturday night and now it's the first day. But most knowledgeable people say that Luke wrote using Roman time. And even if not, how many of us would be willing to come together on Saturday night to partake of the Lord's supper?

Some say this was a common meal Paul was eating the next morning. How do we know? And in fact how do we know Acts 20:7 is not a common meal? If one verse tells us people came together to do something and another verse mentions the doing of the thing, why would we think one was one act while another was a different act entirely, even though the wording is the same? So if this was a common meal, maybe verse 7 was a common meal too.

If Dozier 20 had added in verse 11 that the family had eaten, wouldn't we assume that it was the supper that they had come together to eat in verse 7? Of course we would! Why would we think it was anything else?

 
Upper Room

Let's look at where the Lord's supper was taken. In acts 20 we know they were in an upper room because Eutychus fell out of the third floor and was taken up dead (Acts 20:9). We also know that Jesus instituted His supper in an upper room (Mark 14:14-24).

We say, of course, that (although we have approved examples for the place just as we do for the day of the week), the place is not important because true worshipers don't worship at a particular place but only in spirit and truth.

John 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

First, I don't see that Jesus told this woman place was not important. He simply said that true worshipers worship in spirit and in truth. (Were the Jews not required to worship God in spirit and in truth?) Second, even if place is not important (and I'm not saying it is, of course), is a day important if we haven't been told that it is but it's simply mentioned in a historical narrative? If true worshipers worship in spirit and in truth, then not only is place not important, but year, month, and day are not important either--unless scripture makes them important. And, as I said, Paul had a perfect opportunity to tell us if the day was important, and he didn't take the opportunity and instead used words that would make us assume the day wasn't important.

Paul did tell us he was afraid of people who observe days in Galatians 4:10-11, but we ignore that. Jesus didn't even say that place doesn't matter (we simply assume it by what He did say), and we declare it as gospel, ignoring the approved example of an upper room. Why? Assumption and human reasoning--which is fallible.

I'm not saying place is important. I'm not even saying the day isn't. What I'm saying is that we make big assumptions and huge leaps in determining that the Lord's supper must be taken on Sunday and only on Sunday. After making these assumptions and leaps with our fallible minds, we make assumptions about the upper room as well--assuming that it is not important. If asked why we don't partake of the Lord's supper in an upper room, which we deem unimportant and unnecessary, we say we have to use common sense and know that we don't follow every little incidental example. Then, if someone else doesn't deem the first day of the week to be important, we tell him he must follow approved apostolic examples and imitate the apostles--so he is sinning. We make our judgments as to which examples in the Bible are important and necessary and then declare our judgments to be bound in heaven and on earth.

 
Circular Reasoning

We use circular reasoning. We assume Acts 20:6-7 is talking about the Lord's supper (and not just a common meal) because it mentions the first day of the week, and we assume "as often as" in I Corinthians 11:26 means only on the first day of the week because it's talking about the Lord's supper.

We make lots of assumptions with regard to the partaking of the Lord's supper. We assume that Acts 20:6-7 is talking about the Lord's supper. We assume the early Christians partook of it every Sunday. We assume they partook only on Sunday.

 

Assumptions

Let's see what else we can assume.

Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Here the apostles and disciples are together and Peter preaches to them. This is Pentecost, the first day of the week, and they are assembling.

Acts 20:7 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.

Here we have the disciples meeting again and this time Paul preaches to them. Again, it's on the first day of the week. Do you see a pattern developing?

1 Corinthians 11:20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.

Here Paul condemns the Corinthians because they have come together but it is not to eat the Lord's supper. If he is condemning them for this (and indeed they were attempting to take the Lord's supper), we know, from our circular reasoning, that this coming together must be on the first day of the week. Again, notice the pattern that is developing.

1 Corinthians 16:2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

Why did Paul tell the people to collect this money on the first day of the week? Obviously because he knew that's the day (and the only day?) they would be coming together. (Pay attention to the pattern!)

And here is the clincher:

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

What day? What day would we expect? Why, the first day of the week, of course! Anytime a particular day is mentioned shouldn't we assume it's the first day? We do that in Revelation 1:10, don't we? We assume the Lord's day is the first day of the week because what other day could it possibly be?

Finally, we know I Corinthians 14 is talking about our assembling to worship because it tells us how to behave ourselves in our corporate worship (when we take the Lord's supper, which may be taken only on the first day). So, once again, we have the assembling of the saints on the first day of the week, or the Lord's day. If this is not a pattern, then I don't know what a pattern is.


Necessary Conclusions

So, based on the above passages, here is what I have concluded.

1. When we assemble it is to eat the Lord's supper.
2. We may not assemble unless we are going to eat the Lord's supper.
3. We may eat the Lord's supper only on the first day of the week.
4. We may assemble only on the first day of the week.

Think about it. We know we may take the Lord's supper only on Sunday. We know we may give only on Sunday. Isn't that enough to make us know that the other three "items of worship" may be done within the assembly only on Sunday too? Why would giving be so important that God had to tell us what day to do it on while preaching, praying, and singing collectively may be done anytime? After all, we may give individually on Monday, right? If I see a hungry person on Monday, surely I have a right to give him some money to buy food. And we all know we may pray on Monday or sing on Monday. We may even invite guests over and have a "singing" or "praying" in our own homes on Monday. And surely we may teach the gospel on Monday.

But the reason the disciples partook of the Lord's supper and gave of their means on Sunday was that these were items of worship that they did when they got together--when they came together in the church. And Sunday is the day, and the only day, they assembled!


We Are Drifting!

Brethren, we are drifting! We are lawless and acting without authority. Our week-long gospel meetings are a stench in the nostrils of God!

You think not? Maybe you're right.

Maybe we are doing something else wrong though. Maybe we are wrong to make wild  assumptions about the Lord's supper and when it must be partaken. Maybe we are wrong to declare one particular day to be bound in heaven and bound on earth and proclaim the partaking on any other day of the week to be sin. After all, these are things that God and inspired apostles commanded us not.

Maybe our "first-day only" observance of the Lord's supper and our declarations of  sin on the part of our brothers and sisters who might want to commune more often with their Lord and their brethren are actually only our assumptions that are better kept to ourselves. Maybe we need to be very careful before we presume to speak for God and be sure to speak only what He has spoken.


How to Be Safe

It's good to play it safe in our own lives. If we reason logically that we should commune with our Lord and our brethren only on Sunday, then that's what we should do. And nobody has a right to try to force something different upon us. But we need to recognize that "being safe" is what we are doing and be careful that we don't bind on others the conclusions that we have drawn with our fallible minds.

We can speak what we believe and why we believe it. We can say what the Bible says and explain all about what makes us determine the things we believe. But we can't say the Bible says something and we know it to be true when the truth is that we have simply made a judgment.

It is good to know we are safe. It is not good to bind our "safe" things on our brothers and sisters. When we do that we cease to be safe and begin to take liberties with the Word of God. In our eagerness to please God, we don't want to be caught offering "strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded [us] not."

Christina Elizabeth Dozier
May 6, 2008