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THE EARLY CHURCHES

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, May 31, 2009

“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” (Acts 20:7).


This verse of Scripture shows that the Seventh Day Adventists and other Sabbatarians are wrong to make Saturday the day of worship. The “first day of the week” on the Roman calendar was Sunday. Sunday is still on every calendar today as the first day of the week. We think of it as the last day, but our calendars show it as the “first day of the week.” The Seventh Day Adventists and other Sabbatarians want us to go back to the Old Testament and worship on the Sabbath, which is Saturday. The Sabbath on Saturday commemorated God resting on the seventh day of creation,

“And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” (Genesis 2:3).

But “the first day of the week,” on Sunday, commemorates the resurrection of Christ, and the New Covenant. Christ rose from the dead on the first day, on Sunday. Christ rose from the dead on Sunday morning. The first Sunday night, on the day He rose from the dead, He met with His Disciples.

“Then 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).

Christ met with the Disciples and celebrated the first Christian service with them on that night, the same day that He rose from the dead, on the first day of the week, on Sunday night.

Christ met with them again the next Sunday, when Thomas believed (John 20:28-29). So, it is clear that the early Christians worshipped Christ on Sunday, from the very first Sunday that Jesus rose from the dead. That is exactly what the Disciples continued doing, several years later, as we see in our text, 

“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” (Acts 20:7).

The Seventh Day Adventists and other Sabbatarians fail to adequately honor Christ’s resurrection, and the New Covenant, by going back to the Sabbath of the Old Covenant, instead of worshipping on the day Christ rose from the dead to bring in the New Covenant. That is the first lesson in our text.

The second lesson is this: to have a church that attracts young people, we must return to the method of the early church, as recorded in the Book of Acts. Much of the worship in the early church took place at night, especially on Sunday night. Dr. Charles John Ellicott points out the “primitive practice of an evening celebration” (Charles John Ellicott, Ellicott’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Zondervan, n.d., volume VII, p. 139). The early churches had prayer meetings at night (Acts 12:5, 6, 12). They preached and baptized at night (Acts 16:29-34). They had the Lord’s Supper and a time of eating together on Sunday night (Acts 20:7, 11). This was one of the great attractions of the early church. They had something for young people to do on Sunday night! That’s one of the reasons that literally thousands of young adults poured into the churches in the first century! And we should follow their example today! Come on home – to church – tonight! You’ll love it! There’s nothing like it in Los Angeles on Sunday night!

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

Let’s have fellowship tonight, on Sunday night, as the early Christians did! Let’s show all men that we love each other tonight! Come home – to church – tonight! And have dinner with us, and hear a sermon this Sunday night! 

Now, this passage of Scripture (Acts 20:7-12) teaches us the pattern and method of the early church. There are at least three things that we should learn from this passage if we want to enlist young people in our church, as they did.

I. First, they met together on Sunday night.

Look at our text again,

“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” (Acts 20:7).

I’m not going to preach until midnight tonight. I will only preach for about fifty minutes, and then we will have fellowship. But on rare occasions I may preach longer. Once Dr. W. A. Criswell preached from one end of the Bible to the other on a Sunday night. That’s his famous sermon, “The Scarlet Thread Through the Bible" - Part I. (Click here for Part II) which he preached for 4½ hours on Sunday night, December 31, 1961 at the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. It is a wonderful sermon, and you can hear a recording of it by clicking on the hyperlink to the title above. I wish we had a tape recording of the Apostle Paul’s long sermon that night at the church in Troas. We can only imagine that it must have been even more wonderful than Dr. Criswell’s magnificent four-and-a-half-hour sermon on that memorable occasion in Dallas that Sunday night long ago.

But the important thing to notice in Acts 20:7 is that the early church met on Sunday night! “The first day of the week” was Sunday on the Roman calendar, and on our calendars today as well. Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,

This means that they celebrated the Lord’s Supper on Sunday. It was on this day that Paul preached to them. The early church met on the first day of the week [on Sunday]. That was the important day because it was the day when Jesus came back from the dead. Under the old creation the seventh day was the important day, the Sabbath day. That belongs to the old creation. On the Sabbath day Jesus was dead, inside the tomb. On the first day of the week [on Sunday] He came forth. We meet on that day, because we are now joined to a living Christ. That is the testimony of [Sunday] the first day of the week (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1983, volume IV, p. 602).

Dr. Ellicott adds, “And on this day [Sunday] they met together, obviously in the evening after sunset” (ibid., p. 138). The early church had Sunday night services. That is extremely important. I think it is a key to their great success in winning as many young people – as they did.

When a church starts centering on older people, it tends to drop or neglect Sunday night. But if we want to attract young people, age 18 to 30, we must have lively Sunday evening services – like they did in the Book of Acts! Come home to church – tonight! You will love the preaching – and the fellowship! Why be lonely? Come home – to church this Sunday night.  Come back tonight!

II. Second, they heard preaching on Sunday night.

The sermon that the Apostle Paul gave was obviously much deeper that Sunday night than he would have preached on any given Sunday morning. And I think it is important to preach on deeper truths from the Bible on Sunday nights. We give simple sermons on Sunday mornings – but we go into the deeper truths of the Bible on Sunday nights. I will be speaking on conversion tonight. Come and study this great subject with us tonight! It will strengthen your faith, and help you! I promise you that I won’t speak as long as Paul did on this occasion, but I will try to give you something to think about, and take home with you.

I believe that it is important to preach the Gospel on all occasions. Paul said,

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).

I try to keep the Gospel of Christ central in all my sermons. But on Sunday nights, we go more deeply into the Gospel and related subjects.

My pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin, used to say,

Observe the whole day of the Lord’s Day as truly the Lord’s. Start with worshipping God as Creator in the morning to worshipping God as Heavenly Father in the evening at evening service (The Testimony of a Shepherd, 1994, p. 8).

I think Dr. Lin was right when he said that back in the 1960s and 1970s! If we want to win and disciple many young people, we must have lively, and interesting, and helpful services on Sunday nights!

III. Third, they had wonderful fellowship on Sunday night.

In Acts 20:11 we read,

“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” (Acts 20:11).

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown say,

How life-like is this record of dear Christian fellowship – as free and gladsome as, in such circumstances, it must have been…solemn (A Commentary on the New Testament, Eerdmans, 1976, volume III, p. 147).

We must not think that this was the only Sunday night that they had a meal “and talked a long while.” No, this happened often, every Sunday night, in the early churches, according to Acts 2:46-47. No wonder

“The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47)!

Justin Martyr (c. AD 100-165), writing in the second century, tells us that these early Christians met on Sunday, which they called “the Lord’s Day,” on which he says, “All, both in the city and country, met in one place for religious worship” (quoted by Dr. John Gill, note on Acts 20:7).

Matthew Henry tells us that the early Christians had wonderful fellowship:

They were loving one to another, and very kind. Their charity was as eminent as their piety, and their joining together in holy ordinances knit their hearts to each other, and very much endeared them to one another (comment on Acts 2:46-47).

These people didn’t just “go to church” for an hour or two on Sunday morning! They were together several times a week, mostly in the evenings. We must not think that they spent all their time together listening to sermons and praying, though they did that too. But they also “talked a long while” (Acts 20:11). It’s important for us to be together in church and talk “a long while.” We need to talk with each other. This is part of what makes church a second home. We love to come home to church so we can just sit down together and have fellowship and talk “a long while.”

It’s a cold and lonely world out there – on the streets. There are thousands of people, but no one seems to notice you. You feel lonely much of the time. You go home, and often your non-Christian parents are too busy to talk. You sit alone in front of a TV or a computer. Most young people feel lonely much of the time. One recent poll indicates that loneliness is rated by teenagers as the greatest problem they face.

Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever feel the aching loneliness that haunts so many young people today? One young person told me, “I’m so lonely I could cry, and I don’t know what to do about it.” I’ll tell you what to do about it – come home to church! Do it tonight! Do it next Sunday! Come on home to church – so we can sit down and talk and have fellowship "a long while." That’s what Christian fellowship is all about! Come home to church every week! And be sure to come tonight! Do it!

I was going to tell you about the young man who went to sleep while Paul was preaching – but I’m out of time! It’s enough to say that you shouldn’t be like him! I’ll do my best to keep you awake when you come back tonight! And you should listen carefully to the sermon tonight. It could change your whole life!

These Christians in the first century met together on Sunday night to listen to the preaching and to enjoy each other’s company. No wonder so many thousands of young people poured into the churches in those days!

I hope that you will help me make our church as much like the early churches as possible. And I hope and pray that you will receive Jesus Christ and be converted. Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins. Christ rose physically from the dead to give you eternal life. Christ is praying for you right now – up in Heaven, at the right hand of God. Come to Christ and be washed clean from sin by His Blood, and be converted to Christ by the power of God.

“As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12).

And He will do that for you as well!

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Acts 20:6-12.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: “Blest Be the Tie”
(by John Fawcett, 1740-1817).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE EARLY CHURCHES

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“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” (Acts 20:7).

(Genesis 2:3; John 20:19, 28-29;
Acts 12: 5, 6, 12; 16:29-34; 20:11; John 13:35)

I.   First, they met together on Sunday night, Acts 20:7.

II.  Second, they heard preaching on Sunday night, I Corinthians 2:2.

III. Third, they had wonderful fellowship on Sunday night,
Acts 20:11; 2:46-47; John 1:12.