The First Day of the Week in the New Testament (part 2 of 8)
This discussion comes from Getting the Garden Right, coming soon from Founders Press. It is used with permission.
Copyright © 2017 Richard C. Barcellos. All rights reserved.
(This is part 2 of 8. Read part 1 here.)
One interesting aspect of the book of Acts and the Epistles is there are points at which it may be observed that the early Christians did certain things that are assumed as already in practice prior to the written record concerning the practice. For example, in 1 Corinthians 10:21, Paul writes about “the cup of the Lord” and “the table of the Lord.” Then in 1 Corinthians 11:20 he reduces those phrases to the phrase “the Lord’s Supper.” In 1 Corinthians 11:23-25, he recounts the words of the first institution of the Supper by our Lord. It is obvious that the Corinthians did not first partake of the Lord’s Supper after Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. He wrote to them to correct their thinking and practice, not to institute something never before practiced. In other words, the Corinthians knew about the Lord’s Supper and were in fact abusing it prior to Paul writing to them about it. This indicates that the practice of the Lord’s Supper predates Paul’s corrective concerning it. In 1 Corinthians 11:23, Paul says, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you . . .” This pertains to the Lord’s Supper. Paul had already delivered to the Corinthians the words of institution and their practical significance for the Corinthian church. Interestingly, in 1 Corinthians 11:2, Paul says, “Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you.” In context, it seems inescapable that one of those apostolic traditions is the Lord’s Supper. This is an instance where what is recorded for us in the Gospels (i.e., our Lord’s words of institution) is brought by an apostle to a local church by means of theological and practical implications. But when did Paul first bring the theological and practical implications of the institution of the Supper by our Lord to the Corinthians? The answer is he did so prior to writing 1 Corinthians, and he did so in the form of authoritative apostolic tradition. Paul does not say, however, “By the way, I am an apostle. The traditions I delivered to you as a church are the theological and practical implications of the redemptive-historical acts of God in Christ. Just as the events recorded for us in the Pentateuch form the historical and theological basis for the rest of the Old Testament and from which the writers of the Old Testament draw out theological and practical inferences for the people of God, so it goes with the events connected to our Lord’s sufferings and glory and the church of the inaugurated new covenant.” Though he does not say this, it is the best way to account for what took place in the first century. The Lord’s Supper did not start with Paul. It was instituted by our Lord and put into practice by other apostles prior to Paul’s conversion, and even prior to the writing of any New Testament books. When was it first called “the Lord’s Supper”? Though we cannot pinpoint an exact date, we know that it at least predates the writing of 1 Corinthians. Most likely, it goes back either to our Lord himself prior to his ascension or to the apostles prior to Paul. Why do I assert this?
Recall that the eleven were addressed by our Lord after his resurrection. The event to which I am referring is recorded for us in Luke 24:44-49.
Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 “You are witnesses of these things. 49 “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49)
Our Lord could have instructed them about the Lord’s Supper and called it such at this time (or before), though we cannot know for certain.
The Book of Acts (written by Luke) informs us of other post-resurrection appearances by our Lord to the apostles. We read in Acts 1:1-4 the following:
The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. 3 To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. 4 Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; . . .” (Acts 1:1-4)
The “first account” (v. 1) refers to the Gospel of Luke. The words “all that Jesus began to do and teach” imply the Book of Acts concerns what Jesus continued to do and teach after his resurrection. Alan J. Thompson says:
Luke tells Theophilus in the first verse in Acts that his first book was all about what Jesus began to do and teach. The implication of these opening words in Acts is that he is now going to write about all that Jesus continues to do and teach.
Thompson adds, “Acts 1:1 indicates that the book is going to be about what Jesus is continuing to do and teach; therefore, the ‘Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus’ would be a better title.” Before Christ’s ascension, he “had given orders to the apostles . . .” He appeared “to them over a period of forty days and” spoke “of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” He also reminded them of what Luke records for us in Luke 24 (see Acts 1:4). They were to wait in Jerusalem for Pentecost, at which time they would receive a special pneumatic endowment, equipping them for apostolic ministry while Christ was in heaven.
 See the compelling discussion on apostolic tradition in Kruger, Canon Revisited, 174-94.
 Alan J. Thompson, The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke’s account of God’s unfolding plan, New Studies in Biblical Theology (Downers Gove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 48; emphasis original. Thompson’s book is highly recommended.
 Thompson, The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus, 49.