Glimpse of an Early Church Service: Acts 19:7-12
“7) On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. 8) There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. 9) And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. 10) But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.” 11) When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. 12) They took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.” Acts‬ ‭20‬:‭7‬-‭12‬ ‭
This text holds some jewels. It seems to undergird the notion that the early Christians gathered on the first day of the week rather than the seventh day, which is the Jewish Sabbath. They were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ and not the finished work of creation. 1 Corinthians 16:2 indicates this same notion as does some of the writing of the early church fathers.
Were it not for the serious of this story, it would be comical. We could almost conclude that Paul’s messages were killers. Depending on when they started, this might have been a 12 hour service or longer. Most of it was comprised of Paul’s preaching and teaching.
Luke records in verse 7, that Paul prolonged his message until midnight. Then being a doctor, he blamed what happened next on the fumes from the many lamps. Eutychus who was sitting in an open window, fell asleep during Paul’s message. Unfortunately, he lost balance and fell from the third floor.
They rushed down and picked him up dead. Paul interrupted his message and went down and fell upon him. Then he announced, “Do not be troubled, his life is in him.” Paul raised him from the dead.
Then the group went back to the upper room, broke bread and Paul continued to talk to them until daybreak. When the service finally ended, they took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.
We dare not minimize the significance of this miracle. In Mathew 10:8 when Jesus sent out the twelve, He said, “ “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.” This miracle put Paul in the category of the twelve apostles.
Later in 2 Corinthians 12:12-13, when Paul defended his apostleship to the Corinthians, he noted that “the signs of a true apostle were preformed among you…” Raising the dead certainly put him in that category.
As to the length of this service, I dare say it was not out of the ordinary. Nehemiah 8:1-12 pictures a gathering that lasted days. Numbers 29:35, Deuteronomy 16:18, 2 Kings 10:20 are a few of the numerous references in the Old Testament about Solemn Assemblies.
The average church service in most 3rd world countries is 3-4 hours. There are stories of the persecuted church gathering for several days in secret and remote settings to seek the Lord day and night. They do take breaks for meals and sleep, but they seek the Lord earnestly both in prayer and biblical teaching. There are many accounts of all night prayer meetings. There are also many accounts of signs and wonders among these believers, including modern stories of raising the dead.
The “one and out” pattern of the modern Western Church is an aversion. The sixty minute church service is the eulogy of a nearly dead church. I do not expect God to do anything mighty or significant in these marginalized and irreverent settings. When God is put on the time clock, we are saying that we can turn Him on and off at will. This is beyond comical; it boarders on insanity. Then these same pastors have the audacity to observe; “We do not witness miracles in our services, so God must not do miracles today!”
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global