Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Acts 20:7 and the Telic Infinitive

My Bible study this morning was in Acts 20. In verse 7 there's a very interesting use of the Greek infinitive. And since we discussed infinitives in class last night, I thought this might be a good time to bring up this text. The specific use of the infinitive in Acts 20:7 is called the "telic infinitive" or the "infinitive of purpose." It's one of the most common -- and most important uses --  of the infinitive in the Greek New Testament. In this verse, Luke is giving us the purpose for which the early church gathered. And what makes this verse so interesting and important is the fact that Luke's stated purpose for the gathered church and our purpose for gathering today seem to be at odds with each other. For example, here's a brief survey a pastor once gave to his congregation:

Why do you mainly attend church? 

  • Worship.
  • The sermon.
  • Both. 

Actually, the clearly stated purpose for the gathered church in the New Testament writings themselves is not for either of these reasons. You will never find the gathering of the church described as a worship service. Nor will you see it described as sermon central. Neither a stage nor a pulpit was central. A table was -- the table of the Lord. 

Here is Acts 20:7 in my Greek New Testament. 

I might paraphrase the passage as follows:

On Sunday, we gathered for the Lord's Supper, with Paul bringing the message. Since he was leaving the next day, he prolonged his talk until midnight.

As you can see, the church gathered specifically to celebrate the Lord's Supper (the breaking of the bread). This purpose statement of Luke's is confirmed by a passage by Paul. In 1 Cor. 11:33, Paul writes, "When you gather to eat the Lord's Supper, wait for each other." Here again, we have the infinitive of purpose in the Greek. 

Today we are told we gather for worship. I'd say we gather as worshippers. And at the center of our gathering is our risen, resurrected, ruling, and returning Lord of glory, the Lord Jesus Christ himself. This makes perfectly good sense to me. After all, in all things he is to have the preeminence (Col. 1:18).

Read my perspective on this here