The Biblical Battleground
We sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days. On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. (Acts 20:6-8)
Thomas White writes, “the primary scriptural battleground over this is Paul’s trip to Troas,” for this passage seems to serve as an argument against closed communion. In this passage, the author of Acts (Luke) claims that, while traveling alongside Paul, they “gathered to break bread… in the upper room.” White offers that this passage presents two specific questions: “Was this a church?” and “Does this describe the Lord’s Supper?” The answers to these two questions determine whether this passage describes a clear case of close communion.
Those dismissing the gathering in Troas as something altogether other than a church must, by necessity, answer in the negative to the second question as well; if Troas were not a church, then they could not be observing the Lord’s Supper, or else the Lord’s Supper would have taken place outside of a church context altogether. Bruce comments that “the breaking of the bread probably denotes a fellowship meal in the course of which the Eucharist was celebrated.” Stott agrees, writing, “the purpose of their assembly was ‘to break bread,’ which Luke understood as Lord’s Supper in the context of a fellowship meal, as in the upper room in Jerusalem.” Moreover, “most commentators indicate that this is in fact the Lord’s Supper.”
If, however, this gathering of believers in Troas is indeed a church, and they are in fact observing the Lord’s Supper with Paul and Luke—who clearly are not members of the church in Troas—then this is Biblical testimony to the practice of close (not closed) communion. Even those who would argue that Paul’s apostleship renders this passage as insufficient to establish church policy must allow for Luke’s presence as well. The Biblical evidence, then, testifies that the Lord’s Supper—while always taking place within the local church context—is not necessarily limited to the members of one particular church. Non-church members may be invited to participate in another church of similar faith and practice.