The Christian , The Lord's Day
There appears to be some crazy division in Christianity over the weekly day of worship or whether there should be any day of worship at all!!
It would seem reasonable that if we were even going to consider looking at any of these options that the very first place to start would be with should there be any worship day at all. After all if the last option is correct and we actually don't need a worship day then it would be extremely silly to get all fired up over which day is the right day and how it should be kept when there actually isn't one! Well that sort of makes an awful lot of good common sense!
Does the Bible support a weekly day of worship for Christians?
So, let's start with that question. Does the Bible even suggest that Christians should keep a weekly day of worship?
The only way to do this correctly is to start at the beginning of the Old Testament and see what we find by the end of the New.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.
Further, this also introduces the week of seven days and perhaps a weekly day of rest. God rested on this day but was this day
also meant to be kept by His people and was it for worship?
Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work: it is a
sabbath to the LORD throughout your settlements.
A convocation is a meeting or assembly. A holy convocation is a sacred assembly. So in other words, this was when God's
people would come together and worship.
The Lord's Day in the Old Testament
Now before moving on to the New Testament era we need to note a few things about this Old Testament day of worship. It was called the sabbath day or the seventh day of the week. Specific instructions were given to the Jews about this day of worship embedded in the Ten Commandments that Moses brought down the mountain from God:
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.
Further, there is an extremely powerful statement in the book of Isaiah about this being God's special day. He even called it "my holy day" and the term "LORD" occurs three times in this section:
If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;
In fact, to end with the comment "for the mouth of the LORD has spoken" shows just how solemn this statement was. The Lord
declared in one of the most strongest and powerful comments in all the Bible that the sabbath was "my holy day." The Lord called
the sabbath His holy day.
We have so far found that for the Old Testament there was a weekly day of worship that God's people kept. It was also designated as a sabbath
day, a day of rest. It was kept on a weekly basis as falling on the seventh day of each week. It was also defined as the Lord's Day. The Jews
were given specific instructions how to keep this day so it is also commonly referred to as the Jewish Sabbath. There are some Christians who keep
this same day though the majority keep a different day of worship.
The Lord's Day in the New Testament
As you can easily guess, there is actually mention of the Lord's Day in the New Testament:
I was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet
So this is curious. We have the Lord's Day in the Old Testament and the Lord's Day in the New Testament. We determined before that the Lord's Day in
the Old Testament was a sabbath day God's people used for worship on a weekly basis. Can we determine if this is the same case for the Lord's Day in
the New Testament?
They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
So the concept of a sabbath day was clearly still in operation after Jesus had returned to heaven. These verses have not tied the sabbath concept to the Lord's Day but there is a very curious verse in the book of Hebrews that does link a sabbath rest with God's people:
So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God;
This suggests that God's people still have a sabbath day of rest. But is this meant to be a weekly day of worship? We get some pointers on this by considering some of the adjoining verses:
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it.
From these verses we can see that the sabbath rest for God's people here links straight back to the seventh day of Creation week. At this point we can clearly call this rest day the Christian Sabbath. And the link with the original week strongly suggests that the Christian Sabbath is definitely on a weekly basis. But is it a worship day? The following verses suggest that it is:
Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth— to every nation and tribe and language and people.
This message of the eternal gospel is clearly in the Christian dispensation and here we have mention of a call for people to worship. Worship who?
"worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water."
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
So the call for worship in the Christian era links directly in with the weekly rest day of worship in the Old Testament. And of course we can relate
the Old Testament weekly worship day directly with the associated weekly worship day for Christians in the New Testament.
The New Testament
In the Old Testament the Lord's Day was the seventh day of the week. This was the day the Jews kept as a weekly day of worship. It translates to
Saturday using our current names for the days of the week. Bible days run from sunset to sunset. Remember that in Genesis it stated "the evening
and the morning were the first day", the second day and so on. Jews still keep the sabbath of the Old Testament and they keep it from Friday sunset
to Saturday sunset.
Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God,
The main things relating here to the Old Testament are fornication, things strangled, and blood. If anything else is gone, it should be clear in the rest of the New Testament writings. The main debate was about circumcision and the conclusion was not to trouble the gentiles with it.
A new day for the Lord's Day in the New Testament?
It is also clear from the New Testament that Christians did originally keep Saturday, the old sabbath day, but somewhere along the way it was replaced by Sunday. And Christians who keep Sunday claim they do this in honour of the resurrection of Christ and that this is the Lord's Day of the New Testament and that in the early Christian church it became the new day of worship replacing the old.
Well, we are looking for a day for the Christian Sabbath and allowing for some changes from the old Jewish period to the new Christian period
it does not seem unreasonable. And the majority of Christians do currently worship on a different day of the week. So perhaps the weekly day
of worship has changed from the Old to the New Testament and is now on a completely different day of the week from the old seventh day sabbath.
Before moving to the Christian Sabbath we need to note some interesting points about the Jewish Sabbath in the Old Testament. The Jewish Sabbath is clearly outlined in the fourth commandment. And when the Ten Commandments were given by God to Israel He spoke them to the people from the top of the mountain, apart from giving Moses a set in tables of stone. And remember we read before that when Isaiah wrote about God's Holy Day he declared that the mouth of the Lord has spoken:
Then God spoke all these words:
Inbetween Exodus 20 verses 1 and 18 God spoke the Ten Commandments. It is one of the few times in the Bible where God actually spoke to
His people as a gathered group. In fact, it may be the only time.
I will not violate my covenant, or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
Well this could be a problem. If the Lord does not alter what comes from His mouth then there may be no change allowed in the weekly worship day from Testament to Testament. Are there any other indications in the Bible that the Lord does not change?
For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished.
It doesn't look like God changes and this may mean His Holy Day is still the seventh day of the week. But what about Jesus? Didn't all things change with Jesus? Well we read about His custom as follows:
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,
Sure, but Jesus was here operating as a Jew and this was before His death I can imagine someone saying. What about after His death? Is there any mention of His followers keeping the sabbath day? Well there are some verses in Acts referring to Paul reasoning with the Jews on the sabbath. But again someone will say, well wouldn't that have been the most convenient time to do it? Yes it would so we need to look at some other verses.
If God doesn't change, would His day of worship change?
There are mainly two verses in the New Testament that Christians use to show that Sunday, the first day of the week, is now the Lord's Day and the day that Christians meet on instead of the old seventh day sabbath. The first is Acts 20 verse 7:
On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight.
Well this certainly does look like a verse that supports a Sunday meeting. It mentions Paul talking to the people and they were also gathered
together to break bread. And it is on the first day of the week. It sounds pretty conclusive.
There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were meeting.
Why would they need many lamps in the room where they were meeting? Evidently it was a night time meeting after sunset. So was this meeting on
Sunday night? Apparently not, being a Bible day, Sunday night is actually part of the second day of the week, not the first!
On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that contributions need not be made when I come.
The general conclusion from this verse is that this is supporting taking up an offering at church on a Sunday gathering or worship service.
mia ton sabbaton: the first day to the sabbath
Now before continuing on, we need to be aware that there is another very curious problem with a couple of these verses and this has only come to
light quite recently. These verses we just looked at refer to the first day of the week and this of course is Sunday. And there are some Bible
translations that actually use "Sunday" in these verses.
1. Paul preached to the disciples and broke bread on the first day toward the Sabbath
2. a special collection for the saints was to be taken up by Paul at Corinth when he came. His admonition was that the people lay up in store as God had prospered them on the first day to the Sabbath.
Well after the Jerusalem council the leaders of the church were still counting the days to the Sabbath. What a wonderful opportunity the Apostle Paul had to tell the new Corinthian converts that the old Jewish Sabbath was no longer important. But this he did not do. Instead he encouraged them that the first day of the week was in fact still the first day to the Sabbath.
These two verses are the main ones used to show support for Sunday, the first day of the week, being the Christian day of worship or the Lord's Day. But what we have found above does not appear to be supporting Sunday at all. In fact, the correctly translated Greek phrase for "the first day of the week" appears to be supporting instead the old Jewish Sabbath. So what do we make of all of this?
The Origin of Sunday, the first day of the week
We have not been able to find any support for Sunday in the New Testament. So just where did Sunday come from? Well this is quite debatable in Christian circles. Some blame the papacy and some blame Emperor Constantine. Though these two had a lot to do with the accession of Sunday one of the most interesting historical quotations about Sunday I have found is as follows:
Aurelian was an Illyrian officer who succeeded the throne upon the death of Emperor Claudius, and has been recorded in history as the Restitutor Orbis, the Restorer of the World. "On another occasion Aurelian is reported to have told his troops that god, not they, made emperors. When he returned victoriously to Rome in 274, he introduced the cult of the unconquered sun, Sol Invictus, as a formal state worship for the Empire. A new temple was built for Sol, and the god's birthday, December 25, became a national festival, while his day, Sunday, headed the week." Carl Roebuck, The World of Ancient Times,1 pp. 689, 690, 693.
The foundation for Sunday, the first day of the week, as a suitable worship day for Christians, by this quotation certainly puts it on very shaky ground. Just how does this compare with the original worship day in the Old Testament that the Jews kept? The Jewish Sabbath came from the Creation where God Himself rested after creating this world in six days. That's a little bit hard to beat. Could you really even think of comparing the pedigrees of these two worship days?
The observation of current weekly worship days
So if Sunday is not a suitable contender for the Christian Sabbath, the Lord's Day, then just which days do we have left to choose from? There are mainly two approaches we can take here. Actually there are probably three but we are only going to do two. And that will be sufficient and conclusive. And we will do them one by one. The first is not conclusive but it basically gives us a good hint. Just by looking what do we obviously see?The Free Dictionary
From these quotations, what weekly days of worship do we see coming through from a Christian perspective? We ignore here of course any other
religious groups such as Muslims or Witches etc.
Does the Bible support a change in the Lord's Day?
Our earlier investigations showed that the Lord's Day in the Old Testament was the Jewish Sabbath. It was a weekly day of worship. It was a sabbath
day of rest. And it was the seventh day of the week which corresponds to our Saturday. Or more correctly, from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it.
The current general Christian view appears to be that we fulfill our "sabbath" obligation by entering God's rest. It may be by keeping Sunday as a sabbath day
of rest, but whichever view is taken, it does not support the keeping of the old Jewish Sabbath. It is believed that resting in God fulfills
Think of this like a game show on TV where the host shows the contestants seven doors and tells them that some fabulous prize is behind the door representing God's rest. All the contestants have to do is figure out just which one of the seven doors represents the rest that God entered into. From what the Scriptures tell us do you really think this would be hard to do? Look again at the verses:
For we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "As in my anger I swore, 'They shall not enter my rest,'" though his works were finished at the foundation of the world.
When did God rest? On the seventh day of the week. When did God cease from His labours? On the seventh day of the week.
Which day was God's rest? The seventh day of the week.
The conclusion of the matter
And this answer is conclusive. But we can still bring forward one more witness. Just to tidy this up completely and hammer a nail in a sure place.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.
There is actually a book of the Old Testament that mentions the days of worship in this new world that is coming. And the weekly worship day mentioned completely supports our conclusion above:
For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, says the LORD; so shall your descendants and your name remain.
The sabbath mentioned here is the seventh day of the week. This is the weekly worship day that God's people will keep for all the ceaseless ages of
eternity. And it is the same weekly worship day we have found running through both the Old and the New Testaments.
The New Testament
We can also put our complete findings together in one table as follows:
These two days are one and the same.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today
For I the LORD do not change;...
... He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.
Bible texts from:
New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, 1989 unless otherwise referenced.
4th Commandment in pic from RSV.
Carl Roebuck, The World of Ancient Times, 1966, Charles Scribner's Sons.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 65-27244.
Jesus and world pic from: ChristiansUnite free Christian Clipart
Background image from www.pdclipart.org
Last revised: 5 May 2013.