Our companion study SUNDAY NOT IN NEW TESTAMENT! investigates all the verses referring to "the first day of the week" more fully and shows that this term should be more correctly translated as "the first day to the Sabbath."
Which day should Christians keep? Why Sunday of course, you say, the first day of the week. Isn't that what the Bible teaches? Does it? It may come as a surprise to many people that Sunday is not even mentioned in the Bible (by name at least). There are only eight places in the New Testament where the first day of the week occurs. They are as follows...
Now after the sabbath, toward
the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other
Mary went to see the sepulchre.
These first five texts only tell us that it was on the first day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead.
The next verse is John 20:19:--
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
This at first may appear to be the text we want. Here is mentioned a gathering of the disciples on the first day of the week. But unfortunately, this was not a meeting for weekly worship, for the text says that they were "assembled for fear of the Jews." It doesn't sound like a good reason for going to church, does it?
Let's try the next text, Acts 20:7:--
On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and he prolonged his speech until midnight.
This is it! Surely this text must support a Sunday (first day of the week) gathering for worship. We could argue that the breaking of bread was a daily event according to Acts 2:46 but you say, here we have a definite mention of preaching. Paul preached to them and that shows that the first day was used for weekly worship. Not so fast. There is a slight problem here. Notice that the verse states that Paul preached to them "until midnight" as he was "intending to depart on the morrow." Verse 8 also tells us that "There were many lights in the upper chamber where we were gathered." Why would they need many lights? Obviously this meeting was at night.
So was this meeting on Sunday night? Apparently not. The Bible reckoning of days suprisingly is from sunset to sunset:
... And there was evening and
there was morning, one day.
From these verses we can conclude that the meeting mentioned in Acts 20:7 was actually then on a Saturday night, that part of the day being reckoned as the dark part of the first day of the week. To make matters worse, Paul departed at the break of day early Sunday morning and spent the morning walking. Well, we certainly couldn't use this verse to support a Sunday morning worship service, could we?
Our final verse mentioning the first day of the week is 1 Corinthians 16:2:--
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.
This was not to be a continual general weekly plan, for in verse 1 we have mentioned "concerning the contribution for the saints." This was to be for a single collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem. There is no hint of weekly worship in this verse. Further, instead of mention of a morning service, the members were told to lay by aside, as God had prospered them. Probably at each person's home, but certainly not in a collection basket at church. Finally the reason given is that there be no gatherings when Paul came. Whichever day that would be, it does not say! So we definitely have no support in this last of the eight verses for worshiping on Sunday, the first day of the week.
Well, this gives us a real
problem. Doesn't it say in the
Christians should have a day of worship? In Hebrews 4:9 we read
So then, there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God;
A "sabbath rest" would suggest a day of worship. Can we be sure that a day of worship is meant? Consider verses 3 and 4:--
For we who have believed
enter that rest, as he has said,
Now when did God rest from all His works? We find the answer in Genesis 2:2:--
And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done.
Verse 1 tells us that this work was the creation of this world:
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
Further, in verse 3, we are told that
So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.
So here we are told that God put aside the seventh day for rest, and he also blessed the day and hallowed or rendered it holy or sanctified it. It would seem that the seventh day must be something pretty special for God to do that. This would appear to be the case for when we go to the ten commandments mentioned in the book of Exodus, we again find a very strong reference to the seventh day, and it is here called the sabbath day, which means a day of rest. Here it is in Exodus 20:8-11:--
Remember the sabbath day, to
keep it holy.
The mention of blessing the seventh day, the sabbath, occurs again here in this commandment. Also, a copy of the ten commandments was given to Moses on two tables of stone:--
And he gave to Moses, when he
had made an end of speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, the two tables
of the testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.
This seems pretty clear. Writings on paper have come and gone, but these commandments written on stone obviously were to last forever. Furthermore, they are referred to at the end of time in the book of Revelation:--
Then God's temple in heaven
was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and
there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an
earthquake, and heavy hail.
The Lord had told Moses,
And let them make me a
sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.
This sanctuary was also known as the tabernacle, or tent of meeting, which was a portable structure consisting of two rooms which contained special furnishings such as a table of showbread, altar of incense, seven-branched lampstand and so on. When the people were eventually settled in the promised land, they built a fixed structure known as the temple and the special furnishings from the sanctuary were taken into it. It was in effect, the sanctuary or tabernacle made into a building. So the sanctuary or tabernacle could have been considered a portable version of the temple.
Ark of the testimony or covenant
Now one of the very special articles of furniture in this sanctuary was a box called the ark of the testimony. The Good News Bible gives its dimensions mentioned in verse 10 as 1125 mm long, 675 mm wide, and 675 mm high. Moses was also told
And you shall put into the ark the testimony which I
shall give you.
And as we read before, this testimony was the two tables of stone, the ten commandments.
The point of this is very simply that if we have Moses making a copy of a tabernacle (temple) which exists in heaven (temple opened in Revelation 11:19), then if a copy of the ten commandments was given to Moses to place in the ark we must also have an original set in the ark in the temple in heaven. That being the case, we have the fourth commandment reading exactly as it was given to Moses long ago:
... the seventh day is a
sabbath to the LORD your God; ...
It appears then, that the day of rest that the Lord wants his people to keep and enter into is still the seventh day of the week, and not the first. As we read before, Bible days are kept from sunset to sunset. So the seventh day sabbath would actually be from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. Further, this is the Lord's plan for eternity for we read in Isaiah 66:22, 23:--
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.
Some actually claim that the ten commandments were done away with at the cross, but the apostle Paul needed the commandments to tell him what sin was. We find this in Romans 7:7:--
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."
And in verse 12, Paul tells us that:
So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.
If the ten commandments are holy, and just, and good, does it sound like they have been done away with?
Finally, the book of Revelation gives us a description of God's people at the end of time:
Here is a call for the
endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the
faith of Jesus.
Can it be wrong to keep the commandments of God if it says in the Bible that His people will keep His commandments?
Again, in the very last chapter of the last book of the Bible we find the following verse:
Blessed are those who wash
their robes,s that
they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the
city by the gates.
God's people who have the faith of Jesus and keep His commandments, will worship Him on the day He has set aside for them. They will enter into His rest, and as the years of eternity roll they will keep the same day.
Let us therefore strive to
enter that rest, that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience.
May the Lord help us to be faithful, and keep the day which He has set apart for His people.
Bible texts from:
Top of page Home Topics of Interest: WONDERFUL | IMPORTANT | CONTROVERSIAL Topics of Interest: WONDERFUL | IMPORTANT | CONTROVERSIAL
Last revised: 5 May 2013.