John wrote, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day . . . .” Rev. 1:10 By the time the book of Revelation was written, one day had already come to be designated as the “Lord’s Day.” Sabbatarians tell us that the Lord’s day is the seventh day of the week and teach that the early church worshiped on the Sabbath day. They claim that either the pope or Constantine changed the day of worship of the New Testament church, and that those of us who worship on the first day of the week have departed from New Testament Christianity. Let the scripture instruct us what John meant when he spoke of the “Lord’s day” to see if the first or the seventh day of the week is the Lord’s day.
FACT: Sabbath Observance Was Abolished
The observance of the Sabbath day by Israel was instituted shortly after God led Israel out of Egyptian bondage. The commandment to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” was given to the nation Israel in conjunction with the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20; Deut. 5). God specifically stipulated how the Sabbath was to be observed. The Sabbath day restricted Israel to: (1) do no work (Ex. 31:15); (2) kindle no fire (Ex. 35:3); (3) gather no sticks (Num. 15:32); (4) offer burnt offerings (Num. 29:9-10); (5) buy no goods (Neh. 10:31; 28:9-10); (6) bear no burden (Jer. 17:21); (7) prepare shewbread (1 Chron. 9:32); (8) stay in one’s place (Ex. 16:29; Acts 1:12). Anyone who disobeyed these commandments were put to death (Ex. 31:14; Num. 15:32-36).
No one today observes the Sabbath Day as God commanded Moses. They might do no work and buy no goods, yet, I know of no Sabbatarian who prepares shewbread and offers burnt offerings on the Sabbath day as the Mosaical law requires. All break the Sabbath law in regard to fire. Electricity is a fire. An automobile runs with a combustion engine_a fire. Most all travel more than the distance allowed with special circumstances under the law of Moses_2,000 cubits or 1/3rd of a mile. Josh 3,4,5 They may prepare their food on Friday, but they cool it in a refrigerator on the Sabbath. This is breaking the Sabbath law. Then on the Sabbath, they reheat the food prepared one day earlier. This is breaking the Sabbath law. Here’s the strange part of their belief: no one who believes in keeping the Sabbath believes breakers of the Sabbath are to be killed. In short, all who attempt to keep the Sabbath, break the Sabbath.
When the law of Christ was given, the Mosaical law was abolished (Heb. 8:13; 7:12; Eph. 2:14-16; etc.). Consequently, Paul wrote, “And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to, food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:13-17). Consquently, Sabbath observance was abolished when the rest of the ordinances of the Mosaical law were abolished. Men do not observe the Sabbath, not because the pope or Constantine forbade it, but because the law of Christ set aside the Sabbath day.
Scriptural Evidence For The First Day of the Week
The first day of the week is the Lord’s day. It is the only day in the week which can properly be called the “Lord’s day.” When one remembers some of the important things which transpired on that day, he can see why the day came to be called the “Lord’s day.” On the first day of the week, Jesus arose from the dead (Mk. 16:1-9). On that day, he appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mk. 16:9); to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-35); to the apostles with Thomas absent (Jn. 20:19-25); to the apostles with Thomas present (Jn. 20:26-29); etc. Inasmuch as Pentecost always fell on the first day of the week (Lev. 23:15), these important events with reference to the early church occurred on the first day of the week: the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), the first gospel sermon and the obedience of three thousand whom the Lord added to the church. Hence, the first day of the week was an important day for the early church.
The early church met habitually on the first day of the week to worship the Lord. Paul wrote, “But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse . . . . Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s supper” (1 Cor. 11:17, 20). Notice that these passages show that the church customarily assembled. The instructions in 1 Cor. 14 presuppose an assembly of the church. Then, too, Heb. 10:25 (“not forsaking our own assembling together”) shows that the early church customarily assembled together for worship.
That this assembly occurred on the first day of the week is evident from the Scriptures as well. In 1 Cor. 16:1-2, Paul wrote, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.” Notice several things from this verse. The instructions were given to a number of churches; these were not limited to Corinth. The instructions enjoined were to be observed on the first day of every week. Also, the instructions are not “come together to give” but “give while you are come together.” Hence, this passage is conclusive evidence that the early church worshiped on Sunday, the first day of the week, which day came to be known as the Lord’s day.
Furthermore, Acts 20:7 shows that the early church worshiped regularly on the first day of the week. Paul was on his way to Jerusalem on an urgent trip to take funds gathered for benevolent purposes for the saints in Jerusalem. However, he wanted to worship with the saints at Troas. Apparently, he arrived on Monday for he tarried seven days (Acts 20:6) to await the assembling of the saints. The Scriptures say, “And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.” Notice, Paul expected the church to assemble on the first day of the week and, for that reason, waited seven days to meet with them. Too, the early church usually met on that day to “break bread,” to observe the Lord’s supper. Hence, this passage further confirms, that the early church regularly worshiped on the first day of the week.
Therefore, when we read that John was in the Spirit on the “Lord’s day,” we should properly understand that this was the first day of the week, the day set aside to worship and adore God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. The Scriptural evidence is quite clear that the early church worshiped on the first day of the week. The change in the days of worship from the seventh day of the week to the first day of the week occurred by divine decree.
Conclusion: If you observe the Sabbath, you are justifying yourselves according to the law of Moses, and not the law of Christ. Therefore, as Paul said, “You are fallen from grace.” Gal 5:4 Why does the Lord’s church worship on the first day of the week, Sunday? The answer is simple: because the Scriptures authorize it. Sunday, therefore, is the day of worship of the New Testament church. On that day, worship according to the divine pattern must be offered. Do you observe the first day of the week, Sunday, the Lord’s day?