THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK

Some  say that Christ nailed the Sabbath to the cross;  therefore, we do not need to keep or observe it. But, did Christ actually nail the Sabbath to the cross  and  eliminate the necessity for  his followers  to observe  the Sabbath on a fixed day of the week?

If Christ did this, we should see  those who continued to  follow his  teachings after his death and resurrection cease to  worship on the seventh-day Sabbath, begin to worship God on  another day of the week, or  discontinue to formally  worship altogether. In order to prove that the Sabbath was not nailed to the cross, it is important to   find out which day his followers were keeping as the Sabbath after his death and resurrection.  

Sabbath to Sunday?

Although  the  word  Sunday does not appear in  the  Bible,   the expression  "the  first day of the week" and the  "first  of  the week" do appear in the New Testament.  If any biblical  authority exists for changing the seventh-day Sabbath to Sunday, it would have  to  come from the scriptures that refer to the first day of the week. But what do  these texts truly say about this subject?:

(1) "In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn  toward  the first  day  of  the week" (Matt.28:1 Para.).  The  Good  News  Bible  translates this verse,   "After  the  Sabbath,  as Sunday  morning was dawning . . .."

The Book of Matthew was written about 50 A.D., which was about 19 years  after the New Testament Church was started on the  Day  of Pentecost  (Acts 2).  It is written in this text that, three days after  the  death of Jesus, the first day of the week  (Sunday) still followed the Sabbath (the seventh day of the week), or the Sabbath was still  the day before  the first day of the week:

(2) "And when the Sabbath was past . . . very early  in the morning of the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun" (Mk.16:1-2 Para.).

Mark's version of the gospel was written about 68 A.D., which was about  37 years after the New Testament Church began.  Notice that he first said the "Sabbath", he said then "the first day of the week".

(3) "Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the  morning, they came unto the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them" (Lk.24:1 Para).

Here, the first day of the week is mentioned again, but there was no mention of worship.  In fact they had actually  come  to  work after  resting on the Sabbath: "And they returned,  and  prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment" (Lk.23:56 Para.).

The  Book of Luke was not  written  until  approximately 60 A.D., about 30 years after the New Testament Church was founded. Notice that  the  seventh day of the week was still  documented  as the Sabbath.

(4)   "The first day of the week came Mary Magdalene early,  when it was dark, to the sepulcher, and saw the stone taken away  from the sepulcher" (Jn.20:1 Para.).

Here,  the  first day of the week is mentioned, but  without  any reference to worshiping on this day.

(5) "Then  the same day at evening, being the first day  of  the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled  for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and said unto them, Peace be unto you" (Jn.20:19 Para.).

Some  would say that verse 20 refers to a church-meeting  on  the first  day  of  the week? But, is this true?  To  understand  this scripture, the whole chapter must be read with the knowledge that a biblical day consists of a period of time starting about sunset and ending about sunset the following day (Gen.chp.1).  

The fact  that, during  the  time  of Jesus' trial and crucifixion,  all  of  his followers  abandoned  him and were afraid for their  lives is also necessary for understanding this scripture.  Even after Jesus' death, they were afraid of the Jews and had fled  to this place and bolted the doors.  There is no mention of a church service here.  What we do see here is a group of Christ's followers who are in hiding for fear of being harmed by the Jews.

Surely, if the Sabbath had been changed, one of the gospel writers would  have mentioned it somewhere in his writings.  But this  is not  the case. Not one of them even remotely indicates  that the seventh-day  Sabbath had been moved to Sunday, the first  day  of the week.

Shortly after the New Covenant church began, we see its  members attending formal worship services at the temple and  getting together to eat meals:

(6) "They continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread  from house to house, did eat their food with gladness  and singleness of heart" (Acts 2:46 Para.).

Breaking  Bread

"And  upon  the first day of the week, when  the  disciples  came together to break bread" (Acts 20:7 Para.). See also Acts 20:11.

Was  this  a Sunday morning church service?  Let's  examine  this scripture  closely and see what we find. A short review of  other scriptures  tells us that the expression "break bread"  meant  to eat a meal, and not to partake of the "Lord's  Supper."  

The event in Acts 20:7 most likely took place in April of 58 A.D., which was at least 20 days after the Passover and the  Days of  Unleavened Bread. As noted in  verse 6, this was not a  Passover or the Lord's Supper as some call it.  This event was an  ordinary  meal  on  the first day of the  week, and Paul  preached  during and after the meal.  Even if it had been a formal  preaching  service, does this verse contain any  indication  that  the Sabbath  day had been changed from one day to another? Again, the answer is no!   

"After  eating  Paul preached to them, and continued  his  speech until midnight being ready to depart on the next day" (Acts  20:7 Para.).

Paul began to speak right after  sundown, on what we would call Saturday evening.  Remember that the Bible  counts days as beginning and ending at  sundown. Therefore,  Paul obviously started to speak  soon after  sundown and preached until midnight. This is precisely what the  Good News Bible says.

Verse 9 states that a young man named Eutychus fell asleep  while sitting  in a third-floor window and fell out of the  window  and  died. He was subsequently revived by Paul's intervention.  And in verse 11, after having eaten, Paul talked until dawn and departed early Sunday morning.

Nowhere  did  it say that Paul went to church  services  on  this Sunday morning. It says he used that Sunday to begin  his trip;  a  trip  that would end in Jerusalem before  the  day  of Pentecost. See Acts 20:16.

In Acts 20:13, Luke wrote that he and some others went ahead  and sailed  off to Assos where they were to take Paul aboard.   Paul went  to  Assos by land, and as Luke says in verse 14,  Paul  met them in Assos and they took him aboard and went on to  Mitylene.  We  know that Paul had been at Troas (verse 6) and preached  all night  on the night we call Saturday night; then, he left  and walked to Assos on Sunday.  This walk would certainly have taken about  a day to complete, because it is approximately 19 1/2 miles from Troas to Assos where  he  was met by Luke and the others. Instead  of  Paul attending  a  church service on this particular Sunday, he walked all day.

THE COLLECTION FOR THE SAINTS

(7) Another place where the first day of the week is mentioned is in  First  Corinthians  16:2.  But is this  reference  showing  a Sunday  church  service where they are passing   baskets through the congregation and taking up a collection  as is the custom in many churches today?

1.Corinthians 16:1-2 Paraphrased

"Now  concerning the collection for the saints, as I  have  given order  to the churches of Galatia, even so do you"  (v1).

This  describes  a collection for the saints and says  that  the collection is for the elect in Galatia.

"Upon the first day of the week [our Sunday] let every one of you lay  by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be  no gatherings when I come" (v2).

Here, Paul instructs the church to gather up something on  Sunday and have it ready when he comes.

Verse 3 and 4 of chapter 16, shows that they were  to appoint men to help him carry the gatherings to Jerusalem, and that whatever they  were gathering would be quite bulky and heavy because it was going to take several men to carry it.

What  were  they gathering? In order to discover what  they  were gathering we need to review Romans 15:25-28:

"For now I go to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it  has pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make certain contribution for the poor saints who are at Jerusalem" (vs.25-26 Para.).

The  Book of Romans was written around 56-57 A.D.  from  Corinth. While  Paul was in Corinth, the brethren had gathered an offering  for the poor saints in Jerusalem who had just lived  through the drought  of  41-54 A.D., which that was predicted  by  the  prophet Agabus (Acts 11:27-28).

"It  has pleased them truly; and their debtors they are.  For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual  things, their duty is also to minister to them in carnal  things. When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed them this fruit, I will come again by you into Spain" (vs.27-28 Para.).

In  verse 28, Paul says  that when he delivered their  gatherings of  fruit,  he  would go up to Rome on his  way  to  Spain.   The churches in Corinth were gathering up fruit and produce from  the field to be delivered to the poor saints in Jerusalem. This is  what was referred to in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, not a collection  of money during a Sunday church service.

THE LORD'S DAY

Does  the  "Lord's day" that is  mentioned in the Book of  Revelation  have anything  to  do with Sunday church services?  It is  clear  that these  scriptures say that the apostle John was in the spirit on the Lord's day, but what does the phrase the Lord's day mean?

"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and  he sent and  signified it by his angel unto his servant John:  Who bare  record of the word of  God, and of the testimony  of  Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.  Blessed is he that reads, and  they  that hear the words of this prophecy, and  keep  those things  which  are  written therein: for the  time  is  at  hand" (Rev.1:1-3 Para.).

Here,  Christ is going to reveal some future events that John  would record.

"I John, who also  am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the  isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus  Christ.  I was in the spirit on the  Lord's  day,  and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet" (Rev.1:9-10 Para.).

John states that he was in the spirit  and  was projected by  the spirit into the time of the Day of the Lord.

Prophecies concerning  this particular Day of the Lord can be found in more than thirty  places  in the Bible. One example is in the  prophecy  of Zephaniah  where this day is mentioned as  a day of wrath,  trouble, distress, and destruction. See Zeph.1:1-18.

Through a vision, John was projected  into  the future,  and Christ revealed to him what was going to take place at the end of the age.

The word 'revelation' means to reveal. Christ revealed the future to John, and John recorded it in the Book of Revelation.  Thus, we can  plainly   see that  this scripture  has nothing to  do  with worshiping on a certain day of the week; it has to do with  a prophecy for the future.

Even  though the first day of the week is mentioned in seven  out of the eight texts we have reviewed, there is not a formal Sunday worship  service mentioned in any of them, and there  is  nothing mentioned  in any of these texts that shows the first day of  the week  being  observed in the place of the  seventh-day  Sabbath. Therefore,  we can conclude that these scriptures do not  justify the replacement of the seventh-day Sabbath with the first day  of  the week as a day for worshiping God.

By B. L. Cocherell, file b5w10