Are Christians Required To Keep The Lord’s Day?
In the last post, the question, “Are Christians Required To Keep The Sabbath?” was asked and answered by looking at the entirety of the Scriptures.
The post concluded that Christians living under the New Covenant are not required to keep the Sabbath on Saturday, the 7th day of the week. Such a conclusion logically would lead one to ask about the Christian’s relationship to Sunday, also called the Lord’s Day. Are we supposed to keep it? Is there a command?
The short answer is this: While Christians are not commanded to keep the Lord’s Day out of a sense of obeying a law, examples from the early Church as found in the Bible and from church history call us to keep the Lord’s Day out of a sense of love—for the Lord and his people. In other words, it is not legalism but love that compels us to worship him as a body of believers on the Lord’s Day.
This post will go forth to support the viewpoint mentioned above.
I. Examples from the Bible
Listed below are 6 examples from the Bible itself as to giving priority to Sunday—the first day of the week—also called the Lord’s Day, as a day of congregational worship.
1. The Lord Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday.
Matthew tells us, “1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it…5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay”” [Matt 28:1-2, 5-6]. Luke 24:1-7 tells the same as well. Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday. So, it is a special day for Christians.
2. The first meeting of the risen Lord Jesus with his disciples was Sunday.
Luke 24:13-15 reads Jesus’ encounter with 2 of his disciples who were on their way to Emmaus, “13 Now that same day [i.e., Sunday] two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.”
As Jesus talked with them and later joined them to break bread, their eyes were opened, and they recognized Jesus, and these were the words they spoke, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” [Lk 24:32]. Jesus did a little bible study on the Old Testament with these 2 men, which would have been a great study!
Luke also tells us that Jesus not only appeared to these 2 men on that Sunday but also to the majority of the 11 apostles: “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you”” [Lk 24:36].
3. The church was born on Sunday.
Acts 2 tells us what occurred on the day the church was born. The first verse gives us a clue as to what day of the week it was, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place” [Acts 2:1]. Pentecost is 50 days after Passover [which was from Friday evening to Saturday evening]. So, 50 days later was Sunday—the day the church was born.
4. Early Church met for worship on Sunday.
In its beginning stages, the early church met every day for worship [Acts 2:46]. However, as time went by, they regularly met on Sundays. Acts 20:7 gives us this record, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.”
5. Collections were taken on Sunday when the church met together.
Paul, writing to the believers in Corinth regarding the collection for the poor believers in Jerusalem, says these words: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made” [1 Cor 16:2]. It seems like collections were taken on Sunday when the church gathered together.
6. The Bible was completed on Sunday.
Revelation is the last book of the Bible. And the contents of this book were given to John, one of the 12 apostles, to write down and pass to other churches around AD 95. Interestingly, the Lord Jesus gave these revelations to John on Sunday, which, by this time, came to be known as Lord’s Day.
Revelation 1:9-11 reads, “9 I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”
So, we see 6 examples from the Bible showing the need to prioritize Sunday as a day of congregational worship.
In addition to the 6 examples from the Bible, we also have records from the writings of early church leaders as to the early church worshiping on Sunday, the Lord’s Day.
II. Examples from Church History
1. Quote from Justin Martyr, an early church leader:
“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits…Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead” [First Apology of Justin, Weekly Worship of the Christians, ch. 68, 150 AD].
2. Quote from Philip Schaff, a church historian:
“The celebration of the Lord’s Day in memory of the resurrection of Christ dates undoubtedly from the apostolic age. Nothing short of apostolic precedent can account for the universal religious observance in the churches of the second century. There is no dissenting voice. This custom is confirmed by the testimonies of the earliest post-apostolic writers, as Barnabas, Ignatius, and Justin Martyr” [History of the Christian Church, Vol 1, pgs. 201-22].
Schaff goes on to add. “…it appears, therefore, from the New Testament itself, that Sunday was observed as a day of worship, and in special commemoration of the Resurrection, whereby the work of redemption was finished. The universal and uncontradicted Sunday observance in the second century can only be explained by the fact that it has its roots in apostolic practice.” [pg. 478-479].
In addition to the above quotes, Ignatius, who was a disciple of John and the bishop of Antioch, wrote in the early part of the second century, “Let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all days.”
Since we have examples from the Bible and the writings of the early church leaders, I think we can safely conclude the importance of worshipping as a congregation on the Lord’s Day.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” How can we spur and encourage one another if we don’t come together regularly?
Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Again, this command can also be obeyed only by coming together.
Yes, these verses do not explicitly state that these commands can be obeyed only by coming together on Sundays. However, we can’t come together on all days, can we? So, why not follow the pattern of believers who have gone before us by coming together at least on one given day a week—the Lord’s Day?
One could read this post and still argue about the necessity of meeting on Sunday. My response to such arguments is simple: What is the real reason for resisting worship on Sunday with other believers? Is it because it interferes with other activities? Is it because of a reluctance to be a part of a local church? Is it bad experiences preventing you from going to church? I request the objectors to search their hearts and humbly examine their motives in the light of the Scriptures before making objections.
Christians must not live on an island by themselves. In a day and age where professing believers seem to give less and less priority to their local churches and yet have plenty of time to give to other activities [including other parachurch ministries], we need to get back to the Bible that calls us to give a higher commitment to the church that was bought by the blood of Jesus himself [Acts 20:28]!
Believers should pursue meeting together on the Lord’s Day, not out of a legalistic spirit but out of love for the Lord and his people. One day in a week and that for 2 hours or so should never be an issue for the believer—though sadly, many professing believers are so erratic in their Lord’s Day attendance. Sad indeed! Instead of always asking, “What will I get from attending church?” if believers were to ask, “What can I give by attending Church?” what a radical change that would bring! Wouldn’t such an attitude not only show love to the Lord but also display our love to others by seeking to be a blessing to them?