Pastor's Corner:

Dear Pastor

Aren’t the New Testament references to the first day of the week indicative of Sunday, the first day of the week, being already established as a day of worship soon after the crucifixion?

Dear Reader,

The founders of Christianity were Jews, and the day they worshipped on was Saturday. The first disciples were very reluctant to give up even the laws of Moses, let alone the Sabbath commandment of their Law. According to the Bible, the followers of Jesus Christ were called Christians in the city of Antioch in the early part of the first century; at that time they all worshipped on the Sabbath, the seventh day. See Acts 11:26. We therefore, repeat your question: after the cross, and when Christianity had arisen, are the New Testament references to the first day of the week, Sunday, indicative of Sunday worship? Let us see what the New Testament reveals.

There are 12 references to the first day of the week in the New Testament; seven of these are relevant to our the above question. Let’s look at them and see if they in anyway imply Sunday worship. The first reference or references are in the Gospels. Here is what they say: (Mat 28:1 KJV) In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

This text in Matthew 28 simply informs us that on the Sunday, after the Sabbath had ended, the Jewish women came to the sepulchre to see the body of Jesus. There is no indication here that Sunday had now become a day of worship. At this point in history it would have been impossible for such a transaction to have taken place. Mark 16:2 is a repetition of Matthew 28:1. Mark 16:9 simply says that Jesus met Mary Magdalene on the Sunday he was resurrected. There is no indication of any form of Sunday worship. Luke 24:1 also informs us that on Sunday, after the Sabbath had ended, the women came to the grave to anoint the body of Jesus with the spices they had prepared before the Sabbath had begun. Anointing the dead body was not an activity that could be done on a Sabbath day. But on the first day, the after the Sabbath, this activity was legitimate. Sunday, therefore, could not be a day of worship in this text.  John 20:1 also says similarly to Matthew 28:1.

Here is another reference to Sunday, the first day of the week, and the resurrection day. It is found in John’s Gospel. (John 20:19 KJV) 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 saith unto them, Peace be unto you. This text refers to the same day, Sunday, that the above texts speak about. The text tells us that the disciples had gathered secretly in a room for fear of the leaders who had three days ago crucified Jesus on a cross. Fearing for their own safety, they hid themselves in a room that Sunday that Jesus rose from the dead. This text is in no way indicative of Sunday worship. In fact, the disciples were not all aware that Jesus had arisen, nor did they all believe He had arisen, see John 20:24-29. They were in hiding. It was at this time of fearfulness that Jesus appeared to his disciples. He sought to reassure them that He had arisen according to His promise to them. See Mark 8:31.

Another point. This text is talking about the same Sunday that the other texts above mention. We saw that in those texts Sunday was not, and could not have been, a sacred day of worship. Is it likely that Jesus would have changed the status of Sunday just a few hours after? From the biblical and historical records we know that He did not do that.

Our next reference is sometimes used as ‘evidence’ of Sunday establishment. Let’s look at it: (Acts 20:7 KJV) And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

First of all, before looking at the facts, let me say that this reference to the first day of the week is here referring to Saturday night. Some Bibles even read ‘Saturday night’ in this text. See, for example, the New English Bible on Acts 20:7. Now let us look at the text closely to see whether this is really Saturday night as the New English Bible says. Notice that the text speaks of a farewell sermon that Paul preached. It lasted until midnight! Are we to assume that Paul preached from Sunday morning, through midday, to midnight, in preparation for his departure the following day? Paul may have been a lengthy preacher, but it is hardly likely that he would preach uninterrupted for fourteen hours! Notice that verse 8 says, "there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together." This implies that it was already night when the members gathered with Paul for his farewell sermon. It is for this reason that the New English Bible renders this text "Saturday night." Remember that the Jews’ way of reckoning days was from sunset to sunset. So at sunset, when night was beginning, a new day begins. Therefore, the term "first day" in this text can safely mean the beginning of the first day, the part we today call Saturday night.

The next reference to the first day of the week is found in Corinthians. This is how it reads: (1 Cor 16:2 KJV) Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

Here Paul tells the Corinthian members, that beginning from the first day in the week, they were to "set aside" a collection for the poor in Jerusalem. And that when he arrived, he will take this collection, with approved individuals, to Jerusalem where he will present the monetary gift to the church. Verses 8, and 9, make this point clear. This collection is to be laid up "buy him," indicating that the individual was to do his saving at home. This text is dealing with a practical, benevolent, act, and has nothing to do with Sunday sacredness.

So, dear readers, the "first day" references in the New Testament are not in any way indicative of Sunday sacredness. We cannot find Sunday sacredness in the Bible. It just simply is not there. May the Lord bless you in your search for Bible truth.

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