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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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