Why is Sunday a special day for Christians?
The greatest event in human history occurred on Sunday. Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week, which is the New Testament term for Sunday1. Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9).
Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday!
Later that day He appeared to Cleopas and another disciple when He joined them as they were walking to the village of Emmaus. At first they were prevented from recognizing Him as He explained Scriptures that had predicted the death and resurrection of Christ. Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And He went in to stay with them. Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight (Luke 24:28-31). When He broke bread, Jesus allowed them to recognize Him.
Although it was late, they immediately returned to Jerusalem and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon! And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread (Luke 24:33-35).
Jesus breaking bread with the disciples is reminiscent of the institution of the Lords supper and anticipates its later observance by Christians on the first day of the week.
While they were together, Jesus appeared among them: 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, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, Peace be with you (John 20:19).
After eight days, which would be the next Sunday (since the starting day was also counted), Jesus stood in their midst again while they were assembled (John 20:26).
Thus the Holy Spirit specifically states that Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, and also that Jesus appeared to the disciples when they were assembled on the first day of the week.
Except for the creation of light (Genesis 1:3-5), during four thousand years of Biblical history, the first day of the week is never mentioned. But the Holy Spirit emphasizes that Jesus rose on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19)2.
The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, and the testimony of those who experienced these events, form the foundation of the Christian faith. Paul wrote: For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
Sunday is a special day for Christians because of memorable events on that day!
The Holy Spirit came on Sunday!
Sunday was the day on which the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles (Acts 1:8) and the church was established (Acts 2:47). These events occurred on Pentecost after Jesus returned to His Father (Acts 2:1). Pentecost was celebrated on the day after the seventh sabbath after the Passover (Leviticus 23:15, 16), thus on a Sunday.
The first Christians assembled on Sunday.
In the New Testament, Christians came together on the first day of the week to remember Jesus, as He had asked them to do, by dividing a loaf among themselves and drinking from the cup. This was referred to as breaking bread.
Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight (Acts 20:7).
This passage informs us when New Testament Christians assembled (on Sunday) and why they assembled (to partake of the Lords supper).
With regard to how the Lords supper should be observed, Paul refers to its institution by Jesus (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20). For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me. In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lords death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
The first Christians continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42). Christians today do likewise3.
The first day of the week is the Lords day.
In Revelation 1:10 John says: I was in the spirit on the Lords Day4. An unusual grammatical form is used here. The only other place in the New Testament where the possessive form of Lord is used is in 1 Corinthians 11:20 in connection with the Lords supper which was observed on the first day of the week.
This distinctive expression the Lords day is found in early church history as a designation for the first day of the week and is presently the common name for Sunday in Greece.
The Didache, for example, written between 70 and 120 AD, states in section 14:1: But having assembled on the Lords day5, [the day] of the Lord, you must break bread and give thanks (Translated from Greek by RD).
Many people view Sunday as their day, a day on which they can do whatever they like! But for Christians, the first day of the week is the Lords day, a day of assembly with other Christians to remember and worship their Lord!
The Christian assembly may not be neglected.
Because Jesus asked them to do so, Christians come together on the first day of each week to encourage one another and to celebrate His resurrection. This is not to be neglected. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24, 25).
On Sunday a collection was held.
That a Christian was to give as he may prosper on the first day of the week confirms that the regular Christian assembly was on Sunday. Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2).
This was not just a local arrangement because Paul gave the same orders to other churches6.
This was not done at home as some claim, because then there would be no collection at all and why would it need to be on Sunday? Also, there would then be collections when Paul came, which he wanted to avoid.
On the first day of the week a collection was taken7.
Sunday is not a sabbath.
For Christians Sunday is a special day of worship. They assemble to break bread on that day, but the first day of the week is never called a sabbath in the Scriptures.
Jews who became Christians were allowed to continue observing the sabbath (see Romans 14:5, 6). There is nothing wrong with resting on Saturday! But sabbath observance was never a requirement for Christians.
When certain Jewish Christians insisted that Christians had to keep the law of Moses, this was rejected by the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28, 29).
Paul specifically states that one is not to be judged with regard to sabbath-keeping: So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ (Colossians 2:16, 17)8.
Let us worship according to the New Covenant.
Much New Testament instruction is given by prescriptive example rather than by legal definition. A prescriptive example is a normative example, one that is intended to be followed.
How we are to worship under the New Covenant is made known partially by commandment and partially by examples.
Observance of the Lords supper, for instance, is commanded by Christ: Do this in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19). This in the command is defined by example.
In telling the Christians at Corinth how to observe the Lords supper, Paul simply cites the example (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
When Christians are to assemble to partake of the supper is also defined by example. The foundation is laid by the many references to the first day of the week in connection with the resurrection of Jesus, including an example of breaking bread. It is specifically stated that Christians assembled on the first day of the week to break bread at Troas (Acts 20:7), and that Sunday is the day of assembly is further substantiated by a command that Christians are to give on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2). This normative example of the New Covenant was also followed in early Church history9.
Why is Biblical instruction regarding Sunday often ignored or misapplied?
Although most people in Christendom assemble on Sunday, very few observe the Lords supper each week and in the manner prescribed. What is required to understand and correctly apply Biblical teaching?
Examples are powerful. That is why much use is made of examples as an instructional device, in both the Old and the New Testaments.
Although the Law of Moses contains more direct commands than the New Covenant, most Old Testament teaching is also by example. Jesus asked the Jews, Have you not read what David did? (Matthew 12:3) and He expected that they would understand certain principles inherent in the example. The historic, poetic and prophetic writings in the Old Testament teach mainly by example.
Parables are also examples. Jesus taught in parables for two reasons: so His followers could understand certain truths, but also so those who had a wrong attitude to God would not understand His teaching! (Matthew 13:10, 11).
Spiritual insight is required to understand spiritual instruction: These things we also speak, not in words which mans wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:13, 14).
Most people in Christendom ignore or misapply Biblical instruction because they follow the doctrine of their denomination rather than the word of God. Referring to such worshippers, God says: These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:8, 9).
Someone with spiritual discernment will worship the Lord according to His word that provides guidance both by command and by prescriptive example.
On Sunday Christians celebrate Christs resurrection.
For us, Sunday is a very special day, the Lords day. On that day Jesus rose from the grave (Mark 16:9), He was recognized when He broke bread with two disciples (Luke 24:30, 31) and He revealed Himself to His disciples while they were assembled (John 20:19, 26). On Sunday the Holy Spirit came and the church was established. For two thousand years Christians have assembled on the first day of the week to break bread and to joyously commemorate the resurrection of Christ. Amen.
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
1 According to Matthew 28:1, the first day of the week is the day after the Sabbath. Since the Sabbath is what we call Saturday, Sunday is the first day of the week.
2 Some false teachers claim that mention of the first day of the week in the New Testament is purely incidental. In the entire Old Testament, the first day of the week is never mentioned incidentally. It is stated that God created light on the first day of the week (Genesis 1:3-5). Many incidents in the Old Testament occurred on the first day of the week, but this is never mentioned because it was not significant.
Also during the ministry of Christ until His death, not a single mention is made of the first day of the week, although it is sometimes possible to determine that certain things occurred on the day after the Sabbath (Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:40, 41). The day is not specified, however, because it was not significant.
Thus, during the description of more than four thousand years of human history, the Holy Spirit never once stated incidentally that something happened on the first day of the week.
But in the description of one certain day in the history of the world, the Holy Spirit clearly indicated that it occurred on the first day of the week. All four Gospels mention that Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week.
This mention of the first day of the week indicates that the first Christians remembered the resurrection on a weekly basis. We can illustrate this with a comparison. How do you reply when someone asks you the day of your birth? Probably with the day of the year. Someone in Ghana might give the day of the week because there the day of the week on which one is born is very important! It becomes part of ones name and is believed to influence ones personality!
Suppose that everyplace in the New Testament where is says on the first day of the week it gave the day of the month or the day of the year? Then we would know that those days were significant for the first Christians.
But, of course, neither the day of the month, nor the day of the year is mentioned, but the day of the week, because the first Christians celebrated the resurrection of Jesus each week! And from that day until this, on every first day of the week Christians have remembered the resurrection of Jesus!
3 That the daily breaking of bread in Acts 2:46 refers to regular meals and not to the Lords supper can be deduced from the expression they ate their food with gladness since according to 1 Corinthians 11:22 the Lords supper is not a regular meal for nourishment.
4 Some claim that on the Lords day in Revelation 1:10 refers to the Day of Judgment which in Scripture is sometimes called the day of the Lord (but with a different Greek construction). Only a small part of the Revelation refers to the day of judgment, however, and John was not on the day of judgment when he received the Revelation! The linguistic agreement with the Lords supper (1 Corinthians 11:20) and the usage in early church history indicate that the Lords day in Revelation 1:10 refers to Sunday.
5 This is the possessive form of Lord as in Revelation 1:10. The second occurrence of Lord is the more usual genitive form, which evidently was added for clarification.
6 Although this example relates specifically to a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26), a general practice for financing church activities can be inferred from the example. A weekly contribution is commanded that could be used for the fulfilment of other obligations such as caring for widows (Acts 6:1; 1 Timothy 5:16), a liberal sharing with them and all men (2 Corinthians 9:13), doing good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10), and providing for an evangelist (Philippians 4:16).
7 In early church history, a collection was taken on Sunday. In a description of the Christian assembly by Justin Martyr (110-165 AD) he wrote: And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need (First Apology, chapter 67).
8 Sabbatarians (people who teach that Christians should keep the sabbath) often make the false claim that Emperor Constantine (who ruled from 306 to 337 AD) changed the day of Christian worship from Saturday to Sunday. Actually, all Constantine did was to officially recognize the existing Christian day of worship.
In addition to the New Testament teaching that the sabbath is not binding on Christians (Colossians 2:16, 17), early church history (long before the time of Constantine) also indicates that Christians did not keep the sabbath.
Justin Martyr, who lived from 110 to 165 AD, conducted a written debate with a Jew named Trypho. Trypho criticized Christians for not keeping the sabbath: But this is what we are most at a loss about: that you, professing to be pious, and supposing yourselves better than others, are not in any particular separated from them, and do not alter your mode of living from the nations, in that you observe no festivals or sabbaths, and do not have the rite of circumcision (chapter 10). To this Justin replied: The new law requires you to keep perpetual sabbath, and you, because you are idle for one day, suppose you are pious, not discerning why this has been commanded you (chapter 12).
Tertullian, who lived from 145 to 220 AD, in his writings against Marcian, mentions that the law of Moses, including the sabbath, had been abolished: Now tell me, Marcian, what is your opinion of the apostles language, when he says, Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath, which is a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ. We do not now treat the law, further than (to remark) that the apostle here teaches clearly how it has been abolished, even by passing from shadow to substance - that is, from figurative types to the reality, which is Christ (book 5, chapter 19, verses 16, 17).
9 Christians assembled on Sunday in early church history.
In the same way that Christians in the New Testament assembled on the first day of the week to observe the Lords supper, this was also done in church history from the earliest times! Our faith rests on the Scriptures, not on church history. But especially early church history can sometimes help us to better understand the Scriptures.
Barnabas (not the Barnabas in the Bible) in a letter written between 120 and 130 AD indicates that Christians assembled on Sunday: Wherefore, also, we keep the 8th day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead (chapter 15).
Justin Martyr, who lived from 110 to 165 AD, in his defense of the Christian religion (First Apology, chapter 67), wrote: And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place. ... 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 Savior on the same day rose from the dead.
Bardesanes wrote about 180 AD: And what shall we say of the new race of us Christians, whom Christ at His advent planted in every country and in every region? for, lo! wherever we are, we are all called after the one name of Christ - Christians. On one day, the first of the week, we assemble ourselves together.
These quotations reflect the Biblical doctrine that followers of Christ come together on the first day of the week to remember His resurrection by means of the Lords supper.
Published in The Old Paths Archive