Posted on Sun, Oct 19, 2014
Sunday is not the Lord's Day
Does Scripture Command Changing the Lord’s Day to Sunday?
Sadly, most people who claim to be Christians do not follow the fourth commandment of God’s Ten Commandments. The fourth commandment instructs God’s people to “remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20: 8). Christians have varied reasons for rejecting commandment number four. Those who are members of the Catholic Church readily acknowledge that there is no instruction in the Bible that changes the Lord’s Day from Sabbath to Sunday. However, they rest comfortable in their Sunday keeping tradition by claiming that God informed the Pope of this change. They believe that the Pope speaks for God, and since the Pope said so, Sunday is the Lord’s Day. They reason that it is not necessary for Scripture to instruct followers to change the Lord’s Day to Sunday. They’ve got the Pope.
On the other hand, Protestants are united in their rejection that the Pope speaks for God. Yet Protestants still follow the Catholic tradition of Sunday keeping. Why do Protestants continue to follow this Catholic tradition? The answer: it’s tradition. The truth is that Protestants have no valid justification for following this tradition of Sunday keeping. The most common reason they give for Sunday keeping is the belief that Jesus rose on Sunday morning, therefore they rationalize that Sunday is the Lord’s Day.
It’s interesting that most Protestants hold to the theological approach referred to as “Sola Scriptura.” This term means that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, only those doctrines can be accepted or confessed that are found directly within Scripture or are drawn indirectly from it by valid logical deduction or valid deductive reasoning. Certainly, changing the Lord’s Day to Sunday is a “big” change; a Christian should be able to find some written words from Jesus or his disciples instructing believers to make the changeover to Sunday keeping. Are there any passages in the New Testament instructing Christians to set aside Sunday as the new Lord’s Day? Let me answer that question.
First of all the word Sunday does not appear anywhere in the Bible. However, the phrase “first day of the week” is found in the New Testament; it occurs in eight passages. If Christians have been redirected to observe Sunday as the Lord’s Day then there must be authority for this change to Sunday in these eight texts. So let’s look at them, one at a time.
Passage No. one: Matthew 28:1
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
This tells us that after three days and three nights, after all that was done away had been “nailed to the cross,” the Sabbath was still the day before the first day of the week.
How many Christians tell us that the Sabbath command was merely for “one day in seven”—that it did not have to be the seventh day of the week, but merely the seventh part of time? They argue that Sunday, being one day out of seven, fulfills the command. But this verse plainly shows that after Christ arose, the Sabbath still existed and it was the seventh day of the week—the day before the first day of the week. That much is proved by this verse. Nothing else is proved!
Passage No. two: Mark 16:2
And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun.
This verse is simply Mark’s version of the sunrise visit to the tomb of Jesus. It tells us the same thing that Matthew 28:1 tells us. After three days and three nights, after all that was done away had been “nailed to the cross,” the Sabbath was still the day before the first day of the week. The Sabbath was not changed to the first day of the week by this verse; rather the Sabbath simply continued to be the seventh day of the week.
Passage No. three: Mark 16:9
Now when Jesus was risen, early the first day of the week he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
This verse speaks of Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene on the day after the Sabbath. Nothing in this verse calls the first day of the week the Christian Sabbath. Nothing in this verse calls it the Lord’s day. Nothing in this verse hallows Sunday or says God made it holy. There is no command here telling us to observe Sunday as the new day of rest. There is no command here that sets Sunday apart as a memorial of the resurrection; nothing here sets it apart for any purpose. There is no authority here to substitute Sunday for the Sabbath.
Passage No. four: Luke 24:1
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.
This text tells us of the same event recorded by Matthew and Mark. In this case we can make some definitive conclusions by looking at the previous verse:
Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
Verse-56 was inspired by the Holy Spirit. It was written about 30-years after the establishment of the New Testament church. This statement is clear. The women rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. This statement could not have been inspired by the Holy Spirit if the Sabbath commandment had been abolished.
This text affirms Sunday, the first day of the week as a common workday, three days and three nights after the crucifixion, and it further affirms that the day to rest—the Sabbath—has not been changed.
Passage No. five: John 20:1
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.
This text again tells us of the event that was also recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke when the tomb of Jesus was visited during the morning of the first day of the week, after Jesus was resurrected. This verse was written approximately 60-years after the crucifixion of Jesus. There is nothing in this verse to direct its readers to believe that the Apostle John recognized that the Sabbath Day had been changed to Sunday. Taken together with the other 4-verses we have already looked at, Matthew 28:1, Mark: 16:2, Mark 16:9, and Luke 24:1, we can only conclude from the Gospel accounts the following: 60-years after Jesus was crucified and resurrected Sunday continued as it had always been—a regular workday—simply the first workday of the week.
Passage No. six: John 20:19
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.”
Some Christians point to this verse and say it shows a religious service called for the purpose of celebrating the resurrection. What do you think? The verse says that the disciples were holed up together because they were afraid of the Jews. The Jews had just crucified Jesus 3-days earlier and in the minds of the disciples, they might be next. It’s that simple. The doors were probably bolted—no Jewish religious authorities were allowed in. Why did they choose the upper room to gather? That’s simple too—Acts 1:13 tells us that the upper room is where they were living in Jerusalem. In addition, they could not have been celebrating the resurrection because they did not yet believe that Jesus had risen (Mark16:14; Luke 24:37, 39, 41).
There is nothing in this text that changes the Lord’s Day to Sunday. There is nothing that sets Sunday apart. This verse simply relates the Messiah’s first opportunity to meet with the disciples after his resurrection. There is no authority here for changing God’s command to keep the Sabbath Day holy.
Passage No. 7: Acts 20: 7 – 8
On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.
This passage definitely describes a meeting wherein the Word of God was preached. But this worship meeting was not a Sunday morning meeting! This meeting happened after sunset during the time frame we refer to as Saturday evening. This meeting happened after sunset, prior to midnight, which in Bible times marked the beginning of the first day of the week. In Bible times a day was measured from sundown to sundown. Throughout the Greek world, at the time this meeting happened, and for a few hundred years thereafter, days began and ended at sunset. Therefore, this was not a Sunday morning meeting as in our western culture.
Sadly, this passage is used by many Christians to show that the early disciples held communion every first day of the week. That interpretation is flat out wrong.
In the first place this passage doesn’t refer to anything being done every first-day of the week. And secondly, this passage does not refer to communion at all. Nowhere in the Bible is the expression “breaking of bread” used to refer to the observance of the Lord’s Supper. In every instance the phrase ‘breaking of bread’ simply means ‘eating a meal.’ In this case Paul and other disciples came together at sunset and had a fellowship meal. Then the group enjoyed a time of teaching as Paul preached and taught the Way of Jesus until the midnight hour. It’s that simple. There is no instruction here, not even a hint that the Lord’s Day was changed to Sunday.
Passage No. 8: 1 Corinthians 16:2
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.
This verse is often printed on little offering envelopes and placed in the pews of many churches to tell the congregation that Sunday is the day for taking up a church collection for carrying on God’s work. Is this the meaning of this verse? No. Let’s begin with v-1:
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.
Verse-1 tells us what this collection was for. This collection was for the saints. Paul asked the Corinthian believers to take up a collection for the saints, just as he had asked the churches in Galatia to do. Who were the saints that needed help? The saints in Jerusalem were suffering from drought and famine. What did they need, money or food? They needed food.
So, in v-2 Paul instructs the believers in Corinth to lay something aside, storing it up. Laying aside and storing up was done at home not at a church building. Why? So there would be no need of more collections (gatherings in KJV) when Paul arrived.
Notice further v3-4:
And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.
The people in Corinth knew that this was a love gift to be sent to the Jerusalem saints and it seems like the gift would take several men to carry it all. This was a gift of non-perishable food supplies. Another Scripture backs up this assertion plainly. Romans 15: 25-26, 28:
But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem. Therefore, when I have performed this and have sealed to them this fruit, I shall go by way of you to Spain.
There is nothing in 1 Corinthians 16:2 that instructs believers to change the Lord’s Day to Sunday. In fact, those who use this verse as a proof text for changing the Lord’s Day to Sunday extract this verse out of its context. It’s a sad attempt to justify the tradition of Sunday observance.
If you have read this far you have covered all eight places in Scripture where the first day of the week is mentioned. In none of those passages is there any authority for Sunday observance of the Lord’s Day. Indeed, there is no record found in any passage in the Bible that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath. That belief is a tradition not based on Scripture.
I am in agreement with you. In fact the Scriptures tell us almost exactly when the resurrection occured. Matthew 28: 1-2 is the gospel record that pinpoints the time when Jesus arose. "Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it." The first day of the week was dawning (a new day began at sunset) when these ladies made a visit to the tomb, just as the sun was setting--the end of the Sabbath. This is a compelling, forceful argument against the religious tradition of an Easter morning resurrection in our culture.
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