Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matt. -20). He didn’t remove it, but enriched it and took it to greater heights. His standards of the law and its adherence are much higher (Matthew 5 and Romans 6). It is seen from the N.T. that the Law is for the unbelievers (I Tim. 1:9), but not for the believers. The believer is not under the Law, but grace (Rom. ). Law has only led us to a sense of sinfulness, but Jesus Christ has led us to Salvation (Gal. -25). For the believers, there is a “new” Testament, a new set of Laws written in their hearts and not on stone tablets. So NT believers are to adhere to the laws as they are enriched by the Lord Jesus Christ and as He enables them through His Spirit.
The Lord Jesus who came to fulfill the Law as the Passover Lamb has in essence repeated 9 out of 10 commandments in a much enriched way in the N.T. and He expects us to keep all of those in their full gravity. But the question remained whether the commandment of the Sabbath was to be kept by the NT believer. The truths as revealed in the NT emphasize that the Sabbath has been replaced with the Lord’s Day which is the First Day of the week on which we commemorate the resurrection of the Lord. This has been the day observed as a day of remembrance, for breaking of bread and set apart as a special day of the week by the believers as seen in the Acts and the Epistles. The following Biblical contexts have led the Church throughout the last 20 centuries to keep Sunday, the first day of the week, as the Lord’s Day.
Paul says in Col. 2:16 & 17 that the believer is NOT to be judged in the observance of the Sabbath (or rather in the non-observance of the Sabbath), as it was a shadow of what was to come through Christ. This shadow has been removed through the death of the Lord on the cross and so there is no more relevance for Sabbath for the NT believer. But we have a much enriched day to keep for Him, which is the Lord’s Day when we are no more taking rest, but are active for the Lord.
It can be seen from Amos 8:5-9 that on the day the sun becomes dark from , the Sabbath will cease to be in force for the people of God. This happened on the day the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. So His death has removed Sabbath and that is how He became the Lord of the Sabbath and that a new order has come into effect for God’s people with new hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Apostolic example is that on the First day of the Week, they gathered together to Break Bread (Acts. 20:7). This was the day set apart for breaking of bread and related activities during the apostolic period. We see here that Paul stayed until the First Day because that was the day of the Breaking of Bread, being the First day. The reason was simply that were the day the Lord’s people gathered as a whole church to worship and break bread and so he would be able to see all of them and will be able to worship and break bread with them. He was eagerly waiting for that special day of the week. Otherwise, with some gathering on some other day, he would have fulfilled his desire.
It is likely that some of the believers gathered and broke bread more often than on the first day, as they were so thrilled with the time of remembrance, but the general apostolic practice is that they broke bread on the First Days of the week.
The timing of such gatherings varies from countries and cultures for various reasons. There are believers who gather at of the Saturday to make sure that they gather at the earliest hours of the First Day of the week. In some countries, they gather on Sunday evenings as it is a working day in such countries. In some situations, because of lack of facilities, believers gather at different times of the day for breaking of bread. But in all these, believers keep the spirit of the commandment and commemorate the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the First Day of the week.
The Lord Jesus Christ told the Jews that He was the Lord of Sabbath too (Matt. 12:8, Mk. , Luke 6:5). This verse simply means that He had the authority to alter the law concerning Sabbath if He so desired. Actually that was what He did by fulfilling it and opening a new way for those who believe in Him, through the First Day of the Week as a day to remember Him, His death, burial and resurrection.
Apostle Paul admonished the CorinthianChurch with regard to keeping part of their material blessings for distribution on the First Day (I Cor. 16:1). Why the First Day? Because this was the day on which the believers met together for Breaking of Bread. This was the day of the assembly meeting together and a day set apart for the Lord’s matters exclusively. This does not mean that on other days they didn’t meet for any Christian activities, but the First Day was prominent.
The Sabbath was the day of Rest and there was no work. But Sabbath was never intended as a day of worship, whereas the First Day of the Week is the day of worship and remembrance for the NT Christians. This was the order of the old dispensation. But the Lord Jesus Christ replaced that with the First Day when the new creation came into being, He being the First Fruits. Thus this day is set apart for Worship and related Lord’s matters fully as we see the precedence in the Acts.
The First Day is the day of new life and invigorating action of the Lord and not a day of Rest, but activity. So the day of rest is replaced with the day of activities. This is new to the believers and the apostles demonstrated it through their examples and taught to keep it.
The First Day has been indicated in a special way as a special day in the Gospels, Acts and Epistles, after the resurrection of our Lord. This is as against Sabbath as the focus before the resurrection. A survey of the four gospels will make this clear. The shift is clear from the following:
The Lord was resurrected on the First Day
The Lord appeared to the Disciples on the First day, as seen in John 20:19, 26, Luke 24:13. In these verses, The First Day of the Week is emphasized and repeated.
The Day of Pentecost, when the Church was baptized in the Holy Spirit (50th day from the day of resurrection), was the First Day of the Week
John saw the Revelations on the Lord’s Day which by that time was already recognized as the day of resurrection or the First Day (Rev. 1:10).
In all these cases, the First Day of the Week has been emphasized and made the focal point, and the only reason it is focused is because the First Day of the Week now has new importance and significance unlike the past.
We do not see ANY apostolic practice of Sabbath being observed as aday of worship of the New Testament believers, as recorded in the NT. The history of the church of the First Century also clearly indicates that they broke bread and worshipped on the First Day of the Week. The believers in the post-apostolic era also understood this teaching from the apostles and continued to practice it fervently.
We see that the Sabbath was linked with the first creation. But the Lord’s Day is the day of the New Creation. The new creation starts with Calvary, followed by resurrection.
Christians keep the Lord’s Day, a sacred and holy day, not as a ritual, nor because it is a holiday in certain countries. As a matter of fact, it was because it was a holy day for the believers that it has become a holiday even in non-Christian countries (like India, a Hindu country and Tunisia a Muslim country). Christians keep it as a holy day out of their sincere love and devotion to the Lord and out of loving compulsion to remember the resurrected Lord by keeping all their possible earthly engagements out.
In Acts 21: 3 & 4 and 28: 13 & 14, Paul is seen waiting for 7 days to meet with the believers. This is expressly for the day of the Lord to come so that they could break bread. This practice is seen in Acts 20: 6 & 7 also. There is no other imaginable reason for this waiting for the Lord’s Day. Nor was it an accident or a wait without any reason. The Holy Spirit made sure to write it for us in His Word so that the same Spirit can teach us the mind of the Lord on this.
It may be seen that (1) there was a commandment to break bread and (2) it has been observed specifically on the First day of the week. Thus the First day is mentioned with special significance. It is not because it is a holiday that it has become important, but it became a holiday because Christians chose to break bread on the First day.
If the apostolic example as given in the book of Acts is any thing to go by, one should be spending the Lord’s Day in the matters of the Lord and be engaged with His things rather than the things of the World for which they have 6 other days.
The World’s businesses kept their shops closed largely because the Christians refused to shop around or work on Sundays. But such social restrictions are being increasingly removed these days, by the pressure of the World System to make more money and sometimes even believers open their businesses on the Lord’s Day which is abominable. Opening businesses is found to be giving them extra hours to be made use of to have more turn over and business. Satan often tells such believers that if they make extra money, they can give more to the Lord’s work! (It seems many think the Lord is so poor and we need to work hard even on a Lord’s Day to give to His cause.) Christians need to be vigilant and keep away from such temptations. Here one may find a lot of arguments in favor of doing businesses on the First Days of the Week. But a believer need to ask a question as to whether the same Holy Spirit who wrote the NT would lead the believers to engage themselves in “filthy lucre” on the Lord’s Day which is intended to be set apart and used for His glory in a special way.
The use of the First Day of the week for any thing other than the Lord’s matters should not be interpreted on the basis of opportunities for jobs and more wages or overtime on that day in certain countries. We should interpret the Bible as “it is written” and adjust our lives accordingly. Some times there are some professions in which we may be forced to work on a Lord’s Day, like humanitarian professions to save life, or someone may be forced to work on the Lord’s Day out of sheer compulsion or even persecution. But that should be only considered permission and not opportunity and thoroughly situational. But the spirit of the Lord invariably challenges us to even forgo opportunities and suffer loss to show our expression of love to the Lord by setting the day apart to worshipping and serving the Lord. We should be serving Him on all days to the extent to which possible, but the Lord’s day is His and ought to be set apart for Him as our commitment to Him and as has been clearly shown in theNew Testament.
Christians who are leading God’s people are expected to set example for others in their zeal to keep the Lord’s Day and should teach these truths carefully and diligently rather than throwing doubts into believers’ minds and confuse them with wrong examples.
Parents need to teach children these truths and set an example for their children to learn from and follow carefully.This is all themore important these days as the World, flesh and Satan are tempting young people to forgo the Lord’s Day for tuition, work and studies by ignoring the Lord’s Day.
What are the areas where we can be careful in keeping the Lord’s Day holy? Some suggestions are given below, but these are not exhaustive by any means:
a.Make sure that we attend the worship and Breaking of Bread on a Lord’s Day no matter where we are to the extent humanly possible. In order to facilitate this, we should carefully plan our weeks, days and businesses so that they would not be a hindrance to observing the Lord’s Day and keeping it separated for Him.
b.Perhaps the only reason for absenting from a remembrance meeting on a Lord’s Day should be sickness of the magnitude which would prevent one to travel and sit in the meeting.
c.Make sure to avoid all business transactions on that day and set the day apart for His business only. We need to declare that we will not do any business on the Lord’s Day.
d.Avoid travel except for His business and that too sufficiently before or after the Breaking of the Bread. Emergencies are the only exception to this.
e.Refuse to take overtime or other opportunities on the Lord’s Day when offered because we have to attend the workshop meeting. This is often a test and there is often a temptation to accept the opportunity which gives us extra money or an opportunity to please the boss for future benefits like promotion, raise etc.
f.Avoid shopping and other worldly entanglements like games, studying, watching TV,partying, worldly entertainment of any sort, trivial talk and visits, sight seeing, vacations, business dealings etc, as much as possible, which will remove our focus from the Lord. Let the Lord and His people and the world know that Jesus Christ and His cause are more important for us and that He will have preeminence in our lives. Let our businesses be kept closed on that day, as we have other 6 days to keep it open to make money. Let us boldly take a stand that we do not want to make money at the expense of the Lord’s Day. Let the day be spent on studying the Word, fellowship, prayer and evangelistic endeavors, visiting believers who miss meetings due to backsliding or sickness, after breaking of bread and fellowship with the Lord’s people in the assembly.
g.Let the day be spent not as a religious ritual, but as a Biblical commandment, Biblical Tradition and out of our love for the Lord, His presence and His Word.
h.Let our children also see from our lives the extent of importance we give to the Lord’s Day and grow up with such values of the apostles.
When we carefully examine the Word of the Lord, we can see clearly that the Lord’s Day is a day set apart for the believers to specially gather together to worship and break bread, have fellowship and testify to the Lord and His love in so many different ways. We are called upon to bear witness to these truths and set an example for others to follow. Let us also carefully keep away from modernistic teachings which reduce or belittle the importance and significance of the Lord’s Day. May we take this challenge seriously and be found faithful in keeping the Lord’s Day for His cause? May His name be glorified!