The Christian Day of Worship

Why do Christians gather for worship and ministry on Sunday?

  1. There is a theological foundation for this practice. The resurrection of Christ, the central vital fact of Christianity, occurred on the first day of the week (Mt. 28, Mk. 16, Lk. 24, Jn. 20).
  2. There is post-resurrection reinforcement for this practice. Christ appeared to the 12 disciples after his resurrection, on the first day of the week (Jn. 20:19ff, 20:26ff).
  3. The example of the early church demonstrates this practice. The church at Troas gathered to break bread and hear Paul preach on the first day of the week. Paul had been in Troas for the entire preceding week, yet Scripture gives no indication that they assembled as a church until the first day of the week (Acts 20:6ff).
  4. The instructions of the Apostle Paul assume this practice. He told the church at Corinthian to set aside offerings on the first day of the week, which indicates that they already gathered together on Sunday (1 Cor. 16:1-2).
  5. The direct reference of the Apostle John to “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10) underscores this practice. This Greek expression is not the same thing as the prophetic expression “the day of the Lord.” Instead, it is a biblical reference to the Christian day of worship, observed by John, the last living apostle (Rev. 1:10).
  6. The example of the early church fathers reiterates this practice. Church leaders immediately following the apostles spoke about the church gathering together on the first day of the week. You will find this in the Epistle of Barnabas (15), Ignatius to the Magnesians (9), Justin Martyr’s Apology (I.67), Eusebius’ Ecclessiastical History (IV.23), and Turtullian’s De Oratio (23), among others. These testimonies date from the early 100s – 200s.

So what about Constantine’s decree in 321 A.D., in which he pronounced the following?

On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed” (Codex Justinianus lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; trans. in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, p. 380, note 1).

This edict, along with other ensuing edicts, that Sunday be observed as the special day of the week, did not change or establish a specific day for Christian worship. We do not worship on Sunday because of a decision that Constantine made. He merely acknowledged the long-standing practice of a vast majority of Christian churches from the first two centuries of church history. We worship on Sunday, as the Lord’s Day, because it is biblical.

5 replies
  1. Bill Hardecker
    Bill Hardecker says:

    I would add that God setting aside a day (rooted in the Creation account, which is prior to the Mosaic Law) is a moral pattern and the backdrop to us setting aside a day also where we stop and gather for teaching, prayers, observance of the Lord’s ordinances, and fellowship. I appreciate this article and I love that you based your points on the Scriptures (except for #6 & Constantine’s quote – although they are insightful historical stuff). Here’s my point: The more we understand and are convinced by the Bible that our practices are rooted in the Word the less prone we are to change in these unstable times. I noticed that many places of worship (ex. some so called “Community Worship Center”) would have some of their services on Tuesday or Saturday for those who can’t (methinks: won’t) make it on Sundays, and this has changed and will continue to change the landscape of “the first day of the week” to utter meaninglessness. May we search the Scriptures and allow His Word to change us and not be conformed to this world.

  2. TOvermiller
    TOvermiller says:

    Bro. Bill, thank you for adding your perspective; and praise God for your gospel labors in the Philippines! You mention the Christian/NT/church Sabbath principle, which I did not include in my list of reasons. While it is a noteworthy observation (the 7th day of rest in the Creation account), I have been unable to find any Bible teaching that makes this direct connection between God’s day of rest in Creation and the Lord’s Day of worship and service, which we observe as the NT church.

    As I understand it, the belief that the OT Saturday Sabbath is now the NT Lord’s Day Sunday is actually the result of some logic that is popularized by the Westminster Confession of Faith (21.7), though this is likely an oversimplification. If you are interested, I highly recommend that you read this research paper, which makes a thought-provoking case for the Lord’s Day Sabbath being more of a Reformed concept, rather than a dispensational one:

    The Sabbath, Israel and the Church (by Joel T. Williamson, Jr. of Calvary Theological Seminary)

    On a practical and personal note, I’ve noticed that as a pastor, Sunday/the Lord’s Day is not a day of rest for me; in fact, it is my #1 day of shepherding labor in most weeks!

    Furthermore, you might be interested in my related post, Five Reasons to be at Church, and its corresponding podcast here, both based on Hebrews 10:23-25.

    God bless!

  3. Bill
    Bill says:

    Agreed. I only wanted to add to your arguments for Sunday as the day of worship for Christians. I do look forward to reading Williamson’s paper. Also I want to stress that point that people will change their practices if it isn’t rooted in the Scriptures. We certainly have a Bible mandate to observe the Lord’s day (the first day of the week) as Christians. I have to chuckle on the point of “day of rest,” I know exactly what you mean. Thankfully, our rest is Christ, and ever more in Him! Blessings to you.

  4. TOvermiller
    TOvermiller says:

    Blessings to you as well. By the way, do you know the Berrey family, who also ministers in the Philippines? Tim Berrey was an undergraduate and seminary professor of mine (and a dear friend) who actually shared many of these Lord’s Day principles with me.

  5. Bill
    Bill says:

    No. But, Lord willing, perhaps sometime in the future, I will be able to meet him. I’ll Google him, and check him out. I did see his name on your church calendar. Well, I trust you will have a wonderful time with him, both in the Word and some great times together.

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