One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind (Romans 14:5)
Growing up in Texas, I remember, like a foggy dream, the reverence with which Sundays were observed. Back in those ancient days, we had the Texas “Blue Laws” which practically shut down any kind of commerce. Gasoline stations, grocery stores, restaurants, etc. were all closed for business on Sundays. In order to prepare for Sunday, one had to fill up on Saturday, and stock up on groceries for the Sunday meal. On Sunday morning, Mom would get us all dressed up in our Sunday best, complete with coat and tie. We were poor, so these special clothes were reserved only for Sunday. The idea was that when we came to God’s house, we brought our very best and that included our appearance. After church, there were no restaurants open, so Sunday lunch was a special family gathering time – sometimes with company.
Those days are long gone now. “Church” is not treated much differently than any other entertainment venue these days. When the final song is sung, there’s a mad dash for doors and to the restaurant of choice for Sunday lunch. After lunch one can go shopping for whatever bargains may be available that were missed earlier in the week. If there is a game on, we may watch that or go to take in the latest movie – something else that was unavailable in the time of the Texas Blue Laws. It seems that Sunday is just not that special anymore. In fact, some mega-churches have grown so large that they offer Saturday night services to accommodate their growing population, or those who would rather save their Sundays for “fun stuff.”
Of course, there are some churches where Saturday worship is the norm. Naturally, we can understand such a practice from Messianic Jewish congregations, but there are others besides. There is a sect of Baptists who observe the Sabbath as do the Seventh Day Adventists. The Church of God and some Pentecostal denominations also worship on Saturday. So, what makes Sunday so special?
First of all, let me say that setting aside one day of the week for rest and worship is right and proper whether that day be Friday, Saturday, or Sunday or any day of the week for that matter. Our Scripture verse above reminds that the day itself is not as significant as the object of our worship. So why is Sunday to be preferred rather than Saturday – the Sabbath?
There is much confusion that comes with the interpretation of the word “Sabbath” in the Bible. The word in the Hebrew does not mean “seventh” (shebəiʽi), but rather “rest” or “to rest” (shebbot). Genesis 2:2 tells us that “on the shebəiʽi day God ended his work which he had made; and he shebbot on the shebəiʽi day from all his work which he had made.” Translating that seventh day to mean Saturday “assumes” that God began His creative acts on Sunday, and we really have no textual basis for that conclusion, albeit, Saturday has been recognized as the seventh day from time immemorial. Furthermore, as you study the “Feasts of the Lord” given in Exodus and Leviticus, you will find that each of the feast days is considered a shebbot (Sabbath) regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. So, we need to be careful not to become too dogmatic over things on which the Bible is unclear, i.e., that Sabbath means exactly the seventh day of the week or Saturday. However, it is clear that we need to “sanctify” – set aside – one day a week for the Lord.
In the New Testament, the first Jewish Christians went to the temple or synagogue on the Sabbath (Acts 13:14; 17:2; 18:4) for the sake of the Jews and partly because that remained their custom. But they also met on the First Day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2) because this was “the Lord’s Day” and also for the sake of the Gentiles which were not obligated to follow Jewish custom (Colossians 2:16). The reason for this change is because this is when Christ was raised from the dead (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). The First Day of the week was also the day that the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples gathered in the upper room (Acts 2:1). Scripture does not specify the day of the week, but when you consider that Jesus arose on the first day of the week (Sunday) and then count forward 50 days (the Day of Pentecost) you will find that day to be Sunday also. The day that Jesus arose was the “First Omer of First Fruits” (Nisan 16), and the Day of Pentecost was the “50th Omer” (Sivan 6). Not only were these days important on the Jewish calendar, but they have even greater significance in the Christian calendar. For this reason, it is proper that Christians should meet on the First Day of the week to celebrate the Risen Lord and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Now, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days” (Colossians 2:16, emphasis added). We should not be critical of those who wish to worship on the Sabbath, but Sunday should carry greater significance for the Christian.