And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. (Mark 16:2)
Why should Christians worship on Sunday instead of Saturday as do the Jews and certain other “Christian” denominations? After all, in fourth of the Ten Commandments, God specifically says, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11). So, are we in violation of God’s commandment by worshiping on Sunday?
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. “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).
Much of the confusion 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 other than what has been handed down to us by Jewish tradition – that, however, is not to say that this tradition is in error. Furthermore, as you study the “Feasts of the Lord” given in Exodus and Leviticus, you find that each of those days is considered a shebbot (Sabbath) regardless of what day of the week it falls on. So, we need to be careful not to become dogmatic over things on which the Bible is unclear. However, it is clear that we need to “sanctify” – set aside – one day a week for the Lord.
Today, on Resurrection Day, we celebrate our Lord’s victory over death. (See “Risen Indeed,” where I cover the facts of the Resurrection.) The Resurrection is significant for us who believe because we have the promise that because Christ conquered death, we too can be assured of a resurrection to eternal life. “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain … But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14, 20). Today we rejoice in Christ’s resurrection and look forward to our own resurrection to be with Him eternally.
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, 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 and 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” (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.
So, as you celebrate this Resurrection Lord’s Day, remember why it is so special. He is risen indeed!