Why do Christians worship on Sunday?
Well, not all do. The Seventh-day Adventists, as their name suggests, gather together on the Biblical “seventh day,” which is indeed the Sabbath – the Old Testament “day of rest.”
It’s beginnings date back to creation itself. In Genesis 1 we read how God first speaks into being light, then substance and land, sun, moon, stars, sea creatures, flying beings, and land animals. Finally, on the sixth day, God makes man… in His own image… and all things He calls “good.”
Then, in chapter 2 we read,
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Gen. 2:2-3).
This becomes a template for human behavior, a tenet of the foundational Ten Commandments:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exod. 20:8-11).
Sabbath day observance continued amongst the Jews right up to the time of Christ. In fact, Jesus Himself regularly attended the synagogue on the Sabbath. “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” (Luke 4:16). He even chose the Sabbath day to announce the start of His earthly ministry (see Luke 4:16-30).
But the Jews accused Jesus of ‘transgressing’ the Sabbath by ‘working’ on the holy day: plucking corn, teaching, healing the sick… In response Jesus announced “I tell you that something greater than the temple is here… For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matt. 12:6, 8)
Jesus did His greatest work of all, rising from the grave, on the day following the Sabbath, on the first day of the week, Sunday. In doing so He defeated death, and ensured the triumphant resurrection of all believers. He fulfilled all the Law and brought the dawn of the Age of Grace. New wineskins, if you will (see Matt. 9:17).
At first the early church met daily in homes. As the church grew some sort of structure became necessary, that everything be done “decently and in order” Through the epistles we see the emergence of leadership structure, care for widows, basic creeds to distinguish truth from heresy, ordinances of baptism and the Lords Supper, plus the collection of tithes and offerings, etc. We soon see the early church beginning to meet together on “the first day of the week”…
Luke records, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread…” (Acts 20:7), and Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.” (1 Cor. 16:1-2).
Interestingly the exiled Apostle John also received the great revelation of God on the first day of the week, now known as “the Lord’s day.” He records, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…” (Rev. 1:10).
Moving from the Sabbath (Saturday) to the Lord’s day (Sunday) also helped to further distinguish the followers of Jesus from the followers of Judaism, i.e. those who now lived by faith in Christ from those who rejected Him as Messiah and continued in the way of legalism. Perhaps too this allowed some believers to still attend the synagogue on the Sabbath and possibly reach out to the legalists.
Finally, it is important that believers in Christ do not become contentious over this topic. Scripture clearly directs us,
“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord… Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.” (Rom. 14:5-6,13)
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