Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The Christian Sabbath: The First Day of the Week

Q. 59: Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly sabbath?
Answer: From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian sabbath. (WSC)

The sabbath day is the weekly day of rest and worship (Ex. 20:11, Lev. 23:3). The observance of the sabbath day in the Old Testament on the seventh day was based on God’s works of creation and redemption (Ex. 20:11; Deut. 5:15). But the day of the new creation and redemption in the New Testament is the first day of the week, the day Jesus rose from the dead. Thus, our observance of the sabbath and its “holy convocation” (Lev. 23:3) also shifts to the first day. The fourth commandment was not abrogated, but its old covenant form was replaced by its new covenant form, explicitly connected to the work of Christ.

This shift was not a mere invention of the church, but was taught by the example of our Lord and intentionally recorded in Scripture. Jesus met with his gathered disciples on the day of his resurrection and broke bread with some of them (Luke 24, John 20:19-23). A week later, on the first day of the week, they were gathered again and he met with them (John 20:26-29). Seven weeks after his resurrection, on the first day of the week, was the day of Pentecost (Lev. 23:15-16), when the disciples were gathered again in one place and the Spirit descended upon them in the morning (Acts 2:1ff). They spoke in foreign tongues and Peter preached.

After this, we find the apostles following this example and gathering for worship on the first day of the week. In Acts 20:7 we find that “on the first day of the week” they “were gathered together to break bread” and “Paul talked with them…and he prolonged his speech until midnight.” In 1 Corinthians 11 we find that the Corinthian church gathered together as a church to eat the Lord’s Supper (11:18, 20, 33), and in 1 Corinthians 16 we find that the day that they met together was the first day of the week, since Paul tells them to collect supplies for the Jerusalem church on “the first day of every week” (16:2). Finally, we find that the Apostle John received God’s word when he was in the Spirit on “the Lord’s day” in Revelation 1:10, a reference to the first day of the week, the day of the Lord’s resurrection.

The early church continued to gather on this day, as Justin Martyr records in A.D. 155,
“We all make our assembly in common on Sunday, since it is the first day, on which God changed the darkness and matter and made the world, and Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the dead on the same day.” (Justin Martyr, First Apology)

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