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Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Was Sunday the New Testament Day of Worship

Three scriptures lead some people to believe that Sunday was the day of rest and worship for the New Testament Church. Let’s briefly examine each of them to see if this is true.

One scripture commonly cited to justify Sunday worship is Revelation 1:10, where John said, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day…" Some believe this means John was worshipping on Sunday and had the vision on that day. But nowhere does the Bible define "Lord’s Day" as the first day of the week. As a matter of fact, this is the only place this term is used in the Bible, which would hardly be the case if the Church had been observing Sunday for years, as some contend.

If this were referring to a day of the week, we would have to conclude that John meant the seventh day, since Jesus Christ said He was the "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28), not some other day of the week.

However, the context of John’s vision shows that John wasn’t referring to a day of the week at all. Instead, he wrote that the vision transported him into the future time the Bible elsewhere calls the "day of the Lord," "day of the Lord Jesus Christ" or "day of Christ" (Jeremiah 46:10; Acts 2:20; 1 Corinthians 1:8; 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10).

These terms are not speaking of a specific single day. Instead, they refer to the end-time events surrounding the return of Jesus Christ, when He will personally and directly intervene in Human affairs. Thus, these terms indicate the end of the age of man’s rule and the beginning of the age of Jesus Christ. This is the theme of the book of Revelation and the "Lord’s Day" John saw in vision.

Breaking bread on Sunday?

Another scripture some believe shows the New Testament Church observed Sunday is Acts 20:7:

"Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight."

Some think that "break[ing] bread" is a reference to the bread and wine of the New Testament Passover and therefore is a religious service on the first day of the week. However, breaking bread does not refer to a religious service, but to dividing flat loaves of bread for a meal. "It means to partake of food and is used of eating as in a meal…The readers [of the original New Testament letters and manuscripts] could have had no other idea or meaning in their minds" (E.W Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, pp. 839,840). This is proven by the fact that, after Paul finished speaking, they again broke bread and ate (verse 11). Breaking bread to eat a meal is mentioned in Luke 24:30, 35 and Acts 27:35.

The timing of these events helps us to understand more clearly. Acts 20:7-11 describes several events of one night. Since the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, counts days as beginning when the sun goes down, these events began with a meal on Saturday evening after the Sabbath, which would have been the only evening on "the first day of the week." Several translations, including the New English Bible, Today’s English Version, The New Testament in Modern English, and The Jewish New Testament, state unequivocally that this occurred on Saturday night.

Paul planned to leave the next day for another city, so he stayed and spoke long into the night. At midnight one young man in the congregation fell asleep, tumbled from the window where he sat and was killed in the fall. Paul rushed to the young man, who miraculously came back to life. After that, the group broke bread and ate again, talking almost until dawn. Paul departed at daybreak.

After speaking and talking all night, Paul the next morning walked almost 20 miles to Assos to meet the rest of the people in his group who had sailed there (verses 11,13,14). Rather than describing a religious service on Sunday, this passage actually documents Paul walking 20 miles on foot on the first day of the week—hardly making it a day of rest and worship for him!

Collection during Sunday service?

Some people assume that 1 Corinthians 16:1 and 2 refers to taking up a collection during a Sunday religious service. A closer look shows that this is not what Paul means. Although the Bible says the collection took place on the first day of the week, nowhere does it say that a church service was involved.

This was a special collection "for the saints," members of the church in Jerusalem (verses 1,3). It was part of a wider relief effort involving other members in Galatia (verse 1), Macedonia and Achaia (Romans 15:25, 26), as well as those in Corinth to whom Paul wrote. This outpouring of support may have been that described in Acts 11, when a famine prompted members to send "relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea…by the hands of Barnabas and Saul" (Acts 11:28-30).

Paul does not indicate that this collection was to be taken up at a religious service. On the contrary, he tells the Corinthians to "lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come" (1 Corinthians 16:2). These contributions were to be "laid aside" and "stored up," not brought to a church service and collected there. To say this is an account of a collection taken up during a Sunday worship service is to read into the Bible an unwarranted personal interpretation.

There are no other scriptures that mention anything remotely resembling religious services on the first day of the week. The New Testament was written over a time of more than 60 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and nowhere does it show the day of rest being moved to Sunday.

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