Why Do Christians Worship on the First Day of the Week?
Very simply, the answer to this question is that Christians are under a different law from the law that Israel was under. Israel was under the Law of Moses given by God to Israel at Mt. Sinai (Exodus, chapters 19-31). This law continued in force until Jesus Christ died on the cross (Colossians 2:14). Jesus was an Israelite. The Law of Moses was in effect during His lifetime. Therefore, He kept the Law of Moses in order to be faithful to God. This explains why Jesus worshipped in the synagogue on the sabbath. The Law of Moses taught:
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates (Exodus 20:8-10).
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read (Luke 4:16).
While Jesus lived on earth, He kept the Law of Moses and taught others to do so. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18). Please notice that Jesus said nothing would pass from the Law
till all things be accomplished.
Jesus fulfilled all that was written in the Old Testament—the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets.
And he said unto them, These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me (Luke 24:44).
The purpose of the Law which was given to Israel at Mt. Sinai, the Law of Moses, is clearly seen in the book of Galatians.
What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made; and it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator (Galatians 3:19). The Law was to be in effect
till the Seed should come. The promised Seed was Jesus Christ (Genesis 3:15; 12:1-3; Galatians 3:16).
Please notice again,
So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Galatians 3:24-25). If we are no longer under the Law of Moses, then obviously the Sabbath law is not binding upon us today.
When did the Law of Moses as a law binding upon God’s people end? The answer is, it ended when Jesus died on the cross thus fulfilling it. Please notice:
But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in the flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace (Ephesians 2:13-15). Jesus abolished the law of commandments (the Law of Moses which included the command to keep the sabbath, Exodus 20:8). He abolished it
in the flesh; that is by His death on the cross (cf. Colossians 2:14-17).
The new law, the Law of Christ, came into effect on Pentecost Day (Acts 2). On that day, the church of Christ was established (Acts 2:36-47). From that time, we find Christians meeting to worship upon the first day of the week which is Sunday.
And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight (Acts 20:7).
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come. (I Corinthians 16:1-2).
In summary, why do Christians meet for worship on Sunday, the first day of the week, instead of Saturday, the seventh day of the week? The teaching of the Bible is plain. The Law of Moses, which included the sabbath commandment, was to the nation of Israel only. It lasted as a binding law until Christ died on the cross. The Law of Christ, which began at Pentecost, is God’s law for all mankind today. The Law of Christ teaches that we are to meet on Sunday, the first day of the week. This is the day upon which our Lord arose from the dead (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2-6; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). The day upon which the church began, Pentecost day, also was on the first day of the week (Leviticus 23:9-16). Therefore, we can see why the Lord chose the first day of the week as the day of worship for Christians.
The church of the Lord Jesus Christ meets on the first day of the week (Sunday) for regular worship. At that time, the members of the church eat the Lord’s supper. This is done in memory of the death of Jesus Christ for our sins. Teaching and exhorting from the Word of God is done. Prayers and songs of praise are offered up to God. A contribution it taken for the poor and for the preaching of the gospel. The Lord’s church meets on Sunday because some very important events happened on that day.
Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, arose from the dead on he first day of the week: “Now when he was risen early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons” (Mark 16:9; see also Matthew 28:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10). The resurrection of Christ is very important to Christians. It proves beyond all doubt that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God. It also gives us the assurance that we too will be raised to life again (see I Corinthians 15).
The Holy Spirit came upon the apostles upon the first day of the week: “And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4). “Pentecost” actually means “fifty days.” Pentecost was a special feast of the Jews which was to be observed fifty days after their Passover feast. It is also called “the feast of harvest” or “firstfruits.” Sometimes it is called “the feast of weeks” because it was seven weeks after Passover. “And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave-offering; seven sabbaths shall there be complete: even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meal-offering unto Jehovah” (Leviticus 23:15-16; see also Exodus 23:14-19). Since the Sabbath was Saturday, the seventh day of the week, the day after the Sabbath would be Sunday, the first day of the week (Exodus 20:9-10).
The church of the Lord Jesus Christ began on this Pentecost day when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles. On that day, they preached the gospel. Men heard, believed, repented, and were baptized for the remission of sins. They were added by the Lord to His church, which is the church of Christ (Acts 2:36-47). Thus, the church had its beginning on Sunday, the first day of the week.
The early church met on the first day of the week to remember Jesus Christ by eating the Lord’s supper: “And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7). Paul was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem (Acts 20:16). But in spite of that, when he came to Troas, he stayed seven days (Acts 20:6). Without doubt, he was waiting for the first day of the week so he could worship with the church.
Some perverted translations of the Bible, such as the so-called “Good News Bible” and the “New English Bible,” mistranslated this passage. They make the breaking of bread, which is the Lord’s supper, to be a fellowship meal. They put “Saturday evening” instead of the first day of the week. This is misleading, dishonest, and wrong! The Greek words here for “the first day of the week” are the same as in Luke 24:1, where it is correctly translate “the first day of the week.” Those who really want to follow God’s Word will not use such translations.
Not only did the early Christians meet on the first day of the week for the Lord’s supper, but they also engaged in the other acts of worship. It is on this day that Christians are commanded to give for the work of the Lord: “Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come” (I Corinthians 16:2). Christians must exhort one another not to forsake the assembly on the first day of the week (Hebrews 10:25).
Jesus commanded His disciples: “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). He also commanded them to teach the ones baptized “to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Now, when one sees the early churches observing the Lord’s supper on the first day of the week, it follows that the apostles taught them to observe it on that day. We must follow the New Testament pattern in order to be the true church today.