Questions 115, 116, & 117

Before Jesus* came, the Jews* worshipped God on the last day of the week. That day was called the Sabbath.* It was one of the ten commands that God put on the tables made of stone and gave to Moses.* It said, ‘Remember the Sabbath and keep it as a holy day.’ On that day, they were to remember that God had brought them out from Egypt*.[1] The Sabbath began Friday at sunset and ended Saturday at sunset. This was to be a day of complete rest from all work. It helped them remember that the Creator* rested on the seventh day.[2] The Sabbath was a special sign to the people of Israel* that they had been set apart as followers* of the one, true God.

 

But the Sabbath Day was not a day when God’s people went to a meeting to worship. It was a day of rest. When Moses and the prophets* spoke of the Sabbath, they spoke of it as a day to rest.[3] There is no command to meet to worship on that day. Rest from work is what made the Sabbath special time.

 

In those days, the way that people were to honor* God was to go to the Tent of Meeting or to the Temple.* God gave Moses many instructions on how the people were to worship there. Most of the people lived too far away from the Tent of Meeting or the Temple to go to worship there every Sabbath day. The Sabbath was kept at home, by resting. It was a way that Israel could show that they did not trust* their own work to feed them and bring them good things. Their rest was a way to show that they trusted God and rested in Him.

 

But after the Babylonian* army took many Jews from their land, Jews began to build what they called synagogues.* The Jews were scattered and lived in many nations. So, they built synagogues where there were enough of their people to gather together and remember that they were God’s chosen people. They would read the law* together and talk about it there. They met to encourage one another and remind one another about God’s promises to Abraham* and to David* and to them. They met on many different days in the synagogue. But the most important meeting was on the Sabbath.

 

After Jesus rose from the dead, the apostles* still spoke of the Sabbath.* Many of the new Christians were Jews. They kept going to the synagogue as they did before. When Paul* went to a new place, he told people about Jesus. He would often begin by telling the people in the synagogue.

 

As the church* grew, many of the new believers* were not Jews. They did not go to a synagogue. They had never rested on the Sabbath as a way to honor God. They had never followed the laws that God gave to Moses for the children of Abraham. So, it became a practice for the church of new believers to gather on Sunday, the first day of the week. This was the day when Jesus rose from the dead. It was called the ‘Lord’s Day.’ Since that time, believers have gathered on the first day of the week. They gather to worship Jesus and give thanks for his victory over sin* and death.[5]

 

Some people have called the Lord’s Day, the Christian Sabbath. We can see why they do that. The Jews were to honor God by resting on the Sabbath. And new Christians chose the Lord’s day to honor God. When the Jews built the synagogues, they did many of the same kinds of things there that the early Christians did as the church. But nowhere in the Scripture* is the Sabbath ever called the Lord’s Day or the Lord’s Day called the Sabbath.

 

The words, ‘Lord’s Day’ are only used once in the New Testament.* John* wrote in his letter that the Holy Spirit* spoke to him in a special way on the Lord’s Day. He did not need to explain what he meant when he used those words. So, it seems that the people he wrote to already knew what the Lord’s Day was.

 

Meeting together to worship and learn and care for one another is important. The first people who trusted in Jesus did this every day. They gathered in houses and meeting places. But it seems that the first day of the week became an important day. The early Christians made it a habit to worship on that day. They listened to the apostles teach. They honored God in worship. They ate together, gave gifts to help the poor, and cared for one another.

 

Wise Christians still use this day to gather as the church. We must make it our habit to meet together with believers. And we must not stop meeting together.[6] But It is not a law as the Sabbath was for the Jews. We are not welcomed by Jesus because we keep rules. We must encourage one another and love one another. Jesus is our rest, our peace*, and our hope.* So, we must not judge one another about what day we gather to worship.[7]


[1] Deuteronomy 5:15
[2] Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:11; Exodus 23:12
[3] Exodus 31:12-17; Numbers 15:32; Nehemiah 13:15-22; Jeremiah 17:19-27
[4] Matthew 12:5; John 7:23; Colossians 2:16
[5] Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2
[6] Hebrews 10:25
[7] Romans 3:28; Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 4:9-11