Church Education Resource Ministries


Honoring the Lord’s Day

The Hebrew verb for Sabbath is shabbath means literally to “rest from labor.” The first mention of the day of rest is in Genesis 2:2, where it says, "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work". Being omnipotent, God did not need to literally sleep--- He rested since He had nothing else to create. God made the Sabbath for man to rest from his work, refresh himself, and bless his soul with the word of God. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath is a major consistent theological theme, and a commandment that zealously needed to be followed. In the New Testament, however, the weekly observance of the Sabbath is no longer a commandment (Mt 11:28-30), but is a freedom for God’s people (Heb 3) as the following passage shows:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ (Col. 2:13-17).

The Sabbath is now meant as a blessing for God’s people, as it says here:

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.  For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.  Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.' " And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: "And on the seventh day God rested from all his work." And again, in the passage above he says, "They shall never enter my rest." It still remains that some will enter that rest and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience"(Heb 4:1-11).

Jesus did not follow the legalistic Sabbath traditions of his day but fulfilled the law of God perfectly (Mt 5:17-18). After His death the binding nature of the law was no longer to be followed (Rm 10:4, Gal 3:23-25, Eph 2:15) and so it made sense why the early church also did not follow the Sabbath regulations of the Mosaic Law and changed their day of worship from the Hebrew Sabbath to Sunday and met on the first day of the week, which is Sunday. The first reference to Christians gathering to worship indicates that they did not gather on the Sabbath or seventh day of the week but on Sunday (Acts 20:7-12). The reason the early church did not see a need to worship on the seventh day is that they wanted to celebrate Christ’s resurrection & power over death. [1] The three main passages in the New Testament that move the Sabbath to Sunday are (1 Cor 16:2, Acts 20:7, & Rev 1:10). New Testament believers are not under the old Mosaic Law and therefore are not forced to observe the Sabbath day, but should observe & give this day entirely to God. In this article I wish to argue why Christians should honor the Lord’s Day to glorify God, get rest & nourishment, & connect with others. All verse quotations unless otherwise indicated will be from the New International Version (NIV).

Christians should honor the Lord's Day to give glory to God. Sadly in the society that we live in there are many churchless Christians that live their lives without accountability, discipline, discipleship, and live as individuals rather than as the collective church body (1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12). Many churchgoers believe and worship God, yet reject the mothership of the church.[2] Church attendance is on the decline in many parts of the world. Since the late 1960’s, Americans have become 10 percent less likely to become a member of a church somewhere, and some 25-50 percent less likely to be regularly involved in the ministry of a church.[3] I personally have been in churches where the teaching was so far from a true gospel that its no wonder that most there were not growing in the Lord, and consequently had an unbiblical view of the Lord’s Day. I don’t doubt for a second that in the coming years more and more Christians won’t be attending church on a regular basis. God’s people should not only be members and tithers but also contributors and givers to the church. In Eph 2:10, Paul writes “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We are not saved by good works, but saved to do them. God put the church on this earth to be the light of the world (Mt 5:14) the salt of the earth (Mt 5:13), and the redemptive force in the culture (Jn 17:18). By serving the body of Christ on the day of worship, in one sense believers are doing the good works, which God has prepared for his people. How can followers of Christ serve and minister to the world if serving the church is not a priority? The parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 is a perfect illustration of how God’s people must serve others. Honoring the Lord on Sunday gives the believer the opportunity to do so in the body of Christ. Another example of giving God glory by serving others comes from Jn 13 and the example Christ set by washing his disciples feet. When you serve like Christ, He is given the glory (Mt 25:35-36). If the world saw how the church served each other by the example that Christ set, then more would come to a saving faith (Mt 5:16). Instead, the example set by many Christians is to argue endlessly over secondary issues that have no bearing on the salvation of a soul and to divide against each other over such secondary matters of doctrine. In 1 Cor 10:31 Paul writes, “so whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” God wants his people to glorify him with their time, talents, and abilities while done in their bodies (1 Cor 6:20). It is not glorifying God to dishonor the Lord’s Day. It is not glorifying God to attend church in order to use your time, talents, passions, and opportunities to serve yourself over God. Therefore, do not have the wrong motives, but honor the Lord's Day, because you love God and wish to honor him in all that you do (1 Cor 10:31).

Another important reason to honor the Lord’s Day is for rest & nourishment. Resting from activity and feeding on the word of God is something every healthy believer does. Believers have an appetite for God and his word and wish to grow by a daily feeding of it for it provides great benefits (Ps. 19:7-8, Eph. 5:26, 1 Pet. 1:23). David wrote in Ps. 84:10, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” David earnestly sought after the Lord, and true believers will seek after the Lord and to get the teaching and nourishment from the word. In Ps. 19:10, the word is described to be sweeter than honey, and finer than gold. In 1 Pet 2:2 the word is described to be milk that is necessary for growth and in Hebrews the word is also described as meat. Feeding on the word happens daily in the life of a healthy believer, and observance of the Lord’s Day has a special place, as it’s the day that a sole purpose is to feed on the word and rest from regular activities. The word of God does promise a blessing for those that read and obey what is taught as James 1:25 says “…he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (KJV). Besides the nourishment of the word of God on the Lord’s Day, the day is also a day of rest. Looking at the example of Jesus we find that he did rest and receive nourishment when needed (John 4:6, 19:28, Mt 4:2,4:11). If Jesus took the time to rest, spend time with the father, and eat & drink, so should we. All too often in our busy culture are people so preoccupied with getting ahead, paying off debts, buying more things, and so the true meaning of life is forgotten. Ecc 12:13 says that fearing God and keeping his commandments is the entire reason for life for the Christian so our treasures cannot be on this earth (Lk 12:34) but must be in heaven (Mt 6:19). In James it says “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). We do not know how long we will live on earth so we need to fear God and keep His commands (Jn 15:14), and to evangelize to a lost and dying world (Acts 1:8, 8:4, Mk 16:15). If believers would model their lives after these scriptures then the world would be drastically different.

Another vital importance to the Lord’s Day is to connect with others. We live in a society where individualism is at an all-new level, and some of this can be attributed to the personal computer and social networking sites like Facebook. FaceBook is nice to connect with people across the country and overseas, but sadly, its overall effect has been increased isolation, loneliness, and social avoidance. I can remember many years ago when I was attending a church where the singles/college group had a bit of social activities setup to build relationships with each other. However some years later I visited that church again and noticed that the same group drastically changed. Instead of meeting every single Sunday, for worship, activities, games, food and fellowship, the group just met out for dinner once a month. I wont rule out the possibility that subgroups had formed within the group, but I believe one contributor to the lack of meeting as a whole could have been because of the cell phone and personal computer, which were in their infancy back in the year 2000 when I first attended the church.  Many think they have many friends, but in reality, they have only a few. How many facebook friends would come to visit us, if we had a major accident and had to check into the hospital for a week? Or how many text-messaging friends would remain friends if our cell phones were lost or disconnected? Online friendship is not satisfying, and many want to have real face-to-face friends and not just friends we only see behind a computer. God Himself knew that man needed companionship, “Then the LORD God said, it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18, ESV). Relationships are part of our basic design and without them we fall apart. A great deal of our growth as Christians comes within a community. It’s tough being a lone ranger Christian and I speak from experience. Some are more sociable than others, and sometimes-shy people need to get out of their comfort zone and speak with others. Lonely people don’t have an excuse if they remain that way. The Bible says; “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Pro 18:24, KJV). While many Christians may neglect going to church and connecting to others on a regular basis, the Bible clearly commands that we meet and encourage each other regularly.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb 10:24-25).

The command is clearly spelled out to not give up meeting together, and to continually be committed to doing so. Those that argue that they do not need to regular be involved in their church are not obeying the scriptures. There are many more examples in the scriptures that support those that are faithful in attending and serving in their local church. Encouraging one another is a lost practice in many individualized churches. The early church was heavily persecuted by the Romans, so it was easy for them to be united in both mind and faith; but in today’s church its easy to get disconnected from other believers in Christ. The first part of the verse states that we need to spur one another towards love and good deeds. Love is a self-sacrificing willed benevolence that meets the needs of others.[4] How rare is that in our culture? Most people could care less about self-sacrifice and meeting the needs of others. But the fact of the matter is that we as the church must be doing this everytime we meet! Certainly, it would be far easier to show love if the church were under persecution and maybe that is what it will take to purify the church. Not many want this, and no one looks forward to being persecuted, but maybe God would use it to clean the church to make her more faithful to serving and glorifying Him!  Believers that are not committed to going to church and connecting with others are not realizing the negative downside of a lack of spiritual growth. Accountability is something that all Christians need for spiritual growth for without accountability a Christian can do as he or she wishes without consequence. Imagine a child being left to do as it wishes. The consequences could be disastrous, and why it is all the more important to have accountability. The first century church felt very strongly about worship attendance and so should we.

The Christian needs a Lord’s Day rest to glorify God, get nourishment, and connect with others. While there are many Christians in today’s church that do not honor the Lord’s day, we are not to follow their example. Christians are not under law (Rm 6:14), but should honor the Lord's Day because of a love for God. Our Pilgrim ancestors held strongly to a non-desecrated Lord’s Day and as a result were exiled for over ten years in Holland.[5] The Pilgrims treated the Lord’s Day seriously and fought hard for its observance. Some of the fruits of their labor exists in the “blue laws” that are still observed in some counties in the United States. The blue laws were meant to protect the Christian from working on Sunday and being amused by the many distractions of this world. So, in these counties some kinds of business are prohibited on Sunday.  There are few Christians that observe the Lord’s day today, and sadly some churches are capitulating to the attack by offering Saturday evening services in substitute of Sunday service, to fit the needs of those that wish to desecrate the Lord’s Day. Obedient Bible-believing Christians are under persecution and will need all the help they can get to observe the Lord’s Day. I have included some resources for further study at the bottom of this page and a link to a legal website that can help protect those wanting to worship on the Lord’s Day.
Recommended Resources
New Dictionary of Biblical Theology- Article on the Sabbath
Church State Council - For Christians needing legal defense

[1] James Hilton, "From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: Examining the Ethics of Sunday," Faith & Mission 17/3 (Summer 2000): 65-78.
[2] R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001), 170.
[3] David Jeremiah, Living with Confidence in a Chaotic World (Nashvile: Thomas Nelson, 2009), 93.
[4] Jim Berg, Essential Virtues (Greenville: BJU Press, 2008), 130.
[5] Mark Minnick, "Reclaiming the Lord’s Day for the Lord," Mount Calvary Baptist Church.

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