Why Sunday?

 

•     In the Old Testament, the Sabbath day was thought of as Saturday, the seventh day of the week. There were extra Sabbaths and special Sabbath observances from time to time. But by and large, Saturday and the Sabbath were linked together in Jewish thinking, and over the years the Jews became very strict about their observance of the Sabbath.

 

•     Many Christians believe this changed in the New Testament. Little is said in the gospels and epistles about observing the seventh day. The emphasis changed with breath-taking suddenness to Sunday, the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day. All four Gospels tell us that Jesus rose from the dead at daybreak, Sunday morning. Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary of Magdala went to the tomb and found the stone removed.

 

•     On the evening of that first Easter, when the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them, saying, “Peace be with you!” The disciples were overjoyed.

 

•     Thomas, who was absent, scoffed at the reports. On the following Sunday, Jesus appeared among them again, this time convincing even Thomas.

 

•     In Acts 20, the disciples in Troas gathered to break bread. Paul spoke to the people throughout the night.

 

•     In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul instructed the Christians, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper.”

 

•     Hebrews 10:25, without specifying an exact day for it, warned Christians not to forsake assembling themselves together.

 

•     The last New Testament reference to Sunday worship gives us the special title—the Lord’s Day. In Revelation 1:10, John wrote, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day …”

 

•     About A.D. 115, Ignatius wrote to the Christians in Magnesia about those who “ceased to keep the (Jewish seventh-day) Sabbath and lived by the Lord’s Day, on which our life as well as theirs shone forth, thanks to him and his death.” That quotation equates the Lord’s Day, the first day of creation, with spiritual sunshine; for after all, it was on the first day of the creation week that God’s said, “Let there be light.”

 

•     The Epistle of Barnabas (early second century) referred to Sunday as the day set aside by the early Christians for worship.

 

•     The Didache, written in the late first or early second century, reminds Christians, “On the Lord’s day of the Lord, come together, break bread, and hold Eucharist.”

 

•     About A.D. 110, Pliny, the Roman administrator, wrote about Christians: “They gather on Sunday, the first day of the week, to sing praises to the Lord Jesus.”

 

•     Justin Martyr told his pagan audience in about A.D. 155 that “we all hold this common gathering on Sunday, since it is the first day, on which God transforming darkness and matter made the universe, and Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead on the same day.”

 

•     Christians soon adopted the newly coined pagan term and compared Christ’s rising from the dead to the rising of the sun. Christ rose from the tomb at daybreak even as the sun rises from the dark horizon. So the day came to be called Sunday.

 

•     In A.D. 321, Emperor Constantine by royal edict proclaimed Sunday a special day of worship in the Roman world. There has not been a single Sunday from the day of Christ’s resurrection until this one in which the church of Jesus Christ somewhere in the world has failed to meet. It’s an unbroken chain.

 

What Sunday Is Good For

Entire books have been published in the last few years on the impact of stress, fatigue, and sleep deprivation on our society. But few if any books, articles, or reports have connected all of this with the loss of one day in seven as a day of rest.

But the fourth commandment is clear. Our bodies and souls are made to work six days and to rest on the seventh. We cannot persistently violate that law without breaking down at some point—either physically, emotionally, or in family relationships.

D. L. Moody said, “Saturday is my day of rest, because I generally preach on Sunday, and I look forward to it as a body does to a holiday.”

There are three purposes: To Rest, Reflect, and Rejoice.

It was Socrates who said that an unexamined life is not worth living. Sabbath rest is not merely a time for rest or recreation. It’s modeled after the activity of God himself, who, having worked six days, took a Sabbath. He ceased from his labors, not to go off and play, but to examine what he had done. Looking over the previous six days, he declared, “It is good.”

Sabbath is designed to provide us an opportunity to pause and look at what we have done and to decide whether it was worth doing and, if so, whether it was done well. It also gives us an opportunity to prayerfully plan the week opening before us.

 

 

 

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