I grew up in a time and place where Christians thought of Sundays as a “church day”: not travel day, not play day, not a workday, not shopping day—but the Lord’s day. Our habit as a family was to go to Sunday school at 9am, followed by the corporate worship service. After church let out, we would often go home and enjoy a lovely family meal, during which we would discuss what we learned in church that day. Our little town almost completely shut down. There were hardly any shops open; many restaurants were closed.
Our Sunday afternoons were spent resting and preparing for evening worship. We would be back at church at 6 o’clock (or before) for discipleship training and then evening service at 7 o’clock. Most Christians I know kept a similar Sunday schedule.
Those were the good ole’ days! Since my childhood, I have watched the slow and steady trend of the devaluing of Sunday, corporate worship. When I was growing up, we planned everything else around church. Today, so many Christians tend to plan church around everything else—even here in the Bible belt.
This begs the question, “Is there actually something special about Sunday?”. I will answer with a resounding “Yes!!!”. I do not believe it is wrong to work on Sundays; I do not think it is wrong to mow the grass or sinful to go on a hike. Sunday is NOT the new Sabbath day (the Sabbath has been fulfilled in Christ (Colossians 2:16, 17)). As a matter of fact, for Christians in the first century, Sunday was much like our Monday—it was the first day of their workweek. Yet, those early believers made Sunday worship a priority, and so should it be with Christians today: On Sundays, corporate worship should be our priority.
To be sure, there is no explicit command to go to church on Sunday, but I do think that the Bible sets a precedent for doing so. Allow me to make my case:
1) Sunday is a day that memorializes the resurrection:
The paradigm for Sunday worship is that Jesus rose on the first day of the week. Consider what happened that first Easter day:
- – Jesus rose from the grave (Matt. 28:1)
- – Jesus appeared to some of his women disciples, including Mary Magdalene (Matthew 28:9)
- – Jesus appeared to Simon Peter (Luke 24:34)
- – Jesus appeared to two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-31)
- – Jesus appeared to the apostles, minus Thomas (20:19-25)
- – The next Sunday, Jesus appeared to the apostles again, including Thomas (John 20:26-29).
Taking all these events into consideration, Pastor John MacArthur says, “It seems that God is instituting a new covenant day of commemoration.” There is something significant about Sunday!
Think about this: we expect church services to be packed on Easter Sunday. Why? Because on Easter, we celebrate that historical event that our faith hinges on—namely, the resurrection of Jesus. But, when you consider that every Sunday is a memorialization of the resurrection, shouldn’t churches be packed out every week?
We meet on Sundays, because Jesus rose the first day of the week.
2) The Holy Spirit came upon God’s People on a Sunday:
Before his ascension, Jesus told his apostles to wait on the promised Holy Spirit before going about their ministry (Acts 1:4, 5). These men did as they were told: they joined many other men and women in the upper room for an intense prayer meeting while waiting on the promise of the Father. Acts 2:1-4 (ESV) says:
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
They were praying, and the promised Holy Spirit came. He descended on the day of Pentecost. Do you want to guess what day of the week that might have been? You guessed it: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Pentecost came fifty days after Passover—seven Sabbaths plus one day. There is something significant about the first day of the week!
3) The 1st Century Church Gathered for Worship on Sundays:
After the coming of the Holy Spirit, the people of God were zealous— so zealous in fact, that they had daily church gatherings (Acts 2:42). They could not sustain this schedule forever, though, and at some point, they seem to have settled on Sundays being their primary meeting time. In Acts 20:6 & 7, Luke writes:
“…we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days. On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.”
Paul and Luke—along with other believers—met on Sunday. And (as many preachers have pointed out), they must have had an evening service because Paul preached until midnight (this service was likely held on what we would consider our Saturday evening because Jews counted days from sunset to sunrise)! 1 Corinthians 16:2 seems to suggest that the believers in Corinth were worshipping together the first day of the week as well.
We worship corporately on Sundays—in part—because this pattern was set by the apostles and the first century Christians.
4) Sunday is “The Lord’s Day”:
By the end of the first century, believers referred to Sunday as “The Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10); this is not the same as the eschatological “Day of the Lord.” The phrase is used just once in Scripture; however, it is assumed that believers were familiar with the term by the time John penned Revelation.
Because Sunday is the Lord’s Day, it seems fitting that corporate worship should be prioritized on that day.
5) Sunday is a Day in Which We Anticipate New Creation:
Though Christians are not under the Sabbath Laws, the sixth day of the week still serves as a great time to remember God as “Creator” (Exodus 20:8-11). Sunday is a time to celebrate and anticipate God’s New Creation, which is already breaking in. In His book, ‘Surprised by Hope,’ Bishop NT Wright states:
“Many Christians will find, for all kinds of reasons, that Sunday is a difficult day to attend church services. But we should remind ourselves that the earliest Christians lived in a world where Sunday was the first day of the working week, much like our Monday, and that they valued its symbolism so highly that they were prepared to get up extra early both to celebrate Easter once again and to anticipate the final Eighth Day of Creation, the start of the new week, the day when God will renew all things.”
Sunday is a day in which we anticipate the completion of New Creation— the consummation of God’s Kingdom.
6) Sunday Gatherings Have Been the Norm Throughout Church History:
Sunday worship is our habit here at Real Life Community Church, and it is the pattern of most churches in the United States. Not only that, as far back as the New Testament, believers have worshipped on Sunday.
Pastor John MacArthur has had the distinct privilege of traveling across the world. Here is what he says about the tradition of Sunday Worship:
I have been a lot of places in the globe in my lifetime.
“I have been as far away as Kazakhstan (kaa·zuhk·staan) in Central Asia, and the believers there worship on Sunday. They always have worshiped on Sunday, and they continue today to worship on Sunday. I’ve been many times to the U.K. – to England, Ireland, Scotland – and the believers there worship on Sunday. I’ve been to Belarus, a remarkable country that has recently come into prominence for its anti-Christian and even persecuting mentality being displayed by the leaders there and being hard on the church. The believers there meet on Sunday.
And other countries in the former Soviet Union – Russia, the Ukraine – believers meet on Sunday. They meet on Sunday in India. They meet on Sunday in China. They meet on Sunday in the Philippines. They meet on Sunday in New Zealand, Australia. They meet on Sunday in the mountains of Ecuador, among the Indians in the village of Colta. They meet on Sunday in Brazil in the jungles and in the cities. Across the breadth of the church, they meet on Sunday all throughout South America. They meet on Sunday, even in Israel.”
I stand on the shoulders of many faithful men and women throughout church history who have lived by the conviction that Christians should gather for worship on Sundays. Those who choose not to do so are anomalies within the Christian tradition.
Sunday worship is not supposed to be a burden; it is meant to be a blessing. I invite you to see the beauty of what we get to do on the first day of the week. May we join with the many Christians throughout the ages who have prioritized Sunday worship. Sunday is significant indeed. See you at church!
MacArthur, J. (2009, October 11). Why Sunday is the Lord’s day. Retrieved February 15, 2021, from https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-380/why-sunday-is-the-lords-day
Wright, N. T. (2018). Surprised by hope: Rethinking heaven, the resurrection, and the mission of the church. New York, NY: HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins.