What This Day Means To Us
1. The New Testament’s most straightforward statement of why this day means something to all of us is found in Luke 24:1-3.
2. But what it means, and what we should do about it, is another story – and a story that needs to be told.
1. There are a couple of things it does not mean.
a. It doesn’t mean there is in the scriptures a sacred Christian festival to be celebrated at this time once a year.
i. There is throughout the N.T. the joyful claim that Jesus has been raised up but, as a Bible encyclopedia puts it, “There is no trace of Easter Celebration in the New Testament.” (ISBE, Vol. 2, 889)
ii. The KJV, in Acts 12:4, translates the Greek term for Passover with the word “Easter,” not because that’s what the word means, but in recognition of a tradition that had arisen over the centuries.
iii. Whatever we make of the traditions which surround this day, we want to remember that the resurrection of the Lord must not be reduced to such a level, and that the church has no instruction for making this a holy day.
b. It doesn’t mean that the first day of the week has, as a result of what took place there, become “the Christian Sabbath.”
i. The keeping of the seventh day holy as the Sabbath was part of a covenant God made with Israel to remind them that, when they were slaves in Egypt, he gave them rest (Deut. 5:2, 12, 15).
ii. He made the Sabbath known to them at Mount Sinai (Neh. 9:13-14), and it served as a sign of the relationship between himself and that nation (Ezek. 20:10-12).
iii. Under the new covenant, “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God,” but it is to be enjoyed when we enter his rest, not on a particular day of the week while we are still making the journey (Heb. 4:9-10).
2. That Jesus was raised on the first day of the week means this is the Lord’s Day.
a. We could gather something of the importance of this day by noticing the events which took place on the first day.
i. All four Gospels indicate that the resurrection of Jesus, the event which declared him to be the Son of God with power (Rom. 1:4), occurred on the first day of the week (Mt. 28:1-2; Mk. 16:9; Jn. 20:1).
ii. After he was raised, he met with his disciples on the first day of the week (Jn. 20:1,19,26). My Bible encyclopedia notes that “six of the eight appearances of Christ after His resurrection recorded in the gospels took place on Sunday.” (ZPEB, Vol. 3, 964)
iii. The timing of the day of Pentecost indicates that the events of Acts 2 – the first gospel sermon, the conversion of the three thousand, and the beginning of the church – took place of the first day of the week. McGarvey observed, “The day was also appropriate from its being the day of the week on which he rose from the dead.” (New Commentary on Acts, 21)
b. We would also gather from what the New Testament calls upon the church to do that the first day of the week has significance.
i. The disciples came together to observe the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:20).
ii. On the first day of every week they were to put something aside for the collection (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
iii. Church historian Philip Schaff wrote, “The universal and uncontradicted observance of Sunday as a day of worship in the second century can only be explained by the fact that it had its roots in apostolic practice.” (History of the Christian Church)
c. Early Christian writings confirm the conclusion that the first day of the week is the Lord’s Day.
i. “The Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10) became the technical term for Sunday. (New Bible Commentary, 1282)
ii. Toward the end of the first century a very important document known as the Didache (“teaching”) began to be circulated among churches. It says, “But every Lord’s Day gather yourselves together and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifices may be pure.” (Cited by Steve Reeves, “It’s Sunday”)
iii. Around 110 A.D. Ignatius wrote, “If therefore those who lived according to the old practices have come to the new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death. Let us therefor no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner. Let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection day, the queen and chief of all days of the week.” (Quoted by Steve Reeves)
iv. Before 165 A.D. Justin Martyr (Apology 1, 67) wrote, “...We all make our assemble in common on the day of the Sun, since it is the first day, on which God changed the darkness....and Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the dead on the same day.” (Everett Ferguson, Early Christians Speak, 67-68)
v. Tertullian explained, “...it is well-known that ... we regard Sunday as a day of joy.”
3. This is the Christian day of deliverance from sin and the power of death.
a. It is the day when the church expresses its identity and spirit.
i. It’s when we admit that when we meet and what we do should be about what the Lord has done, not about what we prefer.
ii. Furman Kearley said of the early Christians, “They died rather than guve up Sunday assembly, because the Lord was not raised on Wednesday night.”
iii. That we find his people meeting on the first day of the week is as if to say to us that the Lord wants his death remembered only the light of his being raised up as the victor.
b. It is the day when the individual Christian regains his perspective and reorients his behavior.
i. We remember what comes first, and set our priorities for the new week.
ii. We recall that in Christ we are new creatures, and we consider the kind of conduct which is proper in our lives.
iii. We are reminded that, no matter what else is going on, hope is the tone in which we approach all things, for our Lord has been raised up.
c. It is the day that can bless the world.
i. Any other day may represent ways of life which are consumed with business or pleasure or rest, but only this one has good news attached to it.
ii. Our culture could benefit from it. Philip Schaff observed that a proper observance of the Lord’s Day “is a wholesome school of discipline, a means of grace for the people, a safeguard of public morality, a bulwark against infidelity and a source of immeasurable blessings to the church, the state and the family. Next to the church and the Bible, the Lord’s Day is the chief pillar of Christian society.”
iii. Every family needs it, too. It can be a time when husbands and wives are reminded of the foundations upon which their marriage has to be built, and the strength that comes from worshiping together. It should be a day when our children learn where real values lie and the importance of priorities.
1. Your life will be enriched if you will rejoice in every Lord’s Day by honoring the Lord and enjoying his people.
2. The question is not so much “What is the day?” as it is “Who is the Lord?”