Here we are together again, and it’s Sunday. Have you ever stopped to think about why? Why isn’t it Tuesday? Why doesn’t the church worship on Thursday or even on Saturday? Why is it that the pattern - of believers literally all over the world, in every country and every culture where Jesus Christ is Lord - is that worship takes place on Sunday?
I have covered the globe, and everywhere I go, and always the church gathers on Sunday. Whether I’m in Kazakhstan, or the United Kingdom, or Belarussia, or India, or China, or the Philippines, or New Zealand, or Australia, or Brazil, or South Africa, or Israel, or Ecuador, or wherever it is – this latest trip the last few weeks in France and Germany and Switzerland – always believers meet on Sunday. Always. In fact, that was clearly the pattern in all of the Western world, but not limited to the Western world - anywhere and everywhere on the globe where believers meet, particularly the Western world and the world influenced by the West with both Catholicism and Protestantism, set aside this day in culture and society as a day for worship. That certainly was true in America up until recently. In my childhood and all the way until I came to Grace Community Church in 1969 – and for some years afterwards – Sunday was always recognized as a day of worship. Even the nation itself recognized the first day of the week was set apart for Christian worship.
When I came to Grace church, and for a number of years after I came here, all the stores were closed on Sunday. There were no organized events; there were no sporting events planned for children or families on Sunday. And there were even laws across America against any intrusion into the day set aside for worship. It was always a day different from Saturday. Saturday was when all the stores were open and everybody did their shopping and their yard work and engaged in all the sporting activities, along with trips and recreation and everything else.
But the whole nation and, frankly, the Western world and all the rest of the world influenced by Christianity basically recognized the first day of the week as a day devoted to Christian worship. I can even remember the year when local laws here were changed to allow the stores to open. Then gradually, more and more activities were added until today Sunday is basically like any other day. And it’s gotten that way even in the church.
More and more churches are having services on Saturday because it’s more convenient for some folks. And some churches have services on Wednesday night because it doesn’t intrude in planned weekend activities. Sunday, as we call it, has always been, and is today, among Christians worldwide, the day of worship. And that poses the question: why? Is it arbitrary? Is it traditional? Who started it? And how did it get started? And how are we to conduct ourselves on this day?
Well, many churches today want to give people as much of Sunday as they possibly can for them to do what they want; so, they’ve reduced Sunday worship to a one-hour sort of non-intrusive experience that you can have on your way to the beach or to the ballgame. It’s extremely casual. It’s a sort of a drop-by deal that doesn’t intrude. You sort of slot it in between brunch and beach. And, as I said, there are many churches that offer a Saturday night service because it’s too dark to play anyway, and that leaves Sunday completely free for games and recreation and the mall. Does that matter? Well, I want to show you that I think it does.
Now, just a brief review. We did talk about seventh-day observances in Genesis, in Exodus, and we already said that the Sabbath law in the Mosaic covenant is no longer – is no longer binding. Colossians 2:16 and 17, Paul says, “Don’t let anybody hold you to a Sabbath. That was a shadow; we now have Christ who is the substance.” There is no more Sabbath; there is no more binding Sabbath law. We are not under Mosaic economy. There are no more dietary laws; there are no more Sabbath laws. It is no longer necessary to observe feasts and festivals and new moons – that according to Colossians chapter 2 and Galatians chapter 4.
So, we learned that we’re not under any Mosaic Law. We’re not under any Sabbath law. However, that doesn’t mean that the seventh day – Saturday – is a day that we don’t pay any attention to.
In fact, when we go back to Genesis chapter 2, we find that God blessed the seventh day. And we learned, in our study of this, that He blessed it in this sense: that every seventh day memorializes and reminds us that God created the entire universe, as it is now, in six days. God rested on the seventh day from everything He’d created in 6 24-hour days, and then He blessed the day. In blessing it, He simply said every time a seventh day rolls by on the calendar, that’s a good opportunity for you to stop and glorify your Creator. The work of God was finished in six days. God was satisfied; God was delighted. He looked at everything that He’d created and said it was very good, and so He blessed the day. He elevated the day.
Now, let me remind you. Nothing was said about man resting in Genesis. Nothing. It wasn’t a day designed for man to rest. Man didn’t need a day to rest; he was in a state of permanent rest because the fall didn’t come until Genesis chapter 3. Before sin, man’s life was all rest. Even tending the garden was a delightful activity, and nothing existed to dissipate man’s strength because he possessed eternal life. He didn’t need a day of rest. But every seventh day that rolled around, in his permanent life of rest, he celebrated the fact God was a great creator who in six days had created the entire universe. We can enjoy that sense of seventh day. And I think, as Christians, we can go back to the Genesis seventh day, and every time a seventh day rolls around, we ought to be reminded of the fact that God created the universe in six days, and we ought to give Him glory as our Creator.
And traditionally, throughout sort of the Christian influence in history, that has pretty much been the way Saturday has been treated. We have developed a five-day work week, and we take Saturday, usually, as the day when we enjoy the creation. It’s not the day of worship for us, but it is the day of recreation. It’s the day to enjoy the creation, work in the yard, to go outside, take a trip, whatever it is, to delight in God the Creator.
So, we can hold to that. But as far as any Sabbath law that was attached to the Mosaic economy, that’s all passed away. That all ended. A death blow was struck on Sabbath ceremony at the cross of Jesus Christ. The seventh day has no place in new covenant teaching; it has no place in New Testament teaching. The Sabbath law was intended to cause man to see God as Judge, to see God as Lawgiver, and to see himself as a violator of God’s Law. And the Sabbath day under the Mosaic Law, you couldn’t go anywhere, you couldn’t do any work. You just sort of sat around your home and you contemplated your condition. And your condition before God was one of a sinner. And you were reminded of the Law of God. You remember that in the middle of the Ten Commandments you remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. So, as you looked at that commandment, number four, and you looked above and saw all the three that you had violated against God, and all the six that you had violated against man, remembering the Sabbath day was the day you student and basically focused on God as Lawgiver and Judge and how you violated His Law. It was a day of conviction. It really wasn’t a day of celebration; it was a day when you could view God as Creator, but you also had to realize that His creation had been scarred and marred and stained and polluted by sin, and that you were a part of that.
So, Sabbath law was a day to contemplate one’s sin. The Sabbath law crushed man. He could hardly keep the Sabbath law it was so intricate. There were so many rules and regulations and routines for him to follow. But when Jesus came and died on the cross, He took us out from under the bondage of the Law. He broke the back of the oppression of the Law. He ended the ceremony of the Sabbath, and the ritual of the Sabbath, and the binding nature of the laws of the Sabbath and set us free from all those things. And so, we don’t observe the Sabbath – the Mosaic Sabbath, though as I said, when Saturday roles by, we can remember that in six days God created the heavens and the Earth to His glory. He is our great and glorious Creator. But when it comes to the first day, that’s our day, because that’s the day we glorify God not as creator, not as judge and Lawgiver, but we glorify God as Savior. As Savior.
The new covenant, then, has its own day: the first day. And there’s good reason for that, and I want to show you that reason. Let’s turn in our Bibles to the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew 28. I’ll give you a little flow this morning that will establish in your minds the importance of this first day of the week.
Matthew 28, “After the Sabbath” – which is the seventh day, as you know – “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week” – that’s Sunday – “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” – who was the mother of James – “came to look at the grave.” That’s the grave of Jesus. He died on Friday; he was placed on the cross while it was still Friday. He’s been there through Saturday the Sabbath. It’s now Sunday morning. They came to look at the grave. These women were so concerned about the body of Jesus and how He was being treated. “And behold, a severe earthquake” – verse 2 – “had occurred; an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, his garment as white as snow. The guards” – who had been assigned to protect the body so that no one would steal it and falsify a resurrection – “shook for fear of him and became like dead men.
“The angel answered and said to the women, ‘Don’t be afraid; I know you’re looking for Jesus who’s been crucified. He’s not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead. Behold, He’s going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.’
“And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me.’”
So, it was dawn on Sunday morning. The morning Jesus arose and appeared to Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James – and that is indicated in Matthew chapter 27, verse 56. And they literally see Jesus. “He appears to them” – verse 9 – “and He greets them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and they worshiped Him.”
Folks, the first worship service of the new covenant age was held on a Sunday morning. That was it, the first Sunday worship service.
Now before this Sunday had absolutely no importance in the Jewish calendar. There was only one event that occurred on a Sunday throughout the year, and I will mention that a little later. Sunday was like any other day in the Jewish calendar; just another day. It had no particular significance until this event, until the resurrection of Jesus. And God decided that Jesus should rise on Sunday. God decided that it would be three days in the grave – not two, not four, not six, not five – and that when He came out of the grave, it would be a Sunday.
Turn to Luke chapter 23. At the end of the chapter, the last verse. Again, it refers to these women who came. They were preparing some spices and perfumes to anoint the body of Jesus to sort of try to retard the decay that naturally occurred because the Jews did not embalm corpses. But they didn’t come on the Sabbath - the end of chapter 23, verse 56, “on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” They were still following Sabbath law.
But chapter 24, verse 1, “On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened that while they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near then in dazzling apparel. And as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you see the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen.’” And here again the notation, the beginning of the chapter, “The first day of the week.” Jesus rose on the first day of the week. And, of course, the angel reminded them that, “He had spoken to you while He was still in Galilee and said, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ And they remembered His words, returned from the tomb, reported all these things to the Eleven and all the rest.
“Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they wouldn’t believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at that which had happened.”
Here again is more information on the resurrection that occurred on Sunday. It was dawn on Sunday, and the Lord had come out of the grave. He had risen; He was alive. He had been raised for our justification. He had conquered sin and death and hell. He had borne our sins in His own body. He had been made sin for us and triumphantly came out of the grave and rose on a Sunday morning.
So, this then becomes the new covenant day. And on Saturday, the Sabbath, His body was dead in the grave. And that was the death, really, of Sabbath, that when Jesus died, Sabbath died; when Jesus rose, a new day dawned. This is new covenant day.
Now, let’s follow the day. The first worship service took place in the morning, as I noted for you from the account in Matthew. But let’s see what happens. It’s a little later in the day, after that first worship service, the women worshiping Him. And in verse 13, “Two disciples” – these are not among the Eleven as verse 18 indicates; one of them is named Cleopas; we don’t know the name of the other one. But, “Two of the followers of Jesus were going that day to a village named Emmaus” – about seven – six or seven miles from Jerusalem to the north and to the west of Jerusalem. “And they’re conversing with each other as they walk along the road about all the things that had taken place. And it came about, while they were conversing and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them.”
And verse 16 says, “Their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.” They didn’t know who He was. “And He said to them, ‘What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you’re walking?’
“And they stood still, looking sad.” They’d been talking about the fact that the Messiah was dead. “And one of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened there in these days?’” Where have you been? I mean the whole city of Jerusalem has been in a tumult and an uproar over Jesus, and there was a trial, and there was all of the crowd, and they demanded His blood, and they marched Him up the hill and they executed Him. Where have you been when all these things were happening?
“And He said to them, ‘Well, what things are these?’
“And they said to Him, ‘The things about Jesus the Nazarene, which was a prophet might in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death, and crucified Him.’” They’re incredulous, “You don’t even know about this?”
“But” – verse 21 – “we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel’” – and now He’s dead. “‘Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.’” And apparently the word had gone around that He would – He had said He would rise on the third day, but they haven’t heard for sure that He is alive. They have an inkling.
Verse 22, “‘Some women among us amazed us. When they were in the tomb – at the tomb early in the morning, and didn’t find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that He was alive. And some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said’” – that would be Peter and John - “‘but Him they didn’t see.’” So, they’re still not sure what’s going on here.
And here you have, folks, the first sermon ever preached on a Sunday. “And He said to them, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?’” Haven’t you carefully read the prophets? Haven’t you read Isaiah? Don’t you realize what it says in the Psalms, that the Messiah is going to die, but His body will not see corruption? He will come out of the grave. Don’t you know He will be wounded for your transgressions and bruised for your iniquities and the chastisement of your peace will be upon Him? And by His stripes you’ll be healed. Haven’t you read all of that? Don’t you remember that the Messiah had to suffer before He could enter into the glory of His kingdom?
And verse 27, “Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” Folks, this is the first sermon ever preached on a Sunday, and it’s an expository sermon. Now, am I glad or am I glad about that? And Jesus opens up the Scripture and explains the Scripture to them. So, this is a wonderful day. In the morning as the first worship service, as they worshiped the risen Christ. A little later in the day, we’re now in the afternoon, is another service, and this one features an expository sermon by the Lord Himself who sets the pattern for all preaching here.
What a wonderful moment this is. It’s dawn on Sunday; the Lord is risen; the Lord is alive, and He preaches the first Sunday sermon, and it’s an expository sermon.
And verse 28 says, “They approached the village of Emmaus, where they were going, and He acted as though He would just keep going farther. And they urged Him, saying, ‘Stay with us; it’s getting toward evening and the day is now nearly over.’” You don’t want to – You don’t want to go wherever You’re going to go. It’s a long way to – I don’t know where they thought He was going, but it’s a long way to the next village, and it’s seven miles back to Jerusalem, and why don’t you just stay?
“And He went in to stay with them. It came about that when He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He gave to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?’” That’s what every faithful preacher does: explain the Scriptures.
So, here’s an incredible afternoon service. We had a morning worship and an afternoon expositional service. But that’s not all; look at verse 33. No sooner had Jesus left, even though it was late in the day, “They arose that very hour” – they weren’t about to stay in Emmaus, not after having seen the risen Christ and had the whole Old Testament made clear to them – “they returned to Jerusalem and found gathered together the Eleven” – they went back to the Eleven – “and those who were with them. And they said, ‘The Lord has really risen and He has appeared to Simon.’ And they began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of bread.”
Verse 36, “And while they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst” – and by now it’s nighttime, and the disciples are gathered along with others, and Jesus shows up. “They were startled” – verse 37 – “they were frightened. They thought they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? Why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it’s I Myself; touch Me and see. A spirit or ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’
And verse 40, a somewhat disputed verse does say that He showed them His hands and His feet. Disputed in the sense that it’s not in all of the manuscripts – ancient manuscripts – but certainly it’s a fact. And He showed those to them, and they had the evidence. “And while they still couldn’t believe it for joy and were marveling, He said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they gave Him a piece of broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them.” And that proves positively that He’s not a ghost; He ate.
“And now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’” The Old Testament was divided into three sections: the Law of Moses, the Pentateuch; the Prophets, all the prophetic books; and the sacred writings, the hagiographer, sometimes referred to as the Psalms.
“So, He then opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” – and here you have the evening service of the first Lord’s Day, and another Scripture exposition. “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, Christ should suffer, rise again from the dead the third day. Repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. And you’re witnesses of these things. So, behold, I’m sending forth the promise of My Father upon you” – that’s the Holy Spirit – “and stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’”
Wow. You know how that first Sunday ended. It began with a worship service around the risen Christ. It continued on the road to Emmaus with the first expository sermon preached as Jesus preached to the two disciples. It continued in the upper room that night, when Jesus showed up where the Eleven and others were gathered, and He again opened the Scriptures and gave their minds understanding of the Scriptures. And not only that, but He also gave them the Great Commission, that they were to go and preach to all nations the message that repentance for forgiveness of sins is available. You start in Jerusalem. You go to the world. But before you go, wait for the Holy Spirit who’s going to empower you to do that.
Now, this is some Sunday, isn’t it? This is the launch of new covenant day. It was the evening of that Sunday. Jesus came to the disciples; He taught them. He commissioned them. He promised them the Holy Spirit.
Now, Mark, not to be left out, weighs in on this whole scene. Mark 16, the last chapter in Mark’s Gospel. And again, verse 1 of Mark 16, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome, bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.”
And again, verse 2, “Very early on the first day of the week” – every time there is a narrative about the resurrection or about the events, it always clearly indicates that this happened on the first day of the week. So, “They came on the first day of the week to the tomb when the sun had risen.” And the account goes from there, indicating the same events that we have already described.
Again, down in verse 9, “Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene.” Again, it’s almost as if the Lord wants to make sure we get it clear that this is the first day of the week. It just keeps being repeated and repeated and repeated. The first day of the week has great significance.
Now, go to John chapter 20. John, the fourth gospel writer, starts in chapter 20 and verse 1, “Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. Ran and came to Simon Peter, etcetera.
So, John chronicles the resurrection, first day of the week. Features himself in the story and Peter who came running to the tomb. John also discusses Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene. Mary standing outside the tomb in verse 11, stoops down to look in the tomb, sees the two angels. “They said, ‘Why are you weeping?’
“She said, ‘Because they’ve taken away my Lord’” – that indicates what the first thought was: somebody’s stolen His body – “‘I don’t know where they’ve laid Him.’ When she had said this, she turned around” – verse 14 – “and behold, Jesus standing there” – because she didn’t know it was Jesus.
“He said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’
“Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, ‘Sir, if you’ve carried Him away, tell me where you’ve laid Him, and I’ll take Him away.’
“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’
“She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).
“And Jesus said to her, ‘Stop clinging to Me’” – stop holding onto Me as if you can keep Me here - “‘I’ve not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, “I ascend to My Father, your Father; My God and your God.”‘
“So, Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord,’ and that He had said these things to her.”
And then again, starting in verse 19, John tells the story of that Sunday night. “Now the first day of the week” – verse 19, again the first day of the week – “the doors were shut, and Jesus came and stood in the midst” – He came through the wall; no wonder He said, “Peace be with you”; there must have been instant panic. “He showed them His hands and His side.” We remember that.
By the way, a little note, verse 24, “Thomas, one of the Twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.” That’s what happens to people who don’t go to church on Sunday night.
Now, there’s another event in verses 21 to 23. “Jesus said to them, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father sent Me, I also send you.’” So, here’s the commission that we read about in Luke. “And He said to them, after breathing on them” – sort of symbolically breathing or blowing on them – “‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” He promised them the Holy Spirit. So, this is repeating the same thing: that He’s commissioning them to take the message of the gospel of forgiveness to the whole world, but not to go until the Holy Spirit is coming. But by breathing on them, He gives them this – sort of the symbol of the fact that the Spirit’s going to come.
And verse 23, “‘You’re going to be able to forgive sins; you’re going to be able to tell people their sins are forgiven or not forgiven by what they do with the gospel.’”
So, this is a – this is a wonderful moment. Here’s the Savior’s promise and pledge that they would receive the Holy Spirit in the future – the near future – and they would be able to boldly declare the certainty of the sinner’s forgiveness by whether or not they believed the gospel. They could tell the whole world, all the nations that repentance for forgiveness of sins is available. And if you come to Christ and repent and embrace Him as Savior and Lord, your sins will be forgiven; if you don’t, your sins will be retained.
What a Sunday. What a new covenant launch day this was. And it starts early, while it’s still dark. And they – Jesus rises from the dead early on a Sunday. And He appears on that Sunday morning, noon, and night. It’s a full day. And the first worship service is held early in the morning. He shows Himself alive to the women on that Sunday, and they had that first Sunday worship.
And then He met two disciples, on that same day, and He broke bread with them, and He revealed Himself to them and miraculously vanished, but not until He had preached the first expository sermon ever preached on a Sunday.
And then He, that evening, met the Eleven, minus Thomas, and twice pronounced peace on them and ate with them to show them that He was actually physically alive. He taught them again that night, opening the Scriptures and giving their minds understanding. It was on that same Sunday that He told His disciples that they were going to be sent to take the message of forgiveness to the whole world, and that they would be able to announce to all who would repent that there was forgiveness of sins from God provided through the death of Jesus Christ, and it was available to the whole world.
So, on that Sunday, He launched the worldwide mission of evangelism, commissioning the disciples and telling them they now possessed divine authority, literally, to tell people their sins were forgiven if they believed the gospel, repented, and received the Savior.
It was on that Sunday that He pledged to His disciples they would be empowered to do this by receiving the Holy Spirit who would come upon them. See, this is new covenant launch day. The great new covenant was ratified on Sunday. When Jesus died and was dead and buried on Saturday, so was the Sabbath. When Jesus came out of the grave on Sunday, a new day was established, a new day.
What a day. What a glorious day - all the way from dawn till probably late into the night. The new covenant was fully ratified on that Sunday. And with that moment, Sunday’s would never, ever be the same again. Sunday became new covenant resurrection day in their minds. And it wasn’t a tradition, and it wasn’t that they chose it. It was that God ordained it.
Now, that’s not all; that’s not all. Go down to John chapter 20, verse 26. Now remember, Thomas wasn’t there for the first Sunday. Verse 26, “And after eight days, again His disciples were inside” – now wait a minute; eight days from Sunday is Sunday. The Jews would count starting with the day that they were on to the eighth day would be the next Sunday. Here they are, eight days later, gathering. Does this indicate that they had, based upon what happened the first Sunday, Sunday had become now their day? Perhaps. Perhaps. But whatever they were thinking isn’t really the issue. What is the issue is that the following Sunday, they were together inside, and Thomas was there, and Jesus came. They haven’t seen Him since the last Sunday. Jesus didn’t come on a Tuesday; He didn’t come on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday; He didn’t come on a Saturday. He waited eight days, until the following Sunday, before He reappeared. And again, “He came through with the doors being shut, stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ And He said to Thomas, ‘Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it in My side; stop your doubting and believe.’
“Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’
“Jesus said to him, ‘Because you’ve seen Me you’ve believed. Blessed are those who didn’t see and yet believed.’” This happened on a Sunday.
Now, if there was any question from the first Sunday whether that was the day or not, this would end it all, because they don’t see Jesus again until the next Sunday. And I don’t know whether they had decided they were going to have their special meeting on Sunday or not, but the Lord decided He would have His meeting with them on Sunday. It was a sovereign choice to appear on a second Sunday. And that must have punctuated in their minds indelibly that this was new covenant day.
It wouldn’t take long for them to understand that the Sabbath was no longer an issue. This was by divine choice, not human tradition. I mean why do you – why do you even think that John is inspired to say “after eight days” if it’s not important? Why even say when it happened if it’s not significant.
I believe the Lord is setting aside Sabbath completely and instituting a new day, a new covenant day. Oh, yes, we can still look at every Saturday that goes by, and we can praise God as the Creator because in six days He created the universe. And we can look at Saturday as it goes by and thank God that we are not under law. But our day is the first day, resurrection day. That was worship, preaching, and fellowship, and rejoicing, and praising the risen Christ. It wasn’t the disciples’ plan. In fact, they were shocked when Jesus showed up. But it was His plan.
Let’s go to Acts chapter 2. I think this is very interesting. Acts chapter 2. You remember Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit? And when the Holy Spirit came, the church was founded, the church was established. The new covenant has already been ratified; the new covenant is in place. Forty days later, Jesus ascends to heaven – after 40 days of teaching His disciples things concerning the kingdom.
Then we come to what is very familiar to any student of the Bible, the Day of Pentecost. Acts 2, “When the Day of Pentecost had come, everybody was together in one place” – 120 disciples gathered in the upper room – “and all of a sudden, there comes this phenomenon from heaven, a noise like a violent rushing wind filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them little tongues of fire” – literally little flames – “distributing themselves, and resting on each individual.” Sort of a miraculous symbol of the fact that the invisible Spirit was entering them. God gave them a visible sign of an invisible reality. “And they were all” – it says in verse 4 – “filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”
So, there’s plenty of evidence that the supernatural was happening. The Holy Spirit had come. It was indicated by the little flames that were on the heads of everybody in the room. It was also indicated by their ability to speak languages they didn’t know. It’s a miraculous moment as the Holy Spirit comes. And it happened on the Day of Pentecost.
Now, when this happened, the church was born. Christ, by sending the Spirit, creates the church. By sending the Spirit, He creates His one body. By sending the Spirit, He brings gifts to the church. By sending His Spirit, He empowers the church for world evangelization. “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you.”
It was on that day that the church was born that it began to grow. It was later that same day, verse 14, “Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and preached.” At the end of his sermon, over in verse 41, it says 3,000 souls were added to the church. So, the day the church was born, the church grew to 3,000. It was a monumental day.
Now, why am I talking about the Day of Pentecost? Did you ever wonder what day the Day of Pentecost was? What day of the week? Do you ever wonder that? Well, maybe you never wondered that, and you don’t need to because I’m going to tell you. Back in Leviticus chapter 23 and verse 16, there’s a discussion there about the Day of Pentecost.
And it says this, verse 16, “You shall county fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath” – you start on a Sabbath, you count seven Sabbaths, and then the fiftieth day. Seven Sabbaths is 49 days- right? – 7 times 7 is 49. So, if you had seven Sabbaths, the fiftieth day would fall on what day? Sunday. Right? The Feast of Weeks was designed to dedicate the first fruits of the harvest of wheat, usually around May and June. It was called Pentecost because it occurred 50 days – pente is five. Fifty days after the Sabbath that proceeded the feast of first fruits. So, simple calculations indicate that Pentecost always, always, always fell on a Sunday. On a Sunday. Pentecost was a Sunday.
Now, isn’t that amazing? This is so consistent. The Holy Spirit didn’t establish the church on a Tuesday or a Thursday or a Saturday. The Holy Spirit established the church, sent His Holy Spirit on a Sunday. Are you getting the message? It’s very clear. The Lord Himself is ordained today. The events of the resurrection, the events of the birth of the church, the completion of salvation, the coming of the Holy Spirit – all of that on a Sunday. Sunday is new covenant day.
Now, the other thing that’s important to say, there aren’t any rules for Sunday anywhere in the New Testament. There aren’t any warnings about violation. Just Hebrews 12 that says, “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together.” Do it; when the church meets, be there. There aren’t any rules; there aren’t any regulations. It doesn’t say anything about work. It doesn’t say anything about play. It doesn’t say anything about what you can do, what you can’t do. Nothing. Because new covenant is freedom from bondage. New covenant is freedom from law. This is not Sabbath, and those quote-unquote Sabbitarians, who want to take the Old Testament Sabbath and drag it over and impose it somehow on the Lord’s Day, are dragging the weak and beggarly elements of a dead covenant into a living covenant.
It’s very clear to me that the Lord identified this day. It’s His day. He chose it. But He was concerned not with some external observances, but He was concerned with the spiritual nature of that day, that it be a day in which His people celebrated God as their Savior. It’s not at all like the Mosaic Sabbath which was restrictive and limiting and focused on violations and judgment and law and punishment. And it was a day when you didn’t celebrate at all; you just got ground down by the realization that all you could do was break the law.
No. New Covenant Sunday is much more like the seventh day of Genesis 2; it’s a day that God blessed; it’s a day that is elevated as a day of honor, a day of celebration, a day of celebration, a day of joy – not to God as Creator, but God as Redeemer and Savior. It’s the day when we delight in our Savior, not with external regulations, not with rules and forms. In Christ Eden lost is found; paradise lost is regained; the souls is filled with joy and peace and delight. And the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking; it’s not externals. “It’s joy in the Holy Spirit,” says Romans. It’s a day to remember that the righteousness of Christ has been granted to you. It’s a day to remember your sins are forgiven. And Sabbath law has no place – Galatians 4 says it’s the weak and beggarly elemental things, and their gone; they’re dead; they’re removed.
And so, there’s a reason why we meet on the first day. A good reason. This becomes the pattern of the early church. Look at Acts 20. A very interesting passage, a fascinating passage – Acts 20. We go to Troas with Paul. The Gentile church has been established. And we go to Troas, verse 7 says this, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread” – gathered together for the Lord’s Table, most likely, to have the love feast and to worship. The first day of the week, by now it’s the pattern. I mean it couldn’t be any other day. There’s just absolutely no way it could be any other day, because this day is the day of resurrection. This day is the day of the second appearance of Christ. This day is the day when the Lord established the church and sent the Holy Spirit and gifted His people.
“This is the day, and they were gathered. And Paul began talking to them. And he prolonged His message until midnight” – oh, great. So, they had an evening service. “There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together.” It got real stuffy in there; it was warm and smoky and you can just feel the environment stifling.
“And there was a certain young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep” - it’s also somewhat comforting to know that even the apostle Paul had people fall asleep on him – “and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. Paul went down and fell on him, and after embracing him, he said, ‘Don’t be troubled, life is in him.’” He raised him from the dead.
Perhaps we could suggest that’s because He wasn’t through with the sermon and he wanted to get back up and – well, that’s what verse 11 says. “When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak” – got to love that. It sounds like Russia. “They took the boy away alive” – verse 12 – “and were greatly comforted.” What a story he had to tell when he got home. Meeting on Sunday night, the church at Troas, worshiping on Sunday.
Look at 1 Corinthians; there’s never any variation from this. Paul writes the Corinthians. He says, “Look, I’m going to come, and I want some money to take back to the poor saints in Jerusalem; they’re having a lot of struggles there, and you folks, I want you to get some money together that I can take them.” So, he’s talking about the collection for the saints in verse 1.
In verse 2, he says, “On the first day of every week you should put aside, as you may prosper, that no collection be made when I come.” In other words, he’s saying, “When you meet on the first day of the week, give your money, store it up so that when I come I don’t have to take a special offering.” Again, the indication that the church met on the first day of the week. That’s when they came together for their worship; that’s when they gave as an act of worship.
Now, it’s not a day that’s more holy than other days. I mean every day is holy unto the Lord. New covenant life is living for the glory of Christ 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the month, every day of the year, all through your life. And we’re not saying that there are laws and restrictions; we’re talking about the heart here. I’m glad some people work on the Lord’s Day. I’d hate to get sick and go to the hospital and find nobody there. Some people need to do that. There are some folks who perhaps are forced to do those kinds of things for the support of their family and by necessity.
But if it’s not necessity, then we need to do a real heart examination about how we spend that day. And it’s not that you can’t work; it’s not that you can’t play; it’s not that you can’t enjoy some fellowship and some recreation. It’s that it’s the Lord’s Special day, and that our whole-hearted devotion ought to be lifted up before Him on that day.
In fact, it’s very unfortunate that we have this ridiculous name Sunday. And I’m sure you agree with me. None of us worship the sun. So, I prefer the biblical name. Look at Revelation 1, and this is what developed. Revelation 1. John the apostle is on the Isle of Patmos, where he’s been exiled as a prisoner for the testimony of Christ and the Word of God. And in verse 9, John says, “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the Word of God, the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” – wow. Now, all of a sudden, this day has a name; it’s the Lord’s Day. I love that. That’s what I always call it I don’t refer to it as Sunday unless I do that unthinking. It’s the Lord’s Day.
What does that mean? It’s a possessive. It belongs to Him. It’s unique to Him. It’s His possession. Not by law, but to celebrate grace. It’s the Lord’s Day. I don’t worship the sun; I do worship the Lord. It’s the Lord’s Day. By the way, that title is all through early Christian writings and has continued through all the world until today, the Lord’s Day. Since we don’t worship the sun, I suggest we always call it the Lord’s Day.
Isn’t it interesting that it was on the Lord’s Day? The Lord didn’t have to give him a vision on the Lord’s Day; He could have given him a vision on a Wednesday, but He gave it to him on the Lord’s Day, and it’s a vision of the church. It’s described as a vision of the church down in verse 20, “The seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the messengers of the churches, and the seven lampstands are the churches.” In the message, the one vision given in the book of Revelation, the one vision given on the church is given the church’s special day. It was on a Lord’s Day John received his vision of the Lord of the church. And the Lord of the church is seen in the vision moving among the candlesticks; that’s moving in His church. None of John’s other visions – and the book of Revelation is full of visions – none of them are associated with any day of the week, just this one.
So, who established the Lord’s Day? The Lord did. And by the way, it’s not the Lord’s hour; it’s not even the Lord’s morning; it’s His day. It’s not the world’s day; it’s not the family’s day; it’s not the kids’ day; it’s the Lord’s Day.
I guess there is a reason why we don’t have a Saturday night service. It’s not law; it’s not necessarily wrong. You could have a service every day or every hour of every day, and it would be right. But definitely God ordained a day when Christ would be exalted all the time, a day that would be set apart for Him. And He didn’t fill it with law. He just filled it with grace. And He said, “The measure of this day is not going to be what you don’t do because you’re told not to do it; the measure of this day is where your heart is. The measure of your observance of this day is the honor you give to the Savior in your heart. This is His day. As long as I preach, it’s going to be His day all day: in the morning, in the evening. I love to bracket the day with worship, singing, preaching. It’ll always be His day, morning and night, even if people fall over dead.
What does God expect of us? Well, all I can say is there aren’t any rules. It’s not legalistic. There aren’t any commands. Grace doesn’t require, however, less than law; it just requires your whole heart. How much do you love Christ? How much do you desire to worship Him, to honor Him? How grateful are you for your salvation. There aren’t any external rules to drop on you, and anybody who takes a whole lot of that Sabbath law and drags it over and imposes doesn’t understand grace and doesn’t understand the line drawn between covenants that are dead and the new covenant.
Everything about the new covenant is better than the old covenant, including our day. I like our day better, don’t you? Wouldn’t you rather be living in the joy and celebration of the Lord’s Day than under the pressure of the Mosaic Law of Sabbath? I don’t need a day full of regulations; those are elemental things for immature people. I don’t want to be under a system of condemnation. I don’t want to live in a shadow that points to a reality. I have entered into rest. I have the reality; I have the Savior; paradise is found. I’m no longer under law; I’m not under bondage; I’ve been set free. But that doesn’t call for less from me; that calls for more. And out of my heart should be elicited love and adoration and praise that fills up the Lord’s Day – the Lord’s Day.
So, ask yourself, what does my love for Christ ask of me on the Lord’s Day? It’s not a question of what is forbidden. Nothing is forbidden. But the high ground is your heart given to the Lord on His day, centered on worship, centered on delight, centered on thanks. Search your heart; is it really His day? That’s what He ordained. And what a privilege to celebrate Him as Savior.
Father, we thank You for what the Word teaches us. We thank You that this special day has been given to You. And it’s a day when we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, because we need to stimulate one another to love and good works; we need to worship and praise You; we need to hear the scriptures expounded so that our minds can understand the truth. We need to think about You even when we’re not here worshiping, to delight in You.
And it needs to be a day of joy, and happiness, and celebration – gratitude. We can enjoy the wonders of all Your grace to us in Christ. Not a day of bondage, not a day of legalism, but a day that really measures the devotion of our hearts.
We thank You for it, and may we honor it, that You might be honored, in Christ’s name, amen.
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