Reclaiming the Lord's Day

by Myron Heckman on November 19, 2015
Reclaiming the Lord's Day
by Myron Heckman, Cape Cod Bible Alliance Church
As we seek revival we always need to consider our obedience to the Lord. Could it be that we have slowly slipped away from obedience in an important area? I'm speaking of the fourth commandment: "Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy." Has the church unwittingly devalued Sunday and thus undermined our core confession that Jesus is Lord?  There is much in our world that competes with Sunday corporate worship and along with our God-ordained need for rest.   We know a New Testament change has occurred in observing that commandment, which I'll get to, but look at the promise of blessing for honoring the Sabbath in Isaiah 58:13-14
“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the Lord honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,
Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
God has promised a blessing that we by no means want to miss.
How did our Christian day of worship and rest get moved to Sunday?
The basis for the Fourth Commandment was a commemoration of God completing creation. (Exodus 20: 11) Saturday, the seventh day, became a day set apart. None of the Ten Commandments has been cancelled (Matthew 5:17-18) but the Fourth has been transformed.
Our day "set apart"  was moved from Saturday because Sunday was the day Jesus rose from the dead. On the day of His resurrection, Jesus met with His disciples to show He was alive but Thomas was absent and announced he would not believe Jesus was alive unless he not only saw him with his own eyes, but touched His wounds.
  And he did see Jesus and his wounds and decisively believed as the disciples were gathered again and Jesus appeared among them. Now this question - on what day of the week  were the disciples gathered when Thomas met the risen Lord?  It was a Sunday. "And after eight days" they gathered. (John 20:24-26) That tells us that the disciples did not let one Sunday go by after the resurrection without gathering to remember and celebrate His victory over death. It was too important an event to forget for even one week.
Remember poor Eutychus who fell asleep as Paul's sermon went long, and Eutychus fell out of the window in which he was sitting? The story in Acts 20:7 begins with telling us the day of the week the followers of Christ had gathered to worship. "Now on the first day of the week…"
The Apostle Paul instructed the Corinthians to lay aside money weekly for an upcoming offering Paul was collecting to help the suffering Christians in Jerusalem. And on what day of the week were they to do that? "On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside…" implying that was the day believers gathered regularly (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)
In approximately A. D. 156 Justin Martyr wrote a famous defense of Christianity titled "Apology" ("Apology" not meaning he was sorry, but in the historic sense of giving a reasoned defense). It tells us the Sunday practice of the early church:
"The day of the Sun is the day on which we all gather in a common meeting, because it is the first day, the day on which God, changing darkness and matter, created the world; and it is the day on which Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead."
The day emphasizing worship and rest was changed from the seventh day to the first day from New Testament times on because that is when Life took absolute supremacy.
  There is an interesting tie between the two days - Saturday and Sunday - in that they both have to do with creation
 The first Sabbath was marked in honor of the first creation. The new day of Sunday was set aside because the Resurrection of Christ powerfully provided a new creation, more glorious even than the first.
Sunday and the Lordship of Jesus
Observing the new day of worship and rest is an acknowledgement that Jesus is Lord. Remember how He said He was Lord of the Sabbath? He is recorded as saying it in the first three Gospels (Matthew 12:1-8Mark 2:23-28 and Luke 6:1-5). He has the full authority to change the day.
John in Revelation acknowledged Sunday as a unique day of the week in Revelation 1:10. He wrote "I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day"
How are we to understand the meaning of "the Lord's Day"?
Some have said the Lord's day is any day of the week because they all belong to the Lord. Each day is indeed under His Lordship, but why would John speak of the Lord's Day if there was nothing distinct from any other day of the week?
  Others have said he was referring to "the Day of the Lord", the decisive Day of judgment foretold in the Old Testament, and upon which John's Book of Revelation would expand. But if so, John changed the familiar order of words used throughout the Old Testament, which seems out of place.
The traditional way of understanding the Lord's Day was the day upon which the Lord rose from the dead, the Day of days that established without dispute that Jesus is Lord.   Ancient church fathers referred to it that way.
As one example, Ignatius of Antioch in approximately A.D. 110 wrote:  "We have seen how former adherents of the ancient customs (Judaism) have since attained to a new hope, so that they have given up keeping the Sabbath, and now order their lives by the Lord's Day instead, the day when life first dawned for us, thanks to Him and His death."
Sunday, the Lord's Day, is not my day, it is not your day, it is not your family's day, it is not commerce's day, it is not sports' day. It is the day that in unique ways belongs to the Lord. And as such it sets the tone for each day of the week being joyfully lived in His service.
Did Paul Indicate Sunday is No Different Than Any Other Day?
We may have an uneasiness that counting Sunday as unique returns us to the bondage of law-keeping. Romans 14:5-6 is sometimes cited to say that Sunday should not be considered unique. It says: One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every dayalike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary explains that “the close contextual association with eating suggests that Paul has in mind a special day set apart for observance as a time for feasting or as a time for fasting” (Everett Harrison, 1976, Vol. 10, p. 146). The immediate context, both before and after 14:5-6 indicates that Paul wasn’t discussing the Sabbath, but rather other days during which fasting or abstaining from certain foods was practiced. Those are the ones open for individual convictions under the Holy Spirit.
  God is not looking for a hundred rules on how to honor the Lord on Sunday. The law is not the basis for our salvation or our spiritual practice, but the law does still have a role for the Christian - it instructs us in love - a love for God and a love for our neighbor. (James 2:8) Thus the Fourth Commandment still informs us today.
Two additional major historical events happened on Sunday
These lend more reasons to celebrate the Day:
1) Light was created on the first day of the week of creation. Genesis 1:3-5
"Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it wasgood; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
2) Remember which day of the week the Holy Spirit baptized the Church with His indwelling presence. It too was a Sunday, 50 days after Resurrection Sunday. 49 days filled out seven weeks, and the 50th day was the first day of a new week. A whole new era of the Spirit began on the Lord's Day.
Sunday, a day like no other,  is the day of Life, of Light, and of the Spirit. It is our Day of days.
What can you do to honor the Lord on His day?
1) Make sure your life reflects the confession that Jesus is Lord, that in your mind and heart He is supreme in all things, that all things are submitted to Him. Have no other loves above the love of the Lord -  whether it be work/business, sports, family, or leisure time. He is worthy of being your unquestioned first love.
2) Love Sundays - celebrate it as the best day of the week. Try saying this phrase: "I love Sundays" and then let your heart resonate with the Life and Light and Spirit of it.
3) Be one who worships corporately every Sunday possible. We live in a time when regular attendance at church is seen as 1-2 times per month. Is Jesus Lord part-time or fulltime? Is God worthy of worship part-time or fulltime?
  Attend worship when you are on vacation. We here on Cape Cod are encouraged by visitors who take time in their vacation to worship with us because they want to honor the Lord and hear from Him afresh.
  In times of revival crowds flocked to attend worship and prayer meetings. Lagging attendance is indicative of lagging love for the Lord. How much have we lost by devaluing the Lord's Day, and how much can be gained by reclaiming it?
4) Have a positive Biblical motive to join in corporate worship.  In it you join with a local expression of the body of Christ. Henry Blackaby in Experiencing God reminds us 
when the church gathers together members experience God at work in the body through the lives of other members. You can bless others and encourage them, and others can bless and encourage you. Lifting our voices together strengthens our faith and hearing a message from God's Word in community enhances our grasp of it. This is a better motivation than attending church to show our support for the organization, which may wax and wane with our feelings.
3) De-emphasize commerce on Sundays - set it apart, and thus help yourself and others to have a needed day of rest and recharging, even if they aren't believers. 
4) To preserve Sunday as the Lord's Day minimize labor. This is a major challenge in our day. My wife and I told our then teen-age daughters as they went out in the work force that they should inform prospective employers upfront that they would work Saturdays and holidays, but not Sundays. In each case they were hired, and in each case after a few weeks they were scheduled for Sunday work.  It's difficult for the world to understand that a particular day off would be a principle of life. They had to explain that they took it off for spiritual reasons, and in each case it was again honored.  But it is an act of faith.
    Jobs in public health and safety need to work on Sunday, and we hope it can be done on an every other Sunday basis. In other places look for ways to save each Sunday. A member of our church recently told our congregation that she has informed the management at the market where she is employed that she will no longer work on Sundays. She knows she needs to worship and fellowship for her own good and for the worth of the Lord. That is an act of faith. Your situation may be very sticky for this priority, and seem impossible to you  - butstart by praying about it and see what God will do.
  We also need Christians who can help move kids' sports off Sunday mornings. Help that happen if you can.
5) Let Sunday organize your week. Honoring the Lord's Day means you don't squeeze out every last hour of Saturday into the we hours, and leave yourself either too tired to go to church, too worldly-minded, or too grumpy to enjoy it and to be a blessing. Plan your Sunday attire, your leaving your house for worship, your meals, your encouragement of others. The drive to church can be the most contentious family time spent all week. If you see that problem lovingly point it out to your family, as no one enjoys discord but may have trouble seeing a way out. Pray and plan together how to ward off Satan's attack. It's a joy if Satan's attacks actually serve to unite a family that is suffering from mutual negativity.  And let the note of Life, Light and the Holy Spirit permeate your week. Make sure you move from a law-based "I have to" to a Gospel-based "I want to."
We'd love to see our church buildings filled each Sunday with joyful and devout believers who have a contagious and burning love for the Lord. When we see that we can be sure revival has come. But in the meantime incline your own heart to the life of revival.  Join with the Spirit-filled in "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God." (Ephesians 5:18-21)
It's not just for Sundays, but it starts on Sundays. Reclaim the Lord's Day.