The Lord's Day

The subject of the "Sabbath" and "The Lord's Day" can be controversial. It's a rather intensive subject to wade through. As a youth, I was put onto a Seventh Day Adventist correspondence Bible study course. I went to a Southern Baptist church. I read the lessons and was confused. I inquired at the church I attended about the Sabbath issue. They didn't have intelligent considerations of the subject. I started keeping a day of rest to the best of my knowledge from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, as the Adventist's literature taught, but I wasn't satisfied with their arguments. I knew something was amiss, but couldn't figure it out. I went to a Bible study where the teacher had grown up in a Seventh Day Adventist community. From there, I was able to piece together the verse that kept nagging at me:

1 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. Hebrews 4:1-11

In verse 9, that little word "rest" is sabbatic in the Greek. Sabbath means "rest". The preceding verse stated Jesus hadn't really given rest. I was confused. I thought verse 9 was telling us the Sabbath was still to be kept. What I was to discover was that the Jesus of verse 8 wasn't Jesus Christ. The name for Joshua of the Old Testament is "Jesus" in the Greek. The "Jesus" of verse 8 is referring to Joshua, who lead Israel into the Promised Land. The Sabbath wasn't fulfilled in that accomplishment. The true rest from our labors is now fulfilled in Jesus Christ who is our true rest. The Sabbath was intended to be a "type" of the rest we find in Christ Jesus.

Which Day Of The Week?
There was the issue of why Christians gather on Sunday. The Seventh Day Adventists argue that the early church never gathered on the first day of the week. I have literature from them where they deny there being records of the early church fathers showing the church gathered on the first day of the week. They claim the Roman Catholic Popes made the change, according to pagan custom, centuries later. I did some research and found the early church fathers did bear testimony to the churches gathering on the first day of the week. I had been lied to! (See these writings of the "Early Church Fathers": The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 9 [Ignatius lived approximately from 35 AD to 110 AD]; The Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 15 entitled "The False and the True Sabbath" written circa 130 AD; The First Apology of Justin Martyr, Chapter 67 entitled "Weekly Worship of the Christians" [Justin Martyr lived approximately from 100 AD to 165 AD]). Many writings of the second and third centuries testify of this. One source testified, "At least twenty to thirty church fathers, starting with the disciples of the apostle John and continuing through the second, third and fourth centuries, all agree that is was the first day of the week." (from Assembling Together, The Lord's Day, p. 85, by Watchman Nee).
I found it significant of the disciples fellowship in gathering to break bread (Acts 20:7) and collections on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1,2). The Holy Spirit descended on the first day of the week on Pentecost (the fiftieth day was the first day of another week). Pentecost is often considered as the birthday of the church. Consider Psalm 118:22-24 along with Acts 4:10,11 - again a significant scriptural revelation. These things are very significant, but what of it? If the commandment of keeping the Sabbath day holy had changed into the rest we find in Christ, what is the significance of any day at all? I must leave out volumes here. I just laid the basic groundwork to get to the point we need to consider.

The Lord's Day in the New Testament
Are there ramifications if Christians don't put aside "The Lord's Day"? I believe there are, and for this to be ignored is to result in the destruction of the church as we know it!
It is significant to find the Apostle John making the statement, "the Lord's day" in the last book in the New Testament cannon of scripture.

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Revelation 1:10

We do not find the expression "the Lord's day" elsewhere in the New Testament. It is debated as to what exactly John meant by that expression. I want to propose to you some considerations.
There are those who say it referred to the day of the Lord's coming the second time, since the book was prophetical about the second coming. I find this a stretch from the context of the verse, as we see it in the first chapter of Revelation. I would say we could dismiss that possibility as unlikely.
After the issue of the "Sabbath" has been neglected in many ways in the New Testament, it is significant that a particular day should suddenly be found here in the last of the books. What is also important is the author. John appears to have had the significant ministry of "mending the nets" (Matthew 4:21). When Jesus called John into discipleship, John was mending the nets. It seems prophetic of John's ministry. His main work comes after the initial start off of Peter and the building work of Paul. The New Testament ends with John's work of repairing the ravages that had appeared in the churches. His work endeavored to restore the churches to their original foundations. In John's writing, we see the value of a certain day in which he was in a distinctly spiritual pursuit. What is more, the Lord appeared to John on this day. He could have appeared any day of the week, not being told which specific day, but God saw it important to pass the particular day on to us in which Christ appeared for the revelations to come. It follows the pattern of Christ's appearing upon the first day of the week after the crucifixion. With these considerations, I feel we can rest on the ground that the first day of the week had been set aside as a special day of focus on God and in Christian fellowship. This day was not after the manner of the Old Testament Sabbath where a man was stoned who picked up sticks on that day (Numbers 15:32). The "Sabbath Commandment" law was not carried over, however the other principals of a special day unto the Lord cannot be ignored. It is a case of plain historical observance that when a people quit putting aside a day of rest unto the Lord, they quickly become degenerate and shortly abandon full commitment to God. Their love for Christ and the brethren grows cold.

Looking Back at Old Testament Lessons
To know it is the Lord who Sanctifies Us Though we are not under the "Sabbath Commandment", we need to look at lessons from the Old Testament. The first lesson being a glaring one:

13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you. Exodus 31:13

12 Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them. Ezekiel 20:12

The glaring lesson is in the issue of "sanctification". That's a big word meaning we are made holy unto God. Were the Jews made holy by keeping the "Sabbath"? Not according to these verses. Part of the Sabbath commandment's purpose was so we would know it is the Lord who sanctifies us. This is why the saints who gather have communion when they gather. They gather, partake of His ordinance of communion and remember His sanctifying us through that sacrifice of His son.

Look at the weight god placed upon it
A look at Ezekiel gives a major refrain from God. Look at the preceding verse of Ezekiel 20:12 that we just looked at:

11 And I gave them my statutes, and showed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. Ezekiel 20:11

These two verses combined to form a refrain God kept repeating. Read Ezekiel and pay close attention to the repeated pattern. The grievous iniquity God was rebuking them for listed three things.

The Jews ignored:
1. God's statutes
2. God's judgments
3. God's Sabbaths

Here is just one sampler to consider:

13 But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them. Ezekiel 20:13

To set apart a whole day for God
Further consideration of the Old Testament Sabbath leaves us with the obvious observation that it wasn't just for an hour or two in the morning. God considered the need for a full day, out of every seven days, as necessary for the kind of fellowship and faithfulness to Him that anything less didn't satisfy. We think that we can have a vibrant spiritual life on a quick morning service and then rush off for our restful pursuits. We are dead wrong. Not only that, we insult our brethren! How? There are brethren who want to fellowship around Christ with His body and all we might be thinking of is getting home because fleshly relations will be over, or we have some sports event to attend. Maybe the lawn needs mowing huh? God should be so important to us that we are desperate to learn as much as we can of Him. Desperate to fellowship in love with other truly God loving brethren and spend time worshiping Him.
I imagine there are many who have never even seen the following verse. This should cause us to weep:

13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: 14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. Isaiah 58:13,14

Look at what the Jews were doing on the Sabbath that God saw as inexcusable. They couldn't stop from pursuing their own delights. It wasn't just work they were violating a day unto the Lord with. If they had bicycles in those days, it might as easily have been joining in the Sunday Lion's Club Ride For Sight or the American Legion's Sunday Baseball League Games, or the Horse Club's horse practice sessions. (I purposely mention the names of these two organizations because they have not been ashamed to actively encourage people to forget the day unto the Lord. They could have had respect to the Lord's day, determining to have functions on Saturday, or some other day, as people used to do a few generations back. Please note, they are certainly not the only ones who hold no respect for the Lord's day these days, most organizations in the United States don't.)
Look further in verse 13 and you will see the offence of "speaking thine own words". What does this mean? I believe we find the basis of sitting around talking about the sports, politics, the latest news. We can't stop for even one day from meditating upon such things. Why is it we don't care to totally immerse ourselves in the things of God and Christian fellowship? Why is it so hard to carry on a conversation with a fellow Christian about issues of the Kingdom? We can talk about plants, politics, science, etc., but our mind is blank on the things of God. I believe that cause can only be attributed to our lack of heart involvement with the Lord. If the heart isn't there, our conversations will quickly dry up on such as the King of Kings.
Verse 14 shows God's blessing on those who decide to pursue Him for a whole day of the week. The world's businesses may scorn you, but God will bless.

The Lord Honors Those Who Stand Against the Tide
Many of the mega corporations consistently compel employees to work on the Lord's Day. Those who say, "I'm sorry, I can't work on the Lord's Day" will often find an employment opportunity shut down as soon as they make the statement. My son even was interviewed for a job that sounded promising. They were ready to say, "start to work", that was until he told them he can't work on the Lord's Day. They said they were sorry, come back when he changes his mind. The ungodly corporations put pressure on those seeking employment. Remember though, God is watching and will indeed honor those who hold Him before their faces continually.
In America's earlier years, to some extent, the Lord's Day was legally enforced. Businesses in communities were not allowed to be open on the Lord's Day. These were called "Blue Laws". At the time of this writing, I know of only one city in the United States that still enforces the Blue Laws. It is constantly challenged by the big businesses who try to compel the city council to retract these laws. So far they have not succeeded and it is a city where the streets go quite on Sunday. The majority may not honor this day unto the Lord, but I believe the Lord is honoring that city. They are holding out against the greed. The consideration of many businesses is "we have to be open on the Lord's Day to keep the highest amounts of profits pouring in". With that thought at the back of their desire to see this day as busy as the rest, they would desire to compel this city to drop the Blue Laws. Like I said though, God has shown some hand of honor to this city. It is the richest city in the nation. It is the bedroom community of New York city.
Another true story of consideration is that told in the movie "The Chariots of Fire". I've never seen the movie, but I know the story. The star athlete runner was a committed Christian. He would not run on the Lord's Day. He was in the Olympics and the main competition for which he trained was scheduled for the Lord's Day. He said he could not run. He was British. England had a king at the time. The King came up to him and ordered him to run. He refused. The Prime Minister was with the King and confronted this athlete with the charge, "Would you defy a direct command from your king?!" The wonderful answer he returned was that he would defy an earthly king when his Heavenly King orders otherwise.
He missed that competition. The next competition, he could participate in, was not one he was trained for. He entered it. Just as the race was about to begin, someone came through the barriers the Olympics set up to protect against such threats to the athletes, and ran over to him. He shoved a piece of paper in this athlete's hand. On it read, "The Lord honors those who honor Him." He ran that race against the natural odds and won.
There are numerous accounts that show God miraculously honors those who honor a day unto Him.

The Lord's Warning of Dangers
Consider this verse in the parable of the sower:

22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. Matthew 13:22

The care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches are the very things that keep us from setting aside a day unto the things of God. With that being the case, the seed is starved and becomes unfruitful.
I see some, who call themselves Christian, pour contempt on the Lord's day, the fellowship of the saints and the love of the brethren. They quickly rush off to catch up on work at the office or (grief of greeds, oops I meant griefs, or did I?) they get an opportunity for their young children to have some paying job that will disable their being able to be at church. They gladly report to friends that their children were given an excellent opportunity. So young and yet able to have some paying work. It teaches them responsibility and will work up to bigger opportunities next year! You know what I say it teaches them. It teaches them money is more important that God! The fellowship of the saints can be forgotten at the snap of some desired alternatives.

Will the Sabbath be Reinstituted?
Another serious consideration. The Sabbath was such an important institution in God's sight that we see He is going to reinstitute it. Consider the following:

22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. 23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. 24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh. Isaiah 66:22-24

What To Do?
If you have settled the issue in your mind and made the commitment of setting a day aside unto the Lord, you might need suggestions as to how to do this.
The first would be in the obvious position of gathering with local believers, worship service, preaching, etc. What about after the service? Personally I would like to see believers who delight to "hang around" after the "official" service for the purpose of fellowship. You might do as many of the Mennonites do. Numbers go to different homes. Maybe five families to one home and another five are invited to another home. Different families invite others different Lord's Days. They don't form "cliques" but enjoy simple fellowship from home to home in this manner. They may throw a bunch of sliced potatoes into a pot so it will be ready after the service and a few other simple things that can easily accommodate an unpredictable amount of people. If there is any left over, it will easily last for some other meals during the week.
I remember putting together the "Martha Kit". What is a "Martha Kit"? You don't know! Remember the incident of Martha and Mary with Jesus. Martha came to Jesus complaining about Mary not helping with the "entertaining" tasks. Jesus said Mary was doing the good thing that wouldn't be taken from her (Luke 10:40). Now my thought was that if Martha had planned ahead, she could have created a "Martha Kit". A box of food stuffs that could be prepared ahead of time. When the situation, such as we saw in Luke 10:40, faced her, she would have been quickly ready to sit and join the fellowship. A package with things that are easy to dish up such as raisins, crackers and sausage or cheese, maybe some cottage cheese and pineapple, other fruit such as apples or bananas, along with paper plates and plastic knives, forks, spoons and napkins. Maybe include some bottled fruit juices. There are many things that can be included for a simple, nutritious and quick meal.

Other Lord's Day activities could include:
Going out distributing tracts and street witnessing.
Work together on creating a Christian audio drama. We did a redramatizing of the script of a debate on the Revised Standard Version (Perversion) of the Bible. (You can find that online at our Based In The Word website.)
Sing hymns or psalms from the psalter.
Listen to more great preaching. (If you are online, try
One of you might read a scripturally edifying book for all to enjoy. Children can easily enjoy these while they color. Gather to pray for specific things such as mission work around the world. Each week you could cover a different country, praying for open doorways for the Word of God to prevail.
Learn a new hymn.
Pray and worship alone if you are alone.
Meditate on a different psalm each Lord's day.
Do more Bible research.
In closing, remember these words describing the beautiful condition of the early church:

44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:44-47

Click here to read another message on The Lord's Day given by Watchman Nee many years ago from the book Assembling Together

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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible

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