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Is It Legalistic to Worship on Sunday?

by Bob Wilkin

Nine of the ten commandments are repeated in the NT. The one which isn't is the fourth commandment which deals with remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy.

The Sabbath is the seventh day, Saturday. Believers today are not required to refrain from work on Saturday or to worship on Saturday. This is clear from Gal 4:9-11 and Col 2:16-17. However, what about Sunday?

The early church met on Sunday evenings for the breaking of bread (the Lord's Supper), fellowship, prayer, and biblical instruction. See Acts 2:42; 20:7-11; 1 Cor 11:17-34; 16:2. Two questions arise from this: (1) Why did they meet on Sunday? and (2) Why did they meet at night?

While no verse specifically states why they met on Sunday, Rev 1:10 gives us a strong inference. John there refers to "the Lord's day." That is a reference to Sunday because that is the day when the Lord Jesus rose from the dead.

Thus one reason the early church met on Sunday was in remembrance of the Lord's resurrection from the dead. Every time they met it reminded them that He is risen and that He is returning soon. In fact, the early church partook of the Lord's Supper each Sunday evening (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 11:20)- and the Lord's Supper is designed in part to remind us that He is coming again soon (cf. 1 Cor 11:26, "till He comes").

Quite likely a second reason they met on Sunday was because it is the first day of the week. What better way to start one's week than by fellowshipping with other believers and focusing on the Lord?

The reason the early church met at night instead of during the day is most likely because many if not most believers had to work during the day on Sunday. Sunday was not a day off for most people in the first century. Certainly most slaves had to work then, and the Roman empire in general, and the church in particular (see Eph 6:5-9 and Col 4:1), had a large population of slaves.

The question is, then, should we worship on Sunday as well?

In light of the practice of the early church, unless a person has an unusual occupation which requires working both day and night on Sunday, he should gather with other believers for worship on Sunday- either morning, evening, or both. To pick another day merely to be different may well suggest a lack of submission to the biblical pattern.

No, I don't think it is legalistic to worship on Sunday. I know that I am saved by grace through faith apart from works. I know that worshipping on the first day of the week, or any other day for that matter, is not a condition of eternal life. However, if the early church worshipped on Sunday, and if the apostles worshipped on Sunday, why shouldn't we?

Does this mean we can't fish, hunt, play golf, or the like on Sunday? I don't think so. However, it does mean that we should not do so at the expense of assembling with those in our church. We could fish or hunt Sunday during the day, for example, and get home in time to clean up and worship Sunday night. Or the other way around.

Gathering together with the other believers in our church is to be a priority in our lives (see Heb 10:25). If a person perfunctorily attends church with his mind on the first tee, anxious to rush out to his first love, his priorities are clearly wrong. Read, for example, the call to worship in Hebrews 10:19-25.

So, let's be careful that we don't turn our liberty in Christ into license. Sunday is the Lord's day. To worship on Sunday is not legalistic. It is a practice established by the apostles and the early church in obedience to God's command that we meet together regularly for the breaking of bread, fellowship, instruction, and prayer (cf. Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 11:17-34; 16:2; Heb 10:24-25).

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