December 18, 2017

The Christian Day of Worship

Thomas Overmiller

Why do Christians gather for worship and ministry on Sunday?

  1. There is a theological foundation for this practice. The resurrection of Christ, the central vital fact of Christianity, occurred on the first day of the week (Mt. 28, Mk. 16, Lk. 24, Jn. 20)
  2. There is post-resurrection reinforcement for this practice. Christ appeared to the 12 disciples after his resurrection, on the first day of the week (Jn. 20:19ff, 20:26ff).
  3. The example of the early church demonstrates this practice. The church at Troas gathered to break bread and hear Paul preach on the first day of the week. Paul had been in Troas for the entire preceding week, yet Scripture gives no indication that they assembled as a church until the first day of the week (Acts 20:6ff).
  4. The instructions of the Apostle Paul assume this practice. He told the church at Corinthian to set aside offerings on the first day of the week, which indicates that they already gathered together on Sunday (1 Cor. 16:1-2).
  5. The direct reference of the Apostle John to “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10) underscores this practice. This Greek expression is not the same thing as the prophetic expression “the day of the Lord.” Instead, it is a biblical reference to the Christian day of worship, observed by John, the last living apostle (Rev. 1:10).
  6. The example of the early church fathers reiterates this practice. Church leaders immediately following the apostles spoke about the church gathering together on the first day of the week. You will find this in the Epistle of Barnabas (15), Ignatius to the Magnesians (9), Justin Martyr’s Apology (I.67), Eusebius’ Ecclessiastical History (IV.23), and Turtullian’s De Oratio (23), among others. These testimonies date from the early 100s – 200s.

So what about Constantine’s decree in 321 A.D., in which he pronounced the following?

“On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.”[1]

This edict, along with other ensuing edicts, that Sunday be observed as the special day of the week, did not change or establish a specific day for Christian worship. We do not worship on Sunday because of a decision that Constantine made. He merely acknowledged the long-standing practice of a vast majority of Christian churches from the first two centuries of church history. We worship on Sunday, as the Lord’s Day, because it is biblical.

Thomas Overmiller serves as pastor for Faith Baptist Church in Corona, NY and blogs at Shepherd Thoughts. This article first appeared at Shepherd Thoughts and is used with permission.

  1. Codex Justinianus lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; trans. in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, p. 380, note 1. []

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