THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK

 

Tonightís lesson is a companion lesson to the one I preached last Sunday morning title, What does it mean to worship? You might be thinking, Cougan why do we need a lesson on this, we all agree that the first day of the week is important to the Christian and that it is the day we come together to worship God, partake of the Lordís Supper, and give of our means? Hopeful I am right that everyone in the room especially on a Sunday night understand this, but the reason a lesson like this is needed is not to convince you of the importance of the first day of the week, but to provide you with a foundation using principles and Scripture to help prove thet importance of the first day of the week, so that you will be better prepared to teach this to others because not all people that call themselves Christians agree about the importance of first day of the week or that it is the exclusive day that partake of the Lordís Supper. For example, some religious groups hold Saturday to be our special day, while other groups hold no significance to any day. One of the verses they like to pluck from its context and make it mean more than it was intended is:

 

Romans 14:5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.6 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. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

 

What they will say is, ďsee one day is no different than another day, so if I want to partake of the Lordís Supper on Tuesday I canĒ. This is what you call proof texting because the context and what is being addressed is being ignored. Paul is not saying in this verse that we can change up what God has prescribed for us to do such as when we partake of the Lordís Supper. Instead, he is dealing with Jewish Christians who hadbecome accustomed to eating certain meats and esteeming certain days as being holy to the Lord because of the various feast days and Sabbaths. Paul is basically saying, it is ok if you choose to observe a day for the Lord. For example, a Jew may choose not to work on Saturday and spend their day in prayer to God, but they cannot bind their observance on another. They are not to judge a Gentile who is working on that day or who is eating a meat they used to be forbidden under the O.T. This is what is being dealt with and is not saying that we can choose to observe the Lordís Supper on some other day of our choosing.

The Bible is not some mysterious text that only a few can understand. No it was written to be able to be followed. In fact, Paul says we can have an apostleís understanding of Scripture when we read the inspired word:

 

Ephesians 3:2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you,3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already,4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),

 

There are more and more people who are trying to redefine the N.T. as simply being a guide, but not a book that contain laws for us to follow. Think about it. If the N.T. is not a law, then that would mean it would be impossible for us to sin, hence universal salvation. However, the Bible makes it clear that the N.T. is the law of Christ, which is also called the law of liberty (Gal. 6:2; Jam. 1:25; Rom. 3:27; 8:2; 1 Cor. 9:21). Jesus teaches that if we do not do the will of the Father that heaven will not be our home (Mt. 7:21). The only way we can escape the wrath of God is by obeying the gospel (2 Thess. 1:7ff) and by remain faithful till the day we die (Rev. 2:10). Again, the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus is the author of salvation to those who obey (Heb.5:9). If the N.T is not a law or a pattern for us to follow then how in the world can we be judged by it:

 

John 12:48 "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him -- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.

 

If the N.T. Scripture are not our only authority then why did Paul tell us not to think beyond that which is written (1 Cor. 4:6)? Obviously, the N.T. contains the commandments or we could say the laws of Christ that we are to live by and we have no right to change them up to fit our needs. Using Scripture let us begin to build a foundation that show why the first day of the week is important for the Christian and the only day we are partake of the Lordís Supper.

 

First, I want to establish a principle found in the O.T. In the O.T. God would assign a special day to a great event, and He would also teach us when it would occur. For example the Passover was a yearly event 14th day of the first month of the year (Lev. 23:5). Certain offerings were to be done monthly (Num. 28:14). The Sabbath was to be kept every Saturday (Ex. 20:8-11). So, it should not surprise that when we get to the N.T. that God has also chosen a special day for us to partake of the Lordís Supper, which is the first day of the week.

 

How can I prove this? What is so special about the first day of the week? First, we must consider why we partake of the Lordís Supper. While there is much I could say about this, to put simply, we partake of it in remembrance of what Christ did for us on the cross and how His death brought forth the new covenant that gives us victory over sin (1 Cor. 11:23-25). When we partake of it, we proclaim the Lordís death till He comes again (1 Cor. 11:26). Partaking of the Lordís Supper is not an option because Jesus commanded it (Mt. 26; Mk. 14; Lk. 22; 1 Cor. 11). Do any of these verses specify the first day of the week? No, they do not, but Acts 20:7 does. Before I examine that verse, first I want to point out the significance of the first day of the week.

 

  1. The resurrection of the Lord is what all of Christianity stands on:

 

1 Corinthians 15:12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up -- if in fact the dead do not rise.16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

 

1 Peter 1:3 ††Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

 

If the Lord was not raised from the dead then there is no hope for us. Of course, we know that He was raised, but when was He raised? It was on the first day of the week (Mt. 28:1; Mk. 16:1; Lk. 24:1). This is very significant.

  1. We also learn that after Jesus was raised from the dead that He met with His disciples on the first day of the week (Jn. 20:19-20, 26; Mk 16:9-14), which I believe was a precursor that points to the reason Christians assembled on the first day of week.
  2. The Holy Spirit was poured out the first day of the week, which was proof that Jesus was raised from the dead and sitting at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2).
  3. The Great Commission began on the first day of the week:

 

Luke 24:46 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,47 "and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Also Acts 2.

 

  1. The birth of the church began on the first day of the week (Acts 2).

 

Can you think of a better day God could have picked for the Christian to partake of the Lordís Supper than the first day of the week? I sure cannot, especially when we consider all these events that are associated with the first day of the week. Just as God assigned certain days to special events in the O.T. we see Him assigning a special day that Christian would assemble to partake of the Lordís Supper, which John said was the Lordís Day (Rev. 1:10).

 

What do we learn about these new disciples in Acts 2?

 

Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

 

Notice,they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine that is the teachings they were revealing from God. They continued in fellowship with each other and with God. This word fellowship can also refer to giving and the fellowship one has with Christ when partaking of the Lordís Supper (1 Cor. 10:16). The definite article ďtheĒ can indicate that a specific breaking of bread is being done (also used in 1 Cor. 10:16), which is referring to the Lordís Supper. Of course they prayed. These were things they were continuing to do on a frequent basis. Those who say, well I can partake of the Lordís Supper whenever I want to would be hard pressed to justify partaking of it only once or twice a year and say they are partaking of it steadfastly.

 

Some try to use verse 46 to justify partaking of the Lordís Supper daily.

 

Acts 2:46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,

 

There are three major problems with this interpretation:

 

First, we need to keep in mind that break bread can refer to the Lordís Supper or a common meal. Context will have tell us which is being referred to.

 

Second, the context shows us that it was food that they were eating house to house and not the Lordís Supper because it says ďthey ate their food with gladnessĒ. The Lordís Supper is not a meal.

 

Third, even if a person demands that this verse is referring to the Lordís Supper, it still would not prove that they partook of it daily. Grammatically, ďdailyĒ refers to how often they met in the temple, not how often they broke bread from house to house.

 

As I pointed out in my lesson on worship, it is certainly possible for the church to assembly on any day of the week, but as I will continue to show, Sunday is the specific day that Christians came together to partake of the Lordís Supper and to give of their means. There are many examples that show that we make up the church when we assembly:

 

1 Corinthians 11:18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.

1 Corinthians 14:23 Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place

 

Notice when the saints assemble, they come together as a church. Sometimes the church was found in people homes (1 Cor. 16:19; Rom. 16:5; Col. 4:15). Of course the home was not the church, but simply the place the Christians assembled.

 

In 1 Cor. 11, we learn that church came together to partake of the Lordís Supper, so this was something they were to do together. We know that this Corinthian church assembled every first day of the week because Paul commanded them to give on the first day of every week:

 

1 Corinthians 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.

 

Some want to say this was something they were just doing in their homes, but that is not correct. Does it make sense that they would simply give each week to some place in their own home? Does it make sense that Paul would tell them to store up their collection in their own home so there would be no collections when he comes? If so that would mean when he did come, he would have to go every household to collect it, which is exactly what he did not want. What the text is saying is that on the first day of every week when the Christians would come together, they would give of their money they had been prospered with and it would be put into a treasury, so when Paul came he could pick it up at one spot. That fits with idea of their being no collection when he came.

 

Without a doubt in my mind, these Corinthians were assembling ever first day of the week to give, and it is implied that they also partook of the Lordís Supper on that day as well because they did come together to partake of the Lordís Supper in 1 Cor. 11. This universal teaching in all the churches is backed up by:

 

Acts 20:7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

 

God has provided us with specific day that Christians were assembling for the Lordís Supper, which is the first day of the week. When we look at the context of this chapter, we can see that Paul waited 7 days to assemble with them for this purpose. If these Christians were assembling daily to partake of the Lordís Supper then there would have been no need for Paul to wait since he was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem. This is our only example of when they partook of it. Since there is no other example of it being partaken daily or on some other day, combined with everything I have shown about the importance of the first day of the week, I believe it proves that the Lordís Supper is only to be done on the first day of every week. Just like the Sabbath was a weekly observance for the Jew, the Lordís Day/Sunday is the Christianís weekly observance of the Lordís Supper.

 

Now that we have examined the significance of the first day of the week and seen that that church assembled to partake of the Lordís Supper and give on that day, I know want to show you the commands the Bible gives about assembling.

 

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.28 Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

 

This is not an example. It is not just a suggestion. The writer is telling these brethren to not forsake the assembly. Now this word ďforsakeĒ can be used in the sense of total apostasy, but this is not what is being talked about here because it tells that some were in habit of forsaking the assembly, which give the idea that they didnít miss all the assemblies, but they were making the absence into a habit. We have to understand that the Book of Hebrews indicates that the Jews were under persecution and it would be a lot easier to skip the assembly and not risk your life, but the writer says donít forsake the assembly.

 

If our lives were in danger for assembling I could understand why some would struggle to make it, but we do not have that problem in today. Instead, many Christians today have nothing preventing them from attending, but instead of honoring God and being here for their brethren any excuse will do to keep them home. Now this is not to say that there are those who have valid reasons why the cannot make it, but I am not talking about those time, I am talking about those who could come, but do not. When we do that, we break this command.

 

What happens when we start making it a habit to miss services? Well, for one, the assembly becomes less important to us, we began to care less about our brethren and our duties toward each other. When we choose to continue to forsake the assembly we are willfully sinning because we are breaking the command to not forsake, which means we sin with our eyes wide open as we continue in that sin. Verse 26-29 tells what happens when we choose to continue in sin no matter what that sin may be.††

 

Think about it. Why would any Christian that loves God want to neglect any assembly of the saints whether it be on Sunday or some other day? Think about what you are saying when you choose to neglect the assembly when you could be there? The body of Christ functions at its best when all its members are there. Imagine your leg or arm missing. Well, we are basically causing the body of Christ to function without an arm or leg when we choose to neglect the assembly. Whether you realize it or not every member of the body is important and we should never want to dishonor or make light of what Jesus did for us to make the church possible in the first place. So, even if we did not have a command to assemble, after everything we learned about the importance of assembling and what it means can you think a valid reason for us missing the assembly of the saints? I cannot.

 

We also need to consider:

 

Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

 

Those who rule over you are talking about our elders (1 Tim. 3:5; 5:17). Our elders have been given an awesome responsibility to look out for our souls. They know that one of the best things for us is to gather together to be with like-minded people and to be fed with the Word of God. Our fellowship and mutual worship to God is very important. The writer tells us to obey those who rule over you. When our elders choose the time we meet on Sunday and on other days for worship or Bible class, we are to follow their lead because they have our best interest at heart and they want to make sure that we grow closer to God. Let us not forsake the assembly of the saints.

 

Now I do not use early church history as inspired proof of what the Bible teaches, but I do use it to see how the early Christians were following the commands and examples of the N.T. I want to share a few of them with you:

 

Wayne Jackson note:

In the Didache (a document written about A.D. 120), the statement is made that Christians ďcome together each Lordís day of the Lord, break bread, and give thanksĒ (7:14). Justin Martyr (c. 152) also speaks of Christians meeting on Sunday and partaking of the communion (Apology I, 67).

In his book, Early Christians Speak, Everett Ferguson has observed that the literature of the post-apostolic age indicates that the Lord ís Supper was a constant feature of the Sunday service. He declares that there is no second-century evidence for the celebration of a daily communion (p. 96).

Coffman notes:

Pliny, a secular writer about 112 A.D., made a report to the emperor Trajan in which he unconsciously bore witness to certain vital aspects of Christianity. Of special interest was the witness he bore to the tenacity maintained by the Christians in regard to their assemblies. They attended the regular worship services in spite of every hindrance. Legal meetings on a publicly recognized day of rest, as in these days, were impossible. Christians met in the darkness of pre-dawn assemblies; and no impediment whatever was allowed to interfere. As Pliny said, "On an appointed day they had been accustomed to meet before daybreak." He went ahead to relate that their services were nothing of a scandalous or improper kind, that they partook of a meal of the most harmless and ordinary variety, that each sang a hymn to Christ as God, and that they bound themselves with a promise not to commit fornication or theft or any other crime. This witness of Pliny reaches back to within a very few years of the apostles themselves and is a valuable independent testimony bearing upon the faith.

 

In conclusion, I believe I have shown that we are commanded to assemble with saints. Though the assembly can happen any day of the week, the first day of the week is the special day that Christians come together to partake of the Lordís Supper and to give of their means. Though I did not cover prayer, preaching, or singing these are also commanded in Scripture (1 Thess. 5:17; Eph. 5:19, 2 Tim. 4:1-2) and by example these things were done in the assembly as well (1 Cor. 14 and Acts 20).So, let us never take Jesusí sacrifice for granted by forsaking the assembly willfully whenever we could be there. As far that goes, let us always do our best to keep all sin out of our life and when we do sin, let us take care of it by repenting and confessing our sins to God.