What I oppose is the notion that gathered worship can only take place on Sunday; that it is only “commanded” on Sunday; that it only has significance on Sunday.
Really? Where in scripture do we read that?
Oh, I’m fully aware that Acts 20:7 says, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.”
I’m also completely certain that 1 Corinthians 16:2 has the instruction: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”
But to insert the word “only” at the beginning of each sentence and to bind the example of the first passage and the instruction of the second as a command for all believers for all time – I believe – is going beyond what the word of God says.
I’m also cognizant that as early as about AD 107, Christian writers were urging the observance of gathered worship on Sunday to especially commemorate the resurrection of Christ (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1):
- AD 107: ” … let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days of the week. (Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, chp 9. Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, pg. 62-63.)
- AD 130: “Moreover God says to the Jews, ‘Your new moons and Sabbaths 1 cannot endure.’ You see how he says, ‘The present Sabbaths are not acceptable to me, but the Sabbath which I have made in which, when I have rested [heaven: Heb 4] from all things, I will make the beginning of the eighth day which is the beginning of another world.’ Wherefore we Christians keep the eighth day for joy, on which also Jesus arose from the dead and when he appeared ascended into heaven. (15:8f, The Epistle of Barnabas, 100 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, pg. 147)
- AD 150: “But Sunday is the day on which we hold our common assembly, because it is the first day of the week and Jesus our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.” (First apology of Justin, Ch 68)
- AD 150AD: “And on the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a city or a rural district. … We all make our assembly in common on the day of the sun, since it is the first day, on which God changed the darkness and matter and made the world, and Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the dead on the same day. For they crucified him on the day before Saturn’s day, and on the day after (which is the day of the sun the appeared to his apostles and taught his disciples these things.” (Apology, 1, 67:1-3, 7; First Apology, 145 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , Vol. 1, pg. 186)
- AD 190AD: He does the commandment according to the Gospel and keeps the Lord’s day, whenever he puts away an evil mind . . . glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself.” (Clement of Alexandria, Vii.xii.76.4)
I think that’s great! And I even understand why morning would be a preferable time for that observance! But although there is a special reason to commemorate – even celebrate! – the resurrection … where is the word “only” which limits us to this one day?
For those who require scripture to “authorize” everything that a church does … where does the authorization come for gathering to worship on any other day of the week – say, for instance, Wednesday? (And if it ain’t authorized, then worship must be forbidden … right?)
The earliest believers in the first century had no scriptural authorization to meet on the first day of the week; what scripture commanded was to observe the Sabbath.
(I suppose the “authorization” for Sunday nights would be John 20:19, though that’s really stretching it!)
Well, I’ll tell you where everyday worship comes from, if it must indeed be “authorized” by scripture: Acts 2:42-47.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Did you notice all the things they did? They shared to the apostles’ teaching. They enjoyed fellowship. They broke bread (the term used in Acts 20:7). They prayed. They were awestruck. They shared. They took Jesus seriously at His encouragement for them to sell their possessions and give to the poor (Luke 12:33). They met at their place of worship, the temple courts (where women would not be excluded). They opened their homes and dined together. They praised God.
Is it any wonder that they also enjoyed the favor of all the people and that the Lord added to their number daily those that were being saved? (One would have to assume that, given the events recorded a few verses before, they were also baptizing people daily.)
They were doing all of the things we do in church – and so much more – and doing them daily. And if we try to fit all of the possible acts of worship (see Gonna Need More Fingers) into one day a week – rather than each day of our lives, as Paul recommends in Romans 12 – we’re gonna need more hours in the day!
We folks of the Restoration Movement have a kind of pride in the notion that, a couple of hundred years ago, some of our forebears in faith sought to restore the New Testament church to the glory that it had in the first century.
When you look at Acts 2, don’t you think they might not have gone far enough back?
We need to look back to a time when believers were being restored in their relationship to Christ … doing every little thing He had suggested … celebrating with thanksgiving the grace that had been given to them through His death and resurrection by generously giving and graciously receiving … dining together to perpetuate His ongoing table ministry with loving hospitality.
In other words, the earliest believers were doing everything they could to become more and maybe just like Him.
Every single day of every week of every month of every year – even Sabbaths! – just like Jesus did.
If our hearts were so afire as the tongues of Pentecost and the hearts of the believers who heard them, we wouldn’t need any command, example, necessary inference or authorization to worship God all the time … would we?