Leading up to my post, a few church leaders were saying ‘no,’ not when Christmas falls on Sunday (as it did this year). Then other church leaders used Facebook for shaming them, even telling everybody in those churches to go to another church on Christmas Sunday.
My little fb post asked two simple questions: “Has anyone shown where an apostle writes precisely on this issue, or shown where an apostle says it OK for a church to skip a Sunday?”
Now, I’m in the camp that believes we should gather for worship every Sunday. Every Sunday, that is, unless providentially hindered – stuff like snowstorms, sickness, car breaks-down. You get the idea. But other than that, we ought to be worshiping our glorious and exalted Lord together every Lord’s Day.
And so, after a couple hundred postings by Facebook friends exhibiting, ahem, a wide range of perspectives, I wrote a wrap up. Here is is.
The knock out text is 1 Cor. 11:17-34. Once this is understood, the fact remains, those who say we can skip Sunday for cultural reasons show they are not following apostolic doctrine in how they govern their church.
Let me lay the foundation first.
This text is tied together by the verb “come together,” used 5x (17, 18, 20, 33, 34). The question is, is this “coming together” voluntary, or mandatory? If voluntary, then the Christians who cancel church on Christmas have the freedom to do so. But if it is mandatory, then they do not.
It is, in fact, mandatory. Why? Because at the end of the text this verb is twice grammatically attached to imperatives (v. 33 and 34) making the “come together” more than a voluntary assembly, but one to be done in a way that pleases the apostle of Christ, and honors the Spirit who inspired His specific words. In other words, “when you come together (in the manner in which Paul is speaking) you must do A, B, and C. So coming together isn’t optional.
Most important to our discussion is the demand that ALL the church wait to take their LT together – this makes apostolic practice a command to all the Christians in Corinth to gather together, and as I show below, that gathering is for the Lord’s Table. This same extent (all the Christians in Corinth) is seen in v. 20 and it’s complement in v. 22. Not coming together properly shames the church of God in Corinth (cf. 1:2).
The biggest imperative that the assembly must do when they come together is the LT: “do this in My name” in both v. 24 and 25. These are “the words of institution” of the Lord’s Supper/Lord’s Table, “LT,” as ordained by none other than the Lord Himself. Therefore, we aren’t talking about something that can be ignored or reconfigured without abdicating from His ordainment.
These words show us Paul knows the Corinthian church, like all other churches He started, already “comes together” for this institutional purpose of the worship of Christ via His own institution of the LT. Therefore, the assembly he writes of is not an assembly for any lesser purpose, or humanly ordained event, such as a Saturday get together that is optional for Christians, or a business meeting, or a pot-luck. Or even an optional Sunday worship service.
This means whatever this 11:17-34 assembly is, it has Christ’s sanction, and because of that, requires Christ-honoring obedience for all: “Do this!” Thus, the reason for why the people come together is to honor Christ and obey His spoken, “Do this!”
Now to get practical.
To honor Him in the LT, and the meal after, the Christians in Corinth (and the other churches (11:16) must “wait for one another” (33). Now since they are commanded to wait for one another, their time of meeting must provide the equal opportunity by ALL in the church to partake of the LT – unless providentially hindered. Thus the day of meeting is not individually determined from church to church, but rather by the LT event and it’s associated requirements in 11:17-34, such as attendance, waiting, and even judging (11:29).
The only day that could even fit all this is the common-for-all Lord’s Day, His day of resurrection, Sunday. Since Paul is commanding them to wait for everyone to show before taking the meal (v. 34), it requires the Lord’s Day assembly, and not any other day or event. This way all the Christians in all the churches knew they were accountable to Jesus Christ in remembering Him in the LT, together. Any other day would create confusion in some, and likely, most.
Finally, because this is hard to accept at first, consider the role 1 Cor. 16:1-2 has on this – Paul is commanding the whole church (not just some in the church) to lay aside money together, on the Lord’s Day. And, he directs other churches with similar time – the first day: “as I directed the churches of Galatia.”
This assures us that he is referring to apostolic practice for all Christian churches that make a claim to be guided by apostolic doctrine and practice, as he mentions in 11:16, and so also in 4:17, 7:17, and 14:33-34.
Christmas blessings, one and all!