Growing up my transistor radio blared week after week, Sundayyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!
Sunday was the day Epsom Speedway in New Hampshire raced all kinds of cars. “Funny Cars! Stock Cars! Dragsters!” The radio ads loudly announced how exciting it would be!!
Really? Every Sunday? I now think, what a drag, compared to my Sundays as a Christian (pun alert). I confess to wondering why more people don’t become Christians just because of Sunday. How many car races does a person need before they see they hold no ultimate meaning. Or kid’s baseball games, canoe trips, Meet the Press episodes, New York Times blather, etc. To me Sundays ought to have some special converting power in them. They’re just that great.
Happy Birthday, Sunday
In a few years Christianity celebrates its 104,000th Sunday with, what else, worship services. On or about March 6, 2030, 2,000 years of Sundays will see us right where we belong – in church, worshipping the glorious Lord Jesus Christ.
It might not happen, of course. He may well come back for us before then and judge the world for its unbelief and rebellion. But if He waits, we’ll worship. We’ll do a better job of adoring Him, trusting Him, declaring His gospel, and growing into His likeness. And until He returns we’ll patiently proclaim Him, obeying the words of Paul, “for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).
That’s quite a change for me, from fast cars to church. Three years before I repented and believed on Christ, I cracked up a sweet 1974 Firebird doing a hundred and ten. I was racing. On a Sunday.
Don’t get me wrong, I love racing and muscle cars. The smells and sounds. But I would take a single Sunday at church for a thousand at the track.
Sunday is the day above all others. It has all my soul loves. It combines delight, spiritual intensity, purity, great people, and faith. The week builds up to it, and when Sunday comes I remember again that the rest of the week exists for it. On Sunday I’m with my favorite people in the world and I always come away encouraged and strengthened. How could it be any other way? I’m a Christian, and Sunday is the day of worship with other Christians at church. We definitely come together for the better (cf, 1 Cor. 11:17-18). For me, every Sunday ends in a glorious checkered flag. I love Sunday, because I love Jesus.
Jesus is Partial to Sunday
Just as the Lord set His sights on the awful day of crucifixion so too He looked forward to the Sunday just after:
“And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).
Not one day, not two days, and not four days. Three days, Sunday.
Not only did Jesus arrange the events leading up to His crucifixion so He would be crucified on Passover, but He ordained the day of resurrection too. That comes through clearly when one day some Pharisees tried to scare him. They said to Him:
“Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You.” And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal’” (Luke 13:32).
King Herod’s rage and lasciviousness were hand tools wielded by the real King to reach the zenith of His earthly goals.
We English speakers call it Sunday but to the Lord it was destined to be Resurrection day.
The ancients worshiped the Sun on Sunday and the Moon on Monday, but not us Christians. We worship the God and Father of Jesus Christ on Sunday and leave the Sun alone. In fact, since Christ made the sun, why would we bow down to it? (Col. 1:16). We worship Him who owns Sunday twice over, first by creation and then by redemption.
Those speaking the Russian language have it right. They have a better name for Sunday: “Voskresenye” - “Resurrection.”
He Took All of It
Every one of the four gospels locates Jesus’ resurrection on “the first day of the week.” That’s great, but did you ever wonder why it all happened before the sun even came up:
“as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week” (Mat. 28:1)
“very early on the first day of the week” (Mark 16:2)
“on the first day of the week, at early dawn” (Luke 24:1)
“on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark” (John 20:1)
When our Lord reached His third day goal, He made the day His own. He took all of it.
He could have risen later in the day and still fulfilled His prophesies. He could have risen later and had more witnesses. But He rose before anything might be brought to the tomb even suggesting He was dead. Flowers and spices were not welcome because not one minute of His Resurrection Day should be misjudged by something remembering sin and death.
The astonished women ran and told the disciples. They believed; the disciples, not so much.
So Jesus appeared later that day, to them. How much later? All the way later: “in the evening” (John 20:19).
Jesus gave the men the whole day to get their faith together, but not any more than the whole day to get their faith in order. Then He appeared at the end of the day to prove His resurrection and shock their sinful unbelief. Disbelief doesn’t belong on Resurrection Day and the Lord was unwilling to give them more time to wallow in it.
From its earliest moment to its glorious ending, Resurrection Day was His day. He took it all.
As a result of Jesus appearing to the disciples before day’s end there was no question among them which day He arose. Some might have been tempted to call it the “third day” like the two disciples on the Emmaus Road but for Jesus it was glory, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:21, 25-26).
Glory. He was already there. Oh, there was more glory to come at the Father’s right hand, but Sunday wasn’t to be remembered as the third day, but the First Day. The First Day was, in fact, glory. The Emmaus Road disciples did everything they could to spend the rest of that First Day with Him, “’Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.’ So He went in to stay with them” (Luke 24:29-31).
But after revealing His glory to these two men He vanished. Why? To seize the day, that’s why.
He vanishes for only an hour at most. The Emmaus Road disciples sprint back to Jerusalem and breathlessly tell the apostles, “The Lord has really risen!” It’s another chance for the men to pull their faith together. And it’s also another chance for Peter. They add, “and has appeared to Simon!” (Luke 24:34).
But Peter doesn’t believe yet, so it’s time for day-ending fireworks: “While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be to you.’” They were shell-shocked.
It’s Resurrection Day, the First Day of the week, and Christian worship just got its first Call to Order. Life will never go back to what it was, and we’ve been Sunday worshippers ever since. Thank God.
The Lord’s Day
Ever been “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day?” John was (Rev. 1:10). A loud trumpet spun him around to see Jesus Christ in His completely glorified resurrection body. John, who saw Jesus on the First Day, was unprepared and promptly fell at His feet as a dead man (Rev. 1:17).
Though late in life John had already enjoyed over 3,000 Sundays filled with worship, fellowship, prayer, joy, and purity. But nothing prepared him for the Christ unveiled. John had only seen the Father’s glory with a veiled covering on Jesus. Even after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus’ body wasn’t fully glorified.
But after the ascension the veil was forever removed and Christ’s human body was now the perfection of deity in full human glorification. What Christ now looks like on every Lord’s Day is what He’ll look like in His return. At that time a lot of people will fall at His feet – some to worship, but most to do what John tried to do – die.
Every Lord’s Day is a promise. We who worship every Lord’s Day worship the soon-coming Jesus who in unveiled glory will thoroughly judge all that sin has defiled. According to His promise we will reign with Him on the earth, beholding the glory of His presence that we now anticipate every Lord’s Day (Rev. 5:10). Then will the Lord’s Day become the Day of the Lord.
Until then the Lord’s Day ought to put every church on pins and needles of faith and fear. He wrote seven letters to seven churches that proved He can’t be tamed, blamed, ignored, or evaded. His word is like a fire that promises either blessing or cursing based on obedience and disobedience. The only thing the Lord’s Day doesn’t promise is a stifled yawn. Those who do find the Lord’s Day boring are already experiencing His judgment, not His indifference.
The church of Sardis was dead and the church of Laodicea was vomitous. But the church of Smyrna was rich and the church of Philadelphia was loved (Rev. 3:1, Rev. 3:16, Rev. 2:9, Rev. 3:9). There really wasn’t a lot of apathetic middle ground. Monday through Saturday they all looked the same but on the Lord’s Day, when they gathered for worship, both hell and heaven were on earthly display. Unless the eternal destiny of man is boring, the Lord’s Day is the most intense and insightful day of the week.
Where Were You Sunday? We Missed You.
When the Christians of Corinth all got together on the Lord’s Day it was anything but boring. Disobedience and obedience sat pew by pew, so to speak, thus earning some pretty severe correction from the apostle Paul. In a fascinating statement he says, “when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you” (1 Cor. 11:18).
This statement is central to Paul’s understanding of church. Not the divisions part, but the getting together part. Church is an event, a gathering of people professing faith in Christ by worshipping Him every Lord’s Day. Later in the letter Paul advised each Christian in the church to put aside offerings ‘the first day of every week” (1 Cor. 16:2). Putting together the two verses, the church only became the church on Sunday.
Oh, they had relationships through their church connections the rest of the week. But to be the church they had to “come together’ to worship Jesus Christ, which is the context of 1 Cor. 11:18. So if they had a church picnic on Saturday, it wasn’t “coming together as a church.” Make sense? It was only when the Corinthians came together to worship that they functioned as a church.
There are a lot of folks who have been touched by Christianity but don’t come together with Christians on Sunday. They stay home or go out into nature. They go to church every other Sunday, if convenient. They are adamant they are Christians but are actually more disobedient than the Corinthians (which is really saying something). At least every Christian in Corinth came together on Sunday:
“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:2).
All the other Christians were in other places, as the end of that verse makes clear. Point is, all the Christians in Corinth gathered in one place as one church, the first day of every week (1 Cor. 11:18, 1 Cor. 16:2).
Were there hypocrites in the church at Corinth? Uh huh. Were there backbiters in church, proud people in church, and even people tempted to schism the church at church? Yep. But where else would they learn unity, humility, love and repentance if not at worship? Staying away from Christian worship says more about the non-attender and schismers than it does about the attenders. Much more.
When the Christians in Corinth gathered to worship on the Lord’s Day they partook of the Lord’s Table as a way of remembering the Lord’s death and resurrection while honoring their unity in Him. The Corinthians failed pretty badly in honoring Christ and the unity they had with each other, but Paul’s solution was not to stop gathering as a church but to repent and gather properly. To accomplish this they had to be taught authoritatively and correctly with their sin being reproved, not accommodated.
The Corinthians only had one church to go to, but that’s not your reality. You likely have 100s of church choices where you live including every stripe of Christian tradition. What a shame, for you.
You likely pick church based on what makes you comfortable and less on what conforms you to be like Christ. Too bad there wasn’t just one church where you live. Then all choice would be taken away from you and if you didn’t go to that church nobody would consider you a Christian.
People pick a church based on “comfort, family, friends whose names we know and whose faces we’re actually happy to see.” If there was only one church in your city you would have to worship with people who “come from different backgrounds, different walks of life, different pay grades, and different generations.” But those people aren’t your kind of people, are they? With those people “we just can’t wait until this excruciating, forced community is over so we can get back to the people were comfortable with, the people we know, the people we love.”
But when we choose church on comfort and not godly maturity the less likely we will be spiritually squeezed to love people in a Christ-like way. Isn’t that just a large part of the reason why we have so many churches around? Too bad we didn’t just have one church in each city, huh?
Death for Non-Attendance?
In the OT those who broke the Sabbath were publicly executed. Or at least they were supposed to be. The first mention of weekly Sabbaths in the Bible is in connection to Israel’s obligation to God. Having just delivered them from Egypt He gives them a law: keep the Sabbath or die (Exo. 31:14). Wow. That would get ‘em out for church if we applied that today. Well, by the second week at least.
But the Lord’s Day is not the Christian Sabbath. There is no penalty for missing church or working on Sunday. Some churches will tell you they’ll punish you but they won’t. They might take you off the roll after you miss about forty or fifty Sundays in a row, but that’s about it. They probably won’t even shame you by announcing your name before the church. There aren’t any churches around today that practice a Christian Sabbath. They might huff and puff but the’y’re all bark and no bite.
So what is the right motivation to go to church if it isn’t to escape public execution?! Guilt? That might work for a few weeks but can’t make a grateful worshiper, the only kind God accepts. We turn angry and depraved if guilt lasts too long.
What about giving to get? You give something to God (worship, money, time) and He gives you something you want (happiness, money, good looks, fame, health, spouse, house, etc.). That works for a while until God doesn’t hold up His end of that deal. And He never does.
No, the right motivation is the desire to obey Jesus Christ and by that to know Him intimately. That glorifies God. To a curious woman Jesus said, “an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24).
To disciples He says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
If a person becomes a Christian at age twenty-five and lives to age seventy-five he has about 2,600 Sundays to learn obedience by worship. Cut that in half for someone who comes to Christ and only lives twenty-five years. It’s still impressive – 1,300 Sundays. And, if the average sermon is forty-five minutes then it translates to 975 hours of being challenged, confronted, and comforted by Scripture rightly interpreted and applied, we hope (what, some preach less than that?). If you fit either of these two scenarios, I hope you love Sunday and prefer it above all other days for the right reasons. It will make life, dare I say, work.
God created you for worship and you are hard-wired to return the imprint. What is at issue is not whether you will worship. That’s a known. You will. What is at issue is whether you will worship obediently or disobediently.
If Sunday is not your favorite day then you might not be a Christian. Every Christian has Christ living in them and Sunday was the day He preferred, and still prefers for churches above all others.
Don’t get me wrong. Each day is alike in that all are owned by Jesus Christ (Rom. 14:5). But when it comes to us worshiping Jesus Christ as church, Sunday is the day above all others. He has ordained Sunday worship by the church in both Precept and Example. The precept is seen in 1 Cor. 11:18 and 1 Cor. 16:2, and the example is seen in Acts 20:7, among other places. He rose on Sunday and gave to the apostles infallible proofs of it on the “first day of the week.” Then He disappeared from them until eight days later, when He did it all over again:
“After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you’” (John 20:26).
Just as Jesus’ ‘three days’ prophecies inclusively covered Friday’s crucifixion to Sunday’s resurrection, so John’s “eight days” included Resurrection Sunday to the Sunday following. Jesus’ first two post-resurrection appearances were on consecutive Sundays.
Six weeks later, on Pentecost Sunday, the church began. How is this calculated? The Saturday in-between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection marked the end of the Passover holiday week, and Pentecost began seven weeks and a day later on the fiftieth day, Sunday (Acts 2:1). So, Jesus sent the Spirit to start the church on Sunday, the day of gathering.
When the sacred letters of the New Testament were first read to the churches, they were read on Sunday.
“When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (Col 4:16).
“I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren” (1 Thess. 5:27).
Until the printing press made the Bible available to the common man, Sunday was the only day of the week we Christians heard the words of God.
Even today, after hearing His sacred words explained we sanctify the Lord’s Day with the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20). Sunday church may not have the roar of the race track but it suits our souls for heaven. We are becoming the temple of God, being filled with the Holy Spirit every Sunday as we “speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with our heart to the Lord always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Eph. 5:18-20).
As Justin Martyr wrote, oh, about 100,000 Sundays ago,
“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits…
Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly.”