Shelby G. Floyd
A thousand years before the resurrection of Christ from the dead, David “swept the harp of prophetic psalmody and sang of a new day.”
The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the LORD’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
This is a Messianic statement that David’s son, Jesus Christ would be rejected, nailed to the cross and then be resurrected and placed over his spiritual house as “the chief cornerstone.” This was fulfilled when Christ became the head of the church (Ephesians 2:20; 1:22).
A NEW DAY TO BE SET ASIDE
Because of this signal event, the Lord has set aside a new day in which his people are to assemble and praise the Father and Son and Holy Spirit with rejoicing and gladness of heart (Philippians 4:4). We believe that new day to be the first day of the week, styled by an apostle as “the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10).
THE DIVISION OF TIME
The division of time into days, months and years is based upon natural law; that is, the sun, moon and stars decree it. The further division of time into hours, minutes and seconds is artificial, and is sanctioned by man. But God ordained the division of time into seven-day weeks in the beginning. It is as old as time and as universal as the human race. The seven-day week then takes its origin from the fact that in six days God created the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he ceased from all his labors, and he sanctified the seventh day:
Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
ALEXANDER CAMPELL’S LECTURES
In lecturing to the young men of Bethany College, Bethany, West Virginia, on the book of Genesis, Alexander Campbell had this to say concerning the origin of the week:
“These seven days constitute our week. Now, we desire you to concentrate your mind upon the phenomenon of weeks. There is nothing in nature to suggest it. We know that the moon works out the months, and the sun rules the day, while for seasons are produced by the variations of the earth revolving upon its axis, as affecting the relative positions of the earth to the sun. Nature makes the day, a month, and the year; but what makes the week? This is a question of great importance—a question that stagers the boldness of infidels, and the most expert of theorists. The subject has developed much ingenious thought, and profound reasoning, but we affirm that nothing on earth or in heaven, can be assigned as an argument for the week, aside from the fact that the heavens and the earth were created in six days of twenty-four hours each. This ordinance of time, depends entirely upon the absolute will for its origin. The cessation of the creative labors of God on the seventh day, gave rise to this division of time; for which there is no type in nature. There is a type, or some symbolic mark, for every cardinal institution of the divine economy, except the week, and that has none. We therefore designate this, in the category of positive institutions, and the fact of its being a positive institution, places the explanation thereof, beyond the power of human reason. It cannot be accounted for by any Egyptian or any other scheme, which has been or may be concocted and digested in the human brain. The most careful skeptics have overlooked this in their inquiries; and when it is propounded to them for an explanation, it brings them to a full stop, and they are obliged to acknowledge themselves at a loss to account for this remarkable division of time. The creative drama culminated in a week; and, while the works of God are commemorated by it, God himself commemorates the week as a positive institution” (Alexander Campbell, Lectures On The Pentateuch, pp. 96-97).
No infidel can answer this argument as to the divine origin of the division of time into seven-day weeks.
THE DAYS OF THE WEEK
But where did the names of each day of the week originate? They were using the name “Sunday” as the name of the first day of the week early in the second century. There is no doubt that the names of each day of the week originated with the Greeks and the Romans. And while we do not worship the pagan gods for which they were named, that is how they were named as the chart above indicates!
THE LORD’S DAY IS NOT THE SABBATH DAY
For 2500 years there is no indication in the scriptures that God ever commanded any patriarch to keep the Sabbath day. But after the children of Israel had been delivered from Egyptian bondage, and after they had traveled for 50 days, God gave them the Sabbath day, as a day of rest and a day of commemoration for their deliverance. When Moses went up on the mountain and received the Law, the fourth commandment was, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20: 8-11). The Sabbath day was a special day in the religion of the Jews for 1500 years. They were not to do any work; but they were to use that day as a day of worship, reverence and respect for God. But the law was taken out of the way when Jesus was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2: 14). Christians have never been under the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 5:1-5). The Law of Moses included the Sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:15).
WHAT DAY IS THE LORD’S DAY?
While Christians are not to keep the Sabbath day, they are commanded to observe and to keep “the Lord’s day.” Just as the week is of divine origin; so, the first day of the week, as a day in which to worship the Lord of heaven and earth, is of divine origin. Near the end of the first century, John, the apostle said, “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10). The phrase, “in the Spirit” no doubt indicates that his thoughts, feelings and sympathies were with the brethren who were meeting on the Lord’s Day to worship God, on the mainland of Asia Minor. While John cannot be with them in body, he could be with them in spirit, as they gathered around to observe the Lord’s Supper, and to worship God in spirit and in truth. “In the Spirit” also can refer to the fact that John like all the apostles was guided by the Holy Spirit. “God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). What day is the day that is styled by John as “the Lord’s day?” It was not necessary for John to further identify this day, it being a well-established custom among the disciples to meet upon the first day of every week to worship God and remember the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Day was then well understood by John’s readers.
THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK
We can get an idea what that day is by a review of the day that held a special place in the worship and lives of the Christians in the first century. Many important things happened on the first day of the week that concerned Christ and his church. Our Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on the first day of the week. When Jesus died upon the cross the hopes and the ambitions of the apostles died with him. But after three days and three nights Jesus was raised early on the first day of the week. The gates of Hades swung open on the first day of the week. The stone was rolled away from Joseph’s new tomb and Christ was raised from the dead (Luke 24:1-12). Jesus then appeared to Mary Magdalena and the other women as they came out on the first day of the week to embalm his body. And angels conversed with the women who first came to the tomb (Mark 16:1-9). Upon the first day of the week our Lord met twice with his apostles (John 20:19-29). The Holy Spirit came on the first day of the week to clothe the apostles with the power of inspiration from on high (Acts 2:1-4; 1:8).
On the first day of the week in the city of Jerusalem the church had its beginning. The Holy Spirit according to promise came upon the apostles on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1-8, 11). All this happened on the day of Pentecost, which invariably was fixed on the first day of the week (Leviticus 23:15-21). On this same day the apostles spoke in languages and dialects that they had never studied; they preached the gospel of Christ in its fullness, announcing the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and also informing their hearers of the terms of admission into the church of Christ. On the first day of the week 3000 souls gladly received the gospel word and were baptized, and on that same day the Lord added to the church those who had been saved (Acts 2:47).
THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK WORSHIP
The early church was steadfast in congregating together on the first day of the week for worship and obedience to the will of God. The author of the book of Acts states:
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
They were steadfast in their breaking of bread along with the other ordinances concerning the Lord’s Day. We understand this to be on the first day of the week, for that is how often they met together to break bread.
WORSHIP AT TROAS ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK
The apostle Paul was in quite a hurry to go to Jerusalem in order to speak to the Jews that would be present at that particular time of the year. In route to Jerusalem, he stopped by Troas, but he was too late to meet with the brethren on Sunday or the first day of the week. Therefore, he waited seven whole days and when Sunday arrived, the first day the week, the disciples came together to break bread and Paul preached unto them and continued his speech till midnight.
But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days. 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. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting.
The disciples met upon the first day of the week. Luke does not say that they met upon a first day of a week, but that they met upon the first day of the week. The definite article as applied to the first day indicates that it was a stated or fixed day. Therefore, the breaking of bread was 52 times a year. If they broke bread 52 times a year, then they met upon the first day of the week 52 times a year. Both of them stand or fall together. The disciples at Troas were steadfast in their observance of the Lord’s Day. In other words, the first day the week was a stated time of observing the Lord’s Supper and having prayer and singing and giving and teaching.
THE CHURCH CONTRIBUTED ON THE FIRST DAY OF EVERY WEEK!
In further proof of the necessity to observe the Lord’s Day, is the commandment that Paul gave to the churches of Galatia and Corinth. Paul commanded that they lay by in a treasury upon the first day of every week as the Lord had prospered them. This was to be done in order that Paul would not need to go from house to house and gather the collection when he came, but it would be in order since they would have lain by in-store upon the first day of every week.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2
Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week (kata mian Sabbatou, sgf), each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
All this indicates that the church had a special day set aside in which to worship God, and we are forced to the conclusion that this is the first day of the week, the day which John styled “the Lord’s day.”
THE TESTIMONY OF THE POSTAPOSTOLIC WRITINGS
Now let us examine the testimony of “the men who were contemporary with the apostle John, who were students under him, and who were themselves men of middle age at the time John wrote Revelation.” These men confirm that “the first day of the week” is the day that John called “the Lord’s day.”
1. Ignatius, who died a martyr about 107 A.D. said in his letter to the church of the Magnesians:
If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death…” Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness….” But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law…And after the observance of the Sabbath, 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] (Epistle To The Magnesians, Chapter 9).
JUSTIN MARTYR (100-165)
2. Justin Martyr who lived from 110-165 A. D. said:
And on the day called Sunday, (1) 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; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, (2) and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, (3) and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration (Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 47).
3. Clement said,
“He keeps the Lord’s day, glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself” (Stromatta, Book 7, Chapter 12).
4. Irenaeus wrote,
“On the Lord’s day every one of us Christians keeps the Sabbath.”
5. Eusebius, the father of ecclesiastical history wrote:
“That from the beginning, the Christians assembled on the first day of the week, called by them the Lord’s day, to read the Scriptures, to preach, and to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.”
6. Mosheim has written:
“There are a few regulations which may be considered as common to all Christians, and of these we shall give a brief account. The Christians of this century (the first) assembled for the worship of God and their advancement in piety, on the first day of the week, the day on which Christ reassumed his life: for that this day was set apart for religious worship by the apostles themselves, and that after the example of the church of Jerusalem, it was generally observed, we have unexceptionable testimony.” *
THE PROPER USE OF THE LORD’S DAY
There is a tendency in our day to take the Lord’s Day and make it our own day. More business establishments are being opened for commerce on the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day is being advertised and emphasized as a day of pleasure; a day of travel; a day of enjoyment. We ought to use the Lord’s Day for which it was intended. Every Christian needs to observe the Lord’s Day in order to be stronger spiritually, and to please the Lord.
A few years ago, some preacher wrote the words to this poem:
Poor old elders have lost their sheep,
And don’t know where to find them,
Leave them alone,
They will come home,
Dragging their boats behind them!
And I might add, dragging their football, baseball, soccer equipment—their tents and camping equipment etc. Enough, Enough Church! Let us get back to giving ourselves to worship and service on the Lord’s Day!
J. CASH PENNY
J. C. Penney, founder of the J. C. Penney chain of retail clothing stores, is credited with the following statement:
“If a man’s business requires so much of his time that he cannot attend the Sunday morning and evening worship services, and Wednesday night prayer meeting, then that man has more business than God intended him to have.”
This is a true statement, for no man should have so much business that he cannot sanctify the Lord’s Day, and attend all of the services, in order to worship God and study the Bible. There is no calling in life that is so important that it should take precedence over our appointments to serve the Lord.
PRESIDENT JAMES A. GARFIELD
James A. Garfield, one of the presidents of the United States of America, is a good example of not having more business than God intended for him to have, in reference to keeping the Lord’s appointments. During the first week of Garfield’s presidency, a member of his Cabinet insisted that he should attend the Cabinet meeting, which had been called for 10 AM on Sunday. It was a matter dealing with a national crisis, but President Garfield refused on the grounds that he had another appointment. The Cabinet member insisted that he break his appointment since the appointment on Sunday was of national importance. Still, Garfield refused. Then the Cabinet member remarked, “I should be interested to know with whom you could have an appointment so important it cannot be broken?” But President Garfield replied: “I will be as frank as you are. My engagement is with the Lord, to meet him at his house, at his table, at 10:30 AM tomorrow, and I shall be there.” President Garfield sanctified the Lord’s Day; the crisis passed, and our nation survived.
Before he became President, James A. Garfield was Alexander Campbell’s personal lawyer. And I think maybe he graduated from Bethany College. Every time I think of President Garfield, I think of Johnny Cash singing the song, “Mister Garfield has been shot down…” He was assassinated by Charlie Guiteau!
Nothing is more important than serving God on the Lord’s Day. Every day of our existence belongs to God since he is Lord of heaven and earth. But there is one day, above all days, which has been marked out as a day to serve God in divine worship and work. It is the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week. If a coin was to be rendered to Caesar because it bore his super inscription, should not we render the first day the week to Christ, because his name has been impressed upon it? We are to render unto Caesar the things that belong to Caesar, but we are also to render unto God the things that are God’s.
One way that we render unto God the things that belong to him is to keep the Lord’s Day, because it bears his name. The apostle John was a very old man when he was sent in exile to the island of Patmos, because of defending the word of God, and presenting the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:9). He was not able to assemble together with his brethren over on the mainland of Asia, but when the Lord’s Day rolled around, John said, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10). This simply means that in sentiment and sympathy he was with his brethren who were worshiping God on the first day of the week.
THE LORD’S TRUE BIRTHDAY!
Let us observe the Lord’s Day as his true birthday. In writing a letter to the Colossians, Paul stated that Christ was, “the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). He was the firstborn from the dead in as much as he is the first one to have been raised from the dead never to die again. That this is the true birthday of the Lord; we need only make reference to Paul’s sermon in Antioch of Pisidia, when he quoted the second psalm where David said,
“Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13:33; Psalms 2:7).
Paul applied this quotation from Psalms to the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the first day of the week. The true Christian then observes every first day of the week—the true birthday of the Lord—his birth from the grave on the first day of the week. It is the Lord’s Day; it belongs to him by virtue of his kingly majesty and wonderful power.
Let us then use the Lord’s Day to meditate upon his word and to worship God in spirit and truth. Some are willing to give the Lord part of the day, but not all of the day. Let each one of us who are members of the Lord’s church sanctify the Lord’s Day and give it to him in special service because it wears his name and belongs to him.
Shelby G. Floyd preached this sermon in 2007 and today, September 9, 2018, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142.
Copyright © 2007, 2018 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
*Some of these quotations are taken from a sermon by Robert Milligan, “The Sanctification of The Lord’s Day,” Millennial Harbinger, Vol. 1855, pp. 506, 507.
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142