Shelby G. Floyd
Good morning. It is a beautiful day to come out worship God. I was standing back in the entryway and Mitch Davis came in and he told me “That is a Great Sermon!” And I asked, “What did I preach about?” He said, “I don’t know.” He has not changed since he was 18 years old! We continue to pray for Gary Stephens and his family in the loss of his mother.
My message is a continuation of what I began three weeks ago when I spoke to you about how the early Christians were devoted to the apostle’s doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers (Acts 2:42). Today we are talking about Sunday worship. I am sure that most of us have received our financial stimulus and it really comes in handy to stimulate our financial obligations. In like manner we need to have some worship stimulus to make our worship to God more meaningful each Sunday. Today our Sunday worship is about the first day of the week worship as it is identified in the New Testament. A few weeks ago Mitch preached on the first day of the week topic—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first day of the week is mentioned about eight times in the New Testament. So that indicates it was a very important day among the Christians during the first century after the resurrection and ascension of Christ.
Today we usually speak of the week in days like Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and so forth. Our lesson is about Sunday worship, but we are really talking about first day of the week worship. Let us look at the days of the week. In the Old Testament as you open up the book of Genesis, the first thing that God said was, “‘Let there be light’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3 ESV). When God had finished creating what he did on the first day, the Bible says in the Hebrew— “day one (yo-vm e-chad).” I have read that Hebrew scholars teach that when the word day is used with a numeral, it always refers to a 24-hour day, and I believe that to be the case. We have people that teach that the earth and all its tenantry including the universe were created in millions or billions of years. In Genesis one the days are twenty-four-hour days and the work of creation was completed in a week. That is how we got our seven-day week. And, at the same time that God created the seven-day week, he also caused the earth to take 365 days to go around the sun. He created the vast universe and for all we know, the entire universe may orbit around the throne of God. But if God created this universe and he did, then he did not have any problem creating the heavens and the earth in seven days.
THE SEVEN DAY WEEK
Let us take a look at the week. First, we have the Hebrew words for each day of the week. Sunday, the first day of the week was given the name Yom Rishon. Saturday, the seventh day of the week was given the name Yom Shabbat. Conversely our days were named after idolatrous gods. This demonstrates that man was created a worshipping being. The Gentile world realized that man must worship something! If mankind does not worship the true God, then we will invent something to worship. Therefore, Sunday was named after the sun-god and Monday was named after the moon god. Tuesday was named after I believe a German god Tyr. Wednesday was named after the Anglo-Saxon god Woden. Thursday was named after Thor and then Friday was named after Woden’s wife Frigg and Saturday was named after the planet Saturn. And we still go by those names today, but we do not worship any of those gods. Therefore, we do not even think of those gods when we say I am going to do this on Friday. These are just names by which we identify each day of the week so far as English-speaking peoples are concerned.
THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK
When we talk about the first day of the week, we are talking about Sunday. Jesus was raised from the dead on the first day of the week which was Yom Rishon or Sunday. He spent 40 days after he was resurrected talking to the apostles about things that he wanted them to know and do. And Jesus appeared to them on many different occasions. Sometimes he would show up in a room where they were getting ready to have prayer. Sometimes he would approach them in other places. For 40 days he spoke to them about things pertaining to the kingdom of God. They thought while he was living that the kingdom of God was going to be an earthly kingdom that would overthrow Rome and establish Israel as the preeminent kingdom in this world. Now he is again telling them that his kingdom is not of this world. He wants them to understand that his kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. Christ will rule from heaven and not on this earth. He will in the hearts of His people!
And so some of the last things that he said before he ascended up into heaven, was go into the city of Jerusalem and tarry or wait there until you receive power from on high. So they went back to Jerusalem, where they started praying. And they prayed that God would help them replace Judas who fell by transgression and went to his own place. And then the day of Pentecost arrived. If you go back to the book of Leviticus 23:15-16, you will find that Pentecost (or the Feast of Weeks) always occurred 50 days after the Passover. And it always occurred on the first day of the week—Sunday in our language. When you come to the book of Acts the second chapter, the day of Pentecost was fully come. The apostles waited ten day after Jesus ascended and when the day of Pentecost was fully come, there appeared under them cloven tongues like as a fire and sat upon each of them and they all began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4). Now when they were speaking in other tongues that was not pig Latin, it was not baby talk, because just a few verses later some of the people in the audience asked “how hear we every man in our own language?” And the Greek word there is dialektos or dialect. It did not make any difference what dialect they were speaking, for they could hear and understand what the apostles were saying.
The Bible says that when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all in one place and suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind and sat upon each of them and they all began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance Acts 2:1-4).
And then Peter stood up and he seems to be always the first to speak out. He is quick. He is impulsive and impetuous and he preaches a great gospel sermon on this Sunday worship first day of the week and after he had finished his sermon, he had convicted many of those in the audience of having the blood of Jesus dripping from their hands because they had cried out, crucify him, crucify him, and they were so moved by his sermon. They cried out, “what shall we do,” what shall we do to escape the consequences of what we have done and you know what he told them? “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” and then the Bible tells us 3000 people were baptized into Christ and there is the nucleolus of the church. The church started in Jerusalem with 3000 members and they added members every day. The church was a growing church and then we come to our text: The 3000 is the antecedent of the word they—”they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer” (Acts 2:42). We do not need to talk about prayer because I spoke to you three weeks ago about prayer on the first day of the week. Then the church assembled and they continued in the apostles teaching, fellowship breaking bread and prayer. Today, I will talk in a general way about each one of those items. Later I plan to have a fully developed sermon on each one of those topics.
Near the end of the New Testament we read of the apostle John. He was one of the dearest apostles to the Lord Jesus Christ. And John, like many of the apostles was being persecuted because he stood for the kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. No doubt the Roman government had arrested him, and by the way, in contrast to what we do today in America, when the Romans arrested you, they put you in prison. They did not intend to do housekeeping with prisoners like we do. They put you in prison and you had a trial. You were either found guilty or innocent. If you were found innocent, they let you go free. If you were found guilty, they put you to death that very day. And we see that happened when they put Jesus to death.
John was in exile and no doubt was suffering because he had been expelled from the coast of Asia. He wrote, “I John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ and I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:9-10). Are we all in the spirit today? We are here on the Lord’s Day just like John to worship the Almighty God. The first day of the week was very important to the biblical Christians. The place was not important, but what they were doing was important.
THE WOMAN AT JACOB’S WELL
Jesus will verify what I have just said when we now go and examine the lesson that Jesus taught the woman at the well in Samaria. Jesus passed through Samaria going to Jerusalem. The Jews and the Samaritans did not get along very well. Usually Jewish travelers would go around Samaria. Jesus went right straight through Samaria to Jerusalem and he had a conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. She had come out of town to draw a bucket of water and take it back to her house. And Jesus revealed something to this woman that she did not expect him to reveal. In your Bible in John the fourth chapter, beginning with verse 16, Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here. The woman answered and said I have no husband. Jesus said to her, you have well said, I have no husband for you had five husbands and the one whom you now have is not your husband, and that you spoke truly. The woman said to him, sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” And then in the next verse, she changed the subject. Now this woman in the past had five husbands. Now she is living with a man and he is not her husband. She has a marriage problem, but Jesus did not beat her over the head with her sinful relationship. We all have fallen short. We have all done things wrong but we do not want to be identified by it.
How we deal with people is very important as well as how people deal with us when we do wrong. But the woman quickly changed the subject! And I do not know about you, but when people get on you about something that you are guilty of, what do you do to get them off the problem? We change the subject because we do not like to talk about our shortcomings and sin! Likewise this woman changed the subject and said,
“Our fathers worshiped in this mountain and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship” (John 4:20).
She wants to get the Lord into an argument and debate. She wants to be in the affirmative that up there in Samaria is where people ought to worship. She wants Jesus to argue that down in Jerusalem is where people should worship. But Jesus does not take the bait. He does not accept what she wants him to do. And so the Lord actually was given an opportunity to teach about true worship because she needs to understand true worship and the true gospel message.
Therefore Jesus answered, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father” (John 4:21). It does not matter where you worship, but who and how you worship is important. “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23). True worship is to worship the Father in spirit and in truth. So Jesus taught the woman at the well, the place of worship is not really important, but what we do and how we do our worship is what is really important. God is the object of our worship, and that is important.
The spirit of worship is important and the truth of worship is important. People can worship God truthfully, but not in the right spirit. God will not accept that worship. And people can worship God in the right spirit, but not according to the truth. God will not accept that worship either. Jesus gave us the formula for acceptable worship. The Lord taught the woman at Jacob’s well the worship that God will accept. And I love this verse that closes out this conversation in John 4:24:
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
SUNDAY WORSHIP: THE APOSTLE’S DOCTRINE
Now I want us to zero in on those items of worship that we talked about beginning in Acts 2:42: “They continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine, fellowship, in breaking of bread and in prayer.” We are not going talk about prayer because we discussed that three weeks ago. The special time of worship is the first day of the week on which the church was established and it was called the day of Pentecost. The day of Pentecost always occurred 50 days after the Passover. Numbering the days after the Passover one would count 50 days and it would be on the first day of the week or Sunday (Leviticus 23:15-16). Therefore Sunday worship was on the first day of the week when they convened in the temple and even from house to house to worship Almighty God. The place was not important, but what they did was very important. Jesus verified what we have just said when he taught the woman at the well in Samaria. Therefore our worship should be on every first day of the week. When we come together to worship there are several things that should characterize the worship on the first day of the week—Sunday worship.
Let us start with the apostle’s doctrine. The word doctrine simply meets teaching. What I teach should not be my doctrine. It should be the doctrine of the apostles or the doctrine of Christ. The first congregation at Jerusalem continued in the apostle’s doctrine or teaching (Acts 2:42). When we go to Acts two, we find a few things that they were teaching on the day of Pentecost. For instance, they taught on that day baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). They taught that repentance precedes baptism (Acts 2:36-41). The apostle Peter taught faith comes by hearing (Acts 2:37; Romans 10:9-10). Peter taught that the sinner has something to do in obtaining salvation from sin (Acts 2:37). He taught that the disciples should continue in the apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42).
When we come together every week like we do, we are either going to continue in the apostle’s doctrine or, in the doctrines of demons. Paul wrote to the young preacher Timothy, and he wanted him to continue in the apostle’s doctrine. Therefore he wrote to Timothy, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1 NKJV). What are they going to do in the latter times? They are going depart from the faith—from the apostle’s doctrine. They are going to leave it, and give heed to deceiving spirits. There are deceiving spirits in this world and the naïve and the simple will be deceived and leave the apostle’s doctrine and what are they going to accept? They will replace the apostle’s doctrine and give heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. But as for me, I will stick with the apostles teaching!
SUNDAY WORSHIP: FELLOWSHIP
Next, they continued in fellowship (Acts 2:42). That word fellowship is a broad word that comes from the Greek word koinonia and it means partnership, fellowship, joint participation, share, and contribute. Words like that. Now today we have almost exclusively identified the word fellowship as something you do by going back to the fellowship room, drinking coffee, and sharing a meal together. Well, that was part of their fellowship. But I do not believe that was the fellowship that was being done here. But the word fellowship is translated from a word that is on several occasions translated “contribution” or its equivalents. Study the context in 2 Corinthians 8:4; Philippians 1:5 and Philippians 4:15 where the word koinonia is used in sharing or giving financially to promote the gospel!
The King James and New King James versions do not say that we should contribute every first day of the week. But here are several versions that do translate kata mian sabbatou by “every first day of the week or the equivalent! We now list some of those passages of scripture:
1. Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 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 (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 NIV).
2. Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you are to do as well. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save as he may prosper, so that no collections need to be made when I come (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 NASV).
3. When you collect money for God’s people, I want you to do exactly what I told the churches in Galatia to do. 2 That is, each Sunday each of you must put aside part of what you have earned. If you do this, you won’t have to take up a collection when I come (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 CEV).
4. Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, 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 (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 ESV).
Concerning the collection, some translations just say we are to contribute “on the first day of the week.” That would be sufficient because every week has a first day. But the Greek text is even more specific in 1 Corinthians 16:2! And where the original text is specific, the translation into English should be just as specific! If we are to contribute on the first day of every week, then the translation should say that in one or more different places in the New Testament. The King James and New King James versions do not say that we should contribute every first day of the week. But here are several versions that do translate kata mian sabbatou by “every first day of the week or the equivalent!
Now I have visited congregations where after the Lord’s Supper was observed, a man would get up and say, “The elder have set aside this to be a good time to take up an offering.” The person meant well, but the impression was left that the elders were the ones who decided that a collection should be taken up. But the elders did not decide that! The apostles and the apostle’s doctrine declare that a collection should be taken up “on the first day of every week!”
The elders can decide if the basket is to be passed by each person, or that each person can go and pass by the basket, or for that matter, send it electronically as some are doing during the Covid Pandemic. Those are incidentals and each of them simply carry out the command. The command is bound, but not the incidentals! The elders did not set the day to take up a collection. The apostles did that as they continued to reveal the teaching on many subjects involving the work of the church. We are commanded to take up a collection every first day of the week and by the way we been doing that here at Heartland ever since we started this congregation in 2000. I hear of churches continually ask for special collections to pay their bills. We have never had to do that. Why? Because we are doing what God tells us to do and it is not that difficult. Just obey the Lord, and there will be plenty of money to take care of all the expenditures of the church. We have obeyed the Lord and He has blessed us. Thank all of you for contributing this past year during a very difficult time when many people had to worship from home. It has been a rough year but we came through it with flying colors.
BREAKING BREAD IN THE COMMON MEAL
The phrase “breaking bread” does not always refer to taking communion. For instance in the very context we have been considering we have this statement:
Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
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 (Acts 2:44-46 NKJV).
Now breaking of bread is a figure of speech called synecdoche, where a part stand for the whole or the whole can stand for the part. For example, one might say, come over to my house and we will break bread. The bread could stand for the entire meal. This figure of speech is also used in the Lord’s Supper. Communion is not just “breaking bread!” Communion also includes drinking the fruit of the vine. Therefore “breaking bread” stands for the fruit of the vine also.
Acts 2:44-46 teaches that the church did not take the Lord’s supper every day. They just took the Lord’s supper on the first day of the week in what is Sunday worship. We have had Sunday worship today and I think I have covered all that we have done today except singing. And by the way, the New Testament was not all revealed on one day. The Bible was a progressive revelation until the end of the first century. The New Testament started in revealing the life of Christ in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The history of the beginning and development of the church is revealed in the book of Acts. And the apostolic letters that were written to the church continued until about 95 A.D. or the end of the first century. The revelation from God to God’s people then stopped! We have not had any new revelations since then. The inspired writer Jude summed it all up when he wrote near the end of the first century:
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3 NKJV).
The word “once” translates from hapax that means once for all and it never needs to be repeated! We can plant our feet upon the word of God and stand secure! This is the lesson today. Become a Christian. There is no other way!
Copyright © 2021 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd delivered the essence of this sermon April 18, 2021, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142