When addressing the question of the importance of the Lord’s Day, it is helpful to investigate other internal evidence within the New Testament, prior to Revelation 1, that would help us understand how the early church treated this day.
In seeking out this information, we must begin by understanding the first century Jewish mindset, particularly regarding the Sabbath day. In the time of Jesus, the Jews were still functioning with an Old Testament mindset regarding keeping the Law, including the observance of the Sabbath day, as highlighted by the fourth of the Ten Commandments. After Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, there would not be an immediate change in their Sabbath practices.
Upon a closer look at the book of Acts, there are numerous references to the “Sabbath” day activities.1 After Acts 18, the word “Sabbath” is not used with reference to those activities any more in Acts. Acts 20:7 indicates that the gathering of the disciples for worship was on the first day of the week, an shift from the predominant Jewish custom of meeting in the synagogue on the Sabbath Day.
We also find Paul’s instructions to the Corinthian church to be helpful, which was also during the time period of the book of Acts. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul gives instructions to the church to set aside offerings on that day, indicating that the believers were already meeting on the first day of the week.
What we can infer from these references is that, after the ascension of Christ, there was a period of transition from the historic Jewish practice of Sabbath day worship to the new Christian practice of “first day of the week” worship. We see this transition in the book of Acts; we also recognize the transition having taken place in the Corinthian church; we see this recognized and even formally called “the Lord’s Day” by the apostle John in Revelation 1:10. This transition took place as Christianity began to take hold, and as more apostolic teaching was given.
This has direct ramifications for us today as New Testament believers. Biblical corporate worship, as taught by the New Testament, is to take place on the first day of the week, which is the Lord’s Day, a day distinguished by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, by the practice of the early church, and by the formal designation of the apostle John.
But what is the link, if any, between the Old Testament Sabbath, and the New Testament “Lord’s Day?” That discussion will take up the next installment.
This essay was originally posted here and is published by permission from the author.
- Sabbaton is translated as “Sabbath” in Acts in 1:12, 13:14, 13:27, 13:42 & 44, 15:21, 16:13, 17:2, and 18:4. It is used three other times in the New Testament. In Colossians 2:16 it is translated as “Sabbath” but in Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2 it is translated as “week” as in “the first day of the week.” [↩]