The scriptural information regarding the Lord’s Day ends at Revelation 1:10. However, a helpful addition to the biblical material is the record of history’s view of the Lord’s Day. For instance, how did those in early church history consider Sunday the Lord’s Day? The evidence through early centuries gives an interesting insight into their views of this important day. While I understand that this evidence is not authoritative, as Scripture is, it does help shed light on how we should view the Lord’s Day.
Second Century Evidence
Ignatius of Antioch was the student of John the Apostle. He wrote, “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….”1
The Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) says, “But every Lord’s [day], do ye gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.”2
The Epistle of Barnabas says, “Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day [another way of referring to the first day of the week] with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead.”3
Justin Martyr wrote “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; 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, and the people assent, saying Amen.… 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.”4
Clement of Alexandria wrote, “We have nothing to do with sabbaths or the other Jewish festivals, much less with those of the heathen. We have our own solemnities, the Lord’s day, for instance, and Pentecost.”5
Irenaues, Bishop of Lyons wrote to the bishop of Rome, “The mystery of the Lord’s resurrection may not be celebrated on any other day than the Lord’s day.”6
These second century sources give clear evidence that not only was Sunday was celebrated as The Lord’s Day, but also clearly communicates that worship, Bible teaching, and the remembrance of the Lord’s Sacrifice were all parts of the early church liturgy on that day.
Evidence from Further Centuries
Third Century: Tertullian, “We, on the day of the Lord’s resurrection, ought to guard not only against kneeling, but every office of solicitude, deferring even our businesses lest we give any place to the devil.”7 Tertullian viewed the Lord’s Day as worthy of resting from business, not as a reflection of the Sabbath rules, but as a way to set aside the Lord’s Day as a day of worship.
Fourth Century: Peter, bishop of Alexandria, “We keep the Lord’s Day as a day of joy, because of Him who rose thereon.”8
Fifth Century: From the Apostolic Constitutions, a manual of church order, “And on the day of the Lord’s resurrection, which is the Lord’s day, meet more diligently, sending praise to God that made the universe by Jesus, and sent him to us, and condescended to let him suffer, and raised him from the dead.”9
This pattern of Lord’s Day worship continued through the early centuries of church history. Those closest to the period of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection all recognized the significance of that day. The first day of the week took on new significance. No longer was the Sabbath Day treated as the focal point of the week; the Lord’s Day became the central day for early Christians.
As God’s people living 2000 years after the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we would do well to reclaim the significance of the Lord’s Day, making it the day of the week we look forward to the most.
Next time, we will consider some of the thoughts during the period of the Reformation.
This post was originally posted here and is republished by permission from the author.
- Magnesians 9:1-3, as quoted in Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (ZPEB), 3:965. [↩]
- The Didache, Chapter 14:1, as referenced in ZPEB, 3:965. [↩]
- Epistle of Barnabas 15:9, as referenced in ZPEB, 3:966. [↩]
- First apology, ch. 67, as referenced in ZPEB, 3:966. [↩]
- On Idolatry, ch14, as referenced in ZPEB 3:966. [↩]
- Eusebius, Church History, Book 5, ch24, as referenced in ZPEB 3:966. [↩]
- De Oratione, chapter 23, as referenced in ZPEB, 3:966. [↩]
- The Canonical Epistle, Canon XV, as referenced in ZPEB 3:967 [↩]
- Apostolic Constitutions, Book II, Section 7, Paragraph 59, as referenced in ZPEB 3:968. [↩]