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The Lord’s Day

An early second-century letter from Ignatius, one of the first pastors of the church in Antioch, helps to solidify that the first day of the week became for Christians their primary day of worship and that they referred to it as “the Lord’s Day.”

The phrase “Lord’s Day” appears only once in the New Testament in Revelation 1:10, where the particular day John is referencing is unclear. However, Ignatius was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John himself; thus, since Ignatius explicitly identifies “the Lord’s Day” as that day “on which our life as well as theirs shone forth,” John’s more ambiguous reference appears more certain to describe the first day of the week as a special, dedicated sacred day.

The Didache also states, “On every Lord’s Day—his special day—come together and break bread and give thanks,” and the early second century Epistle of Barnabas states, “Wherefore we also celebrate with gladness the eighth day in which Jesus also rose from the dead.” Similarly, Justin Martyr describes Christian gatherings as such: “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place.” Justin also presents a full explanation for why this day became significant for Christians:

We all hold this common gathering on Sunday, since it is the first day, on which God transforming darkness and matter made the universe, and Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead on the same day.

At the close of the second century, Tertullian (160–220) observed, “we make Sunday a day of festivity,” a day he specifically calls “the Lord’s day,” and Clement of Alexandria stated that a true Christian, “in fulfilment of the precept, according to the Gospel, keeps the Lord’s day, when he abandons an evil disposition, . . . glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself.”

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

2 Responses to The Lord’s Day

  1. Have you come across any information on how long services were or how many on that day? I have been trying to research this with little success.

  2. Not in detail. Pliny indicates Christians met before daybreak. We have to remember that Sunday would have been a regular work day until Constantine declared it a holy day in the fourth century. So it appears Christians would have gathered early in the morning and late at night (see Eutychus, Acts 20!), but how long each service was in the 1st century isn’t indicated anywhere I’m aware of.

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