Why We Worship On Sunday

I was asked why we worship on Sunday… well it just so happens I was able to find a sermon I preached on that very subject.  It is by no means a comprehensive work, but I believe it is a good starting place.

Why We Worship On Sunday
August 29th, 2004

The purpose of this message

Is not to bring a list of do’s and don’ts about the Sabbath to you.

It is not to lay forth commands about what we should do in Church or in our homes on Sunday. (These things are important and we will need to study these as we move forward as a congregation.)

However, in our generation, I think it is important that we “re” lay a solid Biblical foundation for observance of the Sabbath, i.e. the history of the Sabbath. In an article entitled, “The Perpetuity And Change Of The Sabbath“, Jonathan Edwards made these remarks in regards to this message.

“If men take it only upon trust, and keep the first day of the week because their parents taught them so, or because they see others do it, they will never be likely to keep it so conscientiously and strictly, as if they had been convinced by seeing for themselves that there are good grounds in the Word of God for their practice. Unless they do see thus for themselves, whenever they are negligent in sanctifying the Sabbath or are guilty of profaning it, their consciences will not have that advantage to smite them for it, as otherwise they would. – And those who have a sincere desire to obey God in all things, will keep the Sabbath more carefully and more cheerfully, if they have seen and been convinced that therein they do what is according to the will and command of God, and what is acceptable to him. [They] will also have a great deal more comfort in the reflection upon their having carefully and painfully kept the Sabbath.”

I hope to outline the importance of the Sabbath in God’s Words and the severity of the punishment that came with breaking it. – Not covered

I hope to show you the Biblical transition of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday along with the accompanying terminology. The Sabbath to The Lord’s Day, or Christian Sabbath.

If I’m able I hope to give just a brief history or overview of Sunday in our nation’s history.

Lastly, there is an eternal Sabbath and we need to understand the joy associated with that. Heb 4&5 – Not Covered, Future Message

Foundations For Sabbath Worship

First we must always look to the beginning to discover the foundations.

I love the book of beginnings. Genesis is so rich in foundational things. From the first commands on civil government, to the first institutions of worship, to proper family relationships, it can all be found in Genesis. In the case of the Sabbath we see, as we learned about leadership last week; God leading by example.

Gen 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

The scripture teaches us that God himself kept the Sabbath day. We find out later in scripture, as if we did not understand this from the beginning, that God did not “need to rest”, but did this for our example.

In an article by J.C. Ryle entitled, “A Day To Keep” he made the following observation from the first couple of chapters in Genesis:

“There are five things which were given to the father of the human race, in the day that he was made. God gave him a dwelling-place, a work to do, a command to observe, a helpmeet to be his companion, and a Sabbath Day to keep. I am utterly unable to believe that it was in the mind of God that there ever should be a time when Adam’s children should keep no Sabbath.”

So we see in Genesis 2:3 that God went further than just giving us an example, but ordained the Sabbath day as a perpetual institution:

Gen 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

sanctified – kaw-dash’
A primitive root; to be (causatively make, pronounce or observe as) clean (ceremonially or morally): – appoint, bid, consecrate, dedicate, defile, hallow, (be, keep) holy (-er, place), keep, prepare, proclaim, purify, sanctify (-ied one, self), X wholly.


1. Made holy; consecrated; set apart for sacred services.
2. Affectedly holy.

We see in Exo. 16 the further observance of the Sabbath as the children of Israel gathered enough manna for two days on the 6th day. They did this for 40 years before they ever came into the land of promise where the 10 Commandments were given.

Exo 16:4 Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
Exo 16:5 And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.
Exo 16:6 And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then ye shall know that the LORD hath brought you out from the land of Egypt:
Exo 16:7 And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the LORD; for that he heareth your murmurings against the LORD: and what are we, that ye murmur against us?
Exo 16:8 And Moses said, This shall be, when the LORD shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD.
Exo 16:9 And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the LORD: for he hath heard your murmurings.
Exo 16:10 And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.
Exo 16:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Exo 16:12 I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God.
Exo 16:13 And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host.
Exo 16:14 And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.
Exo 16:15 And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.
Exo 16:16 This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents.
Exo 16:17 And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less.
Exo 16:18 And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating.
Exo 16:19 And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning.
Exo 16:20 Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them.
Exo 16:21 And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.
Exo 16:22 And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses.
Exo 16:23 And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.
Exo 16:24 And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein.
Exo 16:25 And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field.
Exo 16:26 Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.
Exo 16:27 And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none.
Exo 16:28 And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?
Exo 16:29 See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.
Exo 16:30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

It is interesting that God says, he was going to test his people to see if they would walk in his commandments or not and the vehicle he choose to test them was their obedience to the Sabbath. If that is the measure God is using today, how does the church fair?

Edwards pointed out in the article mentioned previously that the children of Isreal had been in captivity for over 400 years and that they were in a pagan nation so long they had begun to worshipped Pagan Gods. They were so lost in their captivity that God himself had to tell them what day the Sabbath was going to start on when he called them out of slavery and back into relationship with Him.

Exo 16:23 And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.
Exo 16:24 And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein.
Exo 16:25 And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field.
Exo 16:26 Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.

Of course the most obvious reference about the Sabbath is the 4th commandment. In this law, written by God’s own hand and spoken by God’s very voice we are given very directly the command of the Sabbath.

Exo 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Exo 20:9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
Exo 20:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
Exo 20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

The interesting thing about this is that God did not command that the “seventh” day must be the Sabbath. Why would he not do that, after all he himself rested on the seventh day, surely he meant for everyone to keep the seventh day as he had. If he did, he did not put it in writing that way.

This is a key point as we move forward to the Gospel period and the new testament keeping of the 10 commandments.

First though we should note that the Sabbath was with us from creation. It was designed to be perpetual…. like the other commandments. ( Comment on Communion.. )

Next there is evidence that it was practiced before the Law was given.

And lastly that it is in fact part of the moral law of God and binding on Christians today.  We passed over the issue of the severity of the judgment that came upon God’s people when they disobeyed God and broke the Sabbath. This will probably be better developed as another message on the sabbath, but suffice it to say Sabbath breaking is ranked up in the top ten lists of things you do not want to do.

So how did we get from the seventh day to the first day? Jesus himself made the change.

Mat 12:8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
Also is found in: Luk 6:5, Mar 2:28

3 times the scriptures remind us, that this Jesus, is the same God who created the Earth.

Four Points on the conversation from Saturday to Sunday.

1) Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week.

Joh 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

Jesus came to visit the disciples after he arose from the grave.

Joh 20:19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

Joh 20:26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

Eight days being a full week, eight days and seven nights from right now, that is counting this day. The same phraseology is also found in Luke 9:28, Mat.17:1.

2) Jesus is the light of the world and the light was created on the first day.

Joh 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

2Co 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Gen 1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Gen 1:4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
Gen 1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

3) It shows forth the “Mystery of our redemption by Christ”. This is summed up gloriously by Thomas Watson in his tract titled, “The Fourth Commandment“.

“The grand reason for changing the Jewish Sabbath to the Lord’s-day is that it puts us in mind of the ‘Mystery of our redemption by Christ.’ The reason why God instituted the old Sabbath was to be a memorial of the creation; but he has now brought the first day of the week in its room in memory of a more glorious work than creation, which is redemption. Great was the work of creation, but greater was the work of redemption. As it was said, ‘The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former.’ Hag 2: 9. So the glory of the redemption was greater than the glory of the creation. Great wisdom was seen in making us, but more miraculous wisdom in saving us. Great power was seen in bringing us out of nothing, but greater power in helping us when we were worse than nothing. It cost more to redeem than to create us. In creation it was but speaking a word (Psa 148: 5); in redeeming there was shedding of blood. 1 Pet 1: 19. Creation was the work of God’s fingers, Psa 8: 3, redemption was the work of his arm. Luke 1: 51. In creation, God gave us ourselves; in the redemption, he gave us himself. By creation, we have life in Adam; by redemption, we have life in Christ. Col 3: 3. By creation, we had a right to an earthly paradise: by redemption, we have a title to a heavenly kingdom. Christ might well change the seventh day of the week into the first, as it puts us in mind of our redemption, which is a more glorious work than creation.”

4) Lastly the Apostles confirm this by their actions:

Act 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

1Co 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.
1Co 16:2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

Rev 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day

The forth commandment in American History.

In the examples below and with the information we have learned up to this point it is easy to see and to prove the idea that America was indeed founded by Christians as a “Christian Nation”

US Constitution Article. I. Section. 7. Clause 2

…”If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.”

The historical understanding of this clause was summarized in 1912 by the Supreme Court of Missouri which, expounding on the meaning of this provision in its own State constitution and in the U. S. Constitution, declared:

“It is provided that if the Governor does not return a bill within 10 days (Sundays excepted), it shall become a law without his signature. Although it may be said that this provision leaves it optional with the Governor whether he will consider bills or not on Sunday, yet, regard being had to the circumstances under which it was inserted, can any impartial mind deny that it contains a recognition of the Lord’s Day as a day exempted by law from all worldly pursuits? The framers of the Constitution, then, recognized Sunday as a day to be observed, acting themselves under a law which exacted a compulsive observance of it. If a compulsive observance of the Lord’s Day as a day of rest had been deemed inconsistent with the principles contained in the Constitution, can anything be clearer than, as the matter was so plainly and palpably before the Convention, a specific condemnation of the Sunday law would have been engrafted upon it? So far from it, Sunday was recognized as a day of rest.”

General George Washington:
His order of May 2, 1778, at Valley Forge was typical:

“The Commander in Chief directs that divine service be performed every Sunday at 11 o’clock in those brigades to which there are chaplains; those which have none to attend the places of worship nearest to them. It is expected that officers of all ranks will by their attendance set an example to their men.”

In fact, in 1967, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania provided a thorough historical exegesis of those laws and concluded:

“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it thou shalt not do any work.” This divine pronouncement became part of the Common Law inherited by the thirteen American colonies and by the sovereign States of the American union.

Further, the 1922 Iowa Supreme Court rejected the assertion that only one side of the Decalogue was important to American law, declaring:

“The observance of Sunday is one of our established customs. It has come down to us from the same Decalogue that prohibited murder, adultery, perjury, and theft. It is more ancient than our common law or our form of government. It is recognized by Constitutions and legislative enactments, both State and federal. On this day Legislatures adjourn, courts cease to function, business is suspended, and nation-wide our citizens cease from labor.”

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