Early Christians used “The Lord’s Day” as the first day of the week (Sunday) to gather together as their common day of worship.
Sunday, which is called “The Lord’s Day” in Christianity, is the principal day of communal worship. It is observed by most Christians as the weekly memorial of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is said in the Gospels to have been witnessed alive from the dead on the first day of the week (Sunday). The phrase “The Lord’s Day” appears in Revelation 1:10.
Nearly all historical records and early writings, whether Christian, Jewish or secular, confirm that Christians held their corporate worship on Sunday since the inception of the Church during the mid-first century. Although many of them fellowshipped and broke bread with one another on a daily basis, and some even lived communally, the Church designated one specific day of the week to gather corporately and worship.
The earliest Biblical example of Christians meeting together on Sunday for the purpose of “breaking bread” and preaching is cited in the New Testament in Acts 20. It is also suggested that they gathered together corporately on Sundays in 1 Corinthians 16.
2nd-century writers such as Justin Martyr attest to the widespread practice of Sunday worship (First Apology, chapter 67) and by 361 AD it had become the accepted weekly occurrence throughout the Christian world, both within the Roman Empire and without.
Jewish Saturday Sabbath
The Jews held and still hold their weekly corporate Synagogue meetings on Saturday, which is the Sabbath as verified in both the Old and New Testament.
Moses recorded in Genesis, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
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.
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.” Genesis 2:1
God commanded the Jews to observe every Sabbath (Saturday) as a day of rest and give it reverence as a holy day of the Lord. This was so important that God made this decree as one of His Ten Commandments.
Moses recorded in Exodus, “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, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
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.”
Since the Sabbath (Saturday) was God’s designated holy day of rest and reflection, the Jews used this day (and still do) as their day of weekly corporate meeting in their Synagogues. This custom was observed by both Old Testament Jewish believers and by Jesus Himself, His apostles and his Jewish disciples.
The Light of the World
One would think that since the Christian Church grew out of the Jewish faith that the Church would hold their weekly corporate meetings on Saturday as well. So why did the Church choose Sunday to meet instead of the Saturday, which was the Sabbath?
The reason Christians met on Sunday was to celebrate the day of the week that their Lord Jesus Christ was resurrected from the grave.
The Bible records in Genesis that on the first day of creation the first thing God created was light. Moses wrote, “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” Genesis 1:3
Although this was a literal and actual event as recorded in Genesis, this was also a type or shadow of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Light of the world.
“Then Jesus spoke again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12
Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises and practices. He is the fulfillment of the New Covenant of which Christianity is based on and observed.
Concerning the New Covenant, of which was promised 600 years before Christ, the Bible states, “Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” Jeremiah 31:31
And recorded after Jesus fulfilled what Old Covenant practices could not, the Bible states,
“For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.
But God found fault with the people and said:
‘The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah….
By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.’” Hebrews 8:7-13
First century followers of Christ, whether Jewish Christians or Gentile Christians, saw no problem or conflict with honoring God by meeting on the day that the Lord Jesus was resurrected, which was Sunday.
Sunday was the first day of the week, the day that God gave the Light to the world, which they named, “The Lord’s Day”.
Sunday Was Considered “The First Day of the Week”
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.
Christians Met on Sunday from the Very Beginning
The Apostle John recorded that the Christian believers gathered together on Sunday from the very beginning:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
It appears that the Apostle Paul confirmed that Christians gathered together “on the first day of every week” (Sunday) when he instructed the Corinthian church to collect money on Sunday just as the Galatian church was doing:
1 Corinthians 16:2
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.
Luke also confirmed that the early church met corporately on Sunday as well:
On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.
Early Church Historical Writings Confirm Sunday Worship
The Didache, a church document written c. AD 100, confirms that the earliest church met on Sundays. “And on the Lord’s Day come together, and break bread, and give thanks, having before confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.”
The Didache XIV.1
Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch
Ignatius (AD 35-108) the Bishop of Antioch, confirmed that early Christians honored “On the Lord’s Day.”
He specifically mentioned that the Church did NOT meet on Saturdays (Sabbath) but instead placed greater honor on Sunday, which was considered “The Lord’s Day.”
“If then those who had walked in ancient practices attained unto newness of hope, no longer observing Sabbaths but fashioning their lives after the Lord’s day, on which our life also arose through Him and through His death which some men deny…”
Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 9.1
Epistle of Barnabas
In the Epistle of Barnabas, was probably written from Alexandria, perhaps as early as AD 70 or as late as AD 132. He writes against Jewish sacrifices, fasts, circumcision and other laws. Those laws were types prefiguring Christ.
Barnabas cites Isaiah 1:13-14 as criticism of the Sabbath, concluding, “Your present Sabbaths are not acceptable to Me, but that is which I have made, when, giving rest to all things, I shall make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world.”
Epistle of Barnabas 15; ANF 1:146
In this passage, Barnabas associates the new age with Sunday, which was also called the “eighth day.”
“Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day (Sunday) with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead.” He associates Sunday, which was the Christian day of worship, with the resurrection of Jesus.
Epistle of Barnabas 15; ANF 1:147
Justin Martyr gives us evidence from yet another location: Rome, c. 150. His comments probably reflect Christian custom in other cities, also, such as Ephesus, where he lived for a while.
“On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read…. 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 Savior on the same day rose from the dead.”
Justin, First Apology, 67; ANF 1:186
His “assertion that all Christians meet on Sunday should be understood as coming from a man who had traveled widely and who was attempting to speak to the government on behalf of all Christians.” (Maxwell and Damsteegt, 64), ANF 1:160
Justin’s evidence agrees with Ignatius of Antioch and Barnabas of Alexandria, showing that Sunday observance was practiced throughout the Roman Empire.
Additional evidence of the near-universality of Sunday corporate worship comes from:
- Aristides of Athens ( 160), who criticized Jewish Sabbaths. (Bauckham, 267, citing Apol. 14)
- Theophilus, bishop of Antioch ( 180), when quoting the Ten Commandments, omitted the Sabbath in Apology to Autolycus 3.9 (ANF 2:114)
- The Didache 14 ( 180) instructed Christians to meet and offer the Eucharist “on the Lord’s Day of the Lord.” (Maxwell and Damsteegt, 108, and Bauckham, 228)
- The Epistle to Diognetus (late second century?) criticizes Jews’ “superstitions about Sabbaths” and other practices. (Bauckham, 267)
- Hegesippus, a Judean-born Jew, traveled through many cities on his way to Rome (c. 180) and “found the same doctrine among them all.” (Eusebius, Church History 4.19-22; Maxwell and Damsteegt, 85)
- Clement of Alexandria ( 190) equated the Lord ’s Day and the eighth day (Sunday). Miscellanies 5:14 (ANF 2:469)
The Decree of Roman Emperor Constantine
Some anti-Sunday writers claim that Roman Emperor Constantine issued a decree in AD 321 ordering Christians to meet on Sunday. But this is untrue.
The Church never “changed” the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. Christians had already been meeting on Sunday since the inception of the Church nearly 300 years before.
Emperor Constantine the Great, who legalized Christianity throughout the Roman Empire in 313 AD, declared Sunday simply as a day of rest throughout the Roman Empire. “On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.”
History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, 380.
Constantine simply decreed Sunday as a day of rest in recognition that millions of Christians throughout the Roman Empire were already worshipping on Sunday, “The First Day.”
If this decree from the Roman Emperor was actually an arbitrary order demanding the Church to change their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, millions of Christians would have revolted and strongly resisted this order.
Also, the Roman emperor had no influence upon the millions of Christians throughout Asia and Africa who were not controlled by the Roman Empire. And yet they chose Sunday as their day of worship as well.
It is inconceivable that they would accept to change their day of worship simply because a Roman Emperor, who had no control over them, demanded it.
The Origin of the Word “Sunday”
Some Christians protest meeting on Sunday because the word “Sunday” may have originated from pagan sources.
“Sunday was a name given by the heathens to the first day of the week, because it was the day on which they worshipped the sun…”
Eadie’s Biblical Cyclopedia, 1872 Edition, page 561
But whether or not the word “Sunday” came from the term “Day of the Sun”, the writer Jerome (AD 342-420) said it best concerning Christian worship on Sunday:
“If it is called day of the Sun by the pagans, we most willingly acknowledge it as such, since it is on this day that Light of the World has appeared and on this day the Son of Justice has risen.” Jerome, In die dominica Paschae homilia, CCL 78, 550.
The Apostle Paul told us that we are not bound to observe Jewish rituals of the Old Covenant, including the Sabbath:
“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” Colossians 2:16
The followers of Satan have taken Godly things and perverted them throughout history.
Why can’t Godly men and women take things that were once meant for evil and make it holy and useful for God?