Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
There are some who would maintain that the apostles of Yeshua the Messiah instituted the first day of the week as a holy sanctified day in celebration of the resurrection. In this article we will explore the testimony of scripture on this subject and determine if the first day of the week can be proved or disproved as a holy day.
by Michael Scheifler & John D. Keyser
The Testimony of the Old Testament
In all of the Old Testament, the only place the first day of the week is mentioned is in Genesis:
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.
Now nowhere in the creation account is the first day of the week of creation blessed, sanctified, or declared holy. Did any day of creation receive this kind of recognition from YEHOVAH God?
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.
In all of scripture, the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath, is the only day which has been declared by YEHOVAH Himself to be blessed, sanctified (set aside for a holy purpose), in memorial to His creation.
We are again reminded to observe the Seventh day Sabbath in the commandments given at Sinai:
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 seventh day is declared to be a memorial to the creative power of YEHOVAH God, which should be observed and kept holy because YEHOVAH Himself has blessed and hallowed the day.
On the sacredness of the first day of the week the Old Testament is completely silent.
The Testimony of the New Testament
The Gospel of Matthew
In the book of Matthew, there is but one reference to the first day of the week:
Mat 28:1 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
This verse just makes the statement that the women came to the tomb on the first day of the week, after the Sabbath had passed. It is just commenting on the timing of events. Matthew makes no statement that implies that the first day of the week was now to be observed as a holy day. What makes this particularly significant is that according to scholars, even Catholic scholars, the book of Matthew was probably written about 70 A.D. or later. (Catholic reasoning on the dating of Matthew can be found in the notes for the New American Bible, and the New Jerome Bible Commentary.) Now, if this is true, is it not curious that a gospel, written some 40 years after the time of the Messiah, is totally silent on the keeping of the first day of the week?
The Gospel of Mark
Now the book of Mark has twice the references of Matthew to the first day of the week:
Mark 16:2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
Mark 16:9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
Again, Mark comments on the timing of events, and makes clear that the resurrection was indeed on the first day of the week, and the women came to visit the tomb on that day, but there is not even the suggestion that the first day of the week should be observed in perpetuity as a holy day.
Catholic scholarship again places the book of Mark as having been written in the 60's A.D. or later, but it too is entirely silent on worshipping on the first day of the week.
The Gospel of Luke
The book of Luke is attributed by Catholics to an even later date that either Matthew or Mark. They date it to between 80 and 90 A.D. Luke, like Matthew, has only one verse referring to the first day of the week:
Luke 24:1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
Luke also refers to the first day of the week only to establish the time that the women came to the tomb, but says nothing further that can establish it as a day to be sanctified or observed.
In the book of Luke, a gathering of the apostles on the first day of the week is recounted in Luke 24:33-53. This meeting will be dealt with below when discussing John 20:19.
The Gospel of John
In the final gospel, dated by Catholic scholars to have been written between 90 and 100 A.D., the testimony on the first day of the week is again a mere two verses:
John 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.
John is in complete agreement that the women arrived at the tomb on the first day of the week.
John 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.
Here we have the first recorded assembly of the disciples on the afternoon of the first day of the week. Were they assembled to worship? Were they celebrating the resurrection? No, they were unaware of the resurrection. The text tells us they were assembled because of their fear. They were in hiding! Until Yeshua actually appeared in their midst (in verse 20), they thought he was still dead.
Luke, in his Gospel, recounts what Yeshua said to them at this same meeting:
Luke 24:44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
Luke 24:45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
Luke 24:46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
Luke 24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Luke 24:48 And ye are witnesses of these things.
Luke 24:49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
What a splendid opportunity for the Messiah to announce the abolition of the seventh day Sabbath and the institution of the new Christian sabbath on the first day of the week to commemorate his resurrection! But it did not happen. Luke and John do not mention any such announcement.
Now as it happens the disciples assembled again eight days later:
John 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.
Counting eight days (inclusively) from the resurrection day again brings us to again to the first day of the week, and Yeshua appears before all the disciples, to include Thomas this time, who was previously absent. Another opportunity for Yeshua to announce the institution of the new Christian sabbath of the first day of the week! But John's account of that day makes no mention of a formal worship service. Yeshua is recorded only as performing a number of signs and miracles to demonstrate to the disciples, even the skeptical Thomas, that he was indeed risen from the dead. John in his account simply makes no mention at all of anyone observing the first day of the week as a holy day.
That completes our examination of the Gospel testimonies on the first day of the week, and without exception they are silent as to the apostles observing the first day of the week as a holy day. How is it possible that these accounts, possibly written over 40 years after the crucifixion, have neglected to mention the sacredness of the first day of the week?
The Acts of the Apostles
Here in the second book attributed to Luke, written about 80 - 90 A.D., we now come to one of the most frequently quoted verses to support the sacredness of the first day of the week:
Acts 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.
Clearly the disciples are meeting on the first day of the week. It might even be presumed by some that by "breaking bread" they celebrated the Lord's supper that day. The question that needs to be asked though, is why were the disciples assembled on this day? What reason brought them together? In context, it will be seen that Paul was departing the next day on his journey to Jerusalem to be present during the Pentecost festival (v. 16). This gathering was a farewell assembly with Paul, the last day the people at Troas could meet with him, and that is why it lasted into the early morning hours. In fact Paul talked with them all through the night and then left in the morning at sunrise (v. 11).
Did Paul preach? Yes, without doubt, as verse 7 makes clear. Did they celebrate the Lord's supper? Perhaps, yet even if they did, as some maintain, there is no indication that the first day of the week was being observed as a newly instituted weekly holy day to commemorate the resurrection. The breaking of bread did not indicate a special day of worship, or even that the Lord's supper was being celebrated, as scripture tells us they met daily and broke bread from house to house:
Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
This seems to indicate nothing more than eating what are called agape meals of fellowship, which are not necessarily connected with a formal worship service involving partaking in communion.
Now some will point to the celebration of Pentecost, found in Acts 2, and claim that this occurred on the first day of the week. Since that year the 16th of Nisan; the day of firstfruits; which was a type of the resurrection; fell on the first day of the week, Pentecost would also fall on the first day of the week. However, those gathered in the upper room on that day were gathered because it was Pentecost, not because it was the first day of the week:
Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
Had they been gathered to observe the resurrection, wouldn't Luke have told us that this was the new day of the week for all Christians to observe? But, you say, we do observe Pentecost always on the first day of the week. However, there is nothing in the book of Acts that leads us to believe that the first day of the week had been set aside as a holy day of worship.
Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians
Continuing on to the next book of the New Testament, we find what is probably the single most quoted text used in an effort to "prove" worshipping on the first day of the week:
1 Cor 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.
Paul writes to the Corinthians that he is requesting an offering be gathered for distribution to the needy saints in Jerusalem (v. 3). Paul is recommending that each person, on the first day of the week, lay aside and save by themselves a proportional amount of their income for the purpose of this offering. In that way, when Paul arrives the necessary funds will be already set aside and available.
1 Cor 16:3 And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.
1 Cor 16:4 And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.
Upon meeting with Paul after his arrival at Corinth, the money that had been saved up would be given to the designated courier and taken to Jerusalem by Paul's direction. Most notably, Paul is not instructing the Corinthians to observe the first day of the week, or even implying that funds are to be collected at a worship service on the first day of the week. He is saying that on the first day of the week each person is to allocate and set aside in store (save) a portion of their funds. There is no indication that the individual even need to leave home to do this, but rather that the entire process was to be done at home.
So, while many will point to this passage in the light of Tradition and say that it refers to passing the collection plate during a service on the first day of the week, that is simply not indicated by the text.
That completes the entire testimony of the scriptures on the first day of the week. Not another verse in the remaining books of the New Testament mention the first day of the week. Now some may immediately object, and say, "But there is another to consider, you have overlooked the Apocalypse." In that case let us move to the last book of scripture.
Rev 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
Here in John the Revelator's testimony, we have the one and only reference in all of scripture to the "Lord's day." Is it prime evidence that the first day of the week was the "Lord's day"? Is there any indication anywhere in scripture that this name is to be applied to any particular day of the week? Certainly not in Revelation. That exact phrase is not found anywhere else in scripture, but we can find the following:
Mat 12:8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
Mark 2:28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
Luke 6:5 And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
Here it is quite clear that the Messiah is the Lord of the Sabbath day, referring to the seventh day Sabbath, the one instituted at creation and written on tables of stone by the finger of YEHOVAH God.
However, the phrase the "Lord's day" has another probable meaning in Revelation. In the Old and New Testament there are 25 specific occurrences of the phrase "day of the Lord". I will quote but the last:
2 Pet 3:10 But the day of the LORD will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Since the Greek word for "Lord" is here capitalized, the "day of the Lord" is plainly a reference to the return of YEHOVAH God to this earth, a day yet future. Is it not probable that when John says "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day" that he was taken in the spirit (mentally) to witness the events surrounding the awesome return of YEHOVAH God -- pictured in Revelation 19:11? This is set out for us as the very purpose of the book of Revelation:
Rev 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
While the first day of the week has become known through Tradition as the Lord's day, scripture does not designate it as such. So there is no scriptural evidence to be found, that supports the claim that the apostles of Yeshua the Messiah knew anything about sanctifying the first day of the week and observing it as a holy day of worship.
Now does any of the New Testament give further evidence that worshipping on the first day of the week was unknown to the apostles?
Paul Preaches in Antioch.
In Acts chapter 13, Paul arrives in Antioch (v. 14) and on the Sabbath day he goes to the synagogue to preach (vs. 16-41). Now note what happens after Paul concludes his sermon about Yeshua, the Messiah:
Acts 13:42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
Acts 13:43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
Now at this point, I have to ask, if Paul was keeping the first day of the week, and preaching during services on the first day of the week, how is it that he does not invite the Gentiles to attend services the very next day, on the first day of the week to hear him preach again?
Acts 13:44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
Why did the Gentiles have to wait until the next Sabbath to hear Paul preach? This is a question for which the promoters of worshipping on the first day of the week cannot give a viable answer.
Acts 13:45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.
Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
Acts 13:47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.
The Jews in Antioch did not receive the Gospel message on the first Sabbath that Paul preached to them. On the following Sabbath Paul did not enter the synagogue, the crowd of eager Gentiles being so large that only the outdoors could accommodate the multitude. The envious Jews were angered at Paul's preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. And what was the response of the Gentiles to the Gospel?
Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
Acts 13:49 And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.
Here Paul has preached to a multitude of Gentiles, not on the first day of the week which was his first opportunity, but on the following Sabbath. There can only be one reason for this, Paul was not keeping the first day of the week. The first day of the week had not been instituted as a day of worship, and none of the apostles were observing it as a holy day.
Was the Sabbath Still to Be Observed?
Now it might be asked, is there any evidence from the New Testament that indicates the seventh day sabbath was to be observed even after the crucifixion?
Mat 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
Mat 24:16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
Mat 24:17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
Mat 24:18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
Mat 24:19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
Mat 24:20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
There are two possible applications of the above text. The first is the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the armies of Rome. Note the parallel text in Luke to verse 15:
Luke 21:20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
This verse makes clear that Yeshua is warning of the impending destruction of Jerusalem, and that the people should pray that they will not need to flee on the Sabbath. Why would that matter? YEHOVAH God intended the Sabbath day to be one of rest and spiritual growth, not a day of panic; fleeing from a invading army of persecutors. Yeshua is affirming here, that 40 years after his death on the tree, the Sabbath would still be observed by the people of YEHOVAH God. If Yeshua intended for the first day of the week to be observed as a replacement for the Sabbath, then why doesn't he tell the people to pray that their flight not be on the first day of the week?
Many Christians today, while they might acknowledge an initial application of Matthew 24:15-20 to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, will also maintain that this passage applies most fully to an event yet future. They believe that the antichrist will desecrate the temple at some future date, and that this will signal the nearness of the second coming. If one subscribes to this future timing, then Yeshua is speaking of his people observing the seventh day Sabbath all the way into a time that is even now still in the future!
Not only was the sabbath never rescinded, but scripture even makes clear that in the future, all of mankind (those who are saved) will observe the sabbath when worshipping the Lord:
Isa 66:23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.
So the Bible does not testify of the sacredness of the first day of the week, it was unknown to the apostles and was neither commanded or observed by them. If you are going to follow the precepts of the word of YEHOVAH God in the Bible and observe the day it enjoins, then there is really only one choice: the seventh day Sabbath as found in the commandments of YEHOVAH God.
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