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Hebrew New Testament?
Jesus or Zeus?
Author of Hebrews
Perversion of Repentance
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Copyright © Tim Warner
Sunday is not a pagan holiday any more than Saturday is a pagan holiday. Sure, "Sunday" was named for the "sun god," and ancient pagans who worshipped the sun worshipped on Sunday. The Romans and Greeks worshipped the celestial bodies, and thought they were gods. So, they named the days of the week after these gods. Sunday is named for the sun, monday for the moon, etc. Saturday is named for Saturn. And pagans who worshipped Saturn worshipped on Saturday. Does this make the Sabbath a pagan holiday? And are Jews idolaters for worshipping on the Sabbath? Are they worshipping Saturn? Then neither are Christians idolaters for worshipping on Sunday.
The clear teaching of the New Testament is that believers have freedom to worship the Lord, or to honor any day they choose, or none at all.
Likewise, Paul told the Colossian church not to be intimidated by the Judaizers and Sabbath keepers.
The practice of meeting for worship on Sunday comes from the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The disciples met on two consecutive Sundays, beginning with the day of the resurrection.
This first gathering described is really the very first meeting of a Christian church. Even though the disciples were not fully aware of what was happening, their eternal salvation and inheritance had just been accomplished by Jesus Christ. Luke gives us more information about the first appearance of Jesus on Sunday afternoon. Notice that Jesus took this occasion to give a lengthy exposition of Scripture to His Church. The account picks up with the two disciples, who had spoken with Jesus on the road to Emmaeus, hurrying back to Jerusalem to announce their encounter to the rest of the disciples.
Seven weeks later, again we find the disciples assembled on Sunday. The Feast of Pentecost was always on the Sunday after the seventh Sabbath following Passover [Lev. 23:15,16]. The word "Pentecost" means "50th" because it was the 50th day after the Passover Sabbath. According to Scripture, it must always fall on a Sunday. It was on this Sunday that the disciples' assembly was interrupted again, not with the physical presence of Jesus as twice before, but with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Peter then took the occasion to preach to the crowds outside who had come to Jerusalem for the Feast. And what a sermon it was! Three thousand Jews from the Diaspora were saved, baptized, and added to the Church on that seventh Sunday after the resurrection.
The next indication we have of the day Christians met, comes from the following passage.
Verse seven seems to indicate that it was the practice of this church to meet on Sunday. Here is a reference to the "love feast" which was commonly practiced by the early Christians. They would meet together on Sunday to eat, and then worship [1 Cor. 18-34 & Jude 1:12]. The expression "break bread" is thought by some to refer to a normal meal. But, the term most often appears in Scripture in reference to Jesus' "breaking the loaf" at the Last Supper.
The next occurrence of "breaking bread" is found in Luke's account of the two disciples on the road to Emmeaus on resurrection Sunday [Luke 24:30]. They did not recognize Jesus until he took the loaf of bread and broke it, just as He had done three days earlier at the Last Supper. Luke says immediately they recognized Him, and he vanished from their sight. When they reported back to the other disciples, they said that Jesus was known to them because of His "breaking of bread" [v. 35]. This implies that there was something unique here.
Also, Paul informs us that Christians placed a special significance on "breaking bread" that was associated exclusively with keeping the Lord's Supper.
1 Cor 10:16
Even if the term "breaking bread" was common in the first century, it took on a different meaning for Christians.
1 Cor 11:24
Notice Jesus' "breaking" the bread was an act symbolizing the broken body of Christ on the cross for us. Notice also, that Jesus told the disciples to repeat the practice of "breaking" the bread as a part of their Communion. He did not merely tell them to eat little crackers. He told them to take a loaf, to brake it, and then to partake of it. That is most significant to the latter usage of the term, "breaking bread" in Acts.
The next time "breaking bread" is mentioned is in reference to the new converts continuing in the "Apostles' doctrine."
It seems to me that this "breaking of bread" is not simply eating ordinary meals. Of course they continued to eat meals after conversion! It would be rather redundant to tell us they continued eating, because no one supposes that Christians stop eating after conversion! Also, the other things listed in this verse have to do with godly living, not with the needs of the body. This was more than just an ordinary meal. It became the practice of the early Christians to meet together to eat, and to observe the Lord's Supper. Such gatherings were called "love (agape) feasts."
Paul had to rebuke the Corinthian church because of their abuse of the "love feast." Some of the wealthy members had taken to bringing quite an elaborate meal for themselves, and did not share with those who were of meager means, embarrassing them (1 Cor. 13:18-34). He basically told them, "if you're that hungry, eat at home! Don't defile the Lord's supper." At any rate, we see that it was common practice for the churches to meet together regularly for this "love feast" and to observe the Lord's Supper, the "breaking of the loaf."
Therefore, when Acts 20 tells us "upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread," Luke was indicating something that was common practice among the churches. Now, it is certainly possible that they called together a special meeting because of Paul's imminent departure, as Sabbatarians usually claim. But, one wonders why? If they normally met for the "love feast" on Saturday, and if Paul was departing on Monday, there is no logical reason to call the church together on Sunday. They could have their normal meeting on Saturday, and Paul could preach to them, and could then have time to rest before his trip on Monday morning. Since they met for their love feast on Sunday, and Paul preached till midnight, he actually was rather inconvenienced and sleep deprived having to catch his ship on Monday morning! There is simply no logic to their moving the love feast to Sunday as a special meeting, since this would cause Paul inconvenience, and there was no benefit.
Next, Paul wrote to the Corinthian church regarding a special collection to be taken up for the poor saints at Jerusalem.
1 Cor 16:2-3
Here, Paul told them to set aside their offering on Sunday. One must ask, why Sunday unless this was when they gathered together? Sabbatarians claim that the words "lay aside" simply mean to set their gift aside at home. But, then why Sunday? If Paul was supposing that they do this weekly (as mention of Sunday indicates), then he would be under the impression that they received their wages weekly. If so, it would seem that Fridays would be the day to set aside one's gift. Furthermore, this interpretation ignores Paul's real point. He didn't want to have to deal with collecting the gifts when he came. He wanted them already collected before he arrived. How would setting aside a gift at home each Sunday help Paul's collection of the gifts? It would not! The collection must be done prior to Paul's arrival. That is the whole point. Therefore, "laying in store" is a reference to bringing your gift on Sunday, where they would be collected and stored until Paul's arrival. By telling them to do this on Sunday, Paul was supposing that they would be meeting together on Sundays.
Our final evidence comes from John's use of the expression "the Lord's day." This phrase is a reference to Sunday, the day of Jesus' resurrection. Sabbatarians claim it means the Sabbath. However, the Greek word for "Lord's" in this verse is used only one other time in Scripture, in reference to "the Lord's supper" [1 Cor. 11:20]. This is clearly referring to Jesus. "The Lord's supper" is Jesus' supper, the "breaking of the loaf" practiced weekly by the early Christians. So, "the Lord's day" would most likely refer to "Jesus' day," Sunday, the day of the resurrection. There is really no question that John meant Sunday. We know this from other Christian literature also written in the latter part of the first century by those who knew John personally, which shows that the term "the Lord's day" was a common expression for Sunday. (See our article: Sunday and the Early Church).
There is no example in Scripture of a New Testament local church meeting on the Sabbath. We are not claiming that all Jewish Christians immediately abandoned the Sabbath. Many continued to observe the Sabbath as well as meeting on Sunday. Paul himself said that he was innocent of the charges leveled by the Jews about breaking the Law. However, we get a glimpse into Paul's practice from his own words.
1 Cor 9:18-23
Paul was "observant" of the Law when with the Jews. But, when with the Gentiles, he did not follow the requirements of the Law, including Sabbath observance. Neither did Paul teach the Gentiles to be observant of the Law. In fact, Paul's teaching to the Gentiles became the noose whereby the Jews attempted to hang him at his arrest in Jerusalem. His teaching the Gentiles that they were not under the Law of Moses gave rise to even the Jewish believers in Jerusalem mistakenly assuming that he was teaching the Jews of the Diaspora also that they must forsake the traditions passed down by Moses. And they were not very happy about it. The Apostles in Jerusalem warned Paul of this, and launched a plan to avoid a conflict. However, the plan was ill-conceived and backfired, and Paul ended up being arrested.
In conclusion, the evidence from Scripture indicates that Christians worshipped on Sunday from the very beginning. That some of the Jewish believers also rested on the Sabbath is clear, from the above passage which describes them as "zealous for the Law." But, Sabbath observance was never imposed on the Gentile believers. The Gospel message that was consistently preached by Paul, the "Apostle to the Gentiles," emphasized the fact that the Law, which was given exclusively to Israel, had been superseded by the New Covenant. That Christians continued to worship on Sunday is perfectly clear from the earliest extra-biblical Christian literature as well.