The Time of Worship

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.”

- Revelation 1:10

Drive in an area where many Seventh-day Adventists live and you might see bumper stickers that say something like “Sunday is not the Sabbath” or “God chose the seventh day for the Sabbath and never changed His mind.” For Seventh-day Adventists and others who worship on Saturday, the seventh day of the week, gathering for worship on Sunday is sin because there is no command in Scripture to worship on the first day of the week.

We can appreciate that these groups want to follow only what God says in the Bible; however, we must disagree that the proper time for worship is only the seventh day. Our Reformation doctrine of Scripture is that we believe both what the Word tells us explicitly and what it teaches by good and necessary consequence (WCF 1.6). This Reformation view comes from Jesus Himself, who deduced the doctrine of the resurrection from the Mosaic law when confronting the Sadducees (Matt. 22:23–33). Scripture may teach something without giving us an explicit statement on the subject. We believe that there is one God in three persons not because there is an explicit three-in-one statement in the Bible but because the Trinity is a good and necessary deduction from the whole of biblical revelation.

As we look at Scripture’s teaching on the Sabbath, we find a stress on a seven-day cycle of work and rest. In fact, one rationale for the fourth commandment is that God worked on six days in creation and rested on one day, the seventh day (Ex. 20:8–11).  Preserving this cycle seems to be one of the key purposes of this commandment, so any change in this era of redemptive history would have to preserve this cycle.

Also, ancient Israel, on the Sabbath day, celebrated the key redemptive act of the old covenant, namely, the exodus from Egypt (Deut. 5:12–15). Surely, then, we should set aside a day on which to commemorate the key redemptive act of the new covenant—and in all history—namely, Christ’s resurrection, which took place on the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1–10). The Apostles set the first day aside, as revealed in places such as Revelation 1:10 and Acts 20:7. So, we have Apostolic precedent for changing the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day while preserving the seven-day cycle of work, worship, and rest.

Consequently, we have ample warrant for setting aside Sunday as the time of obligatory Christian worship. Unless prevented by tasks necessary for the health and welfare of others, we must gather with other believers for worship on the first day of each week.

Coram Deo

Churches may establish other non-obligatory days of worship and celebration besides the first day of the week. However, the only Christian day of worship that must be observed is the Lord’s Day. Let us take our responsibility to worship and rest on the Lord’s Day seriously and make the most of our corporate gatherings every week.

Passages for Further Study

Numbers 28:16–25
1 Corinthians 16:1–4

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.