Christ's Resurrection & the Change of the Sabbath Day
A regularly occurring question, especially from young people, is why we worship on the first day of the week, when the Old Testament church worshipped on the last day of the week.
Among the proofs for this change is the all-important fact of the resurrection of Christ having taken place on the first day of the week. Christ took the Sabbath day into the grave with Him and, on the morning of the resurrection, He arose and gave the church this new day for the observance and for her blessing. This is the position of our churches and of our confessions – particularly elaborated upon in the Westminster Confession.
Christ Himself made the first day of the week “the Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10). It was on this day that He showed more evidence of His Lordship than on any other day by rising victorious over death, hell, and the grave. He met with His disciples on that very day, twice, both in the morning and in the evening, and the successive Lord’s Day afterwards again in the evening.
The resurrection brings the church together
The New Testament makes clear that the church has regular times of assembling and of worship. Hebrews 10:25 enjoins: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together...” The question “When did the church assemble?” has an answer in the example of 1 Corinthians 16:1ff. Paul, writing to this church in Greece, says, “Now concerning the collection of the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye (in other words, this isn’t something peculiar to Corinth): Upon the first day of the week let everyone of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him...”
More especially, note another passage: Acts 20:16. Here Paul is in haste en route to Jerusalem, and his route includes the point of Troas.
We read in Acts 20:6-7: “We sailed from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them at Troas in five days; where we abode seven days. 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.”
Clearly, he stayed this day because it was the day the saints were assembling. When that day was over, though he had preached until midnight, he was gone.
Some have raised the difficulty that Paul seems to disparage favoring one day above others (Rom. 14:5; Gal. 4:9-11; Col. 2:16-17). However, Paul is speaking of the ceremonial feasts, like the new moon, the day of atonement, etc. Clearly, Paul cannot be contradicting himself by saying what he does regarding the Lord’s Day in the above-mentioned texts (1 Cor. 16:1; Heb. 10:25). Moreover, in line with the rest of the New Testament (Matt. 5:17-20; James 2:8-12), Paul always maintained a high regard for the moral law of the Ten Commandments, which he called “holy, just, and good” (Rom. 7:12).
How significantly beautiful it is to see the church of Christ worshipping on the day He conquered sin and the grave. The resurrection is the birthday of the church in the sense that on it, Christ arose as the new Adam with His newly redeemed bride, worshipping together on a new day – His day.
The resurrection changes how we order our life
In Exodus 20, the fourth commandment mentions the pattern of creation. In Deuteronomy 5, the fourth commandment mentions the pattern of redemption, the exodus. The redemption from Egypt changed the way people viewed their Sabbath day. Likewise, the redemption from sin and death in the death and resurrection of Christ changes the way the believer lives his life. Christ’s redemption brings him rest, and he may rest with Christ in His finished work; then, from out of that rest and out of the worship of the triune God, he labors. The Christian does not labor for rest, but labors out of rest.
Believers should pray that God will return to our lands the keeping of His day, so that the gospel of Christ would be preached, believed, and observed. Do you do that in dependence on God’s grace and Holy Spirit?