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Was Sunday the New Testament Day of Worship?

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Three passages lead some to believe that Sunday was the day of rest and worship for the New Testament Church. Let’s briefly examine each of them to see whether this is true.

The Lord’s Day?

One scripture commonly cited to justify Sunday worship is Revelation 1:10 Revelation 1:10I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
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, where John wrote, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day…” Some believe this means John was worshipping on Sunday and had the vision on that day. But nowhere does the Bible define “Lord’s Day” as the first day of the week. As a matter of fact, this is the only place this term is used in the Bible, which would hardly be the case if the Church had been observing Sunday for years, as some contend.

If this were referring to a day of the week, we would have to conclude that John meant the seventh day, since God called the Sabbath “My holy day … the holy day of the Lord” (Isaiah 58:13 Isaiah 58:13If you turn away your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words:
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) and Jesus Christ said He was the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28 Mark 2:28Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
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, not some other day of the week.

However, the context of John’s vision shows that John wasn’t referring to a day of the week at all. Instead, he meant that the vision transported him into the future time the Bible elsewhere calls the “day of the Lord,” “day of the Lord Jesus Christ” or “day of Christ” (Jeremiah 46:10 Jeremiah 46:10For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries: and the sword shall devour, and it shall be satiate and made drunk with their blood: for the Lord GOD of hosts has a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates.
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; Acts 2:20 Acts 2:20The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come:
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; 1 Corinthians 1:8 1 Corinthians 1:8Who shall also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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; 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14 2 Corinthians 1:14As also you have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as you also are our’s in the day of the Lord Jesus.
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; 1 Thessalonians 5:2 1 Thessalonians 5:2For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.
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; 2 Thessalonians 2:2 2 Thessalonians 2:2That you be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
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; 2 Peter 3:10 2 Peter 3:10But 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.
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).

These terms are not speaking of a specific single day. Instead, they refer to the end-time period when Jesus Christ will return to personally and directly intervene in human affairs. Thus, these terms indicate the end of the age of man’s self-rule and the beginning of the age of God’s rule over all nations through Christ. This is the theme of the book of Revelation and the “Lord’s Day” John saw in vision.

Breaking bread on Sunday?

Another scripture some believe shows the New Testament Church observed Sunday is Acts 20:7 Acts 20:7And on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
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: “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.”

Some think that “break[ing] bread” refers exclusively to the ceremony in which Christians partake of bread and wine in commemoration of Christ’s death. So they conclude that the verse here concerns a religious service on the first day of the week. However, that commemoration is supposed to take place once a year at the festival of Passover (see the Bible study aid booklet God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind .) Moreover, breaking bread is not limited to religious observance, but refers to dividing flat loaves of bread for a typical meal.

“It means to partake of food and is used of eating as in a meal . . . The readers [of the original New Testament letters and manuscripts] could have had no other idea or meaning in their minds” (E.W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, 1991, pp. 839-840).

This is proven by the fact that after Paul finished speaking they again broke bread and ate (Acts 20:11 Acts 20:11When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.
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). Breaking bread to eat a meal is mentioned in Luke 24:30 Luke 24:30And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and broke, and gave to them.
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, Luke 24:35 Luke 24:35And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.
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and Acts 27:35 Acts 27:35And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat.
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.

The timing of the events in Acts 20 helps us to understand more clearly. Acts 20:7-11 Acts 20:7-11 7 And on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. 8 And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. 9 And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. 10 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. 11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.
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describe several events of one night. Since the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, counts days as beginning when the sun goes down, these events began with a meal on Saturday evening after the Sabbath, which would have been the only evening on “the first day of the week.” Several translations, including the New English Bible, Revised English Bible, Good News Bible, The New Testament in Modern English and the Complete Jewish Bible, state unequivocally that this occurred on Saturday night.

Paul planned to leave the next day for another city, so he stayed and spoke long into the night. At midnight one young man in the congregation fell asleep, tumbled from the window where he sat and was killed in the fall. Paul rushed to the young man, who miraculously came back to life. After that, the group broke bread and ate again, talking almost until dawn. Paul departed at daybreak.

After speaking and talking all night, Paul the next morning walked almost 20 miles to Assos to meet the rest of the people in his group who had sailed there (Acts 20:11-14 Acts 20:11-14 11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. 12 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted. 13 And we went before to ship, and sailed to Assos, there intending to take in Paul: for so had he appointed, minding himself to go afoot. 14 And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene.
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). So rather than describing a religious service on Sunday, this passage actually documents Paul walking almost 20 miles on foot on the first day of the week— hardly making it a day of rest and worship for him!

Collection during a Sunday service?

Some people assume that 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do you. 2 On the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
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refers to taking up a collection during a Sunday religious service. However, a closer look shows that this is not what Paul means. Although the Bible says the collection took place on the first day of the week, nowhere does it say that a church service was involved.

This was a special collection “for the saints,” members of the church in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-3 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do you. 2 On the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. 3 And when I come, whomsoever you shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality to Jerusalem.
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). It was part of a wider relief effort involving other members in Galatia (1 Corinthians 16:1 1 Corinthians 16:1Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do you.
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), Macedonia and Achaia (Romans 15:25-26 Romans 15:25-26 25 But now I go to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. 26 For it has pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.
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), as well as those in Corinth to whom Paul wrote. This outpouring of support may have been that described in Acts 11, when a famine prompted members to send “relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea … by the hands of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:28-30 Acts 11:28-30 28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers which dwelled in Judaea: 30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
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).

Paul gives no indication that this collection was to be taken up at a religious service. On the contrary, he tells the Corinthians, “Let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2 1 Corinthians 16:2On the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
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). These contributions were to be “laid aside” and “stored up” by “each one of you” as an individual act, not brought to a church service and collected there. To say this is an account of a collection taken up during a Sunday worship service is to read into the Bible an unwarranted personal interpretation.

Scripture contains no other passages that mention anything remotely resembling weekly religious services on the first day of the week. The New Testament was written over a span of more than 60 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and nowhere does it even hint at the day of rest being changed to Sunday.

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