Bible Evidence of Sunday Worship |

TBC Staff

Perhaps the main Adventist objection given to the practice of first-day worship is having no explicit text telling us to do so. It can easily be demonstrated, though, that this sort of instruction would be unnecessary. We see indications in the New Testament that for the early church, the apostolic practices established in the churches were just as instructive as the written words in the New Testament writings. It should also be remembered that for the first several decades of the church, the New Testament canon wasn’t collected yet. So the churches would have had to have followed the practices given by the apostles either through example, through verbal instruction, or through letters. In fact, Paul specifically taught this detail: Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians:2:15).

Notice that Paul here exhorts the church to hold to the “traditions” given by the Apostles, either in spoken word, or by letter. Now in the days of the apostles, the churches would have known directly what the “traditions” were that were taught to them by the apostles. We no longer have this particular benefit two thousand years later. But we do have a record of teachings and practices of the apostles contained in our New Testament. The exhortation given by Paul to the Thessalonians to hold to the “traditions” they were given from the apostles of Jesus is also relevant to us. In other words, we don’t need direct commands or injunctions for something to be a proper and biblical practice if we can see biblically that it was the practice of the apostles. 

Besides the fact that both apostolic practices and direct commands are desirable to follow when revealed in the word of God, there is also an important principle of biblical interpretation that must be mentioned. We form our doctrines as Christians both from explicit biblical statements and implicit evidence that can clearly be drawn out of the Scriptures using sound rules of interpretation. A prime example of this principle of forming doctrine from implicit evidence in the Scriptures is the doctrine of the Trinity. 

We believe the Trinity is biblical, but not because of a proof text that explicitly tells us God is one in substance and three in person. Rather we believe the Trinity is biblical because the indicators are throughout the New Testament, even though it’s not explicitly stated in a single verse or verses using the words Christians have always used to described it. In certain places, however, the Bible clearly tells us there is only one God. Yet in other places the Father is mentioned as a separate person from the Son, the Spirit is mentioned as a separate person from both the Father and the Son, and divine attributes are ascribed to all three separate persons. Using these Scripture building blocks, we reasonably conclude there is one God, but three divine persons. 

In the same way we can take the scriptural evidence concerning the first day of the week and conclude it had a significance in the early church as a day to worship the resurrected Lord. 

A Review Of the Facts

The most significant event of redemptive history, the resurrection of Christ, occurred on the first day of the week.

The Christian Church was established on the first day of the week. Both the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost established the first day of the week as God’s inauguration of something brand new: the body of Christ—the church. 

Both of these events were foreshadowed by Old Testament feasts that were to occur the day after the Sabbath. 

The Bible records that the risen Lord was first worshiped by some disciples on the morning of the first day of the week, shortly after He rose. 

The first day of the week appears in Scripture as the day on which the risen Lord preferred to appear to the disciples. 

Post-resurrection, there are no examples of Christian worship occurring specifically on the Sabbath. Significantly, there are examples of Christian worship specifically occurring on the first day of the week. There is also no example of the resurrected Lord appearing on a Sabbath as He did on the first day. 

In Acts:20:7 we have an explicit biblical example of the church gathering on the first day of the week for activities of worship. 

In 1 Corinthians:16:1-2 Paul gives a command to multiple churches to set aside offerings on the first day of the week, so that they won’t have to be collected when he comes. The reasonable conclusion is that the churches were to do this on the first day of the week because they were together on that day. 

A direct statement instructing first day worship isn’t necessary if the practice can be seen to be a biblical apostolic practice. 

Biblical doctrine is formed from both explicit statements as well as on the implicit evidence given in Scripture. 

The implicit evidence found in the New Testament when taken together points strongly to the first day of the week being a significant and special day for the early church.