The Blessing of the Lord's Day
Keeping the Lord’s Day holy doesn’t earn us salvation but gives an awesome opportunity each week to focus on who does.
I can remember many times in High School missing basketball games because of the 7th day Sabbath. I was on the varsity team but I didn’t play very much because I missed all of the Friday night games!
I believed that I was taking a stand and doing the right thing, and while I’m glad I didn’t go against my conscience, my views have changed some since then. For one, I no longer observe the Sabbath on Saturday. I observe the Lord’s Day on Sunday. Sometimes, however, I think I’ve gone from one ditch to the other—from being extreme in my Sabbath-keeping to not paying enough attention to keeping the Lord’s Day holy.
So in a little bit, I want to share with you some of what I’ve learned—what I would call best practices for observing the Lord’s Day—but first, let’s look at today’s text and how the Jews were observing the Sabbath.
Keep the Sabbath Day Holy (19-22)
In Exodus 20:8, the 4th Commandment says to keep the Sabbath day holy. It says,
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates. For the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.
Now that command is pretty clear, but the Israelites were breaking the Sabbath because they had either forgotten what it means to keep the Sabbath holy or didn’t care.
So God told Jeremiah to give them this public announcement in Jeremiah 17:21-22,
This is what the Lord says: Watch yourselves; do not pick up a load and bring it in through Jerusalem’s gates on the Sabbath day. Do not carry a load out of your houses on the Sabbath day or do any work, but keep the Sabbath day holy, just as I commanded your ancestors.
The Israelites had forgotten that the Sabbath was not a day of work but a day of rest. Even today, a strict Sabbatarian will take the day off from service-orientated labor, eating at restaurants, shopping, using public transportation, participating in sporting events, as well as viewing television and the internet.
We might think that’s a bit excessive, but if we’re trying to observe the Sabbath the way the Jews were supposed to that’s what we would need to do. When I was a 7th Day Sabbatarian that’s what I tried to do.
So, negatively the command was no work. But positively, the command was to keep it holy which means set it apart or dedicate it to the Lord. In other words, stop doing your normal activities and instead do the activities which focus your attention on God.
Now if they didn’t keep the Sabbath holy there was a curse. God says in Jeremiah 17:27 that if they didn’t listen He would bring destruction to the city. But if they did keep the Sabbath holy God promised a blessing. First, we see a royal blessing for the leadership of Jerusalem in Jeremiah 17:24–25,
However, if you listen to me—this is the Lord’s declaration—and do not bring loads through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but keep the Sabbath day holy and do no work on it, kings and princes will enter through the gates of this city. They will sit on the throne of David; they will ride in chariots and on horses with their officials...
Next, we see a blessing for the people of Jerusalem in verse 25,
…the men of Judah, and the residents of Jerusalem. This city will be inhabited forever.
And last we see a national blessing for all the people of Israel in verse 26,
Then people will come from the cities of Judah and from the area around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin and from the Judean foothills, from the hill country and from the Negev bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and frankincense, and thanksgiving sacrifices to the house of the Lord.
So, the point is God promises curses for Sabbath-breaking but also blessings for Sabbath-keeping that would affect the whole nation—from those that were royalty to the common person.
But what about for those that keep the Lord’s Day on Sunday? Is there a blessing for us? Yes, I think there is, but first I want to show us that the Lord’s day isn’t just a replacement of the 7th day Sabbath.
I think there are two basic views within the church. Some see Sunday as a complete replacement for the Christian Sabbath—as a day to be kept just like the Saturday Sabbath, only on Sunday. And others see Sunday as just another day—a day like any other day.
Now some of the reasons I don’t think the Lord’s Day needs to be kept exactly like the Christian Sabbath are because of verses like Romans 14:5,
One person judges one day to be more important than another day. Someone else judges every day to be the same. Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind.
And Colossians 2:16–17,
Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is Christ.
It’s hard to imagine that Paul didn’t have the 7th day Sabbath in mind when he wrote these verses and His point is that the days we observe aren’t more important than our attitude. It’s our heart toward Christ that matters not the day of the week.
Another reason I think the Lord’s Day is different from the Saturday Sabbath is the matter of church discipline. If the Lord’s Day is just a replacement for the 7th day Sabbath then why not exercise church discipline for “breaking the sabbath”?
For example, in Numbers 15:35-36, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. They placed him in custody while they decided what to do with him...
Then the Lord told Moses, “The man is to be put to death. The entire community is to stone him outside the camp.” So the entire community brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord had commanded Moses.
If that’s the punishment for breaking the Sabbath, and our observance of Sunday is exactly the same, then what should be the consequence for watching football games, mowing lawns, or doing other work-related things on Sunday? The church should probably be stricter than it is. But since it’s not, I think most people would have to agree that our observance of the Lord’s Day has changed.
Now, speaking of change, why do we come to church on Sunday? The answer is because that’s when the early church worshiped according to several scriptures.
According to 1 Corinthians 16:2 offerings were collected on the first day of the week.
On the first day of the week, each of you is to set something aside and save in keeping with how he is prospering, so that no collections will need to be made when I come.
And according to Acts 20:7, Sunday is when they gathered to hear Paul preach and to eat the Lord’s Supper.
On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he kept on talking until midnight.
And in Revelation 1:10 John gives the first day of the week a special name.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard a loud voice behind me like a trumpet
So, Sunday, the Lord’s Day is a special day. It isn’t just another day of the week. But why is it so special?
On the first day of the week, Jesus rose from the dead (Mark 16:9). So the Lord’s Day celebrates the day Jesus rose from the dead to conquer sin and death once and for all.
Also, the first day of the week was when Jesus appeared to the disciples and taught them about all the OT scriptures concerning him (John 20:19; Luke 24:13-27).
And, the first day of the week was the first day of creation which, according to 2 Corinthians 5:17, we are that new creation. So the first day of the week should be a special time to celebrate being born again in Christ.
Since Sunday was a very special day the early church began to worship on what they called The Lord’s Day. This change didn’t occur immediately and Christians probably kept both days for a while until Saturday Sabbath-keeping was phased out altogether.
Today, the Lord’s Day isn’t the same as the Sabbath but it is still a very special day which Scripture has given a special name. It is called “the Lord’s Day” because it is a day like no other.
So with that in mind, I want to share what I would call “best practices” for observing the Lord’s Day. These are not legal requirements but they will bring a blessing if we do them.
1. It is good to spend the Lord’s Day meeting with the saints for worship, instruction, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer.
Failure to come to church occasionally isn’t sinful but if it’s our general practice not to attend that could be a sign of a deeper spiritual problem because God commands us to meet with one another according to Hebrews 10:24–25 which says,
Let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.
If we have a choice, on Sunday we should choose public worship over private worship because God commands us to gather together.
Sometimes we have to miss it for health reasons. Maybe we are sick or we have to work or serve someone else but we should always make the effort to be with God’s people each week, if not on Sunday morning then at another time.
There are other good reasons to miss occasionally, but we should determine to make worshiping with God’s people each week a priority. And we should also determine to not miss the Lord’s Supper with God’s people when it’s offered.
2. It is good to spend the Lord’s Day resting from our normal activities.
The Lord’s Day is not the Lord’s morning or the Lord’s hour, it is the Lord’s Day! And there is a blessing if we keep the whole day holy. The Lord’s Day isn’t just a day of rest but a day for activities of worship, fellowship, Bible study, and evangelism.
The Lord’s Day is a day to focus on that which is spiritually beneficial. Naps are good if they help us focus on that which is spiritual but it’s best not to sleep the whole day away. Traveling long distances is fine if it helps us serve a greater spiritual purpose, perhaps a visit to encourage someone with declining health.
But be careful with sports and recreation. The Lord’s Day is a day to primarily express our Joy in Christ that He might be praised and glorified, and I’m pretty sure that if we spend the majority of the day entertaining ourselves Christ’s glory isn’t being magnified.
Here’s a thought for those of you who love to watch sports Sunday afternoon. Maybe think about how you can use the time for evangelism. What about inviting a neighbor over to your house to watch with you and then ask them about how their life is going during the commercials?
The Lord’s Day is also a day for spending extra private time studying God’s word and prayer. We often complain that we don’t have enough time to pray and study, yet somehow we find time to do what’s most important to us. Sunday, especially, is a day for doing what’s important to God.
The Lord’s Day is also day for showing mercy. Jesus healed on the Sabbath and did other acts of mercy (John 5:8-10; Matthew 12:10-13;) so should we. Visit a nursing home. Invite people over to your house.
The Lord’s Day is a good day to visit the sick, to help the poor, even to help animals that are suffering. Maybe consider going to an animal shelter. The Lord’s Day is a day to do the Lord’s work. It’s not just a day to take a nap.
But don’t be legalistic about it. According to Mark 2:27, the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). So in a similar way, the Lord’s Day isn’t meant to be a chore or a burden. It’s meant to be enjoyable. If you need a nap, take a nap. The Lord’s Day is God’s gift to us. And be patient with one another. There is freedom in Christ for how to best observe the Lord’s Day.
If we keep the Lord’s Day holy and we will receive a blessing. Others will be blessed, our church will be blessed, and our relationship with Christ will be blessed most of all. Keeping the Lord’s Day holy isn’t just a matter of doing what is permissible, but of doing what is most profitable. As 1 Corinthians 10:23 says,
“Everything is permissible,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up.
So, while there might not be anything sinful about spending most of Sunday watching TV and entertaining ourselves, is that really the best way to spend the day? I think there are better ways to build up ourselves and the church on Sunday.
Our Sabbath Rest
Probably most important of all, in our worship on Sunday, remember that Jesus is our Sabbath rest.
Hebrews 4:9–11 says,
Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people. For the person who has entered his rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from his. Let us, then, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience.
Each week, and especially on the Lord’s Day, we have an opportunity to focus on Christ’s works. Resting on the Lord’s Day, and doing our best to keep the entire day holy, doesn’t earn us salvation but it’s an awesome opportunity each week to focus on who does.