Sunday: Christian Sabbath, Lord’s Day, or Something Else – Problems with the Traditionalist Lord’s Day Position, Part 1

For the entire series, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Up to this point, I have offered a historical summary of Sunday among Christians and given a summary of the traditionalist position. The summary of the traditionalist position showed the lines of evidence they use to defend that Sunday is a specific day for Christian worship by divine intention.

While these lines of evidence are interesting, there remain difficulties associated with understanding what precisely has happened in church history with regard to the emergence of Lord’s Day gathering. In fact, the major problem is determining whether this is some kind of divinely intended practice or a legitimate practice that the church developed in accordance with the doctrinal principles the apostles taught. Put differently, do we worship on Sunday in valid application of valid doctrinal principles or because of a divinely required practice. I remain unconvinced that the institution is more than a valid application. Allow me to explain some of my reasons to remain unconvinced that the weekly practice of Sunday worship is specifically implied in Holy Scripture.

First, why is there no explicit command in the New Testament for the church to gather on Sunday? Admittedly, one must be careful with this. My tendency is to miss obvious connections in the Scriptures of this sort. But, I don’t think I’m too far off-base on this. The lack of explicit instruction is important.

Second, with reference to historical events (e.g. the Day of Pentecost) and narrative accounts of the early church doing things on Sunday (e.g. Acts 20:7), one cannot ignore the challenges faced in using such narratives to determine normative truth. These narratives, like all narratives, must be carefully applied because they do not provide an explicit basis for following a certain practice. The larger issue of Acts and the transitional nature of its period make the problem even more difficult. I can’t help but wonder if a case can be made that the daily aspects of church gatherings are normal in the book of Acts and elsewhere. If so, then these descriptions of “Sunday” activities may be understood in light of the frequent meetings of the church and not the traditionalist conception of the Lord’s Day. One wonders if the traditionalist position reinforces the faulty idea of “I’ve done my duty for God and for the church by coming on Sunday.” In reality, we should be active daily, or at least as much as possible.

Third, one of the items in the various discussions I read this time is a command for something to be done on Sunday—the gathering of donations (1Cor. 16:2). It is often taken as something to be done at the church weekly gathering, but I wonder if the verbiage of v2 requires that. Could it be that this is merely saying people should every Sunday put the stuff aside and then bring it all in to Paul when he comes? This is an area of further study for me. A second point would be the applicability of this command as normative for the church. This command in 1 Cor. is especially tied to the need for donations for the poor Jerusalem church. It seems that one could question whether it is a valid application to require donations every Sunday, let alone require that they happen at church gatherings. A final point would be that this passage does not really speak to ideas of the Lord’s Day as a “day for service and rejoicing.” (as Chafer described the Lord’s Day). To use this verse to make that kind of a point seems to read into it more than is warranted. In conclusion, 1 Cor. 16:2 does not give sufficient evidence to suggest that we are to gather ever Sunday on the basis of Paul’s specific command that people gather donations for Jerusalem.

Next time, I will offer three additional thoughts why I remain uneasy with the conclusion that the Lord’s Day is a required and divinely commanded or intended institution.

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