What does the Lord expect of us on His day? All I can say is that what He would expect of us would be obvious, wouldn't it, that we would celebrate Him as Savior, that we would rejoice in His cross, that we would rejoice in His resurrection, that we would pray together, fellowship together, break bread together around His table, and that we would listen to the Apostles' doctrine and hear the preaching of the Word and embrace its glorious truth. In 1653, Thomas Kemble set sail from New England on a three-year business trip. When he finally made it back from his journey, he promptly kissed his wife on their porch. But unfortunately for Kemble, that kiss happened on a Sunday, and so he violated the local Sabbath laws. He actually spent a couple of hours in the stocks. Clearly, people in 17th century America went to extreme lengths to set apart Sunday as the Sabbath.
But should they have? Does the New Testament say anything that is particularly special about the first day of the week? Is it sinful on Sundays to punch the time clock, or to participate in sports, or to enjoy leisure activities at home on what many people see as the new Sabbath? John MacArthur is digging into those important questions as he continues the series he calls The Sabbath and Why We Worship on Sunday. And with that, let's get into the lesson.
Here's John MacArthur. One of the things that we need to understand is the importance of worship and we, in looking at the importance of worship, want to understand how Sunday fits into that. Sunday was always very different from Saturday. Stores were open on Saturday, people were in motion on Saturday, all the events, all the sporting occasions were scheduled on Saturday, trips, recreation, work around the house.
Sunday was a very, very different day. For literally centuries, Sunday worship and fellowship among Christians worldwide was the habit of the church. And you could ask the question, is this simply arbitrary? Did it just kind of happen that way?
It would be pretty hard to sell somebody on that idea. Since you have all these different countries, all these different languages, and all these different centuries, and it's an unbroken pattern. How did it get started? Who started it? And why are we still conducting services on Sunday? And why do we still have a kind of a deference to Sunday in a five-day work week that ends on Friday?
Did this just happen by accident? We're just going to follow through some scriptures and I'll kind of let you draw the conclusion. Turn to Acts 2. When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a rushing violent wind and filled the whole house where they were sitting and there appeared to them tongues as of fire, not actual fire, but kind of looked like fire, distributing themselves and they rested on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other languages as the Spirit was giving them utterance. This is the coming of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus had promised when it says He breathed on them in John 20, that was a promise, that was a pledge that was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost.
Here is a monumental fulfillment of prophecy. By the way, go back to chapter 1 verse 8, you will receive power, Acts 1.8, when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. He's coming and it was not long after Jesus made that promise that the Spirit did come.
And the Spirit came, as we all know, to empower believers to fulfill the commission of proclaiming the glorious gospel, as well as to affirm their faith, to seal their faith, to give them assurance and confidence, to give them internal testimony to the validity of the gospel. Jesus had made this promise repeatedly, John 14, 16, I will ask the Father, He will give you another Helper that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of truth whom the world can't receive because it doesn't know Him or see Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you. Literally, I will come to you in the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Christ.
Jesus makes this promise, John 14, John 15, John 16, again and again and again. The Spirit's going to come. He's going to take up residence in you. He is literally going to baptize you into My body, making one the church. He's going to give you gifts, spiritual gifts and enablements.
He's going to give you power for evangelism. And the Spirit did come as promised. And fascinating, isn't it, that it happens on the day of Pentecost. This is when the church was born. This is when the disciples were empowered. This is the first baptizing work of Christ as He baptizes believers by means of the Spirit into His body. This is the day when the Kingdom comes to life.
This is a glorious, marvelous day. And you remember that in chapter 2 verse 14, Peter stands up, gives this great sermon concerning the significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He says in verse 23, And then he goes on to preach from Psalm 16 an exposition of the promised resurrection of the Messiah. And it has a phenomenal impact when they heard it. Verse 37, they're pierced to the heart. He says, repent, be baptized for the forgiveness of sin, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, three thousand people are converted.
And why am I bringing this into the discussion? Did you ever wonder what day of the week it was on Pentecost? Do you know what day of the week it was? It just happened to be Sunday. It just happened to be Sunday. According to Leviticus 23, 16, the Feast of Weeks, Pentecost, was designated to dedicate the first fruits of the harvest of wheat.
That would be May, June. It is called Pentecost, penta meaning five, because it occurred 50 days after the Sabbath preceding the Feast of First Fruits. So you have a Sabbath plus 50 days.
Simple calculation. A Sabbath plus seven Sabbaths, 49, would fall on a Sabbath, right? So 50 would be the first day of the next week. It's Sunday again. Pentecost happens on a Sunday. As unique as this is, all these references are short of commanding us to observe the first day of the week as if it had some special sort of Mosaic significance. We don't have any New Testament commands regarding the first day of the week. We just have the very obvious fact that God filled that day with the most significant events in the founding of the church, namely the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the arrival of the Spirit of God. The events of the resurrection and the birth of the church and the empowerment of the church, the completion of salvation, the coming of the Holy Spirit, these glorious foundational realities that are at the very heart of our redemption. These are the realities that replace the shadows and the forms of the Sabbath.
They happen on a Sunday. The Lord then has picked out His own day. When He appointed twelve Apostles, He left the leaders of Israel behind. When our Lord established the first day, He left the seventh day behind. The Mosaic Law for the seventh day has passed away. It is the worst thing possible for people who call themselves Christians to take restrictions intended for the Mosaic Sabbath and try to impose them on Sunday.
That's opposite the intention of our Lord. Don't let anybody hold you to a Sabbath day. You're not under the Mosaic Law anymore.
You're not under the constraints and ceremonies and restrictions and restraints of the Mosaic Law. We have a new day. We left Judaism behind. We left the Sabbath behind.
We left the leaders of Israel behind. We have a new covenant. We have new ministers of that new covenant and we have a new day. It's not like the Mosaic Sabbath. It's not at all. Oh you can still, I think, think of the seventh day Saturday in a sense as the day that reminds us that the Lord created everything in six days.
I think that's a wonderful thing to do. You can still be reminded that it was the Law of God that came down on people's heads with regard to the Sabbath and it's good to remember that you're a sinner. But there's nothing in the New Testament that takes old covenant restrictions and restraints from the Mosaic Sabbath and imposes them on the first day of the week. Keep in mind, please, that from Genesis 2 where God rested until giving you the Mosaic Law hundreds, centuries, centuries later, through all that period of time there were no restraints on anyone's behavior on Saturday. It was just the day that you remembered God as Creator, even though men were sinful.
There were no restrictions and no restraints. That didn't even come till Moses. It started with Moses and it ended with the abolishing of the old covenant and the establishing and the ratifying of the new covenant. New Covenant Sunday then is kind of like old...old Sabbath from Genesis. You remember God blessed the Sabbath day, made it a day of blessing to remember your Creator. Well He's blessed the first day and made it a day to remember your Redeemer. When God instituted the day of rest originally, it was a day of rest.
Under Moses it was a day of anything but rest. But the Lord's day for us is to be a day of delight. It's to be a day of blessing.
It's to be a day not fraught with external regulations. I guess in a sense, in Christ the rest originally identified in Eden is recovered. What is the point of the first day? The soul is to be refreshed. The soul is to be refreshed with joy, peace, with spiritual delight. Soul is to be refreshed with divine truth. The soul is to be refreshed in worship, the teaching, the preaching of the Word of God. This is a sweet gift from God. We ought to be very thankful that we live in a country that still has vestiges of commitment to Sunday.
Passing away, aren't they? But it was always intended to be a day of rest, it's not a day to be infused with restrictions and restraints borrowed from the Mosaic Law. That's in Galatians 4, 9, now that you have come to know God, to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You don't want to go back to that. You observe days and months and seasons and years.
Don't do that. I fear, Paul says, for you, perhaps I've labored over you for nothing. I mean, if I wasted my time setting you free in Christ, are you going to go back to observing days, Sabbath days, months, seasons, years? We're not under any Sabbath Law at all. Well, the Sunday of resurrection was a very special Sunday. The following Sunday was a very special Sunday. Pentecost was a very special Sunday. Certainly after Pentecost, Sunday was very well established in the hearts of the people of God. Did they worship only on Sunday? No, no, they worshiped how often?
Every day. Acts 2, 46, day by day, continuing with one mind in the temple, breaking bread from house to house, taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, having favor with all the people. You know, they were experiencing that every single day and that is what Sunday should be. It should be a day of coming together. It should be a day of devoting yourselves to the Apostles' doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer. It should be a day of taking meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God. It should be a happy, joyous day. It's not a day of restraint. It's not a day when we come under the fearful threat of the Law, it's a day when we celebrate our redemption.
And so, they met every day but didn't take long before they landed on a special day. Turn to Acts 20...Acts 20, this is just a little bit more of the history. Luke writes that along with Paul, we sailed from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, came to believers at Troas within five days, stayed there seven days. Now look at this, verse 7, on the first day of the week when we were gathered together to break bread. Isn't that interesting?
No law has been given to establish this. But here we are, well into the ministry of the Apostle Paul, years have passed since the resurrection of Jesus Christ and it's not remarkable, it's matter of fact, when we were gathered together to break bread on the first day of the week. That's what they did. They're still meeting. And by the way, they had an evening service.
I think they probably met all day. How do you know it's an evening service? Because he preached till midnight...preached till midnight. And there were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window.
His name means good luck. Eutychus is sitting on the window, still not a good place if you're going to fall asleep. Sinks into a deep sleep and as Paul kept on talking, look, even the greatest of preachers put people to sleep.
The man is overcome by sleep, falls out of the third floor and was picked up dead. Now that is an evening service that went on and on and on and on. This poor guy couldn't take it any longer. Paul went down, fell upon him, embracing him, said, don't be troubled for life is in him. Embrace him from the dead. And you know what? He went back up, broke bread, ate and kept talking until daybreak.
I like that. The man knew no ending to what he wanted to say. If somebody fell out of the window and died, you raise him and bring him back. I'm not through and you're not through listening. And they took the boy alive and they were greatly comforted. So what are they doing? They're meeting on a Sunday and the meeting goes on and on and on because they're praising God and they're loving what they're hearing and it's the Apostles' Doctrine.
This is not a drop-in one-hour deal on the way to the beach, folks. This is people hungry for the things of God. This church at Troas is exemplary of the pattern of Sunday worship in the early church and ever since. Turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 16...1 Corinthians chapter 16. Paul writes to the Corinthians, he's writing about the offering, the collection. Concerning the collection for the saints, Paul was trying to collect some money for the poor saints in Jerusalem.
And the same way as he directed the churches in the region of Galatia to do it, he wanted the Corinthians to do it as well. So here's what he told them, on the first day of every week, each one of you is to put aside and save as he may prosper that no collections be made when I come. I just want you to make it a matter, of course, in your Sunday worship. Offerings were taken on the first day of the week. It's not a day when we're more holy than others. It's not a day when there are some restraints on how we are to behave. It's a day when we celebrate our salvation.
It's a day when we glorify God, when we focus on what Christ has done for us. That's why we come together and pray. That's why we come together and sing hymns.
That's why we come together and read Scripture. It's a day when you look at the most important reality in your life and that is your salvation. Well eventually, this first day became so precious to the church that it got its own name.
Revelation chapter 1, John, verse 9 is on the Isle of Patmos because of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus because he's been exiled there by the enemies of the gospel. And he says in verse 10, I was in the Spirit on...what?...the Lord's Day...on the Lord's Day. This is not the eschatological day of the Lord.
This is a non-eschatological statement. This is the Lord's Day and he doesn't even give an explanation. Now when is John writing? Well he's writing 30, 40 years after Paul. He's writing in 96 A.D. at the end of the first century and by that time this was no longer called Sunday, or whatever other forms that day had been called, it was for believers now, the Lord's Day.
It doesn't even need a further explanation. There are all kinds of testimonies in the second century which would have been just a few years later since John's writing in 96, all kinds of testimonies to the fact that in the second century this was the customary way to refer to the first day of the week. The first day of the week was the Lord's Day, the day that we honor the Lord. His title for Sunday is commonly found in many, many early Christian writings, has continued through all church history, even down to the present. I don't call Sunday Sunday, I call it the Lord's Day. You hear me say that a lot, the Lord's Day...the Lord's Day. It was on the Lord's Day that John received his vision, his first vision was of Jesus the Lord of the church, right?
What does he say there? I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day and I heard behind me a loud voice, the sound of a trumpet turns around and he sees Christ ministering in the candlesticks, Christ ministering in his church. This is the Lord of the church serving his church and he got the vision of the Lord moving in his church on Sunday.
The Lord is the one who initiated that vision and he initiated on a Sunday on the Lord's Day. This is the Lord's Day because this is resurrection day. This is Holy Spirit Day. It's not the Lord's morning. It's not the Lord's afternoon. It's not the Lord's evening. It's not the Lord's hour. It's the Lord's Day. Christ should be exalted 24-7, right? And He should be exalted Saturday morning and Saturday night and every other day.
But it just seems to me that God has placed His almighty hand on the first day of the week and said, this is My day...this is My day. And we want to make sure that we do not, according to Hebrews 10.25, forsake our assembling together but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day approaching. As we get closer to the return of Jesus Christ, we ought to ramp up our fellowship, not diminish it, right?
We're going the wrong direction, folks. Services are shorter, more superficial and fewer at a time when they ought to be deeper, longer and more frequent. Superficial preaching betrays the profound realities of Scripture. Church is full of superficial people and a superficial understanding of the high priority of worship. What does the Lord expect of us on His day? All I can say is that what He would expect of us would be obvious, wouldn't it?
That we would celebrate Him as Savior, that we would rejoice in His cross, that we would rejoice in His resurrection, that we would pray together, fellowship together, break bread together around His table and that we would listen to the Apostles' doctrine and hear the preaching of the Word and embrace its glorious truth. I'm not talking about legalism. We're not talking about some kind of Old Covenant Sabbath laws imposed upon us. But grace certainly doesn't require less than law, does it? I guess the question is how much do you love Christ? How strong is your desire for worship?
I never want to see people come to a service as a stop-off point on the way to whatever else they need to do. That doesn't mean you can't do some work in the afternoon, doesn't mean you can't enjoy some recreation, some fellowship and do some other things. It just means that there's a day that God Himself has ordained for you to focus primarily on the glory of your salvation. Take every opportunity you can to fill it with worship and praise and fellowship and divine truth. We're not...we're not under the Old Covenant regulations. We're not under a system of condemnation.
We don't need shadows, we have the reality, the true rest in Christ. This is a day to rest, not to rest in the sense of celebrating creation, but to rest in the sense of celebrating new creation, salvation. So rather than ask what shouldn't I do on Sunday, ask what should I do? What does my love for Christ ask me to do?
What does my heart for Him ask me to do? I'm not forbidden to work, I'm not forbidden to play. But the high ground is to say this is a day of all days in which I will find my greatest delight. And what is my greatest delight? My greatest delight is to worship and fellowship with God's people. Search your heart. Is this really the Lord's day for you?
I hope so. Father, thank You again for Your Word. The refreshment of it, the beauty of it, the simplicity of it, the richness of it, the consistency of it really overwhelms us and even though we study it week after week, year after year, it comes to us with a kind of freshness that brings joy to our hearts. May all of our lives be filled with a special, special understanding of how wonderful is the weekly reminder of our eternal salvation built in to the Lord's day.
Give us a love for it because there's a love for You building to it. We thank You in Christ's name. Well, the first take away from this study is we get to do what the Lord wants us to do and we can do it with joy. We don't need to feel like somehow maybe I'm going to church but I might be messing up. I might be missing what I'm supposed to be doing and then you run into somebody who says, you know, you're not keeping the Sabbath and if you go back into England and parts of Europe, even today you have people who call themselves Sabbatarians and they want to hold firmly to the Sabbath and if you in any way fail to observe the Sabbath and by that they mean Sunday so they've shifted it over from Saturday to Sunday, you somehow are dishonoring the Lord. So there are people who live in confusion and they live in guilt. That is not necessary.
That is not necessary. We need to be joyful, free worshipers of our Lord, our risen Lord on Sunday. Now I admit there is more confusion about the Sabbath than you might expect and a lot of it comes from Seventh Day Adventism, which has been around a long time and they've made their case very frequently. But our study has endeavored to send you down a path that will free you up from confusion and from any sense of maybe doing something wrong when you worship the Lord on Sunday. We've been exploring Old Covenant, New Covenant, what does it mean when the Bible says, remember the Sabbath day? What's the significance of Sunday? Could we add a Saturday night service?
Is that a problem? Our short series is available in two CDs, which you can order from Grace To You or two MP3 downloads, which you can download from gty.org. And as I've been telling you for a limited time, we would love to send you a free copy of the book, How to Study the Bible, if you're contacting us for the first time. It'll help you read, interpret, apply any text and you'll find ways in which you can answer your questions like we've been answering regarding the Sabbath. The title again, How to Study the Bible, it's yours free if you've never contacted us before.
Do it today. It's available for sale to all the rest as well. That's right, friend. Whether you're looking to grasp the true meaning of the parables or apply Scriptures teaching to your marriage or lead your family in Bible study, this book will give you the helpful tools you need. It's a great gift for a new believer. To get a copy of How to Study the Bible, free if you haven't called or gotten in touch with us before, contact us today.
You can call our toll-free number, 855-GRACE or go to our website, gty.org. And this helpful book answers questions like, what's the best strategy for studying the Bible? How do you apply what Scripture says?
And how can you bridge the gaps of history and culture and language? Again, if you have not contacted us before, request a free copy of John's book, How to Study the Bible, when you call us at 855-GRACE or go to gty.org. And to download every message from John's study, The Sabbath and Why We Worship on Sundays, go to gty.org and check out all the studies you can listen to for free.
All of them are available to download both in audio and transcript format, free of charge. In fact, all of John's sermons from 54 years of his pulpit ministry are free to download at gty.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, inviting you to be here when John shows you what death means for the believer and for the unbeliever. In both cases, the end is not the end. That's the title of the study John begins tomorrow, with another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
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