Why We Gather on the First Day of the Week
Why do Christians come together every first day of the week? Is this just an arbitrary choice we have made, or is there something else special about it that we ought to recognize? Even if we recognize it as special, we still may think that it just seems like an arbitrary choice. Why not just do all of this on Saturday? Not that we cannot meet on a Saturday or any other day of the week, but that should never diminish, in our minds, the importance and significance of the first day of the week. Why?
What are some biblical considerations for recognizing the importance of this day?
Creation: When we think about the importance of the first day of the week, we might think about some connections to the First Day and Creation. On the first day of creation, God said, “Let there be light” (Gen 1:3-5). Light, throughout Scripture, is a manifestation of God’s glory. God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:15-16), and in His presence, He is the illumination (Rev 22:5).
Next, the connection John makes to creation in John 1 is important. “In the beginning was the Word…” Jesus is the Word, the One through Whom all things were made: “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4-5). Jesus is the Light, and the connection between Jesus as the Light and the separation from darkness is vital:
“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).
In Him, Light is separated from darkness: “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”(John 3:19-21).
Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12).
The point is that Light is associated with the first day. The first day, from the beginning, celebrates the Light, and ultimately this points to the Light who has brought us out of darkness. To this we are called: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9).
Sabbath: At the end of the creation week is the concept of the Sabbath. Later, by telling His people to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, He was indicating every Sabbath would be a holy day for them. There was significance in this because the sabbath meant rest, and this was patterned after the creation week (Exod 20:8-11). This was intended for the children of Israel because they were brought out of Egypt (Deut 5:15).
A sabbath was also to be observed every seventh year, with the special observance of the jubilee every fiftieth year (Lev. 25). The land would receive its proper rest during this time. Land would be returned to the rightful families. Slaves would be set free. It was like a reset button to put everything back to its original status (Lev 25:10). The Sabbath represented freedom, rest, and holiness.
While we are not given the Sabbath in the same exact way under Christ, and the first day is never called the “Christian’s Sabbath,” the Sabbath still typologically represents the freedom and rest that we have in Christ. As Hebrews 4:8-11 tells us:
“For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.”
The Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ, and we still share the benefits and blessings of what the Sabbath was meant to be: freedom, rest, and holiness. As Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28-30).
The point is that when God chooses a particular day for something to be observed, then we need to see that there is a depth, a meaning involved that helps us appreciate all the more why He did this. The first day is not the Sabbath per se, but it points to the ultimate Sabbath, and, like the Sabbath, there is a depth of meaning and richness we ought to be thinking about.