Wrestling with Sunday, Part I. Service & Sabbath

It is difficult to pinpoint its source, but there is something about Sundays that causes to me to be discontent with the state of the church in our country. And its effects upon me are such that I have to almost force myself to go to the building that we call, “the church,” on Sunday mornings though I scarcely doubt that God’s saints do indeed gather there. And if this discontentment with Sundays were coupled with a disdain for fellowship with the saints, I would necessarily conclude that my own heart was to blame for it. Yet, I find that despite my discontentment with “church” on Sunday mornings I do in fact enjoy and indeed yearn for fellowship with God’s people. Therefore the question that rests heavy upon my heart is, “If I am indeed in Christ and if I truly long for the company of the saints, why is then that I have such reluctance toward “church” on Sunday mornings?”

Assuming that I am not wholly wicked (which is sometimes a shaky assumption), what is it about "church” on Sunday mornings that causes my heart at times to shy away from it rather than be drawn to it? What merit (if any) is there for this disposition of my heart?

Sunday as Weekly Service
One aspect of Sunday mornings that has troubled my heart is the tacit (sometimes not) belief and conviction that Sunday morning is somehow more holy and more important than any other time in the week. It is something for which we are implored to “ready our hearts,” and to “give our best” as though the pinnacle of Christian existence is vested in a Sunday morning time slot. The way I have heard it described by many, it is almost as though it is tolerable to have any state of mind or heart whatsoever at any other time insofar as that state is changed in sufficient time to one that is “prepared for worship.”

In light of this, it is hardly surprising to hear language in a Sunday morning church service that describes a particular locale or building as “the house of the Lord,” and the services rendered in that locale (be it singing, tithes and offerings, or attentiveness) as “sacrifices” or “holy duties.” For the church today is to some tantamount to the temple of the Old Covenant, therefore we exhorted to act as though we were meeting God in his holy place, for we are (by our accounts) meeting God in his holy place.

If we view Sunday morning in this light, it is not difficult to perceive why certain aspects of Sunday morning are at the forefront of Christian debate (as least in our country). For when one speaks about a particular church, the first comments about it are not usually their love for one another or the vibrancy of their fellowship, but it is their style of music, the eloquence of their preacher, and the musical ability (or disability) of their choir. The “selling point” of any church is its Sunday service, and if that is lacking in some way according to our personal preferences, we consider it a poor church not worth our presence though it may be a mile from our home.

What is telling about those aspects of Sunday mornings which we find to be of utmost importance is that we would be hard-pressed to validate the worth to which ascribe them from the pages of Scripture. Of course we will find each of them in the Scriptures (well, except for choirs and service dramas), but their importance is not relegated to practice at a particular time (viz. Sunday mornings), but they are to characterize the life of the saint and the continual disposition of the church (i.e. the people of God not the building). Concerning music and its role in the life of the saint, the apostle Paul writes:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:15-21).

Now, the meaning of the apostle is clear. He does not have in mind a once-a-week service, but he has in the mind the entire life of the Christian and the church universal (i.e. all those who have been bought with the blood of Christ). For he commands, “Look carefully how you walk,” not, “Look carefully how you meet on Sunday mornings.” This manner by which we are to walk (i.e. live our lives) is to be one that is a continual filling of the Spirit so that we are so filled with the Spirit that it overflows in the singing of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.”

Now, this disposition and practice may certainly be done on Sunday morning gatherings of the church, but it is certainly not to be limited to Sunday mornings nor is Sunday to be viewed as the apex of these things. Sunday mornings should be a representation of how the church has conducted herself throughout the week not a formal event for which we dress up our bodies and our conduct into that which it was not before.

Sunday is not the Sabbath
One of the more puzzling beliefs concerning Sunday to me is this belief that Sunday is the new Sabbath and that Jesus abolished Saturday (i.e. the seventh day) as the Sabbath. And though it would be difficult to pinpoint where this belief concerning Sunday arose (be it in the catholic church or Chick-fil-a), it is more difficult to pinpoint where this belief arises from in Scripture. Yes, we do find in Scripture that the saints met together on Sunday (i.e. the Lord’s Day) as a celebration of his Resurrection, but this is hardly proof that this was viewed by the church as the new Sabbath replacing the old. If anything, it is evidence of the church’s view that the Sabbath concerned those who were in the Old Covenant under the old creation, and the Lord’s Day is a celebration and a recognition of the New Covenant and the New Creation inaugurated by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead—the Firstborn from the dead in the recreation of all things.

Indeed, as Douglas Wilson pointed out, being that the Sabbath was originally an ordinance of the first creation and was later instituted into the Old Covenant, the only thing that would abolish or change such an ordinance would be a New Creation. And not coincidentally, this is exactly what we find in the Lord’s Day, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ—the inauguration of the New Creation. Furthermore, it is for this reason that the apostle the Hebrews is able to speak of the Sabbath in terms of shadow (as he does the rest of the Old Covenant) in that it points the Sabbath Rest—the Eternal Rest of the saints of God (cf. Heb. 4).

To Be Continued…



Categories: Theology

Tags: , , ,

1 reply

  1. This gives me a lot to research! Thanks for posting.

    Like

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