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WHY CHRISTIANS WORSHIP ON SUNDAY (THE LORD’S DAY)
by Dr. Timothy Lin
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
was Dr. Hymers' pastor for many years. He baptized Dr. Hymers in the fall
of 1961. He ordained Dr. Hymers to the ministry on July 2, 1972, chairing
Hymers' ordination council. Dr. Hymers has often said, "Everything I
learned of importance I learned from Dr. Timothy Lin." Dr. Lin often
preached at Dr. Hymers' church. The last time he preached here was in
April 2009. He was scheduled to preach again in the fall of 2009, but
passed away a few days before doing so.
The origin of many isms and of much misunderstanding of Scripture may well be attributed to the failure to comprehend the concept of the organic and progressive nature of revelation. For instance, Seventh Day Adventists, as well as Seventh Day Baptists, have failed to realize the truth concerning the progressive revelation of the Sabbath in the Scriptures. The purpose of the commemoration of the Sabbath was changed even in the Old Testament from recognition of the creation (Ex. 20:11) to that of the Exodus (Deut. 5:15). Psalm 118:22-24 refers to the day of the resurrection of Christ and may well be taken as the prophetic note for the changing of the Sabbath to that day in which “the stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner” – the resurrection day of our Lord.
God’s revelation is not limited to words only. In His natural revelation He uses “the heavens to declare His glory, and the firmament to show His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1), and in His supernatural revelation He revealed the importance of faith through Abraham’s life and of redemption to the Gentile through Paul. In other words, God’s revelations are found in words as well as in nature and actions. An explicit commandment to change the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day is not recorded in the New Testament, yet the change is very clear as viewed progressively in the New Testament. It started with Christ’s statement that He was the Lord of the Sabbath day (Matt. 12:8). He had the right and authority to interpret it and to do what He liked for the good of men. In the New Testament this is the first embryonic revelation of the Lord’s Day, anticipating its later development. The importance of the day is not that it is either the last or the first day of the week, but that it is the day that the Lord chose for “the day” predicted in the Old Testament. Since the Lord was resurrected and appeared to His disciples on the first day of the week (John 20:1, 19), and appeared again to the apostles on the following first day of the week (John 20:26), undoubtedly the first day of the week is sealed as “the day.” In all history what greater event has ever occurred than the Lord’s resurrection, which was repeatedly confirmed by His many appearances? Thus this day on which the greatest of all events occurred is surely an important one!
Further, when Paul and his companions stayed at Troas for seven days, a Sabbath passed by, yet there was not a single hint that they observed it. On the contrary, when the first day of the week came, the disciples gathered together to break bread, and Paul preached [Acts 20:6-7]. Why did they have to wait until the first day of the week? Obviously this period of time [the first day of the week] had already become the formal day for Christians’ gathering. Here, besides the importance of the day, the Lord further disclosed the program of commemoration or worship that should include gathering together, breaking bread, and preaching. A few years earlier the Lord had already disclosed another program concerning the believers’ offering which should be collected on that same day [the first day of the week – Sunday] (1 Cor. 16:1, 2). Thus, the authority, the importance, and the program of worship [on the first day] had all been progressively disclosed; but not the name of the day, which was not revealed until the last book of Scripture.
When John was in Patmos waiting for the revelation of the Lord, on the first day of the week the Lord suddenly appeared to him, and in his inspiration John named the first day as the Lord’s Day, which means belonging to the Lord (Rev. 1:10). Christ has done so much for the world, does He not deserve a day for Himself? After all, He should “have the preeminence in all things” (Col. 1:18)!
Note: Christians who mentioned the Lord’s Day in their writings in early Church History:
• Epistle of Barnabas 15:9 (AD 100)
• Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians 9:1 (AD 107)
• First Apology of Justin, Chap. LXVII (AD 145)
This ends Dr. Timothy Lin’s lesson on the Lord’s Day replacing the Sabbath. It is reprinted here from the website of Biblical Studies Ministries International, Inc., 820 Bennett Court, Carmel, IN 46032 at www.bsmi.org/lin.htm.
We will now go over the texts Dr. Lin gave to show the progressive revelation in the Bible from the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day.
1. First, Exodus 20:11.
“For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:11).
The purpose of the Sabbath, in the Ten Commandments, given under the Mosaic Covenant, was to look back to God’s creative act during the six days in which He created heaven and earth. “Wherefore” (therefore), because God created heaven and earth in six days, “the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Dr. Ryrie said that this Sabbath commemorates “God’s rest after the work of creation” (Charles C. Ryrie, Ph.D., The Ryrie Study Bible, Moody Press, 1978; note on Exodus 20:11).
2. Second, Deuteronomy 5:15.
“And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day”
In this verse there is, according to Dr. Lin, a progression in the revelation concerning the purpose of the Sabbath. Notice the word “therefore” toward the end of the verse. Here the Sabbath not only commemorates God’s rest after creation, but now is to be kept in memory of the Exodus of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt as well. This shows a progressive revelation concerning the Sabbath.
3. Third, Psalm 118:22-24.
“The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:22-24).
Verses 22-23 refer to the resurrection of Christ from the dead, as Peter pointed out when he quoted verse 22 to the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:10-11. Verse 24 thus refers prophetically to the day Christ rose from the dead.
“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
Matthew Henry said it is to be “understood of the Christian Sabbath [Sunday] which we sanctify in remembrance of Christ’s resurrection” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, 1996 reprint, vol. 3; note on Psalm 118:24). Dr. Gill likewise said that it refers to “the Lord’s Day, kept in commemoration of…the day of his resurrection” (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the Old Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, vol. IV, p. 207; note on Psalm 118:24).
Thus Psalm 118:24 refers prophetically to the Lord’s Day, the day Christ would rise from the dead. Thus, this important Messianic passage in Psalm 118 speaks prophetically of “the day which the Lord hath made,” the day of Christ’s resurrection, the first day of the week, the “Lord’s Day” of the coming New Testament.
By prophecy, this is a third step in the Bible’s progressive revelation between the Sabbath and the “Lord’s Day” on Sunday.
4. Fourth, John 20:19.
“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you” (John 20:19).
Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1) which is Sunday on the Roman calendar, and even on our modern calendars, which still follow the Roman usage.
Later that night, “the same day at evening” (John 20:19) Jesus appeared to the Disciples for the first time since He rose from the dead. It was on Sunday, “the first day of the week” (Matthew 28:1). As Dr. Lin said, “It is the day that the Lord chose for ‘the day’ predicted in the Old Testament.”
Again, on the following “first day” (Sunday) Jesus again appeared to the Disciples, according to John 20:26. So the first two meetings of the resurrected Jesus with His Disciples occurred on Sunday, “the first day of the week.” Dr. Lin said, “In all history what greater event has ever occurred than the Lord’s resurrection…? Thus this day on which the greatest of all events occurred is surely an important one!” In fact Christ’s resurrection on Sunday is the most important day for Christians, since I Corinthians 15:17 says,
“If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (I Corinthians 15:17).
5. Fifth, Acts 20:7.
“And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7).
Since Paul was at Troas for seven days, a sabbath passed by. Dr. Lin said, “yet there was not a single hint that they observed it. On the contrary, when the first day of the week [Sunday] came, the disciples gathered together to break bread, and Paul preached. Why did they have to wait until the first day of the week?” Because that was the day Jesus rose from the dead! “Obviously [the first day of the week] had already become the formal day for Christians’ gathering. Here, besides the importance of the day, [God’s Word] further disclosed [that] worship…should include gathering together, breaking bread, and preaching.” The Bible also revealed that offerings should be taken up on “the first day of the week” (I Corinthians 16:2). Dr. Lin said, “Thus, the authority, the importance, and the program of worship [on the first day] had all been progressively disclosed; but [the name of the first day] was not revealed until the last book of Scripture.”
6. Sixth, Revelation 1:10.
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet” (Revelation 1:10).
Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “The Lord’s Day refers to what we would call Sunday” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume V, p. 893; comment on Revelation 1:10). The Applied New Testament Commentary said, “[By] the time John wrote this book of Revelation, Christians had begun to observe…Sunday…They called it the Lord’s Day, because it was on Sunday that Jesus rose from the dead” (The Applied New Testament Commentary, Kingsway Publications, 1997, p. 1014; note on Revelation 1:10). As Dr. Lin pointed out, the term “Lord’s Day” was used for Christian worship on the first day of the week, the day of Christ’s resurrection. The term “Lord’s Day” thus appears in very early Christian writings, such as the Epistle of Barnabas, 15:9 (written AD 100), the Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, 9:1 (AD 107), and the First Apology of Justin, chapter LXVII (AD 145).
Dr. Lin laid great stress on keeping the Lord’s Day holy. He taught us
…to observe the whole day of the Lord’s Day as truly the Lord’s. Start with worshipping God as Creator in the morning to worshipping God as Heavenly Father in the evening at evening service…putting God first on His day (The Testimony of a Shepherd: A Tribute to Dr. Timothy Lin, First Chinese Baptist Church, 1994).
Under Dr. Lin,
Worshippers learned to show outwardly their inner respect towards God through dressing their best on Sundays and bringing a prepared attitude of holiness and praise to the worship services (The Testimony of a Shepherd, ibid., p. 4).
May this also be the attitude of our church, as we follow Dr. Lin’s teaching. Let us be in church both Sunday morning and evening. Let us come before God dressed appropriately. Let us pray before every service for God’s presence in the worship and preaching.
And above all, let us continue to preach Christ crucified and risen! He died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He rose from the dead to give you life. Come to Jesus and be washed clean from your sins by His precious Blood! Amen!
CLICK HERE TO READ DR. LIN’S BIOGRAPHY ON WIKIPEDIA.
(END OF SERMON)
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