James E. Finley

There is a song in many of the hymn books entitled "Upon The First Day of The Week". The words of this song are:

Upon the first day of the week,
Our Savior came forth from the grave,
He died, was buried, then arose,
To reign, to triumph, and to save!

Upon the first day of the week,
Disciples met to break the bread,
And drink the cup in memory,
Of Him whose blood for us was shed!

Upon the first day of the week,
Let each of us lay by in store,
As blessed and prospered by the Lord,
The King of kings whom we adore!

Upon this day "beloved" John
Saw Christ, and heard His trumpet voice;
We, too, in spirit worship Him,
With pray'r and song our hearts rejoice!

Though others may forsake the Lord
Yet, we are here Thy truth to seek;
Thy holy presence comforts us,
Upon the first day of the week.

This song expresses very well the traditional beliefs about the first day of file week or "Lord's day" as we are taught to call it. Most people have some rather strong beliefs concerning the Lord's day. We have grown up in a society that thinks of Sunday as the Lord's Day. We really had no cause to question the matter in ally way and because of the general acceptance of this idea, we grew to think that we should observe the first day of the week as a special religious day. It was that day on which we were to "go to Church". We have been taught that God commands us to assemble to "take" the Lord's supper and to give money to the Church on that day. Further, we have been taught that it would be improper to do these two acts on any other day because of the "law of exclusion."

When these cherished beliefs about the Lord's day are questioned, there are four claims or arguments commonly given for holding such beliefs:

(1) Acts 20:7 commands us, by means of a binding example, to meet on Sunday, the Lord's day, to eat the Lord's Supper.

(2) 1 Cor. 16:2 commands us, by means of a binding example, to assemble on Sunday, the Lord's day, to contribute money to the Church.

(3) Revelation 1:10 designates Sunday or the first day of the week as the Lord's day.

(4) The Savior arose on the first day of the week, therefore Sunday must be observed to honor that event.

Please examine with me these four points to see if what we are told is really tree. First, let's look at Acts 20 and an incident recorded there beginning with the seventh verse. You will remember that Paul was at Troas. He met on the first day of the week with the disciples who "came together to break bread". In order to have something to compare with what your Bible says, we will see how this scripture is worded in a "new" translation:

On Sunday morning, when the disciples met to take the Lord's Supper as the Lord commanded, Paul spoke to them. He continued his speech at the evening services and spoke past midnight because he was departing on Monday (Acts 20:7 POV).

Now, remember, this is from a "new" translation that you probably have not seen. We will discuss the translation later, but first, let's consider what a joy this translation will bring to the hearts of many because it agrees with preconceived notions and upholds some very cherished beliefs. This translation of Acts 20:7 makes it clear that we are commanded to perform just exactly as we are already doing. It fits our current practice. We can read it and be very comfortable with our beliefs.

As you might imagine, this translation renders Acts 20:11 as follows:

When he came back up he was hungry, therefore, he ate some food before continuing his speech. He spoke until morning and departed (Acts 20:11 POV).

We now have it all wrapped up in a neat little package, just like it should be. This "new" translation makes it abundantly clear. We can remain comfortable in our present practice and know that we are pleasing God. Such a translation has been needed for a long time and will surely be welcomed by all who strive to "live by the letter of the law". Perhaps we have finally found a translation that is even better than the King James Version.

Surely, by now, you have determined that all of this is fiction. As a certain song says "If you believe that, I've got some ocean front property in Arizona". This translation has not been published but if it were, the sales would surely be good. As a matter of fact, many people have already bought it, hook, line and sinker. It is called the "POPULAR OPINION VERSION" or POV. It is subtitled: "The Bible As We Want It". The sad fact is that although it has not been published, it does really exist. It is written in the hearts and minds of thousands of good and honest people because deep down that is really what they believe about Acts 20:7. The idea is put in print here to help us compare common beliefs with what Luke actually said and more importantly what he did NOT say. Please compare this so-called "translation'' with what your Bible says. It will help in determining what Luke actually did say about this incident in Troas.

After making the comparison as suggested, it should be clear that there are some things that Acts 20:7 does NOT say. Consider the following:

(1) The text does not say what time of day the people met. We know they were together at night but we do not know the starting time.

(2) It does not say whether the writer was using Jewish time or Roman time, therefore, we can not know if the midnight mentioned is our Saturday midnight or Sunday midnight.

(3) The text does not say the people met "to eat the Lord's supper". "To break bread" could be a common meal.

(4) The text says nothing about a command.

(5) By the same token, verse 11 does not state the reason for Paul's eating. It could have been to satisfy hunger or it could have been the memorial supper or both. It does not say that anyone else ate or that anyone, including Paul drank "fruit of the vine".

Now, let's look at what the text DOES say. Please read your Bible to see if it ACTUALLY says more.

(1) The text plainly states that the disciples came together or met.

(2) The meeting was on the first day of the week.

(3) Their purpose for meeting was to "break bread". (This could have been a common meal, the Lord's Supper, or both. It is interesting that people will say that we must eat the Lord's Supper on Sunday because that is what they did at Troas. When you ask, "How do you know Acts 20:7 is talking about the Lord's Supper," the immediate answer is that it has to be the Lord's Supper because it is on the first day of the week.)

(4) It is clear that Paul was planning to leave the next day.

(5) Paul preached until midnight.

This is the total of what we can learn from verse 7. In the eleventh verse we are told that Paul returned to his preaching after being interrupted by Eutychus falling. We are further told that he ate bread. This was either early Sunday morning or early Monday morning. We do not know the purpose for his eating or if others also ate.

We have long tried to make a command out of Acts 20:7, but there is no command there. Verses 7 though 11 relate an event that occurred in Troas. The point of the story seems to be that Paul restored life to a man who had been killed by a fall from a third story window'. By the way, if we are so determined to follow the examples why don't we insist on eating the Lord's Supper in an upper room? They were upstairs here and the Lord started the practice in an upper room. Why not require preachers to preach until midnight? Why not require them to depart on the next day? The incident recorded in Acts 20:7-11 is an interesting bit of history but it is not a command from God.

When God wants to give a command He can speak clearly and remove all doubts about His wishes. He told the occupants of Eden "don't eat that fruit". That seems to be clear enough. Someone has said: "He didn't give the Israelites ten suggestions". Those ten commands or tell words were very clear, "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not". For more discussion of commands, read Art Thompson's excellent article "It Seems To Me" in tile May, 1989 issue of THE EXAMINER. As he says, "we are not playing hide the commands with God".

Now let's look at 1 Cor. 16:2. Again, we will use the POV.

At each regular Sunday morning worship service, each one of you must give to the Church an amount of money based on your individual earnings for the previous week. That way, you will not have to take up a special collection when I come (1 Cot'. 16:2 POV).

Well, once again, the POV comes through for us in great shape. It seems a little silly when we see it in print, but what you have just read is what many people really think this verse says. Let's notice what it does NOT say:

(1) It does not say anything about an assembly, "worship service" or any kind of meeting. As a matter of fact, the original language appears to mean to store the treasure at home. (For more discussion of that point, see Dusty Owen's article, "Lay By Him In Store" in the November, 1987 issue of THE EXAMINER.) Without going into that, surely, we can all agree that there is no assembly in this verse.

(2) It does not say that we are to give money to a Church or a Church treasury. It says nothing about a continuing operating fund of any sort.

(3) It does not give us a command to assemble on Sunday. How can it do so without mentioning an assembly?

(4) It does not say that the first day of the week or Sunday must be observed as any kind of special day.

(5) It does not tell us why Paul selected the first day of the week.

(6) It doesn't even say anything about money.

The verse does tell us that Paul instructed the Corinthians to set something aside each first day of the week and store it up so that it will be ready when he (Paul) comes. We can surely see that this verse falls far short of teaching anything about the first day of the week being the Lord's day.

Then we come to Revelation 1:10 and the POV really has to stretch a point here but let's see what it says.

I was in the Spirit at the regular hour of worship on Sunday, the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet..." (Rev. 1:10 POV).

Now, you just have to be saying to yourself, "but it just doesn't say that" and you are right. It amazes me to see how many commentators simply state, in explanation of this verse, that the Lord's Day is Sunday. Look at what it does NOT say:

(1) It doesn't say anything about a day of the week.

(2) It doesn't tell us what the Lord's day consists of or when it might occur.

In the original language the words translated "on" and "in" are identical, it appears that consistency would demand that they be translated the same in the same sentence. Also notice that the article "the" preceding "spirit" is not in the original, it seems that it should read something like "I became, in spirit, in the Lord's Day" or "I became, in spirit, in the day of the Lord". John is telling us how he came to receive the Revelation. It seems that he is about to tell of events that were to happen "in the Lord's Day". John was privileged to witness events before they happened. He was, in spirit, in the future. To say the least, this text does not tell us when the Lord's day is or whether it is a 24 hour period or perhaps longer period of time. [For more discussion of the Lord's day, see John Wood's article "Which Day" in the November, 1988 issue of THE EXAMINER.]

The final argument usually advanced for observing Sunday as the Lord's day is that the Savior arose on that day (Mark 16:9). Some argue that we cannot prove that was his resurrection day, because of questions about the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20, but without getting into that argument, just consider the question: "What tells us that we are to meet together on Sunday to observe the resurrection?'' I don't find such a command, it can only be assumed. Once more, if God gives a command, He can do better than that!

Because of my background, it was not easy for me to do so, but I have come to the conclusion that we do not have a day of the week that is to be designated "the Lord's Day". The Lord's Day, in that sense, was created by man and is used to support the practice and teaching of the institutional CHURCH. You must give on Sunday, you must assemble on Sunday, you must celebrate the Lord's Supper on Sunday! Where? "At Church!" That is why Sunday is called the "Lord's Day"; and that is why ideas like those presented here get such bitter and determined opposition.