The Lord’s Day (Hebrews 10:19-27)
In John Grisham’s novel, A Painted House, a 7 y.o. named Luke Chandler, narrates what life was like growing up on a cotton farm in AR in the late 1950’s.
A. Throughout the story, Luke has a lot to say about Sunday. It was always a special day when no work could be done, even by the migrant laborers who helped harvest the cotton, & when everyone went to church, except for the most reprehensible citizens of the community of Black Oak, AR.
B. Sundays sure aren’t like that now, are they! Rather than living in a culture which supports & encourages going to church on Sunday, there seems to be a cultural assault on Sunday as a time for worship.
C. Sunday has been commandeered for all sorts of purposes: work, sports, travel, just doing nothing in particular. Most associate Sunday with relaxation & entertainment, not with worship.
D. This isn’t entirely new. While Acts 2:46 tells us that the earliest Christians devoted themselves to worship, Heb. 10:25 notes that some believers were already in the habit of not worshiping. It didn’t take long for that trend to start, did it!
E. Given the fact that neglecting worship is a trend that we are prone to, it’s helpful for us to be reminded of what Sunday – the Lord’s Day – is actually for.
1. The basic purpose is found in the fact that it’s called the Lord’s Day.
A. Note: The Lord’s Day isn’t the same as the day of the Lord often spoken of by the prophets. The day of the Lord was the time of judgment, the end of time when God sets right everything that’s wrong in His world. (See Heb. 10:25 – the Day)
B. The Lord’s Day was a favorite early Christian way of describing what we now call Sunday, the 1st day of the week.
(1) Rev 1:9-11. John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day when he heard a voice telling him to write down the visions he was about to see. It’s usually assumed Jn was worshiping at the time.
C. But why the Lord’s Day?
(1) B/c it was Jesus’ day of victory over the grave. All 4 Gospels report that He arose on the 1st day of the week.
(2) Jn 20:1 & 19 report that on the 1st day of the week He appeared to Mary & to 10 of the apostles.
(3) Acts 20:7 specifies that the church at Troas assembled to break bread on the 1st day of the week.
(4) Some scholars suggest that Pentecost, the day the Spirit was poured & the church came into existence, was on the 1st day of the week, although we can’t know that for sure.
(5) Early Christian writers after the NT indicate that worship on the L.D. (1st Day) was standard Christian practice, precisely b/c it was Resurrection Day.
a. The Didache (approx. A.D. 95) – But every Lord’s day. . . gather yourselves together & break bread, & give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.
b. Ignatius of Antioch (AD 110) – If therefore those who lived according to the old practices (i.e., Jews) have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him & by His death. . . Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner . . . let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s day as a festival, the resurrection day, the queen & chief of all days of the week. (Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians)
c. Justin Martyr (First Apology, AD 140) wrote, And on the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a city or rural district. . . But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, b/c it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness & matter, made the world; & Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.
D. So the LD is a celebration of our deliverance from sin, of the source of our hope, & a reminder of the future joys that await us b/c of what Jesus, our great High Priest, has done for us, especially b/c He both died & then rose on the 1st day of the week.
E. So Sunday isn’t Our Day – it’s the Lord’s Day. Scripture shows it is to be used to worship & serve Him, not for our own purposes.
F. Note: The LD isn’t the Christian Sabbath as some call it. But like the Sabbath, it should be a day when God gets priority, even more than on other days.
2. The LD is a weekly declaration that we are committed to Christ every day.
A. Example: When asked to do something, we sometimes explain that we can’t b/c we have a prior commitment that day.
B. As followers of Jesus, that’s true of us every day. Our commitment to Christ has already been made.
(1) When you were baptized into Christ, you weren’t just receiving forgiveness & new life through God’s Spirit.
(2) You were also committing your life to Christ. Mark 8:34 – deny self, take up your cross, & follow me.
C. That means your life belongs to Him (1 Cor 6:9 – bought with a price), & He is to have 1st priority all the time.
D. Being in Christ isn’t like your job – go to it at certain times & fulfill obligations, then go home. Rather, it’s more like a marriage – something that is true of you 24/7, defines who you are, affects everything you do.
E. The last thing that ought to happen in a Christian’s life is the failure to worship the One who has redeemed you b/c you prefer to fulfill your own desires instead of His. Refusing to worship = the very opposite of self-denial!
3. Worshiping on the Lord’s Day is a Firewall against unfaithfulness.
A. Heb 10:19 says b/c Jesus is our High Priest, we should have confidence to enter the heavenly places.
B. As a result, we should draw near (an expression for worship), hold fast the confession of our hope w/out wavering, & consider how to stir up one another to love & good works (vs. 22-24).
C. What we should NOT do is stated in v 25 – make a habit of neglecting to meet with other Christians. When we do, we’re failing in our responsibility to stir up one another & to receive encouragement from others.
D. But the writer has more in mind: v 26 & 27 – For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, & a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
E. That’s why worship each LD is a firewall against falling away. Just as a literal firewall keeps a fire away from us, & a computer firewall protects us from unpleasant intrusions, so worship keeps us from even getting close to turning away from Christ.
F. Now, the sinning deliberately isn’t missing worship, but it’s the same sin of apostasy – falling completely away from Christ – that he warned about in chap 6. And consistent failure to worship on the Lord’s Day makes us far more susceptible to committing that deliberate sin of turning away from Christ.
(1) Do you know how most people start down the road of turning from Christ? Not all at once, but gradually, first of all by becoming inconsistent about worship!
(2) It’s wrong to deliberately miss worship, but the great folly of it is, it puts you closer to the point of turning away completely, & you should NEVER go there!
G. Why does he say there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins? B/c if you turn away from Christ, you have no other sacrifice that will help you. See 10:4 – the blood of bulls & goats can’t do it!
H. Besides, look at what an insult to God it is to turn away from His Son: Violation of law of Moses brings death at testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses (v 28). How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, & has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, & has outraged the Spirit of grace? (V 29).
I. And how does it all begin? With refusing to meet together to worship the One who died for us to save us.
J. In vs. 30-31 he says something we may not want to hear, but we need to: God has said, Vengeance is mine, I will repay. And again, The Lord will judge His people. (Deut 32:35-36).
K. The he adds, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
(1) Listen: If you’re right with God, there’s no better place to be than in His hands. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you (1 Pet 5:6).
(2) But the last thing you want to do is to fall into the hands of the living God if you have trampled underfoot the blood of His Son.
(3) Missing church isn’t the same as doing that – but it’s pointing you in that direction. No one ever drew closer to God by staying away from worship!
So no matter what the culture around you thinks about Sunday, it’s a day when you have a prior commitment. And that prior commitment is to meet with God’s people & praise His name for what He has done for you, & to lend your voice & your efforts to stirring up others to love & good works.