Topics in this Q&A: Sunday as the day of worship; serving one another while not at church; social media posts against the government and fake news.
Does the Bible require Sunday as the day of corporate worship? What about Christians in countries or other situations where another weekday is dedicated to worship?
Sunday has been the day of worship for Christians from as early as the time of the Apostles in the New Testament. Although no command to do so is even hinted at in the NT, there are a few clues that indeed Sunday was the day of corporate worship for the Christians. Acts 20:7 records how the church in Troas met for the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week, and then also became the time for the Apostle Paul to teach them. In 1 Cor 16:2 the first day of the week was the day in which Paul asked for the financial collection to be taken, presumably because it was when the Church would gather for worship. Although, once again, the link in Scripture is never made, it is very likely that the first day of the week became the chosen day by the Christians because it is the same weekday on which Jesus rose from the grave. Gathering as the Church and partaking in communion on the first day of the week, would therefore hold an additionally joyful significance. In some of the church writings after the New Testament period the first day of the week is referred to as “the Lord’s Day”. This is a Roman tradition, somewhat similar to our national holidays, where a day a month was set aside to honour same famous Roman man—the Christians redeemed that custom for a weekly remembrance of their Lord and God. This title “the Lord’s Day” differs from “the day of the Lord” which has more of an End Times connotation. Instead “the Lord’s Day” appears only once in the New Testament, and is perhaps the first reference to Sunday being defined more formally by Christians as the day dedicated to a special remembrance of the Lord Jesus. This appearance is in Revelation 1:10 and has no reference to church worship or to the first day of the week, but could well be the only Biblical usage of what later became much more common.
That is a somewhat lengthy explanation on why “the first day of the week” became the Christian day of worship and over time became known as “the Lord’s day”. NT church practise (at least the Gentile churches in Corinth and in Troas), and early church tradition all seem to agree on Sunday as the day of worship. However, there is not command, not even a hint of it, throughout the Scriptures. For us in a Saturday-Sunday weekend setting, the Sunday day of worship as “the Lord’s Day” is a wonderful weekly privilege. For those in, for example, Muslim countries where Friday might be more suitable for corporate worship, it might be perfectly permissible to imitate the early church and redeem the pagan custom and exploit it for true worship.
How do I diligently keep serving my church during lockdown?
That is a question that is going to test our faith in many ways in the coming months. For the initial lockdown we might have not have thought about it too much, since it was just “for the time being”, but the reality of the pandemic is sinking in, and we need to ask how we will continue our faithfulness to the Lord during lockdown.
One of the areas of faithfulness to the Lord is clearly our serving to one another. There are sixty direct references to our duties to “one another” in the New Testament letters to the churches! “Praying for one another” (James 5:16) and “forgiving one another” (Col 3:13) might be easy to fulfil irrespective of lockdown, but “serve one another” (1 Pet 4:10) might need some more creativity. Yet, among all the “one another” commands in the NT, the command to “love one another” is the most common. Just like “love your neighbour as yourself” was the timeless commandment of the LORD God that fleshed itself out in many customised laws for Israel at the time of Moses, so “love one another” is the timeless commandment of the Lord Jesus for His church, customised in the various other “one another” commandments. The customisations are merely applications of “love”. Therefore, if you are restricted by serious health concerns from “showing hospitality to one another” (1 Pet 4:9), do not merely see it as an impossibility and move on, instead see it as a practical expression of “love one another” which can be fulfilled in many other ways too.
Here are some ways to renew your mind about your Christian duty to the rest of your Church while under lockdown. Study the “One Another’s” of Scripture. A worksheet with a list of all the verses is attached below. For each of them, consider the application in the original context, and consider how it can be applied to your lockdown context. What you will realise in this exercise is that the vase majority of the “one another” commandments can be practised in lockdown quite easily. It might, perhaps, require a more intentional form of communication for the other to know that you are serving them in that way, so make the most of your technology (send a message before or after “praying for one another”, call personally to find out how it is going instead of just relying on group messages to “care for one another”, etc.). The “serve one another” commandment in particular is not spelled out in its particulars, but is rather defined in terms of your spiritual gifting. Therefore, consider how God has equipped you in your affections, desires, and thoughts towards one another, and invent ways to demonstrate that to one another in ways that builds them up in the faith. Remember, each “one another” commandment is merely a customisations of “love one another”; let that keep you focussed on the divine intention with each commandment.
What do I do with all the messages I receive from others attacking the government?
Exploit them for godliness.
That is the short answer. In times of trouble, those in leadership are burdened with incredible responsibilities and need to consider all factors and give decisive direction without the luxury of negotiating every detail with every person involved. Consequently, in a situation like our lockdown situation, countless citizens jump on the bandwagon of opinionated criticism with varying levels of a lack of insight. Then, in the predictable pattern of the proverbial fool, the pour out their thoughts (Pro 15:2) in words typed out in messages broadcasted with ease to each person in their contact list.
So, as the short answer above says, exploit such messages for godliness. Since it brought the government to your mind, pray for them (1 Tim 2:1-2), since the person’s name is in your mind, pray for them (also 1 Tim 2:1-2), and as you have opportunity, witness to them on how to respond to those in authority (1 Pet 2:13-17). With the complementing wisdom of Proverbs 26:4-5, use the message as an opportunity to display a Christian response (or simply send Pro 15:1-4 or any of the above verses to them), or ask to be removed from their broadcast list.
1 Peter 2:13-17 is indeed the go-to passage for times and messages like these. Use it to write your own message to keep your mind godly, and send it to those who will be evangelised (the people who sent it to you perhaps!) or edified by it (i.e., every person in the church is now expecting a message to that effect from you!)
What do I do with the many fear-inducing messages that often turn out to be ‘fake news’?
Perhaps a short answer will again be best: “Delete them”. There is not place for fear-mongering and untruths among Christians. I intend to write an entire post on this topic some time next week, but for now, ignore everything that is not verifiable true and let all you do be done for building up. We need not fear, for God is with us. We need not be manipulated by half-truths and exaggerated rumours, for we are people of the Truth. Ultimately we trust the Lord, not the good-intentioned, but seriously misguided and paranoid friend (Ps 56:3-4).
But again, as with the previous question, exploit it for God’s Kingdom. The person who sent you the messages might well be filled with fear. Minister comfort to them; tell them about God’s who never leaves or forsakes His own and who turns even evil into good (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28). They might have no reference point for true and fake news. Tell them about God’s Word that is true, and show them how to tell if a message is commending knowledge or pouring out folly (Pro 15:2).
Sermon suggestion: Psalm 56 “A Habit of Trust“