Is Sunday the Divinely appointed day for Christians to assemble? I have heard preachers teach that it is, perhaps you have as well. Without a doubt, Christians are supposed to meet together. Hebrews 10:25 says, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing...".
If you read the passage in your Bible, you will notice that it does not tell us what day to meet on. As a matter of fact, there is no passage in all of the New Testament which says there is a specific day when Christians are required to meet. The Bible simply says to meet together and gives no instruction about when or how often. Secular history does indeed record that the early Christians met together on Sundays. This fact is not in dispute. However, it is one thing to acknowledge what the early church did and quite another to say that God ordered it to be that way. If God selected the first day of the week to be the "official" day for church assemblies, would He not have directly said so in the pages of the New Testament? After all, He expressed Himself very clearly in the requirements of the Old Testament.
In spite of this, there are many people who insist that God has appointed the first day of the week as a day when the church is required to assemble. To backup their claim two passages are cited; Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-3. It is said that these passage prove that the early church met together on Sunday and therefore we are required to imitate that example.
Proof or assumptions?
A careful reading of the two passages will show that there is actually no mention of a church assembly. While the first day of the week is mentioned in both, it cannot be proven that an assembly of the church is being discussed.
On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.
Please read the first 16 verses of chapter 20 for the sake of context and notice what the passage says.
- Paul and his traveling companions were in Troas for seven days
- Paul and his traveling companions gathered on the first day of the week
- They came together for the purpose of breaking bread
- Paul talked to “them” (not us) which implies others were assembled in addition to the travelers. This would be Eutychus and at least one other person, perhaps more.
- Paul talked until midnight.
Does the passage say that Paul and his traveling companions waited seven days for Sunday to roll around so they could assemble with the church on the Divinely appointed day? No, we would have to assume this. Does the passage ever mention the church at Troas? No, we would have to assume they were present. Does the passage say that they met for the purpose of eating the Lord's Supper? No, it says they met to "break bread". It is assumed that "breaking bread" is a figure of speech referring to the Lord's Supper (see the article entitled "Breaking Bread"). Does the passage say that Paul lectured (preached to) an assembly of the local church? No, it says he talked with those present. In reality, we don't know who was present with the exception of Paul, his eight companions and Eutychus. We don't even know if Eutychus was a Christian. We don't know who the "them" of verse 7 is. Were they Christians? We don't know!
The traditional interpretation of this passage relies upon a great deal of conjecture and assumption. To say that Acts chapter 20 records a meeting of the church is to make a statement which cannot be proven. Could it have been a meeting of the church? Possibly, but it is also possible, perhaps even probable, that it was not. For additional considerations and explanations of this passage, please read the article "The Lord's Supper: What Day, How Often?".
1 Corinthians 16:1-3
Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.
The traditionalist concludes from this passage that Paul is giving instructions about the proper method for funding the church treasury. They believe Paul is specifying the only acceptable day that a church collection can be taken up and that it must be collected every Sunday during an assembly of the church. Does the passage mention an assembly of the church? No it doesn't, the assembly is assumed . Does the passage mention collecting money prior to Paul's arrival? No it doesn't, a pooling of money prior to his arrival is assumed. Does the passage mention a church treasury? No it doesn't, the treasury is assumed.
If the assembly, collection and treasury isn't under consideration, then what is the passage talking about? Paul was organizing a relief effort for the Christians who were suffering from a famine in Judea. His instruction was for them to be saving their money prior to his arrival. He is telling them that the setting aside of money is to commence now, and is to continue until he comes to Corinth. The emphasis is upon saving now while waiting for Paul's arrival so that a larger sum could be collected for the suffering saints. To do otherwise meant making a last minute gathering after he arrives. If they follow his instructions, there will be a bountiful gift ready when he arrives. If they fail to follow his instructions, gatherings would have to be made after his arrival and would result in whatever pitiful sum they could scrape together on short notice. Paul's emphasis is upon gathering the most relief money that the Corinthians can muster. The emphasis is not on how it was to be gathered! Furthermore, there is every reason to believe that after the needs in Jerusalem were met, the weekly savings would stop.
If the "setting aside" didn't go into a church treasury during the assembly, why did Paul specify the first day of the week? Based on secular history, it is reasonable to assume that the Corinthians did assemble on Sunday. If they did, what better day to reflect upon how God had blessed them than when they were in a spiritual frame of mind? While pondering spiritual things, and considering their own prosperity along side the needs of suffering Christians in Jerusalem, this would be a good day for a decision about how much to set aside for their brethren. Is this conclusion based upon an assumption? Yes, but so is the traditional conclusion. The important thing to recognize here is that both conclusions are based upon assumptions.
With the above in mind, the bottom line is: it cannot be proven that an assembly of the church on the first day of the week is under consideration in this passage. There is simply not enough evidence to warrant such a conclusion. For more information about this passage, consider reading the article "Pass the Plate".
Doctrine or Tradition?
If we can't prove that Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 record a meeting of the church on Sunday, then it isn't doctrine we are talking about but tradition. It is the tradition of the Lord's people to assemble on Sundays. This is true today and secular history records that it was true in the earliest days of the church as well. As a matter of fact, the practices of the very first Christians was to meet daily (Acts 2:46). This being the case, there is more Biblical evidence that Christians assembled daily as opposed to weekly.
Neither the day nor the frequency of our gathering together is specified in the New Testament. I find it very ironic that the only way to know when the early Christians assembled together isn't found in the Bible, but in secular history. To be sure, Christians should meet together often in order to strengthen one another spiritually. Sunday is an excellent day to choose, but we must recognize that there is no proof in the Bible that God has mandated Sunday as the day of our assembling together.