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Sunday Services Are Not Commanded

John Howell comments
| Faith

This year Christmas falls on a Sunday. Many churches will opt to not hold a service Sunday morning and instead meet on Saturday. A lot of people are pretty upset over this. I would like to take a brief moment to analyze why this is and if we as Christians should be upset over what day of the week a church chooses to gather together on.

One of the reasons I hear as to why churches should never ever be closed on Christmas is because Christmas is a pagan holiday and therefore should not be celebrated. I’m going to ignore the origins of Christmas here because frankly, it doesn’t matter. Christianity is all about “the Word became flesh”, Emmanuel, this is one of our bedrock characteristics. We believe and proclaim a God who is completely Other from this world, and yet he has chosen to be immanent and “with us”. God comes to us and we are then brought near to him. The Gospel is always concerned with culture and yet, it itself is never of one particular people or place. It comes to culture and plants itself in it. The Gospel never seeks to completely eradicate culture, rather it grows within it, becoming relevant and prophetic. The Gospel is the critique of the culture and the restorer of it. So we can say with confidence that the Gospel is for everyone. It matters not where one comes from, what socio-political context they grew up in, what religious background they inherited or anything else. The Gospel is able to speak to them and to restore their world.

Christmas does have pagan roots historically. The Gospel has high jacked Christmas and made it a holiday for the celebration of the antithesis of all pagan thought: the idea that God is completely Other, not a part of the world, and therefore sovereign and in control of his world. Christmas began pagan and now is celebrated the world over as the holiday to recognize and celebrate the incarnation of God into the world. This is what we do as Christians. We take every thought and idea captive and bring it into submission to Christ. We exercise dominion over the earth. Taking a pagan holiday and making it no longer pagan, but Christian, is actually what we are supposed to do and should inspire us to love Christmas even more.

This next reason I hear as to why churches must never be closed on a Christmas Sunday is, because Sunday is the Lord’s Day and therefore we must always meet on Sundays. This has a great weight historically. Christians have primarily, with few exceptions, met on the first day of the week. Jesus resurrected on a Sunday and according to the narratology of the Gospel of John, that first day of the week was the first day of a new reality, see John 20:1. I love Sundays and love that we as a majority meet corporately and gather on Sundays for worship, word and sacrament. There is however, very little weight in the idea that Sunday worship, meaning the church cannot meet on another day instead, is a command. Actually, it’s not in there, in the Bible, at all. This is because in Christianity, the focus and the meaning are not to be placed or found in religious rite or observance, but rather in the risen King of Kings. We do not pray to statues or dead things, we do not observe certain days or weeks, because we serve a living God. We do not merely remember Him as He once lived, we experience Him in the here and now. Sunday worship is not a requirement of the faith, but worship is. If a church community decides to meet on Saturday instead of Sunday, there is no biblical reason to be alarmed.

Granting this, if a church decides that it is prudent to meet on a Saturday, like the Christmas eve before the Christmas Sunday, they are well within their right to do so. They are not sinning by meeting on a different day, they are not neglecting their people. Does the Bible justify a judgment of sin upon a people for meeting in the name of Christ due to the day they meet? Is “Where two or more are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst, as long as they are meeting on a Sunday morning” in the Bible? Is not Sola Scriptura still a foundation upon which we think and act?

So for those who have their triggers pulled and their undies wadded over what some Churches decide to do regarding meeting on a day other than Sunday, simma down nah. Read some 1 Corinthians 10 and breathe. There are actual things we are to get riled up over, a war is really raging even now. Babies are being sacrificed to the Molech of our day and his alter of convenience and autonomy, false doctrine is rampant, our pulpits are weak and beggarly leading to a people that care nothing for their political and social responsibilities and here we are… completely out of our minds because the church up the street is meeting on Saturday rather than on Sunday.

We are called to gather and to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together”, not to judge whether a community of fellow believers are gathering on the right day. So Merry Christmas, Christ has come and he is risen. Whether you eat or drink or whenever you meet, do all to the glory of God.


John Howell

John is a ruling and teaching elder at Grace Church of Dunedin. He lives in Clearwater, FL with his wife Jillian and their two sons, Elijah (5) and Corbin (9 months). He is a co-founder of Datpostmil podcast and ministry, and himself has blogged at Inside Shalom for the past ten years.

John is currently working on his M.Div at Knox Theological Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It his John's desire to see the victory of Christ applied to every area of life and culture as his Kingdom continues to rush into this broken world.

My Website: http://www.GCofDunedin.com