Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Friday, April 01, 2011

IS THE TEACHING OF ROMANS 14:5 INIMICAL TO AN UNDERSTANDING THAT THE LORD’S DAY IS THE PROPER DAY FOR CHRISTIAN CORPORATE WORSHIP? (Part 3)

The Identification of “the Lord’s Day” in Revelation 1:10

In order to determine whether the teaching of Romans 14:5 is inimical to an understanding of the Lord’s Day as the proper day for Christian corporate worship, we must first determine the definition of “the Lord’s Day,” as found in Revelation 1:10. In the discussion below, I seek to examine the historical evidence regarding the meaning of "the Lord's Day;" in a subsequent post, the biblical evidence will be examined in order to identify this term.

Historical Evidence

The use of historical evidence. In identifying “the Lord’s Day” of Revelation 1:10, we must first turn to the historical evidence in order to do grammatical-historical exegesis of the portion of the text in question. The phrase “the Lord's Day” is a hapax legomenon. And while, in general, Christian doctrine cannot be established, and ought not to be established, on the basis of the evidence of Church History, at the same time, it is also true that when we define the hapax legomena in Scripture, it is common to go to the usage of those words and phrases that are so designated to the surrounding literature of the period. Below, it will be argued that within the surrounding literature of the period in which the book of Revelation was written the term “the Lord's Day” has a clear and well-understood meaning. This argument is not building doctrine upon Church History, but is an attempt to define a word in its historical context in the way that is done with the 686 hapax legomena that occur in the New Testament[1] and the approximately 1300 that occur in the Old Testament.[2] Clearly, John the apostle in writing the book of Revelation and referring to “the Lord's Day” assumed both that he knew what “the Lord's Day” was and that the people to whom he was writing knew what it was. So in Revelation 1:10 we have the Lord's Day—widely understood, and not in need of even any explanation— that has significance for early Christians.[3]

The date of Revelation. In determining which literature is most relevant to the historical context of Revelation, it is important to identify the date in which Revelation was written. For the purpose of the argument below I follow G.K. Beale, who cites a “consensus among twentieth-century scholars,” as well as “the firm tradition stemming from Irenaeus,” and sets the date of Revelation at c.95 A.D.[4]

The Didache. Steve Gregg notes that, “The majority of expositors… take ‘in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day’ to be a reference to John’s state of mind on the first day of the week— our Sunday.”[5] Gregg references the Didache 14:1, which states, “On every Lord's Day— his special day— come together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure.”[6] By this, we know that “the Lord’s Day” was viewed as a day set apart for corporate worship. The Didache is a manual for church order that had been “widely disseminated” by A.D. 100,[7] and thus it must have been written very near the time that John composed the book of Revelation.

Ignatius. Ignatius in Chapter 9 of the Epistle to the Magnesians wrote of the Christian observance of “the Lord's Day,” referring to “the Lord's Day” as "the eighth day" [coming after the seventh day], and specifically tying Lord's Day worship to the resurrection of Christ.[8] Ignatius lived from A.D. 30-A.D. 107, and thus was writing within 22 years of the completion of the book of Revelation.

Barnabas. Beale notes of “the Lord’s Day” in Revelation 1:10, “The phrase is clearly and consistently used of Sunday from the second half of the second century on.”[9] Beale references Barnabas 15:9, which states, “Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead.”[10]

Justin Martyr. Another important witness from the early-to-mid-second century is Justin Martyr (A.D. 103-A.D. 165). In Chapter 67 of his First Apology, Justin did not use the term "Lord's Day," but he wrote of regular Christian worship on Sunday (in distinction from the other days), again tying this worship to the resurrection of Christ.[11]

Tertullian. A final witness, from the late second century, is Tertullian (c.160 A.D.-c.220 A.D.). In To the Nations Chapter 13 Tertullian makes passing reference to the Christian practice of holding Sunday as a special day of festivity.[12]

Conclusion. In Christian literature written in close temporal proximity to the book of Revelation, the Lord’s Day is known as a special day of corporate worship, taking place on the first day of the week [sometimes referred to as the eighth day, or Sunday], and the Christian practice of worshiping together on the Lord’s Day is specifically related to the resurrection of Christ on the first day. No alternative explanation of the phrase “the Lord’s Day” exists in early Christian literature. This is the common understanding of “the Lord’s Day” that would have been shared by the original readers of the book of Revelation.



[1] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck,eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament Edition (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 1983), 860.

[2]Sam Waldron, “’Saturday or Sunday: Which Day is the Christian Sabbath?’ A Debate Between Baptists (Part 4)” [on-line]; accessed 14 July 2010; available from http://sharpens.blogspot.com/2010/05/saturday-or-sunday-which-day-is_14.html; MP3.

[3]Ibid.

[4]G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 4, 27.

[5]Steve Gregg, Revelation, Four Views: A Parallel Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), 59.

[6]Didache [on-line]; accessed 14 July 2010; available from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/richardson/fathers.viii.i.iii.html; Internet.

[7]Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), 26.

[8]Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, 9 [on-line]; accessed 15 July 2010; available from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.v.iii.ix.html#v.iii.ix-p1.1; Internet.

[9]Beale, The Book of Revelation, 203.

[10]Barnabas [on-line]; accessed 14 July 2010; available from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.vi.ii.xv.html; Internet.

[11]Justin Martyr, First Apology, 67 [on-line]; accessed 15 July 2010; available from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.ii.lxvii.html#viii.ii.lxvii-p1.4; Internet.

[12]Tertullian, To The Nations, 13 [on-line]; accessed 15 July 2010; available from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.iv.viii.i.xiii.html; Internet.

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