Discover the Joy
of the Lord's Day
A Study Guide For Individuals and Classes Related To
The Past, Present and Future of Sunday, The Lord’s Day!
(The following study guide was developed by the Lord’s Day Alliance of Pennsylvania and has been made available to all interested churches, groups and individuals at no cost.)
To our great-grandfathers it was the Holy Sabbath.
To our grandfathers it was the Sabbath.
To our fathers it was just Sunday.
But, to most people today, it is simply the weekend.
Is Sunday different from the other days of the week? When I was growing up way back in the 1960’s, there were things called “blue laws.” Basically, these “blue laws” forced just about all businesses to close on Sunday. In the small town where I grew up in Central Pennsylvania, there was only one small mom-and-pop country store that was open on Sunday, and their one gas pump was the only place to fuel up your car on Sunday. All of the larger stores and gas stations had to close.
Later in the 1960’s, those “blue laws” were struck down by the courts and just about all businesses started to open their doors seven days a week. As a result, Sunday became one of the busiest shopping days. And, as the little verse listed above states, for most people, Sunday is simply the weekend…not much different from any other day.
Should Sunday be different from other days? I believe that God created it to be different…special, if you will. And, I also believe that God wants each of us to make this day a time of special observance and celebration for ourselves and our families. But, why should we do this? What does the Bible say? How can we make Sunday a special day? And, how can we discover the joy of this special day?
To help you and the members of your church, Sunday school class or other Bible study group find the answers to these questions, the Lord’s Day Alliance of Pennsylvania created this special study guide. The guide is intended to help you learn about the history of the Jewish sabbath, what Jesus said about the sabbath, how and why Christians began to observe Sunday as their sabbath and ways that each of us can better observe Sunday as a day to honor and worship Jesus Christ, but also to make it a true day of rest and renewal.
The material in this study guide is designed to help you create a study related to “the past, present and future of Sunday, the Lord’s Day.” But, I also hope that you will add your own insights and ideas to help make your study a truly life-changing event. The study is divided into four parts: “The History of the Jewish Sabbath,” “Jesus and the Sabbath,” “The Change from the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day,” and “Where Do We Go from Here?” The first three sections begin with a “Section Introduction” followed by several Bible passages. These passages are followed by several “Questions To Think About.” If you are working on the study by yourself, I urge you to stop and think about how you would answer each question. You may wish to write your answers on a separate sheet of paper. If you are using this study with a group, be sure to stop and discuss each question with the entire group. The fourth section, “Where Do We Go from Here?” is designed to help focus each participant’s attention on what they have learned during the study and to help each person think of ways that hey might better and more effectively observe the Lord’s Day, in a way that will be pleasing to Him.
Before you start to read and study the material that follows, each person involved with this study is urged to take 5 minutes or so to make a list of the various things or activities that are now usually involved with their typical Sunday. For example, eating breakfast out, going to church, reading the Sunday paper, having lunch with your family, visiting relatives, going shopping at the mall, etc. We will ask you to refer back to this list later in the study.
The History of the Jewish Sabbath…
The Bible tells us that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” In other words, God created the entire universe. How big is the universe? Scientists tell us that if you traveled at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second it would take hundreds of years to get from one side of the universe to the other. It’s that big? And God created it all…in just six days! But, what did He do on the seventh day? He rested! Why did he rest? God certainly doesn’t get tired in the same ways that we get tired and need to rejuvenate our bodies. God continues to work and care for the entire universe…including each and every individual here on earth…twenty-four hours a day…every day of the week! God doesn’t need to “rest” in the same way that we need to rest, but He was setting an example for us. The following verses will help you learn the history of the Jewish Sabbath and rules and expectations that were associated with it under the Jewish Law.
Genesis 2:2-3 – On the seventh day, having finished his task, God rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from his work of creation.
Exodus 20:8-11 – Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy Six days a week are set apart for your daily duties and regular work but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any kind of work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea and everything in them; then he rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
Nehemiah 13:15-18 – One Sabbath day I saw men of Judah treading their winepresses. They were also bringing in bundles of grain and loading them on their donkeys. And on that day they were bringing their wine, grapes, figs and all sorts of produce to Jerusalem to sell. So I rebuked them for selling their produce on the Sabbath. There were also some men from Tyre bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise.. They were selling it on the Sabbath to the people of Judah – and in Jerusalem at that! So I confronted the leaders of Judah, “Why are you profaning the Sabbath in this way? Wasn’t it enough that your ancestors did this sort of thing, so that our God brought the present troubles upon us and our city? Now you are bringing even more wrath upon the people of Israel by permitting the Sabbath to be desecrated in this way!”
Question To Think About: Why do you think God Created the Sabbath Day?
Question To Think About: Why was it necessary to have laws and rules to govern what the Jews could and couldn’t do on the Sabbath?
Question To Think About: What did God intend people to do on the Sabbath? Why didn’t this happen?
Jesus And The Sabbath
By the time of Jesus, the Jews had about 632 different “laws” that they were expected to keep. Many of these rules related to the proper observance of the Sabbath…things that they could do and many more things they couldn’t do on the Sabbath. Throughout his ministry, Jesus seemed to be in constant conflict with the Jewish leaders of his day. Why? Because he was continually breaking the laws related to the Sabbath. He healed people on the Sabbath. His disciples harvested grain and ate it on the Sabbath. What was Jesus’ reaction to the criticism of the Jewish leaders: The following passages from the New Testament tell us about his reaction. Most importantly, in Mark, chapter 2, Jesus says this: “The Sabbath was made to benefit people, and not people to benefit the Sabbath.” As you read and study the following passages that talk about Jesus and the Sabbath, think about Jesus’ words and remember that the Sabbath was made for you. You were not made for the Sabbath.
Mark 2:23-28 – One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grain fields, his disciples began breaking off heads of wheat. But the Pharisees said to Jesus, “They shouldn’t be doing that! It’s against the law to work by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.” But Jesus replied, “Haven’t you ever read in the Scriptures what King David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God (during the day when Abiathar was high priest), ate the special bread reserved for the priests alone, and then gave some to his companions. That was breaking the law, too.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made to benefit people, and not people to benefit the Sabbath. And I, the Son of Man, am master even of the Sabbath.”
Mark 3:1-6 – Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. Would he heal the man’s hand on the Sabbath? If he did, they planned to condemn him. Jesus said to the man, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Is it legal to do good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing harm? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily, because he was deeply disturbed by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Reach out your hand.” The man reached out his hand, and it became normal again! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to discuss plans for killing Jesus.
John 5:1-18 – Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people – blind, lame or paralyzed – lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew how long he had been ill, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I am trying to get there, someone else always gets in ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your sleeping mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up the mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath day. So the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! It’s illegal to carry that sleeping mat!” He replied, “The man who headed me said to me, ‘Pick up your sleeping mat and walk.’” “Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded. The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” Then the man went to find the Jewish leaders and told them it was Jesus who had healed him.
Question To Think About: Why did Jesus’ disciples harvest and eat grain on the Sabbath Day? How do you think Jesus might have reacted when he saw his disciples doing this?
Question To Think About: What do you think Jesus meant when he said tht the Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath?
Question To Think About: The Jews had many different laws related to what could or couldn’t be done on the Sabbath. Should we have a list of things that are permissible or not permissible for people today to do on the Lord’s Day? Why or why not?
Question To Think About: Is “doing good” ever a bad thing to do on the Lord’s Day?
The Change From The Sabbath To The Lord’s Day…
How did we get from observing Saturday…the Jewish Sabbath…to observing Sunday as our sabbath…what we now call the Lord’s Day? The Bible passages listed below show us that the Early Church began observing Sunday as their day of sabbath…a day of rest and worship…very shortly after Jesus left this earth and went back to heaven. But why? The answer is found in what Jesus did. He went to the cross and gave his life as a sacrifice to atone for each and every one of our sins. But, that is not all that he did! He came back to life again…rising from the dead on Easter Sunday morning! For the Early Church, that event…the resurrection…was much more important than any of the rules and regulations related to the observance of the sabbath on Saturday. In other words, Sunday became a weekly celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! And, to this day, that is why…or should be why…we celebrate Sunday as our sabbath. It is our day of rest, family and worship. But, even more, it is a weekly celebration of the most important fact of our Christian faith: Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Sunday morning and we continue to celebrate that day and that fact each week.
Although the Bible does not specifically talk about how or why the change was made, the scriptures show us specific examples of the fact that the church began to observe Sunday as their sabbath and as the Lord’s Day.
John 20:1 – Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.
Acts 20:7a – On the first day of the week, we gathered to observe the Lord’s Supper.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 – Now about the money being collected for the Christians in Jerusalem: You should follow the same procedures I gave to the churches in Galatia. On every Lord’s Day, each of you should put aside some amount of money in relation to what you have earned and save it for this offering. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.
Revelation 1:10a – It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit.
Question To Think About: Why was Mary Magdalene going to the tomb on Sunday morning? Where were the disciples at this time? Why were Mary and the disciples so surprised when they learned of Jesus’ resurrection?
Question To Think About: What does Jesus’ resurrection really mean? Why is it important? What does it mean to you?
Question To Think About: Why or how do you think the disciples and the Early Church came to see the resurrection of Jesus as being of greater importance than the Fourth Commandment?
Where Do We Go From Here?
The Bible makes it quite clear that the Lord wants us to set aside a day for spiritual, emotional and physical refreshment and renewal – a day to be used for personal, family and corporate worship. But, even more, our observance of Sunday as the Lord’s Day should be a way of honoring Him and celebrating His resurrection. The question is not so much what we should or shouldn’t do on Sunday, but how we can observe the day in a way to please and honor Him.
If our communities are to once again make Sunday truly “the Lord’s Day,” we – the individual Christians, churches and Sunday schools – must take the lead. One of the most important things we can do is to help as many people as possible understand what the Lord’s Day is all about and how they can properly observe the day. One way you can do this is by urging your church to emphasize the importance and proper observance of the Lord’s Day through their worship services, Sunday school, Bible study groups, youth groups, children’s groups, etc.
You can also help increase general public awareness by writing to your local “Letters to the Editor” or by asking the religious editor of your local newspaper to include articles about proper observance of the day in the religious section of their paper. Another important part of being informed is to be aware of how Sunday is being used and abused in your community. Watch your local newspaper to see what events are being held on Sunday and what businesses are open or closed. When you see news of events such as marathons, sporting events, walks, community carnivals and others that start before 12:00 noon on Sunday, contact the organizers and let them know that you object to their scheduling of these events during the time when the participants should be in a worship service or Sunday school class. And, you might also contact your local government officials to urge them not to issue permits for community events that start during worship times.
You can also help influence businesses and their observance of the day. Probably the best thing to do is to honor those businesses of your community that choose to close on Sunday. You and your church might write a letter of commendation to those businesses. Run an article in your local newspaper to honor and thank those businesses. You might also create a “Certificate of Recognition” to present to these businesses. And, why not make a list of these businesses and urge the members of your church to also thank them with a personal message and with their business.
You can also use your Facebook and other social media contacts to share your concerns related to proper observance of the Lord’s Day with your friends and others.
One more thing that everyone can do is pray! Pray for those persons and businesses who are abusing the Lord’s Day. And, just as important, pray God’s blessing upon those who properly observe the day. These and other ideas for promoting proper use of the Lord’s Day are all very important, but don’t forget, the best thing that you can do is to set a good example with your life.
As mentioned earlier, In Mark 2:28, Jesus said that “the Sabbath was made to benefit man, and not man to benefit the Sabbath.” Like all things that God created, the Lord’s Day was created for a particular purpose. But, like so many other things that God made for us, we can only benefit from it when we claim it as our own.
The Lord’s Day was made as a day of rest, relaxation, fellowship, study and worship. Why? Because God knew that each of us needs a regular time for these things. The Lord’s Day is truly a gift from God for each of us. Receive His gift with joy and use it to His glory!
Question To Think About: Read and think about Mark 2:28 again. How does…or should…the Lord’s Day benefit you and your family?
Question To Think About: Look at the list of things that are now a part of your normal Sunday (created in the opening activity). As you look at this list, what do you see that truly honors Jesus or in some way celebrates his resurrection: What things help you to rest and relax? What things on your list might detract you from properly celebrating the true purpose of the Lord’s Day?
Question To Think About: Why is it important for you to have a day of rest, relaxation, family, study and worship?
Question To Think About: Obviously some people have to work on Sunday (nurses, police, etc.). Is this wrong? Would it be wrong for you to work on Sunday at your present place of employment? Why or why not? Would you do it?
Question To Think About: Think of one specific thing that you will do to try to make Sunday truly a day that honors Christ and sets an example of proper observance of the day. What might you do?
Question To Think About: How might you share your love and concern for proper observance of the Lord’s Day with a friend, neighbor, or others?
A familiar hymn reminds us that “there is joy in serving Jesus.” You might also change that to say that there is joy in celebrating Sunday as the Lord’s Day.
The idea of a sabbath day was created by God from the beginning of time. God never intended it to be a burden. He wanted it to be a benefit, a blessing and a time of joy! And, for those of us today, Sunday…the Lord’s Day…should be a time of rest, relaxation, family, worship and study. It should be a time to step away from the everyday cares and concerns of the world. There should be joy and celebration in this special day. Remember, it is a gift…a gift from God to you!
Prepared by the
Lord’s Day Alliance of Pennsylvania
You have our permission to download and make copies of this article to use it as a study guide in your church, Sunday school or other group, and as individuals.