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The Lord's Holy Day
Donnie Rader

Our calendars are filled with many different holidays. Many of these are national holidays, such as, New Years, Martin Luther King day, Presidents day, Memorial day, Independence day, Veterans day, Columbus day, and Thanksgiving. There are others that are religious holidays such as, Yom Kipper, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Palm Sunday, Easter and Christmas. And, from time to time, new holidays are added.

To many people a "holiday" is merely time off from work, time to shop or time to work in the yard. However, there is more to a holiday than that. Our word "holiday" is derived from "holy day". The purpose of a holiday is "A day on which custom or the law dictates a halting of general business activity to commemorate a particular activity" (American Heritage Dictionary). It is sad when we have a holiday (like Independence Day) and some have no clue what the day is about. The same could be true of the Lord's holy day, the first day of the week.

Let's consider what makes a day holy and see how men have made holidays that are greatly contrasted with God's holy days.

What Is A Holy Day?

  1. The word "holy" means sacred, consecrated, dedicated, hallowed, sanctified.(See Strongs). Thus, a holy day would be a day that is sacred or hallowed. It is a day that is set apart for the Lord.

  2. Holy things in the Old Testament. Several things were called "holy" in the Old Testament. We read of holy ground (Exodus 3:5), a holy day (Exodus 35:2), a holy place (Exodus 26:33), holy vessels (1 Kings 8:4), and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). In each case these were holy or special because they were set apart for the service of the Lord.

  3. What make something holy? There are at least two principles that make something holy. First, God declares it to be holy. In every one of the things mentioned above, God said these were holy. Second, it must be set apart for God's purpose and service. Again, with every one of the things mentioned above, these were holy because they were consecrated for the cause of the Lord.

Thus, we must conclude that for a day to be a holy day it must be a special, sacred day set apart for God's service by the declaration of God himself.

Holidays of Man

Man has established many holidays, but there are two primary "religious" holidays that we want to notice: Christmas and Easter.

  1. Christmas. Much of the religious world celebrates December 25 as the birthday of Jesus. This is one of the few days that some people try to make "holy". But notice how this contrasts with a holy day of the Lord.

    There is no declaration from God. There is no command, example or inference that we are to observe December 25 or any other day as the birth of Jesus. Since we are to do all things in the name of Christ (Colossians 3:17), and there is no declaration, we are not permitted to have such an observance. This is not a holy day since there is no declaration from God.

    It is both pagan and Catholic in origin. The date of December 25 is borrowed from a pagan festival that honored their Sun God. The Bishop of Rome (Liberius) ordered that this date be set for the observance of Christmas (the mass of Christ) in A.D. 354.

    We don't know the day or even the year that Christ was born. The Bible doesn't tell us the date of his birth. In that the shepherds were in the field (Luke 2) it is most unlikely that Jesus was born in December (see Barnes comments on Luke 2). Furthermore, we don't even know the exact year that he was born. Henry Halley observes,

      When Christ was born time was reckoned in the Roman Empire from the founding of the city of Rome. When Christianity became the universal religion over what had been the Roman world, a monk named Dionysius Exiguus, at the request of the Emperor Justinian, made a calendar, A.D. 526, reckoning time from the Birth of Christ, to supersede the Roman Calendar. Long after the Christian Calendar had replaced the Roman Calendar it was found that Dionysius had made a mistake in placing the birth of Christ in 753 from the founding of Rome. It should have been about 749, or a year or two earlier. (Halley's Bible Handbook, 492).

  2. Easter. Easter is the annual remembrance of the resurrection of Christ. It, like Christmas, doesn't fit the criteria as the Lord's holy day.

    There is no declaration from the Lord. While there is a declaration for observing the resurrection of Christ, there is no direction about an annual observance. Thus, God has not declared Easter Sunday as being any holier than the other fifty one.

    We don't know a date. We know that Jesus was raised on the first day of the week, but we don't know what day of the year. The Bible doesn't say.

    The date was set by human tradition. The Counsel of Nicaea set the present date in 325 A.D. Other dates have been celebrated such as March 21 (in Gaul), April 18 (in Italy), and April 25 (in Egypt).

    It is pagan in origin. The name "Easter" is derived from an Assyrian and Babylonian idol goddess, Ishtar (pronounced eesh tar). Lent is borrowed from a fast that was in honor of this pagan goddess. The use of such symbols as eggs and rabbits were also used among the pagans as symbols of life and fertility.

The Lord's Holy Day In The Old Testament

The Sabbath is called a "holy day". The Sabbath day was a true holy day because God declared that it was.

    Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day (Exodus 35:2-3; emphasis mine, DVR).

    We would not give our daughters as wives to the peoples of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons; if the peoples of the land brought wares or any grain to sell on the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath, or on a holy day; and we would forego the seventh year's produce and the exacting of every debt (Nehemiah 10:30-31; emphasis mine, DVR).

    If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words, Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD... (Isaiah 58:13; emphasis mine, DVR).

What does that mean? (1) It means that this day is special. It is different from other days (cf. Exodus 35:2-3). (2) It means that the activities of that day are to be in honor to the Lord (Exodus 35 2-3). (3) It was to be treated different than the rest of the world treated it (Nehemiah 10:30-31). (4) It was not a day for serving self (Isaiah 58:13). These same principles will apply, as you will see, to the Lord's day of the New Testament.

The Lord's Holy Day In The New Testament

In the New Testament the first day of the week is the holy day. It is sacred, consecrated, dedicated, hallowed, and sanctified.

It is holy because of the things that took place on that day. Jesus was raised from the dead on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1; Luke 24:1, 13, 21, 46). The day of Pentecost was on the first day of the week (Leviticus 23:15-16). Therefore, the Holy Spirit fell upon the apostles on that day (Acts 2:1). The first gospel sermon under the Great Commission was preached on the first day of the week (Acts 2:13-40). The church began on that day (Acts 2:47).

It is holy because it is called the "Lord's day". John wrote, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet" (Revelation 1:10). What other day could John have labeled as the "Lord's Day"? By the end of the first century, the first day of the week was commonly referred to as the Lord's Day (see such books as The Epistle of Barnabas).

It is holy because it is a day of worship and devotion to God. Two of the acts of worship are specified and limited to the first day of the week. The only passage that says anything about when we observe the Lord Supper is Acts 20:7.

    Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

The only passage that says anything about when we are to give of our means is 1 Corinthians 16:1-2.

    Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.

Note that John spoke of the "Lord's Day" and not the Lord's Hour (Revelation 1:10). All too often we feel that if we have devoted an hour of our week to going to church, we have really honored the Lord. "The Lord's Day" suggests a day that is set apart for service to God. When we understand that, why worry when occasionally we sing all five verses of the closing song? Why worry if occasionally a sermon is ten minutes longer? Why be upset when the closing prayer takes longer than normal?

The purpose of our activities on that day are to give praise and honor to God. This is the day that we commemorate the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. When instituting the Lord's Supper Jesus said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me" (1 Corinthians 11:23). In contrast to "Christmas" that remembers his birth, the Lord's Day is to remember his death and resurrection. In contrast to "Easter" that remembers the resurrection once a year, the Lord's Day is to remember the death and resurrection of Christ every week.


The points we need to remember are this. (1) The Lord's Day is special. It is different from the other days of the week. (2) The activities of that day are to praise and honor the Lord. (3) We are to treat this day different that the rest of the world does. (4) This is not a day for serving self.

May God help us all to better understand and appreciate that the first day of the week is truly the "Lord's Holy Day".

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