A few years ago on one Sunday afternoon just after Church, I visited a couple who were family friends. Knowing their commitment to ministry, I assumed they would still be at church. Nonetheless I decided to visit the house. To my surprise, they were in. What amazed me most was to realise that they had not been for worship for no reason at all. To make matters worse, the wife justified herself by claiming to have observed the Lord’s Day by worshiping along with a church telecast on television.

Though I was very surprised that this couple did not know the necessity of observing the Lord’s Day corporately, I have come to realise that there are many Christians today who do not appreciate the importance of observing the Lord’s Day. As a result, the right spirit of observing the Lord’s Day has largely been lost. You will find believers hosting entertainment functions and sporting activities, or even going shopping when they ought to be in church participating in the worship of God on the Lord’s Day. If confronted, believers line up many unbiblical arguments to justify their liberty and licence with respect to the Lord’s Day.

Understanding that this is the dilemma the church is facing today, I feel compelled to say a few things on the believer’s practical duties of observing the Lord’s Day. I will also touch upon the importance, spirit, and challenge of legalism.

To begin with, a quick glance at a few Scriptures easily helps us to realise how important the Lord’s Day was to the early church.  In the early church, the first day of the week (i.e. Sunday) was always associated with the Lord Jesus Christ. The church reserved special honour for the Lord on this day. This was not because the day itself had any special significance, but because of its association with the Lord Jesus Christ. Observe the following:

a.    The Day of Resurrection: The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was, and will forever be the one major activity and reason for Sunday worship. This event took place on the first day of the week (Matt 28: 1; Mark 16: 1- 2, 9; Luke 24: 1; John 20: 1; 19).

b.    The Day of Pentecost: Though not so much an argument to substantiate any claims for worshipping on Sunday, the coming down of the Holy Spirit upon the church (commonly regarded as the birth of the New Testament church) took place on the day of Pentecost which also fell on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1-4; Lev 23:15-16). This fact was arrived at following the rendering of the Passover according to synoptic Gospels, i.e. Matthew, Mark and Luke (ISBE1986: 757-758).

c.    The day of corporate worship: After the resurrection, Scripture indicates that the church met on the first day of the week (Acts 20: 7; 1 Cor 16: 2), although at this time it was not yet known as the Lord’s Day.

d.    The Lord’s Day: The phrase “the Lord’s Day” occurs only once in the New Testament, in Rev 1: 10, where John declared “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” In Asia Minor where the churches to which John wrote were situated, the pagans celebrated the first day of each month as the Emperor’s day. It is also believed that a day of the week was also referred to by this name. Therefore, the early church called the first day of the week the Lord’s Day, as a direct challenge to the worship of the emperor. By such a bold and fearless testimony, the early church proclaimed that the Lord’s Day belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ and not to the Emperor Caesar (Illustrated Bible dictionary 1986: 652- 653; Basic Theology 1999: 431).

                If all these great events and activities took place on the first day of the week, later coined “the Lord’s Day,” surely it should not surprise us that the early church soon took Sunday as their day of worship. I see no reason why today’s church must not have a similar commitment to this day. The Lord’s Day stands as the church’s weekly memorial and festival for the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the focus of the believer’s worship.

The importance of observing the Lord’s Day

Believers ought to esteem the Lord’s Day as a means of grace. There are many spiritual benefits that Christians derive by keeping this day holy especially in public worship. Notice that observing the Lord’s Day through the gathered church:

a.    Declares the fact that the church is a united family. Indeed, the church is the family of God. When she assembles all her children in one house, the unity of the family is amplified and declared (Eph 3:14; 4:3-6, 13).

b.    Fans into flame the church’s hope and confidence for the return of Christ because it points forward to the wonderful fellowship we will enjoy together when Christ returns (Heb 10:23-25; Acts 2:42, 46).

c.    Draws the believer closer to Christ with sober thoughts of worshipping him as the head of the body among whom worship is taking place (Eph 4:14-16).

d.    Draws God closer to the believers together as they apply James 4:8 to themselves as the church corporate. (Wayne Grudem, 2003:956).

e.    Fans ablaze corporate prayer. Much grace is showered upon the church by the Holy Spirit. For example when the church was threatened by Jewish leaders in Acts 4:24-31, “they lifted their voices together to God” and the fellowship and ministry of the Holy Spirit was manifest among them (Wayne Grudem, 2003:955).

When one sees all these blessings that come to those who observe the Lord’s Day by coming together in corporate worship, it becomes clear just how much we lose as God’s people by not ensuring that we are committed to this. None of these blessings can be attained by watching a church service on television or listening to one on radio. Let us ever remember that the Lord’s Day was instituted by God himself as a means of grace for the believer and the church militant corporately.

Our attitude as we observe the Lord’s Day

Having seen the importance of observing the Lord’s Day, especially in corporate worship, let us now look at one essential factor that helps the believer to properly observe it; namely, the spirit in which this is done. We need to have the right attitude. The state of one’s heart really matters. It is very easy for anybody to go through all the outward rites on the Lord’s Day and never truly worship God. Some people try to fabricate an attitude and think that by doing so they have touched the heart of God with their worship. The Lord insists that true worship must be in spirit and truth. Whether one squeezes his face, cries the loudest, and cuts his flesh like the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18: 26- 28, if his spirit is not right with God it is a sheer waste of one’s precious time and effort. 

Therefore, though it is difficult to itemise how this attitude looks, the following thoughts will shed some light on the right spirit as one observes the Lord’s Day:

a.    We must desire God. This is the inner desire one has to fully worship God. David confessed that it is the one thing that he will seek above all else (Ps 27:4). Asaph another Psalmist also shows a desire to worship God by saying that God is the fulfillment of all his hopes and desires; and that there is nothing on earth that he desires besides God (Ps 73:25). The sons of Korah equally demonstrated the same attitude and desire to be in the house of the Lord, and forever in His presence (Ps 84:1-2, 4, 10). Peter in John 6:67 answered on behalf of the twelve when confronted by Christ saying “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” The early church rejoiced in the assembly as a family praising and blessing God (Acts 2:46; Luke 24:52-53). If one is truly going to worship God and genuinely observe the Lord’s Day, one must have a desire for God. It is with such a spirit that God is most glorified.

b.    We must be focused. As earlier said this is the day of the Lord’s resurrection. It is the grand finale of the atonement celebrated weekly. None of us ever goes to a party or wedding without our minds being tuned to the core of the event. Without this apprehension the believer is found out of place like the guest without a wedding garment in the parable of the wedding feast (Matt 22:11-12). One must realize the core of the day and therefore prepare his heart dully to worship the Lord and genuinely observe the Lord’s Day.

c.    We must watch our conduct. Your manner and conduct will always indicate you heart’s attitude. It is not by looking so sanctified outwardly that the spirit is put in order inwardly. But rather, it is when ones spirit is daily sanctified, prepared and strengthened in the inner man that the right conduct is manifested. Even in the event that circumstances beyond our control prevail and prevent us from public observance, if we have a genuine attitude it will determine our conduct on the Lord’s Day. The Apostle John was denied public observance of the Lord’s Day when he was cast on the Island of Patmos, yet he remained in the right spirit. He acknowledged the significance of the Day, and chose to be in prayer. It was during that moment that the Lord greatly blessed him and affirmed His return through His Revelation (Rev 1:10).

d.    We must seek to be spirit-filled (Gal 5:16-18). The believer must ensure that he is in right standing and fellowship with the Lord. One must come with clean hands. For the Spirit of God does not delight in unclean vessels and is quenched by it. Since all spiritual activities are empowered by the Holy Spirit, confession of all known sin is cardinal. To always be in the Spirit, one must begin to prepare his heart during the week, way before the Lord’s Day. Meaning the believer must live in light of the Lord’s righteousness, thus daily walking in the Spirit. Worshipping God in spirit is not an option; and cannot be manufactured, it is either you are in reverence and awe of Him (Heb 12:18-29) or you are not. Our minds and hearts must be made ready as it is a moment before God; a time and place incomparable to no other here on earth.

I acknowledge that this list is not exhaustive, and that the scriptures contain innumerable lessons on this essential factor in observing the Lord’s Day. However, it is the responsibility of the believer to be identified with the right spirit every Lord’s Day if God is to be genuinely worshipped.

The challenges of legalism

Let me end with a caution on the dangers of being legalistic about the Lord’s Day. Legalism has been one of the greatest challenges that the church has faced in history and continues to face even today.

First and foremost, legalism is simply the absence of dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ in worship. It makes you respect and uphold liturgical activities without “the heart of the matter”. Ultimately, it is a silent denial of the significance of Christ as the focus of the local assembly. The church shifts from being Christ-centred to being man-centred. Therefore, all that remains is a religion of human activities. Even though the name of Christ is used, his presence is absent, and so also is the Holy Spirit.

With respect to Sabbath observance, what usually happens is that believers begin observing the Lord’s Day simply because they have to. It is demanded of them by the elders. If they are to remain in membership then they have to behave in a particular way. Because of the absence of the Spirit, even diminutive and unnecessary practices become very important. Thing like singing only while standing; praying only on your knees, preach only in a suit, etc., end up taking the place of the heart of worship. Efforts end up being made purely towards attaining outward uniformity in observing the Lord’s Day, while the right attitude talked about above is totally lost.

Believers must always be mindful that it is very easy for a church to become legalistic, but it is disastrous because it quenches the Holy Spirit. A shift from Christ being the centre of our worship will lead to the absence of the Holy Spirit. This cements legalism in the church even further. Thus, although the church may continue to meet on the Lord’s Day and engage in its liturgy, it is now nothing more than a social club. The apostle Paul in Colossians 2:11-23 extensively admonished the Christians in Colosse not to subject themselves to such outward regulations or legalism. As we observe the Lord’s Day, let us be careful that we do not fall into this trap!


To sum it all up, the observance of the Lord’s Day is a very important spiritual activity that God has ordained as a means of grace for the church. The believer should, therefore, take advantage of such a blessing and observe it weekly in the right spirit. This means making Christ the focal point of all that we do in total dependence on the Holy Spirit. As we do this, we will avoid vice of legalism. May God help us to do so!


1.      Geoffrey W. Bromiley, 1986. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Grand Rapids, Michigan.

2.      Wayne Grudem, 2003. Systematic Theology. Inter-Varsity Press; Leicester LE1 7GP, England.

3.      Charles C. Ryrie, 1999. Basic Theology.  Chariot Victor Publishing; Colorado springs, Colorado.