Saturday Night Worship?

I get emails —

What do you think of worship service being held on Saturday night?

First argument

Any time is a good time to worship God. Obviously, it’s not wrong to worship God on a Saturday night.

Second argument

The harder question is whether a Saturday night assembly can replace the Sunday assembly. May we take communion on Saturday night?

The Jews considered the Sabbath to begin at sunset on Friday and to end at sunset on Saturday. To them, what we call “Saturday night” was the first day of the week. If God’s requirement that we take communion on the “first day” is reckoned by the Jewish system, Saturday night is every bit as much the first day of the week as is Sunday morning (and much more so than Sunday night!)

However, the Romans counted days midnight to midnight, as we do. And so, you have to decide whether God defines “first day” by the Jewish or Roman method. Since God used the Jewish method in dealing with the Sabbath and the Passover, and the Lord’s Supper was instituted as part of a Passover meal, the Jewish method seems to surely be acceptable to God.

Actually, I think either method of reckoning “first day of the week” will be perfectly acceptable to God — but that’s because I reject the notion of binding examples and silences. As a result, I don’t think we’re bound to take communion on the first day of the week and only on the first day of the week. But for those who are convicted otherwise, Saturday night should be perfectly acceptable.

Third argument

I just don’t see a “pattern” in the New Testament that insists that communion be taken only once a week and only on the first day of the week.

Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on a Thursday night (the evening of the sixth day), one day before Passover, which was to be held the evening of a Sabbath, that is, a Friday. That’s right: Jesus took Passover a day early (since he would be in the grave Friday evening). And the Lord’s Supper was taken by Jesus and his apostles on a Thursday, not a Sunday (Jesus had other plans for Sunday.)

We are told that the church at Troas evidently met weekly, on the first day (Acts 20:7). The church at Corinth was instructed to set aside funds for the poor in Jerusalem on the first day of the week, which suggests a weekly assembly. (Or maybe a weekly pay day? Remember: Sunday was ia work day.)

Less direct evidence might be found in the fact that John received the vision that became Revelation on the “Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10), which is a name adopted by the early church for the first day. Moreover, Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection on the first day, but on a Saturday night by our reckoning (John 20:19).

However, there’s also authority — indeed, early authority — for daily worship. The Jerusalem church met daily (Acts 2:46) and baptized daily (Acts 16:5). Paul met daily with the Ephesian disciples (Acts 19:9) and admonished the members daily (Acts 20:31). The Hebrews author urges Christians to “exhort” one another every day (Heb 3:13).

In short, we assume a semi-hidden rulebook imposing universal rules for how to worship that must be discerned by binding examples and silences, whereas the scriptures actually point us in a very different direction. They simply do not seek to impose a strict, unvarying structure binding on all ages and cultures. Rather, the universal rule is to worship “in Spirit and in truth,” in contrast to the Torah’s very specific instructions on when, where, and how to worship (John 4:24).

Leviticus shows us that God knows how to write a rulebook when it suits him. We should not presume to be smarter than God, imagining that he forgot to give us the instructions we need on how to worship, forcing us to imply the rules from silences, based on a rule (the “Regulative Principle” or “Law of Silence”) that was unknown to Christianity until the 16th Century.

The Passover was to be held at twilight (Num 9:1), which is why the Lord’s Supper is called “supper” and not “brunch.” The first communion was taken in the evening as part of a meal. And church history is clear that the early church took communion in the evening as part of a common meal called the agapē or “love feast.” (See this article for more detail.) This practice is well attested by the New Testament in, e.g., Acts 2:46 and Jude 12. (Yes, they added fried chicken to the Lord’s Supper!)

In Judea and the Roman Empire generally, Sundays were work days. Outside of Judea, many converts were slaves. The early church had to meet either before or after work. And we have records from history of churches meeting very early in the morning or in the evenings (never at 10:00 a.m) — but the early church seems to have taken the Lord’s Supper in the evenings, which is when Roman residents dined together and which would have been a far more natural time for a common meal — very much like our “covered dish dinners.” (Imagine holding services at sunrise every Sunday, with a covered dish breakfast every Sunday, and you’ll begin to see the logistical difficulties of a morning agapē.)

Over time, the idea of a morning Lord’s Supper came to predominate, and as a result, the agapē was separated and taken in the evening while communion was taken in the morning. Jesus was resurrected early on a Sunday morning, and the early church (but not the biblical authors) defended Sunday as a day of worship, against Jewish critics, because it’s the day of the resurrection. Hence, the resurrection and Lord’s Supper became very closely associated in the minds of the early Christians — leading to a morning communion separate from the evening agapē, beginning in some parts of the Roman Empire in the middle of the 2nd Century.

However, the association of the Lord’s Supper with the resurrection, as powerful as it is, does not make for a rule. Remember: Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on a Thursday evening as part of a Passover meal, which was ordinarily to be taken on a Friday night (Sabbath evening).

Final argument

We worship God, not because he commanded us to do so, but because the Spirit is in us (John 4:24; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil 3:3). Our hearts yearn to worship. Worship is not a command to be obeyed on penalty of damnation. Worship is a privilege, a delight, and joy. It’s part of our new nature as new creations in Christ.

There are no rules that prevent us from worshiping at some particular time, day, or place. Every time, every day, and every place is a proper, acceptable time, day, and place for worship.

The weekly assembly — the gathering of God’s children — is not a command to be obeyed on penalty of damnation. It’s a privilege, a delight, and a joy. We gather because we love one another. We gather because we need each other and are needed by each other. There are no limits on the frequency, time, day, or place of gathering with our siblings to glorify God. How could there be?

The first day of the week has been a customary day of gathering from very early in the church’s history, but the earliest practice was a daily gathering.

There is nothing at all in the scriptures that even hints that we must take communion on Sundays and only on Sundays — as reckoned by the Roman calendar. It’s just not there, not even in the silences.

Rather, the most likely interpretation is that the church gathered for common meals, and they took communion as part of those common meals. After all, bread and wine were standard fare at evening meals in the Roman Empire. Jesus consecrated these common, ordinary elements and turned them into something extraordinary and holy — just as he took ordinary people and made them extraordinary and holy.

Jesus gave the rule plainly —

(1Co 11:25-26 ESV) 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

When do we take communion? “As often as you drink it.” That is, whenever we eat and drink together with our brothers, in the name of Jesus, the meal is consecrated to Jesus. What we do is in his memory.

The fact that we are together is an act of grace. Eating together in the ancient world meant mutual acceptance and love. The Pharisees refused to eat with Gentiles and sinners. Jesus ate with sinners and those that the religious authorities rejected. And our common meal — symbolic or otherwise — emulates the table fellowship, the acceptance, the hospitality, the grace, and the love of Jesus. Every day. Every time. Every place. No matter how frequent.

What does this mean? When we accept one another as brothers and sisters despite our failings and our sins, despite our struggles to get along, that is, when we share a meal that extends to our brothers the same grace we received from Jesus, we do this in memory of Jesus.

You see, the point is not that we must engage in the certain, precise ritual on a certain day in a certain way. The point is that our meals, our hospitality, our fellowship, and our churches must proclaim the nature of Jesus — his agapē. That’s what turns a covered dish dinner into a agapē and the taking of bread and wine into the Lord’s Supper. It’s only the supper of Jesus when the meal is all about Jesus and our following in his steps.

And so, yes, yes, yes! Meet Saturday night to be with your brothers and sisters and to worship our Savior! Yes! But be there to be like Jesus, to celebrate and display his hospitality and table fellowship.

Don’t go merely out of sense of duty and obligation. Go to celebrate God’s grace that comes by the death of Jesus — and eat and drink together as a product of that grace with a love and a fellowship so intense that a lost world is drawn to the table with you. Powerfully proclaim Jesus by being part of a community that loves one another with an intensity so bright that you can’t stay apart and you eat and drink together as family.

Don’t dare take communion alone! Not because it’s sin but because communion is, by definition, about being together — not just physically in the same room, but accepting and loving and delighting in each other despite all your weaknesses, sins, and failures.

And Saturday evenings work just fine for that. In fact, it’s about time we stopped desecrating and began consecrating our Saturday nights.

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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