The First Day of the Week in the New Testament (part 8 of 8)

by | Apr 20, 2017 | Biblical Worship, New Testament, Worship

This discussion comes from Getting the Garden Right, coming soon from Founders Press. It is used with permission.
Copyright © 2017 Richard C. Barcellos. All rights reserved.

(This is part 6 of 8, click here for part 1, part 2part 3part 4part 5part 6 & part 7)

 The Reason for First-Day Meetings in the New Testament (continued)

It is important to recognize that the resurrection is an epoch-changing event. The resurrection is seen as the beginning of the new creation. Believers are united to Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection through faith.

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin (Rom. 6:3-6)

and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Col. 2:11-12)

Union with Christ brings believers into the orbit of redemptive privilege. They may know “the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10) because they are united to him through faith. God “made us alive together with Christ . . . and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:5-6). Being in Christ makes believers citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20).

Union with Christ also involves existence in two ages at once—this age (the old creation) and the age to come (the new creation). The age to come is the age of the resurrection.

Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (Luke 20:34-36)

Christ’s resurrection is the first bodily resurrection of the age to come because it was “the firstfruits” (1 Cor. 15:20).

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Cor. 15:20-23)

Christ’s resurrection was the first of similar resurrections to come. But being “the firstfruits,” it is not totally other than that which follows. It is different in time, but it is part of the same resurrection. It is part of the same harvest, just the first of the much greater harvest to come. Gaffin, commenting on “firstfruits,” says:

The word is not simply an indication of temporal priority. Rather it brings into view Christ’s resurrection as the “firstfruits” of the resurrection-harvest, the initial portion of the whole. His resurrection is the representative beginning of the resurrection of believers. In other words, the term seems deliberately chosen to make evident the organic connection between the two resurrections. In the context, Paul’s “thesis” over against his opponents is that the resurrection of Jesus has the bodily resurrection of “those who sleep” as its necessary consequence. His resurrection is not simply a guarantee; it is a pledge in the sense that it is the actual beginning of the general event. In fact, on the basis of this verse it can be said that Paul views the two resurrections not so much as two events but as two episodes of the same event.[1]

Christ’s resurrection is the most powerful sign of the presence of the age to come. His resurrected body took on qualities it did not possess prior to the resurrection (Rom. 1:4). It was an age-to-come body, existing in this age for a brief time on the earth and now in heaven. In Christ’s resurrection, then, we see the age to come eclipsing this age. This is why Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17, NKJV). This is not only true of personal renovation but also a state of existence in the new creation brought in by Christ. In Galatians 6:15, Paul says, “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”

The age to come has eclipsed this age in the resurrection of Christ. Hebrews 6:5 says that some “have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come.” Waldron says, “The great realities of the age to come have in some sense broken into and become operative in this age.”[2] Waldron’s further comments are helpful at this point:

The New Testament teaches, therefore, that there is a new creation in Christ (Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10). The idea of new creation is frequently associated with Christ’s resurrection (cf. Eph. 2:10 with 2:5,7; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10 with Rom. 6:1-6; Col. 1:15-18). By union with Christ in His death, the old man is destroyed. By union with Christ in His resurrection, the new man is created. When He rose again He became the firstborn of God’s new creation. As He was the beginning of the old creation, so He is now the beginning of the new (Rev. 3:14). Thus, the memorial of Christ’s resurrection is of necessity a memorial of the new creation. Thus, the Lord’s Day like the Sabbath and unlike any other religious observance points to both creation and redemption.[3]

Christ’s resurrection is the apex of all of God’s redemptive work on the earth. It is an epoch-changing event. It ushers in the first phase of the new creation, the last Adam’s entrance into glory. In one sense, it affects everything. But how does it affect the Sabbath under the inaugurated new covenant? That it is the redemptive-historical, theological, and Christological basis for first-day church meetings seems clear. But does it mark the end of all Sabbaths for the people of God? Or does it function as the first creation did in relation to the first Sabbath? Does it function as the basis for the change of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day because it is the day Christ ceased from his redemptive work, as God rested from his creative work? Surely, no greater, more unique event could be asked for to change the day of sacred rest for the people of God.


[1] Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Resurrection and Redemption (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1987), 34-35.

[2] Samuel E. Waldron, The End Times Made Simple (Amityville, NY: Calvary Press, 2003), 49.

[3] Waldron, Lord’s Day.

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