This pattern set for us in Scripture was in line with the morning and evening sacrifices made by the Levites found in Numbers 28. The purpose was for corporate worship (Leviticus 8:3).
By Rev. Lance Filio
I grew up attending three services weekly. These include a Mid-week service and twice on the Lord’s Day with Morning and Vesper service. It was indeed a busy week for a Christian in our church because aside from the services, we add to it Bible study group either on Monday or Tuesday, Wednesday prayer meeting, Friday or Saturday choir practice. I started to attend all these activities when I was old enough to go to church on my own. And during this time, I began to think about why we should be attending all of them. I expected older members to provide a simple answer to a newbie like me but what I got were varied reasons and this was especially the case when asked about the Vesper service. Why do we need to worship twice on a Lord’s Day? Here are the not so good reasons for attending the second service on Sunday:
#3. Because your leaders told you to do so. This was a common answer. It sounds pious and obedient but it only appeals to human authority. I found out later on that even my own leaders don’t even know why we have a second service.
#2. Because an additional worship means more blessings from God. This answer came from those active and enthusiastic members of the congregation. Additional “services” to God increases our chance to receive what we want from him. It can be considered as “covering all the bases” and “the more entry the more chances of winning” mentality.
And the number 1 not so good reason for attending the second service on Sunday is…(drum roll please)
#1. Because you did not attend the first one.
Received as a Means of Grace Twice on the Lord’s Day
So why an evening service of the Lord’s Day? Because it contained the ordinary means of grace which is good for spiritual growth. Scripture reminded us that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4). An evening service provides an opportunity for us to hear the preaching of the Word of God; to pray and to sing in response to God as we end our Lord’s Day. It is a perfect book ending for that day. Like what the Psalmist said in Psalms 92:1-2:
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night
This pattern set for us in Scripture was in line with the morning and evening sacrifices made by the Levites found in Numbers 28. The purpose was for corporate worship (Leviticus 8:3). But the pattern for the practice of Sabbath-keeping is grounded in creation (Genesis 2:3). And the Sabbath as a day of rest and gladness while instituted in creation was fulfilled in redemption by Christ’s death and resurrection. He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:28). Therefore, we have good reasons to believe that the apostles and early Christians worshiped on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week. This is the Christian Sabbath (Acts 20:7).
“And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.”
Now we have to understand that the time of the service was not specified in Scripture and this falls under the circumstance. However, the principle of practicing the Lord’s Day as the Christian Sabbath and spending the day in service and worship can be established reasonably in Scripture as we have demonstrated here.
Understood as a Privilege and Not a Burden
Which brings us to our second point. The practice of worshiping twice on the Lord’s Day should be seen as a spiritual privilege and not an additional burden. Even though we can see and understand its warrant from Scripture, the practice itself can be mistaken as a lawful demand to earn salvation. But just like any response to faith, we live the Christian life in gratitude and not for drudging compliance. We receive the law from the hands of Christ and our obedience comes out as a loving reply. Apostle John reminded us: “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
Down in church history, according to Rev. Mike Brown from Christ URC in Santee, the practice of worship twice in the Lord’s Day can be found:
As we look at the history of the church, we see that morning and evening worship on the Lord’s Day was the norm. In the early fourth century, the church historian Eusebius of Caesarea described what he understood to be the universal practice of the church: “For it is surely no small sign of God’s power that throughout the whole world in the churches of God at the morning rising of the sun and at the evening hours, hymns, praises, and truly divine delights are offered to God. God’s delights are indeed the hymns sent up everywhere on earth in his Church at the times of morning and evening.”
Therefore, we can see that there is further warrant for us to believe such practice. But how come it has fallen on hard times especially today in our modern times? This is primarily because the emphasis on receiving the ordinary means of grace has been neglected. Subjective personal experience is considered more important than the time-tested practice of sitting under the preaching of the Word of God. Which is why our confessions reminded us again and again about its importance. Dr. Ray Ortlund, the pastor at Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, explained that the Westminster Shorter Catechism question 88 asked this: “What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?” The catechism’s answer is,
The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.
Practiced for Spiritual Encouragement
I often asked myself why did the preacher of Hebrews frame his exhortation to attend the Lord’s Day regularly in a negative sense: “Let us not give up… (Hebrews 10:25). He added: “…as some are in the habit of doing”. It appears that neglecting to meet regularly on the Lord’s Day was already a reality even that early time. Professing Christians will often find a reason not to attend regularly the receiving of the means of grace.
According to the recent survey from 2015 to 2017 by a non-government agency in the Philippines, SWS reported 85% of the people in the country to have this high view of religion. But ironically, this high regard of religion does not translate to a high attendance in church services. The same agency conducted a survey with regard to weekly service attendance and they presented the numbers dropping sharply from 70% since 1992 to 48% in 2017. And in relation to attending church service monthly, the numbers rose from 20% to 34%. Therefore, it appears that Filipinos are attending church with less regularity. Filipinos may think religion is important but attending church is not anymore a primary expression of their religious devotion.
What then is the source of such neglect? Well simply put, it is our sinful tendency to run away from the throne of grace and not submit ourselves under the authority of the Word of God. Attending twice on a Lord’s Day encourages us to establish ourselves in this primary privilege of receiving such grace. But because of remaining sin, we often convince ourselves not to do so. Which is why we follow the exhortation from the preacher of Hebrews. We should not allow ourselves to justify any reason for neglecting the habit of regularly attending to our spiritual needs. Let us encourage each other not to be in the habit of neglect.
As an under-shepherd of Christ (1 Peter 5:2), I exhort everyone to attend service twice on a Lord’s Day. It is a good opportunity for us to grow more in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. I encourage everyone to receive the spiritual nourishment that comes with the ordinary means of grace. May the Lord continue to bless his people with his Word.