The First Day of the Week (Part 3 of 3)

The First Day of the Week (Part 3 of 3)

by: Ronald L. Dart

“This I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. {7} So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

We only want you to show up when we get down there on the docks with the grain, we want you to show up with a smile on your face, glad to be doing it, aggressive, let’s get this done, all like a bunch of cheerleaders for the sake of getting the saints in Jerusalem helped.

Paul continues in verse 8: “God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: {9} (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth forever. {10} Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)”

In other words, he who creates and gives us everything, here’s the blessing, may He make your crops, so rich you can hardly stand it, in the years to come because of what you are doing right now.

“Being enriched in everything to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God {12} For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God.”

In other words, not only are we going to feed these people in Jerusalem, but prayers of thanksgiving are going up to God in greater abundance than ever before, because of a ship load of grain that arrives on the docks in Judah, from you people in Corinth. You are not mercy feeding people, you are actually praising and glorifying God by the gift that you give.

Verse 13: “Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; {14} And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.”

That’s another little thing that is going to happen as a result of this. Not only are thanksgivings going up to God, but all of those people down there are going to God and saying “Father, bless those people who sent us this grain, bless those people for the things that they did.”

“By their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. {15} Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”

That’s quite a sales job, isn’t it? He gives them the whole treatment of why they should do this; he uses the old carnal part about it. Let’s don’t be embarrassed, I want you to come from behind because you people ought to be ahead of them, you started a year ago, then he comes around to the spiritual side of things, he realized that in the mere act of giving food, maybe clothing, whatever it is that you have to give, that you actually cause thanksgiving to go up to God and God is worshiped because of the work you did in giving a physical thing from one man to another man. You not only have that, but then their prayers turn around and bless you back as the person who gave them this gift. I think that is a marvelous thing.

Puzzling Passage

Now comes the one puzzling passage in all of this. What I have established for you is that the expression the ‘first day of the week’ really is not a term for Sunday even though it happens to be a Sunday in this case, but it is not the term for Sunday, it is the term for the ‘first day of the seven weeks of harvest’, the seven Sabbaths of harvest going up to the feast of Pentecost. It is a one day in the year, not one day in the week, follow me? O.K. Now here is the one curious passage of scripture, it is found in Acts 20 beginning in verse 1.

I did a study on this several years ago, and I had not resolved this particular question at that time. I could see very clearly from a careful word study, of the word ‘Sabbath’ in the New Testament, a careful study of the usage of the term here that it is talking specifically of the ‘first day of the weeks’, the first day of the Sabbaths, is Wave Sheaf Sunday.

Now my problem was this passage in Acts 20:1: “And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia.”

Now before I go on, I want to remind you that the wave sheaf offering that was done on the first Sunday of the Days of Unleavened Bread, it was on the morrow after the Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. There are a lot of technical arguments that have gone on around that, with a lot of discussions, but just hold that thought in your mind for right now.

“And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece, {3} And there abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia.”

Paul, himself was not carrying all this stuff, he actually had other ships going with other men, “he proposed to return,” but the Jews were waiting for him on the docks, throughout Macedonia.

Verse 4: “And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus. {5} These going before tarried for us at Troas.”

Paul had quite a gang going with him. Then comes verse 6: “And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days. {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 the problem with this is, it places the ‘first day of the week’ expression, or ‘first day of the Sabbaths’, five days and seven days, twelve days as it were, either after the Days of Unleavened Day or after the season of Days of Unleavened Days, because when Paul says: “We sailed away after the Days of Unleavened Bread”, the preposition could also mean “with the Days of Unleavened Bread”, but in either case, we have got the first day of the weeks, leading up to Pentecost, falling well outside of, and well after the Days of Unleavened Bread, when in Judea it always was a day that fell either within the Days of Unleavened Bread, or on one day after the Days of Unleavened Bread if the Last Day of the Days of Unleavened Bread were on a weekly Sabbath. Depending upon your reckoning with that.

(Editorial note: The Days of Unleavened Bread last for seven days and occasionally the last Day of Unleavened Bread will fall on the weekly Sabbath, which means that the wave sheaf offering would be outside the Days of Unleavened Bread.)

Latitudes and Degrees

Now how could one account for that? I thought about it for a while, and all of a sudden something dawned on me, and I pulled out my atlas. Jerusalem is located in latitude 31 degrees 47 minutes north. Now that doesn’t mean a lot to you by not having a map but let me illustrate what I am talking about. Corinth is 37 degrees 56 minutes north. It is something a little over 6 degrees of latitude further north than Jerusalem, and Troas is another 2 degrees beyond that at 39 degrees 57 minutes north.

The difference between Jerusalem and Corinth is like the difference between a point of about 60 miles south of Dallas all the way to the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. Now, are you going to harvest the first grain, the same time in the Lake of the Ozarks, that you would 60 miles south of Dallas? There are some of you who are probably shaking your heads no.

Most people have probably at different times in the spring or the fall have started out from here (Tyler, Texas) and driven north and you realize how far behind the ripening of the grain is, and how quickly you drop behind, in the time when going north.

Now if you think about this, you would have to make some compensation for the fact that the grain would ripen more quickly in Tel Aviv, than it would in Jerusalem, because of altitude. It’s higher, and it is cooler up there, therefore the germination is slower. Now when you put all of these things together, it is not inconceivable, that you would have, because Corinth is down on the coast and at the sea, that they might, even though they are 6 degrees further north, that’s a large difference of ripening of the grain, like from Tyler to Dallas.

By the way, the difference between Corinth and Troas, Troas is where the scripture is talking about, is like the difference between Dallas and Tulsa, that is a pretty good distance, even so, even there. Troas is also on the coast, so it is not hard to imagine that with all of the goings on, and the time coming for the first day that you can actually harvest grain and start getting it ready could be well after the Days of Unleavened Bread in Troas.

Now I have no idea how the Jews of that area followed this, I have no idea what they did relative to Pentecost, it seems highly unlikely that they would have delayed their Feast of Pentecost in those latitudes in their churches until later than Pentecost would have been in Jerusalem, but they had no choice in this one thing, they could not get out and harvest the grain until it was ripe and the grain would not be ripe in those latitudes by the Days of Unleavened Bread, maybe in Corinth, certainly not in Troas.

So ‘the first day of the week’ in this case, it happens to be a Sunday, it always is a Sunday because it is the day after the Sabbath, but it is a singular Sunday in the year, not in the week.

Sunday Worship

Technically speaking this particular expression ‘the first day of the week’ that you find in the New Testament is of no value, whatsoever, in relation to Sunday worship on a weekly basis, in fact, it might rather point strongly to an observance of Pentecost. The possibility of the observance of ‘Wave Sheaf’ Sunday, which is the time in which Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, ascended and was presented to the Father and that is a momentous event in Christian history but of course, the problem is, there is no specific instruction for worship of anything special on that day. What is odd about it is that Paul and these people were worshiping especially on that first day of harvest at that time.

The ‘first day of the week’ then is not merely a Sunday but an annual observance connected with the harvest. What the church observed today, as Easter Sunday, when they are on the right Sunday, is actually ‘Wave Sheaf Sunday’. They call it, in Latin terms, ‘Passover Sunday’ which doesn’t make any sense at all, except that it may fall within the Passover season.

Christ is First of the First fruits

Now in 1 Corinthians 15:20, we find this section about the resurrection: “But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept. {21} For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. {22} For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. {23} But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”

Do you realize that Jesus is the first of the first fruits, which is symbolized by the first cutting of grain on the morrow after the Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread, then the next morning He ascended and was presented to God the Father as the first of the first fruits from the ground.

As the harvest went on it is all called first fruits, it is the first harvest of the year and so the whole harvest is first fruits, but Jesus is the first of the first fruits. Seven weeks of harvest, seven Sabbaths go by, six days to work, one day to rest, seven times, until the morrow after the seventh Sabbath is the fiftieth day, which is the feast of first fruits, that’s the name of it: the feast of first fruits. This feast is known as Pentecost in the New Testament.

Sixth of Sivan

Now there is an interesting divergence on this, that Jews observe this festival, for the most part, on the sixth of Sivan, but the first meaning of the festival for the Jews is not the first fruits, the first meaning to the Jews is the giving of the commandments which did take place on the sixth of Sivan. Do you follow me? It is a day of great importance in their history. It was on that day that the Ten Commandments were given on Mount Sinai. Sivan sixth in a lot of years is on Pentecost or the Feast of First Fruits because of the way the calendar goes back and forth, but all of forty years of wandering the Jews never could keep the Feast of First fruits because they never planted any crops. It was only when they entered the land that the Feast of First fruit could even be kept at all, and at that point the instructions say, “on the morrow after the Sabbath, to the morrow after the Sabbath, you shall number seven Sabbaths complete even till the fiftieth day”. And the way it’s worded it is inescapable on the Feast of First fruits because the terminology is identical on both ends of this. It is from the morrow after the Sabbath to the morrow after the Sabbath, in other words you have a day after the Sabbath on both ends, which is not possible by any other reckoning than the fact that you do it and start the counting of the festival of Pentecost on the morrow after the weekly Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. It is the only way it will work and so it is that those seven weeks of harvest takes place.

True Christians to be the First fruits

Let’s notice what James said in chapter 1 verse 17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. {18} Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.”

It is almost as though Jesus Christ who was the first one raised from the dead, to ascend to God the Father as the first of the first fruits, opened up the era in which the harvest of first fruits began to take place, which means that us, we are the first fruits of God that are being developed in all of the passage of the time between the ascension of Christ into heaven and the return of Christ which symbolizes the presentation of all of the first fruits to the Father.

Now I know that the Feast of Pentecost symbolizes the giving of the Holy Spirit, that’s the big thing that took place on Pentecost for the church, but the fact is, that was the beginning, not the end of the harvest in question. Whenever you read in Acts 2 Peter’s description of the Feast of Pentecost, and all of the things it was fulfilling, he points to the day of the Lord. The day of the Lord is that period of time that cultimates in the return of Jesus Christ and so Pentecost is connected at both ends, one end is connected to the receiving of the Holy Spirit and the opening up of the age of harvest of the first fruits which is us, and the other end is with the presentation of the first fruits to God.

It’s odd in a way that on the Feast of Pentecost, the priests would go in with two leavened loaves of bread and wave them before God. What he waved on First fruits was not bread, it was just grain. What he offers in the end is two loaves of bread, not unleavened, but specifically leavened and that represents us! Sinners, throughout our lives, very much leavened who finally in the end, we get presented before God, as the first fruits of His time. Now if we are the first fruits, we are not all of the fruits, right? And God is not finished, He has more to do, but that’s a subject for another time.

Let’s notice what the apostle John says about the first fruits in Revelation 14:1: “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him a hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. {2} And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: {3} And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. {4} These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb. {5} And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.

This is talking about the 144,000 and Jesus said: “These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb.” The Morning of Jesus’ Ascension Finally, turn back to John chapter 20. This is on the morning after Jesus’ resurrection. “Mary stood outside the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, {12} And saw two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. {13} And they said to her, Woman, why are you weeping? She said to them, because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.”

She doesn’t have a clue about the resurrection. She thinks that Jesus was dead, that’s it, He’s gone, it’s over, and she loved Him and cared about where His body would finally be disposed of. “And when she had said this, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. {15} Jesus said unto her, Woman, why are you weeping? whom do you seek? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. {16} Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. {17} Jesus saith unto her, touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”
Later on, that same day, Jesus allowed Himself to be touched (Matthew 28:9-10.) This implies that Jesus, between the time He spoke to Mary and the time He spoke to His disciples later, He ascended and was presented before the Farther in heaven, then returned to finish off the things that He had to do before He left. He was presented to the Father in heaven early that morning at about the time that the wave omer of grain was waved before God in the Temple as the first of the first fruits presented from the ground.

It is a marvelous thing to really read these things and understand how intricately the plan of God is woven into the history, the ceremony, the rituals, the rites of Israel, all the things that they did are just shot through with meaning about God, about what He is doing, and how He is actually going to do it.

Discussion Questions

  1. Did you know that there was a link between seven and completion?
  2. Have you ever noticed that the word ‘week’ is not in the Greek New Testament?
  3. Do you find it interesting that the Greek word that gets translated as ‘week’ in English is ‘sabbaton’?
  4. Have you ever did a study on all the references of ‘the first day of the week’? If you have what conclusions did you come up with?
  5. Did you already know that this collection mentioned in Corinthians was not money but grain?
  6. Have you ever witnessed that “you can’t out give God”?
  7. Have you ever considered that the reference for the ‘first day of the week’ in the 1st Corinthians’ passage could be referring to the “first day of the seven weeks of harvest”?
  8. Have you ever considered the possibility that people observed Pentecost at different times because they couldn’t do the wave sheaf offering at the same time due to different climates?
  9. Why do you think it became tradition to start our Pentecost count after a Sabbath in the middle of Unleavened Bread?
  10. Did you already know that Jesus was our wave sheaf offering?

The above is a transcript of a sermon given by the late Ronald L. Dart.  It was taken from the website of the Ronald L. Dart Evangelistic Association.  You can find more articles and sermons by Ron at RLDEA.com.

 

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