The Second Service

As Presbyterians, we are part of the Reformed tradition that comes from the 16th and 17th century Protestant Reformation. One of the distinctives of the Reformed tradition is a second service on Sunday evenings. This service is often a catechetical service, wherein the topics for preaching come from the confession of faith or catechisms. Thus, as Presbyterians, we would be going through the Westminster Standards.

As important as catechetical exposition and exhortation is, instead of putting people to sleep with catechetical preaching, I thought it best to use this time to go through the liturgical calendar. This worked well last year as we averaged 35 people per service from Advent to Epiphany.

During what is called ordinary time on the liturgical calendar, I chose to preach through different topics that would be of interest to any Christian. For example, some of our topical series’ have been on Covenant Theology, The Gospel, The Five Solas of the Reformation, and Ecclesiology.

Since re-opening in May, our PM service attendance has been more than cut in half. I hate to see people miss out on such important biblical and theological topics for the Christian Life. Thus, since it appears that not many are on board with a second service, I’ve decided to explain the rational for the second service in hopes that some of you would avail yourself to the ordinary means of grace available on Sunday nights in addition to Sunday mornings.

From Scripture

Is a second service biblical or did the Reformed tradition just make it up because they like going to church so much? Consider the 4th commandment –

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8–10)

The Christian Sabbath is not on the seventh day of the week but on the first day of the week, the day the Jesus rose from the dead – Sunday. We call this day, “The Lord’s Day.” Other than a shift in the day of the week in the New Covenant, we still believe that the fourth commandment is in play. In fact, God didn’t stop enforcing any of the 10 commandments.

Therefore, for Christians, Sunday is a day of ceasing from our labors, worshiping our Triune God, and resting in the finished work of Christ. The important thing to remember here is that the Lord’s Day is actually day, not an hour. As we read in Psalm 118:24 –

“This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Again, note that it is the day, not merely an hour or two that belong to the Lord. Thus, the day, and everything we do in it, should be focused on God, the worship of him, the reading of Scripture, Christian learning, Christian fellowship, and mercy ministry.

Perhaps this is why we see read of the earliest Christians – those in the Apostolic Church – they are shown gathering for worship, not only in the mornings on the first day of the week, but also at night. For example, we read this in Acts 20:7 –

“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul preached to them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.”

That’s a long sermon! But the point is not that Paul’s sermon lasted for hours, the point is that they were having a Sunday Evening worship service consisting of the preaching of the Word and the Lord’s Supper.

As Christians who were likely only recently converted from Judaism, they would have been used to this since they understood that God sanctified the whole day and not just a couple of hours. In the Old Covenant, not only was the whole day sanctified, but they were used to both a morning and an evening sacrifice –

“One Lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight.”
Exodus 29:39

“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!”

Psalm 141:2

Perhaps this is why Presbyterian and Reformed churches made it a priority to worship God morning and evening – because they read the Bible and sought to be obedient to God and his Word!

Concluding our exposition of Scripture and the second service, consider what the Apostle John tells us concerning the unceasing worship by the heavenly host in the throne room of God –

“Day and night they never cease to say,

‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!’”

Revelation 4:8

From Reformed Theology

In addition to the second service being clearly taught in the Holy Scriptures, our Reformed confessions and catechisms also teach this important doctrine. Here are some examples from the Westminster Standards, which are our theological documents that we subscribe to as Presbyterians:

Westminster Confession of Faith
“As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.” (21.7 – Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day)

“This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe a holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.” (21.8 – Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day)

Westminster Larger Catechism
Q. 116. What is required in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment requireth of all men the sanctifying or keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word, expressly one whole day in seven; which was the seventh from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, and the first day of the week ever since, and so to continue to the end of the world; which is the Christian sabbath, and in the New Testament called The Lord's Day.

Q. 117. How is the sabbath or the Lord's day to be sanctified?
A. The sabbath or Lord's day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God's worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.

In addition to our understanding of the Christian Sabbath day as a whole day of worship and rest from our Westminster Standards, we also understand the importance of the ordinary means of grace for the Christian life. What are the ordinary means of grace? Our catechism teaches us –

The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation. (WLC 154)

In other words, it is through the reading, preaching, singing, and praying of God’s Word, that God saves and sanctifies his people. Concerning the Word of God –

The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation. (WLC 155)

And regarding the sacraments, it is through the sacrament of baptism that one enters into the church, and it is through the Lord’s Supper that the Spirit sanctifies the Christian –

A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his church, to signify, seal, and exhibit unto those that are within the covenant of grace, the benefits of his mediation; to strengthen and increase their faith, and all other graces; to oblige them to obedience; to testify and cherish their love and communion one with another; and to distinguish them from those that are without. (WLC 162)

And it is through prayer and praise that we call on the name of the Lord. Our catechism puts it like this –

Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit; with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies. (WLC 178)

Where does this happen? It happens in our Lord’s Day worship services! Far be it from us to think that we don’t need the means of grace as often as possible, including in the evening.

Finally, we have a second service, not only for those who want to come to both services, but having a second service is beneficial for those who, for any number of reasons, may not be able to attend the morning service, of which there is an abundance.
To summarize, the second service is biblical, reformed, and beneficial for all. That is why we have made it available. We hope to see you there!