Does the Bible support Sunday worship instead of Saturday?
Last post we looked at the Sabbath and some of the things the Bible says about it. How it’s timeless, instituted at creation and will continue into the new creation after all this has passed.
This post we’ll look at some of the arguments used by people who want to justify Sunday worship instead of Saturday. We’ll look at the Bible verses quoted and see what they really say.
We’ve been taking this journey into looking at this one marker of the beast of Revelation and the little horn of Daniel 7, that it would try to change God’s laws and times (Daniel 7:25). But, did it actually change? Does it Bible support this shift from Sabbath to Sunday? Let’s take a look at some of the verses that mention the first day of the week:
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. – Matthew 28:1-2
Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. – Mark 16:1-2
Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. – Mark 16:9
Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. – Luke 23:56
Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. – Luke 24:1
These five verses around about the Resurrection of Jesus. An awesome event by any standard, and critical to our faith. However, not once in the Bible does it mention we should set that day aside as a remembrance. Nowhere does the Bible say we should rest on the day He rose, rather that is the purpose of baptism (Romans 6:3-6), to remind us of his death, burial and Resurrection.
Another argument brought forward is that the disciples gathered on the first day of the week. Let’s take a look at these verses:
Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” – John 20:19
At this point the disciples didn’t even realize Christ had resurrected. They were afraid of the other Jews who had killed Him, and so were hiding behind locked doors. This wasn’t a worship service. This was trying not to die.
On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. – 1 Corinthians 16:2
Some take this verse and say they were holding a collection on Sunday (the first day of the week), but look more closely. Paul is instructing each member of the church, to set aside money, in their own home, according to his wages (they were working on Sunday). Why? So that when Paul came back, they wouldn’t have to deal with collecting money on Sabbath when they all met. They would have it all prepared already.
Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.” Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. – Acts 20:7-11
Now, this one can be confusing if you aren’t aware of how the Jewish people kept track of days. You see, in the creation account, a day is counted as evening and daylight. So, if you are on the evening of the first day, we would consider that Saturday evening, because for them, the day starts at sundown, continues on through to daybreak and on again until the next sundown. So, the disciples had met on Saturday, probably spent the day together, and when it became late, when the next day (the first day) rolled over at sunset, they prepared and had a meal, and Paul continued preaching until midnight, when this young man fell out of the window. Paul continues to preach until morning, and then leaves, Sunday morning, on his journey.
But even without that, you cannot use their getting together to break bread as a indication of them having a worship service on a special day. The disciples were in the habit of breaking bread together and preaching daily (Acts 2:46).
Let’s look at some more difficult ones:
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. – Colossians 2:16-17
We learned in the previous post that Sabbath was to continue from creation into eternity, so this cannot mean that Sabbath remembrance. What then? Well, the feasts given in Leviticus were also called sabbaths (Leviticus 23:27-32). They were considered additional sabbaths, not to be confused with the Sabbath of the LORD (Leviticus 23:37-38). Looking at the Colossians passages in the context of Leviticus 23, it is clear that Paul is talking about these ceremonial feast sabbaths, not about the Sabbath of the LORD.
Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. – Romans 14:1-6
This one is often used to say it doesn’t matter what day is kept. But in order to do so, you have to ignore the subject matter. In this passage, Paul is talking about fasting and about eating meat or not. Some people were fasting on Sabbath, or abstaining from meat, and saying other’s had to in order to keep the Sabbath. But nowhere in scripture does this command exist. So Paul was telling them, not to worry about who fasted on Sabbath or who didn’t. Those that do, are welcome to, those that doesn’t are welcome not to. But nowhere does Paul say that they are welcome not to keep Sabbath holy.
Instead we see Paul, and the the disciples keeping Sabbath throughout the New Testament, even after Jesus’ resurrection.
In Pisidia, they visited the Synagogue on Sabbath (Acts 13:14), and the Gentiles begged them to preach to them on the next Sabbath (Acts 13:42). The next Sabbath, the entire town comes out to hear Paul preach. When Paul visited non-Jewish towns, like Philippi, where there was no Synagogue, he still took time on Sabbath to pray and preach (Acts 16:13). In Thessalonica, Paul spent every Sabbath reasoning, explaining and demonstrating that Jesus was the Messiah, that He had come (Acts 17:1-4), and again in Corinth with the Jews and the Greeks. Why every Sabbath? Because in Corinth, at least, it seems he was busy making tents during the week, and resting on Sabbath (Acts 18:1-4). Paul was there a year and a half (Acts 18:11), yet during all that time, he continues to preach on Sabbath. If the early church was meeting on Sunday, surely Paul would have corrected them during that time.
And the writer of Hebrews reiterates this Sabbath rest by saying that God Himself rested on the Sabbath (Hebrews 4:4), and for us there will always remain this Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:9).
So, why do the majority of Christian churches worship on Sunday instead of Saturday? Who moved it, and by what power?
“It was the Catholic Church which, by the authority of Jesus Christ, has transferred this rest [from the Bible Sabbath] to Sunday . . . . Thus the observance of Sunday by the Protestants is an homage they pay, in spite of themselves, to the authority of the [Catholic] Church,” (Monsignor Louis Segur, Plain Talk About Protestantism of Today, 1868, p. 213)
So, apparently the Catholic church moved the day. When did they do this?
Q. Which is the Sabbath day?
A. Saturday is the Sabbath day.
Q. Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?
A. We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, in the Council of Laodicea, (AD 336) transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday….
Q. Why did the Catholic Church substitute Sunday for Saturday?
A. The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday, because Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday, and the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles on a Sunday.
Q. By what authority did the Church substitute Sunday for Saturday?
A. The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday by the plenitude of that divine power which Jesus Christ bestowed upon her!
—Rev. Peter Geiermann, C.SS.R., (1946), p. 50.
The Catholic Church claims to have moved the blessing that God bestowed on Saturday over to Sunday. You might ask how they think they can get away with this, but, despite the reformation, protestant Christianity is their largest proof:
Q. How prove you that the church hath power to command feasts and holy days?
A. By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants allow of; and therefore they fondly contradict themselves, by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the same church.
Q. How prove you that?
A. Because by keeping Sunday, they acknowledge the church’s power to ordain feasts, and to command them under sin; and by not keeping the rest [of the feasts] by her commanded, they again deny, in fact, the same power.
–Rev. Henry Tuberville, D.D. (R.C.), (1833), page 58.
But, isn’t there some scriptural evidence for this move that the protestants can hold on to?
Q. Have you any other way of proving that the Church has power to institute festivals of precept?
A. Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her. She could not have substituted the observance of Sunday the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday the seventh day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority.
–Rev. Stephen Keenan, (1851), p. 174.
And so, the little horn successfully deceives the world by making them believe this new commandment, instead of God’s:
They [the Catholics] allege the Sabbath changed into Sunday, the Lord’s day, contrary to the decalogue, as it appears; neither is there any example more boasted of than the changing of the Sabbath day. Great, they say, is the power and authority of the church, since it dispensed with one of the ten commandments.
—Augsburg Confession – Art. 28.
Most Christians no longer know why they worship on Sunday, but the Catholic church remembers why.
“It is well to remind the Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, and all other Christians, that the Bible does not support them anywhere in their observance of Sunday. Sunday is an institution of the Roman Catholic Church, and those who observe the day observe a commandment of the Catholic Church.” Priest Brady, in an address, reported in the Elizabeth, NJ ‘News’ on March 18, 1903.
Or if you want something more recent:
“Perhaps the boldest thing, the most revolutionary change the Church ever did, happened in the first century. The holy day, the Sabbath, was changed from Saturday to Sunday. “The Day of the Lord” (dies Dominica) was chosen, not from any directions noted in the Scriptures, but from the Church’s sense of its own power. The day of resurrection, the day of Pentecost, fifty days later, came on the first day of the week. So this would be the new Sabbath. People who think that the Scriptures should be the sole authority, should logically become 7th Day Adventists, and keep Saturday holy.” Sentinel, Pastor’s page, Saint Catherine Catholic Church, Algonac, Michigan, May 21, 1995
Most Christians hear the rationalizations from their denominations, made after the fact, preached as their own doctrine, but the truth is that it’s mostly just by custom now.
“For centuries millions of Christians have gathered to worship God on the first day of the week. Graciously He has accepted this worship. He has poured out His blessings upon Christian people as they have sought to serve Him. However, as one searches the Scriptures, he is forced to recognize that Sunday is not a day of God’s appointment… It has no foundation in Scripture, but has arisen entirely as a result of custom,” says Frank H. Yost, Ph.D. in The Early Christian Sabbath.
But worshiping according to custom, instead of the Bible, is dangerous, it can cause us to worship God falsely (Mark 7:7), it can cause us to be confused and to reject God’s laws (Mark 7:9), and eventually make it so that God’s word is ineffective in our life (Mark 7:13). Rather, we should obey God, not the traditions of men (Acts 5:29), and only by following His commandments can we show God that we love Him (John 14:15).
And that’s what it all about: God’s love for us, and our love for Him. We don’t obey out of fear, or worry about hell, but rather because He loved us first (1 John 4:19), and so we want to reciprocate. But, there’s more to it than that even. God loves us so much that He gives us His commandments and laws in order to make our life better here on earth (Deuteronomy 11:9), as well as prepare us to follow Him into the eternal life (Revelation 14:12). How amazing is that?
There are pages and pages of more quotes. There’s also an entire history of the church trying desperately to stamp out Sabbath keeping in order to maintain their power. Sabbath keeping was considered heresy, and people were burned alive or hacked to pieces for keeping it. In every century, all around the world, one finds groups of Christians keeping the Sabbath. Even today, there are still attempts to make Sunday the day of rest throughout Europe, whether you are Christian or not (see www.europeansundayalliance.eueven in recent years.
Phew, that was a lot to take in, wasn’t it? If you have any questions, feel free to comment below, or you can email me directly, if you prefer at firstname.lastname@example.org (I don’t have email set up for this domain yet).
Next post we’ll get back to Daniel and pick up at chapter 8 to go through another of Daniel’s visions.