Why so much disagreement over the right day for worship? Does it really matter? Whose opinion counts? What day did Jesus keep? Should Christians keep the same day or some other? Is the calendar mixed up? Has time been lost? This article gives plain Bible answers to these questions so important to you!
Does it really make any difference? Does it really matter, one way or the other? Does observance of a particular day of the week have anything to do with salvation? Let’s understand the answer to this question!
The world is filled with conflicting ideas and beliefs. Every religion claims certain days are “holy.” Some sects professing the Christian religion claim there is no special day we should observe. They claim we should worship God every day, and leave it at that!
Perhaps, if we use human reasoning, it wouldn’t make any difference which day we observe. “A day is merely 24 hours, and all days are the same,” some might reason. “Therefore, I can’t see that it makes any difference whether I keep Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, or any other day of the week. So I go along with the crowd. I attend church on Sunday because most churches meet on that day. What difference does it make, anyway?”
If we merely use human reason, obviously, it wouldn’t make any difference. But human reason isn’t our supreme authority! Human tradition isn’t our final authority! What human beings think does not make any difference, because no human being can give you salvation!
God is the One who gives salvation. He is the one every Christian is to obey. Therefore, God is the final authority! His opinion is the only one that really counts!
Surely no one should have any doubts about which day God originally set aside for a day of worship and rest. It is plainly revealed in the first book of the Bible, the 2nd chapter. We read: “And on the 7th day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the 7th day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the 7th day and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” (Gen. 2:2-3).
Plainly, in the beginning God set apart for a holy purpose (that’s what “sanctified” means) and blessed the 7th day of the week. That day corresponds to our Saturday, today, as you will see by checking your calendar. But has the week somehow been switched around, mixed up, and lost between that time and today?
Some believe that in the course of history, time was lost. The original seven-day week which God established at Creation was lost track of – forgotten. At various times in history, changes were made in the calendar, dropping out several days here and there.
A person should keep the same day that Christ kept, but how do you know which day Christ kept? Although the calendar has been altered since the time of Christ, the days of the week have never been changed. Unfortunately, many people are not aware of this fact. The truth is, time has not been lost. The weekly cycle has never been interrupted or changed since the days of Creation! The correct seventh day has always been known!
In the days of Moses, about 1500 B.C., the people of Israel had been held in cruel bondage by ancient Egypt. During this time they were not permitted to observe the Sabbath.
But when God called Israel out of Egypt, He also revealed to them once again which day was the true Sabbath. In Ex. 16 you will find the account. God sent manna to the Israelites six days of the week. On the 6th day, He sent twice as much, so they would have enough for two days. On the7th day, or the Sabbath, He sent none! On this day they were commanded to rest! (Ex. 16:22-30). For 40 long years God performed this miracle! In this manner He indelibly impressed upon their minds which day was the correct Sabbath – the day of worship!
This knowledge stayed with the Jews till the time of Christ. In fact, the Jews have never lost the knowledge of which day is the true Sabbath!
“So what?” a critic might argue. “That’s an interesting story of ancient Israel, but what does that have to do with what day “I’m supposed to keep?” That is a fair question. So what is the answer?
A Christian is a person who follows Christ (I John 2:6). In fact, the apostle Peter wrote that Christ left us “an example, that you should follow his steps” (I Peter 2:21). Therefore the question is, what example did Christ leave for us? What day did He observe?
We find the answer in Luke. Jesus, at the beginning of His ministry, returned to Galilee. His fame spread abroad (Luke 4:4).”And he came to Nazareth where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read” (v. 16). Here is plain evidence that Christ kept the Sabbath – the same day the Jews were keeping! Although He did not perform all the little ticky tacky “do’s and don’ts” which the Pharisees had tacked on the Sabbath, He still observed it according to the manner which His Father, God, had commanded! This is the example Jesus Christ set for Christians to follow. He did not keep Monday, or Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, Friday or Sunday. He kept the seventh-day Sabbath!
“Hold on,” some might object. “Jesus kept the Sabbath because He was a Jew. It was only commanded for the Jews. Anyway, it was abolished at His death. Christ nailed the Sabbath law to the stake!”
What about these questions? If the Sabbath were made for the Jews, and that’s the only reason Christ kept it, then why did Jesus Himself say, “The Sabbath was made for man”? (Mark 2:27). If the Sabbath were made for the Jews only, then why did God establish the Sabbath at creation, at least 2,000 years before the first “Jew” was born?
If we are willing to believe Christ, then the argument that the Sabbath was only meant for the Jews falls flat on its face.
But what about the argument that Christ nailed the Sabbath to the stake? If the Sabbath was done away at the stake, then surely Jesus would have taught His followers, the early disciples about it. Surely the members of the early New Testament Church would have known that they were not to keep the Sabbath any longer after Christ’s death, if He had nailed the Sabbath to the stake. What, then, does the record of the New Testament reveal about this?
Frankly, the followers of Jesus Christ whom He had taught personally for three and one half years knew nothing about any such idea. “And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment” (Luke 23:55-56). Now if Christ had abolished the Sabbath commandment, He would have told these poor women that they didn’t need to keep it any longer. But He obviously did not. Why? Because the Sabbath commandment was still in force!
Yet skeptics might argue this is merely one example. Perhaps these women simply didn’t know any better. What about the apostles and the early New Testament Church? Skeptics say they didn’t keep the Sabbath, they kept Sunday! The apostle Paul preached on Sunday and that’s who we should follow, some people might insist.
Let’s not assume. The book of Acts contains the record of what day the early New Testament Church observed. In this book we will find recorded what days of the week the apostle Paul preached. Let’s take a look at this document.
In chapter 13 we find the apostle Paul and his company traveling throughout Asia Minor, preaching the Gospel. “But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and sat down” (Acts 13:14). The next few verses reveal that Paul then proceeded to preach a sermon to those who were assembled. What day was it? The Sabbath day!
But Paul was preaching to the Jews, some might insist. That’s why he was preaching on the Sabbath in this instance. Of course, a person could conclude just that, except for one thing. The Jews rejected the message Paul brought (vs. 38-41). And so what did the apostle Paul do?
“And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. And the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:42-44). How plain! Here was Paul preaching to Gentiles on the Sabbath day! If the Sabbath had been abolished, he would have told them that they didn’t need to keep the Sabbath or wait until the next Sabbath day for him to preach to them; he would have told them he would preach to them the very next day, Sunday. But he didn’t!
The apostle Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, observed God’s Sabbath. We read, “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuaded the Jew and the Gentiles” (Acts 18:4). Those who claim to follow the apostle Paul ought, therefore, to observe the same day he observed, the Sabbath day.
In fact, Paul commands them to. In I Corth. 11:1, Paul says to the Gentile Corinthians, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” If they were to follow him, then they were to imitate him, follow his example, as he followed Christ’s. We’ve already seen that Christ’s example was to keep the Sabbath (Luke 4:14-16). What was Paul’s example? “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures” (Acts 17:2) Paul’s custom was to keep the Sabbath!
Those who claim to follow the apostle Paul and who do not keep the Sabbath are poorly informed as to the actual example the apostle set for us!
But some will still object, saying they keep “the Lord’s day.” By this, they mean Sunday. Sometimes they will quote Rev. 1:10 to prove we ought to do this. But if you will carefully check that verse, you will find it says nothing about Sunday or holding church services on that day. It simply mentions “the Lord’s day.”
What day, then, is “the Lord’s day”? Generally, when the Bible speaks of the “the Lord’s day,” or the “day of the Lord,” it is referring to a future time in prophecy, the time of God’s intervention in world affairs (Zeph. 1:14-17; Isa.2:1-12, 19-21). In Revelation 1:10, the apostle John simply meant that he was carried “in spirit,” in vision, into the period of prophecy known as the “day of the Lord” (Rev. 6:15-17).
If Sunday, however, is “the Lord’s day,” or “day of the Lord,” then I Thess. 5:2-3 is a very strange passage of scripture. We read: “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, peace and safety; the sudden destruction comes upon them”! Does every Sunday sneak up on you like a thief? Does sudden destruction come upon the world every Sunday? Obviously not. It should be clear that often when the Bible speaks of the “day of the Lord,” it is not even talking about a day of the week, but a particular period in prophecy!
But why, then, do many people observe Sunday, today? What authority do they have for doing so? For that matter, Jesus did say He was (and is) Lord of a certain day of the week. Read it for yourself: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: Therefore, the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).
The word “Sunday” does not once appear in the Bible, in the original Hebrew and Greek languages. Nor does it appear in most English translations. However, the expression “first day of the week” appears in the New Testament eight times: Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2 and 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7 and I Corth. 16:2. Read each of these passages carefully. You will find that not one of them provides any authority for changing the seventh-day Sabbath to Sunday!
Two of these verses, however, deserve special explanation. Some believe that Acts 20:7 shows that the apostle Paul preached once on the “first day of the week.” But what does this verse really say?
“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. And there were many lights in the upper chamber, when they were gathered together” (vs. 7-8). Yes, this meeting occurred on the first day of the week, no doubt about that, but notice! This occurred when they came together to break bread or in other words, to eat dinner (Acts 2:46). Paul preached till midnight on the first day of the week! Many lights were lit.
Now when did this meeting actually take place? According to the Biblical reckoning, each day begins at sunset and ends the following sunset (Lev. 23:32). The first day of the week, therefore, begins at sunset Saturday and lasts until sunset Sunday. (Not from midnight to midnight which is the modern reckoning). Therefore, this meeting occurred during the night portion of the first day of the week, or on what we, today, call Saturday night! It was not a “Sunday meeting” at all! But on Sunday, at daybreak (Acts 20:11, 13), Paul walked from Troas to Assos, a distance of about 20 miles, a good long hike. Thus, rather than preaching on Sunday, Paul labored on Sunday.
The other verse often quoted to back up Sunday observance is I Corth. 16:2. Paul wrote, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” Many churches quote this verse on little offering envelopes. Many people therefore assume it means we should give an offering every Sunday, but that’s not what the apostle Paul said!
Read this verse in context, starting with verse one of the same chapter. Paul said, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye” (v. 1) This was a special collection for the saints. Which saints? The poor saints, the Church members at Jerusalem who were suffering from famine during this time (Rom. 15:25). Paul was collecting contributions from the churches in his area to provide for their needs (Rom. 15:26-27). This collection included “fruit” (v. 28)!
Therefore the apostle Paul was actually telling the Corinthians that they should go out into the fields on Sunday, and collect the fruit and vegetables, and put them in storage, so they would have the food ready when Paul arrived “that there be no gathering when I come” (I Corth. 16:2). Obviously, he wasn’t even going to be there on that Sunday.
Paul continued, “And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem” (I Corth. 16:3). Obviously, to take so much food to Jerusalem would have required several men. Paul was not talking about monetary church collections every Sunday, not at all!
In view of the fact that there are no scriptures in all the Bible that enjoins Sunday observance upon Christians, how did this custom creep into the Christ-professing churches? Why do most professing Christians observe Sunday today? The record of history reveals the answer.
Jesus Christ never observed Sunday. The early apostles never observed it. How then did it become “Christian”? By whose authority was this day brought into the church?
Declares the historian Hutton Webster, “The early Christians had at first adopted the Jewish seven-day week with its numbered week days, but by the close of the third century A.D. this began to give way to the (pagan) planetary week; and in the fourth and fifth centuries the pagan designations became generally accepted in the western half of Christendom. The use of the planetary names by Christians (that is, people who called themselves “Christians” but who left the faith once delivered) attests the growing influence of astrological speculations introduced by converts from paganism.”
Webster continues with the remarkable statement: “During these same centuries the spread of Oriental solar worship, especially that of Mithra, in the Roman world, had already led to the substitution by pagans of dies Solis (Sunday) for dies Saturni, as the first day of the planetary week. Thus gradually a pagan institution was engrafted into Christianity” (Rest Days, pp. 220-221). But how was paganism dressed up as Christian and put into the professing Christian Church?
The historian Edward Gibbon tells us that the Roman emperor Constantine was a pagan until he was nearly 40 years of age. “But the devotion of Constantine was more peculiarly directed to the genius of the SUN, the Apollo of Greek and Roman mythology. The SUN is universally celebrated as the invincible guide and protector of Constantine” (Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. I. pp. 636-637).
In 313 A.D. Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan which proclaimed religious toleration throughout the empire. Later, when Constantine was sole emperor, he went further. Because he had always venerated the sun and highly esteemed the day of the sun, Sunday, he proclaimed the first day of the week as a day of “rest and of worship, and its observation soon became general throughout the empire. Constantine would not permit court to be held on Sunday. (Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, The Story of the Christian Church, p. 77).
Says Webster, “This was the first ‘Sunday law’ (Ancient History, p. 530). Webster also points out, “It is highly doubtful whether this legislation had any relation to Christianity. More probably, Constantine was only adding the day of the SUN , the worship of which was then firmly established in the empire, to the other holy days of the Roman calendar.”
Asserts historian Webster, “What began however, as a pagan ordinance, ended as a (so-called) Christian regulation; and a long series of imperial decrees, during the 4th and 5th centuries, enjoined with increasingly stringent abstinence from labor on Sunday” (Rest Days, p. 270).
In this manner, the plain teachings of Christ, the early apostles, and the Bible were subverted, overthrown, and rejected!
The apostle Peter foretold that false teachers would creep into the Church, preaching “damnable heresies” (II Peter 2:1). He said: “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (v. 2).
The apostle Jude warned: “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares” (Jude 3-4). Isn’t it about time we got back to the “faith once delivered”? Isn’t it about time we saw paganism for what it is, forsook pagan practices dressed up “as” Christian, and began to obey God and follow Christ?
Nowhere in the entire Bible will you find authority for keeping Sunday. As Cardinal Gibbon himself says in his book Faith of Our Fathers, “But you may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify” (p. 111). Instead, the Bible plainly and strongly condemns embracing pagan practices and worshipping on the day of Baal the sun-god (Jer. 10:1-2; Deut. 12:30-32; Hosea 2:13).
But throughout the Bible, God commands true Christians to worship Him by observing the day He made holy, the 7th day Sabbath! Observance of the true Sabbath is the sign between God and His true people, (Ex. 31:14-17). God says if we keep His day holy, and stop trampling all over it, He will bless and prosper us, and cause us to “ride upon high places of the earth” (Isa. 58: 13-14). God never changes (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8). His laws are eternal (Ps. 111:7-8). His Sabbath day will be observed by the entire world during the soon-coming millennial reign of Jesus Christ on this earth, in the New World to Come (Isa. 66:22-23). Soon the whole world will rejoice in God’s Sabbath!
What about you? The apostle Paul declared, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men everywhere to repent? (Acts 17:30)!
All this is well and interesting, a few people might persist, but I still don’t see any direct New Testament command to keep the Sabbath. Can you show me where there is plain “thus saith the Lord,” in the New Testament, that I should keep the Sabbath?”
Astounding as it may seem, there is just such a command, totally unknown to most professing Christians. In the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament a portion of the Bible seldom read by most people, and understood even less, is a prophecy dealing with the Sabbath day. In Hebrews 4:4 we read,” For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise. And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.” God Himself set us an example, at Creation, by resting on the 7th day.
But when God commanded the ancient Israelites to keep the Sabbath, by sending manna to them the other six days of the week, they broke His commandment (Ex. 16:22-29). And throughout the history of Israel they forsook God’s commands and trampled on His Sabbath (Ezk. 20:13, 16, 21, 24).
Therefore, God says to us in the book of Hebrews, in the New Testament, “There remains therefore a rest (margin, keeping of a Sabbath) to the people of God” (Heb. 4:9). “Rest” is an improper translation in this verse. In the first part of this chapter the Greek word for “rest” is katapausin. However, the word used in verse nine is totally different word. The original Greek word is sabbatismos and refers to the Sabbath day! The Moffat translation makes this verse clearer: “There is a Sabbath-rest, then, reserved still for the people of God.” The Lamsa translation really makes it clear: “It is therefore the duty of the people of God to keep the Sabbath” (Heb. 4:9. So, what will you now do with the knowledge you have? Will you observe God’s seventh day Sabbath or continue observing the day the pagans worshipped the sun – Sunday? The choice is yours.