Author: Ron Graham
Sabbath to Sunday?
—What is the Christian Sabbath?
Many folk regard Sunday as the “Christian Sabbath”. You may be surprised to learn that this is not so. However Sunday (the first day of the week) is the day on which Christians should meet for the Lord’s Supper.
1 No Change to the Sabbath.
The Sabbath or seventh day was the day that God rested from his work of creation (Genesis 2:2-3). On the first day, in contrast, God began his work of creation. That was the day he made light, and made night and day (Genesis 1:3-5). God did not rest on the first day of the week, so he would have no reason to change the Sabbath day of rest to that day.
The New Testament never regards the first day of the week as the Sabbath. We read, for example, "when the Sabbath was over... very early on the first day of the week..." (Mark 16:1-2). Here two distinct days are recognized, one as having ended —the Sabbath or last day of the week, and another as having begun —the next day or first day of the week.
It is similarly clear in all other New Testament passages mentioning the Sabbath or the first day of the week, that the first day of the week is not regarded as the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the same day as ever, the seventh day, and the first day is the day following the Sabbath day.
Occasionally we hear comments to the effect that the actual day of the week that we observe as holy does not matter, so long as we observe one day in seven. However "God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it." Who dares declare another day for sabbath keeping? It may be that no less a personage than a pope of Rome presumed to do so. We listen to God not popes.
2 No Christian Holy days
There is no commandment given by Christ that Christians should keep the Sabbath. Nor is there any command that the first day of the week should be kept holy as a day of rest. Many people assume such commands, but cannot find them in the New Testament.
Certainly the first day of the week is the proper day for Christians to assemble in order to observe the Lord’s Supper and take up the weekly collection (Acts 20:7, 1Corinthians 16:1-2). However that does not make Sunday a Sabbath rest, nor does it make the first day of the week a holy day —except that the Lord has designated it for assembling to partake of the Lord’s Supper. (More on this later).
There is a link between the expressions "the Lord’s supper" and "the Lord’s day" (Revelation 1:10). The Greek word for "Lord’s" is κυριακος (kuriakos). This word is unique to these two expressions in scripture (1Corinthians 11:20, Revelation 1:10). Nothing else is described as κυριακος.
This indicates that the Lord designates a particular day on which his supper should be observed, rather than any day we please. Only in that sense we may regard the first day as holy.
Regarding every day alike
When we meet to remember Christ who died on the cross, we understand that he nailed to that cross all requirements to observe holy days (Colossians 2:14-17). It would seem inconsistent of Christ to abolish holy days by his cross, and then ordain one by his resurrection.
The observance of holy days is rather looked down upon by Paul. He approves of a person who does not "regard one day above another" and who "regards every day alike" (Romans 14:5-6). Paul would hardly approve of that attitude if Sunday was ordained by God to be observed as a holy day.
Holy days, like laws about foods, are a nuisance to those who wish to practice pure Christianity, the original religion and faith that Christ instituted. On one hand, we try not to offend people who have a lot of unnecessary religious baggage and regard one day as more holy than another. On the other hand we try not to offend Christ by adding stuff to the religion he gave us.
The Day of Christ’s Resurrection
Christ arose on the first day of the week. But he did not die on that day, he was not buried on that day, and he did not ascend into heaven on that day. Why should the day on which he arose be more holy than the day on which he died, or was buried, or was taken up into heaven? Each of these things is as important as the other, so the day on which one of them occurred is no more important than the other days.
The Christian Sabbath
You should not take the above to mean that there is no Christian Sabbath. I am merely saying that Christians do not observe the seventh day or the first day as a holy Sabbath. There is a Christian Sabbath of which the Old Testament Sabbath is a type or symbol. This Sabbath rest is eternal life in heaven.
The Hebrew writer teaches this in chapters 3 and 4 of his letter. He shows that God’s rest and the Christian’s sabbath is a future day, and in the days of our lives on this earth we must "labor to enter into that rest". This means that if we observe the seventh day of the week as our Sabbath, or transfer the nature of that Sabbath to the first day of the week, we have gone back to mere shadows and symbols and have erred (Colossians 2:16-17).
3 The Day that Christians Assemble
Earlier I mentioned that the Lord has designated the first day of the week, not the seventh, for assembling to partake of the Lord’s Supper. I promised to say more on this.
The assembly for the Lord’s Supper should be on “the first day of every week” and this can be seen by comparing four scriptures.
Hebrews 10:25 Firstly, the Hebrew writer forbids “forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as is the habit of some” This shows that the early Christians held regular assemblies and were commanded to attend them, not to forsake them. In fact the Greek word for “church” is εκκλησια (ekkleesia) which is another word meaning “assembly”.
1Corinthians 16:1-3 Secondly, Paul commanded the churches or congregations to collect money “on the first day of every week” His reason was “so that there will be no need for collections when I come” We are forced to conclude that it was on the first day of every week that the congregations were assembling. Otherwise, why would the first day of every week be singled out to facilitate the collection?
1Corinthians 11:20-26 Thirdly, Paul writes about errors at Corinth “when you come together as a church” These errors concerned “the Lord’s Supper” This shows that one purpose for coming together on the first day of every week was (or should have been) to properly observe the Lord’s Supper.
Acts 20:7 Fourthly, the above conclusions are confirmed by Luke who mentions “the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread”. That was in Troas. Paul and his companions met with this congregation, on the first day of the week, and Paul preached to them.
The above verses establish that it was the practice of the first Christians to assemble on the first day of every week to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Their day for “church” was not the Sabbath, the seventh day, but the day after that, the first day of the week.