The Sabbath and Sunday

The Sabbath and Sunday

On what day does God expect Christians to worship?

In the Law of Moses God commanded Israel to observe the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath, by refraining from labor and assembling for spiritual activities. In Exodus 20:8-11, God told Israel, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work…For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” This commandment refers to Genesis 2:2-3, where the Bible says that God rested, or ceased, his labor of creation on the seventh day. God was so serious about the Sabbath law that he commanded Israel to execute a man that was found working on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36). The prophets and historical authors in the Old Testament recorded God’s rebuke at those who ignore the Sabbath law (Nehemiah 13:18-22; Jeremiah 17:19-27). Jesus himself endorsed the Sabbath law, properly interpreted and followed (Matthew 12:1-8).

So why do Christians worship on Sunday, the first day of the week, and not Saturday, the Sabbath? First of all, the covenant under which the Sabbath law was enforced was abolished with the death of Jesus (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Galatians 3:23-29; 5:4; Ephesians 2:11-16; Hebrews 8:13). Because the Law of Moses was replaced by the new covenant of Jesus, that means the Sabbath was also abolished. While many of the commands under the Law of Moses were repeated in the New Testament, the Sabbath is no where reinstituted in the New Testament.  Where in the New Testament does God command Christians to observe the Sabbath? The passage cannot be found. In fact, Paul writes that no one has the right to impose Sabbath observance on anyone: “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). Requirements related to clean and unclean meats, observance of Passover and other festivals—including Sabbath observance—all have been abolished in the new covenant of Christ.

We do read of a new day that Christians observed as holy—Sunday, or the first day of the week. Jesus was raised from the dead on Sunday (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). We read that the Christians observed Sunday as a day of worship to partake the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, to study together, to collect funds for the church’s work, among other activities (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). In the book of Revelation, John mentions “the Lord’s Day,” which according to early church writers outside the Bible referred to Sunday (Revelation 1:10).

God never commanded or implied that Christians should observe the Sabbath. One may choose to do so, but no one can impose that on someone else (Romans 14:4-6). God has instead shown us by the example and model of the early Christians, guided by the Spirit-filled apostles, that Sunday is the day of special reverence on which the church assembles for worship.