What is God’s Chosen Day of Rest and Worship for Christians?
What is the subject of this set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)?
Many scriptures discuss what is and is not appropriate to do on Sabbath, but do not (dis)prove Sabbath worship under the new covenant. Consequently, these FAQs are devoted solely to a discussion of whether seventh day (Saturday) or first day (Sunday) is God’s chosen day of rest and worship for Christians.
How does one prove (or disprove) a Biblical doctrine?
The Bible alone is sufficient to thoroughly equip the man of God for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16). Everything must be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:28). Thus, a doctrine can be established only by the clear teaching of at least two or three passages. Citations from church fathers and theologians are helpful only in interpreting the Bible, not in setting new precedents or theology.
What does the Bible say about keeping of the Sabbath?
Genesis 2:1-3 describes the seventh-day rest, as God’s crowning act of creation:
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made (emphasis added).
Sabbath did not originate with Jewish tradition or law. Rather, God rested on the seventh day from all of His work. Moreover, the seventh day is the ONLY day that God has specifically blessed for our rest and made holy to Himself for weekly observance, since He Himself rested on that day from all His work of creation. Consequently, Sabbath worship honors God as creator. God commanded His people to rest on the seventh day, calling it the Sabbath (Exodus 16:26, 16:29, 20:10-11, 31:15, 35:2; Leviticus 23:3; Deuteronomy 5:14; Nehemiah 10:31). It is inconsistent to quote the Ten Commandments, but to neglect the fourth: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8-11). God performed the great work of the resurrection on the first day of the week (Sunday), while resting on the seventh day (Sabbath). If God kept the Sabbath even in His work of salvation while in human form, then we should do the same.
Are there blessings for Sabbath keeping?
Yes. The Bible gives many blessings for Sabbath keeping.
If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob (Isaiah 58:13-14, emphasis added).
This is what the LORD says: ‘Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil’ (Isaiah 56:1-2, emphasis added).
‘As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,’ declares the LORD, ‘so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,’ says the LORD (Isaiah 66:22-23, emphasis added).
The first two passages tell of God’s blessing for those who keep the Sabbath as they await His promised salvation through Christ. The third shows the continuation of the Sabbath into the new covenant and even through the millennial reign of Christ (Ezekiel 45:17). Conversely, failure to keep God’s Sabbath neglects the day He has made holy, and fails to honor Him as creator (Genesis 2:2). Consequently, many otherwise
devout Christians do not receive these blessings. Moreover, there is a curse on anyone who adds to or takes away from God’s commands (Revelation 22:18-19). If someone removes from God’s word the command to keep Sabbath and adds to it the “command” to keep Sunday, then he inherits a double curse.
How can one mix the Old and New Covenants in discussing Sabbath?
The Bible itself mixes the two. The only references to “new covenant” are in Jeremiah 31:34, and in Hebrews (chapters 8-12), which repeatedly quote and cite this same Jeremiah passage. Consequently, the relationship between the old and new covenants must be derived from these passages.
How can the promises to Israel apply to the Church and visa versa?
Jeremiah 31:31-34 says:
‘The time is coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD. ‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” because they will all know me, from them the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the LORD. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.’
The new covenant is for the Jews, because man’s keeping of the law was imperfect (not because the law was imperfect). Hebrews 8:8-12 quotes this Jeremiah passage for Christians. The old covenant was written on stone tablets; the new covenant is written on believers’ hearts (Hebrews 8:10). The old covenant promised a Savior; the new covenant fulfilled that promise with Christ as mediator (Hebrews 12:24). The new covenant is to both the believing Jews (Jeremiah 31:31-34) and gentiles (Hebrews 8:8-12 and 12:24). Thus, the old and new covenants are intertwined, and one is meaningless without the other.
Is Sabbath-keeping consistent with Christ’s teaching?
Yes. In Matthew 5:17-19, Christ said:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (emphasis added).
Christ did not come to do away with the law but to fulfill it. He also said that nothing will be taken out of the law until heaven and earth pass away, and that anyone who breaks these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in God’s kingdom.
Is Sabbath-keeping consistent with Paul’s teaching?
Paul taught that the gentiles have been grafted into the people of God (Israel) and that both can partake of salvation through Christ (Romans 11:1-27). The new covenant is described in verse 27, as the taking away of our sins by the perfect blood sacrifice of Christ and a writing of the law on our hearts. Romans 3:24-31 says that God is the God of Jews and gentiles, because both are justified by faith in Christ. Paul further explains that this faith does not void (nullify) the law, but establishes (upholds) it. Abraham received God’s inheritance under the old covenant; the church is heir to the same promises under the new covenant: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). Thus, the notion that the new covenant does away with of the law is unscriptural.
Doesn’t the Bible command Sunday rest and worship for Christians?
No. The Bible has no command from God, Christ, or any apostle that changed the day of rest and worship. God explained all of His commandments carefully. Any trespass of a commandment met with severe punishment. For example, the penalty for not keeping Sabbath was the death penalty (Exodus
31:15, 35:2; Numbers 15:32-36). Christ also gave new commands after his resurrection: make disciples, baptize new believers, wait in Jerusalem for the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and teach all nations to obey everything that He had commanded them. The celebration of a first-day (Sunday) was not one of them, because the apostles taught no such doctrine. Consequently, Sunday worship is a tradition of men.
Did the Jerusalem Council mention Sabbath-keeping?
Jerusalem Council included Sabbath-keeping in its instructions. Specifically, Acts 15:20-21 says:
But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day (emphasis added).
This passage clearly shows that Christians gathered on Sabbath for instruction and worship.
Didn’t the disciples gather for worship on the evening of the first day after Christ’s resurrection?
No. The Bible says in John 20:19-25 that:
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 …
They were hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews late on the first day. They did not know where else to go, or what else to do. No elements of service are mentioned, such as worship or instruction.
Didn’t Paul meet with the Troas church for a first-day celebration?
The specific Bible passage is Acts 20:7, which says:
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.
Paul arrived in Troas and met with the believers who broke bread. (Communion was referred to as the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:20, so the breaking of bread was a fellowship meal and not the taking of communion.) Paul founded this congregation in Acts 16:8-11, so he preached late into the night to encourage the people. The gathering continued through the night with another fellowship meal (breaking of bread), and ended with Paul’s departure at dawn. Nothing in this passage shows that this gathering was a regular first-day observance. Rather, this event was a one-of-a-kind visit by the church’s founder, Paul.
Doesn’t Paul command first-day worship in 1 Corinthians 16:2?
No. The specific passage in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 is as follows:
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 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.
Christians were to set aside the first fruits of their weekly income for the Lord on the first day of the week without any mention of a worship or fellowship gathering. The handling of money (buying, selling, trading, etc.) was considered work and was forbidden on Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:15-22).
Doesn’t Revelation 1:10 support Sunday worship?
No. Revelation 1:10 says that John was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” without any indication that this day was the first day or seventh day. The Bible never refers to Sunday as the Lord’s Day, and so to claim that this is a Sunday observance is not consistent with the rest of the Scriptures. The Bible does not say what day the Lord’s Day was, or even if it was a weekly or annual celebration.
How then can one rightly interrupt these passages of scripture?
The first two passages (Acts 20:7 and 1 Cor 16:2) do not refer to a Sunday worship/rest observance. The third (Rev 1:10) makes no claim to there being a weekly custom of first day worship. Thus, there is not a Scriptural basis for the doctrine of Sunday worship. These three passages about first-day activities are commonly used to justify Sunday worship. However, Acts records that the believers both met and worshiped on many other (undesignated) days (for example): Acts 3:1, Acts 5:21, Acts 16:16, Acts 17:11,
and Acts 20:17-37. Application of the previous logic to these instances would lead to worship on any or all days of the week. God commands us specifically to remember His Sabbath (seventh day) to keep it holy. Meeting and worship on other days is allowed, but optional.
Doesn’t Sunday worship celebrate the risen Christ?
No. God commanded the celebration of an annual day to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, namely the Feast of First Fruits. When we celebrate this God-ordained festival commemorating our new life in Christ, we testify to the world that we do indeed have a risen Savior. We can’t use man’s way of doing things to worship God and demonstrate Him to the world. We must worship and exalt Him according to God’s commands. First Fruits was given as a reminder and testimony of Christ’s atoning work. Sunday was not. In addition, when we neglect Sabbath in favor of Sunday, we fail to be reminded of and to demonstrate to the world, one of God’s most beautiful promises: that just as we receive a weekly rest after our work is complete, someday we will receive an eternal rest at the end of the age when we have accomplished all of God’s work. "There remains, then, a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:9-11).
Do New Testament passages exist for Christian observance of Sabbath?
Yes. There are many New Testament passages that substantiate the celebration of Sabbath and its continuance under the new covenant. Christ went regularly to the synagogues to worship and teach on the Sabbath. The gospels record 45 different verses, with 50 references to Sabbath, in contrast to three verses referring to first-day activities. After Christ’s resurrection, there are six additional occurrences of Sabbath day observance by the believers and apostles, both Jews and gentiles.
Acts 13:14: Paul and his companions went to the synagogue and observed Sabbath;
Acts 13:42: The gentiles asked Paul to teach them on the Sabbath;
Acts 13:44: Almost everyone came to hear Paul preach on a Sabbath;
Acts 16:28: Paul et al. went outside the city to pray and worship on Sabbath;
Acts 17:2: Paul preached at the Thessalonican synagogue on three Sabbaths.
Acts 18:4: Paul preached in the Corinthian synagogue every Sabbath to Jews and Greeks
Three more passages refer to Sabbath activities:
Acts 1:12: The Mount of Olives was a Sabbath day’s walk from Jerusalem;
Acts 13:27: Paul states that the Scriptures are read every Sabbath;
Acts 15: 21: Moses and the law are preached on every Sabbath.
These passages show that both Jewish and Gentile Christians celebrated Sabbath (not first day) long after Christ’s resurrection, thus providing many witnesses about the continuation of Sabbath observance.
Doesn’t Colossians 2:16 condemn Sabbath worship?
No. Paul said that believers should not judge one another by their holy days and Sabbaths, which is fully consistent with Christ’s teaching (Matthew 7:1). Paul never said that it is wrong to celebrate the Sabbath (in fact, for him to do so, would have been contrary to his own practice, as shown above).
How can Sabbath-day worship be proper, since it’s not commanded in the New Testament?
If we were to disregard every law/commandment of the Old Testament, because it is not repeated again in the new, we would have to allow (for example): bestiality, the perversion of justice, the endangerment of others, the eating of animals that were found dead, and the consulting of mediums and spiritists. We would also have to disallow the use of music in worship, etc. If the Bible is a single book, then the commandments of the Old Testament should not have to be repeated in the New Testament. To change the observance of Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday would be contrary to God’s unchanging nature (Malachi 3:6). God’s commandments, desires, and plans remained fixed throughout eternity. Consequently, God makes Sabbath part of His everlasting covenant (Ex. 31:16; Lev. 24:8).
If Sabbath worship was common among New Testament Christians, how did it change?
Around 60 A.D., the Jews fell out of favor with the Romans. Shortly afterward, Jerusalem was sacked (70 A.D.). Since Sabbath observance was linked in Roman eyes to Judaism, anyone, Jewish or Christian, who celebrated Sabbath was persecuted. In response, Christians began to celebrate Sabbath quietly, and publicly worshiped on Sunday. For many years, the celebration of both went on side by side, but slowly, a shift occurred, and Sunday observance was well established long before the council of Nice. These events explain the change but do not justify the switch, since it was obviously not commanded by Christ, God, or the apostles. The following website has a very thorough and well balanced history of this change:
While the article is written by a Sabbath-keeper, it is extremely fair and very well referenced.
Can all the major denominations and godly theologians be wrong about Sabbath?
First, not all theologians believe in Sunday worship. Second, support for a doctrine by theologians and scholars does not guarantee its inerrancy. A good Scriptural example is that the scholars, teachers of the law, and Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day expected that the Messiah would come as a political ruler to set up an immediate earthly kingdom. Hence, they rejected Him. It took the simple faith of Christ’s followers to understand the spiritual nature of God’s kingdom. Another example is that God’s laws regarding diet and food selection are still applicable and beneficial for us today. Yet most of the people in the church do not agree. Most theologians and church leaders also eat pork and teach others to do the same, arguing that Christ’s death and the new covenant have abolished these dietary laws. If they can be mistaken about the benefits of God’s dietary laws, could they not also be wrong about God’s command to keep Sabbath?
Why did God mightily use church fathers who did not keep Sabbath?
He uses imperfect people to accomplish His perfect plan. If God waited for the “perfect” man to serve Him, nothing would be done. Instead, God sees the intentions of the heart and the desires of men, honoring those intentions and forgiving their mistakes along the way. Indeed, God used very imperfect vessels for His perfect work: a donkey, a prostitute (Rahab), an adulterer/murderer (David), a tax collector (Matthew), an idolater (Aaron), and many other men and women who were less than perfect. There’s no doubt of the godly work accomplished by the church fathers. How much more might have been accomplished if they had followed more closely God’s commandments, including Sabbath-keeping?
Doesn’t the general lack of Christian support for Sabbath keeping show a doctrinal error?
No. The Scripture does not show that those who stand alone must be in error. Hebrews 10:25, is a good guideline, but does not establish a doctrine on its own. Indeed, many godly men and women stood alone, because of their obedience to God. Examples include: Abraham (who was commanded to leave his family and home town), Joseph (who spent many years in prison without fellowship), Elijah (who hid alone from Ahab), David (who was alienated from the tabernacle during Saul’s reign), Jeremiah (who was imprisoned and unable to visit the temple), Ezekiel (who laid on his side for many months), and John the apostle who was exiled to the isle of Patmos. The very church fathers who accomplished the great works of the reformation, such as Martin Luther, had to reject the fellowship of the church in order to stand for what they knew to be right. There is no Scriptural basis for saying that standing alone is a sign of sin, doctrinal error, or God’s disapproval. God is calling many people out of traditional denominations to the keeping of the Sabbath.