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.
Acts 20:7

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Should Christians Worship on Saturday or Sunday?

For nearly two millennia, Christians have met for worship on Sunday but occasionally the question arises, “Why don’t Christians meet on the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) as prescribed by Old Testament law?” 

This treatise will give the reason why Sunday is the correct day for Christian worship and address the objections and questions some have in favor of Saturday worship by answering the following questions.

1.  Did the New Testament Church meet on the First Day of the Week?

2.  Why did the church meet on the First Day of the week?

3.  Which day is meant by “the Lord’s Day”?

4.  What did the Old Testament teach about the Sabbath?

5.  What does the New Testament teach about the Old Testament Sabbath?

6.  What does the New Testament teach about the Church’s responsibilities to the Old Testament Sabbath?

7.  Didn't Paul regularly preach on the Sabbath day?

8.  If the Sabbath was part of the law, can it be changed?

9.  Did the Catholic Church change the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, instead of the Apostles?

10.  What do the early church fathers say about the correct day for New Testament worship?

11.  What about Constantine’s Legal Sanction of Sunday?

Conclusion

Appendix


1.  Did the New Testament Church meet on the First Day of the Week?

Two passages of scripture give affirmative evidence to this question.

Acts 20:7  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.

According to Acts 20:7 the first day of the week was the ordinary time for the disciples to meet together.  Notice the phrase "upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread" which demonstrates that this was a regular weekly meeting time of the disciples.  Since this was their customary meeting time, Paul preached to them just as Christians do today.  However, the Jews reckoned time from sundown to sundown (Gen 1:5) not midnight to midnight as with the first century Romans and the modern world.  Thus, by Jewish reckoning, Sunday began at sundown Saturday evening, marking the end of the Sabbath and the beginning of the first day of the week.  This explains why Paul’s preaching lasted till midnight because he was preaching on what we would normally call Saturday night, though it was scripturally already Sunday.

The breaking of bread could have been associated with a regular meal but is much more likely the Lord’s Supper.  For instance Acts 2:42 states, “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”  This is a statement of Christian acts of worship.  The only form of breaking of bread that would be considered worship is the Lord’s Supper.  And in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 the Apostle Paul reminds us, “the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread and when he had given thanks, he brake it.”

1 Corinthians 16:2  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.

Paul instructs the church at Corinth to bring their offerings to the church and the gifts they wanted to send to the saints in Jerusalem before his arrival.  The Apostle Paul places this logically on the day when they normally met together for worship,  the first day the week.

Finally, there is no statement in the New Testament that the church met on the Sabbath on a regular basis.


2.  Why did the church meet on the First Day of the week?

Mark 16:9  Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.  (emphasis mine)

The simple answer is Christians meet for worship on Sunday in honor, celebration and recognition of the resurrection of Jesus Christ upon the first day of the week. 

After His resurrection, one of Christ’s special appearances to his disciples was on the first day of the week.

John 20:19  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, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

Jesus is also the first born from the dead.

Revelation 1:5-6 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Jesus Christ being the first born from the dead, Christians offer their thanks and praise to God by worshipping at the beginning of the week before they engage in the rest of the week’s activities.


3.  Which day is meant by “the Lord’s Day”?

The Apostle John identifies the “Lord’s day” as being special in Revelation 1:10 which reads, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,"

The scriptures do not identify the Jewish Sabbath as being the Lord’s Day.  Christ said he was Lord of the Sabbath in Matthew 12:8 but does not call it the Lord’s Day.  And Christ said in Mark 2:27, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath,” indicating the Sabbath was God’s day for man not the Lord. 

But Mark 16:9 says, “Jesus was risen early the first day of the week.”  This is the Lord’s Day, the day of His resurrection.  Ignatius, a Christian of the early second century made the following remarks:

 ”...no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day”.  Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 9 [shorter] 

“At the dawning of the Lord’s day He arose from the dead, the Sabbath embraces the burial; the Lord’s Day contains the resurrection.” The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians, Chapter 9 [Longer]

Why was John in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day?  It was because he was worshipping the Lord on the Christian day of worship which is the first day of the week, Sunday.


4.  What did the Old Testament teach about the Sabbath?

Sabbath is transliterated from the Hebrew "shabbath" meaning “intermission”.  First used in Exodus 16:23, it is identified as the day of rest upon the seventh day of the week.

The weekly institution of the Sabbath is found in the fourth commandment of the Decalogue.

Exodus 20:8  Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9  Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

The Sabbath day was a law specifically given to the nation of Israel which commemorates the end of the creation of the world.  It is also given in mercy as a day of rest.

The following passage from Numbers 15 illustrates the seriousness with which God expected the Israelites to keep the Law.  In verses 30-31 we read that the penalty for presumptuous sins is death.  And then verses 32-36 tell us the first person put to death for a presumptuous sin had broken the Sabbath day law.

Numbers 15:30 But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. {presumptuously: Heb. with an high hand}
31  Because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.
32  And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.
33  And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.
34  And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.
35  And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.
36  And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.

As we can see, a presumptuous sin against keeping the Sabbath was a serious offense indeed.  Although they would be guilty of breaking the Sabbath day many times throughout the Old Testament, and not suffer the level or swiftness of this consequence, this occasion demonstrates the seriousness of the offense in God’s eyes where Israel was concerned.  This appears to be the first Israelite who broke, and was subsequently condemned for breaking, one of the Ten Commandments, and therefore his swift execution was used to make an example for the rest of the nation.


5.  What does the New Testament teach about the Sabbath?

The following passage in Matthew 12, illustrates the relation of the New Testament Jews to the Sabbath and Christ’s teaching on it.

1  At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.
2  But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.

The Pharisees object to Jesus and the disciples plucking corn to eat on the Sabbath day.

3  But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;
4  How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?

Jesus points out an apparent inconsistency in how the law was kept by David who the Pharisees would not condemn.  The reason was the need for mercy.  David and his men were hungry and weary and had an emergency need for food.  God, who is merciful, was not upset by what David and his men did.

In the parallel passage in Mark 2:27 Jesus further states, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:”  Here we see that God instituted the Sabbath for Israel as an act of mercy.  Prior to the giving of the Ten Commandments, the Israelites had spent hundreds of years in servitude to the Egyptians without rest.  Now in order to keep masters of men and owners of livestock from abuse by working their men or livestock without rest, God instituted a day of rest for them.  This is born out in Exodus 20:10 … in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

5  Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
6  But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.

Jesus points out that the priests work on the Sabbath day by making offerings but are held blameless under the law because they were obeying God’s commands.  The point being that there are exceptions to keeping the Sabbath as opposed to the other parts of the law for which there are no exceptions, such as “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” etc.  Jesus also points out that he is greater than the temple or the temple worship, as he is God in the flesh.

7  But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.

Jesus declares his innocence from breaking the law and also points out the original intent of the Sabbath day which was a merciful day of rest given to the Israelites after being forced to work for years under Egyptian cruelty..

8  For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

Now Christ declares his superiority over the Sabbath.  Consequently, as Lord, he may do on the Sabbath day as he wishes.  He can change the rules of the Sabbath, make exceptions to the Sabbath and engage in acts of mercy on the Sabbath as follows next.

9  And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue:
10  And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.
11  And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?

Jesus points out the self evident fact that any person would, in an act of mercy, rescue a sheep that had fallen into a ditch even though by Pharisaical definition this would be work.

12  How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.
13  Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.

Jesus demonstrates that it is lawful to do good and to heal, even on the Sabbath day.  The purposes of His miraculous healings were to demonstrate that His message was true.  His purpose in healing on the Sabbath day was to demonstrate to the Pharisees that they had the wrong understanding about what the Sabbath day was for.

14 Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.

By their reaction, the Pharisees demonstrate that they did not believe the message of Jesus nor did they understand the purpose of the Sabbath.  The Sabbath was not instituted for law keeping to make one righteous.  It was instituted by God as an act of mercy by placing, in the civil law of Israel, a day of rest for the people of God.


6.  What does the New Testament teach about the Church’s responsibilities to the Old Testament Sabbath?

To illustrate the church’s responsibilities to the Old Testament Sabbath, we need to understand its responsibilities to the rest of the Ten Commandments.  With respect to Commandments 5-10, all six of these are specifically enjoined upon Christians in the following passages.

Commandment 5:   Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.  Ephesians 6:2-3

Commandments 6-10:  Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.  For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  Romans 13:8-9

Commandments 1-3 are enjoined upon Christians in the following passages.

Commandment 1:  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  Romans 12:1 
… serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:  Heb 12:28

Commandment 2:  Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.  1John 5:21

Commandment 3:  But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.  James 5:12 

Which commandments, Christ summed up in Mark 12:30, “…thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”

But neither in any of the above lists nor anywhere else in the New Testament is keeping the Sabbath day ever enjoined upon the Christian Church.  This is a telling omission, for if nine parts of the law are specifically enjoined upon Christians then if Christians are expected to be under the Old Testament Sabbath, surely it would have been specifically stipulated, as where the others. 

Not only do the New Testament scriptures not teach the keeping of the Saturday Sabbath, if there was ever a time for this to be taught to the Gentile Christian church it would have been in Acts 15.  This passage, often referred to as the Counsel at Jerusalem, was a meeting of the twelve apostles.  They met to settle the issue of circumcision with respect to the Gentile Church.   Acts 15:1 states, “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.”  To which Peter states, "Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they."  Acts 15:10-11  Ultimately James settles the issue by saying, “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:  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.”  Acts 15:19-21

The first two injunctions (idols and fornication) are always in force for being immoral.  The second two, (not eating blood or things strangled) though not immoral, are listed with the first two so as to prevent the Gentile Christians from scandalizing their Jewish neighbors.  As noted in verse 21 these things were taught against in the synagogues.   However, if the Gentiles were supposed to meet on the Sabbath day this would have been a good opportunity to mention it, especially when it is seen from Acts 20:7 that their custom was to gather on the first day of the week rather than the Jewish Sabbath.

Speaking on the dietary laws in Romans 14:1, Paul states that a Christian is not under the Old Testament dietary laws but is at liberty to eat what ever he wants.  Then in verse 5 he states, "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.  6.  He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it."  In other words, Christians are at liberty to decide whether they still want to honor the Sabbath day as a day of rest but are under no obligation to do so.  However, a brother who believes he is obligated by the law to do so is considered to be the weaker brother in faith but he is not to be condemned for his actions.

And finally, as Paul explicitly states to the church at Colossi, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:” Col 2:16  Days is italicized because it is not in the Greek but is supplied by the translators.  The definite article “the” is not in the Greek either.  The Greek simply reads “or of sabbaths”.  Paul’s instruction is that the Colossian Church was not under obligation to observe Jewish dietary laws.  Nor were they under obligation to observe Jewish holydays such as the Passover, Pentecost and Feast of Tabernacles.  Nor were they under obligation to observe Jewish months (new moons).  Nor were they under obligation to observe the Jewish Sabbaths.  The reason for this is they were Christians not Israelites.  Thus, Christians are not under the Mosaical Law though they are "not without law to God, but under the law to Christ."  1 Corinthians 9:21 

Paul concludes by saying the dietary laws, annual feasts, new moons, and the Sabbaths were, "a shadow of things to come".  What the Sabbath foreshadowed will be discussed further at the end of section 8.


7.  Didn't Paul regularly preach on the Sabbath day?

In the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul is frequently found preaching on the Sabbath day as the following quotes will show.

Ac 13:14  But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.
Ac 13:42  And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
Ac 13:44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
Ac 16:13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted [thither].
Ac 17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: 2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
Ac 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.

It is important to note, that in each case the Apostle Paul was evangelizing the Jews, not preaching to the church.  Common sense would dictate that Paul preached regularly in the synagogues seeking the lost sheep of the house of Israel because the gospel was sent to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.  It can not be established from these verses or any others that the church met for worship and preaching on the Sabbath day.  In fact, quite the opposite is just the case.  Acts 20:7


8.  Since the Sabbath was part of the law, how can it be changed?

The fact is many Old Testament laws were changed upon the entering of the New Testament.  Perhaps chief among the laws that was changed was circumcision.  A cursory reading of the New Testament epistles indicates that no other Old Testament law was used more often than circumcision to challenge Gentile Christians who were uncircumcised.  As already noted, the Counsel of Jerusalem was convened over the issue of circumcision.  The entire Epistle to the Galatians was written to settle this issue and many other New Testament passages attest that circumcision is not a law that Gentile Christians are obligated to obey. 

But the following passages demonstrate the importance of circumcision in the Old Testament when God gave the covenant of circumcision to Abraham.

Genesis 17:11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
12  And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
13  He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
14  And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.  (Emphasis mine)

Considering that failing to be circumcised was punishable by death, this covenant was later codified in the Levitical Law (Leviticus 12:3) along with the Decalogue and other commandments of God.  But in the New Testament we find that, “…in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” Gal 5:6

Galatians 5:2-3 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.  For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

Romans 3:29-30 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:  Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

And if there is any doubt about whether Gentile Christians must be circumcised Paul says, “But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:” Galatians 2:3

Many other parts of the Law were done away with the advent of Christianity.  A few examples, but not all, are the sacrificial worship (Hebrews 10:26), the temple worship (Matthew 24:2) and the dietary laws (Acts 10:15, 1 Timothy 4:4).

Of these three examples, the New Testament reveals them to have been Old Testament types of New Testament truth.  The Old Testament sacrifices were a type of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 9:26, 10:12  The Temple worship was a type of the New Testament church.  1 Corinthians 3:16, Ephesians 2:21, 1 Peter 2:5  The end of the dietary laws represented God’s acceptance of the Gentile Christians without them having to become Jews first.  Acts 10:15

Likewise circumcision served as an Old Testament type of New Testament truth.  Circumcision was a type for putting away the sins of the flesh by the work of the Spirit of God in Christ.

Romans 2:28-29  For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Colossians 2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

The keeping of the Sabbath day rest as a law was only ever enjoined upon the nation of Israel.  Not even such patriarchs as Noah and Abraham were specifically commanded to be under the Sabbath law.  (In contrast Abraham was under the law of circumcision but Noah was not.)  And as previously noted in Colossians 2:16 the church was not obliged to observe the Jewish Sabbath.

Furthermore, the New Testament does not command the Gentile Christians to be under this law because the Sabbath, like other Old Testament types, finds its fulfillment in the New Testament.  In Hebrews 4:7-12 we see the explanation of what the Sabbath foreshadowed as Paul had mentioned in Colossians 2:17. 

Hebrews 4:7 Again, he (God) limiteth (appoints) a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his (the Holy Ghost’s) voice, harden not your hearts.
8  For if Jesus (OT-Joshua) had given them (nation of Israel) rest (Greek- katapauo, rest), then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
9  There remaineth therefore a rest (Greek- sabbatismos, keeping of a rest) to the people of God.

The Sabbatismos is not the same as the regular Sabbath day rest.  But the point is that Christians do have a fulfillment of the OT Sabbath (Greek-Sabbaton) rest which is here called the Sabbatismos. 

10  For he that is entered into his rest (Greek- katapausis, resting place), he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

The meaning of this Christian rest is not tied to a day of the week but is instead a rest from our works of self-righteousness.

11   Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest (Greek- katapausis, resting place), lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

We are to cease from our labor or efforts in producing our own works of righteousness which is an example of unbelief.  Instead we are to labor to enter into Christ's righteousness.  By putting on the righteousness of Christ and claiming that all our righteous works are His, we have entered into His rest.

12  For the word (Greek-logos, word i.e. Jesus Christ) of God is quick (Greek-zao, living [Christ is the living word]), and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Christ can never be fooled by anyone's works of self-righteousness.  Christ has the power and the sharpness to divide our works from His works.  He discerns our every thought and motivation.  If our works, our thoughts and our motives are impure, Christ can never be fooled.  He will only accept works from us that are derived from His own perfect nature and work.

The Christian ceases from trying to be righteous by his own works.  Thus resting from his works, trusting only in Christ, he enjoys Christ's righteousness – the sabbatismos, Hebrews 4:9.  The Old Testament Sabbath day rest is a type of the rest that the Christian enters into when we cease from our corrupted works of righteousness and rest in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Finally, the reason the laws changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament is God is the law giver.  As such, He (just like law makers in government) has the power and authority to change them at His pleasure.  He also has the power to put some people under one law in the Old Dispensation and other people under a different law in the New Dispensation.  That Christ was such a prophet and law giver was foretold by Moses when he said, "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; De 18:15"


9.  Did the Catholic Church change the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, instead of the Apostles?

There have certainly been individual Catholics who have made that claim.  And many have been led astray by these false claims.  Let us examine a few samples taken from a seventh day website.   

Protestantism, in discarding the authority of the [Roman Catholic] church has no good reason for its Sunday theory, and ought logically to keep Saturday as the Sab­bath.—John Gilmary Shea; American Catholic Quarterly Review, Jan. 1883

QuestionHave you any other way of proving that the [Catholic] church has the power to institute festivals of precept?
AnswerHad 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.—Stephen Keenan; A Doctrinal Catechism, p. 176

The Catholic Church for over 1,000 years before the existence of a protestant, by virtue of her divine mission, changed the day from Saturday to Sunday.—Catholic Mirror, Sept. 1893

Considering that Catholics are not known for their religious honesty or truthfulness in handling the word of God, the reader would do well to treat any Catholic statement with a healthy amount of skepticism.   The seventh day advocates have chosen these (and other) statements playing upon the knee-jerk reaction and revulsion that many anti-Catholics have against all things Catholic.  The desired response being that, “If the Catholics are for it, I’m against it.” 

But we need to look deeper into why these Catholic statements are made in the first place.  It is plainly evident in the Q&A  statement above that the Catholic purpose is not to promote either the acceptableness of worship on either Saturday or Sunday.  But it was to undermine Protestant teaching of sola scriptura (scriptures only) in favor of Catholic tradition and Popery, because all Protestants worship on Sunday.  These are but straw man arguments used to elicit an emotional response against Sunday worship (in the case of seventh day advocates) or against Protestantism (in the case of Catholic advocates).  All such statements are lacking in both Biblical scholarship (typical of Catholicism) and historical scholarship (typical of the ignorant).  We have already proven the Biblical scholarship for Sunday worship in sections 1-8 of this treatise.  Section 10 will provide the historical scholarship for Sunday worship.

With regard to the Catholics placing all non-Catholic denominations under the umbrella of Protestantism, Baptists and Primitive Baptists in particular deny being Protestant churches.  The Roman Catholic Church, the Great Whore, the Mother of Harlots and Mystery of Babylon is not the mother of the Baptist churches.  Baptists trace a line of worship from the age of the apostles to the present time, separate and distinct from the Catholic Church.  This is more evidence that the Catholic Church did not change the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, but that the Baptists have been following the ancient apostolic practice from the beginning by meeting on the Lord's Day. 

With respect to the historical scholarship of the fore-mentioned Catholic writers, statements made 18 centuries after the fact will not stand up to the test of historicity.  Simply making a statement, no matter how right it might sound in the ears of some, does not make it a true statement.  Remember that Catholics have built an entire religion out of making false doctrines, statements and practice that sound true to the ears of billions.  And remember their only aim, by the fore-mentioned statements, is to promote the false notion that the Catholic Church, not the New Testament, changed the official day of worship from Saturday to Sunday.  Thus, in their minds, Catholic Popery and tradition should rule over all people, eliminating the Protestant and Baptist churches. 

But, no such claim is made by the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia which reads in part, “Sunday was the first day of the week according to the Jewish method of reckoning, but for Christians it began to take the place of the Jewish Sabbath in Apostolic times as the day set apart for the public and solemn worship of God. The practice of meeting together on the first day of the week for the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is indicated in Acts, xx 7; I Cor., xvi, 2; in Apoc., i, 10, it is called the Lord's day.”  The reader will notice that the Catholic Encyclopedia disagrees with the fore-mentioned Catholic writers and presents Biblical references, not Catholic tradition, as the reason for the change from Saturday to Sunday worship in the New Testament.


10.  What do the early church fathers say about the correct day for New Testament worship?

Since the historicity of Apostolic Sunday worship has been challenged by a few Catholic writers, 18 centuries after the fact, we will now turn our attention to those Christians who lived in the century immediately following the Apostolic Age.  While history is never a substitute for the Bible, it does give us a much closer and certainly more accurate view of Christian practice than underhanded and unknowledgeable statements made centuries later.

Did Christians worship on Sunday before the advent of the Roman Catholic Church?  The following are quotes from early second century writers.  (Complete quotes and full references are available with extra information in the Appendix)

Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, …. let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week].  The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, Chapter 9 [Longer] 

“At the dawning of the Lord’s day He arose from the dead, the Sabbath embraces the burial; the Lord’s Day contains the resurrection.” The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians, Chapter 9 [Longer] 

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.  The First Apology of Justin Martyr, Chapter 67

But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.  The First Apology of Justin Martyr, Chapter 67 

“…as I said before, not inducing them either to be circumcised like themselves, or to keep the Sabbath, or to observe any other such ceremonies…”  Dialogue of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew, Chapter 47

The preceding quotes are sufficient to prove that Christians were meeting for worship on Sunday long before the Roman Catholic Church could have had any influence on Christian practice.


11. What about Constantine’s Legal Sanction of Sunday?

According to Phillip Schaff’s, History of the Christian Church, “Constantine in 321 forbade the sitting of courts and all secular labor in towns on "the venerable day of the sun," as he expresses himself, perhaps with reference at once to the sun-god, Apollo, and to Christ, the true Sun of righteousness; to his pagan and his Christian subjects. But he distinctly permitted the culture of farms and vineyards in the country, because frequently this could be attended to on no other day so well; though one would suppose that the hard-working peasantry were the very ones who most needed the day of rest. Soon afterward, in June, 321, he allowed the manumission of slaves on Sunday; as this, being an act of benevolence, was different from ordinary business, and might be altogether appropriate to the day of resurrection and redemption. According to Eusebius, Constantine also prohibited all military exercises on Sunday, and at the same time enjoined the observance of Friday in memory of the death of Christ.”  History of the Christian Church, 17. Legal Sanction of Sunday,  Philip Schaff

The belief that Constantine changed the established Christian day of worship from Saturday to Sunday is founded on the false assumption that since Apostolic times, Christians had been worshipping on Saturdays.  Constantine merely established by Roman law the precedent already practiced by the church since Apostolic times, which set aside Sunday as the prescribed day for worship.


Conclusion

Sunday is the correct day for Christian worship.  The evidence from both scripture and history is conclusive proof of this statement.  The Apostle Paul and the Christians met together upon the first day of the week.  The Apostle John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.  The second century Christian writers, Ignatius and Justin, state that Christians met on Sunday calling it the Lord's Day.  The Baptist churches, separate and distinct from the Roman Catholic Church, have continued this practice from the apostolic times to the present day.  Let us continue to worship and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ upon the first day of the week, just as Christians have for nearly two millennia.

Elder James Taylor


Appendix

 
 

Edit 11/10/2008

 

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