The Sabbath Issue

Chapter 10: The History of the Sabbath and Sunday Worship

There is alot of misinformation and misunderstanding concerning the origin and status of Sunday Worship and its relationship to the Sabbath. In this Chapter, I just want to summarise the main points on how Sunday Worship developed in Church history and its relationship to the Sabbath. or those who want the classic authoritative, scholarly book on the Sabbath and Sunday Worship, I would recommend: “From Sabbath to Lord’s Day” (a Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation) - Editor: D.A.Carson.

We have inherited a traditional idea that has developed over Church History, that the Sabbath Law (the 4th Commandment) still applies to us today, but it that has been transferred to Sunday. Thus the Jewish day of rest and worship on the 7th day of the week (Saturday) has been transformed itself into the Christian day of corporate worship (Sunday, the first day of the week). However, there is no Biblical basis for this transference. The Sabbath is what it always was, a Saturday day of rest, not a Sunday day of worship. The Sabbath Law does not apply in any way to the Church under the New Covenant. The only people to whom it correctly applies are Jews who do not yet believe in their Messiah Yeshua, and so still consider themselves under Moses.
The Sabbath is the SATURDAY (the 7th day) DAY of REST. It is not SUNDAY (the first day of the week)! 

Law Constantine started Sunday worship AD 321 or 364 (Laodicia)

Sunday worship by believers began already in New Testament times, but it was NOT seen as a replacement for the Sabbath:

Acts 20:7,8,11: “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight....Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed.” 

1Corinthians 16:2: “On the (every) first day of the week, let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” 

For a time many went to Saturday synagogue with non-Christians and met together with other believers at other times. Soon Sunday became the most popular time. Public Christian Worship on Sundays was a practical convenience (being straight after the Sabbath at the start of the new working week), as well as being a Memorial Celebration of Christ’s Resurrection (which was on a Sunday) and the Church’s birth at Pentecost (also a Sunday). 
being appropriate for the Church-Age: For practical reasons it was necessary to chose a regular time for corporate worship that did not clash with the synagogue, so Sunday was usually chosen as a day of worship, but it was not seen as a Sabbath replacement. Such a significant transference would surely show in Acts and the Epistles. It was a convenient practice, but not obligatory, based on Law. 

Revelation 1:10,11: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book.” AD 96.

The Talmud confirms that Sunday worship began with believers in Israel: “on the eve of the Sabbath they did not fast out of respect to the Sabbath, still less did they do so on the Sabbath itself. why did they not fast on the day after the Sabbath? Rabbi Johanan says: Because (out of respect) of the Nazarenes.”
*There is excellent historical evidence that Sunday worship was already universal outside Israel by end of 1st Century. 

In AD 321, Constantine declared Sunday a public holiday, thus confirming the existing practice of the Church, and establishing Sunday officially as the Christian day of worship. Unfortunately, from then on, the Church began to interpret Sunday as the new (Christian) Sabbath, applying the Sabbath Law to Sundays. The teaching developed that we are still under the 4th Commandment Sabbath Law, but now it is Sunday that we must keep as the Sabbath day. This doctrine has no Biblical basis and just brings confusion.

It is not true that Constantine started Sunday worship in AD 321 or the 364 (Council of Laodicia) to promote sun-worship. The later Church Councils ratified the already common practice and made it official, unfortunately applying Sabbath rules and law to Sunday, creating the Christian Sunday Sabbath. But this was misguided. By definition the Sabbath is the 7th day, not the First day of the week. Sunday is never called the Sabbath but the Lord’s day in the Bible, Revelation 1:10 

However neither is there anything wrong with the institution of Sunday worship - God has greatly used it. The combined influence of the Jewish Sabbath and Christian Sunday has created in society our weekend which makes it easier for us to give time to family rest and corporate worship. Only recently have secular pressures disrupted this pattern and eroded this blessing.

Freedom. We are not under the Saturday Sabbath Law, but neither are we under a new Sunday Law that has replaced it. All days are equal (Romans 14). We are free in Christ, but much wisdom is contained in the Sabbath rest: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” - not just for Israel. But God considers us mature enough to incorporate the wisdom of the Sabbath Rest into our lives, without it being a Law for us, by generally taking a weekly day of rest to focus on family and God.
(like bedtime law when growing-up, from which we are free, but also learn wisdom).
Moreover we are commanded in the New Testament to be part of a Church and meet regularly together, and Sunday is still the best day for this for most people, but Biblically other days would be just as good. 

It is difficult if you are required to work on a Sunday, but you are not breaking any Sabbath Commandment. However it is vital you stay in good fellowship in a local Church and be a faithful attender and member: 

Hebrews 10:25: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: so much the more, as you see the day approaching.”

So do your very best to avoid working on Sundays, if that is when your Church meets. If you can’t make a morning service then go to the evening service. If that is not possible at least attend a midweek fellowship meeting. That is obedience to the Law of Christ. Have a pattern of weekly rest in your life - that’s Sabbath wisdom.

If you choose to follow a strict Jewish style sabbath rest day, then that is fine, as long as you do not impose it on others as law. Or if you know someone who keeps Sabbath, respect their freedom to do this. Romans 14:5,6 affirms we are free to count 1 or 2 days special for our rule of life (rest/worship), or to count all days as equal. But living as if we’re under a Sabbath-Law is contradictory to the New Testament; and we are not free to impose a Sabbath Law on others (otherwise we will be in sin) The one keeping the Law must also recognise other’s freedom not to 
God’s day - the Lord’s Sabbath.

Home

Books

About Us

Events

Teachings

Bible Commentary

Media

Shop

Donate

Contact

Print

OBC Office

363 Banbury Road
Oxford - England - UK
OX2 7PL
Telephone: +44 (0)1865 515086
Fax: +44 (0) 8721 107068
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Print

Sunday Services

Sundays at 11am and 6pm
Cheney School Hall
Cheney Lane - Headington
Oxford - England - UK
OX3 7QH