Question Time – Why do we worship on a Sunday and not on the seventh day?

QUESTION

Why do we worship on a Sunday and not on the seventh day?

ANSWER

Although the question is phrased exactly as it was submitted, I assume that what the questioner had in mind was ‘why do we break bread on a Sunday and not on the seventh day’? After all, there is no restriction imposed in either the Old or New Testaments as to when God’s people can worship; they are free to worship on any day and at any time.

One of the features that distinguished Israel from the rest of the nations was their adherence to keeping the Sabbath day. The Sabbath was the seventh day and its selection was not determined by Israel but by God, 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’, Exod. 20. 11. Such was the magnitude of the commandment that its violation carried the death sentence. However, it is important for us to realize that this was not a commandment issued by God for all mankind but specifically for the Jews. ‘It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever’, 31. 17.

The word Sabbath, or its plural form, occurs 146 times between Genesis and Acts chapter 18, from there to the end of the Bible it is only used once. Therefore, from its usage in scripture, it is quite obvious that Sabbath-keeping is not a part of ‘church truth’ and you will not locate one instance where Christians are exhorted to set that day aside. Even the Jewish believers of the first century church were never commanded to teach the Gentiles to obey this day. The one time the word Sabbath is used after the book of Acts is in Colossians chapter 2 verse 16, where the apostle Paul instructs us that we should not judge anyone on not keeping that day.

The keeping of the Sabbath was just one of the commandments given to Israel by God and formed part of the ritual of the old covenant. Now that Christ has died and risen and the Holy Spirit has come, we are no longer living in the age of the old covenant, it has been replaced by something new and better. To insist on Sabbath adherence is to take God’s people back to things that are weak and beggarly, to resurrect that which God has finished with, and to bring Christians into a bondage from which they have been delivered.

It might be suggested by some that for the Christian the Sabbath day has been changed to the first day of the week, but even that is not correct. It is true that within the New Testament there is a shift in emphasis from the Sabbath to the first day but nowhere does the scripture teach that Sunday has replaced the Sabbath. Neither can we find evidence that the first century Christians considered the first day to be a holy day. There is no law commanding us to keep Sunday in the way Israel were instructed to keep the Sabbath, nor is it the only day we are required to assemble and worship.

This, of course, does not mean that we should be careless as to what we do on a Sunday. It is a day of sacred association and is described in Revelation chapter 1 as ‘the Lord’s day’. That does not mean that any other day of the week is less sacred as far as Christian living is concerned, but it is the day of the Lord’s resurrection. According to Acts chapter 20 verse 7, it is the day when the Lord’s supper was observed and in 1 Corinthians chapter 16 we learn that freewill offerings were set aside. It is, therefore, a day of positive spiritual opportunity and privilege for believers but what we must avoid is introducing regulations about the first day of the week that are not mandated in the Epistles. In Romans chapter 14 verse 5 Paul states, ‘One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind’. If there had been something fundamentally different about Sunday, surely Paul would have made that very clear and he would not have written that each of us should be fully persuaded in his own mind.

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