Language

Select Wisdom Brand
 

Sunday vs. Saturday Worship: Understanding the Shift from Sabbath to Sunday

by Stephen Davey

We received a question, asking why Christians don't worship on Saturday, since that is the Sabbath day. Why do we worship on Sunday? This article explores that issue. 

Introduction

As you navigate the fascinating journey of understanding Christian religious practices, one question may have caught your attention: "Why worship on Sunday?" The question delves deeper than merely observing religious rites on a particular day. It involves understanding the rationale behind the shift from the Old Testament's Saturday (Sabbath) worship to the predominantly Sunday worship observed by most Christians today.

We worship in Sunday, which we call The Lord's Day, out of a desire to follow the model of the early church and be faithful to the practice found in the New Testament. 

History of the Sabbath

In the Old Testament, the concept of Sabbath was instituted as a day of rest. This mandate was established in Exodus 20:8-10 (ESV), which says, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates." The seventh day, Saturday, was set aside for rest and worship, a tradition that was faithfully observed by the Jewish people.

So, why did the early Christians move away from this tradition? "Why not worship on Saturday?" you may ask. The shift wasn't arbitrary, but rather, a recognition of an event that altered the course of history - the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Why Worship on Sunday? Sunday Worship and the Resurrection.

The early Christians began to gather and worship on Sundays as a way of commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which occurred on the first day of the week, Sunday, according to the Gospels. John 20:1 (ESV) states, "Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb." This monumental event marked a new beginning for the followers of Jesus, giving birth to a new covenant between God and humanity.

In the heart of the New Testament, the book of Acts provides a fascinating glimpse into the early Christian church's worship practices. While rooted in Jewish tradition, a significant shift occurred, transitioning from Sabbath (Saturday) observance to gathering on the first day of the week, Sunday. This transition, though seemingly simple, carries profound theological and practical implications that continue to shape Christian worship today.

While the Bible doesn't explicitly command Sunday worship, several passages strongly suggest it became the norm for early Christians:

  • Acts 20:7: "On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight." This passage describes a clear pattern of Christians gathering on Sunday for teaching, fellowship, and the Lord's Supper.

  • 1 Corinthians 16:2: "On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come." This suggests a regular practice of Sunday gathering for financial giving, likely tied to worship.

  • Revelation 1:10: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet..." This verse refers to Sunday as "the Lord's Day," connecting it to the resurrection of Christ and establishing its significance for Christians.

What Day Is the Sabbath?

While the question, "What day is the Sabbath?" may seem straightforward, it’s embedded within a complex theological context. According to Old Testament laws, the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, Saturday. However, in Christian practice, the term Sabbath has often been applied to Sunday in recognition of the day of Christ's resurrection.

Most Christian traditions observe Sunday as the primary day of corporate worship and personal rest, drawing from the New Testament practices and the significance of the Resurrection. 

The debate of "Sunday vs Saturday worship" is deeply rooted in history and theology. We believe that Sunday worship is important, and most closely alligns with the Bible's instruction for the church. That's why we refer to Sunday as "The Lord's Day." That said, it's important to remember that the specific day of worship is less important than the act of worship itself. In Romans 14:5 (ESV), the Apostle Paul writes, "One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind."

There are many churches that have grown so large that they have worship services on Saturday night and Sunday morninig. While we are committed to corporate worship on The Lord's Day, we don't think it is a sin to gather for worship on Saturday. Therefore, whether you worship on Saturday or Sunday, the essential part is the devotion and reverence towards God. This is the heart of worship, transcending the bounds of specific days and traditional practices.

The Theological Significance of Sunday

The shift to Sunday worship wasn't arbitrary; it held deep theological meaning for early believers:

  • Resurrection Day: Sunday commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of Christian faith. Gathering on this day celebrates the triumph over sin and death.
  • New Creation: Just as God began creation on the first day, Sunday symbolizes the new creation inaugurated through Christ's work. It's a day of renewal and hope.
  • Pentecost: The Holy Spirit descended on the disciples on a Sunday (Pentecost), marking the birth of the church. This event further reinforces Sunday's importance in Christian history.
  • Fulfillment of the Sabbath: Some theologians believe the Old Testament Sabbath, as part of the Law of Moses, finds its fulfillment in Christ. Colossians 2:16-17 states, "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." This suggests that while the specific requirements of the Sabbath are no longer binding, the principle of rest and devotion to God remains central to the Christian life.

The Importance of Gathering for Worship

Beyond historical significance, gathering for worship is a vital spiritual practice for believers (Hebrews 10:25: "Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Daydrawing near."):

  • Corporate Worship: We are not meant to live the Christian life in isolation. Worshiping together fosters community, encourages one another, and creates a sense of belonging.
  • Hearing God's Word: When we gather, we hear the Scriptures proclaimed, receiving instruction, correction, and encouragement.
  • Sacraments: Many churches observe the Lord's Supper or other sacraments during corporate worship, reaffirming our faith and unity in Christ.
  • Prayer and Fellowship: Corporate prayer lifts up shared concerns and praises, while fellowship builds relationships and provides support.

What Should Happen When the Church Gathers?

While specific practices vary among denominations, some essential elements characterize meaningful Christian worship:

  • Proclaiming the Gospel: The message of salvation through Jesus Christ should be central to every gathering.
  • Worshiping through Music: Singing praises to God is a powerful expression of faith and joy.
  • Prayer: Both corporate and individual prayer are vital for communication with God.
  • Teaching and Preaching: Expounding the Scriptures provides guidance and instruction for living a godly life.
  • Giving: Generosity is a hallmark of Christian faith, reflecting our gratitude for God's provision.

Conclusion

The shift from Sabbath to Sunday worship in the early church was a significant development, rooted in deep theological symbolism and practical considerations. While the day itself is not the focus, gathering for worship on Sunday provides an opportunity for believers to celebrate Christ's resurrection, receive spiritual nourishment, and strengthen their bonds as a community. As you participate in corporate worship, remember the rich history and spiritual significance behind this practice.

Add a Comment

Comments

Dwight Osborne says:
Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer rightly asserts that to call Sunday the "Christian Sabbath" is heresy. Thr false Roman church claims to have changed the Sabbath. No individual nor entity has the authority to change what Jehovah established. Sunday became the accepted day of worship in this dispensation of grace due to the resurrection of Christ and was a matter of fulfilling prophecy. In the prophetic Scriptures, God had promised Israel that the feast days and the Sabbath would be set aside due to their spiritual adultery and profaning His ways, Isaiah 1:12-16, Jeremiah 16:9, Hosea 2:11, Amos 5:21-24. With the crucifixion, the Mosaic covenant and law was done away with and that dispensation came to a close. One of the characteristics of the new dispensation was that Sunday became known as the Lord's Day in deference to the resurrection of Christ and accomplished the fulfillment of Psalm 118:24-26. However, due to the millennial kingdom finding a reinstitution of animal sacrifice, the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles, and the Sabbath, worship and practice will once again be from a Jewish and not a Christian distinctive
Jamz g says:
The biblical Sabbath was never changed from Saturday to Sunday. No where in the Bible you will ever find that.. in the book of Mark, Mark 2 vs 23-28, Jesus said He's the Lord of the sabbath. In revelation, John said he went in a vision on the Lord's day.. what does that tell us. If Jesus said He is the Lord Of Saturday which is the sabbath day what day could John be possibly talking about, has to be Saturday!. Luke 4 vs 16 tells us that, as Jesus' custom was , he went to Nazareth in the synagogue on the sabbath day and stood up to read. The Bible tells us . Men will seek .key word seek because it will never stand, as the truth always comes out, to change times and laws daniel 7 vs 25. The symbol for resurrection isn't Sunday, its baptism. You go in the water as a sinful being when you go under ther water, that old sinful man dies and when you come up out of the water, a new man resurrects from the death of sin as a new born in Christ's glory.. exodus 20 vs 8 which tells of the commandment of the Holy Sabbath day started with a very specific and powerful word...REMEMBER.. God knew people would forget because of what He knew would come by the acts of sinful men... Hence God says evey week we should come and tabernacle with Him so that we could remember His Sabbth day that He blessed sanctified (separated) and hollowed from all the other days.
Beryl McCollough says:
The 4th Commandment is: Remember the SABBATH DAY to keep it holy. Exodus 20 v 8 So if you can change that then why not do away with the rest of the commandments? Didn’t Jesus say, “If you love me you will keep my commandments”. John 14 v 15
ግርማ ዳሬቦ says:
በእግዚአብሔር እጅ ተፅፎ የተሰጠዉን ህግ፣ ሰብዓዊ ዘር ሊለዉጥ ሥልጣን የለዉም።ለበጏ ነገር መሰባሰብ ጥሩ ቢሆንም የሰንበትን ቅድስና ማጉደል ይቅር የማይባል ኃጢአት ነዉ።

NOTE FROM WISDOM INTERNATIONAL
Here is the English translation of this content. (We do not agree that Christians are bound to the OT Sabbath laws. ) "The human race has no authority to change the law written by the hand of God. Although it is good to gather together for something else, it is an unforgivable sin to violate the sanctity of the Sabbath."
Edgar Bennie says:
Your answer to my question regarding worshipping on Sunday v Saturday has been very helpful. Thanks
Kathy says:
I am a believer, a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour. Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins and your sins. Salvation is a free gift from God through His Son Jesus Christ through the faith we have in Jesus Christ. He already paid the price, His blood. Salvation is through FAITH in Jesus Christ John 3:16. We are no longer under the curse, the law, Eph 3:22-27. What Jesus DID for us, He shed HIS blood for us, not what you can do for yourself (salvation by works). It is what JESUS did for you not what you think you can do for yourself for salvation. Salvation is by FAITH in JESUS CHRIST. God Bless
Charles Searcy says:
Amen
Gerald McDonald says:
[Though we disagree with this comment, we're glad you engaged with our content. WI]

As much good intentions our early fathers may have had, still, there is no recorded message from God through the apostles to inform us of a change in God's law.

Just like when the Jews had Moses give them a writing of divorce, and Christ told them it was because of their hard hearts, pointing them back to God's original desiire for mankind.

No, there's nothing wrong with worshipping God at any time. The problem comes with the way Christians treat God's true Sabbath. They do not keep it holy.

This: "13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:" Isaiah 58

Did you get the part where God says to honor Him by honoring His Sabbath? it's still part of God's 10 commandments. The idea that just because it wasn't mentioned after the four Gosples, it no longer applies to Christians is a lie. Because there were time when Paul used some of the 10 commandments, but not all of them. And not all of the books of the Bible were written at the same time. So, if just because they aren't mentioned they no longer apply, then there are a few of the other commandments which would no longer apply.

Plus God tells us in Isaiah 66:23 "And it shall come to pass that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me,” saith the Lord." So, why would God tell us to forget what He embedded within His holy law, just to have us keep it once we get to heaven.

As I said, sunday was a day of celebration. Just as we would do for Chrismass. There is no holy significance placed on them by God.

And when you consider what God does to make something, (OR SOMEONE), holy, it should reshape your understanding of the Sabbath.

This can begin by remembering what God said when Moses approached the burning bush. He told Moses to remove his shoes, because the ground Moses was standing on, was holy. And it was because God's prescence was there at that time.

And we are made holy because God's Spirit is within us.

So, when God made the Sabbath holy, it was because He placed His prescence into that block of time.

There is no biblical reason for us to not keep God's Sabbath holy. It is a sin not to do so. And God tells us that the wages of sin is death. So, we need to repent and turn around and begin to remember to keep holy God's Sabbath.

If any disciple had told the people to forget keeping God's Sabbath, they would be contradicting God's Word, and Paul warned them to turn from those who would teach to reject God's Word.
Dr. Jason Frazier says:
Thank you for writing the article and sharing the 3 Scriptures (Acts, Corinthians, & Revelation). However they are completely taken out of context & do not prove God changed Sabbath to Sunday. Jesus said He was the Lord of the Sabbath, so the case for John’s statement “being in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” is leans way more to Sabbath than Sunday. Paul’s exhortation to set something aside on the 1st day of the week proves absolutely nothing. Mary went to the tomb on Sunday (the Feast of Firstfruits) because she wouldn’t break the Sabbath by anointing Jesus’s body on Saturday. Acts 20 DOES NOT present a clear pattern but gives one example when they gathered on the first day of the week. By the way, they gather at the end of Saturday night to celebrate the end of Sabbath which is “the first day of the week.” If the Bible proves anything, it’s that Sabbath is a perpetual covenant with God and His people.
Cheryl Gardner says:
Matthew 5:18. KJ21. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall in any wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled. Mark 7:7-13 King James Version 7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. There is nothing in the Bible saying to worship the resurrection day of Christ. Jesus died on Friday and rested on the Sabbath and rose on Sunday. Even in death he rested on the Sabbath, Saturday. It is also blasphemy to say that the Lord's Day is Sunday. It is in no way Biblical. Again, it is man made. Satan parallels what God says and does to trick people into following him. In the end days to come, worship again be the issue as it was when Constantine and the Catholic Church persecuted those who worshipped on Saturday instead of Sunday. So, since we know there will be an end to this world as we know it and that worshipping God or Satan will be the choice between receiving the mark of the beast, will you choose to keep God's Sabbath or Man's Sunday given by Satan? Ezekiel 20:12 I instituted my Sabbath for them as a SIGN between me and them, so they would know that I am the LORD, who has set them apart. He tells us it is a SIGN between us and him, and in the end of time the mark of the beast will be a SIGN between God's people and Satan's follower's. Pay attention: the only commandment that starts with REMEMBER, the fourth commandment. Do you think God said that by accident? No, he knew Satan would mock his commandments. Revelation 14:12-20 King James Version 12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. 13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labor's; and their works do follow them. People say it does not matter what day you keep but if that were so God would not have made it one of his LAWS. Without God's commandments we would not know what SIN is and Jesus would not have had to die on the cross in order to forgive us through Grace. God's Grace does not blot out the law, if it did we would all be saved just because Jesus died on the Cross, so there would not have been any reason for the earth to continue from that point. But we are still here and Jesus will come again and some will be saved and some won't.
Khay says:
Jesus did ask us to celebrate His death, burial and resurrection but that is to be done by having ourselves consecrated and taking part in the New Ordinances of the Bread and the Wine. He said this do in remembrance of Me and as often as you may take it you commemorate My death, burial and resurrection. Participating in the emblems of His shed blood and His slain body for the remission of sins celebrates the resurrection, nothing else does. The Word speaks. Worshiping a god on Sundays long pre- existed The Cross and was made mandatory by the powers that had taken over the church suppressing Shabbat in a effort to slay all thing “Judeo”. That being just a carry forward of effort to rid the earth of every thing instituted to preserve the Name of The Creator God and to solidify humanity’s obedience to Him. Just another futile effort of the enemy to derail God’s plan of salvation and to get people into his camp. When The Word tells us that we wrestle not against flesh and blood this is exactly what it is taking about. Unfortunately people are getting used by forces of darkness going against God’s Devine Will but the war for truth and right is really in the spiritual realm. Obedience would have kept us all in a safe place but through disobedience we get ourselves involved, strengthening the resolve of the enemy at the jeopardy of our own souls. Remember the Sabbath day is obedience, needless to say that, that is Old Testament, The Word so divided into old and new testaments is a human construct, Jesus only spoke of “the scriptures”, which He advised us to search, otherwise, the law ( ewe those tabooed words). He also called it the Prophets, furthermore He states clearly He came not to destroy the law but as the fulfillment of that which was prophesied, for those things which was set to have happened in that appointed time to have happened. For the promise of victory over sin and death to be fulfilled. To open the door whereby the sinner can find freedom. To establish salvation through Him Christ, thereby establishing the truth of the law that adherents to His commandments will receive by Grace His reward while non- adherents will by default receive something else. Not one thing shall fail of the law not a jot or a tittle until all be fulfilled. Long and short if every word and promised had been fulfilled, we would be enjoying the new Jerusalem right now, continue in Shabbat until we arrive at that everlasting Sabbath described in Isiah, - from one new moon to another… It is sorrowing that humanity have gotten caught, tied up in the fallacious tradition of “holy Sunday” because all that human beings have done is to so erroneously put their hands to to change times and laws hence creating one of the longest standing human tradition which generation after generation of adherents, more so proponents, guardians and curators, spare themselves no great pains to defend rehashing worn out faulty interpretations of scriptures and an unending plethora of invented supporting theories to substantiate false premises, ever widening the divide and keeping innocents from The Truth and The Life. Why do God’s Word written in such simple manner for every intellectual capacity to understand have to be subject to so much analysis and reinterpretation? Is it not by device that the early foundation of heresy was laid in keeping The Word out of the hand of the masses so as to feed them theses to be regurgitated and fed to subsequent generations, building an empire of falsehood. We need let go of tradition and doctrines of man and follow Jesus’ customs, our eyes need to be on Jesus and our footsteps in His, simply that. May The Lord God open each to indeed search the scriptures and allow ourselves to be pliable to The Holy Spirit in Jesus Name.
Dave says:
The sabbath is Saturday and worship should be held on Saturday. The reasons in this article are traditions of man and not the word of GOD. It’s sad that so many Christian’s just believe whatever they are told and do not research the word before coming to a conclusion. I pray that GODs law is once again taught throughout the earth and false doctrine will be done away with. GOD bless everybody!
Onwuka Chidi says:
We ought to obey God rather than men. If we cannot change the other nine commandments, why one. Constantain and the Catholic Church screwed this up. Really, the hallmark of the subject is worship of God and believers togetherness, admonishing, correcting, instructing (teaching) one another as we wait on the LORD'S return. Let's get emerse in the preaching of the gospel of salvation and not allow the enemy of the gospel shift our attention. More grace to all. Amen.