(image courtesy hdwalls.xyz )
By Spencer D Gear
Is it ever possible to get through to Christians that there is no need to keep the Saturday Sabbath? Or, to put it another way, are all of the Bible-believing Christians who go to worship on Sunday contravening the Scriptures? I’ve had discussions online and in person with people who are Seventh-Day Adventists who push and push for Sabbath worship. See this example of one of my encounters: Sunday or Saturday worship for Christians?
I was engaged in another such discussion online with a Sabbath-keeping Christian. These are some of his statements:
In commending Jim Parker’s post (See Appendix), I wrote: Acts 20:7 states, ‘On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight’ (NIV). A response was, ‘You should know that some new Bible versions translate Acts 20:7, “On the SATURDAY NIGHT, the disciples came together…”’
My reply was:
One of the foremost N T Greek grammarians of the 20th century was the Dr A T Robertson. He focusses on the issues in Acts 20:7. This is from A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (1930. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, pp 338-340, available at: StudyLight.org),
Acts 20:7 [Greek characters deleted & transliterated]
Upon the first day of the week (en de miai twn sabbatwn). The cardinal – miai used here for the ordinal protei (Mark 16:9) like the Hebrew ehadh as in Mark 16:2; Matthew 28:1; Luke 24:1; John 20:1 and in harmony with the Koiné’š idiom (Robertson, Grammar, p. 671). Either the singular (Mark 16:9) — sabbatou or the plural — sabbatwn as here was used for the week (sabbath to sabbath). For the first time here we have services mentioned on the first day of the week though in 1 Corinthians 16:2 it is implied by the collections stored on that day. In Revelation 1:10 the Lord‘s day seems to be the day of the week on which Jesus rose from the grave. Worship on the first day of the week instead of the seventh naturally arose in Gentile churches, though John 20:26 seems to mean that from the very start the disciples began to meet on the first (or eighth) day. But liberty was allowed as Paul makes plain in Romans 14:5.
When we were gathered together (sunegmenown hemown). Genitive absolute, perfect passive participle of — sunagw to gather together, a formal meeting of the disciples. See this verb used for gatherings of disciples in Acts 4:31; Acts 11:26; Acts 14:27; Acts 15:6, Acts 15:30; Acts 19:7, Acts 19:8; 1 Corinthians 5:4. In Hebrews 10:25 the substantive — episunagwgen is used for the regular gatherings which some were already neglecting. It is impossible for a church to flourish without regular meetings even if they have to meet in the catacombs as became necessary in Rome. In Russia today the Soviets are trying to break up conventicles of Baptists. They probably met on our Saturday evening, the beginning of the first day at sunset. So these Christians began the day (Sunday) with worship. But, since this is a Gentile community, it is quite possible that Luke means our Sunday evening as the time when this meeting occurs, and the language in John 20:19 “it being evening on that day the first day of the week” naturally means the evening following the day, not the evening preceding the day.
To break bread (klasai arton). First aorist active infinitive of purpose of klaw The language naturally bears the same meaning as in Acts 2:42, the Eucharist or the Lord‘s Supper which usually followed the Agape. See note on 1 Corinthians 10:16. The time came, when the Agape was no longer observed, perhaps because of the abuses noted in 1 Corinthians 11:20. Rackham argues that the absence of the article with bread here and its presence (ton arton) in Acts 20:11 shows that the Agape is referred to in Acts 20:7 and the Eucharist in Acts 20:11, but not necessarily so because ton arton may merely refer to arton in Acts 20:7. At any rate it should be noted that Paul, who conducted this service, was not a member of the church in Troas, but only a visitor.
Discoursed (dielegeto). Imperfect middle because he kept on at length.
Intending (mellow). Being about to, on the point of.
On the morrow (tei epaurion). Locative case with hemerai understood after the adverb epaurion If Paul spoke on our Saturday evening, he made the journey on the first day of the week (our Sunday) after sunrise. If he spoke on our Sunday evening, then he left on our Monday morning.
Prolonged his speech (Pareteinen ton logon). Imperfect active (same form as aorist) of parateinw old verb to stretch beside or lengthwise, to prolong. Vivid picture of Paul‘s long sermon which went on and on till midnight (mechri mesonuktiou). Paul‘s purpose to leave early next morning seemed to justify the long discourse. Preachers usually have some excuse for the long sermon which is not always clear to the exhausted audience.
Therefore, Dr Robertson, based on his understanding of the Greek grammar, disagrees with the view you espoused here.
Dr A T Robertson (image courtesy ccel.org)
What kind of reply could I expect to this? This was the beginning of his reply (you can check out the rest by following the endnote):
Thanks for joining us. “The man who speaks first seems right until another answers him”, so I’d like to answer Mr. Robertson.
“For the first time here we have services mentioned on the first day of the week…”
There are no “services” mentioned here, but one post-Sabbath “get together” (the subjective implication is that this was some official, precedent-setting event) which took place as the Sabbath sun set and the beginning of the first day of the week began – what we would refer to as “Saturday evening”. Mr. R is attempting to use what he knows is an evening meeting as Biblical justification for the practice of Sunday morning church observance.
“…though in 1 Corinthians 16:2 KJV it (church observance on the first day of the week) is implied by the collections stored on that day.”
Note what he does:
1. He relegates Dr A T Robertson to Mr Robertson. Dr Robertson was an eminent Greek NT scholar of the 20th century who wrote a 1454 page grammar of the Greek NT, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (1914. New York: Hodder & Stoughton; Internet Archive, University of Toronto).
2. He is a KJV only man.
3. He is pro-Sabbath-keeping, so listening to Dr Robertson’s exegesis was not on his agenda. It was a waste of time even raising it.
From Saturday to Sunday worship
I responded to this person’s promotion of the Sabbath:
Christian historian, the late Martin Hengel, wrote of ‘the transfer of the celebration of divine worship from the sabbath to the Lord’s day, which is already demonstrable in Paul, is a partial analogy’ (2000:119). Hengel particularly referred to 1 Cor. 16:2; Acts 20:7ff; Rev. 1:10 to support this claim (Hengel 2000:281, n. 481).
These verses do not state in any way that indicates that these early Christians were meeting and worshipping on the wrong day of the week. Not a word of pro-Saturday Sabbath worship is mentioned:
- 1 Cor. 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’ (ESV).
- 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’ (ESV).
- Rev. 1:10: ‘I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet’ (ESV).
Christians are not to observe days and even Sabbath days according to the following Scriptures: Romans 14:5ff, Galatians 4:9-11; 5:1-15 and Col. 2:16-17. These Scriptures indicate that the promotion of Sabbath-keeping is contrary to these biblical injunctions.
Therefore, exaltation of Saturday Sabbath worship is not in accord with NT Christianity.
Here is some historical information about Lord’s Day, Sunday, worship:
See the article, ‘Is the Sabbath required for Christians?’
In the early second century vague references to observing the “Lord’s Day”–Sunday–began to appear. Then the voices for Sunday worship grew more strident. Ignatius of Asia Minor and Barnabas of Alexandria both condemned Sabbath-keeping. Although considered Gnostic heresy, Marcion’s anti-Sabbath views were widely promulgated throughout the churches. By 150, Justin Martyr clearly indicated that the day of the sun was the day of rest for Christians. Sunday worship had become a widely accepted practice among these people who professed to follow Christ (“What did the early church Believe and Preach after Jesus’ death?” Available from: http://www.biblestud…istianity1.html).
‘There is a series of articles by Bob Deffinbaugh that refutes the promotion of the Sabbath for Christians and supports the view that New Covenant believers meet for worship on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day. See:
- “The Great Sabbath Controversy“;
- “The Lord of the Sabbath“;
- “The Meaning of the Sabbath“;
- “The Sabbath Controversy in the Gospels“;
- “Super-Sabbath: Israel’s Land and its Lord“;
- “The Sabbath in Apostolic Preaching and Practice“.
Keep the Ten Commandments
The predicted reply came, ‘To the contrary, we are to observe the Ten Commandments which are written on the hearts of New Covenant Christians, and if not, then which of the Ten are we at liberty to freely break?’
My rejoinder was:
Where does it say that in the NT? Where are we told to ‘remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy’ in the NT?
A requirement to keep the Sabbath of Exodus 20:8 for NT believers would conflict with Colossians 2:16-17, ‘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’ (ESV).
He could not let it lie there, so he was back again:
Thus saith the Lord Jesus, “pray that your flight be not in winter, neither on the Sabbath day”. He fully expected His people to continue observing the Sabbath when the Romans came in 66 A.D. else He would have never told them to pray such a prayer. Before you answer, “But that was because the gates to Jerusalem would have been locked”, do not ignore the previous verses where we find Jesus commanding the whole of Judea, not just those in Jerusalem, to pray about not having to flee on the Sabbath, and there were no gates around Judea.
Along with the Sabbath commandment, every other one of the Ten Commandments is repeated in the N.T. It is a historical fact that the change from Sabbath to Sunday was made my man and happened over a period of centuries, and is not found anywhere in Scripture. If you have a verse which you believe does command such a change, I’d be happy to study it.
BTW, Colossians is speaking in the context of the ceremonial law of offerings and sacrifices (meat offerings, drink offerings, moon observances, Jewish “sabbath” feast days which are called such in Leviticus 23, etc.) Colossians is speaking of the “law that was against us” and Deuteronomy 31:26 KJV says that law was the Law of Moses which contained ceremonies and sacrifices. Paul would never teach that the Sabbath of the Ten Commandments no longer existed any more than he would say that “thou shalt not kill” no longer existed.
That is not an answer to what I asked at #306, ‘Where are we told to “remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy” in the NT?’
In Col 2:16, the three terms, festival, new moon, and sabbath often occur together in the OT (see the LXX of Hos 2:13; Ezek 45:17; 1 Chron 23:31; 2 Chron 2:3; 31:3). To keep these ‘holy days’ was evidence for OT Israelites that they obeyed God’s law. What was happening at Colossae was the keeping of these holy days for ‘the elemental spirits of the world’ (Col 2:8).
Therefore, Paul’s instruction was: ‘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’ (Col 2:16). To require that Christians keep the Sabbath is to do what Paul instructed not to do – to pass judgment on the need to keep the Sabbath for NT believers.
I will not fall for the judgment line that NT Christians should keep the OT Sabbath. That is a passing of judgment that does not meet with the Lord’s approval.
The response was predictable:
In answer to #306, the Fourth commandment is not explicitly repeated verbatim in the N. T., but I find it curious that you demand of me an explicit text which repeats the Fourth commandment verbatim to support the Sabbath in the N. T. while you exempt yourself from such austerity, seeing that you know full well that there is absolutely no commandment or directive in the N. T. authorizing a change from the seventh day to the first day – this change that you claim has taken place is based not on anything explicit, but solely on what you think is implied by John 20:19, Acts 20:7, and 1 Corinthians 16:2.
OK, you still haven’t explained to me why Jesus told His followers who would decades later have to flee from Judea (around which there were no gates) to pray that their flight would not have to take place on the Sabbath day if He did not expect that His followers would still be observing the Sabbath.
Also, why do you force Paul to refer to the weekly Sabbath in Colossians 2:14-17 KJV when the preponderance of evidence suggests he was referring to the yearly sabbath Feast Days of the Law of Moses? According to Paul’s own words:
- Paul says what was blotted out was “against us” which Deuteronomy 31:26 KJV tells us was the ceremonial Law of Moses, not God’s Law written by His finger.
- Paul says this handwriting of Moses was nailed “to His Cross” – you can nail paper books all day long but you can’t nail stone to anything.
- The ceremonial Law of Moses dealt with “meats, drinks, new moons, holy days and “sabbath days” (yearly “Feast Days” according to Leviticus 23), while God’s Law written by His finger in stone dealt with no such ceremonial laws.
- Though the yearly ceremonial Feast Day “sabbaths” of the Law of Moses were indeed a shadow of Christ’s mission, the weekly Sabbath of creation was not shadow of anything – it was created as a memorial to Creation when all was light.
By insisting that Paul refers to the weekly Sabbath in Colossians 2:16 KJV, you are forcing an interpretation to support your position that the weekly Sabbath has been done away with, when the preponderance of evidence suggest that Paul is not speaking of the weekly Sabbath at all, but of the yearly ceremonial sabbath Feast Days, which were nailed to the Cross. At best, we should agree that it is unclear if Paul meant to teach that the weekly Sabbath was part of what he said was nailed to the Cross and allow other Scriptures to decide the issue. Such as the fact that Jesus expected His followers everywhere to be keeping the Sabbath decades into the future because He commanded them to pray that they would not have to flee from Judea on that day. What say you?
The New Covenant makes the Old Covenant obsolete
(image courtesy covenantsovereign)
This was my final reply to this resistant KJV Sabbath-keeping legalist.
The apostle Paul made it clear that the Old Covenant was superseded by the New Covenant: ‘For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit’ (Rom 8:3-4 ESV).
Hebrews 8 is clear that God promised for the houses of Israel and Judah that a new covenant was coming (Heb 8:8-12 cited from Jer 31:31-34). What did that mean for the Old Covenant? ‘In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away’ (Heb 8:13).
The obvious conclusion was that the requirements of the OT Law which were now abolished meant that the OT sabbath was also abolished because it was ‘obsolete’ and was to ‘vanish away). Therefore, there is no need for the NT to say, ‘Thou shalt not worship on the Sabbath’ because that law from Sinai had been made obsolete because of the cross of Christ. Golgotha and Christ’s shed blood made sure a new covenant without OT legal requirements came into effect. Since the OT law is obsolete, to enforce OT Sabbath-keeping is to legalistically force on people what the New Covenant abolished.
What do we find in the NT? People like the apostle John could say, ‘I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day’ (Rev 1:10). There are significant reasons why early Christians worshipped on the first day of the week and not the Saturday Sabbath, the most important being that the first day of the week was the one on which Jesus rose from the dead.
The early church confirmed that the Christians met on the Lord’s Day and not the Saturday Sabbath.
- The Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, early 2nd cent), ‘But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure’ (ch 14:1).
- The Epistle of Barnabas (ca. AD 130), ‘He says to them, Your new moons and your Sabbath I cannot endure [Isaiah 1:13]. You perceive how He speaks: Your present Sabbaths are not acceptable to Me, but that is which I have made, [namely this,] when, giving rest to all things, I shall make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world. Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead. And when He had manifested Himself, He ascended into the heavens’ (ch 15).
- Tertullian (b. ca. AD 160), ‘It follows, accordingly, that, in so far as the abolition of carnal circumcision and of the old law is demonstrated as having been consummated at its specific times, so also the observance of the Sabbath is demonstrated to have been temporary….. Whence it is manifest that the force of such precepts was temporary, and respected the necessity of present circumstances; and that it was not with a view to its observance in perpetuity that God formerly gave them such a law’ (An Answer to the Jews, ch 4). Who was Tertullian addressing about the abolition of the old law and its temporary Sabbath? Jews!
In your response to me, you seem to be missing a fundamental: The Old Covenant has been superseded by the New Covenant. This means that the OT law has been abolished, made obsolete, vanished away and has been replaced by the New Covenant in Christ. When did these New Covenant Christians meet for worship? The first day of the week, the Lord’s Day.
But there’s a another fundamental that we must not forget: All of life is worship to the glory of God! (John 4:21-23)
(image courtesy Polyvore)
Jim Parker provided this excellent rebuttal of the statement: “We keep the Sabbath in the same way Jesus and the apostles did”.
Do you do all of these?
EX 16:29 Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
Don’t travel on the Sabbath. A Sabbath’s journey was limited to approximately one mile.
EX 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.
1. Don’t you or anyone in your household do any work on the Sabbath.
2. It also includes animals which have been replaced by cars, trucks, tractors, buses, airplanes, trains, etc., So don’t work and don’t use any sort of motorized vehicle on the Sabbath. (Which means you don’t drive to whatever meeting you might attend on Saturday.)
EX 31:14 ” `Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. 15 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. 16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.’ ”
1. The seventh day is for rest; do not work on the Sabbath.
2. Israelites are to observe the Sabbath. (not gentiles, Israelites)
3. The Sabbath is a sign between God and Israel. (Again: Israel; not gentiles)
4. God abstained from work and rested on the 7th day and Israel is to do the same.
EX 35:1 states that Moses assembled the whole Israelite community and said to them, “These are the things the LORD has commanded you to do: 2 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death. 3 Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”
1. The command concerning keeping the Sabbath Holy came from the LORD not from Moses.
2. Rest on the Sabbath and do no work.
3. Do not light a fire in your dwelling on the Sabbath. (Furnace, oven, light bulb)
LEV 23:3 ” `There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD.
DT 5:12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do.
Don’t use any utility (electricity, gas, internet, telephone, etc.) or public service (roads, police, radio, TV, bus, etc.) that requires anyone to work on the Sabbath in order to provide the service.
<<You keep Sunday today as an obedient and slavish devotion to a tradition that had its roots in Mithra>>
ROLF!!!!!! That’s beyond ridiculous. Where do you get that baloney? Find another deli!
We celebrate the Lord’s resurrection on the first day of the week (Mar 16:9) just like the church (not the Jews) always did.
Justin Martyr : The First Apology of Justin C.100-162 AD
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. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples,…
The Teaching of the Apostles. (1st Century)
The apostles further appointed: On the first day of the week let there be service, and the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and the oblation: because on the first day of the week our Lord rose from the place of the dead and on the first day of the week He arose upon the world, and on the first day of the week He ascended up to heaven, and on the first day of the week He will appear at last with the angels of heaven.
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians C. 50-117 AD, Bishop of Antioch
Chapter IX.—Let Us Live with Christ.
If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day…
…And after the observance of the Sabbath, 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]. Looking forward to this, the prophet declared, “To the end, for the eighth day,” on which our life both sprang up again, and the victory over death was obtained in Christ, …
…At the dawning of the Lord’s day He arose from the dead, according to what was spoken by Himself, “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man also be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The day of the preparation, then, comprises the passion; the Sabbath embraces the burial; the Lord’s Day contains the resurrection.
It has absolutely nothing, zero, zip, nada, to do with Mithras.
<<If Paul taught that the laws of God (the Ten Commandments) had been abrogated, or that the Sabbath in particular was no longer to be observed, how could he claim the above without the Jews coming down on him like the proverbial ton of bricks?>>
Hello-ooo!!! Paul WAS A JEW. Most Christians are not.
In that passage, Paul was talking to JEWS.
But in Acts 15 he specifically argued, and the JEWISH APOSTLES agreed, that the gentiles were not required to keep the law and be circumcised.
Some other writings
Some of my other writings on this topic include:
- Sunday or Saturday worship for Christians?
- How does the Old Testament apply to Christians?
- Why I left the Seventh-Day Adventist Church
Hengel, M 2000. transl J Bowden. The four Gospels and the one Gospel of Jesus Christ: An investigation of the collection and origin of the canonical Gospels,. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International.
Robertson, A T 1934. A grammar of the Greek New Testament in the light of historical research. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.
 Christianity Board, ‘Sabbath-keeping’, OzSpen#299, available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/20839-sabbath-keeping/page-10 (Accessed 27 April 2015).
 Ibid., Phoneman777#300.
 Ibid., OzSpen#301.
 Ibid., Phoneman777#302.
 Ibid., OzSpen#304.
 Ibid., Phoneman777#305.
 Ibid., OzSpen#306.
 Ibid., Phoneman777#307.
 Ibid., OzSpen#308.
 Ibid., Phoneman777#310.
 Ibid., OzSpen#311.
 Ibid., Jim Parker #298.
Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 October 2016.