A reader, Jan, sent me this email:
- "I do have a query about Sundays. It seems to me that Peter still attended the Synagogue on the Sabbath in Acts 15:21. So, why and when did we decide that Sunday is set aside for Christ, rather than the Sabbath, or the seventh day of the week?"
There are many references in the book of Acts about the early Christian church meeting together on the Sabbath (Saturday) to pray and study the Scriptures. Here are some examples:
- Acts 13:13-14
Paul and his companions ... On the Sabbath they went to the synagogue for the services.
On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer ...
As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people.
- 1 Corinthians 16:1-2
Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
- Acts 20:7
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.
Today, many Christian traditions believe Sunday is the Christian Sabbath day. They base this concept on verses like Mark 2:27-28 and Luke 6:5 where Jesus says he is "Lord even of the Sabbath," implying that he has the power to change the Sabbath to a different day. Christian groups that adhere to a Sunday Sabbath feel that the Lord's command was not specifically for the seventh day, but rather, one day out of the seven week days. By changing the Sabbath to Sunday (what many refer to as "the Lord's Day"), or the day the Lord resurrected, they feel it symbolically represents the acceptance of Christ as Messiah, and his broadening blessing and redemption from the Jews to the entire world.
Other traditions, such as Seventh-day Adventists, still observe a Saturday Sabbath. Since honoring the Sabbath was part of the original Ten Commandments given by God, they believe it is a permanent, binding command that should not be changed.
Interestingly, Acts 2:46 tells us that from the start, the church in Jerusalem met every day in the temple courts and gathered to break bread together in private homes.
So, perhaps a better question might be, are Christians under obligation to observe a designated Sabbath day? I believe we get a clear answer to this question in the New Testament. Let's look at what the Bible says:
These verses in Romans 14 suggest that there is personal freedom regarding the observance of holy days:
- Romans 14:5-6
In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God.
- Colossians 2:16-17
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
- Galatians 4:8-10
So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world? You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years.
Finally, as Romans 14 instructs, we should be "fully convinced" that whichever day we choose is the right day for us to set aside as a day of worship. And as Colossians 2 warns, we should not judge or allow anyone to judge us regarding our choice.