Is the Christian Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday?
Updated: Jul 8
We here at Christ Church Presbyterian are on a mission to glorify and enjoy God as we gather, grow, and go. One of the ways that we pursue this mission is by sharing the gospel with our neighbors and inviting them to church. This gospel proclaims the truth that there is forgiveness for your sins and reconciliation with God by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Click here to learn more about the gospel and salvation.
Our desire for our Knoxville neighbors is like Paul's desire for his Israelite neighbors as recorded in Romans 10:1, "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved." We want the Holy Spirit to use us as He grants our neighbors eternal life with new hearts that love to worship our Triune-God as He commands in the Bible.
We invite people to visit and learn more about the Lord in many different ways. Of course, the simplest and most effective invitation is a personal invite to a friend, coworker, family member, stranger, or neighbor. However, Christ Church also invites folks through wider opportunities such as social media invitations. Recently one such invite in a Knoxville Facebook group garnered an interesting question from someone.
What day is the Sabbath?
The comment asked the question, "Does your church keep the Bible Sabbath?"
The short answer is "yes."
Here is the long answer! At Christ Church, we believe the Lord's Day, Sunday on our calendar, is the biblical Christian Sabbath. Our belief and practice come from the teaching of God's Word, not merely tradition or pragmatism. God appoints in the Bible one day in seven as a Sabbath to be kept holy and set apart to Him. From the creation of the world until Jesus Christ's resurrection, God set aside the last day of the week, Saturday on our calendar, to be the Sabbath. Then, at the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, God moved the Sabbath to the Lord's Day, which is the first day of the week or Sunday on our calendar. The Lord's Day lasts until our Savior returns. At His return, Jesus will judge the living and the dead. Then He will usher in the new heavens and the new earth where all who trust in Christ will live forever in glorified bodies in a sinless universe glorifying and enjoying our Triune-God.
The previous paragraph summarizes what we believe the Bible teaches concerning the day of the Christian Sabbath. When time allows, I will write more on why we know from the Bible the Sabbath continues in the New Covenant and how we should enjoy the Lord's Day. As previously noted, we do not want to build our practices on traditions or people's ideas. Instead, we want to go to the Bible and answer the question, "What does God say?"
What does the Bible say about Sunday?
After His resurrection, the first time Jesus appears to His disciples is that evening on the first day of the week. The second time Jesus visits His disciples, it again is on the first day of the week. When the Bible says "the first day of the week" it is referring to Sunday.
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld."
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe."
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." 28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
The Holy Spirit comes upon the Church on the day of Pentecost. According to Leviticus 23:15, 16, Pentecost takes place on the first day of the week.
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.
After staying several days in Troas, Paul preaches to the Christians gathered to worship on the first day of the week. Paul could have gathered the Christians together on Saturday but they waited for Sunday.
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.
Paul instructs the Christians in Corinth to collect their financial offerings when they meet on the first day of the week. In this passage, he mentions that this is the same day he instructed the Galatian Christians to collect their giving.
1 Corinthians 16:1-2
1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 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.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John refers to the first day of the week as the Lord's Day. There is an interesting connection to the old covenant Sabbath day in Isaiah 58:13. This passage in the major prophet records God calling the Sabbath day "the holy day of the LORD." John's language denotes his understanding the first day of the week is now the Christian Sabbath to be called the Lord's Day.
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
God moved the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.
It shouldn't surprise us the Bible reveals God moved the Sabbath from the end of the week to the beginning. In the old covenant, the Sabbath celebrates God resting from His work of creation. While in the new covenant, the Sabbath celebrates God resting from His work of redemption. As Hebrews 8 explains, Jesus Christ is the High Priest of a new and better covenant. Hebrews explains in detail how the new covenant is better than the old. Jesus Christ's death as the final atoning sacrifice for the sins of His people fulfills the old covenant ceremonial law. However, unlike the ceremonial law, the moral law, the Ten Commandments, is still applicable to humanity.
The Sabbath is not the only thing that changes from the old to the new covenant. For example, Peter preaches at Pentecost and explains from Joel 2 that the prophetic promise that the Holy Spirit is poured out and indwells every believer in Jesus has just happened. This indwelling of every believer is a radical change. In the old covenant, the Spirit only indwelled specific individuals to accomplish God's tasks. Now all of God's people are indwelled by the Holy Spirit who brings us into union with Christ.
Who the Holy Spirit indwells is not the only thing that changes along with the Sabbath. Jesus also changes the signs and seals of the covenant. In Genesis 17, God gives male household circumcision as the sign and seal of His covenant. Then in Matthew 28, Acts 2, Acts 16, Colossians 2, and other passages, circumcision is replaced by household baptism as the new covenant sign and seal. In the Gospels, 1 Corinthians 11, and other passages you read, Jesus replaced the Passover with the Lord's Supper.
The case for the Lord's Day stands upon the Bible alone. Still, it is unwise to ignore that this biblical case has been the majority of understanding for the last two thousand years in the Church. Beginning with the Apostles then moving to the Church Fathers through medieval Christianity and the Reformation, the Lord's Day is the Christian Sabbath because of what the Bible teaches.
Hopefully, one day time will allow for an extended article or video on each of the things mentioned in this short article. In this article, I sought to answer the questions some are asking here in Knoxville. For example, what day should churches meet? What day should Christians worship? Is Saturday or Sunday the Bible Sabbath? If you have questions about this article, use the "Contact Us" section of our website. Soli Deo Gloria!
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