Sabbath / Salvation

Question: Is Sunday the Sabbath or has it been changed?

What did the Bible say about the Sabbath?

Since the fall of mankind, the true joy of Sabbath has eluded men. The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, lived bitter lives and in hard labour (Ex 1:14). Later, God stretched out His mighty arm to deliver the Israelites from their slavery, in order to free them from torture and lead them into the land of rest – Canaan. In the desert where God gave them manna, He also gave them the Sabbath again. Moses said, “Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord.” “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.” So the people rested on the seventh day (Ex 16:23, 29-30).

Later, the Israelites were taken captive to Babylon for 70 years. Only after their release was the Sabbath restored (Neh 13:22). At that time, the Israelites were no longer slaves to the Egyptians or Babylonians. They were God’s people. Hence, they could enjoy the Sabbath.

The Lord has given man the Sabbath, but is Sunday the Sabbath? Or has it been altered?

According to historical records, in 364 A.D., the Council of Laodicea (in Phrygia Pacatiana) stipulated the following in its 29th Canon:

Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.

The justification for Sunday observance can be found in the literature of the Catholic Church – The Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine (Saint Louis, MO: Herder Book Co., 1946), for example, gives the following explanation:

Q: What is the third commandment? (The Catholic doctrines do not include the original second  commandment. The fourth commandment thus becomes the third. The original tenth commandment was divided into two parts.)

A: The third commandment is: Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day.

Q: Which is the Sabbath day?
A: Saturday is the Sabbath day.

Q: Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?
A: We observe Sunday because the Catholic Church transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.

Q: Why did the Catholic Church substitute Sunday for Saturday?
A: The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday, because Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday, and the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles on a Sunday.

Q: By what authority did the Church substitute Sunday for Saturday?
A: The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday by the plenitude of that divine power which Jesus Christ bestowed upon her.

Q: What does the Third Commandment command?
A: The Third Commandment commands us to sanctify Sunday as the Lord’s Day

Q: What does the Third Commandment forbid?
A: The Third Commandment forbids (1) The omission of prayer and divine worship; (2) All unnecessary servile work; (3) Whatever hinders the keeping of the Lord’s Day holy.

Q: Is the desecration of the Lord’s Day a grievous matter?
A: The desecration of the Lord’s Day is a grievous matter in itself, though it admits of light matter.

In addition, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd edition, Sunday Visitor: 3/1/2000) states:

Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. – Paragraph 2175

The sabbath, which represented the completion of the first creation, has been replaced by Sunday which recalls the new creation inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ. – Paragraph 2190


What was the religious associations/background of Sunday before it was altered?

The custom of observance on Sunday had its origin in the ancient worship of the sun.

The Babylonians named each of the days after one of the five planetary bodies known to them and after the Sun and the Moon, a custom later adopted by the Romans. For a time the Romans used a period of eight days in civil practice, but in ad 321 Emperor Constantine established the seven-day week in the Roman calendar and designated Sunday as the first day of the week.

“Week”, Encyclopaedia Britannica61

This day was dedicated to the worship of the sun in the time of the Roman Empire. It was against this background that Emperor Constantine decreed in ad 321 that all judges, city people and craftsmen rest on “the venerable day of the sun”. This move greatly benefited those Christians who had been observing the Lord’s Day(Sunday) as their day of rest and worship, for their practice suddenly became more acceptable to the hostile pagan world. They reinterpreted the pagan name “Sunday” to signify Christ, the “Sun of Righteousness”(see Mal 4:2).

Claiming Sunday the Sabbath day is not biblical. By propounding that Jesus resurrection is on Sunday as the reason for observing Sunday is also unscriptural.

Did the apostolic church observe Sunday as the Sabbath?

No, they did not.
From the Bible, we see no evidence of the apostles substituting Sunday worship for the Sabbath. On the contrary, after Jesus’ ascension, they continued observing the Sabbath, worshipping and preaching in the synagogues. Examples in the Book of Acts include:

1. Paul and Barnabas in Antioch: “But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down” (Acts 13:14).“On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:44).

2. Paul and Silas in Philippi: “And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there” (Acts 16:13).

3. Paul and Silas in Thessalonica: “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:1–2).

4. Paul in Corinth: “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 18:4).

Furthermore, it is reasonable to expect that, if the apostles had abolished the Sabbath or replaced it with Sunday worship, we would see evidence for it in the New Testament Scriptures. This is because changes to traditional practice, such as circumcision, provoked great feeling and debate in the early church (Acts 15:2, 7). However, there is no indication that this happened with the Sabbath.

Finally, where the Bible does mention church activity on the first day of the week, there is no indication that the believers were observing Sunday in place of the Sabbath. For example, Acts 20:7 records: “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.” From the previous verse, we understand that Paul had stayed in Troas for seven days. Finally, on the first day of the week, the disciples gathered to break bread and to listen to his message before his departure the next day. In short, this was a farewell service. Another often quoted reference is 1 Corinthians 16:2: “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” Here, Paul was simply instructing the members in Corinth to put aside any donations for needy believers on the first day of the week, so that there would be no last minute rush when he next visited them. We note that he did not mention the need to do this in conjunction with a church service.

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Is Sunday the Sabbath or has it been changed?

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