Biblical Questions And Answers About The Sabbath

It is written:

Amos 8:9-10- “And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord GOD, “That I will make the sun go down at noon, And I will darken the earth in broad daylight; 10  I will turn your feasts into mourning, And all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist, And baldness on every head; I will make it like mourning for an only son, And its end like a bitter day.

Let’s study some important Scriptures relating to the subject of the Sabbath.

Question: What day is the Sabbath?

Answer: Saturday (the seventh day of the week).

Exodus 20:9-11-Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10  but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11  For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

Question: Where is the first example in the Bible of humans keeping the Sabbath as a day of rest and worship?

Answer: With Moses giving the Jewish people the Ten Commandments.

Deuteronomy 5:2-3-The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3  The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive.

Nehemiah 9:13-14-“You came down also on Mount Sinai, And spoke with them from heaven, And gave them just ordinances and true laws, Good statutes and commandments. 14  You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, And commanded them precepts, statutes and laws, By the hand of Moses Your servant.

Question: Was the command to keep the Sabbath for people of all nations?

Answer: No. The Sabbath command was only for the Jewish people.

Exodus 31:13-17-Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. 14  You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. 15  Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 16  Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17  It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’

Ezekiel 20:12-Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.

Psalm 147:19-20-He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel. 20  He has not dealt thus with any nation; And as for His judgments, they have not known them. Praise the LORD!

Question: What does Amos the Prophet teach about the temporary nature of the Sabbath?

Answer: Amos teaches that the command to keep the Sabbath day would one day be removed.

Amos 8:9-10- “And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord GOD, “That I will make the sun go down at noon, And I will darken the earth in broad daylight; 10  I will turn your feasts into mourning, And all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist, And baldness on every head; I will make it like mourning for an only son, And its end like a bitter day.

Matthew 27:45-Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.

When God would make the sun go down at noon, He would bring about the end of the Old Testament holy days. Indeed, “its’ end” would be “like a bitter day.” This happened when Jesus died on the Cross and the Old Testament Law was removed (Colossians 2:14).

Question: What does the Prophet Hosea teach about the Sabbath?

Answer: The Prophet Hosea teaches that the Sabbath was temporary.

Hosea 2:11-I will also cause all her mirth to cease, Her feast days, Her New Moons, Her Sabbaths—All her appointed feasts.

Hosea 2:16-And it shall be, in that day,” Says the LORD, “That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ And no longer call Me ‘My Master,’

The feast days of the Old Testament-including the Sabbath-would be completed when the people of God were “married” to the Lord. This is fulfilled in the church of Christ under the New Testament (Ephesians 5:22-33).

Question: Does the New Testament teach that God changed the Sabbath (Saturday) to the first day of the week (Sunday)?

Answer: No. In fact, the New Testament emphatically teaches that the Sabbath is not the first day of the week!

Matthew 28:1-Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.

Mark 16:1-2-Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2  Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.

Luke 23:54-24:1-That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near. 55  And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. 56  Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. 1  Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.

Please notice that in all of these passages, the Sabbath (seventh) day is clearly distinguished from Sunday (the first day of the week).

Question: Did the Apostles assemble with Christians on the Sabbath?

Answer: No.

Acts 13:14-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 13:27-For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him.

Acts 13:42-So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.

Acts 13:44-On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.

Acts 15:21-For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

Acts 16:13-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 17:2-Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,

Acts 18:4-And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.

Please notice that in every reference to the Apostles “observing” the Sabbath in Acts, it was not as a Christian gathering; rather, it was where they gathered with unbelievers for an opportunity to preach Jesus Christ to the non-Christian people.

Question: Is there any evidence that the Sabbath was abolished?

Answer: Yes.

Colossians 2:16-17-So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17  which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

Paul here discusses the fact that the Old Testament had been taken away when Christ died (Colossians 2:14). As a result, those believers who ere trying to teach that Christians had to keep the Old Law were mistaken (cf. Galatians 5:4).

Sometimes it is argued that Paul does not refer to the weekly Sabbath because he uses the plural form of the word here. However, a study of the Greek Old Testament shows that several times the weekly Sabbath is referred to in the plural (cf. Exodus 20:8, 10, 12; 31:13; Leviticus 23:38; Isaiah 56:3, 4). The same is true in the New Testament (Matthew 12:5, 10; Luke 4:31; Acts 17:2). More to the point, the exact same Greek phrase of Colossians 2:16 is found in numerous times throughout the Greek Old Testament to refer to the weekly Sabbath (Exodus 35:3; Leviticus 23:38; 24:8; Numbers 15:32; 28:9; Deuteronomy 5:12; Isaiah 58:13). Finally, the list of holy days that Paul enumerates in Colossians 2:16 follows the same pattern as found throughout the Old Testament: daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly offerings (cf. Numbers 28-29; 1 Chronicles 23:30-31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 8:13; 31:3; Nehemiah 10:33; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11).

Paul’s point is that the Old Testament Law has been done away with-and this includes the weekly Sabbath.

Question: Is there any evidence that the New Testament church assembled together on Sunday (the first day of the week) for a day of worship?

Answer: Yes.

Acts 20:7-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.

Several things here are worthy of notice.

First, the Apostles gathered with the church on the first day of the week. As noted above, the first day of the week is always shown to be separate from the Sabbath. Second, the meeting is with other Christians. This is different from the instances in Acts where the Apostles gathered with unbelievers on the Sabbath to preach the Gospel to them. Third, the Greek of this passage implies that this was a custom of the church, i.e., to gather together on the first day of the week. Fourth, the euphemism “break bread” was often used to refer to the Lord’s Supper (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16). That this was the meaning of the gathering is demonstrated especially by noticing the early translations of the New Testament from Greek into other languages. The Syriac and the Ethiopic translate this phrase “break bread” with the equivalent of “partake of the Eucharist” (an early reference to the Lord’s Supper). The religious nature of this meeting is also seen in that Paul preached the Word of God to them. Even though the Christians often met together and worshipped daily (Acts 2:42-47), there is clearly a sense in which Sunday “stood out” to them.

Question: Did the Catholic Church change the day of worship from the Sabbath (Saturday) to the first day of the week (Sunday)?

Answer: No.

As we have seen, the Christians were meeting together and worshiping on Sunday long before the formation of the Catholic Church. The first true pope of the Catholic church came from about the sixth century A.D.:

“We have been showing that the church of Christ was not originally known hy the name catholic ; that the Roman sect was not the church of the first six centuries ; and, therefore, that the approved definition of the creed will not apply to this party. I have proved that she had no pope, or supreme head, for full six hundred years, and in corroboration of the argument, drawn from general councils, I have shown that the first seven were not hers, but peculiarly those of the Greek church; and that the Greek church is, in fact, the mother.” (Campbell-Purcell Debate, 967-970 (Kindle Edition); Cincinnati, OH; J.A. James & Co.)

We have already seen testimony from the New Testament regarding the Christians meeting together for worship on Sunday. Let’s consider some other historical evidence of the matter:

“I begin with a statement of the opinion of the teachings of history on this subject, by B. B. Edwards, in his “Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge,” published 1858, found on page 1,040: “We are informed by Eusebius that from the beginning the Christians assembled on the first day of the week, called by them the Lord’s Day, for the purpose of religious worship, to read the Scriptures, to preach and to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.” Now, we are not ready to say that the author has misunderstood his reading, nor that Eusebius has been untrue to the facts in the case. And unless we may impeach one or the other of these witnesses, the question is put to rest with this statement. Chamber’s Encyclopedia has the following on the subject of the Sabbath: He has come to the edict of Constantine, and gives us something on this side of it: “A new era in the history of the Lord’s Day now commenced; tendencies toward Sabbatarianism, or confusion of the Christian with the Jewish Institution beginning to manifest themselves. These were slight till the end of the 5th century, and are traceable chiefly to the evils of legislation.” Johnson’s Encyclopedia has this to say on the subject of the Sabbath: “The resurrection of Christ and his subsequent appearances to his disciples till his ascension, and the miraculous descent of the Holy Spirit on the first day of the week, led to that being set apart for the special religious assemblies of the Christians, and for the simple services of their faith. For a time the Jewish converts observed both the seventh day, to which the name Sabbath continued to be given exclusively, and the first day, which came to be called Lord’s Day. Later, the Apostle Paul sought to relieve their consciences from the obligations of keeping the Sabbath (Romans 14: 5; Colossians 2: 16)…. Within a century after the death of the last of the apostles we find the observance of the first day of the week, under the name of the Lord’s Day, established as an universal custom of the church, according to the unanimous testimony of Barnabas, Ignatius, Pliny, Justin Martyr, and Tertullian. It was regarded not as a continuation of the Jewish Sabbath (which was denounced together with circumcision and other Jewish anti-Christian practices), but rather as a substitute for it; and naturally its observance was based on the resurrection of Christ rather than on the creation rest-day or the Sabbath of the Decalogue.” As to the origin of the word Sunday, there seems to be no settled view, but some things are agreed to universally, that it was the first day of the week, and that at an early date it came to be used as a synonym for Lord’s Day. With this thought before us we are prepared to hear Mosheim as translated by Murdock, Vol. 1, p. 137, say of the practice of the second century: “When the Christians celebrated the Lord’s Supper, which they were accustomed to do chiefly on Sundays, they consecrated a part of the bread and wine of the oblations by certain prayers pronounced by the president, the bishop of the congregation.” Same book, p. 278, sec. 5, Mosheim says: “The first day of the week, (on which Christians were accustomed to meet for the worship of God,) Constantine required, by a special law, to be observed more sacredly than before.” Once more from the same work: Century II., Part II., Chap, 4:, section 8: “The Christians assembled for the worship of God in private dwelling-houses, in caves, and places where the dead were buried. They met on the first day of the week; and here and there also on the seventh day, which was the Jewish Sabbath.” Then again, in Book I., Century I., Part II., Chap. 4:, Sec. 4: “The Christians of this century assembled for the worship of God and for the advancement of their own piety on the first day of the week, the day on which Christ re-assumed his life; for that this day was set apart for religious worship by the apostles themselves, and that, after the manner of the church at Jerusalem, it was generally observed, we have unexceptionable testimony. Moreover, those congregations which either lived intermingled with Jews, or were composed in great measure of Jews, were accustomed to observe also the seventh day of the week, as a sacred day: for doing which the other Christians taxed them with no wrong.” Now, so far as history is concerned, we have traced the keeping of the first day of the week, or Sunday, or Lord’s Day, back through the fourth century, the third, the second, and away down into the first; right up to the apostles who were at Jerusalem.” (D.R. (David Roberts) Duncan, The Sabbath? or the Lord’s Day?: An investigation of the arguments for Sabbath-worship and against worship on the first day of the week in light of what the Bible actually teaches, 101-104 (Kindle Edition); Charleston, AR; Cobb Publishing)

Christians were observing the first day of the week (Sunday) with God’s approval (Acts 20:7), and continued to do so for centuries, before the formation of the Catholic church.

Christians may observe the Sabbath as a personal holiday if they wish (cf. Romans 14). However, they do not have the right to force others to observe the Sabbath day (Colossians 2:16-17). The Old Law was designed to prepare us for Jesus (Galatians 3:24-25), and the Sabbath was a reminder to God’s people of the rest that we enjoy in Christ Jesus-which will eventually be enjoyed in the beauty of Heaven (cf. Hebrews 4:9-11).

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: