A gracEmail subscriber asks when the early church quit observing the Sabbath (Saturday) and began observing Sunday? This reader mentions Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1ff and Revelation 1:10 as relevant passages on this topic.
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God commanded Israel at Mount Sinai to observe the Sabbath (Saturday) as a rest day, in remembrance of their liberation from slavery, to commemorate God’s own seventh-day rest during Creation week, as a symbol of trust in God’s provision, and as an act of kindness for humans and their work animals alike (Ex. 16:22ff; 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15). The Jewish Sabbath was a day of rest — not a day of public worship. When first-century Jews accepted Jesus as Messiah, they continued to observe the Sabbath as they had always done. The Sabbath was never given to non-Jews (“Gentiles”), and the New Testament does not designate any “holy day” for Gentile followers of Christ. Some Christians through the centuries have called Sunday “the Christian Sabbath,” but the Bible never uses that kind of language.
The narrative passage Acts 20:7 mentions some believers gathering on their first day of the week “to break bread.” We cannot know for certain whether that meant a common meal or the Lord’s Supper, or perhaps both. Nor can we know from 1 Corinthians 16:1ff whether the Corinthians met every Sunday for corporate worship or set aside a special offering at home. Christians generally consider Sunday to be “the Lord’s day” mentioned in Revelation 1:10, although Seventh-day Adventists and several smaller groups consider Saturday (the Sabbath) to be “the Lord’s day.” We do know that by the second century, non-Jewish followers of Jesus were gathering on Sundays for public worship and mutual encouragement in commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection on the first day of the week, and perhaps also because the first Christian Pentecost had fallen on that day. Gentile believers have found a blessing in regular Sunday worship for nearly 1,900 years since.
Under gospel principles, the particular day on which one honors God is not of primary importance (Rom. 14:5ff). It does matter, however, if one observes any day with a thought of earning God’s favor — a motive contrary to the gospel of grace (Gal. 4:8-11). We should rejoice in God’s presence seven days a week, and we may worship him any time the Spirit moves us to do so. And, although God never bound the Sabbath on Gentiles, there is nothing that says that only Jews can enjoy a rest day when Saturday rolls around!