Does the Bible teach Sunday observance?


By BibleAsk Team

Does the Bible Teach Sunday Observance?

The New Testament writers used the word “Sabbath” 59 times referring to the seventh day (Saturday). But, the reference to “the first day of the weak” (Sunday) appeared only 8 times. So, if there is any Biblical authority for Sunday observance, it will surely have to be found in one of these 8 verses. Let’s examine all the eight references for the “first day” Sunday:

(1) Matthew 28:1 “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.”

(2) Mark 16:1–3 “And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepul­chre?”

(3) Mark 16:9 “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.”

In these past three verses, there is no reference about the first-day being holy.

(4) Luke 24:1, 2 “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.” Here, Jesus rested in the tomb on the Sabbath from His work of redemption, just as He had rested from His work of creation on the Sabbath.

(5) John 20:1 “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.”  Here, John gives no indication whatsoever that the first-day of the week was ever counted holy.

(6) John 20:19 “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” There was not even any recognition on the part of the disciples that the Resurrection had taken place. The text plainly states that they were gathered there “for fear of the Jews.”

(7) 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2 “Now concerning the collection for the saints…Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come…” Paul was simply writing appeals for collecting food for the needy. Such work as gathering and storing up would not be appropriate on the Sabbath.

(8) Acts 20:6–13 “… In addition, upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight…” According to the scriptures, each day begins at sundown and ends at the next day sundown (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31 Leviticus 23:32) and the dark part of the day comes first. So, Sabbath begins Friday night at sundown and ends Saturday night at sundown. This meeting of Acts 20 was held on the dark part of Sunday, or on what we now call Saturday night. The New English Bible* confirms that, “On the Saturday night in our assembly …” (Acts 20:7). It was a Saturday-night meeting. Paul was on a farewell tour (verse 25). He was “ready to depart on the morrow.” The “breaking of bread” has no “holy day” significance whatever, because they broke bread daily (Acts 2:46). There is not the slightest indication in this scripture passage that the first day is holy.

We have reviewed all eight references for Sunday without finding any evidence for its sanctity.

Seventh Day Observance After the Resurrection

The book of Acts shows a consistent pattern of seventh-day Sabbath keeping. On one occasion, Paul was asked by the Gentiles to hold a service for them on the Sabbath as they were not permitted to enter the synagogue “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath … And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:42, 44).

Many have said that Paul only preached in the synagogues on the Sabbath because he was preaching to Jews. But this is not true because in this instance, Paul made an appointment to minister to the Gentiles on the following Sabbath. And according to verse 43, Paul and Barnabas “persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.”

In Acts 16:13, we see that Paul kept the Sabbath even when there was no synagogue and no Jews. He was preaching, in Greece, to the gentiles, where there were only a few scattered Jews and no synagogue. “And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spoke unto the women which resorted thither.” Even with no church to attend, the apostle met on the Sabbath for worship by the river side.

Again, we read about Paul’s customary habit of keeping the Sabbath, “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures” (Acts 17:2). “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Acts 18:4).

To conclude, we have Paul’s personal testimony that he never kept one Sunday holy in his whole life. Just before his death, Paul made this public statement to the Jewish leaders, “Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans” (Acts 28:17). If Paul had ever broken the Sabbath, or kept another day than the seventh, he could not have declared truthfully that he had done nothing against Jewish custom.

According to the scriptures, the only custom of the early church was keeping the seventh day Sabbath of the fourth commandment (Exodus 20).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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