Last updated on October 10th, 2019
Hello again all my fact-truthers. Today I’m going to address the topic of the Sabbath and whether observances of that day and assembling of the Body of Christ on that day was meant to occur with Christians or not. This is going to be a very long post just to warn you beforehand, but I think it’ll be well worth the time you spend reading. We’ll begin where my curiosities and personal journey to finding an accurate conclusion for myself began. I’d say about two months ago I got into a conversation with a Seventh Day Adventist. The topic of the Sabbath came up, and I challenged this individual to give me reasoning for its continued observance and choice of assembling on that day as opposed to a majority of modern Christianity typically conducting rest and worship of the Lord on Sunday. So here is the following conversation edited slightly for conciseness. SDA represents this individual’s response, and FBT of course represents yours truly.
“I’ve always had questions about how Adventists reconcile the need to observe the Sabbath with other verses that seem to suggest differently. Such as (Colossians 2:16) that talks about no one being anyone’s judge with regard to Sabbath days, or (Romans 14:5-6) that talks about each person being fully convinced in their own minds of whatever day one chooses to regard special to the Lord. Not to get into a debate with you, just throwing out my thoughts and welcoming your perspective from studying to enlighten me in understanding your beliefs more fully. Alternatively, the reasoning I’ve thought of Sunday as a special day to worship the Lord was because that was the day Apostle Paul chose to get together with some believers in (Acts 20:7) to break bread, and it’s noted as the day Jesus rose from the dead in (Matthew 28), (Mark 16), (Luke 24), and (John 20). But beyond the scriptural thoughts, I think it’s really cool you use that time period to share the love of Jesus with others. That’s a very wonderful thing!”
“Well, to answer your question as to the need to keep the commandments, it is more than just a need, it is a command. Just as I should not steal, lie, commit adultery, covet, dishonor my parents, put other ‘gods’ before God..etc. The interesting thing is, the Sabbath command is the only one that establishes God as the Creator, yet it seems to be the one most people have issues with. I could get into a longer discourse with you about the specifics and I will if you wish to with an open mind, but I will tell you this, the scriptures you named were saying many things, but none which was speaking of the 7th day Sabbath.
In fact, (Romans 14:5-6) Paul was talking to the Romans about the day of atonement stating that the Jews did not have to keep that day anymore; however, there were some who held on to it, and if it pleased them to do so there was nothing wrong with it, but understand that Christ died as the atoning Lamb which the ritual of the atonement was pointing to. In other words, He was the perfect sacrifice that the atoning sacrifice was pointing to. Paul was saying leave them alone and let them continue to have that day if they wanted to and they are still doing it to this day. In Leviticus 23, when Moses was introducing the feast days to the Israelites, he made a distinction between the feast days and the Sabbath in Leviticus 23:3. In Acts 20:7 Paul gathered and preached, but nowhere did he say it was for Sabbath worship.
Yet, many places we are told that the Sabbath is a holy day. Paul traveled extensively and would meet and preach on many days. We can hold a bible meeting any day of the week, yet there is only one day which the Lord ever said was the Sabbath and set aside as holy. Paul also preached on Sabbath (Acts 13:42-45), and this was after the death and resurrection of Jesus. In all of the gospels as you mentioned here Jesus rose on the first day of the week (Sunday) which means he was crucified on Friday, resting in the tomb on Saturday (Sabbath) and rose on the first day. Jesus rested on the Sabbath. In Luke 23:54, it spoke of Jesus being crucified on the preparation day (good Friday) the day before the Sabbath and the Sabbath drew on, and He rose on the first day. It is clear which day the Sabbath was. This is pretty significant to me.
Nowhere anywhere does it give a change. Yet, there seem to be a change, and I can tell you how that came about, but it did not come from God, or Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. It came from man thinking he could change God’s law. There is record of Jesus reading in the synagogue as His custom was. If he wanted it changed there were plenty of opportunities for Him to voice it, yet He never did. He said many things about the Sabbath, and one thing is that it is a Holy day. It is the only day He said that about. That is why it is important to me. I will also add that the Lord did not only command it, He followed it first (Genesis 2:3).
I always think it is important to take many things into consideration when reading scripture. First it is always necessary to pray that the Holy Spirit will interpret the words for us so we can understand exactly what the author was inspired to write. Then it is important to not take every verse as if it can stand alone. We have to keep things in context which means sometimes we have to read several verses before and after the scripture to get a clearer picture. I hope I articulated clearly, I know I wrote a lot.”
“I took a careful review of the initial commandments in Exodus (murder, stealing, lie, etc.) and found just about all of them are re-referenced again in the New Testament in one form or another as commands to still be upheld. Being an intellectually honest person, I must admit that that fact would add more credence to your belief that God intended for Christians to continue to keep the Sabbath. But what I was unable to confirm, and maybe you can point a verse out to me, is if anywhere in the NT seventh day Sabbath is specifically re-stated or re-affirmed in one form or another in the Apostles letters as a part of Christian teaching, much like the other commands can be found to be re-stated or re-affirmed as things to be still upheld in Christian living? I think you gave a suggestion to that later in your writing, which I’ll see what I think when I get to that point, but I’m just addressing everything you said in the order you wrote it.
You raise a fair point that the “seventh day Sabbath” is not specifically stated in Romans 14:5-6. But you stated that the verse is referring to the Day of Atonement, and I re-read the verse again and didn’t see those words specifically stated or any mentioning of the Jews stated. Is there background or secondary material on those specific verses that brings you to the conclusion that Paul is referring to the Day of Atonement that no longer needs to be followed? Or is there something in the larger context of the passage that you think strongly suggests that? But I did look through Leviticus 23 and saw that there did appear to be a distinction between feast days and Sabbath day. You’re right that Acts 20:7 does not mention Sabbath worship. I guess the point I was making here was this was an example of preaching happening on the first day of the week.
But I suppose it’s questionable at best whether it was an official new time of gathering of worship since this is the only time mentioning of a meeting on the first day, and it wasn’t stated as a command of new precedence, but more as a detail of what was happening. Although it’s interesting that also in 1 Cor 16:2, it mentions collection being collected on the first day of week, mentioning that it was also directed to the Galatians as well. But of course still it’s not mentioning assembling for worship in that verse. I agree that the Sabbath is referred to as a holy day from seeing verses stating that in Scripture. I also agree that the Sabbath appears to have been Saturday (or technically Friday Sundown to Saturday Sundown going by the time frame which was followed at the time).
You’ll have to point me to the verse that Jesus stated Sabbath was a holy day because I couldn’t find it, but there are verses that reference Sabbath as a holy day, and your point is taken about the importance Jesus expressed of that day, given He stated in the Gospels that Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). As I typed in Sabbath in the search bar on blueletterbible.org, which is a very wonderful tool for finding every verse on a specific topic, I did notice that Jesus did teach on the Sabbath. I also noticed there was some frequent mentioning of the Apostle Paul preaching on the Sabbath in Acts. And you’re correct in noting that God followed his own command of Sabbath in Genesis 2:3. All very strong points that would seem to point to a continuation of worship conducted on Sabbath day.
I too like you think it’s important to let Scripture interpret Scripture, or as you called it, “praying the Holy Spirit will interpret the words for us”. The reason I call it Scripture interpreting scripture, is because I believe since Holy Spirit authored Scripture (2 Peter 1:21-22), we get the Holy Spirit’s interpretation through letting Scripture explain Scripture, or in other words, believing what scripture states as a whole. We both agree in the importance of context, and being that I’m not a perfect person, as much as I try to believe all my beliefs based on what scripture states and indicates in context, on some issues I can still unknowingly harken back to preconceived notions I’ve learned in the past without remembering if I have firmly questioned and looked at the issue in context of all the scriptures as I’ve grown to do so in the last few years. I’ve certainly had to change my mind on what I’d initially thought was a correct belief many times before not realizing I had put my own thoughts into the text rather than thinking exactly what the text is stating.
In saying all of that, I do find myself slightly leaning towards the position that the assembling of the body of Christ for worship is meant to be conducted on Seventh Day Sabbath. The only thing I ponder is if there’s a direct re-statement or reaffirmation of that within Paul’s or Peter’s letters, though certainly Paul’s actions in Acts showed that there was a continuation of worship on Sabbath Day. And there does not appear to be a direct command of a change of worship day to the first day of the week. And just curious since I’m not sure if you answered in your first response on this topic, but what’s your understanding on Colossians 2:16?”
Early Church Fathers Thoughts
Now I did not get a response after this message for which I have no explanation for. I don’t know if this person couldn’t answer my lingering thoughtful skepticism, or was just unwilling to engage further in a discussion that it seems in their first response they were firmly settled on their own conclusion. But I’ve continued to study this issue myself and found other interesting things for thought that changed my thinking to the final present conclusion I have that I’ll reveal at the end. One of those interesting things were the writings of early church fathers such as Ignatius. Some Sunday advocates cite them as proof that there was a shift in worship being conducted on Sunday, and there no longer being a necessity to conduct worship on a Sabbath day (http://www.christian-history.org/sabbath.html).
At first glance these quotes in this article from early church fathers I would grant as compelling evidence for Sunday assembling. But the question that remained unanswered to me is why some of the church fathers felt compelled to choose assembling to be conducted on a Sunday. Was there something in the teachings of the Apostles that supports what they were teaching in making this choice? I find early church writings from leaders after the apostolic era are very useful only if they reaffirm certain teachings that are already stated within scripture.
Though in addition to my questioning of that, I dug deeper into trying to find these quotes in context with the passages they were written in by the church fathers, and stumbled upon another article that criticizes citation of these writings as debunking continuation of Sabbath observance (http://www.cogwriter.com/ignatius.htm). The argument in this article is that the users of certain passages refuting Sabbath observance are arguing based off of Greek translated words that aren’t in the original writings, and that other passages of these writers would seem to affirm continuation of the observance of Sabbath Day. Unfortunately I don’t understand Greek enough, apart from following the Greek translations I make use of in some of writings from blueletterbible.org, to determine whether this writer’s suggestions are accurate or not. The writer of the article does cite a lot of different sources to back up their claims though.
Romans 14:5-6, Colossians 2:16-17, Galatians 4:9-11
But putting aside all of that and getting back to the scripture, even as I stated to this person that I leaned slightly closer to continued observance and choosing assembling of the body of Christ being conducted on Sabbath day, if you recall I had still questioned for adequate explanation for the verses I referenced to her. Romans 14:5-6 states, “5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.” Colossians 2:16-17 states, “16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day–17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”
In arguments I’ve looked up on Romans 14:5-6, Sabbath advocates suggest that Paul is talking about feasting days in those verses. When looking at the context of the verses, Paul does appear to be primarily talking about eating and food before and after those two verses. Though still, it does directly say, “one regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in their own mind”. Seemingly a suggestion of freedom in choices of importance with regards to days observed for the Lord in verse 6, and it never does directly say it’s referring to feasting days. Nonetheless though, still a thought-provoking and possibly valid explanation. The department chair of theology and philosophy at Andrews University wrote an interesting paper on this verse worth reading (https://adventistbiblicalresearch.org/sites/default/files/pdf/Onedaybetter.pdf). In full disclosure, the college is affiliated with Seventh Day Adventist, but the writer seems to lay out both sides of the argument with thoughtful consideration, and offers insight on historical and cultural background.
With regards to Colossians 2:16-17, on the surface, it would seem like this verse essentially says, no one should be judged for anything relating to the Sabbath Day. As I searched the web for an explanation of this verse from Sabbath advocates, the arguments I found repeated were that these were referring to ceremonial Sabbath days, noting that the King James version translates the Greek word used for Sabbath day as “Sabbath days”. It’s also a footnote as a possible variation of translation in the NASB translation I typically read. But I question if that’s the case why Paul does not specifically state “ceremonial Sabbath days”. But arguers point a couple verses back to Col 2:14 as illustrating the context of that verse referring to ceremonial days because of the mentioning of Christ doing away with decrees, which the meaning of the Greek translated word dogma, means “a law (civil, ceremonial or ecclesiastical):—decree, ordinance” and another meaning given was “the rules and requirements of the law of Moses”.
In Exodus 20:3-17, we see God giving the initial Ten Commandments, and then in Exodus 21, we see God beginning to give the ordinances. Is it possible this is what the Sabbath advocates are referring to that the passage is actually talking about being done away with? As I’ve looked more and more into the issue I’ve found myself in the rare position of having more questions than answers at times. I think the fact that after the resurrection and the beginning of the Christian church the Apostles maintained observance of the Sabbath, and the fact that some of the initial commandments given in Exodus 20 are reiterated in the Apostle teachings as things to be obeyed, that would seem to this writer a somewhat convincing argument for continuation of observance of the Sabbath and choosing to assemble the body of Christ on the Sabbath.
Though on the other side of the argument, there seems to be no direct teaching from the Apostles on such a continuation. In fact in Galatians 4:9-11, Paul seems to even condemn such observances of days when he states, “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.” But of course, I can hear the Sabbath advocate I was communicating with pointing out again that the Sabbath wasn’t mentioned in this verse and that in mentioning the Law earlier in this chapter, Paul is once again talking about ceremonial days. Though some commentaries come to the conclusion Paul was in fact referencing the Sabbath Day in this verse along with ceremonial observances. Neither point is explicitly stated by Paul though.
No Sunday Command
Nonetheless, there’s also certainly no clear Sunday declaration of assembling that can be found in Scripture if one is being humbly accurate. As I pointed out in my original response to SDA, the mentioning of actions on Sunday do seem incidental more than consequential. If it were a precedent to begin conducting assembling of the body of Christ on Sundays, it would seem there would be more than just an incidental reference in Acts 20:7 of Paul happening to meet up with a group one Sunday to break bread and talk with them about what we don’t fully know. And something more than just a small reminder to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 16:1 to gather collections for the saints like the Church at Galatia did on the first day of the week. Those are the main verses Sunday advocates point to.
No Christian Sabbath assembling
At the same time, and I know I’m going back and forth but keep following with me, when the Apostles spoke to the people on the Sabbath, those weren’t Christians they were speaking to. They were people in the town, Jews, Greeks, and proselytes (Gentile converted Jews) that were being given the Word of the Lord and they were trying to convert them to Christianity. As far as I could see, there was no direct statement in Acts stating specifically baptized saved Christians were choosing assembling of the Body on the Sabbath. You can double check those verses in Acts mentioning the Sabbath and make sure I’m accurate.
Jesus on the Sabbath
Let’s return to Jesus on this issue of the Sabbath. He did say the Sabbath was made for man, and He also taught in the synagogues on the Sabbath. Though something interesting I found is that in an exchange with a young man asking him what good thing he should do to obtain eternal life, Jesus stated in Matthew 19:16-19 “16 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” 17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 Then he *said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Now ignoring the fact that we know keeping commandments doesn’t obtain us eternal life since this was before the resurrection, its interesting Jesus didn’t state the commandment of the Sabbath to the young man. Does this perhaps suggest that Sabbath advocates overemphasize something that Jesus didn’t?
One other article I read suggested there may not be a definitive argument for either position of which day Christians are instructed to assemble for worship. That perhaps maybe it was the case both Sabbath and Sunday assembling were conducted during the time period of the early church. They point out Acts 2:46 to suggest it’s less about which day is chosen for assembling of the body of Christ, and more so about the fact assembling was conducted. Acts 2:46 states “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.” Note the usage of the words “Day by day”. And prior to this verse, Acts 2:42 also indicated a consistent focus on things stating, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” But then does that beg the question that the body of Christ was meant to assemble with one another every day?
There are a lot of interesting questions to pose on this subject on both sides of the argument. As you all know, what matters most to me in writing these postings is that I’m doing things as close to the way God wants me to according to His Word. In all of my writings, you see that I back up every choice of belief and practice with direct statements in scripture in its context, and have made it a mission to check the strength of my argued beliefs against any arguments of a different choice of belief that others hold from mine. I challenge those alternative beliefs using the same formula I use for my own beliefs, refuting those arguments by showing the verses those arguments use in context which reveals what appears to be the verses true meaning, and showing that there are no direct statements of those alternative beliefs that people purport as true, pointing out the appearance of mere subjective perception placed into the text.
In doing these things, looking through all verses, I believe strongly I reach to a very closely accurate scripture based belief to hold and practice to live by. But of course things are always subject to re-evaluation, because there are some things we’ll never fully understand. We’ll only know as much as we’re given in scripture through continued studying and learning over time. To get to the point though, in combining all that I know currently and always being prepared to change my belief as I continue to learn more, here’s my current conclusion. In this writer’s opinion, there does not appear to have ever been a designation of Sunday for assembling of the Body of Christ in Scripture.
There also does not appear to be an example of an assembling of the body of Christ on Sabbath either. What we’re left with here is no answer to a specific day designated for the Body of Christ to assemble. To this writer’s conclusion, the only answer is that it is a good for the body of Christ to assemble for the Lord any day of the week, and perhaps even in the case given of the example we had presented to us in Acts 2:46, maybe they even assembled every day of the week. As far as the continued observance of the Sabbath by Christians, the arguments I’ve seen for it while I find somewhat convincing, I don’t know I find them to be strong enough to tell others to continue its observance given the lack of direct statements in the teachings of the Apostle instructing a continued observance by Christians. Though personally, I would choose to observe it myself as a means of exercising my own desires of wanting to be more spiritually connected with God.
As always, any thoughts or questions, feel free to share them with me and other readers for the sake of our collective elevation of knowledge in living as followers of Christ. If this post enlightened you in anyway, I would greatly appreciate if you shared this among your social media circle so others can be enlightened as well. Peace to all those who are in Christ.