The Sabbath on Saturdays vs The Lord’s Day on Sundays

The Sabbath on Saturdays
The Lord’s Day on Sundays

by Ven Dr I. U. Ibeme

The Chaldeans of Mesopotamia used the seven-day week but did not observe the Sabbath holiday. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not observe the Sabbath holiday. Through Moses, God first revealed the Sabbath (Gen 2:1-3) and commanded Israelites to observe it as a rest holiday (Exo 16:23; 20:8-11) and a national covenant sign (Exo 31:13-17). God did not command the Sabbath to be a worship holiday. It was during Babylonian exile that the Jewish rabbinate under Ezra decided to use the Sabbath for worship fellowship, in what they called Synagogues.

On the other hand, the Apostolic Church initially used Sunday for only evening worship; but when Sunday became an international public holiday (313AD), Christians began to also use it as a day of rest similar to the Sabbath. Christ and the Apostles joined their fellow Jews at the Synagogues for Sabbath worship in the Jewish homeland (Luk 4:15-16; Act 17:1-2). But sometimes they refused to fully observe it as a day of rest (Matt 12:1-12; Luk 6:1-11). The Romans did not have weeks (but calends and ides) during the time of Christ and His Apostles. The week of seven planetary days originated from Egypt and was introduced into Rome in the second century AD, after the Apostles had all died.

The Jewish Christians outside the Jewish homeland joined other non-Christian Jews at the regular Sabbath Synagogues, because the Roman Empire granted Jews the rights to be exempted from work on their Sabbath. Non-Jewish Christians, most of whom were not prominent enough to have personal liberties, did not have this privilege but had to work for their masters and so could not observe the Sabbath covenant rest. These met with their Jewish brethren at the evenings of the next day, being Sundays, for worship after the day’s work.

The Apostles exempted the Gentile Christians from keeping Gentile observances (Gal 4:3-11) as well as Jewish observances of circumcision and Sabbath (Rom 14:5-6; Col 2:9-17). They rather held Christian fellowship assembly at Sunday evenings to celebrate the resurrection with the Lord’s Supper and Agape Feast (Luk 24:28-32; 36-43; Act 20:7-8; 1Cor 11:18-33), worship, Word ministration and weekly collection (1Cor 14:12-19, 23-26; 1Cor 16:1-3).

The observation of Sunday for new covenant worship on one hand, and for old covenant rest on the other, is better understood when examined on four grounds:
1. Commandments instituted by Christ and His Apostles.
2. Customs exemplified by Christ and His Apostles.
3. Civil liberties accorded the Church by the State.
4. Convention agreed upon by the Church to distinguish and express their Faith.

1. Commandments instituted by Christ and His Apostles.
Sunday worship was not commanded by Christ, but Sunday collection into the Church common treasury was commanded by the Apostles (1Cor 16:1-3), because they had already began to observe Sunday as the Church’s day for worship assembly (Act 20:7-8). The Apostles were led by the Holy Spirit to permit Jewish Christians to circumcise and keep the Synagogue Sabbath while exempting Gentile Christians from circumcision and the Synagogue Sabbath (Act 15:19-21), because the Old Covenant signs of circumcision and the Sabbath are not necessary for Salvation in the New Covenant (Col 2:9-17). After all, Abraham had none of these yet when God accounted him justified by faith (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:9-12) and cut and entered into covenant with him (Gen 15:9-18). Circumcision sign was only introduced sooner, after twenty four years (Gen 17:8-12) to confirm the covenant with new personal names (Gen 17:1-7); while the Sabbath rest sign came even much later, after five hundred years (Exo 16:23; 20:8-11) to fulfil the covenant in the new national Israel.

2. Customs exemplified by Christ and His Apostles.
Sunday worship meetings was exemplified by Christ in that Christ resurrected and appeared to the disciples on the first day of the week (Joh 20:19, 24-29).

The coming of the Holy Spirit (by Christ’s mediation Act 2:33) took place when the Church worshipped together on the Pentecost day, which was also the first day of the week (Act 2:1-4).

Through out the Roman Empire, the Apostolic Churches met for worship on the first day of the week, in the evenings, because they had to work for their masters during the day (Act 20:7-8). They referred to Sunday as the Lord’s Day (Rev 1:10), because on this day Christ broke the power of death (through His resurrection) and thereby opened the gates of heaven to all believers (1Cor 15:19-23; 1Pet 1:3-4).

3. Civil liberties accorded the Church by the State.
Emperor Constantine the Great declared Friday and Sunday as public holidays for all people when he became a Christian (Edict of Milan 313AD), from then Christians became able to meet in the mornings of Sunday, no longer at nights. Hence Sunday also became a day of rest in addition to being a day of Church worship.

4. Convention agreed upon by the Church as means to distinguish and express their common Faith.
When Sunday became a public holiday, the Church began to adopt Synagogue Sabbath covenant rest ideas in determining the extent to which Christians were to rest on Sundays. Today the Church generally believes that the Sabbath is now observed on Sunday, but the truth is that the Sabbath is different from the Lord’s Day. While the Jewish (Old Covenant) Sabbath Rest commemorates the finishing of the old creation with Adam, the Christian (New Covenant) Sunday Worship celebrates the finishing of the new creation in the risen Christ.

Since the State has granted Sunday holiday to the Church because the Church is known to observe such a day for common spiritualities (from Apostolic times) and for common rest (from the Patristic times), it is not proper for any Christian today to differ from partaking in such spiritualities and rest with the Church to rather pursue selfish enterprise and endeavours. It is also not wise for any Christian to give the impression that the Church is disunited and does not really deserve or need such holiday from the State. Therefore, except for rendering life saving and inevitable essential services, it is selfish, dissentious, unwise and improper for any Christian to openly pursue personal business on the weekly Sunday holidays. Unity is the Church’s evangelistic glory (Joh 17:21-22). We must cherish what we have lest we lose it.

Last Updated February 18, 2011
By Venerable Dr I. U. Ibeme
Copyright © PriscAquila Publishing, Maiduguri, Nigeria.
PriscAquila Christian Resource Centre



Ordained Gospel Minister and practicing Physician
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One Response to The Sabbath on Saturdays vs The Lord’s Day on Sundays

  1. Ataya says:

    This is indeed a great opportunity granted to us to understand our religion (CHRISTIANITY) as it gets “modernized” with changing times. I am Looking forward to the time when this “web page” would be improved such that user can access scripture references right from the page by “clicking” on to it where cited in the text. May you be preserved and blessed for even greater works. Amen

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