Category: Sabbath

Did Jesus keep the Sabbath when He walked the earth?

Jesus used the Sabbath day to announce His mission on Earth (Luke 4:16-19). In Isaiah 42:21, the prophet predicts that the Messiah would come to magnify the law, not to change it. In Matthew 24:20, Jesus alludes to the Sabbath in connection with future generations. Jesus also told his followers that He did not abolish that law:

Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets, I did not come to destroy but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17 NKJV).
If you love Me, keep My commandments (John 14:15 NKJV).
For I am the LORD, I change not (Malachi 3:6)

Image     The disciples of Jesus are examples to us of how we should act and respond to God. If they kept the Saturday Sabbath, what does that mean for us?

The disciples and followers of Christ kept Saturday Sabbath according to the commandment:

And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointment; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment (Luke 23:55-56).

After Jesus ascended back to heaven, the disciples of Christ continued to keep the seventh-day Sabbath for many decades. The Ten Commandments, including the Saturday Sabbath, were not done away with when Christ died. Every single commandment can be found reiterated in the New Testament.

Ten Commandments New Testament

Paul and the Sabbath

The inspired Word of God in the book of Acts, as written by Luke, records the keeping of 84 Sabbaths by Paul and his companions. We note first in Acts 13:14 that “when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day.”
Paul and his associates were still observing the Sabbath in 45 AD, 14 years after the resurrection.

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 came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God (Acts 13:42-44).

The Gentiles also observed the Sabbath with Paul, and they heard the “word of God.” No indication of a change is found. Besides worshipping in the synagogues, they also “on the sabbath…went out of the city by a river side” (Acts 16:13). This was 22 years after the resurrection, in AD 53.

And Paul as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures (Acts 17:2).
Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; and he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks…And he continued there a year and six months teaching the word of God among them (Acts 18:1,4,11).

Christ’s followers in the early Church continued to celebrate the seventh-day Sabbath, just as Jesus did.

Image       The Bible gives no indication that the Sabbath should be changed from Saturday to Sunday. The Roman Catholic Church claims responsibility for the change.

The Catholic Church claims responsibility for the change from seventh-day to first-day Sabbath. Here is an explanation from The Catechism of the Catholic Church Section 2 Article 3 (1994):

Sunday – fulfillment of the Sabbath. Sunday is expressly distinguished from the Sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the Sabbath…
The Sabbath, which represented the completion of the first creation, has been replaced by Sunday which recalls the new creation, has been replaced by Sunday which recalls the new creation inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ…
In respecting religious liberty and the common good of all, Christians should seek recognition of Sundays and the Church’s holy days as legal holidays.

And here are various Catholic sources claiming the change was the doing of the Roman Catholic Church:
Cardinal James Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers (Ayers Publishing, 1978): 108:

But you may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify.

The Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine (1957): 50:

Q. Which is the Sabbath day? A. Saturday is the Sabbath day. Q. Why Do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday? A. We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.

Chancellor Albert Smith for Cardinal of Baltimore Archdiocese, letter dated February 10, 1920:

If Protestants would follow the Bible, they should worship God on the Sabbath day by God is Saturday. In keeping the Sunday, they are following a law of the Catholic Church.

Stephen Keenan, Catholic—Doctrinal Catechism 3rd Edition: 174:

Question: Have you any other way of proving the Church has power to institute festivals of precept?
Answer: Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her, she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday the 1st day of the week, for the observance of Saturday the 7th day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority.i

                    John  A. O’Brien, The Faith of Millions: 472-473: “The third commandment is: ‘Remember thou…             read more.

Our Sunday Visitor (February 5, 1950):

Practically everything Protestants regard as essential or important they have received from the Catholic Church… The Protestant mind does not seem to realize that in accepting the Bible and observing the Sunday, in keeping Christmas and Easter, they are accepting the authority of the spokesman for the church, the Pope.

Louis Gaston Segur, Plain Talk about the Protestantism of To-Day (London: Thomas Richardson and Son, 1874): 213:

Thus the observance of Sunday by the Protestants is a homage they pay, in spite of themselves, to the authority of the (Catholic) Church.

The Catholic Mirror (September 23, 1893):

The Catholic Church, for over one thousand years before the existence of a Protestant, by virtue of her divine mission, changed the day from Saturday to Sunday…

The Adventists are the only body of Christians with the Bible as their teacher, who can find no warrant in its pages for the change of day from the seventh to the first. Hence their appellation, “Seventh-day Adventists.”

Catholic Priest T. Enright, CSSR, Kansas City, MO:

It was the holy Catholic Church that changed the day of rest from Saturday to Sunday, the 1st day of the week. And it not only compelled all to keep Sunday, but at the Council of Laodicea, AD 364, anathematized those who kept the Sabbath and urged all persons to labor on the 7th day under penalty of anathema.

Source: Donald Macleod on Flickr

Catholic Priest T. Enright, CSSR, lecture at Hartford, KS, Feb 18, 1884:

I have repeatedly offered $1000 to any one who can furnish any proof from the Bible that Sunday is the day we are bound to keep…The Bible says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” but the Catholic Church says, “No, keep the first day of the week,” and the whole world bows in obedience.

Cardinal John Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine(London: Basil Montague Pickering, 1878): 373:

The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, and ornamented on occasions with branches of trees; incense, lamps, and candles; votive offerings on recovery from illness; holy water; asylums; holydays and seasons…are all of pagan origin and sanctified by their adoption into the Church.

Catholic Record (September 1, 1923):

Sunday is our mark of authority…The [catholic] Church is above the Bible, and this transference of the Sabbath observance is proof of that fact.

Pope Leo XIII, Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae (The Reunion of Christendom), June 20, 1894:

We hold upon this earth the place of God Almighty.

“Pope,” Ferraris’ Ecclesiastic Dictionary:

The Pope is of so great dignity and so exalted that he is not a mere man, but as it were God, and the vicar of God.

Our Sunday Visitor (April 18, 1915): 3:

The letters inscribed in the Pope’s miter are these: VICARIUS FILLII DEI, which is the Latin for, “Vicar of the Son of God.”

Letter from C.F. Thomas, Chancellor of Cardinal Gibbons on October 28, 1895:

Of course the Catholic Church claims that the change was her act…And the act is a MARK of her ecclesiastical power and authority in religious matters.

American Catholic Quarterly Review (January 1883):

Sunday…is purely a creation of the Catholic Church.

Catholic American Sentinel (June 1893):

Sunday…It is a law of the Catholic Church alone…

S.C. Mosna, Storia della Domenica (1969): 366-367:

Not the Creator of the Universe in Genesis 2:1-3, but the Catholic Church “can claim the honor of having granted man a pause to his work every seven days.”

“The Question Box,” The Catholic Universe Bulletin (August 14, 1942): 4:

The (Catholic) Church changed the observance of the Sabbath to Sunday by right of the divine, infallible authority given to her by her Founder, Jesus Christ. The Protestant claiming the Bible to be the only guide of faith, has no warrant for observing Sunday. In this matter, the Seventh-day Adventist is the only consistent Protestant.

Arthur Weigall, The Paganism in Our Christianity (New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1928): 145:

The Church made a sacred day of Sunday…largely because it was the weekly festival of the sun; for it was a definite Christian policy to take over the pagan festivals endeared to the people by tradition, and to give them a Christian significance.

John A. O’Brien, The Faith of Millions: the Credentials of the Catholic Religion Revised Edition (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 1974): 400-401:

But since Saturday, not Sunday, is specified in the Bible, isn’t it curious that non-Catholics, who claim to take their religion directly from the Bible and not from the Church, observe Sunday instead of Saturday? Yes, of course, it is inconsistent; but this change was made about fifteen centuries before Protestantism was born, and by that time the custom was universally observed. They have continued the custom even though it rests upon the authority of the Catholic Church and not upon and explicit text in the Bible. That observance remains as a reminder of the Mother Church from which the non-Catholic sects broke away—like a boy running away from home but still carrying in his pocket a picture of his mother or a lock of her hair.

This change from Saturday to Sunday Sabbath was prophesied about in Daniel 7. The great reformer Philipp Melanchton knew this truth five centuries ago. He wrote this:

He changeth the tymes and lawes that any of the sixe worke dayes commanded of God will make them unholy and idle dayes when he lyste, or of their owne holy dayes abolished make worke dayes agen, or when they changed ye Saterday into Sondaye…They have changed God’s lawes and turned them into their owne tradicions to be kept above God’s precepts.

Most people can understand the reasoning behind nine of the Ten Commandments—don’t kill, don’t lie, don’t steal. But what about the Sabbath Commandment? Why would God give such a law? Why should we follow it?

The Sabbath of the Ten Commandments and the Sabbaths of the ceremonial law distinguished Israel from all other nations. The Sabbaths bound them to God as His covenant people. God called the Sabbath of the Ten Commandments a sign between Him and His people forever, because it was He who sanctified them (Exodus 31:17).

The Ten Commandments are a reflection of God’s character. They show us how we can live to honor God and become more like Him in our attitudes and actions. The first four commandments pertain to our relationship with God and the last six commandments pertain to our relationship with people. Taken together they can be summed up with the words of Jesus:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).

Taken individually, there is an inescapable logic to nine of the Ten Commandments. It is obvious why we should not kill, and why we should not lie to each other or steal from each other.

However, the Fourth Commandment, or Sabbath Commandment, is different from the other nine. There is no implicit logic in this Commandment. There is no specific reason why we should keep the seventh-day Sabbath, other than that God specifically commanded it. More than any other Commandment, the Sabbath is a test of faith.

The Origin of the Sabbath

In order to understand the significance of the Sabbath, we have to turn to its origins. The seventh-day Sabbath is not a Jewish institution, but was established at Creation (Genesis 2:1-3). The Sabbath commandment serves as a reminder of God’s creative act (Exodus 20:11). And in Deuteronomy 5:15, the Sabbath serves as a sign of God’s redemptive act:

And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day (NKJV).

All humans are slaves to sin, and God in Jesus Christ brought us out of sin with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. The Bible teaches us that Christ Himself is the Creator (Ephesians 3:9, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:2). The seventh-day Sabbath, therefore, is a test of obedience and an everlasting memorial of Christ’s goodness.

The significance of the Sabbath as a test cannot be overestimated. God could have chosen any memorial to His creative act, but He chose a memorial set in time: a weekly day of rest. Time cannot be eliminated in the same way that a physical memorial, such as a city or holy place, could be.

The knowledge of the seventh-day Sabbath has been preserved by God  through the centuries since the days of Jesus and has been observed in  many areas around the world. Never has there been a time in which God’s people somewhere did not observe  the seventh-day Sabbath.

If Christ Himself instituted the Sabbath day of rest for us (Mark 2:27), would He change it? Jesus kept the Sabbath day faithfully. The disciples of Jesus likewise kept the Sabbath day (Acts 13:14, 16:13). The seventh-day Sabbath is taught throughout the Bible, while Sunday  sacredness is not mentioned once. If Christ or the apostles did not  change the Sabbath, who did?

Why Sunday?

Although it may not seem to matter on the surface, the Catholic change of the Sabbath from the seventh to first day of the week is in fact a blow against God’s authority.

The Scriptures tell us that the Sabbath is to be observed on the seventh day, which is Saturday. However, Protestants today worship on Sunday.

How did this change of the Sabbath take place? Who is responsible? Does it even matter which day we worship on?

Papal Authority and the Sabbath Change

The days of the week are named after solar deities.

In the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath commandment emphasizes the authority of the lawgiver—God. A change in the Sabbath means a change in authority. When we choose another Sabbath, we give the authority to another entity. God is no longer the authority. Rather, the substitute—the counterfeit—grasps this position. Another has attempted to replace the true God.

Author John Ley tells us that, “From the apostles’ time until the council of Laodicea, which was about the year 364, the holy observation of the Jew’s Sabbath  continued, as may be proved out of many authors.”i Until the Catholic council that changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, early Christians all worshiped on the seventh day.

Behind the papal authority that changed the Sabbath is an even higher authority that wants to steal Christ’s claim on our lives. Satan was worshiped in pagan traditions under the symbol of the sun. He was the hidden one, the god behind the scenes. Sunday was the day dedicated to sun worship, but Christianity still adopted Sunday as the holy day:

Sunday…so called because this day was anciently dedicated to the sun, or to its worship.

Sunday, so called because it was dedicated to the worship of the sun.

Sunday (Dies Solis of the Roman calendar, ‘Day of the sun,’  being dedicated to the sun), the first Day of the week.

Sabbath Change in New Testament Times

Through the influence of Mithraism (Persian sun worship) in the Roman Empire and the heathen festival of Sunday, the pure Church of Christ gradually fell into apostasy. Even in the days of the apostles the great  apostasy had begun to develop. Paul writes, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

Paul also declares this:

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:29-30).

A Theological Dictionary agrees with Paul. It states, “It must be confessed that there is no law in the New Testament concerning the first Day.”

It is often claimed that “God instituted the Sabbath in Eden” because of the  connection between the Sabbath and creation in Exodus  20:11. Although God’s rest on the seventh day (Genesis 2:3)  did foreshadow a future Sabbath law, there is no biblical record of the Sabbath  before the children of Israel left the land of Egypt. Nowhere in Scripture is  there any hint that Sabbath-keeping was practiced from Adam to Moses.

The Word of God makes it quite clear that Sabbath observance was a special sign  between God and Israel: “The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating  it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between  me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the  earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested” (Exodus  31:16–17).

In Deuteronomy 5, Moses restates the Ten Commandments to  the next generation of Israelites. Here, after commanding Sabbath observance in  verses 12–14, Moses gives the reason the Sabbath was given to the nation Israel:  “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you  out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your  God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy  5:15).

God’s intent for giving the Sabbath to Israel was not that  they would remember creation, but that they would remember their Egyptian  slavery and the Lord’s deliverance. Note the requirements for Sabbath-keeping: A  person placed under that Sabbath law could not leave his home on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:29), he could not  build a fire (Exodus  35:3), and he could not cause anyone else to work (Deuteronomy 5:14). A  person breaking the Sabbath law was to be put to death (Exodus 31:15; Numbers  15:32–35).

An examination of New Testament passages shows us four  important points: 1) Whenever Christ appears in His resurrected form and the day  is mentioned, it is always the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1, 9, 10; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:1, 13, 15; John 20:1926). 2) The only time the  Sabbath is mentioned from Acts through Revelation it is for evangelistic  purposes to the Jews and the setting is usually in a synagogue (Acts chapters  13–18). Paul wrote, “to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews” (1  Corinthians 9:20). Paul did not go to the synagogue to fellowship with and  edify the saints, but to convict and save the lost. 3) Once Paul states “from  now on I will go to the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6),  the Sabbath is never again mentioned. And 4) instead of suggesting adherence to  the Sabbath day, the remainder of the New Testament implies the opposite  (including the one exception to point 3 above, found in Colossians  2:16).

Looking more closely at point 4 above will reveal that there  is no obligation for the New Testament believer to keep the Sabbath, and will  also show that the idea of a Sunday “Christian Sabbath” is also unscriptural. As  discussed above, there is one time the Sabbath is mentioned after Paul began to  focus on the Gentiles, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or  drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a  Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality,  however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16–17). The Jewish Sabbath was abolished at  the cross where Christ “canceled the written code, with its regulations” (Colossians  2:14).

This idea is repeated more than once in the New Testament:  “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every  day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards  one day as special, does so to the Lord” (Romans  14:5–6a). “But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is  it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish  to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months  and seasons and years” (Galatians  4:9–10).

But some claim that a mandate by Constantine in A.D. 321  “changed” the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. On what day did the early church  meet for worship? Scripture never mentions any Sabbath (Saturday) gatherings by  believers for fellowship or worship. However, there are clear passages that  mention the first day of the week. For instance, Acts 20:7 states that “on the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” In  1  Corinthians 16:2 Paul urges the Corinthian believers “on the first day of  every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his  income.” Since Paul designates this offering as “service” in 2 Corinthians 9:12,  this collection must have been linked with the Sunday worship service of the  Christian assembly. Historically Sunday, not Saturday, was the normal meeting  day for Christians in the church, and its practice dates back to the first  century.

The Sabbath was given to Israel, not the church. The Sabbath is  still Saturday, not Sunday, and has never been changed. But the Sabbath is part  of the Old Testament Law, and Christians are free from the bondage of the Law  (Galatians  4:1-26; Romans  6:14). Sabbath keeping is not required of the Christian—be it Saturday or  Sunday. The first day of the week, Sunday, the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10)  celebrates the New Creation, with Christ as our resurrected Head. We are not  obligated to follow the Mosaic Sabbath—resting, but are now free to follow the  risen Christ—serving. The Apostle Paul said that each individual Christian  should decide whether to observe a Sabbath rest, “One man considers one day more  sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be  fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans  14:5). We are to worship God every day, not just on Saturday or  Sunday.

At first glance, the question “What is the Sabbath day?” seems fairly simple.  According to Exodus  20:8-11, the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, on which we are to  rest, in remembrance that God created the universe in six days and then “rested”  on the seventh day. However, due to the misunderstanding and misinterpretation  of some Christian groups, the meaning of the Sabbath day rest has been confused.

Some Christian groups, such as the Seventh Day Adventists, view the Sabbath  as the day of worship, the day on which Christians should attend church /  worship services. While these groups typically also teach that no work is to be  done on the Sabbath, the concept of the “day of worship” is sometimes more  emphasized than the “day of rest.” The problem with this is that the Bible  nowhere commands that the Sabbath be the day of worship. In Exodus 20:8-11, “keeping  the Sabbath holy” is defined as not working on the Sabbath. Nowhere in this  passage is the Sabbath described as a day especially set aside for worship.  Similarly, other Scriptures command against working on the Sabbath, but say  nothing of the Sabbath being the ordained day for worship (Exodus 16:23-29; 31:14-16; 35:2-3; Deuteronomy 5:12-15Nehemiah  13:15-22; Jeremiah  17:21-27). In the Old Covenant, there was not one day set aside for worship.  Sacrifices were made daily at the tabernacle / temple. The “worship” was  continual. The idea that the Sabbath day is the God-ordained day of corporate  worship is not biblical.

Now that is not to say the Sabbath was not set  apart for worship. The New Testament records Jews and converts to Judaism  meeting in the synagogues on the Sabbath (Mark 6:2; Luke 4:31; Luke 13:10-16; Acts 13:14,27,42-44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4). Obviously, with no work being done on the Sabbath  day, the Sabbath day would be the ideal day to have organized worship services.  However, again, the Bible does not command that the Sabbath day be the day of  worship. The Bible describes worship on the Sabbath, but does not prescribe  organized corporate worship on the Sabbath.

Further, once the New  Covenant was established by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the  Bible nowhere describes Christians setting aside the Sabbath day as the day of  worship. The only Scriptures that describe Christians in any sense meeting on  the Sabbath are in fact pointing to evangelistic efforts at Jewish synagogues,  which met on the Sabbath day. Acts 3:2 records the early Christians meeting every day. The Bereans studied the  Scriptures every day (Acts 17:11).  Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2 both mention Christians meeting on the first day of the week. There is no  evidence in the New Testament that the Apostles or the early Christians in any  sense observed the Sabbath day as the prescribed day of worship.

Traditionally, Christians have held their primary corporate worship services on  Sundays, the first day of the week, in celebration of Christ’s resurrection,  which occurred on a Sunday (Matthew  28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). It is important to understand, though, that  Sunday is not the commanded day of corporate worship either. There is no  explicit biblical command that either Saturday or Sunday be the day of worship.  Scriptures such as Romans  14:5-6 and Colossians  2:16 give Christians freedom to observe a special day, or to observe every  day as special. God’s desire is that we worship and serve Him continually, every  day, not just on Saturday or Sunday. Please read our other articles on the Sabbath day and Sabbath keeping to explore this issue  further.

It is our contention that the Sabbath command, which,  biblically speaking, is to rest on the seventh day of the week, is not binding  on Christians, but is rather a matter of grace. However, even if the Sabbath  command does apply to New Covenant believers in Christ, the command would be to  observe the Sabbath as the day of rest, not necessarily to set aside the Sabbath  day as the weekly day of corporate worship.