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The Sabbath and The Lord's Day

Q: Why do we no longer worship God on the Sabbath? Why was the Lord's Day changed to Sunday? Who change it?

A: The Sabbath and the Lord’s Day are two distinct and separate days. The Sabbath is a day of rest on the seventh day of the week (Saturday) that God commanded Israel to observe. The term the Lord’s Day is found only once in the Bible where the apostle John wrote, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day...” (Revelation 1:10) and refers to the first day of the week (Sunday) which was set aside by the early church as a memorial to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which occured on the first day of the week.

Some Christians believe the Sabbath no longer applies and others believe that it applies to Christians just as it applied to Israel. The apostle Paul seems to address this debate by writing, “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind...” (Romans 14:5)

Some are quick to claim that the Sabbath is not required for Christians based on Paul’s words in Colossians: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths...” (Colossians 2:16) At face value this seems true, but some scholars argue that the Greek word sabbatoon, translated “sabbaths” in this verse, could also refer to the Jewish Feast of Weeks festival.

In the book of Corinthians it states that the early church met “on the first day of the week” (1 Corinthians 16:2) which is clearly not the seventh day of the week (the Sabbath); and nowhere in the Bible does it state this was wrong. If the Sabbath was required it would seem probable that the Jerusalem Counsel would have included the Sabbath in the list of “necessary things” for the church, but they did not mention it (Acts 15:23-29).

Before Christ when Israel lived under the strict regulations of the Mosaic law, God commanded them, “Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.” (Exodus 31:5) God even commanded that a man be stoned for “gathering sticks [presumably firewood] on the Sabbath day.” (Numbers 15:32) But when Jesus’ disciples plucked grains for food on the Sabbath, Jesus expressed a change in God’s attitude towards the observance of the Sabbath by His response to the Pharisees (Luke 6:1-11). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states: “It is worthy of note that, while Jesus pushed the moral precepts of the Decalogue into the inner realm of thought and desire, thus making the requirement more difficult and the law more exacting, He fought for a more liberal and lenient interpretation of the law of the Sabbath.” Jesus ushered in a new dispensation that changed both the inner realm and the external realm. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ made it possible for the external structure of the ceremonial law to be replaced by the inner reality of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:18, Hebrews 8:13)

The heightened level of devotion to God that is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit is actually demonstrated by the possible origin of the term the Lord’s Day. Nelson’s Bible Dictionary states: “In Asia Minor, where the churches to which John wrote were situated, the pagans celebrated the first day of each month as the Emperor's Day. Some scholars also believe that a day of the week was also called by this name. When the early Christians called the first day of the week the Lord's Day, this was a direct challenge to the emperor worship. Such a bold and fearless testimony by the early Christians proclaimed that the Lord's Day belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ and not the emperor Caesar.” For their fearless, Holy Spirit filled devotion, many Christians of the early church suffered martyrdom and entered the ultimate rest of God - the eternal heavenly state of which the original Sabbath rest was a foreshadow! (Hebrews 4)

also see article: The Deeper Level of Christian Obedience