What the Bible Says about the First Day of the Week

The word "Sabbath" is used at least sixty times in the New Testament. In none of these is there any hint that the Sabbath rest was to cease. In contrast, the term "first day of the week" is used only eight times in the New Testament (the word "Sunday" is never used).

The First Six Occurrences

Six of these eight occurrences (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2,9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1,19) are simple time references to the exact same Sunday following Jesus' resurrection. There is no hint in any of these verses of Sunday replacing the Sabbath.

For example, some claim John 20:19 was the first Sunday service. But the facts are quite to the contrary: The circumstances make it impossible for such to be the case. The text plainly states that they were gathered there "for fear of the Jews." The frightened disciples had already learned that the tomb was empty, and they expected momentarily to be charged with stealing away the body of Jesus. They huddled together in the locked room for protection and reassurance. The fact is that they did not even believe Christ had been resurrected from the dead! Mark's account reveals that they totally rejected the testimony of Mary and the other disciples who brought word of actually seeing the resurrected Lord (Mark 16:10-14).

On the basis of these words, we must quietly pass over that embarrassing Sunday afternoon meeting in the closed room. It was not an occasion of unrestrained joy over the resurrection, as some have portrayed it. In fact, there was not even any recognition on the part of the disciples that a miracle had taken place. They were fearful, depressed, and unbelieving. When Jesus appeared to them He spoke words of strong rebuke because of their lack of faith and because they had rejected the testimony of their own companions. How misleading it is to make this a happy memorial service honoring the resurrection! Certainly this cannot be construed as some sort of Sunday 'sabbath' celebration. Jesus gave not so much as a hint that the first day was to be kept holy.

Jesus died on the 6th day (Friday), and was risen the 1st day (Sunday). Notice that on this same first day, the women brought spices to the grave of the Savior. They would not do this on the Sabbath day (Saturday) because of the 4th commandment (Luke 23:56)! This proves that the disciples kept the Sabbath AFTER the death of Jesus, specifically because of the 4th commandment! So obviously, the disciples still felt the Sabbath was to be observed even AFTER his death! And who would know better than the very people who walked, talked, and lived with Jesus in the flesh!

The Seventh Occurrence

Now letís look at the 7th occurrence. The 7th occurrence of "the first day of the week" is when the Corinthians were commanded to take up a collection for the poor saints of Judea (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). This verse is frequently used as a precedent for Sunday collections at church, but it indicates quite the contrary. Paul's use of the phrase "lay by him in store" indicates this was a private inventory activity, not a public religious activity. Whatever was to be done, it was to be done at home - not at a gathering (1 Corinthians16:2). The phrase also implies work on the first day of the week - not rest and worship. Apparently Paul wanted them to use the first working day of the week to set aside something for the poor saints at Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-26; Galatians 2:10) - so they didn't need to do so when he arrived.

Did Paul say anything about "tithe" here? No, as we read on, we discover that this was just a donation for poor Christians in Jerusalem, not "tithe." Notice that "tithe" is something completely different. Malachi 3:10 talks about taking the "tithe into the storehouse" (the church).

This money was to be laid aside privately at home, not at church. A famine was raging in Judea (Acts 11:28), and Paul was writing to ask the churches in Asia Minor to assist their famine-stricken brethren (Acts 11:29). Notice that this collection was not given in church as tithe by followers, but this collection was sent as relief to the elders by only 2 disciples! (Acts 11:30). Why didn't the followers just put this collection in the church themselves? Because they did not go to church on the first day of the week, they worked on the first day of the week, according to the commandment! (Exodus 20:9)

These Christians all kept the Sabbath holy, so Paul suggested that on Sunday morning, after the Sabbath was over, they put aside something for their needy brethren so it would be on hand when he came. Notice, also, that there is no reference here to Sunday as a holy day. In fact, the Bible nowhere commands, or even suggests, Sunday-keeping. He was not teaching that God's holy Sabbath day of worship had been changed from Saturday to Sunday!

The Eighth Occurrence

This brings us to the 8th and final reference which could provide any support for Sunday sacredness (Acts 20:7). In Luke's history of the early church, he describes the dramatic farewell meeting which Paul had with the believers in Troas. This account in the book of Acts has been grievously distorted by those who grasp for any tiny excuse to justify their disobedience of God's commandments. Because it is the only record in the New Testament of a religious meeting being held on the first day of the week, we should examine it with special care and interest. There is not a hint that they ever held a meeting upon the first day before or after this day. It was not their custom to meet on this day.

Notice the specific purpose for this meeting was to "break bread," not to institute a new day of worship. Some have equated the breaking of bread in Acts 20:7 with the communion service, but such a view cannot be supported from the Scriptures. The wording seems to indicate that it was a common meal they shared together, "When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten ..." (Acts 20:11). Here we find that eating was associated with the breaking of bread. It is unlikely that the communion meal would be referred to in this manner. Besides, Luke assures us that those early Christians broke bread on a daily basis (Acts 2:46). The Greek term for "to break bread" is "Klasai arton", a generic term applied to any meal on any day of the week. However, what is not mentioned here in Acts 20:7 is the specific Greek term Christians used for the Lord's Supper: "Kuriakon Deipnon" (I Corinthians 11:20). Neither is there any mention of "wine" in this passage, which is required at a celebration of the Lord's Supper. Thus, it cannot be said that the disciples had gathered to celebrate the Lord's Supper that day. There was no requirement to break bread or celebrate the Lordís Supper on that day (1 Corinthians 11:24-26). If Acts 20:7 is the Lordsí Supper, so is Acts 2:46, because "bread" alone is "meat" (Mark 8:8, Mat.15:37, Acts 27:33-36), and the Lordís Supper is "meat" (1 Corinthians10:3, John 6:27, 47-56), which would give no credence to Sunday.

It had to be a solemn, poignant occasion for the speaker and congregation, because Paul knew he would not see these people again before his death (Acts 20:25,38), and Paul preached until midnight . It is obvious that this farewell meeting was held on the dark part of the first day of the week, there were lights on in the room (verse 8). It is important to understand the Jewish way of reckoning time. Days were not counted according to the pagan Roman method, from midnight to midnight. In the Bible the day begins at evening, or sundown (Gen.1:5,8,13,19,12,31, Deut.16:6, Lev.23:32, Neh.13:19, Mark 1:21:32).

Now we are ready to apply this sound Bible principle to the first-day meeting of Paul in Troas. The night setting would require that it be held on Saturday night. The first day was upon them. The Sabbath ended at sundown, and the first day of the week began. Paul, who had stayed a full seven days so that he could be with the people over the Sabbath, decided not to leave with the ship on Saturday night. Instead, he fellowshipped all night long with the believers and then walked twenty miles across the peninsula on Sunday morning to join the boat at Assos (Acts 20:13-14,38).

Incidentally, this boat was manned by Paul's missionary companions, including Luke, who chronicled the highlights of the carefully scheduled voyage. It is very significant that they would not go out to sea until the Sabbath was over on Saturday night. Toiling at the oars and sails would have not been proper for a holy day. That long journey on foot by Paul on Sunday would have been totally inappropriate on any kind of holy day. Neither Paul nor his fellow travelers would have indulged in those secular activities on God's holy Sabbath. The New English Bible actually states that the meeting was held on Saturday night, "On the Saturday night in our assembly ..." (Acts 20:7).

If a single instance of breaking bread upon the first day of the week was quite sufficient to constitute it a holy day, would not the continued practice of the church breaking bread every day (Acts 2:46) be amply sufficient to make every day a holy day? But even if that farewell meeting had included the Lord's supper, it would not lend any credence to Sunday observance, because nowhere is the Lord's Supper linked to any particular day. As a matter of fact, Jesus celebrated the Lord's Supper on Thursday evening (Luke 22), never on Sunday!

It is surely obvious to anyone that Acts 20:7 was not a regular weekly worship service. The chief focus of this story seems to be upon the raising of Eutychus from the dead after he fell out the window, and also in the fact that Paul would never see them again before his death. Luke, the careful historian, does not even record any of the content of Paul's marathon sermon, although he faithfully documents the miracle of the resurrected youth. Apparently, it was the way Eutychus dropped out of church, and not the day on which it happened, that Luke is seeking to establish.

Now, eating together on a Sunday while telling Paul "good-bye" does not make Sunday a sacred day, does it? Nor does it establish Sunday as the day on which New Testament Christians worshipped God. Think about this, will history record that twentieth-century Christians abandoned Sunday and, instead, began keeping Wednesday holy because they held prayer meetings on Wednesday evening? Of course not! Only God can make a day holy, only God could create the Sabbath. And God established Saturday, the seventh day of the week, as the Sabbath day (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11). And that is the same day New Testament Christians rested from their work and worshipped God.

No Proof

The above eight texts are the only ones which speak of the first day of the week. Carefully examined, they prove nothing at all in favor of Sunday as a day of worship or rest. In fact, they indicate the opposite.

30 Bible Facts Concerning Sunday

  1. The very first thing recorded in the Bible is work done on Sunday, the first day of the week. If God worked on this day, how can it be wicked for us to work on Sunday?
  2. God commands men to work upon the first day of the week (Exodus 20:8-11). Is it wrong to obey God?
  3. None of the Patriarchs ever kept it holy.
  4. None of the holy Prophets ever kept it holy.
  5. By the express command of God, His people used the first day of the week as a common working day.
  6. God himself calls it a working day (Ezekiel 46:1).
  7. God did not rest upon it.
  8. God never blessed it.
  9. Jesus Christ did not rest upon it.
  10. Jesus was a carpenter (Mark 6:3), and worked at his trade until he was 30 years old. He worked 6 days a week, and kept the sabbath day holy.
  11. The apostles worked during the same time, and kept the sabbath day holy (Paul was a tentmaker, Acts 18:3).
  12. The Apostles never rested upon it.
  13. Jesus Christ never blessed it.
  14. It has never been blessed by any divine authority.
  15. It has never been sanctified.
  16. No law was ever given to enforce the keeping of it, hence it is no transgression to work upon it. "Where no law is, there is no transgression" (Romans 4:15).
  17. The New Testament nowhere forbids work to be done on it.
  18. No penalty is provided for its violation.
  19. No blessing is promised for its observance.
  20. No regulation is given as to how it ought to be observed. Would this be so if the Lord wished us to keep it?
  21. It is never called the Christian Sabbath.
  22. It is never called the sabbath day at all.
  23. It is never called the Lord's Day.
  24. It is never called even a rest day.
  25. No sacred title whatever is applied to it. Then why should we call it holy?
  26. It was simply called the "first day of the week".
  27. Jesus never mentioned it in any way, never took its name upon his lips, so far as the record shows.
  28. Neither God, Christ, nor inspired men ever said one word in favor of Sunday as a Holy day.
  29. The Bible nowhere says that the first day of the week commemorates the resurrection of Christ. Baptism commemorates the burial and resurrection of Jesus! (Romans 6:3-5).
  30. Finally, the New Testament is totally silent with regard to any change of the sabbath day or any sacredness for the first day.

Who substituted Sunday for Saturday?

This page appears in the Catholic publication, "The Convert's Catechism of Catholic Doctrine."

Q: What is the Third Commandment?
A: The Third Commandment is: Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day.

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.

Q: Why did the Catholic Church substitute Sunday for Saturday?
A: The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday, because Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday, and the Holy Ghost
descended upon the apostles on a Sunday.

Q: By what authority did the Church substitute Sunday for Saturday?
A: The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday by the plenitude of that divine power which Jesus Christ bestowed upon her.

Q: What does the Third Commandment command?
A: The Third Commandment commands us to sanctify Sunday as the Lord's Day.

The Catholic Church fully admits that the establishment of Sunday as a "Holy Day" is completely their act! Here is further proof:

"Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, but shall work on that day; but the Lordís Day they shall especially honor, and, as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ." Catholic Church Council in Laodicea, 364AD, Canon 29.

The only thing that can be said in favor of Sunday is post-apostolic church tradition! But one who truly loves God, who has accepted Jesus Christ as His Savior and Lord, will push aside tradition in order to seek his heavenly Father's will in all things. The Scriptures- Old and New Testaments alike - clearly reveal that God's will for all His children includes the liberty and refreshment of the seventh-day Sabbath.

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