Observations on life; particularly spiritual

I went to a church service that was held on Saturday instead of Sunday and was told that was when we should worship God. What does the Bible say about this topic?

Today the people of God comprise the church, which is made up of all true Christians. As the church commenced on the day of Pentecost, the part of the Bible that is specifically addressed to the church are the books from Acts to Revelation. Prior to this time (Genesis 12 to John); the Jews were God’s people on earth. Therefore, the answer to this question must be found between Acts and Revelation of the Bible.

The first mention in the Bible of a day of rest is when God rested at the end of the six days of creation (Gen. 2:2-3). But on this occasion God rested and there is no mention of humanity resting. The first mention of people resting on the seventh day occurs in the days of Moses, which is after people had been on earth for about 2,500 years (Ex. 12:16; 16:22-30). So there is no evidence that this practice was given at the creation of the world.

The distinctive day of the week for the Jews was Saturday, the Sabbath, the last day of the week. It was given to them when God provided manna in the desert and was an important requirement being included in the ten commandments (Ex. 16:22-30; 20:8-11). The Sabbath was given to the Jewish nation only and no Gentile was ever commanded to keep it (Ex. 31:13). It provided an opportunity to rest and focus on God (Mk. 2:27). In the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), the Sabbath is associated with the annual Jewish festivals (Ex. 23; Lev. 27; Num. 28-29). The penalty for breaking the Sabbath was death (Ex.31:14-15; 35:2; Num. 15:32-36).

The Sabbath day was given to the Israelites as a sign to remind them of their special relationship with God (Ex. 31:13, 17). God called them “my treasured possession” (Ex. 19:5). The Sabbath day is a symbol of the covenant given to the nation of Israel at Mt Sinai. It distinguished them from other nations. The original form of the Mosaic covenant is Exodus 20-23, which was written on a scroll (Ex. 24:7-8). Then more laws were progressively added to the covenant. In Exodus 25-30, regulations are added about the building and ceremonies of the tabernacle. After this, God repeats the fourth commandment before He hands Moses the tablets of the covenant law (Ex. 31:12-18). The reason given is that the Sabbath day was a sign for the Israelites who left Egypt and their descendants. It symbolised God’s covenant with them. This covenant, described in Exodus to Deuteronomy (along with the circumcision law of Genesis), was for the Israelites and their descendants (Dt. 29:12-15).

As Jesus lived under this Jewish covenant, He kept the Sabbath day. But He implied that things would change in future; the kingdom of God would be taken away from the Jews and “given to a people who will produce its fruit” (Mt. 21:43). These people would worship in spirit and truth instead of at the temple (Jn. 4:21-24). They are Christians who live under a different covenant. This new covenant included Gentiles (Acts 10:9-15) and excluded the law of Moses (Acts 15:1-35). It didn’t even include a single old covenant law such as circumcision or the Sabbath day, because then one is “obligated to obey the whole law” (Gal. 5:3).

As the old covenant of the Israelite law is now obsolete, its practices are also now obsolete (2 Cor. 3:14; Heb. 8:13). Instead Christians follow the instructions given to the church in the New Testament. The sign of the spiritual blessings that Christians have under the new covenant is the Lord’s Supper (Lk. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25). However, the Sabbath day will be re-established as a symbol of the Jews special relationship with the Lord when they are revived as God’s people in the millennium (Is. 56:4-6; 66:23; Ezek. 46:1, 3).

On the Sabbath the Jews were commemorating the end of God’s work of creation (Ex. 20:11) and the end of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt (Dt. 5:15) and they offered animal sacrifices (Num. 28:9-10). There is no instruction addressed to the church in Scripture for believers to continue this practice today. However, in the Lord’s Supper they commemorate their deliverance from being slaves to sin.

The distinctive day of the week for Christians was Sunday (the first day of the week):

  • On Sunday, Christ rose from the dead, which proved that His work of redemption was completed (Jn. 20:1)
  • On Sunday, Christ met with the disciples between the resurrection and ascension (Jn. 20:19, 26)
  • On Sunday, the church commenced when the Holy Spirit was given on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1; Lev. 23:15,16).
  • On Sunday, the early Christians met to celebrate the Lord’s Supper – Paul seems to have waited in Troas for seven days so he could be there for the Lord’s Supper (breaking of bread) on the first day of the week (Acts 20:6-7). Although there were missionary visits to Jewish synagogues (Acts 13:14-48; 16:13-15; 17:1-4; 18:4), there is no example in Scripture of a church meeting on the Sabbath.
  • The early Christians were told to set aside money for the Lord’s work on Sunday; presumably via a collection at a church meeting (1 Cor. 16:1-2).

Christians are not under the Old Testament law, which includes the ten commandments, but under God’s grace (Rom. 6:14-15) – see separate post on this topic. We have been “released from the law” (Gal. 7:6). The law of Moses has been replaced by the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21; 2 Cor. 3:7-11). Therefore, the Bible places no limits on when Christians can meet together. They can praise and celebrate the Lord’s Supper any day of week (1 Cor. 11:36). Although some early Jewish believers wanted to keep the Sabbath, this was not considered to be a matter of importance, but one of the individual conscience (Rom. 14:5-6).

As Christians have been released from the Old Testament law, they are not bound by regulations such as those saying that a person must keep the Sabbath in order to please God. When the Galatians were trying to earn God’s favor by observing certain days like the Sabbath and by promoting circumcision, Paul said that they had been freed from being subject to such laws (Gal. 4:4-11; 5:1-2). Paul also prohibits Christians being condemned for not following particular food or drink regulations and for not observing particular religious activities that are held on an annual, monthly or weekly basis: “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” (Col 2:16-17NIV). In this passage, the religious festivals were the annual Jewish festivals and the Sabbath day was the weekly Jewish Sabbath.

It should be noted that the “Sabbath-rest” in Hebrews 4:1-11, is different to the Sabbath day. This rest is entered by faith in Christ (Heb. 11:2-3). The old covenant laws are now symbols and metaphors for us. As God rested after His work of creation, Christians rest in the completed work of Christ (Mt. 11:28-30). In this sense, the physical Sabbath-rest is likened to our spiritual rest of salvation. The weekly Sabbath pictured our final salvation. Just as Moses was appointed by God to lead the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the promised land of Canaan, Christ was appointed by God to lead people from bondage to sin to the eternal Sabbath-rest of heaven. As most of the Jews died before reaching the “rest” of the promised land because of unbelief, so unbelief excludes people from God’s gift of salvation.

So the teaching that Christians should worship God collectively on Saturday is contrary to Scripture.

Written, October 2011; Revised February 2014

Also see: I’ve been told that Christians should keep the ten commandments as they were God’s law and not the law of Moses.  Is this true?
What about keeping the Sabbath day?

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10 responses

  1. Mark Dresselhaus

    I find your article informative and am reading Scriptures you have referenced as this is becoming a question at our growing small church. When is it OK to add another service for those who may be more apt to attend on a different day or night? Although, I cannot find a particular Scripture referenced above about the ability to praise and worship the Lord’s supper any day of the week. It is described as (1 Cor 11:36) but that Scripture does not exist. Please let me know if I am just looking in the wrong place. We could certainly use this in our discussion as some of our members have asked for a Saturday evening Service.

    January 3, 2013 at 3:12 am

    • Thanks for pointing out a typographic error in my post. The reference should be 1 Cor. 11:26 which says, “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”. Clearly, the Lord’s Supper should be held periodically, but there is no explicit instruction as to how often or on what day of the week. Instead, the Bible allows it to be celebrated “whenever”. I believe the early church practice was weekly on a Sunday, but this doesn’t preclude an alternative practice that meets the need of a local congregation. A Saturday evening Service could be acceptable, provided it was not taught that according to Scripture this was the most appropriate day of the week for a church to worship the Lord.
      You asked, “When is it OK to add another service for those who may be more apt to attend on a different day or night”? As the Bible allows liberty in this area, it is a decision to be made by the members of the local church after they have considered all the advantages and disadvantages, prayed about it and have come to peace and unity with regard to the decision.

      January 3, 2013 at 2:29 pm

  2. Trent

    Worship in Spirit and in truth. That means all the time not just one day or another, however if any man hold a certain day to be holy respect that unto him. If a man count every day to be holy, respect that unto him as well. No argument need exist.

    May 19, 2013 at 11:13 am

  3. Justice de YH

    The question that still come is why Christians keep the SunDay, or the 1st day. Yes the first believers were all Jews and took care of businesses after the Shabbat was over, that is the 1st day. Jesus would never break the Shabbat and would only visit them after Shabbat. In the Ark of the Covenant, 3 objects symbolized the Living Word, that is Jesus Himself, the New sets of the 10 commandments NOW JESUS IS THE LIVING COMMANDMENTS – The Manna – JESUS IS THE BREAD OF LIFE – Aron’s Rod that blossom – JESUS ROD ALIVE AND RULING WITH HIS ROD OVER ALL CREATION.
    Note: Keeping the 1st day is NOT a part of the center of the Holy of Holies that was the shadow on earth and is NOW in Heaven Rev 11:19

    For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

    We are Not Constantine christians from 313 , we are true Christians from creation

    In YHWH – and His Son YH HalleluYaH

    November 9, 2013 at 5:29 am

    • Thanks for the comment. I’m not sure what you mean by “we are true Christians from creation”. The Bible says that the word “Christian” used first in Antioch (Acts 11:26) after Stephen was martyred in about 35 AD, which is thousands of years after the creation.

      November 9, 2013 at 3:19 pm

  4. The keeping of the Sabbath on Saturday is not a “law.” It was made in Creation. When God spoke the commandments, he said “Remember” it. To remember means to recall. It was already. It does matter that we keep it. You should visit: http://www.SabbathTruth.com. You really should take time to study it, because you are teaching against something that is right to do and must be kept. God himself honored it and we follow him not an opinion of man. Read the word. The answer is clear. Are you willing to accept it or debate it?

    November 23, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    • Thanks for your comments.
      According to the Bible:
      – After creation, “By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done” (Gen. 2:2-3). So God rested on the seventh day, but there is no mention of humanity resting.
      – The word “Sabbath” is first mentioned in Exodus 16:24-30. On this day the Israelites were to rest and not gather manna.
      – At Mount Sinai, the Israelites were commanded to “observe” the Sabbath laws (Dt. 5:12-15). From this time onwards, the keeping of the Sabbath was a law for the Israelites. As the penalty for breaking the Sabbath was death, it seems like a law to me – “Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death” (Ex. 31:14-15; 35:2; Num. 15:32-36).
      – The Sabbath observance was a sign of God’s covenant with Israel (Ex. 31:12-17).
      – The Sabbath observance was “a shadow of things to come” (Col. 2:13-17). It was fulfilled by Christ, “the reality, however, is found in Christ”. As the reality has now replaced the shadow, since Christ’s death the Sabbath observance is no longer necessary.

      According to Vine’s dictionary, the primitive root of the Hebrew word for “remember” (Strongs #2142) in Exodus 20:8 is “to mark so as to be recognized”. According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, it means to “remember a day to observe and commemorate it”, like the day of the exodus (Ex. 13:3; Dt. 16:3). The word is also used to “remember the commandments so as to do them” (Num. 15:39-40). A synonym is used in the other list of the 10 commandments in Dt. 5:12 (Strongs #8104), which is translated as “observe” or “keep” (Ex. 31:13; Lev. 19:3,30; 26:2). As the commandments were to apply from that time onwards, the Israelites were to remember the command that was given at Mount Sinai.

      Jesus kept the Sabbath because He was a Jew who lived under the old covenant before the church commenced. However, we don’t read of Christians “keeping” the Sabbath in the early church.

      Unfortunately, there is erroneous interpretation of Scripture on the website mentioned in the previous comment. Here is one example, “Luke was a Gentile who kept the Sabbath (Acts 16:13)” (Advanced topics). The context is Paul’s second missionary journey. It was Paul’s practice to preach the gospel message to Jews because they already knew the Old Testament. The best way to do this was to attend their Sabbath meetings, which were usually at a synagogue (Acts 13:14-48; 14:1-2; 16:13-15; 17:1-4, 10, 17; 18:4, 19-20). On this occasion they went outside the city gate to the river, presumably because there was no synagogue inside the city. After they preached, Lydia converted to Christianity and was baptised. So on this occasion, Paul and Luke were not keeping the Sabbath. Instead they were preaching to Jews and proselytes (converts to Judaism) on Saturday.

      The website also claims “Not one instance of Sunday observance has been found in the recorded Scriptures” (FAQ). However, Luke wrote that at Troas “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread” and Paul taught until midnight and daybreak (Acts 20:7,11). This is an account of corporate worship and teaching on Sunday.

      Because Christians relate to God via Jesus Christ and not through keeping Jewish laws, they are under no obligation to keep the Sabbath day commandment. Instead, they seek to please the Lord by obeying the teachings of Christ and the apostles.

      Although the distinctive day of the week for Christians was Sunday (the first day of the week), the Bible places no limits on when Christians can meet together. They can praise and celebrate the Lord’s Supper any day of week (1 Cor. 11:26).

      November 26, 2013 at 8:50 pm

  5. Dreamer122310

    I would like to mention the fact that JESUS himself entered into the synagogue on the Sabbath and it also states that it was His custom to do that, states the scripture in Luke chapter four of the KJV and to be a Christian is to live Christ like and to follow Him not man. GOD BLESS us all!

    March 12, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    • Thanks for the comment. You are correct, Jesus kept the Sabbath and the Old Testament festivals and sacrifices because He lived under the covenant given to Moses at Mount Sinai. He was “born under the law” (Gal. 4:4). The Sabbath observance was a sign/symbol of God’s covenant with Israel (Ex. 31:12-17). Although Christians are to follow the spiritual principles that Jesus taught, they live under the new covenant that commenced after His death (Lk. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25). This new covenant excluded the law of Moses (Acts 15:1-35). As the old covenant of the Israelite law is now obsolete, its practices are also now obsolete (Heb. 8:13). This includes it’s sign/symbol, the Sabbath observance. That’s why Christians don’t keep the Old Testament festivals and sacrifices like Jesus did.

      March 12, 2014 at 9:16 pm

  6. Trevor

    When I read and research what Jesus states in Matthew 5 & 7 about “the law” (Torah/God’s teaching), and how the Roman Constantine and others have changed what Jesus wanted, it encourages the pursuit of opening the eyes of the church to the blessing of obedience. Obedience as Jesus lived and acted at the time. Though at times I feel a bit like Micaiah in 1 Kings 22.

    If the context for reading the Word of God is” the Lord doesn’t change” (Malichi 3:6) and “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and it seems Jesus wanted us to take it as a child (Mark 10:15) . Then the following may be cause for seeking to further understand God’s heart and guidance for the church.

    Yes, through Jesus Christ (Y’shua – YHWH Saves) we are all saved which is fantastic! Once saved, we are to turn from our lawlessness (non Torah living) and live righteously guided by the spirit because Torah/God’s Teaching (the law) is written in our heart (Hebrews 10:16,17) ….. (see link below)

    As this was a long comment, it has been moved to a post: What about keeping the Sabbath day?

    June 30, 2014 at 3:32 am

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