Should Christians Observe the Sabbath?

By Roy H. Lanier, Jr.

The Church of the Lord Jesus meets on the first day of the week for regular worship. At that time, she eats the Lord’s Supper in memory of the death and resurrection of Jesus, she has a time for exhorting and teaching God’s word. She also worships in other ways when assembled, in the songs, prayers and contribution. The Lord’s church meets on Sundays for some very special reasons.

WHY WORSHIP ON SUNDAY?

First, churches worship on Sundays because some special events happened on that day.

1. Jesus rose on the first day of the week (Mark 16:9). This verse states, “Now when he was risen early on the first day of the week… “

2. The Holy Spirit came upon the apostles that day. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all together in one place… And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4).” This day of “Pentecost” literally means “fifty days.” It was a special feast of the Jewish Law which was to be observed fifty days after their Passover Feast. It is to be “on the morrow, after the sabbath” (Leviticus 23:11, 15). So, the day on which the apostles received the Holy Spirit and began their work in preaching the gospel was on a Sunday.

3. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ began that day. When the apostles began to preach salvation in the name of Christ, men repented and were baptized into Christ (Acts 2:37-42). They were added together in fellowship and began to evangelize the entire world. From this moment on in the New Testament, one can see a change, for the Church of the Lord was now in existence.

4. The churches met on Sunday to remember, in a special meal of worship, the death and resurrection of Jesus (Acts 20:7).

5. These churches continued to meet throughout the years on Sundays, and were given additional instructions about other things. They were told to “lay by in store” on this first day (1 Cor. 16:1-2). They were also to use this time for “exhorting one another” (Hebrews 10:25).

Second, the churches of Christ worship on Sundays because of a very important principle. Jesus said when his disciples went into all the wold, they were to teach the disciples “to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded you …” (Matt. 28:20). Now, when one sees the early churches observing the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week, it follows that the apostles taught them to do so. If the apostles thus taught them to eat the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week, it was done in order to follow the commandments of Jesus. So, the example of the churches in the New Testament is very important, as they were being taught personally by the apostles.

Third, the evidence of historians is overwhelming that the churches met on Sundays for worship in honor of Christ.

1. Ignatius of Antioch said, “Let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection day, the queen and chief of all days (of the week).”1 Ignatius lived between 376 A.D. and 108 A.D. and is known as a reputable historian.

2. Justin Martyr lived between 100 and 165 A.D. He said, “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in the cities and the country gather together to one place… bread and wine and water are brought… there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given… But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God… made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.”2 Justin shows the practices of the early congregations continued on into the Second Century.

These scholars, along with many others, can be quoted to show the practice of the early centuries. They do not give us sacred teaching; they only show how the early Christians worshipped.

THE OLD TESTAMENT SABBATH

It is true the Law of Moses taught the Jews to “remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). This covenant was one given the Israelites only (deuteronomy 5:1-3, 12-15). It was a sign between God and Israel, the children descended from Abraham (Ex. 31:17). It was the seventh day, a day on which the Jews were to rest (Ex. 20:9-10). They did not know about nor observe the sabbath day until they were given the Law at Mount Sinai, when they left Egypt with Moses (Nehemiah 9:13-14). It was right for the Jews to observe the sabbath, but this law was not given to Christians. In fact, Christians are taught in specific terms not to follow the Law of Moses (Romans 7:1-6). That law was fulfilled and ceased at the cross (Ephesians 2:14-16); Colossians 2:14). If Christians follow Jesus, they will follow his new covenant (Hebrews 8:6-8). And, under this new covenant, Jesus led the early Christians to worship on Sundays.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH?

It teaches a worship assembly on the first day of the week, Sunday. On that day Christians remember the sacrifice of Jesus, they exhort one another, they give of their means, they sing and pray.

If we intend to imitate them and restore the practices of the early churches, we will meet on Sunday and worship the Lord also.

1 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, page 63.

2 The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, page 186.

QUESTIONS

When did the New Testament churches assemble for the Lord’s Supper?

When did Paul instruct churches to give?

Does this indicate a regular practice of churches in meeting?

What event does the Lord’s Supper memorialize?

When was Jesus raised?

What was the day when churches assembled according to historians?

If we imitate the early churches and restore their practice, when would we assemble?

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