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Sabbath or Sunday: Examples in the NT

March 8, 2010

I’ve been having discussions with several people regarding the day in which Christians worshiped on.  So to help clear up that issue, we’ll look at and examine verses in the NT which revolve around the Sabbath, and briefly break each verse down.

Since there is only eight verses in the NT that mention the first day of the week, most dealing with the resurrection of Christ, and only two of which that have been interpreted to show a worship service, I’ll start of with Sunday texts (all texts NKJV unless otherwise stated):

Verses that mention “Sunday”

Acts 20:7

7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upper room where they[a] were gathered together. 9 And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. 10 But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.” 11 Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed. 12 And they brought the young man in alive, and they were not a little comforted.

Writer: Luke

Audience: Us

People involved:  The disciples and Paul

Where:  Upper room of a house

When:  First day of the week, at night (Saturday night, Luke used the Jewish method of reckoning time)

Why:  They were gathered because Paul was leaving the next day.  It was a ‘farewell party’ of sorts, which included last words from Paul and a meal (breaking bread).

For more details, see these posts:

https://emmilglenn.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/breaking-bread-church-service/

Chapter 4, From Sabbath to Sunday (Scroll down to section on Acts 20:7-12)

Next verse:

1 Corinthians 16

1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. 3 And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. 4 But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.

Writer: Paul

Audience: Church at Corinth

People involved:  Members of the church.

Where:   They were to collect and  store goods at home, or at a central storage area.  When Paul came, Paul and assigned men would help transport the produce/goods/gifts.

When:  Paul’s letter was likely read to the Church on the Sabbath when they were gathered. The logical day to gather and harvest goods was the first workday, Sunday. They would continue to store and collect donations until Paul arrived.

Why:  Paul was requesting aide and donations for those suffering from famine in Jerusalem.

For more info, see this post:

https://emmilglenn.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/does-corinthians-16-prove-sunday/

Verses that mention the Sabbath

Since there are plenty of verses in the NT, I will focus on the accounts after Christ’s death, to dispel the notion that the Sabbath was done away with His death.  I will also focus on accounts of Christians meeting on the Sabbath and at synagogues, which hold Sabbath worship services.

Luke 23:54-56

54 That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near.
55 And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.

Writer: Luke

Audience: reader

People involved:  Women (relatives friends of Jesus)

Where:   Jesus’ Tomb

When:  Friday evening, before the Sabbath.

Why:  They had come to observe the burial of Jesus’, then prepared spices so as to give it a the body a proper treatment.  They then rested on the Sabbath, according to the commandment (4th).

Acts 9

1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Writer: Luke

Audience: reader

People involved:  Saul (Paul before conversion), High Priest, people of the “Way” (believers before they were called Christians in Antioch)

Where:   Synagogues of Damascus

When:  Sabbaths.

Why:  Saul was requesting permission to enter synagogues and arrest the Christians who were gathered in the synagogues.

Acts 9:20-22, 31

20 Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.
21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?”
22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.

Writer: Luke

Audience: reader

People involved:  Saul, Paul, after being converted

Where:   Synagogues in Damascus, Judea, Galilee, Samaria

When:  Sabbaths at the synagogues.

Why:  After being converted, Saul started to preach the message of Christ at synagogues,  proving to the hearers that Jesus is Christ.  Then the believers in the churches were no longer afraid of Saul, were at peace, and started to multiply.

Acts 13:13

13 Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. 14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. 15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.”
16 Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen:

Writer: Luke

Audience: reader

People involved:  Paul and followers, leaders of Synagogue.

Where:   Synagogue in Antioch

When:  Sabbath

Why:  Paul went to the synagogue to worship first, as well as preach the Gospel when permitted.

Acts 13:42-44

42 So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. 43 Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.

Writer: Luke

Audience: reader

People involved:  Paul and Barnabas, Jews, Gentiles

Where:   Synagogue in Antioch

When:  Sabbath

Why: They met on Sabbath to hear the good news.

After Paul spoke in the synagogue, (vv 13-41) it is clear that there were Gentiles in the audience as well.  Paul was not preaching to just the Jews, but also non-Jews.  They asked Paul to preach the same message the next Sabbath.  Note, if Sunday meetings were the norm, as some Christians claim, why didn’t they ask Paul to preach the next day (Sunday?) The fact that almost the whole City came together tells us the early Christians met on the Sabbath.

Acts 14

1 Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. 3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

Writer: Luke

Audience: reader

People involved:  Paul & Barnabas Apostles, Jews, Greeks

Where:   Synagogue in Iconium

When:  Sabbaths

Why: Paul and Co. continued to preach the gospel on a weekly basis at thy synagogue to both Jews and Greeks, converting new believers.  However, some Jews were jealous and tried to turn the new converts against the truth, Paul had to stay longer to drive home the point.

We can see a trend starting, so I’ll just highlight verses (and there are quite a few) showing Paul and the Apostles preaching and meeting with believers and non-believers on Sabbaths.

Acts 15:21

For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.

Acts 17

1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.

10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.

16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.

Acts 18

So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ.

Acts 19

8 And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

Acts 22

19 So I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You.  (Talking about his experience as Saul when he persecuted early Christians “The Way”, See Acts 9 and Acts 26 below)

Acts 26

10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them . 11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.

So far we have 11 passages in the Bible that support Sabbath worship by Paul, the apostles, and early Christians.  For Christians to use 2 verses to overrule the clear majority of Scripture is baffling to me.

This is also only a partial list, and will continue to add more as time permits.

To be continued:

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Don permalink
    March 9, 2010 9:29 am

    nice! keep those texts coming.

  2. Robert Xavier permalink
    March 10, 2010 1:06 pm

    My Understanding of the Sabbath Scriptures:

    Background:

    Jesus came to the Jews first, then many years after His resurrection, He sent His disciples to preach the Good News to the rest of the World.

    Saul in Synagogue:

    The reason Saul found Christians in Synagogue was because those Christians were primarily Jewish Christians; and a few Gentile Jews who then accepted the Messiah as well.

    People tend to stick to their traditions, even after being Born Again by the Holy Spirit, requiring time to change themselves to receive & live all Truth.

    Being fairly early on in Church History, many of the places Saul visited didn’t have any established Christian Places of Worship yet; so the Jewish Christians returned to where they normally study scripture, the synagogue.

    Also, the Christian Jews, would want to keep going to synagogue, to help their friends & family understand & accept the Truth about Jesus as well.

    Paul in Synagogue:

    Once saved by Jesus & given his mission, Paul went to synagogue to reason with the Jews from Scripture; on the Sabbath, because that’s where & when the Jews regularly met to study the Scripture.

    Though we can rightly assume he worshiped the True God along side his Jewish brothers, the Scripture never says that was why he went there. It does however, specifically state that he went to reason with them from the Scripture.

    Thus, Paul went to synagogue to evangelize.
    He didn’t go there for Church service.
    Church service hadn’t been formalized yet.
    Church service was dinner at a believer’s home.
    Not debate in non-believer’s place of worship & study.
    I think we can agree on that 🙂

    Gentiles at Synagogue:

    I suspect the reason why the gentiles asked Paul to preach the Gospel again the next Sabbath, rather than the next day (Sunday) is because they did not know Paul met with his disciples on Sunday, to break bread & celebrate the Lord’s resurrection.

    Also, I believe, meeting on Sunday didn’t start till much later. I believe they met on Saturday Night, First Night; after having finished evangelizing in the synagogues on the Sabbath.

    Also, celebrating the Lord’s resurrection is for believers only. Sharing the Body & Blood of Jesus is also only for True Believers, born of God’s Holy Spirit. So I suspect Paul didn’t let anyone know about their First Night fellowship because he didn’t want unbelievers there.

    Finally, Paul was not there to preach to the gentiles, I think..? <:) He was still to preach to the Children of Israel first. So he would only go to synagogue to preach, because that's where the Jews were gathered to study the scripture.

    This is why the gentiles were there, it was to their great benefit & likely a blessing from the Lord. So they begged that they could hear the fulfillment of Scripture again the next time they (the gentiles) would be there.

    Rhetorical question

    Ff these passages of Paul evangelizing the Gospel in synagogue are examples of early Church Service, supporting Sabbath Worship, then why do we congregate in Christian churches..? Why don't we continue in the tradition of the Apostle & go to Synagogue on the Sabbath to Study the Scripture & Worship the Lord..?

    Obvious Answer:

    Because Jews are non-believers of the fulfillment of scripture of the Lord in Christ Jesus. There would be no harmony, no peace & no accord in our study of scripture nor in our worshiping of the Lord in the name, "Jesus"

    The conflict would have been far worse back then, than now.
    Thus examples of apostles evangelizing at synagogues & new converts lingering at synagogues, are not evidence of Sabbath worship. Till the establishment of formal Christian Church Service at Christian places of worship, the New Christians had no place else to go.

    Sabbath is for Rest from the World & for ensuring personal time with the Lord Jesus.
    Everyday, including the Sabbath, is for Worship.
    First Night & Sunday are ideal for Church Service; in my opinion.
    And I believe the Acts 20:7 & 1st Corinthians 16 are examples of the Apostles engaging in informal & formal Church Service on the First Day.

    Likely informal dinners at believer's homes on Saturday Night (first night)
    and formal service with the local congregation, either early morning or after work on Sunday (First Day)

  3. March 10, 2010 3:42 pm

    I’ll quickly address some points.

    But first, I want you to understand that the word “Church” (ekklesia) not once refers to an actually building/edifice, but a body of people, like a living entity (See Acts 14:27, Acts 15:22, 41). Ekklesia is also translated as “assembly”, (See Acts 19:39-41) and “congregation”. So when people gather together, they form a “church”.

    So to dismiss gatherings at a ‘synagogue’ because the word church wasn’t used is folly. The “church” in scripture always refers to the body of believers. Therefore, the typical “Christian church” services you’re looking for didn’t exist. Back then, what we can constitute a weekly gathering of believers similar to modern “church services” are the gatherings at synagogues. Therefore, when they assembled together at synagogues to hear the word of God, they became a CHURCH.

    “Thus, Paul went to synagogue to evangelize.
    He didn’t go there for Church service.
    Church service hadn’t been formalized yet.
    Church service was dinner at a believer’s home.
    Not debate in non-believer’s place of worship & study.
    I think we can agree on that 🙂 “

    Sorry but I have to disagree, there’s a lot of conjecture going on. Paul didn’t go just to evangelize. As was his custom on Sabbaths, he went to synagogues to also worship and hear the word of God (Acts 13, 17:2).

    You’re right that church service hadn’t been formalized.

    “Church service was dinner at a believer’s home.”

    See Rule #5
    I challenge you to prove that it was a church service, rather than a farewell gathering. The fact that it was at night, when all customary gatherings occurred during the day supports my view.

    “I suspect the reason why the gentiles asked Paul to preach the Gospel again the next Sabbath, rather than the next day (Sunday) is because they did not know Paul met with his disciples on Sunday, to break bread & celebrate the Lord’s resurrection.”

    More conjecture. Please review rules. You seem to be reaching for this one when the more obvious answer is this. They NEVER met on Sundays for “church”, thus they had to wait till the next week. If they met privately, it was generally special gatherings, like “farewell parties at night.”

    Also, I believe, meeting on Sunday didn’t start till much later. I believe they met on Saturday Night, First Night; after having finished evangelizing in the synagogues on the Sabbath.

    All this is drawn from one text?

    Also, celebrating the Lord’s resurrection is for believers only. Sharing the Body & Blood of Jesus is also only for True Believers, born of God’s Holy Spirit. So I suspect Paul didn’t let anyone know about their First Night fellowship because he didn’t want unbelievers there.

    Where is your support for this? Seems to me that it’s all speculation, with no other texts to back up the claim. Remember, Acts 20:7 wasn’t a communion service. If you can show me another text where Paul and Co. met at night to worship and had “communion”, I may be inclined to believe you, but right now, I know there isn’t any support for that claim.

    Ff these passages of Paul evangelizing the Gospel in synagogue are examples of early Church Service, supporting Sabbath Worship, then why do we congregate in Christian churches..? Why don’t we continue in the tradition of the Apostle & go to Synagogue on the Sabbath to Study the Scripture & Worship the Lord..?

    Simple, what is a synagogue? It’s a place of worship, just like a mosque is a muslim place of worship. Synagogue/mosque/church = building where people worship. The point is, they gathered together at a place of worship. Today, we have churches. Jew’s just call their buildings ‘synagogues’. It’s that simple.

    The PRINCIPLE is they gathered on the Sabbath to worship together. That’s the definition of a Church. 🙂

  4. Robert Xavier permalink
    March 11, 2010 12:40 am

    1. I understand there is a difference betweenChurch & church; namely Spiritual & Physical. The Church is the Global Spiritual Family of Believers in Jesus by God’s Spirit. A church is a Christian place of congregation for Bible Study & Worship.

    2. I didn’t dismiss synagogue gatherings for lack of use of the word “church” I based my understanding of what constitutes a church gathering on the intent of the gathering.

    To me, a church service is a gathering of people to discuss: church affairs, scripture, prayer & worship, but most importantly it’s a gathering of Church members, believers. When believers go to other places of worship, to evangelize to non-believers, I wouldn’t call that church; but when they gather to share a meal, share truths & praise God, sounds like church to me.

    3. The reason I view a group of 3 or more Christians gathered for dinner & discussing church affairs, as a church service, especially when an apostle is in attendance, is that prior to the establishment of formal church service, this is the closest thing to it.

    Also, in 1st Corinthians 11, Paul addresses the church in Corinth regarding eating meals together & sharing the body & blood of Jesus. This shows that the church did indeed share meals, thus the account in Acts 20 being viewed as a church gathering is not such a far stretch.

    1 Corinthians 11:26 – For AS OFTEN as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

    This verse tells me that the disciples & apostles would have honored Jesus’ sacrifice every time they met for dinner. Making every shared meal or breaking bread a celebration of communion; which to me is like church service. At least until the establishment of formal church service.

    What do you think..? (”,)
    Kinda makes sense..?

    Church is made up of believers & church is a gathering of believers for Church Fellowship.

    • March 11, 2010 9:46 am

      I agree with some of your points, I have to clarify and correct some of your understanding. Let’s start in reverse:

      3.

      “1 Corinthians 11:26 – For AS OFTEN as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

      This verse tells me that the disciples & apostles would have honored Jesus’ sacrifice every time they met for dinner. Making every shared meal or breaking bread a celebration of communion; which to me is like church service. At least until the establishment of formal church service.”

      Not sure if you’re aware, but you totally missed out on the context of the passage. If you read from verse 17 onwards, you’ll see that Paul instituted communion as we have it today. He also definitely did not mean every time you gathered and had dinner as you say, they were to have it.

      20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.

      Institutes Lord Supper

      23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat;[b] this is My body which is broken[c] for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
      26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

      So verse 26 tells me, whenever you have this service [Lord’s Supper] you proclaim the Lord’s death. He is NOT saying everytime you gather and have dinner, you are having the Lord’s supper. Robert, just a simple reading of context would have saved you from making this conclusion, and me having to correct it.

    • March 11, 2010 10:46 am

      2. I didn’t dismiss synagogue gatherings for lack of use of the word “church” I based my understanding of what constitutes a church gathering on the intent of the gathering.

      To me, a church service is a gathering of people to discuss: church affairs, scripture, prayer & worship, but most importantly it’s a gathering of Church members, believers. When believers go to other places of worship, to evangelize to non-believers, I wouldn’t call that church; but when they gather to share a meal, share truths & praise God, sounds like church to me.”

      Keyword above “To me,” Well, shouldn’t you base your ideas on what Scripture teaches us. First, lets dispel your assumption that evangelizing isn’t part of church. I’ve never heard that position before until now. Either, you’re only holding onto that position just for the sake of arguing, or you have a closed mind on what church service should be. Let’s look at Scripture:

      Acts 8
      1 Now Saul was consenting to his death.
      At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
      3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. 4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.

      What is the purpose of the church? To spread the gospel and good news of Christ, and if you read Acts, there are many examples of them fulfilling their mission. Even under persecution, they continued to preach. To tell me “church” isn’t about evangelism is ludicrous.

      B) To answer your question where the church met regularly, let me ask you this, before Saul became Paul, where did believers gather to worship?

      In Synagogues and Temples! (See Acts 9 for one reference)

      That to me is the same ‘church’ service where children of God for centuries have gathered, and that’s the tradition we continue on today. We don’t typically have ‘church’ in peoples homes, although some new groups starting out meet there until they can have a building of their own. Primarily, we gather at a public place of worship, and that’s what synagogues/temples were, and our ‘church’ buildings that we have today are for.

  5. March 11, 2010 10:57 am

    1. I agree.

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