Sabbath or Sunday: Examples in the NT
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”
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.
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:
Chapter 4, From Sabbath to Sunday (Scroll down to section on Acts 20:7-12)
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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
People involved: Saul (Paul before conversion), High Priest, people of the “Way” (believers before they were called Christians in Antioch)
Where: Synagogues of Damascus
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.
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.
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:
People involved: Paul and followers, leaders of Synagogue.
Where: Synagogue in Antioch
Why: Paul went to the synagogue to worship first, as well as preach the Gospel when permitted.
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.
People involved: Paul and Barnabas, Jews, Gentiles
Where: Synagogue in Antioch
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.
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.
People involved: Paul & Barnabas Apostles, Jews, Greeks
Where: Synagogue in Iconium
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.
For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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: