Pastor, Why? #9: Why Do We Worship On Sunday?

We usually think of Seventh Day Adventists in connection with Saturday worship, but they are one of the youngest Sabbatarian groups. Seventh Day Baptists are on record since the 1600's, and many born-again Jews have favored Saturday assembly since New Testament times. So why do we advocate keeping all of the Ten Commandments except the 4th?

Sabbath keepers often accuse Sunday worshipers of blindly following Catholic or pagan tradition, but the day of worship was not changed by the Catholic church or Emperor Constantine as the Sabbatarians and even the Catholic church itself claims. If this was the reason we worship on Sunday, our church would immediately revert to Saturday worship since the words of Louis Segur would certainly be true: “The observance of Sunday by the Protestants is an homage they pay, in spite of themselves, to the authority of the [Catholic] church” [Plain Talk About the Protestantism of Today, p. 213]. Sabbatarians generally insist the change to Sunday was incurred in A.D. 364 at the Council of Laodicea by its 29th Canon (command) which reads, “Christians must not rest on the Sabbath, but work on that day, rather honoring the Lord's Day [Sunday], resting then.” But this was not a new or changed doctrine. For instance, the 10thCanon reaffirmed the long-held position that: “The members of the church shall not marry their children to heretics;” and Canon 11 reconfirmed that “Female pastors are not to be appointed in the church.” The Council of Laodicea did not establish any new doctrine. It simply reaffirmed and codified the long-standing beliefs of the churches represented by the council participants. Furthermore, we have no historical evidence that the Catholic church, the Pope or Emperor Constantine had any contact or influence with that council.

Sunday worship clearly dates to the first century.

Many ancient writings prior to A.D. 364 testify that churches assembled on Sunday long before the Council of Laodicea.

  • “Letter of Barnabas,” 2:4-6; 15:6-8,   A.D. 74
  • “8th Letter to Magnesians” by Ignatius of Antioch, A.D. 110
  • Justin Martyr, First Apology,   A.D. 155
  • Eusebius, History of Christianity I-5; III-27; V:23;   A.D. 315

Sunday worship is not only historically based, but Bible based. Jesus gave the first day of the week new and special significance.

  • Jesus rose on Sunday.   (John 20:1)         
  • His post-resurrection meetings were on Sundays   (John 20:19, 26)
  • He met the Apostle John on Sunday.   (Revelation 1:10)
  • He sent His Holy Spirit on Sunday as the first church was gathered for prayer. (Acts 2:1f--The Jewish Pentecost is always on Sunday.)

The New Testament refers to churches meeting on Sunday for teaching and breaking bread.  (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2)

There is no Bible mention of any church meeting on any other day of the week than Sunday. (Don’t confuse the missionary work in Jewish synagogues with local churches. Acts 13:14-15; 16:13; 17:1-3; 18:4)

The 4th Old Testament commandment is conspicuously missing as the only one of the ten that is not repeated in any letters to the churches.

Since Calvary, we are no longer under the jurisdiction of the Old Testament law where the Sabbath command is solely found.

  • That law was a former contract with Israel alone (Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Exodus 24:7-8; Psalm 78:5; 147:19-20; Romans 9:3-4).    
  • Like circumcision, the Sabbath observance was a uniquely Jewish sign and memorial (Exodus 31:12-17; Ezekiel 20:12, 20).    
  • The entire Old Testament law was completed and fulfilled in Christ (Matthew 5:17-18), then crucified with Christ (Colossians 2:14-16) at which time we were freed from all of its obligations through our relationship to Christ (Acts 15:5-29; Romans 6:14; Galatians 3:16-19; 5:18; 4:21-5:1; Ephesians 2:15).
  • If we are still bound by the Sabbath Law, we are also bound by the same law to execute anyone who works or cooks on the Sabbath day (Exodus 35:3, Numbers 15:32-36).
  • The entire Old Testament Law has been superseded by the New Testament (Hebrews 8:6-13; 12:24) which reinstates all ten commandments except for the Sabbath command. (Compare Ephesians 4:25-5:5; 6:1.)

  

    The Sabbath Principle of resting and honoring God every seventh day is timeless and universal, but the specific day is no longer mandatory. The conspicuous absence of any Apostolic command to worship on any specific day, and the clear relegating of the issue of holy days to a matter of “Christian liberty” in Romans 14:5-12 and Colossians 2:16, indicate that the day of worship is not a matter over which we should separate from or criticize others. Worship on one day instead of another does not earn favor with God, nor is it a sign of a “true” church or of greater spirituality. It is a personal matter in which each should be “fully persuaded in his own mind” and live accordingly.