Did the Sabbath Move to Sunday?

There is a growing discussion these days regarding the day of the Sabbath, I am not sure why this is but part of the reason may be due to the growth of the Jewish roots movement, at the same time Seventh-day Adventists seem to be capitalising on a potential gullibility of an overall biblically illiterate country

I hope to explore 6 reasons why the Sabbath day has been changed from Saturday to Sunday. The Baptist Confession of Faith (based on the Westminster) states:

“As it is the law of nature that in general a proportion of time, by God’s appointment, should be set apart for the worship of God, so He has given in His Word a positive, moral and perpetual commandment, binding upon all men, in all ages to this effect. He has particularly appointed one day in seven for a Sabbath to be kept holy for Him. From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ this was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ it was changed to the first day of the week and called the Lord’s Day. This is to be continued until the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week having been abolished”. (Chapter 22.7)

Thus I hope to in the following seven points defend this statement, as well as encourage believers to think through the issue, these points are summaries of those given by Jonathan Edwards on the subject.

  1. 1. The 4th Commandment does not exclude Sunday

The 4th commandment says nothing that would be an objection to Sunday being the special day of worship. The words of the 4th commandment do not say which day of the week we should keep as a Sabbath, what is does say is that we should rest and keep a Sabbath every seventh day, or one day after six days of work, “Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:9-10- ESV).

This clearly teaches that there should be six days of labour, and then next day is to be a day of rest, and to be kept holy. But these words don’t say when the six days should begin, thus by implication it doesn’t say which day the rest will be on. There is nothing in these verse that tell us how to reckon time (where to start and where to end). That is obviously supposed to be determined in another way.

Now we know that this command was spoken to the Jews, and so it did refer to their Sabbath, but that doesn’t prove that the specific day was determined and appointed to be Saturday. The command should be obeyed in a general way as God should appoint any day to be that day. Since God appointed that specific day for the Jews to be Saturday, this is what the command meant for them, however it doesn’t preclude the possibility of God appointing another 7th day for the Christian Church. Just like the 5th commandment is a command for people to obey different fathers and mothers (not to mention the synecdotal nature of the commandments and all that it implies) so the 4th commandment can oblige people to rest of another appointed day.

So by the institution of the Christian Sabbath, there is no change in the 4th commandment, but there is a change of manmade reckoning of which is the day that labours begins and ends. As Edwards so excellently puts it, “What is the reason that Christians rest every seventh, and not every eighth, or every ninth, or tenth day? It is because God worked six days and rested the seventh.”

2.      The Sabbath: A Commemoration of Redemption

Part of the reason behind the Jewish Sabbath was to commemorate the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt (Deut 5:15), which was a shadow and type of Christ’s redemption of His Church. But the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt was just a shadow, it was nothing compared to the work of redemption. How small a thing it is that one nation was redeemed from a temporal slavery compared to the eternal Salvation of the whole church of the elect from all ages from eternal damnation. If the shadow was to be celebrated, how much more the glorious substance that caused the shadow?

 

Furthermore, the words of the 4th commandment that talks about the deliverance from Egypt mean nothing to contemporary Christians unless they are interpreted through the gospel of redemption. That day we were redeemed, the day Christ rose for our justification

3.      Christ’s Honouring of the 1st day of the week

Jesus Christ obviously on purpose and as part of His plan, honoured the first day of the week, by choosing it to be the day on which He rose from the dead; by choosing to appear to the apostles on the first day of the week from time to time; by pouring out the Holy Spirit on the Apostles (Acts 2) on the first day of the week. Since we know that Pentecost was the first day of the week (Lev 23:15-16). Christ also honoured this day by pouring out His Spirit on the apostle John and giving him visions, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Rev 1:10). It must be obvious that Christ indented to distinguish this day

4.      The Early Church worship on Sunday

It is crystal clear in the New Testament that Sunday was the day used by the church for public worship, as they were directed by the apostles.  We are told that they came together to break bread and be taught by the apostles (Acts 20:7). So the Holy Spirit saw to it that public contributions be made on this day, in all churches, rather than any other day, as is clear from Scripture (1 Cor 16:2).

5.      The first Day of the Week was Called the Lord’s Day

 

This first day of the week is in the New Testament called the Lord’s Day; see Rev. 1:10. – Some people ask how we know it was the first day that was ‘Sunday’. Maybe the Lord’s Day is every day; if that’s the case then we can’t know. Well to understand this expression, we don’t have to look far. Just like any other expression in the Bible we look at the universal significance of that expression in all ancient language. This expression, the Lord’s Day is found to be in common use by the whole ancient Church, from the day of the apostles onward, it was always the first day of the week.

The expression implies in it the holiness of the day. Just like the Lord’s Supper designated as holy by its title, so the Lord’s Day is designated as holy by its title. Both the Table and the Day are there to remember the redemption won for us by Christ.

The title the Lord’s Day for the first day of the week should be sufficient evidence to show that it is the day of the week that is to be kept holy to God, since God call it by His own Name (cf. Num 6:27; 2 Chron 7:14; Deut 7:6, 14). In the same way the city of Jerusalem was called by God’s name (Jer 25:29; Dan 9:18-19).

So also, we find that the first day of the week is called by God’s name, being called in Scripture God’s Day, or the Lord’s Day, which sets it apart as a holy day, a day for holy use, above any other day in the week.

 

6.      Tradition of the Church

Tradition is not a rule or an authority for genuine Christians; however it can be a great confirmation of the truth, as in this case. In all records that we have we see that it was the universal custom of the Christian Church in all ages from the Apostles to keep the first day of the week as a Sabbath. From the writings that remain of the Church Fathers. This day has been kept as a Sabbath by all Christians in all countries of the world, by almost everyone that calls themselves by the name Christian, however different their opinions may be on other issues

Though that is not in itself sufficient to prove the case without the foundation of Scripture, it does act as a confirmation of the fact.

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