The First Day of the Week

There are three passages that are sometimes offered to justify weekly church meetings on Sunday in lieu of Saturday. In fact they are sometimes used to justify any day in seven rather than a strict Sabbath observance as described in the Bible. Here are those scriptures.

*   (Col 2:16 NIV)  Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

*   (Gal 4:9-10 NIV)  But now that you know God--or rather are known by God--how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? {10} You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!

*   (Rom 14:5 NIV)  One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

I will come back to these verses later but for now I will look at some related facts and scriptures.

 

The first day of the week occurs only eight times in the entire Bible. None of those occurrences mentions it as a holy day of rest or commanded worship. It never even says that Jesus rose on the first day of the week.

1.      (Mat 28:1 KJV)  In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

2.       (Mark 16:2 KJV)  And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

3.       (Mark 16:9 KJV)  Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

4.      (Luke 24:1 KJV)  Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

5.      (John 20:1 KJV)  The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.

6.      (John 20:19 KJV)  Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

7.      (Acts 20:7 KJV)  And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached (spoke or talked in most versions) unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

8.      (1 Cor 16:2 KJV)  Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

 

Now how often is the term Sabbath used? The answer is, 134 times! And nearly half, sixty, of those are in the New Testament. But do we really know which day is the Sabbath.

*   (Exo 16:25-30 NIV)  "Eat it today," Moses said, "because today is a Sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. {26} Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any." {27} Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. {28} Then the LORD said to Moses, "How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? {29} Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out." {30} So the people rested on the seventh day.

*   (Mat 24:20 NIV)  Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.

*   (Luke 4:16 NIV)  He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.

*   (Luke 23:56 NIV)  Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

*   (Acts 16:13 NIV)  On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.

*   With regards to the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar there was no change in the order of the days of the week. October 4 was followed by October 15, 1582 with no change in the order of the days of the week.

October 1582

Sun

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thur

Fri

Sat

 

1

2

3

4

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now let’s consider a few more things about the Sabbath.

*   God instituted the Sabbath at creation. On the 7th day He rested, or one might say Sabbathed.

*   God established the Sabbath as one of only ten items written by God Himself. That is to say it is one of the Ten Commandments.

*   (Exo 20:8-11 NIV)  "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. {9} Six days you shall labor and do all your work, {10} but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. {11} For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

*   God is not like men. If He says something He means it and stands by it.

*   (Num 23:19 NIV)  God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

*   Therefore, if God changed the Sabbath rules it would have been an extremely big deal.

*   The Sabbath is not to be confused with “Ordinances” or rules for special Holy Days and other special events. Those were not written by God directly, but through Moses. Many of the ordinances have been abolished but not the Law established by God in the Ten Commandments. Do not confuse the weekly Sabbath established by God from creation and confirmed in the Ten Commandments with yearly Holy Days that contained a day referred to as a Sabbath. The two types of “Sabbath” are entirely different except for the concepts of congregating and resting from ordinary work.

*   (Rom 7:12 NIV)  So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

OK, now that we have established a few facts about the Sabbath let’s look at the verses in question.

*   (Col 2:13-17 NIV)  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, {14} having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. {15} And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. {16} Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. {17} These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

What written code was canceled? It certainly wasn’t the Ten Commandments as we still must not have other gods or worship idols, or murder, or commit adultery, or steal, or bear false witness, or go against any of the Ten Commandments for that matter. That include the fourth commandment, remember the Sabbath! No, the regulations had to do with religious observances, New Moons, sacrifices, and such. That includes the seven yearly Sabbaths called Holy Days but not the weekly Sabbath of the Ten Commandments.

 

Here’s the next one.

*   (Gal 4:8-11 NIV)  Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. {9} But now that you know God--or rather are known by God--how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? {10} You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! {11} I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

The people being addressed were people that hadn’t known God. So, the weak and miserable principles are those of paganism. And the days being talked about are pagan days, not the Sabbath.

 

And the final verse is this.

*   (Rom 14:1-6 NIV)  Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. {2} One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. {3} The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. {4} Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. {5} One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. {6} He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Notice that the Sabbath is never overtly mentioned here. So how can we assume that the Sabbath is the subject? It is not! The subject is tolerance for differences of understanding. The man that eats everything refers to a man that understands God’s declarations about food, specifically about eating meat as opposed to vegetables only. Now get this, one man considers one day more sacred than another. This would be the man that understands the weekly Sabbath. But it is not our place to judge those that don’t understand this. That is why we can call those that go to church brothers and sisters.

 

In conclusion remember this.

*   (2 Tim 2:15 NIV)  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.