Situated in fourth position among the original Ten Commandments is the command to keep the Sabbath Day as a holy day (Ex. 20:8). On that day the Israelites were to do no work. It was to be a day in which homage was paid to the God of heaven and earth. We even find later that there was a death penalty connected with its transgression. Many professing Christians believe today that we still are under that Sabbath law. Sunday is often called the “Christian Sabbath”. However, a close study of God’s Word will reveal this to be incorrect reasoning.
First, let us consider the fact that the Law of Moses, of which the Ten Commandments are a part, was never intended to be binding upon anyone but the nation of Israel. God had great things in mind for Israel. Through their obedience He would consider them His own people, His holy nation, different from any other in the world (Ex. 19:5-6). Many years later, Paul would write of the Jews, “that unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2). Moses says this: “The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with US, EVEN US, who are all of us here alive this day” (Deut. 5:3, emp. mine).
Consider also that as part of the Law of Moses, the Sabbath observance was taken away at the cross (Col. 2:14). An objection is sometimes raised that Christ took away the ceremonial law but not the royal law. In other words, Christ eliminated the feasts and sacrifices but not the Ten Commandments. Our reply to this would be to ask for the scripture where such is stated. Since none such exists, we will go to the words of Paul, one who was guided by the Holy Spirit: “But if the ministration of death WRITTEN AND ENGRAVEN IN STONES was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; WHICH GLORY WAS TO BE DONE AWAY” (2 Cor. 3:7, emp. mine). What was written on those tablets? The Ten Commandments! (Ex. 34:1, 29)
Perhaps we should pause to understand the meaning of the word “Sabbath” and see the reason it was established. The word basically means “to rest, to cease.” It was instituted as a memorial for Israel. So many things are forgotten when not kept close to our memory. That undoubtedly is one reason that Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper.
God ceased His creation on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2). No more was done after that. The Sabbath Day observance was set up to be a reminder of that fact to Israel and so they would cease all of their work for one day and devote that day to God. We are told that the creation of God was done in six literal days and so He sanctified the seventh day as the day of Sabbath or rest (Gen. 2:2). This is the only one of the Ten Commandments peculiar to the Law of Moses. The other nine are all principles of God that are also found in the New Covenant.
Many professed Christians do not understand that we now worship on the first day of the week and not the seventh. Our worship day has been completely removed from that of the Old Law, possibly to help instill in us that Christianity is not an extension of the Law of Moses. It is not “new wine” put into “old bottles.” It is as far removed from the First Law as day is from night.
There was no Christ under the Old Law. There was the foretelling of His coming but He did not appear until the New Testament was ready to be brought in. When He did come, the leaders of the Jews refused to accept Him as the Messiah of prophecy and stirred up the people against Him. They finally caused Him to be turned over into their hands to be crucified on the cross. Jesus was killed and buried on a Friday so that He would not be on the Cross on the Sabbath day (John 19:31). Jesus was in the grave part of Friday, all of the Sabbath day (our Saturday) and part of the next day. If the Sabbath day was the seventh day (our Saturday), what then was the next day? The first day of the week (our Sunday). The tomb was empty when Mary came to the tomb early on that first day (John 20:1)! We must be careful here. Some so-called Bible “translations” will seek to call this the seventh day but the original text will not support this. Jesus arose from the dead on the first day of the week.
Some will point out that the above information by itself does not prove our worship day has been changed. Let’s examine more information supplied by the Holy Spirit. We read Jesus appeared to His disciples that same day as they were assembled, “being the first day of the week” (John.20:19). When the Holy Spirit came to empower the apostles as promised, He came upon the Day of Pentecost. This was during the feast of the ingathering and Pentecost was the first day following seven Sabbaths (Lev. 23:15-16). What day would that be? The first day of the week.
To review, Christ was raised on the first day of the week. The church was born on the first day of the week. Additionally, we read of the early church meeting on the first day of the week. In Acts 20, we read that Paul came to Troas and waited seven days so he could meet with the church. The Bible there tells us that it was indeed the first day of the week when Paul met with them and preached to them (v. 7).
One of the most memorable things from this reading is the young man’s falling out of the window and being raised back to life by Paul. Yet one very significant thing is missing from this account. Paul, an inspired apostle, obviously possessing the powers of all of the other Apostles does not tell these people they are meeting on the wrong day! He purposely waited until that day so he could meet with them.
Later, we know they were still meeting on that day. Paul, writing to the Corinthians about a collection for poor saints, says this: “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him” (1Cor. 16:2). Why the first day of the week? Why not the seventh day as that would be the end of the week and the Sabbath? Because the church was assembling on the first day of the week.
Sometimes the argument is made that the Gentile churches met on the first day of the week while the Jewish Christians continued to observe the Sabbath. Since all those churches professing the Christian religion also claim an allegiance to the Bible, we must again call for scriptural support for this teaching. It is always necessary to accept what the Bible teaches as it teaches it rather than adding to or detracting from its words (Rev.22:18-19). Once again, no scriptural support exists for this idea.
In fact, quite the opposite is taught in scripture. After showing the Christians at Colossae that the Old Law had been taken away, Paul then said: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Col. 2:16-17). Part of the purpose of writing Galatians was to teach the Christians who were Gentiles that they did not have to submit to the Old Law or Jewish traditions. Paul there records for us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal.3:28).
What does this all tell us? All who are Christians worship God in the same way and on the same day. There is no reason to grasp at straws. We just need to see God changed the law and so now things are different. By the way, how is it we dare to call the Law of Moses the Old Law? Because God made it old (Heb. 8:13).