Sabbath & Christian Worship

Dr. Gentry:

My question is on the Sabbath and the day worship should be on. Would you point me to the passages that tell the Christian to worship on Sunday. Is there a passage that does away with Sabbath worship?

John P.

Dr. Gentry’s response:

Thanks for your question, John. This is an important issue in that we must worship God according to his directives, not our preferences or convenience. And since the Ten Commandments specifically declare the worship day to be the last day of the week (the seventh day, Exo. 20:8-11), we need to know if we are correct in worshiping on the first day of the week.

Just briefly I would offer the following two lines of biblical evidence for the Christian day of worship being changed to Sunday (the first day of the week) from Saturday (the last day of the week).

  1. The Old Testament anticipates a change of worship time.

    In the Old Testament God’s people worshiped on the seventh day of the week, which is the end of the week. The primary reason for this is that the week is structured on the pattern of God’s creation. However, another reason appears relevant as well.

    The drift of redemptive history traces man’s fall and God’s redemption. In the Old Testament God’s people look ahead to redemption coming in fulness in Christ. Thus, their rest was oriented towards the future, when Christ entered history at his incarnation to effect redemption. Consequently, the Jews rested (and worshiped) at the end of their week, showing that redemption had not yet fully come but would arrive in the future.

    Now in the New Testament era we look back to the source of our redemption. Jesus has already come and we work on that basis. Thus, we rest (and worship) at the beginning of our week.

    Interestingly, this forward-looking anticipation is embodied in various Old Testament eighth day ceremonies. The eighth day is, of course, the first day of new week.

    For instance, circumcision was to be performed on the eighth day, signifying a new beginning in the covenant. Elsewhere we read prophecies regarding Christ, who was to be like the sun rising with healing in his wings bringing in a new day: “But for you who fear My name the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall” (Mal. 4:2). Throughout the Old Testament era, they looked forward to a new morning, a new beginning, in Christ when he comes.

  2. The New Testament records a change of worship time.

    When we come to the New Testament we discover the eighth day being significant once again, but in a new way. Christ was resurrected on the eighth day, which is the first day of a new week (John 20:1, 19). The redemption sought in the Old Testament finally comes in the New Testament and is effected on the eighth day, Sunday.

    Furthermore, we see the early Christians worshiping on the first day of the week, in confirming the change wrought by Christ and his sanctifying a new day.

    For instance, in Acts 20:6-7 we read regarding Paul: “We sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days. And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.” Notice that the Christians were “gather together” so that they might “break bread.” Note also that Paul preached to them (a rather long sermon!)

    We see this pattern again in 1Corinthians 16:2 where Paul directs the church to do certain things on “the first day of the week”: “On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.”

    It becomes obvious, then, that the first day of the week is the time for Christian worship in the apostolic church.

I hope this is helpful for your consideration. Thanks for sending us your question.


Published by

Kenneth Gentry

Married (1971) with three children and six grandchildren (three of them left-handed!). Author of about thirty books, mostly on eschatology. Retired Presbyterian pastor, having served for 37 years in three conservative denominations. Director of GoodBirth Ministries, a Christian educational ministry.

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