Jeremiah 17:19-27 touches on the importance of keeping the Sabbath Day holy and what the consequences would be for the children of Israel if it was not kept holy. As I read these verses I wondered why, when Scripture clearly says the Sabbath is the seventh day, Christians did not keep this commandment. We try to keep all the rest of the Ten Commandments. Why not this one? So I thought I'd do a little digging as to why we worship on Sunday, rather than Saturday, and if we are wrong to do so.
First off, we need to remember why the Sabbath was created in the first place.
And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
We can see from the verse above that it was on the seventh day that God finished all His work and He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had done. His work was finished. His accomplishment was complete, so He blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. Why? Because that was the day He rested. Are you catching this? It was HIS DAY to rest. God's day, set aside solely for Him, to rest. This was before the Ten Commandments. Before Moses, before Abraham and before Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden. The seventh day was always holy to God. It wasn't until the Ten Commandments were given to Moses that God commanded His people to honour His Day, the Sabbath Day. How were they to honour it? By doing the same thing God did - rest.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Who was allowed to work on the Sabbath Day? No one. Not even the animals or strangers who were within the gates of the Israelite's camp (this was before Jerusalem) were allowed to work. And once again we are given the reason why - because the Lord rested on the seventh day, blessed it and hallowed it (sanctified or made it holy). So, was this commandment only for the Jews? God did choose them to be His chosen people - to show the rest of the world how to honour Him, but the Sabbath was made for man, not just Jews (Mark 2:27). Yes, when the Ten Commandments were given they were given to the Jews, but they have been the basis for right and wrong for both Christians and Jews for centuries. Yet, out of all the commandments - do not kill, do not lie, do not steal, etc., we ignore the command to honour the read Sabbath day. Why?
There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that the Sabbath was ever any other day but Saturday (the seventh day). The Jews have observed the Sabbath as Saturday for over 5000 years. It might not have been known as Saturday then, but it was always considered the seventh day. Jesus observed it and his apostles observed it, so why don't His followers?
The first Christians were Jews and so they continued to keep the Sabbath holy as was their custom. And just as it was Jesus' custom to preach in the synagogue on the Sabbath day, the apostles carried on this tradition. But it should be noted that when Gentiles began to receive the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, some Jewish Christians believed they should be obeying Mosaic Law. So the apostles met and discussed the issue (Acts 15) and this was the decision given by the Apostle James (Jesus' brother): “Therefore, I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.” (Acts 15:19-20). Oddly, Sabbath-keeping was not one of the commands the apostles felt was necessary to force on Gentile believers. Why? Because they were already observing it by following the example of the Apostles (Acts 13:42-44).
It wasn't until after all the Apostles were gone, that heresies and false doctrines crept into the church about how to observe the Sabbath Day, mainly through the influence of the Emperor Constantine when he converted to Christianity. For it was his influence, along with a growing antisemitism for the Jews, that created a division in regards to the Sabbath that has lasted until this day. It was also because of Constantine that pagan festivals were introduced as a way to keep his mostly pagan nation appeased over his insistence that Christianity was the true faith. This is how the pagan celebrations of Christmas and Easter were brought into the church (but that's a topic for another time), today I want to address why Sunday is observed as the Sabbath rather than Saturday.
There are many reasons why Christians began to observe Sunday as a day of importance. Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday for one (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). He appeared to many of his followers on Sunday as well (John 20:11-18; Matthew. 28:7-10; Luke 24:34; Luke 24:15-32). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost (the feast of Unleavened Breast) was also on a Sunday (Leviticus 23:4-8). But nowhere in Scripture is there any indication that the Apostles suddenly stopped obeying the Law to honour the Sabbath Day and switched instead to making Sunday as the Sabbath.
Yes, there are indications that the early believers met on the first day of the week to eat together (Acts 20:7). In fact, Scripture is clear, they met together every day in the Temple and broke bread together every day in each others homes (Acts 2:46-47). But the idea of them not honouring Saturday as the Sabbath was never an issue for the early believers, because in this the Apostles, like Jesus, honoured the Lord by keeping His Sabbath Day Holy.
Now many point to Revelation 1:10, where John states that he was "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day" as proof that the early Christians considered Sunday as the Sabbath Day. But what they fail to remember when quoting this verse is Jesus' divinity and authority as God. He not only is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28), but He is the one who created the Sabbath Day and made it holy.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
When writing the Ten Commandments, God called it the “Sabbath of the Lord” (Exodus 20:10). In Isaiah 58:13 God called the Sabbath "My holy day." It is clear then that "the Lord's Day" is and always has been the Sabbath Day (Saturday). The argument could be made that Jesus looks at the intent of the Law, not the letter of it. So, if we are keeping Sunday as our day to honour God then God should be okay with that. Should He? But, by what right do we have to undo a day God specifically set aside for Himself - that He sanctified and made holy? Who are we to change the Laws of God? You might argue that Jesus abolished all the laws. But Jesus himself said he did not come to abolish the laws, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). In fact, Jesus said that if we loved Him we would keep His commandments (John 14:15). Should the church therefore repent and return to honouring the Lord on His actual day? This is something each Christian will have to decide and pray about as we await the Lord's return.