To correctly answer the questions “when is the Sabbath day?” and “why do Christians worship on Sunday?” we must go to God’s Word. The Sabbath day was established in the Mosaic law as part of the “10 commandments,” when God said “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). While the other commandments within the “10 commandments” are moral laws that extend beyond the Mosaic law, this commandment is not a moral law. This is a ceremonial law, fulfilled in Christ, and not mentioned in the New Testament. Our debt to God’s moral law and all ceremonial laws was paid, by Christ, in full. The I.O.U. was “blotted out” (Colossians 2:14).
The Sabbath was not mentioned at all in the Bible until it was commanded by God in Exodus 20. It is true that God’s rest on the seventh day did foreshadow a future Sabbath law, but the Bible certainly does not indicate that a Sabbath day was observed until it was established along with the other laws within the Mosaic law. After Moses states the Commandment of the Sabbath to the next generation of Israel in Deuteronomy 5, he makes it clear that the reason for the law is for a sign of the covenant (which is now over and replaced with Grace) between God and the children of Israel:
Deuteronomy 5:15 “And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.”
God wanted them to always remember their bondage in Egypt and His deliverance. Now, with the grace period that we are in, we should remember the day in which the Lord saved us. The day when He delivered US from the bondage of Satan… when we were saved, “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8).
There is no question that the Sabbath day was, indeed, on the day that we call Saturday. Most Christians, however, gather to worship together on Sunday, not the Sabbath day. This is not in disobedience to the law because those who have been born again are no longer under the Mosaic law. We are now “under grace” (Romans 6:14). We do not even claim to worship on the Sabbath. We worship on the Lord’s day the day the Lord Jesus rose from the dead (as it certainly seems that the disciples, apostles and all the early Christians did … Acts 20:7). “The Lord’s day” (1 Cor. 16:2 – Rev. 1:10) is the last day of the week, i.e. Sunday.
Some claim that the Catholic church “changed” the Sabbath day from Saturday to Sunday. While the Catholic church certainly has created plenty of unBiblical, man-made traditions (similar to what the Pharisees did) Sunday worship has never been observed as a replacement to the Sabbath. While under the law, Israel worshiped on the Sabbath (Saturday) and while under grace (most) Christians worship on the Lord’s day (Sunday). The only similarity between the two is that the people gather to worship together on each respective day.
As you read through the Bible after the formation of the church (after the Lord Jesus died on the cross fulfilling the law) you will find that anytime the Lord Jesus appears, it is always on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1, 9, 10; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:1, 13, 15; John 20:19, 26). This alone does not establish anything, but it certainly is very interesting.
What does the New Testament say about the Sabbath day and Worship?
Colossians 2:16 states: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”
This passage clearly states that the Sabbath was a “shadow of things to come” and that Christ has come! Christ’s life, death and resurrection were the “things to come.”
In Romans 14:5–6 we read “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
Again, we see clear instruction on whether one day should be esteemed above another. If the Sabbath were to be esteemed higher than the other days, Paul would have stated the exact opposite. On the contrary, we should love and worship God every day of the week. And we should gather in fellowship to worship together on a day that you and the other members of your local church feel is best.
When the Lord Jesus died on that cross, He paid the sin debt for us all. He fulfilled the law and put all who repent and trust in Him under grace. His law has been put into the hearts of those who repent and fully trust in Him (Hebrews 10:16) and there is no condemnation for them.
So to answer the questions:
When is the Sabbath Day? Saturday
Why do Christians Gather to Worship together on Sunday? Because Sunday (the Lord’s Day) is the day that the Lord Jesus Christ defeated death, having paid our debt of obedience to God’s Law in full, having satisfied the law and having made atonement for the sins of all who repent and trust in Him.
If a group of believers want to gather to worship together on Saturday, that’s fine. But many Christians choose to honor our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by gathering to worship together on Sunday, the Lord’s Day.
Image Credit: Trey Ratcliff