The Commandment to Worship on Sunday

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The essay below is a follow-up to my previous essay: "The Myth of a Wednesday Crucifixion"

Submitted: November 27, 2017

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Submitted: November 27, 2017

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The Commandment to Worship on Sunday

For those who believe that Sunday-worship is the Mark of the Beast and that the Saturday Sabbath is the true worship day, I would advise you the review the following arguments and see if your views remain unchanged....

The most well-known reason for gathering on Sunday to worship is, of course, to honor the weekly anniversary of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. However, we also worship on Sunday because the Lord commanded us to do so in the Old Testament. In Leviticus 23:9-16, we read:

"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: ON THE MORROW AFTER THE SABBATH the priest shall wave it. And ye shall offer THAT DAY when ye wave the sheaf and the lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the Lord. And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the Lord for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. And ye shall count unto you from THE MORROW AFTER THE SABBATH, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto THE MORROW AFTER THE SEVENTH SABBATH shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord."

Here, we see a direct command from God ordering His people to worship, not on the Sabbath, but on the day after the Sabbath – that is, Sunday. If Sunday was never meant to be established as a day of worship, then why did God command that the sheaves be waved on that day as opposed to the actual Saturday-Sabbath?

Next, let us turn to the 25th chapter of Leviticus. Here, the Israelis are told that every seventh year is to be a Sabbath Year – that is, a year of rest. The Israelis are then told that after seven Sabbatical Years (i.e., 49 years), there was to be a Year of Jubilee. This 50th year, which is also referred to as the "eighth year" in Leviticus 25:22, was designated as a time when the people would blow their trumpets and zealously worship the Lord. For in this year, all debts were cancelled, slaves were set free, and lands were restored to their original owners, thus giving the Israelis clear reasons to celebrate.

Now, it’s very obvious that the seventh-year Sabbatical paralleled the weekly seventh-day Sabbath. And since the Year of Jubilee, the eighth year, was the year that followed the Sabbath year, it clearly represented Sunday – the day that followed the Sabbath day. It is also interesting to note that early Christians have referred to Sunday as the "first and eighth day of the week." For example, the Epistle of Barnabas, written in 74 AD, states that: "We keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead." Hence, if the seventh day was designated as a time of worship, then why wouldn’t the 49th year (a seventh year Sabbatical) also be designated as a year of worship as opposed to 50th/8th year which followed it?

In short, this Eight-Year Jubilee, which was far more important than the preceding Seventh-Year Sabbath, served as a prophetic representation of Christ’s Sunday resurrection, which was far more important than the preceding gloomy Sabbath where He laid lifeless in the cold grave. For just as the Eight-Year Jubilee cancelled financial debts and freed slaves from physical bondage, so did Christ’s resurrection on the Eight-Day Sunday cancel our sin-debts and freed us from the bonds of Satan.

From these Old Testament verses, it’s clear that both the day which followed the seventh-day Sabbath and the year following the seventh-year Sabbath were designated as the true times of worship, whereas the actual the seventh-day/seventh-year Sabbaths were designated only as a time of rest. Throughout the Five Books of Moses, there is no commandment to gather for worship on the seventh day. In fact, in Exodus 16:29b, God specifically ordered that no one is even to leave his home on the seventh day. So then how could the people have gathered together for worship at that time? One should also take note that Exodus 16:30 simply states that: "the people rested on the seventh day." This verse does not state that the people worshiped on the seventh day, but only states that they rested. In addition to that, we may also observe how the fourth of the Ten Commandments only orders the people to rest on the Sabbath and says absolutely nothing about gathering for worship.

The only "Sabbaths" which the Law of Moses does command us to worship on are non-Saturday Sabbaths. For example, see Leviticus 23:24b-25 which says that: "In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a Sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord." On a regular Saturday Sabbath, making a fire was forbidden according to Exodus 35:2-3.

The practice of gathering for worship on Saturday-Sabbaths did not actually begin until several generations later, after the time of the prophet Ezekiel, when the second temple was completed following the Jewish people’s return from Babylonian exile. It is only in Ezekiel 46:1-3 where the Jewish people are seemingly shown to have begun gathering for temple-worship (and assumably synagogue-worship as well) on their seventh-days in addition to their non-Saturday Sabbaths. However, one may also observe that the remainder of this chapter also gives specific orders to sacrifice various animals during these worship services. Now, I have yet to encounter a Jewish Christian or a Christian Sabbatarian who does not acknowledge that animal sacrifices were permanently abolished when Christ died for our sins on the cross. It is therefore baffling that so many of them cannot also acknowledge that the seventh-day Sabbath and all other Jewish holy days of the Law were likewise abolished at Calvary. I quote the Apostle Paul:

"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 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" (Colossians 2:13-17).

In these five sole verses, Paul informs his Gentile readers that the Old Testament commandments to perform circumcisions, to make offerings of meat and drink, and to honor holy days and Sabbaths were abolished for all time, having been nailed to the cross with Christ. Thus, there is no longer any commandment that binds followers of Christianity to worship on the seventh day.

Now whenever it actually was that the rabbis originally instituted the practice of gathering for worship on Saturday, they then had to decree that people could be permitted to leave their homes and travel on the Sabbath, so long as they didn’t travel faster than 3000 feet. This is what became known as "a Sabbath’s day journey" (Acts 1:12). Now, suppose for a moment that a Sabbath-worshiper lived on a farm that was more than 3000 feet away (in any direction) from a church or synagogue. Wouldn’t it be a sin against the law for this person to attend a Saturday service?

It is also interesting to note that whenever Jesus and the Pharisees had an argument about the Sabbath, they spoke of it as a day of rest only and never as a day of worship. The same can also be said regarding the statement in Hebrews 4:1-11 concerning the seventh day. One may also take notice of that fact that whenever Jesus was asked to name some of the Ten Commandments, He never quoted the fourth one regarding Sabbath-keeping (e.g., Matthew 19:17-19). Coincidence?

Another observation is that, although the New Testament records both Jesus and Paul preaching in the synagogues on Saturdays, there is no mentioning of them actually *worshiping* at those times. By contrast, however, a careful examination of how Mark 1:21-35 is narrated can reveal that the Lord Jesus Himself actually preferred Sunday worship.

This early Gospel story begins with Jesus entering a synagogue on a Sabbath day (i.e., Saturday) where he heals a man with an unclean spirit. We are then told in verses 29-31 that immediately after leaving the synagogue (hence, the narration is still on Saturday’s daylight hours), Jesus came to the house of Simon Peter where He healed the Apostle’s mother-in-law. Following this, verses 32-34 report that when the evening had come and "the sun did set" (hence, the narration is now on Saturday night), many diseased and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus for healing. Lastly, the narration of verse 35 states that "in the morning, rising up a great while before day," Jesus went out to a solitary place and prayed.

Now even a novice scholar can understand that "rising up" in this particular verse refers to awaking from a state of sleep. And since Jesus spent the previous Saturday night healing many people before eventually going to bed, there is a very extreme unlikelihood that He would have woken up again and departed prior to the midnight hour. Rather, we may safely assume that the hour when Jesus awoke and departed was approximately between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m. since the narration states that there was still "a great while" before daylight. Hence, we can clearly place the event of verse 35 during a post-midnight Sunday morning – and also most likely during the same hour when Jesus would rise from the dead a couple years later on the first Easter (Resurrection) Sunday.

Since this story gives us a report of Jesus having private prayer/worship time on a Sunday, we can then observe how no such accounts of private prayer/worship time are reported on a Saturday Sabbath, which thus lend credible support for favoring modern Sunday morning church services instead of Saturday services.

Now as to the reason why Jesus, and later Paul, preached and reasoned with the Jews on every Sabbath in the Synagogues, the answer can be summed up with an old phrase: "If we are to reach people with the Gospel, we must first go where they are." Going to the synagogue on Saturday, where the Jews had already scheduled to gather, was a lot easier than sending out engraved invitations to attend a worship service on Sunday. For as Jesus pointed out in the parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14), such invitations are rarely accepted.

It should also be pointed out that the only times that Paul preached on the Sabbath was when he was among the Jewish population. After he departed from the Jews to preach solely to the Gentiles, he mentioned the Sabbath only once (Colossians 2:16) to show that the Gentiles were not bound to it. Even James, the brother of Jesus, decided not to enforce any Jewish laws upon the Gentiles except for refraining from the pollution of idols, fornication, things strangled, and blood (Acts 15:20) – his mentioning of the Sabbath in 15:21 only shows that synagogue services were held on that day. But, there is no mentioning in the New Testament of a purely Christian church service ever being held on the Sabbath. Rather, the only purely Christian gathering that the Bible mentions is one that occurred on the first day of the week (see Acts 20:7).

As for the Gentiles who attended the synagogues on Saturdays (Acts 13:42), these must have been ones like Cornelius who had converted to the Jewish faith before learning about Christ. Thus, mentioning the fact that there were Gentiles in the synagogue does not provide proof that the first Century Gentile Christians ever held their church services on any day other than Sunday.

Another verse giving evidence of Christian worship on Sunday is 1 Corinthians 16:2 where Paul writes that: "Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him...." According to scholars who study Greek, the thrust of the Greek text indicates that Paul is literally saying: "Upon the first day of *every* week...." So, what reason could there possibly be for giving an instruction to make an offering on the first day of every week unless the first day was to be devoted to God?

Now, some Sabbatarians have pathetically attempted to claim that a commandment to donate money every Sunday does not support a commandment to gather for worship on that day as well. But suppose that Paul had instead written: "Upon the ‘seventh day’ of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store...." If this is what Paul had written, would not the Sabbatarians jump at the chance to use this as proof of a Christian worship service occurring on the Sabbath? They know in their own hearts that they would. Besides, if you go to a Saturday worship service, you know very well that the collection plate will come around just like it would at a Sunday service.

A somewhat similar defense that Sabbatarians attempt to make against Sunday-favoring verses involves the first appearance of the resurrected Jesus to the disciples on the Sunday evening. Here, the Sabbatarians argue that this was not necessarily a worship-gathering, but was simply a scene where the disciples were hiding together behind locked doors for fear of the Jews – see John 20:19. This may be true enough, but what the critics always neglect to discuss thereafter is the fact that, according to John 20:26, Jesus waited eight days (and not seven) before appearing to the group again when Thomas was with them. Now since eight days from a Sunday is another Sunday, this latter verse forces us to wonder about a couple things:

First, we’d have to consider the likelihood, or rather the unlikelihood, that this second Sunday was just another hiding-assembly and not an organized gathering. Secondly, we would have to realize that, if Jesus wanted to, He could have surely arranged to have appeared to the group again on the following Saturday Sabbath instead. Yet, the Lord chose to wait until the next Sunday to make another appearance. Think about it. If the verse had instead stated that Jesus made His next post-resurrection appearance "seven days later on the following Sabbath," this would have easily become the most powerful Sabbath-supporting verse in the entire Bible. Hence, if Jesus intended to have all future Christians gather for weekly worship on Saturday instead of Sunday, then making an early post-resurrection appearance on the following Saturday would be the only necessary step – and would have been a super-easy one to pull off at that.

In conclusion, to accuse Sunday worship as being the mark of the beast is to accuse God Himself of being the beast, and that is just downright blasphemous. We gather for worship on Sunday, not only to celebrate the weekly anniversary of the resurrection, but also because it was ordered by Moses, practiced by Jesus, and embraced by the Apostles. Let us continue likewise.


© Copyright 2018 Lt. Colonel Chad. All rights reserved.

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