THE NEW TESTAMENT AND THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK IN RELATION TO KEEPING THE SABBATH
What we need to do is look at what transpired on the first day of the week and then look at the scriptural evidence for the assembly on the first day in the New Testament.
1. Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week after the Sabbath (John 20:1). The resurrection is the capstone of our faith and the proving of the new covenant. He was raised for our justification.
2. Jesus appeared to ten of His disciples on that first day of the week (John 20:19).
3. Jesus waited one week, and on the next first day of the week appeared to the eleven disciples (John 20:26).
4. The promised coming of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled on the first day of the week, the day of Pentecost (Pentecost by law came on the first day of the week – Lev. 23:16).
5. On the first day of the week the first gospel sermon was preached by Peter on the death and resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:14).
6. On that first day of the week three thousand converts were united into the New Testament covenant separating them from Judaism (Acts 2:41).
7. On that same first day of the week the rite of Christian baptism into the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was administered for the first time (Acts 2:41).
8. At Troas Paul preached to the assembled Christians on the first day of the week. The Lord’s Supper (breaking bread) was practiced on Sunday as the church met (Acts 20:7).
9. Paul instructed the Christians at Corinth to make contributions on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:2). Offerings are a part of worship and since offerings took place on the first day of the week, it makes sense that worship also took place on the same day of the week.
No one ever changed the Sabbath day to Sunday. The Sabbath commemorated a finished creation with rest. The first day commemorates a finished redemption and a new work. The Sabbath commemorates Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery and God resting on the 7th day. The first day commemorates Christ’s resurrection, victory over death and eternal punishment. It gives hope that all who believe will also be resurrected from the dead.
The Sabbath is a day of rest and quiet. The first day is a day of worship and praise. Sabbath means rest, not Saturday! There were other Sabbaths given to Israel on other days.
The New Testament principle is given in Heb. 10:24-25, “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” The day of the week to assemble is of the church’s choice, whether it be Monday, Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday. The New Testament has no legislation for which day we are to assemble. History shows that the early church chose Sunday because of its significance, not because they rejected the Sabbath.
1 Cor. 16:1-2, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”
To give has always been a means of worship. Paul sets the rule telling them as they gather together to take up an offering. This is not a tithe as in the OT, but a principle, as the Lord has prospered you (giving cheerfully not out of obligation). There is an absence of legalism that one would find under the law. Notice he says that he has instructed the churches in Galatia the same as the Corinthians. This certainly indicates this was not an isolated command but a common practice during even the apostles’ time to gather on Sunday.
Acts 20:7, “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.” When to come together was an option of choice not obligation. Obviously this was decided upon and they were already carrying it out. To break bread consisted of what is called a love feast, eating a meal and taking communion, which is to be done in an assembly. Paul was speaking til midnight. The Jewish first day began on sundown Saturday so this took place Saturday night through the first day, after the Sabbath.
There is not one mention in the New Testament to keep the Sabbath day, yet the other nine commandments are stressed several times. Not once in the New Testament is breaking the Sabbath called a sin nor do we find anyone punished for it. It’s ceremonial, not moral, because the very things forbidden for that day are allowed on all others. This would not be so if it were a moral law.
Acts 13:38-39: “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.” The Sabbath was part of the law of Moses.
Gal.4:10-11, “You observe days and months, and times, and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.” To observe days, the months, years and the holy days is a sign of weakness and immaturity. The days are the Sabbaths and holy days. Months are the new moon festival, seasons are the festivals of Lev. 23, years are the sabbatical years and the year of jubilee. Paul did not want the New Testament believers to become entangled in bondage again. We are free to live toward Him every day. We don’t rest on one day or another but rest spiritually in Him (Hebrews 4). Also see Colossians 2:16-23.
The New Testament Church clearly saw Sunday not as the substitute and replacement for the Jewish Sabbath. Sunday was not seen as a modification or as a new Sabbath, but as a day that stood on its own merits having its own meaning. The church was given the resurrection and used this day to proclaim the very capstone of our faith.
An excellent article titled, “Is the Sabbath Required for Christians Today?” can be found at http://www.gci.org/law/sabbath (a very interesting history surrounds their position, but it was born out of thorough biblical study).