DOES THE BIBLE TEACH THAT THE SABBATH WAS CHANGED FROM THE SEVENTH DAY TO THE FIRST?
There are many Christians these days who have the idea that the seventh day Sabbath has been changed to the first day of the week after Jesus rose from the cross. The questions we have to ask our selves are: Does the Bible support this? Is their anywhere in the Bible where God or Jesus ever blessed, hallowed, sanctified or set aside the first day of the week?
In the Bible there are only 9 texts that mention the first day of the week. First I will list them then we will go through them to see if there is anything in any of these texts to support the changing of the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day of the week.
The 9 first day texts are:
1. Genesis 1:3-5, “Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
2. Matthew 28:1, “Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.”
3. Mark 16:2, “Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.”
4. Mark 16:9, “Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.”
5. Luke 24:1, “Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.”
6. John 20:1, “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”
7. John 20:19, “Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
8. 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.”
9. 1 Corinthians 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. ”
TEXT 1: GENESIS 1:3-5
This text simply tells us about the first day of the first week of this world, where God began the creation of this world. There is nothing here to give even the slightest indication that the first day of the week was to be treated any different to the other working days of the week.
TEXTS: 2 – 6: MATTHEW 28:1, MARK 16:2, 9; LUKE 24:1; JOHN 20:1
I have grouped these five together because they are all accounts of the same events: the resurrection of Jesus and the visit to his tomb my Mary Magdalene and the other women who were intending to do what they could not do on the day of his death, and that was to embalm His body with the spices they had prepared, and which they had with them. Again, we see nothing here to indicate that the Sabbath had been changed. None of the women mention any change to the Sabbath nor does Jesus command any change to the Sabbath. So it can be seen that none of these texts can be used to support a change of the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day of the week.
The next three texts are the ones most often used to try and support the idea that the Bible teaches a change to the Sabbath, so I will be spending more time on these ones.
TEXT 7: JOHN 20:19
Many use this text saying that the disciples were instituting Sunday-keeping in honour if Jesus’ resurrection. However, the disciples at that time did not believe that the resurrection had taken place. That was the reason that Jesus appeared to them in John 20:19! They met with the doors bolted shut “for fear of the Jews,” not to worship. Jesus showed up to rebuke them. “He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen” (Mark 16:14).
We also need to keep in mind that the Romans and the Jews reckoned the beginning and ending of day differently. The Romans counted the beginning of the new day at midnight, which has carried over into many cultures today. But the Jews said a day began at sunset. The account of creation brings this out when we repeatedly read, “So the evening and morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:5). This means that the passage we are looking at could actually be interpreted as a Sunday night meeting, which would be for the Jews the day of Monday.
There is no implication that they counted Sunday as a holy day. Only 8 texts in the New Testament mention the first day of the week; none of them imply that it is holy. Jesus most definitely rose from the dead on Sunday, but He never commanded us to worship in honour of His resurrection. The way we honour the resurrection is the same way we honour His death – through baptism. Being buried with Christ in the waters of baptism symbolises accepting His death on the cross. In the same way, as we are raised from the waters of baptism, we are raised with Christ into a new way of life. The power of Jesus resurrection is the power we live by every single day of the week, not just Sunday.
TEXT 8: ACTS 20:7
This is another commonly used verse by those who claim that the Sabbath has been changed to the first day of the week. Because this text mentions the breaking of bread on the first day of the week, many assume that this text is giving the account of a communion service and that it proves that Sunday was the new Sabbath. But lets look at the facts relating to this text.
According to the Bible, each day begins at sundown and ends at the next sundown (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31; Leviticus 23:32) and the dark part of the day comes first. So Sabbath begins Friday night at sundown and ends at Saturday night at sundown. This meeting in Acts 20 was held in the dark part of Sunday, or what we now call Saturday night. The New English Bible translation actually says: “On the Saturday night in our assembly…”
This special gathering was a Saturday-night meeting that lasted until midnight. Paul was on a farewell tour and knew he would not see these people again (verse 25). No wonder he preached so long! No regular weekly service would have lasted all night. Paul was “ready to depart the next day.” If this next day was sacred, would Paul spend the whole day travelling instead of worshipping? The Bible repeatedly tells us Paul worshipped on Sabbath (Acts 13:42-44; 17:2; 16:12,13).
The “breaking of bread” has no “holy day” significance whatsoever, because they broke bread daily (Acts 2:46). Jesus broke bread with the disciples on Thursday night before He was crucified (Luke 22:19). There is not the slightest indication in this Scripture passage that the first day is holy, nor that these early Christians considered it so. Nor is there evidence that the Sabbath had been changed. In Ezekiel 46:1, God refers to Sunday as one of the six “working days.”
This meeting is probably mentioned in Scripture because of the miracle of raising Eutychus back to life after he fell to his death from a third floor window. The young man, who’s name means “fortunate,” fell asleep while Paul preached late into the night. The fall killed him, but the apostle rushed down the stairs and took him up in his arms and the man was miraculously brought back to life.
TEXT 9: 1 CORINTHIANS 16:1, 2
Because there is a collection mentioned in this passage, many Christians have made the assumption that this was a church offering and because this collection was done on the first day of the week they say that this proves that they were keeping the first day of the week holy. But is that really the case? Let’s examine this passage to see what it is really saying.
In this passage, Paul was writing to the churches in Asia Minor to help their famine-stricken brethren in Christ. The people in Judea were struggling to have enough food, and the apostle encouraged the new Christians to remember those back in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26). After Agabus prophesied about this great famine, the disciples “determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:29, 30).
Since all reference in the New Testament demonstrate that these Christians kept the seventh-day Sabbath, Paul made a practical suggestion on this special offering. He suggested that on Sunday morning (which was the time they paid bills and settled accounts), after the Sabbath was over, they put aside something for the needy brethren so it would be on hand when he came. Jewish people did not deal with money on the Sabbath.
The Greek words for “lay something aside” literally mean “by himself.” In today’s language, we would say “at home.” Sometimes this is translated “save it up” or “set money aside” or “put it in a special place.” There is no reference her to gathering for worship on Sunday or taking up offerings at a church service. This was a simple way for people to put aside some extra funds “as he may prosper” to help the suffering Christians in Judea.
No sacredness is connected to the first day for setting aside these funds. It was Paul’s way to help these poor Christians practically remember other members of the household of faith. People who systematically set aside funds usually give more than those who sporadically try to give much at once.
We have now gone through all the 9 “first day” texts and we have found nothing to support the idea that any of them teach that the Sabbath had been changed by either God, Jesus, the disciples or the apostles to the first day of the week. The Bible is crystal clear as to which day of the week is the Sabbath and that is the seventh day of the week, the only one in which God ever blessed, hallowed and sanctified (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11). There is nothing anywhere in the Bible to tell us He ever did that with the first day of the week.