Which day is the Sabbath?

The Question

What scriptures verify the sanctification by the Lord of Sunday as the Sabbath instead of Saturday?

- SH from Oklahoma


The Answer
Part 1: A day of rest
Part 2: Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath

A day of rest (Part 1)

Another way to put this question is: why do Christians worship on Sunday when Jews observe Saturday as the Sabbath that God called for in Exodus 20:8? “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Keeping it holy meant to rest and cease from labor in honor of the pattern God established in creation. “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Verses 9-10)

According to the Jewish calendar, Saturday is the seventh day of the week though the start and finish time for a day is different from ours. The Jewish day is from sunset to sunset, divided into eight equal parts called watches. So the Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. Jesus and his disciples, as good Jews, observed the Sabbath.

Now you ask if there are any scriptures to verify a change from Saturday to Sunday as the Sabbath. No. Why then did Christians come to observe Sunday as the day of worship? Almost from the beginning Christians celebrated Sunday as a holy day because it was the day Jesus rose from the dead. “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread…” (Acts 20:7) They were having a worship service.

In the very early years when most believers were Jews they no doubt continued to observe the Sabbath in addition to also honoring the first day of the week. Then Gentiles came into fellowship that had no tradition of observing the Sabbath and no obligation to take on Jewish law. Gradually over time, Sunday became the traditional Christian worship day, the equivalent to the Jewish Sabbath.


Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath (Part 2)

Should we return to Saturday to be absolutely correct? No, again. Let’s remember why God instituted the Sabbath as holy. Sabbath does not mean “seventh” for the seventh day of the week; it comes from a root word meaning to cease from labor.

God established a pattern for his creation to observe for their benefit. The Jews of Jesus time observed the Sabbath very rigidly and legalistically. They objected to him healing on that day and when he and his disciples picked heads of grain to eat the Pharisees said, “’Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’” (Mark 2:23)

But what was the attitude of the Savior? “Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.’” (Verse 27) And he followed that up by declaring that he could change or interpret the commandment any way he wanted: “’So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’” (Verse 28) The idea is that we are to have a regular observed day of rest, a day we set apart to worship and honor our holy God. Now that is a concept worth returning to--whether Saturday or Sunday.

What about those Christian denominations who observe Saturday as the Lord’s Day? Great! Different traditions should bring no division in the Body of Christ. Deciding which day is the Sabbath is not one of the essentials to the Christian faith in my estimation. The day of worship is not the sign of being a disciple of Jesus. What is? “’By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.’” (John 13:34)

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