"REMEMBER the Sabbath day." Yes, " Remember." That's one of the Ten Commandments. But today most everyone forgets. Professing Christians almost universally assume that the day to worship God is Sunday. The Sabbath of the Bible is either relegated to the Jewish people or a few "wayward" Protestant denominations and sects. But why did God say, "Remember"?
WHEN God gave the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel, the fourth one was worded like this: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates." But why "remember"? Had the Sabbath existed previously? "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it" (Ex. 20:8-11, RSV). The giving of the law occurred in the 15th century B.C. But the Sabbath had existed since the seventh day of creation week. That's why God said to "remember." "The Sabbath was made for man..." (Mark 2:28), and the Sabbath was made when man was created. It dates from the time of Adam and Eve. Notice Genesis 2:2-3: "And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day.... And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work...." Plainly, Exodus 20 refers to Genesis 2, in almost identical language. Here, then, was the origin of the Sabbath. In both places the language strongly indicates that God attached a very unusual significance to the seventh day, although the details of this significance are not recorded until much later in the Bible.
LITTLE by little we learn from the Scriptures about the Sabbath. Speaking of one of the biblical patriarchs, God said: "Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws" (Gen. 26:5). Obviously, then, Abraham kept God's Sabbath; for God says he kept His commandments. In fact, that was how Abraham qualified to receive the promise of eternal inheritance of the earth. Abraham was the "friend" of God (II Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8). How did he become God's friend? Only by personal acquaintance and continued association with God. And those are the very purposes of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a memorial of creation. As such, it points to the existence of a Creator, and its regular recurrence every seventh day continually reminds those who keep the Sabbath of its Creator. It was designed to keep Adam and Eve — and indeed all human beings ever since — in the appropriate relationship with their Creator. At the same time, it also provides the proper setting for a special recognition and worship of God which can be performed on no other day of the week. But by the time God led Israel out of Egypt, these descendants of Abraham (through his faithful son Isaac and grandson Jacob), had utterly forgotten their Creator and His laws — including the Sabbath. It became necessary for Him to reveal them again and put them in a codified form. He began to do that — before they ever came to Mount Sinai — in giving the people manna. It was no accident that He gave them manna only on six days (a double portion on the sixth day) and none on the seventh. "Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no" (Ex. 16:4). "Prove them"? "Law"? What "law"? The law of resting on the seventh day of the week in order to honor God. Some may argue at this point that which day we worship on makes no difference, that we can have that proper relationship with God no matter if we observe Saturday, Sunday, or any other time. But that is merely their opinion, not fact. God says He made the seventh day holy, not just any day, or "one day in seven." And to God it does make a difference. Notice what happened when some of the people went out to gather manna on the seventh day: "And the Lord said to Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?" (Ex. 16:28.) Obviously, God was not pleased. He had already given them manna for two days on the sixth day (or what we call Friday today), and He intended that the people rest on the day that was special to Him. By the double portion of manna, then no manna, and of manna which did not spoil on the seventh day, God was performing a series of weekly miracles which lasted 40 years, to make sure the people knew which day to keep. Later, God said: "Verily my sabbaths you shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that you may know that I am the Lord [Eternal] that doth sanctify you" (Ex. 31:13). Notice that the people were to keep the Sabbath in order that they might know that God had "sanctified" them — set them apart as a special people. It had to do directly with their special association with God.
NONE will doubt that the Old Testament enjoined Sabbath keeping upon Israel of ancient time. But what should New Testament Christians do? Was the day of worship officially altered by Christ, and did the Church He established observe a different day? Notice the example of Christ: "And he [Christ] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read" (Luke 4:16). Certainly there is nothing here about Jesus' changing the day of worship! Christ continually observed the Sabbath throughout His life on earth. There was no exception, though Jesus Himself said, "The Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath" (Mark 2:28). The four Gospels abound with examples of Christ's teaching the people on the Sabbath day. He also healed the sick, doing good on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-12), which was lawful even though the Pharisees falsely accused Him for it. Jesus' keeping the Sabbath, however, is not the point of contention. Most acknowledge He did so. But most people have come to believe that the day of Christ's resurrection (which they falsely assume was Sunday) was somehow responsible for changing the time of worship from the seventh day to the first. This notion has gained overwhelming popularity in spite of the fact that no scriptural verification of it can be found. There are, of course, a few New Testament passages which are commonly cited as if they were indeed "proof" such a change was made. But do they really prove anything of the kind? Let's examine them and see.
MUCH is made of the mention that the disciples once were gathered together on the first day of the week (John 20:19). But the verse contains not the slightest indication that they were conducting a worship service. Rather, the scripture states specifically that they were there in the upper room "for fear of the Jews" whom they thought would be seeking their lives. While they were there, Christ appeared to them, having been resurrected. But there was no worship service in progress, nor did one take place later that day. Note that verse 26 discusses the fact that these very same disciples were together in that very same room exactly eight days later, which would have been the second day of the week or a Monday. On this occasion, Christ once again appeared to the group, and this time Thomas was among them. Do you suppose therefore that this establishes Monday as the day of Christian worship? Of course not. Neither incident has anything to do with establishing which day is the Sabbath. Another incident in which the first day of the week is mentioned is described in Acts 20:7. "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight." First of all, notice that this event took place in the evening — on what we would call Saturday night. Days were then reckoned from sunset to sunset, so it was already the first day of the week. But this was in no sense a Sunday meeting. The disciples were sitting down to eat dinner. (To "break bread" simply means to "eat a meal" — it is not referring to the "Lord's supper" or communion.) And Paul, knowing that this would be his last opportunity to speak to them, preached until midnight. Nothing particularly unusual about this (except the length of his sermon). Next, notice that Paul was about to embark upon a journey the following morning — which would have been Sunday morning — and he was planning to travel on foot (verse 13). While his companions set sail after sunset that Saturday evening heading for the town of Assos, Paul remained behind to speak for the last time to the believers in Troas. He then planned to walk the 20 miles from Troas to Assos and meet his companions the next day (Sunday). What this incident proves is not that the day of worship had been changed, but rather just the opposite. Paul's companions had waited until the Sabbath was over before they sailed from Troas. Paul himself, after preaching his final sermon, was to leave the next morning (Sunday) and walk the twenty miles overland to Assos — a good hard day's work, to say the least. This incident actually reveals that Sunday was considered a common workday rather than the day of worship. There is one remaining mention of the first day which likewise is often misinterpreted. It is I Corinthians 16:2. We explained this scripture in the November 1973 number of The Good News. Since extra copies are in short supply, please read our free booklet Which Day Is The Sabbath Of The New Testament? for a thorough explanation.
WE HAVE already seen how Christ kept the seventh day, and we have seen that there is no evidence anywhere in the Bible for Sunday observance. But did the true Church continue the practice of keeping the Sabbath? Notice: "But when they departed from Perga, they [Paul and Barnabas] came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, You men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on" (Acts 13:14-15). Paul then stood up and spoke to the people, preaching Christ to them. "And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the NEXT SABBATH" (verse 42). Here was Paul's golden opportunity to explain that the Sabbath was no longer the proper day of Christian worship. But he said nothing of the sort. Instead he exhorted them "to continue in the grace of God" (verse 43). Surely this included keeping the Sabbath, for the people were meeting on the seventh day in the synagogue with the Jews who were present. It was a normal Jewish Sabbath service (see also verse 27). These Gentiles were very interested in what Paul had to say. Did Paul tell them the Jewish way was obsolete? No. Instead he met with nearly the whole city on the next Sabbath (verse 44). Next let's read the account in Acts 18:1-4: "After these things Paul departed from Athens and came to Corinth; and found a certain Jew named Aquila... with his wife Priscilia ... and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought [worked]: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. And he reasoned in the synagogue EVERY SABBATH, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks...." Here is one of the strongest texts in all the Bible supporting the observance of the Sabbath for New Testament Christians. Paul, while visiting in Corinth, worked during the week at his occupation of tentmaking; and on the Sabbath he taught in the synagogue, speaking to both the Jews and the Gentiles. Later he preached only to the Gentiles (verse 6). He did this in Corinth for a year and a half (verse 11). Paul "remembered" the Sabbath. Shouldn't you? Paul commanded the Gentiles: "Be you followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (I Cor. 11:1). We know that Christ always kept the Sabbath (Luke 4:16); and we can read in Acts 17:2 that Paul also "as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures." Both Paul and Christ followed the same custom — that of keeping the seventh day, the same day God ordained from the beginning. (For further proof, read our free booklet Which Day Is The Christian Sabbath?) Christ did not come to change or destroy the law which was given in Old Testament times (Matt. 5:17), but to fulfill — to keep it and teach it to ALL who will be His followers. The Bible reveals only one day of the week is holy time, not Sunday, and not just any day. So "remember" that to God it does make a real difference!
IF YOU find that you have been misled in the past; if you find that you "grew up" accepting error; if you find you have been observing the wrong day — a day never sanctified by God — then what should you do? If you are one who desires to take definite action, then here is good news. The Worldwide Church of God has dedicated, consecrated, converted, fully instructed and trained, ordained ministers available to answer your questions about the Sabbath, explain to you how to keep it, and expound the Bible in general to you. Contact Us