Summary: This is a study which shows that Sunday is the Divinely-instituted day of worship for the Lord’s Church under the New Covenant as opposed to the Sabbath.
For those who sincerely wish to please the Lord by doing His will, determining which day is the proper day on which God’s people should come together to offer worship is quite crucial. Scriptural and historical evidences provide a firm foundation for concluding that the Lord’s Church should worship God on Sunday, the first day of the week.
From the Creation account, we understand that Jehovah God created the world in six days and sanctified (set apart) the seventh day as a day of rest for Himself (Genesis 2:1-3).
It may be natural to assume that God instructed Adam and Eve and their descendants about the significance of the seventh day and commanded them to observe it. However, such an assumption is a dangerous presumption. For, the Scriptures indicate that the Sabbath was first revealed to the children of Israel after their exodus from Egypt (Nehemiah 9:13-14).
The Sabbath observance was meant to be a reminder of how that God brought rest to the Israelites from their hard labors of slavery in Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). The Scriptures are clear that the Sabbath was an integral part of the Covenant God established with the Israelites (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:13; 5:1-5, 12). The Israelites were to observe the Sabbath as “a sign” or token of the special and exclusive relationship they had with God. It was a demonstration that God “sanctified” (set apart to Himself) the Israelites from all other nations (Exodus 31:12-18; Ezekiel 20:10-12).
The Israelites were told to expect a new covenant to be established that would be unlike that which was established in the desert of Sinai (Jeremiah 31:31-32). We find that this new covenant was established by and through Christ Jesus (Hebrews 8:6-12). With the arrival of the new covenant, the old covenant is made obsolete (Hebrews 8:13; 10:9). The covenant written on stone (Exodus 31:18; 32:16) has been done away with (2 Corinthians 3:7-11). With the coming of the new covenant of Christ Jesus, the old covenant with its law has ended (Exodus 24:12; Romans 10:4).
The old covenant with its laws and ordinances was a spiritual tutor for the Israelites to prepare them for the coming of Christ (Galatians 3:24). The Mosaic Law with its ordinances and observances was only “a shadow of the good things to come” with the better covenant and law of Christ (Hebrews 10:1). This, says the apostle Paul, includes the Sabbath (Colossians 2:16-17).
SUNDAY, THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK
That Christians were expected to assemble and worship is quite clear (Hebrews 10:24-25).
The establishment of the Christian day of worship is based primarily upon two Supernatural events. First, the Lord Jesus rose from the grave on the first day of the week (Luke 24:1-7). Secondly, the Lord established His Church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1), which always fell on “the morrow after the Sabbath” (Lev. 23:15-16), hence, on the first day of the week. So, the Church started out meeting for worship on the first day of the week (cf. Acts 2:42).
It is not surprising, then, to find the local church at Troas assembling upon “the first day of the week” to break bread, i.e., to worship, (Acts 20:7). Furthermore, the apostle Paul instructed the brethren of the Corinthian congregation what they are to do when they assemble for worship (1 Corinthians 11:17-34; 14:1-40). In addition to teaching them how they are to partake of the Lord’s Supper, sing, pray and receive instruction, Paul tells them to be contributing into the church treasury “every first day of the week” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 – Greek text; cf. NASB).
One will search in vain for New Testament evidence that the church came together to worship God on the Sabbath day. Yes, it certainly was the case that the apostles frequented the synagogues on the Sabbath for the purpose of preaching the gospel. For, that is where the largest concentration of Jews would have been (cf. Acts 13:14; 17:1-2, etc.), and the message regarding Jesus was to be spoken first to them (Romans 1:16).
It is highly significant that the earliest writings of various leaders of the primitive Church state that it is the historic practice of Christians to assemble for worship on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, rather than on the Sabbath. Consider the following:
"But every Lord’s day . . . gather yourselves together and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned" (Didache 14 [A.D. 95]).
Ignatius of Antioch
"If therefore those who lived according to the old practices [i.e. Jews] have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death….Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, …let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s day as a festival, the resurrection day, the queen and chief of all days of the week." (Epistle of Ignatius to Magnesians, [AD 110]).