The Sabbath on Saturdays

The Lord’s Day on Sundays
by Ven Dr Ifechukwu. U. Ibeme
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Comment on The Chapel of Grace Blog:

“Sabbath holiday is not moral but ritual Law of the Jewish nation and not binding on
non-Jew Christians. Sunday worship is one out of the Church’s daily fellowship
meetings not Christian replacement of the Sabbath.”

The Chaldeans of Mesopotamia used the seven-day week but did not observe or designate
any as the Sabbath or holiday. They simply called the days in numbers (i.e. first to seventh
day). Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not observe the Sabbath holiday. God first revealed
the seventh day Sabbath Rest (Gen 2:1-3) through Moses during the Exodus (Neh 9:11-
14), and commanded Israelites to observe it as a weekly rest holiday (Exo 16:23; 20:8-11)
and a national covenant sign (Exo 31:13-17). God did not command the weekly Sabbath
holiday to be a worship-day at the Tabernacle or Temple but a rest-day at home. It was
during Babylonian exile that the Jewish rabbinate under Ezra decided to use the Sabbath
for worship fellowship in community assembly centres called Synagogues. There was no
Synagogue in the Old Testament Scriptures. The Apostolic Scriptures were careful to point
out everywhere that using Sabbath day for Synagogue activities was a Jewish CUSTOM
from their elders not a Divine commandment from Moses (Luk 4:6; Act 16:13; 17:2). And
Christ and the Apostles insisted that Sabbath was meant for man and therefore subject to
man but man was not meant to be subject to Sabbath (Mar 2:27-28; Col 2:16-17).

Initially, the Apostolic Church used Sunday for only evening worship in addition to their
daily evening meetings; but when Sunday became an international public holiday for all
religions to worship and pray for the Roman Empire (321 AD), Christians began to also
use it as a day of rest similar to the Sabbath. The non-Christian public however misused it
for many frivolities which later led to prohibition of Sunday theatre and sports, to ensure
that people attend worship of their various religions to pray for the Empire. Christ and the
Apostles joined their fellow Jews at the Synagogues for Sabbath worship in the Jewish
homeland (Luk 4:15-16; Act 17:1-2; 21:20-26). But sometimes when necessity so
demands, they refused to fully observe it as a day of rest as prescribed by the tradition of
the elders (Matt 12:1-12; Luk 6:1-11). Early Christian Jews joined the weekly Jewish
morning worship held on the Sabbath at the Synagogue if the other Jews allowed them, but
also had to fellowship daily with the Church in the evenings. To the Church, every day is
holy not only Sabbath or even Sunday (Rom 14:5-6; Col 2:16-17).

As Europeans, the Romans did not have weeks but calends (Month beginning) and ides
(Mid-month) during the time of Christ and His Apostles. The seven-day week came into
Rome partly through the influence of Jews, Christians and Egyptians. The Babylonians
first began the seven-day week from antiquity long before Moses, and named the week-

The Sabbath on Saturdays versus The Lord’s Day on Sundays by Ven Dr I. U. Ibeme 1
days after the Sun and Moon and the then known five “wandering stars” called planets but
it was from Egypt that the seven-day week and calendar was formally adopted by Rome in
the fourth century AD – long after the Apostles had all died. Before the First Day of the
Week began to be called Sunday in the Roman Empire, the Apostolic Church had already
established Church Eucharistic (the Lord’s Table 1Cor 10:21) worship on the First Day of
the Week which they called the Lord’s Day (Rev 1:10).

The Jewish Christians outside the Jewish homeland continued to join their non-Christian
folks at the weekly Sabbath Synagogues, because the Roman Empire granted Jews the
rights of exemption from work on their Sabbath. Non-Jewish Christians, most of whom
were not prominent enough to have personal liberties, could not enjoy this privilege, but
had to work for their masters and so did not observe the Sabbath Rest with the Jews. These
only met with their Jewish Christian brethren at the evenings of the next day, being
Sundays (or the Lord’s Day), for Eucharistic worship (The Lord’s Supper Act 20:7; 1Cor
11:20) after their day’s work. For congregational activities other than the Lord’s Supper,
the early Church in the Apostolic period customarily met daily, usually in the evenings
after the day’s business (Acts 2:46-47; 5:42; 6:1; 16:5; 17:11&17; 19:9).

The Apostles clearly insisted that Gentile Christians are forbidden from keeping Gentile
rudimentary observances because they are against the tenets of the New Testament (Gal
4:3-11; Col 2:7-10,18-23); they also exempted Gentile Christians from Jewish observances
of circumcision and Sabbath because they are irrelevant in the New Testament (Act 21:20-
26; Rom 14:5-6; Gal 5:6; Col 2:9-17).

The Apostles did not forbid Jewish Christian from observing circumcision and the Sabbath
provided these are seen only as Jewish but not as necessary for the New Testament Church
(Act 15:5-11ff; 21:20-26; 1Cor 7:19; Gal 6:15). The Sabbath (Saturday) weekly rest
marked by rest and Synagogue Bible reading meetings celebrated God’s rest from the old
creation, but the new creation in Christ is celebrated on the Lord’s Days (first day of the
week, Sunday) with Eucharistic Fellowship. For this reason, of the daily evening worship-
fellowship assemblies of the Church, the Apostles dedicated that of Sunday evenings to
celebrating Christ’s resurrection (victory over death) and marking the beginning of the
New Creation. This new creation victory of life over death was celebrated with the Lord’s
Supper and Agape Feast (Luk 24:28-32; 36-43; Act 20:7-8; 1Cor 11:18-33), with Word,
prayer and praise ministrations and weekly general collections (1Cor 14:12-19, 23-26;
1Cor 16:1-3). People could bring special donations during other daily meetings like
Barnabas and many others did in Act 4:34-37, and like Ananias and Sapphira tried to do in
Act 5.

The observation of the Lord’s Day (Sunday) for New Covenant resurrection rally on one
hand, and the Sabbath (Saturday) for Old Covenant creation rest on the other, is better
understood when examined on four grounds:

1. Commandments instituted by Christ and His Apostles.

2. Customs exemplified by Christ and His Apostles.

The Sabbath on Saturdays versus The Lord’s Day on Sundays by Ven Dr I. U. Ibeme 2
3. Civil liberties accorded the Church by the State.

4. Convention agreed upon by the Church to distinguish and express their Faith.

1. Commandments instituted by Christ and His Apostles.
The disciple witnessed Sunday appearances of the risen Christ (to Mary Magdalene John
20:14-17; to the Ten John 20:19-22; and a week later to the Eleven John 20:26-29) though
He did not commanded Sunday meetings. But Sunday collection into the Church’s
common treasury was commanded by the Apostles (1Cor 16:1-3), because since Christ’s
resurrection day, they had observed Sunday as the Church’s day for worship assembly (Act

The Apostles were led by the Holy Spirit to permit Jewish Christians to circumcise and
keep the Synagogue Sabbath, while exempting Gentile Christians from circumcision and
the Synagogue Sabbath (Act 15:19-21). This is because the Old Covenant signs of
circumcision and the Sabbath are neither forbidden nor necessary for the New
Covenant Salvation (Gal 6:15; Col 2:9-17). After all, Abraham had none of these yet,
when God accounted him justified by faith (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:9-12) and cut and entered
into a purifying and binding covenant with him (Gen 15:9-18). Circumcision sign was
only introduced later, after twenty four years (Gen 17:8-12) to confirm the covenant
familiarly with new personal names (Gen 17:1-7); while the Sabbath rest sign came even
much later, after five hundred years (Exo 16:23; 20:8-11) to fulfil the covenant nationally
in the newly settled Israel. Beginning from Adam through Abraham and the Patriarchs, the
Seventh Day was only for counting WEEKS not for observing REST until God made
Sabbath Rest on the Seventh Day a sign of the Sinai Covenant with Israel under Moses
(Exod 31:13,17; Ezek 20:12,20).

2. Customs exemplified by Christ and His Apostles.
The New Testament Church never at any time regarded Saturdays as their worship
holiday, in parallel to the Jewish Synagogue Sabbath. Sunday evening meetings for the
Christian Church was specially used for Holy Communion because Christ resurrected and
appeared to the disciples on the First Day of the Week, which later came to be known as
Sunday (Joh 20:19, 24-29).

The coming of the Holy Spirit (by Christ’s mediation Act 2:33) took place when the
Church worshipped together on the Pentecost day (i.e. 50 th Day from the First-Fruit Day),
which was also (and always is) on the First Day of the Week (Lev 23:10-17; Act 2:1-4).

Notice that the First-Fruit day (for harvest flag-off worship) is on the First Day of the
Week. So Christ rose on that day to be God’s First-Fruit (1Cor 15:20-23). It is therefore
The Sabbath on Saturdays versus The Lord’s Day on Sundays by Ven Dr I. U. Ibeme 3
proper that His Church should be endued with power on the Pentecost day (for harvest-end
worship), which was also on the First Day of the Week (Lev 23:15-21).

Since the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles always held New
Testament Church Eucharist fellowship on Sundays in addition to daily prayer and
teaching fellowships. Through out the Roman Empire, the Apostolic Churches met for
Holy Communion in the evenings of every first day of the week, because they had to work
for their masters during the day (Act 20:7-8). They referred to the First Day of the Week,
the day after the Sabbath as the Lord’s Day (Rev 1:10), because on this day Christ broke
the power of death (through His resurrection) and thereby opened the gates of heaven to all
believers (1Cor 15:19-23; 1Pet 1:3-4). At this time the Romans had not started using the
seven-day week: they used calends and ides but were also being influenced by the Jewish
and Christian Faiths. This Church meeting on the First Day of the Week was especially for
breaking of bread (Act 20:7). Other daily meetings were held for other purposes such as
welfare distribution, Bible teaching, Bible Study, fasting and prayer (Act 1:13-14; Act
2:41-47; Act 6:1-7; Act 13:1-3; Act 17:11).

Later, in the fourth century AD, the Lord’s Day (whence came the Latin Dominica, the
Italian Domenica, the Spanish Domingo or the French Dimanche) also began to be called
the Day of the Sun (Sunday) in the Roman Empire due to the influence of the Egyptian and
Babylonian calendars. But today apart from in England the pagan Rome’s “the Day of the
Sun” failed to gain prominence in Europe not even in Italy, over the Church’s “the Lord’s
Day”. The Babylonians, who first began the use of the seven-day week even before Moses,
had eventually named the days after the seven celestial planetary luminaries known to the
ancient world (though the Anglo-Saxons substituted four of these with their Teutonic
deities): Sun, Moon, Mars (Tiw), Mercury (Woden), Jupiter (Thor), Venus (Frigg) and
Saturn. It was Constantine who in 321 AD officially introduced the seven-day week in the
Empire, with Sunday as the first and foremost day.

3. Civil liberties accorded the Church by the State.
In addition to age-old Saturday holiday for Jews only, Emperor Constantine the Great and
co-Emperor Licinius, declared Edict of Milan 313 AD for freedom of religion or religious
toleration. Sunday was later designated as public holiday in 321 AD for all people of all
religions to pray for the Empire. From then, it became possible for Christians to meet in
the mornings of Sunday, no longer at nights. Hence Sunday also became a day of rest FOR
ALL in addition to being a day of worship for the Church.

4. Convention agreed upon by the Church as means to distinguish and
express their common Faith.
When Sunday became a public holiday, the Church began to adopt Sabbath Rest ideas
from the Jews in determining the extent to which Christians were to rest on Sundays. This
was enhanced by the Emperor’s prohibition theatre and sports on Sundays which was
meant to ensure that people attend worship and pray for the Empire according to their
individual religions. Today the Church generally believes that the Sabbath is now observed

The Sabbath on Saturdays versus The Lord’s Day on Sundays by Ven Dr I. U. Ibeme 4
on Sunday, some even argue without any historical evidence that Sabbath was the Lord’s
Day, but the truth is that the Sabbath is different from the Lord’s Day. While the Jewish
(Old Covenant) Sabbath Rest commemorates the finishing of the old creation with Adam,
the Christian (New Covenant) Sunday Worship celebrates the finishing of the new creation
in the risen Christ and the opening of the door into the realm of resurrection power.

The Church has always been known to observe Sundays for common spiritual worship
(from Apostolic times) and for common social holiday (from the Patristic times). Today,
the State usually grants Sunday holiday to the Church internationally. Thus, it is not
proper or profitable for any Christian today to withdraw from partaking in such apostolic
common spiritualities and patristic common rest with the Church in order to rather pursue
selfish endeavours or personal enterprise. It is also not wise for any Christian to give the
impression that the Church is disunited and does not really deserve or need Sunday holiday
from the State. Therefore, though Sunday is not the replacement of Jewish Sabbath, it is
selfish, dissentious, unwise and improper for any Christian to openly pursue personal
business on the weekly Sunday holidays, except for rendering life saving and inevitable
essential services. Unity is the Church’s evangelistic glory in this world (Joh 17:21-22).
We must cherish what we have lest we lose it.
Last Updated January 27, 2017
By Venerable Dr I. U. Ibeme
Copyright © PriscAquila Publishing, Maiduguri, Nigeria.
Click Here For PriscAquila Christian Resource Centre

The Sabbath on Saturdays versus The Lord’s Day on Sundays by Ven Dr I. U. Ibeme 5