It’s not unusual for Christians and non-Christians alike to question why we worship on Sunday rather than the biblical command on Saturday, the Sabbath Day, or the seventh day of the week.
Church History: The Sabbath Day and the Reason for Sunday Worship
From the beginning, Christians remembered and celebrated the first day of the week as the day of Christ’s resurrection. Constantine gave great backing and support to the church as a legal as well as religious authority In the 321 decree that reads; On the venerable Sunday, let the Magistrates and people in the cities close and rest.
But in this decree, Constantine did not relate it to Christians nor does this Concern the fourth commandment of God. But the early Christians because of the popularity of this decree named the natural sun a new name meaning by thinking of Christ as” the sun of Righteousness. It was therefore Constantine’s decree of 321 that laid the basis for the universal recognition of Sunday as the day of rest. not forgetting that the church councils enacted additional Sunday legislation, in the council of Laodicea in 364 the church passed a law requiring the Christians “must not Judaize by resting on Saturday-Eusebius.
The worship service consisted of two parts: that which was meant for all, including catechumens and that which was meant for the communicants only after the first part, all but the communicant was dismissed. This dismissal (Latin missus), which signaled that the communion service was about to begin, give its name to the service of communion the missa, from which the English word mass is derived.
In the public service, selections were read from the gospel and the Epistles, sometimes from the Prophets, and then Psalms were sung. Because few Bibles were available, you only go to the Church and read for yourself, many did so and this added to the unhealthy attitude that only the clergy read the Bible.
Did The Apostles Partake in the Sunday Worship?
Although Sunday corporate worship has been a part of Christianity since the apostolic era. The origins of this tradition are not specified in the New Testament books, but we read in the book of first corinthians 16:2 that Apostle Paul charged the church to contribute on the first day of the week-Sunday Service certain amount in keeping to their income, he charged the church to save it up so that when he comes, there will be no collection made again to be sent to Jerusalem.
After the sabbath came to an end at sundown, either in the evening or early on Sunday morning, Jewish Christians most likely observed the sabbath at the synagogue before joining their fellow Gentile believers for Christian worship on Sunday. Sunday remained the traditional day of worship even when the church started to be largely made up of Gentiles. However, before the fifth century, Eastern churches frequently had Eucharistic assemblies on both Saturday and Sunday, and Eastern canons disallowed the Roman church tradition of fasting on the Sabbath.
By the end of the first century, the phrase “Lord’s Day” was in use, representing the victory of Christ in his Resurrection and the start of a new creation. Emperor Constantine of Rome proclaimed Sunday an official holiday in 321 and outlawed all trade and employment outside of the essential agricultural activity. St. Augustine of Hippo held that the sabbath rest from servile labor implied abstinence from sin, and church councils of the time were more anxious to enforce the necessity of Sunday worship.
The Frankish kingdoms’ conciliar canons and civil laws from the sixth century, as well as Edward VI and Elizabeth I’s Acts of Uniformity from 1552 and the Church of England’s Canons from 1604, all applied the Sabbath law to Sunday. Puritans held a staunchly Sabbatarian view, and the Blue Laws of Sunday observance were particularly strict in the New England-based Puritan provinces. While church rules continue to urge that it is morally required to attend worship every Lord’s Day, certain trades and amusements are currently prohibited on Sundays in various states and cities in the United States.
The majority of mainstream Christians attend church on Sunday, while the Bible urges Saturday Sabbath observance. Following His death, Jesus Christ and His apostles kept the Sabbath, but there is no biblical support for switching to Sunday or any directive from the apostles to stop keeping the Saturday Sabbath. some bible scholars also attributed the Jewish persecution of the Christians and their ejection of Christians from the temple as one of the reasons that led to the Christians worshiping on the lords Day rather than the sabbath day.
Who changed the Sabbath day?
Who changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday since the Sabbath was not altered in the Bible? When did this alteration happen?
After the original apostles passed, Christianity started to adopt new concepts. Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Clement of Alexandria all opposed keeping the Sabbath during the second century. The third century saw the arrival of Tertullian.
In 325 AD, the Catholic Church and the Roman Emperor Constantine outlawed “Judaizing” and idleness on the seventh-day Sabbath and established Sunday as a day of rest. The majority of Christians embraced this shift, although persecuted sects continued to practice it.
Why was the Sabbath changed to Sunday?
The early Church began to meet on the First Day of the week, as it was on that day that Jesus appeared to his followers. All of Jesus’ eight appearances to his followers after his resurrection were on the first day of the week, making it a holy day to the early Church.
Sunday, the first day of the week, is a good day for us to rest from our temporal work and rest in the Lord through worship, study, and fellowship with family and those of like precious faith.
The major causes for changing the day of rest and worship from Saturday to Sunday seem to be a combination of church authority overriding scriptural principles and the influences of sun worship and anti-Semitism.
Christians saw the Law as directed to the Jewish nation, but not to Christians for Christians are not bound by its limitations.
“The primitive Christians did keep the Sabbath of the Jews;… Therefore the Christians, for a long time together, did keep their convocations upon the Sabbath in which some portions of the law were read: and this continued till the time of the Laodicean council.” The Whole Works Of Jeremy Taylor, Vol. IX p. 416
“Sabbath … A Hebrew word signifying rest … Sunday was a name given by the heathens to the first day of the week because it was the day on which they worshipped the sun.” Bible Encyclopedia, John Eadie, D.D, L.L.D, p. 561
“The sun was a foremost god with heathendom… There is, in truth, something royal, kingly about the sun, making it a fit emblem of Jesus, the Sun of Justice. Hence the church in these countries would seem to have said, ‘Keep that old pagan name. It shall remain consecrated, sanctified’” The Catholic World, March 1994, p. 809
“Constantine published the Edict of Milan, granting freedom of religion in the empire and establishing Sunday as a day of worship.” Collier’s Encyclopedia vol 7, p. 212
“It appeared an unworthy thing that . . . we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul . . . Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd” Eusebius, Life of Constantine 3, chapter 18, quoted in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1979, Vol. 1, pp. 524-525
“On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all the workshops be closed.” Constantine, 321 A.D.
“The popular complaint against the Christians was- they despise our sun-god, they have divine services on Saturday, they desecrate the sacred earth by burying their dead in it.’” Truth Triumphant, p. 170, Persia 335-375 AD (40 years persecution under Shapur 11th)
“Canon 29- Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday. But shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day they shall especially honor. And, as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day.” Hefele’s Councils, Vol. 2, b. 6. Council Laodicia- 365 A.D.
“It was the holy Catholic Church that changed the day of rest from Saturday to Sunday, the 1st day of the week. And it not only compelled all to keep Sunday but at the Council of Laodicea, AD 364, anathematized those who kept the Sabbath and urged all persons to labor on the 7th day under penalty of anathema.” Catholic Priest T. Enright, CSSR, Kansas City, MO
“Protestantism, in discarding the authority of the church, has no good reason for its Sunday theory, and ought, logically, to keep Saturday with the Jews.” American Catholic Quarterly Review, Jan 1883
“How do you prove that the church has the power to institute festivals?” ”Had she, not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionist agree with her; -she could have substituted the observance of Sunday the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday the seventh day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority.” A Doctrinal Catechism, Steve Kennan, p. 174
The Catholic Church mandated that we observe the first day of the week as the Sabbath, despite the fact that the Bible instructs us to keep the Sabbath day holy. The Church alone, not the Scriptures, had the right to accomplish this.
By virtue of the holy, infallible authority bestowed upon her by her Founder, Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church altered the day on which the Sabbath was observed to Sunday. Even though their faith is based on the authority of the Catholic Church rather than an explicit passage from the Bible, non-Catholics who claim to derive their religious beliefs directly from the Bible rather than the Church follow Sunday instead of Saturday. About fifteen centuries before Protestantism emerged, this modification was made, and by that time, the custom was widely followed.
“Reason and common sense demand the acceptance of One or the other of these alternatives: either Protestantism and the keeping holy of Saturday, or Catholicity and the keeping holy of Sunday. Compromise is impossible.” The Catholic Mirror, December 23, 1893
“She took the pagan Sunday and made it the Christian Sunday… and thus the pagan Sunday, dedicated to Balder, became the Christian Sunday sacred to Jesus.” Catholic World, March 1894, p. 809
“Of course, the Catholic church claims that the change was her act, and the act is a mark of her ecclesiastical power.” Faith of our Fathers, Cardinal Gibbons
“Sunday is a Catholic institution, and its claims to observance can be defended only on Catholic principles… From the beginning to the end of Scripture, there is not a single passage which warrants the transfer of weekly public worship from the last day of the week to the first.” Catholic Press (Sydney) August 25, 1900
“If Protestants would follow the Bible, they should worship God on the Sabbath Day. In keeping the Sunday they are following a law of the Catholic Church.” Albert Smith, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, replying for the Cardinal in a letter dated February 10, 1920
The reason why Christians have worshiped on Sunday is due to the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus rose again on the first day of the week, and as a commemoration of that, Christians have gathered together on that day since the days of the apostles.
The author of the Hebrews talks about this, and Jesus himself said in Matthew 11:28–30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest.” Ultimately, Christ is our Sabbath rest, and we enter into him by faith.
The earliest believers began gathering together on Sunday because they recognized that they had entered into Christ, the Sabbath rest. You can see this in various places of the Scriptures, such as Acts 20 and 1 Corinthians 16. From the very beginning of the church, the apostles of our Lord Jesus himself gathered together on Sunday, because they’ve entered by faith in Jesus into that Sabbath rest.
The Catholic Church claimed the authority to change scriptural principles
The Catholic Encyclopedia states that the Church changed the day of rest from the Jewish Sabbath to Sunday by the right of the divine, infallible authority given to her by her Founder, Jesus Christ.
Augustine’s proclamation that all glory of the Jewish Sabbath was transferred to Sunday was made around the year 400. Other Catholic authors have made it quite apparent that only their church’s authority supports Sunday worship and ceremonies, not biblical principles.
According to The Catholic Virginian from 1947, people who thought they had the power to alter biblical principles—rather than Jesus Christ or the Apostles—were the ones who changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.
According to Thomas Aquinas, the New Law substituted the observation of the Lord’s Day for the keeping of the Sabbath. These instances demonstrate that it was individuals who thought they had the right to alter biblical principles—not Jesus Christ or the apostles—who changed the Sabbath.
The Origin of Sunday Worship: sun worship
Constantine was the first so-called “Christian” Roman emperor. Though he did stop much of the persecution of Christians as a whole, it seems he did more to introduce sun worship into Christianity than any before him.
Historian Paul Johnson details some of this influence: “Constantine was almost certainly a Mithraic, and his triumphal arch, built after his ‘conversion’, testifies to the Sun-god, or ‘unconquered sun’. … Constantine never abandoned sun worship and kept the sun on his coins. He made Sunday into a day of rest, closing the lawcourts and forbidding all work except agricultural labor” (A History of Christianity, 1976, pp. 67-68).
So, a royal decree to rest and worship on Sunday instead of Saturday was made by the Roman emperor, a sun worshipper. Now, thanks to Constantine, Christians were celebrating on the same day the Mithraic worshipped the sun. This is a blatant example of pagan influence in Christian practices.
Christians, now holding services on the venerable day of the sun, became so confused in their worship that, during the reign of Emperor Julian, Johnson notes: “The Bishop of Troy told Julian he had always prayed secretly to the sun” (p. 67). Thus Christianity took on a major facet of pagan sun worship that lives on today due to Constantine’s influence: worshipping on Sunday.
Anti-Semitism and the rejection of the Sabbath
The shift to Sunday was brought about by an anti-Semitic movement in post-apostolic periods. Christians were instructed to work on the Sabbath, not rest on it, by the Council of Laodicea in 365 A.D. At the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., Constantine also emphasized his dislike of adhering to Jewish traditions. Christians desired a different day for relaxation and worship, so they established Sunday.
– Sunday has been seen as the lords Day since the lord resurrected on Sunday.
– All of Jesus’ eight appearances to his followers after his resurrection were on the first day of the week, making it a holy day to the early Church.
– the church has always worshiped on Sunday even in the apostolic times 1corint 16:2.
– the church defines Sunday- the first day of the week as a day the lord has made, and the lord is the Sun of righteousness and should be worshiped on the sun day Malachi 4:2. We have Jesus not only being called the Sun of Righteousness, the one who is the s-u-n, the sun, but he is also the dawn, or the day spring, or the orient, the beginning of the day, and therefore he is connected to the day because he is the dawn of the new day in which the light shines.
Do traditions of man nullify the Word of God?
The Sabbath was never changed from Saturday to Sunday by Jesus Christ or the apostles. Sunday became the day of rest and worship for mainstream Christianity through the Catholic Church claiming authority to overrule Scripture, through pagan influences and anti-Semitism.
Those who try to base their Christianity upon the teachings of Christ and the apostles should know the history behind what happened to Saturday and then ask one question based on Mark 7:8-9. Am I following Christ or the tradition of men?