When Should I Worship?
Updated: Nov 4, 2018
NOTE: This is a working blog post, which means that it is not entirely finished. As I continue to research this matter, I will edit, change, and rewrite this article. I will also address or incorporate feedback that you, my readers (you can leave comments in the section below this blog post, or reach out to me directly at my email address at email@example.com). If you have any insight into this topic--or suggestions for resources (such as books I should read or webpages I should visit), feel free to share those, as well.
NOTE: This blog post assumes that the Bible in God's Holy and Infallible Word--the ultimate written authority on Earth. For convincing evidence on the veracity and trustworthiness of Scripture, I recommend reading Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ."
BACKGROUND: I was recently reading a fascinating book called "A Bridge Across Time," written by Dan M. Appel. The book is particularly well-written or especially entertaining. Instead, it is captivating simply because it tackles an issue which I have been wrestling with for some time: the Sabbath. The book is written from the perpective of a Seventh-Day Adventist trying to persuade a traditional Christian that the Lord's Day should be observed on Saturday, not Sunday.
At first, this seemed an absurd premise to me--after all, I have been attending church on Sunday for my entire life. But the book brought up several very interesting points which convinced me to look carefully into the matter. The first thing that made me take the book seriously was the following quote from the books' author: "We need to process what we read and hear and ask if what we're being told is really true." If the author himself is encouraging me not to accept his words unquestioningly, then shouldn't I do some research?
Since the book was unapologetically written from a biased perspective, I obtained an NIV Study Bible and a copy of Haley's Bible handbook to aid me in my Bib/e study. Each day as I read the Bible, I research this issue from a different angle, jotting down thoughts, conclusions, and discoveries. You can read what I have found out so far by reading the sections below.
Then, during the Saturday evening service at New Hope Eugene, guest speaker AJ Swoboda spoke about this very topic in a very clear and convicting sermon. You can listen to the message by clicking the previous link, or listening to it on my Soundcloud account.
My investigative notes take the following form: first, a debate-style statement that represents my starting position on this topic. Second, a NUMBER of arguments in support of the opening statement, each of which is followed by a counter-argument that refutes the previous claims. Both the argument and counter-argument are supported by Biblical and external sources. I have provided a narrative throughout this blog post to explain the arguments and their supporting data.
RESOLVED: Sunday is the correct day to set aside for worship.
ARGUMENT #1: The seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) was given to the Jewish Nation only. It had not been kept before Mount Sinai, and was a weekly celebration of their deliverance from Israel.
Supporting Verses: Nehemiah 9:13-14 (the Sabbath was not an official covenant obligation until the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai); Genesis 2:3 (the word "Sabbath" is not sued here, but the Hebrew verb translated "rested" is the origin of the word "Sabbath").
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #1: When God set aside the seventh day as a day of rest after Creation, He must have meant it for all people, as the nation of Israel hadn't even been formed yet.
Supporting Verses: Genesis 2:2-3 (God commanded the Israelites not to gather manna on the Sabbath. That was before Mount Sinai); Exodus 16:29; Exodus 20:11 (This passage quotes the first half of Genesis 2:3, substituting "Sabbath" for "Seventh" and clearly equating the two); Deuteronomy 5:12.
ARGUMENT #2: Jesus abolished the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath at the cross. From that time on, He and the early Christians worshiped on Sunday, in honor of the Resurrection.
Supporting Verses: Colossians 2:13-17; Ephesians 2:14,15
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #2.1: The Bible talks about different kinds of laws--Jesus only abolished the ceremonial laws--not THE law.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #2.2: Jesus didn't abolish the seventh day as a day of worship. In fact, Jesus is The Word, and the The Word was part of Creation, which institutied the Sabath in the first place.
Supporting Verses: Colossians 1:15-18; John 1:1
ARGUMENT #3: The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the greatest event in all of human history--even more than the Creation of the world. Therefore, honoring the Resurrection takes precedence over any celebration honoring Creation.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #3.1: Jesus' very act of Salvation upholds the Law (the Ten Commandments, not necessarily the ceremonial laws, which He fulfilled by dying on the cross). After all, we wouldn't need a Savior if we had no sin, and we wouldn't have any sin if we had no law to break. Therefore, it is critical that the Sabbath be a law that we break.
Supporting Verses: Hebrews 8:6,10 (God wants to write His law on our hearts); Galatians 2:16 (we are not saved by works); Galatians 3:24 (we are justified/saved only by faith); Romans 3:20, 4:15, & 1 John 3:4 ("without law, there is no definition of sin.")
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #3.2: The Bible calls God's law "holy righteous, and good." So why would Jesus abolish it?
Supporting Verses: Romans 7:12 (God's law is "holy, righteous, and good.")
ARGUMENT #4: As Chrisitians, we are not under the old covenant (the Ten Commandments), but under grace and the new covenant.
Supporting Verses: Jeremiah 31:31; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 8-12; Exodus 24:3-8; Mark 14:24; Galatians 4:24; Galatians 3:10; Colossians 2:16-23
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #4.1: The Bible threatens serious consequences for disobeying the Sabbath. Why should we take this lightly?
Supporting Verses: Jeremiah 17:21-24; Exodus 31:12-17
ARGUMENT #5: Jesus restated and confirmed nine of the 10 commandments--but didn't say anything about the Sabbath (I use other New Testament passages as well here, because I assume that those close to Christ would teach what He would have said).
Supporting Verses: Exodus 201-17 & Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (full text of 10 Commandments)
-John 15:9-12 (First Commandment: No idolatry)
-Romans 11:28; John 14:15, 1 John 5:3, Luke 1:50 (Second Commandment: No idolatry)
-Matthew 5:33-37 (Third Commandment: No Misuse of God's name)
-Luke 13:14; Hebrews 4:8-11 (Fourth Commandment: Keep the Sabbath)
-Matthew 15:4 & 19:19; Mark 7:10 & 10:19; Luke 18:20; Ephesians 6:2 (Fifth Commandment: Honor parents)
-Matthew 5:21 & 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9; James 2:11 (Sixth Commandment: No Murder)
-Matthew 5:27 &19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9; James 2:11 (Seventh Commandment: No Adultery)
-Matthew 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9 (Eighth Commandment: No Theft)
-Luke 18:20; Matthew 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 3:14 (Ninth Commandment: No Lies)
-Luke 12:15; Romans 7:7; Romans 13:9; Ephesians 5:3; Hebrews 13:5 (Tenth Commandment: No Covetousness)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #5.1: If we keep all of the other commandments, why would we ignore the Sabbath?
Supporting Verses: Romans 3:23-"We all have sinned"--especially with regards to the Sabbath!"
ARGUMENT #6: God instituted the Sabbath to guarantee that His people would take one day to focus on Him and their relationship with Him. He blessed the act of worship, not one particular day. The Spirit in which the day is kept is more important. We choose to worship on Sunday because most of the Chrisitian wold has set that day aside.
Supporting Verses: John 5:16-17
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #6.1: Jesus was surprisingly unconcerned about "keeping the Sabbath" religiously. So why not worship on Saturday?
Supporting Verses: Luke 6:6-11; Luke 13:14-17; Luke 14:1-16; Luke 13:10; Matthew 12:1-18; Matthew 12:11-12; John 5:1-18.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #6.2: Jesus appeared to people many times on many different days after His resurrection. He didn't always appear on Sunday.
Supporting Verses: Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16; John 21.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #6.3: If it only matters that we worship one day in every seven (not necessarily on Saturday), then why insist upon worshipping on Sunday? Why such a big deal? Becaus it IS a big deal--and no light decision.
Why didn't Jesus "observe the Sabbath" every single day?
Supporting Verses: Revelation 14:12 tells us God's followers will be especially recognized by their faith in Jesus and His sacrifice at Calvary, and a commitment to keeping His commandments.
ARGUMENT #7: Those who worship on Saturday can't really know that it's the correct day. In the thousands of years since Creation, time records have been lost, and the calendar has changed.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #7.1: In all New Testament instances, Paul worships with both the Jewish and Gentily Christians on the seventh-day Sabbath.
Supporting Verses: Acts 13:14; Acts 13:42-44; Acts 16:13; Acts 17:2-4; Acts 18:3-4
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #7.2: God reminded His people at Mount Sinai, in case they had gotten off on the days of the week. The week has never been changed--only the dates.
Some Jews have always been observing the Sabbath, even according to calendars we still have from Jesus' time (find reference). [insert information on date/calendar changes].
Supporting Verses: Deuteronomy 5--Mount Sinai told us to worship by setting aside the SEVENTH day.
ARGUMENT #8: Since we live on a round, constantly-revolving planet, it is impossible for the whole world to keep the same day. Therefore, keeping the Sabbath is impossible.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #8.1: The early Chrisitians met together regularly and broke bread. They "continued"--not started a new tradition. Breaking bread is not the same as Communion.
Supporting Verses: Acts 2:46-47 or 26-27
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #8.2: Paul started preaching on Saturday night (which was actually the start of Sunday, because the Biblical day began at sundown) and preached until Sunday at midnight. But today, that would mean that Paul started preaching on Saturday, not Sunday (because our day system is different, starting at midnight).
Supporting Verses: Acts 20:7
ARGUMENT #9: If Sunday is the wrong day for worship, why hasn't somebody figured it out before this? Or at least, why don't more religious leaders and pastors make an issue of it?
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #9.1: People have made a big deal about it. The Seventh-Day Adventists are just one example of an entire denomination that makes this an important part of their worship.
ARGUMENT #10: If worshiping on Sunday is wrong, God's Spirit would make more people feel guilty and sensitive to the fact. Since He hasn't, it must be OK.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #10.1: I am researching this issue because I feel uncomfortable about it. Therefore, the Lord's Spirit does convict people about this topic.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #10.2: The Sabbath is not a legalistic thing. It is precious time with God that we should treasure.
ARGUMENT #11: The Lord's Sabbath (God's rest at the end of Creation) is not really the same as our human Sabbath.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #11.1: The evil one (Satan) has desperately tried to destroy our time with God, our lives, and our families. He's succeeded with the other two--he's probably succeeded with the third. Why else does everyone have so much success with meeting on Sundays? Probably because there's no resistance from the devil.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #11.2: Sunday was the day the pagans worshipped the sun. Saturday is an observance that honors my Savior, not human beings or traditions.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #11.3: Your wife cares very much that you celebrate (and remember to celebrate) your wedding anniversary on the correct day, and her birthday on the correct day. Why wouldn't God care that you spend time with Him on the correct day? Even something small like the Sabbath can be a big deal, because it represents our loyalty to Him.
Supporting Verses: Mark 2:27-28 says that God gave us the Sabbath as a gift. The Sabbath is for helping people. Isaiah 58 lists many of the types of people in need.
ARGUMENT #12: If we kept the seventh-day Sabbath instead of Sunday, we would be out of step with the world, and be considered a cult. Our credibility and livelihoods would be destroyed.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #12.1: The Lord promises to bless us if we keep the Sabbath--why should we worry about what the world says or does?
Supporting Verses: Isaiah 58:14
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #12.2: Jesus assured his disciples (apostles) that they would be persecuted and suffer many trials in His name. We have been warned that the Christian life won't be easy. Shouldn't we be honored when we are considered worthy of suffering for the Lord?
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #12.3: We don't "fit in" as it is--Muslims worship on Friday, Jews on Saturday, and less than 50% of Americans even claim to be active Christians who worship at all. You wouldn't change your day of worship if you visited a Muslim country or Israel, so it's not about "fitting in," but about "which day is right."
ARGUMENT #13: Sunday is the seventh day of the week. Only western nations end their week on Saturday--the rest of the world start their week on Monday. Therefore, Sunday is the correct Sabbath.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #13.1: That argument contradicts several of the other arguments. For example, it assumes that the Sabbath should be worshiped on the seventh day of the week, whereas the other arguments say worship doesn't have to be on the seventh day. Also, it assumes that we have been able to keep track of time throughout history, which contradicts another of the main arguments.
ARGUMENT #14: Jesus was surprisingly unconcerned about "keeping the Sabbath" religiously. If He was not concerned about it, why should we be?
Supporting Verses: Luke 6:6-11; Luke 13:14-17; Luke 14:1-6; Matthew 12:1-8; Matthew 12:11-12; John 5:1-18
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #14.1: John was in the Spirit on "The Lord's Day." Jesus says He is "Lord of the Sabbath." So therefore, the Lord's day is Saturday.
Supporting Verses: Revelation 1:10; Mark 2:27-28
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #14.2: Jesus observed the Sabbath, just not in the Pharaisaical way. He often preached in the synagogues on the Sabbath. Plus, He "rested" in the tomb on the seventh day of the week, then rose on the first day of the week. That implies that He still observed it, even in the midst of the greatest event in history!
Supporting Verses: Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1; John 20:19
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #14.3: There is no direct Biblical mention of Jesus changing the Sabbath to Sunday.
ARGUMENT #15: The New Testament Chrisitians were urged by Paul to set aside a sum of money for an offering on the first day of the week. Isn't he basically asking them to give a tithe on Sunday?
Supporting Verses: 1 Corinthians 16:1-3
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #15.1: Why do that work (of bartering or trading your tithe for money) on the Holy Sabbath? They probably did it on Sunday because it was the first day after the Sabbath of being back in business again. Sunday was a work day, not a worship day.
ARGUMENT #16: Keeping the Sabbath is legalistic, putting people under bondage just like the Pharisees. Jesus had sharp words for the Pharisees, even though the kept the Sabbath religiously. We should not be like the Pharisees.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT #15.1: Those who are forgiven are not RELEASED from the law--they want to keep the law BECAUSE they are grateful for being forgiven for breaking it. We can't do it by ourselves, however, so we must put our faith in Christ, not good works. The new covenant is an AGREEMENT to keep the law in the Lord's strength--not ours.
Covenants are AGREEMENTS, not laws. The old covenant was Israel's agreement to keep the law under their own power (by trying hard), but they failed miserably (as do we).
Therefore, they had sacrificial laws for obtaining forgiveness for their sins.
We, however, have the blood of Christ to give us grace and mercy. The law does not go away--only our agreement regarding how we are forgiven when we break it.
Supporting Verses: Romans 3:31 says that we UPHOLD the law by faith. The law isn't canceled by faith. 1 Corinthians 7:19--keeping God's commands is what counts. Psalm 119:174 tells us that the law becomes a delight when we have the Lord's promise to support us.
How to keep the Sabbath?
-Read A PAUSE FOR PEACE by Clifford Goldstein.
-Sabbath preparation ideas from Abraham Heschel.
-The Sabbath allows our relationship with God to flourish, and Satan hates it. He will do everything he can to block it.
-Biblical Sabbath is a 24-hour (roughly) period stretching from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. Gather together each evening for worship, prayer, and reverent awe.
-Sabbath is a foretaste of heaven, so we should keep it special.