Why church on Sunday?

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Why does the vast majority of Christianity go to church on Sunday to worship God? Those who study the Bible know that the Old Testament sanctions SATURDAY, based on the fourth commandment, as the day God commanded people to rest and worship him. But again, why SUNDAY?

The answer boils down to a belief that the early New Testament church somehow CHANGED the day of rest God himself initially made (Genesis 2:1-3). If this is the case, then we should find amble proof of it in the Bible.

Where is it in the New Testament?

Even if we searched day and night we would not find ANYWHERE in God's word any statement that clearly teaches God changed His day of rest and going to church to Sunday. We also would not come across any statements by Jesus that God has and would require a NEW day of rest for those who believe in Him. Our search would also lack ANY teaching of the apostles that specifically names the first day as the new Bible Sabbath. One of the primary ways used to justify such worship is to show that what occurred in the early church on this day MUST mean they had some sort of worship service on it, thereby confirming the change in days.

So, let us take a look at the places where Sunday shows up in the New Testament to see if this day became the new worship day. Unfortunately, according to Strong's Concordance, the word "Sunday" never appears. Those who wrote in the first century A.D. did not refer to the days of the week like as we do (e.g. Monday, Wednesday, etc.). They referred to it by the phrase "first day of the week." Our study will be relatively brief since this phrase occurs only EIGHT times in the entire New Testament.

When did Mary first visit Jesus' tomb?

The first reference to Sunday in the New Testament is in the book of Matthew:

"Now after the SABBATH, as the FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK began to dawn (the original language word for dawn means drawing toward and does not refer to the time just before sunrise), Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb." (Matthew 28:1)

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Another translation of this verse gives a clearly picture of what it means:

"Now late on the Sabbath, as the first day of the weeks was DRAWING NEAR . . ." (Holy Bible in Its Original Order, Second Edition)

Days in the Bible did not begin at midnight as they do today but ran from SUNSET to SUNSET. The seventh or Sabbath day ran from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.

What does Matthew 28:1 tell us? It states that two "Marys," about the time the Sabbath was ending (Saturday evening) went to check on Jesus' tomb. The logical time sequence of this verse actually confirms that a Biblical Sabbath observance occurred from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday after Jesus died. There is no support here whatsoever for going to church on Sunday, since THIS visit to the tomb happened Saturday night!

The second reference we will look at is in the book of Mark:

"Very early in the morning, on the FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen." (Mark 16:2)

Mark is merely noting that certain women visited the tomb early Sunday. Our third reference is also found in the book of Mark.

"Now when He rose early on the FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene . . ." (Mark 16:9)

Notice what is NOT stated in this verse. It does not call the first weekday a Sabbath nor does it label it the 'Lord's Day.' There is not a word here that says it should be hallowed or that it should now be a holy day dedicated to God. Absent is also any command to even memorialize the day each year like is done with Easter.

Did the disciples WORK on a first day?

Another example of a "first day" reference is found in the book of Luke.

"Now on the FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices . . . " (Luke 24:1)

This is a very interesting Bible verse. It simply states certain women came very early on the first day (Sunday) to Jesus' tomb, bringing with them spices they made for his body. Jewish tradition was to anoint the body of the dead with myrtle, aloes, and possibly hyssop, rose-oil, and rose-water. But WHY didn't the women anoint the body of Jesus right after they prepared the spices on Friday? Luke gives us the answer. Anointing the body was considered WORK which the Bible says should not be done on the Sabbath. The women finished their preparations likely in the late afternoon and, since sunset was approaching (which began the weekly Sabbath), they rested "according to the commandment" (Luke 23:56). God's Sabbath ran from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. The first chance they would have, after the Sabbath, to anoint the body in the light of day was Sunday. Note, however, the obvious. The women WORKED on the first day, work that could not have been done between sunsets on Friday and Saturday. The book of Mark was written in 42 A.D., some twelve years after Jesus' death and ascension. Yet at this time we find not only a confirmation that God's Sabbath was still in effect, but also that SUNDAY was considered just another workday! There is no HINT in these verses that such an important command like the day to worship God had CHANGED so early in church history!

Was the resurrection being celebrated on Sunday?

Another unique reference to the first day is found in the book of John.

19. Afterwards, as evening was drawing near that day, the first day of the weeks, and the doors were shut where the disciples had assembled for fear of the Jews . . . (John 20, HBFV)

Was the early church celebrating the Sabbath on this day? Were they gathering to commemorate the death of Jesus that had just occurred a few days before? No! They gathered in a certain place and shut the door out of FEAR of the Jews who had just arranged Jesus' murder!

Did Paul hold Sunday services?

7. Now on the first day of the weeks, when the disciples had assembled to break bread, Paul preached to them and because he was going to leave in the morning . . . 8 And there were many lamps in the upper room (Acts 20, HBFV)

This certainly seems like a Sunday worship service with Paul preaching the message. Note, however, that the apostle spoke when he did because he would leave the assembled group IN THE MORNING - Sunday morning. Paul was giving this message late on a Saturday (notice that lamps were needed in the room). He wanted to teach and encourage this group of believers in Troas as much as possible before he left to continue his missionary journey.

Were collections taken during services?

Let us look at the final location in the New Testament where the term "first day" is used.

1. Now concerning the collection that is being made for the saints . . . 2. Every first day of the week, each one is to put aside food at home . . . (1Corinthians 16:1-2)

Notice that the above verse does NOT mention a collection being taken up for the ministry or for evangelism. This is NOT a freewill offering made in order to help the local church pay its bills. Things were collected for the SAINTS. What was being collected? Not money but FOOD! What was happening was that Jerusalem and Judea were suffering from a terrible drought. In such conditions money, which you obviously cannot eat, matters little. What matters the most is FOOD! Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to help their poor suffering brethren in Judea. Paul also mentions this relief effort to the church in Rome (Romans 15:25-26, 28).

In conclusion

The Bible does not contain a shred of evidence that shows that God, Jesus or early New Testament leaders CHANGED the day of worship from what it was in the Old Testament. People today generally worship on Sunday because 'that is what their church does.' They are unaware that the Bible does NOT support worship on the first day of the week. They are also unaware of church history, and how the interplay of the Roman Empire, Jews and religious politics led to worshipping God on Sunday. We highly suggest reading the book From Sabbath to Sunday, which delineates from the Vatican's own libraries how the Catholics changed the day of worship because they THOUGHT God gave them the power to do so!

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