The First Day of the Week

Some say that Christ nailed the Sabbath (Shabbat) to the cross; therefore, we do not need to keep or observe it. But, did Christ actually nail the Sabbath to the cross and eliminate the necessity for his followers to observe the Sabbath on a fixed day of the week?

If Christ did this, we should see those who continued to follow his teachings after his death and resurrection cease to worship on the seventh-day Sabbath, begin to worship God on another day of the week, or discontinue to formally worship altogether. In order to prove that the Sabbath was not nailed to the cross, it is important to find out which day his followers were keeping as the Sabbath after his death and resurrection.

Sabbath to Sunday?

Although the word Sunday does not appear in the Bible, the expression "the first day of the week" and the "first of the week" do appear in the New Testament. If any biblical authority exists for changing the seventh-day Sabbath to Sunday, it would have to come from the scriptures that refer to the first day of the week. But what do these texts truly say about this subject?:

"In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week" (Matt.28:1 Para.). The Good News Bible translates this verse, "After the Sabbath, as Sunday morning was dawning ."

The Book of Matthew was written about 50 A.D., which was about 19 years after the New Testament Church was started on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). It is written in this text that three days after the death of Jesus, the first day of the week (Sunday) still followed the Sabbath (the seventh day of the week), or the Sabbath was still the day before the first day of the week:

"And when the Sabbath was past . . . very early in the morning of the first day of the week, they came to the sepulcher at the rising of the sun" (Mk.16:1-2 Para.).

Mark's version of the gospel was written about 68 A.D., which was about 37 years after the New Testament Church began. Notice that he first said the "Sabbath", he said then "the first day of the week."

"Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them" (Lk.24:1 Para). 

Here, the first day of the week is mentioned again, but there was no mention of worship. In fact they had actually come to work after resting on the Sabbath: "And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment" (Lk.23:56 Para.).

The Book of Luke was not written until approximately 60 A.D., about 30 years after the New Testament Church was founded. Notice that the seventh day of the week was still documented as the Sabbath.

"The first day of the week came Mary Magdalene early, when it was dark, to the sepulcher, and saw the stone taken away from the sepulcher" (Jn.20:1 Para.).

Here, the first day of the week is mentioned, but without any reference to worshiping on this day.

"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and said to them, Peace be to you" (Jn.20:19 Para.).

Some would say that verse 20 refers to a church-meeting on the first day of the week? But, is this true? To understand this scripture, the whole chapter must be read with the knowledge that a biblical day consists of a period of time starting about sunset and ending about sunset the following day (Gen.chp.1).

The fact that, during the time of Jesus' trial and crucifixion, all of his followers abandoned him and were afraid for their lives is also necessary for understanding this scripture. Even after Jesus' death, they were afraid of the Jews and had fled to this place and bolted the doors. There is no mention of a church service here. What we do see here is a group of Christ's followers who are in hiding for fear of being harmed by the Jews.

Surely, if the Sabbath had been changed, one of the gospel writers would have mentioned it somewhere in his writings. But this is not the case. Not one of them even remotely indicates that the seventh-day Sabbath had been moved to Sunday, the first day of the week.

Shortly after the New Covenant church began, we see its members attending formal worship services at the temple and getting together to eat meals:

They continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their food with gladness and singleness of heart" (Acts 2:46 Para.).

Breaking Bread

"And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread" (Acts 20:7 Para.). See also Acts 20:11. 

Was this a Sunday morning church service? Let's examine this scripture closely and see what we find. A short review of other scriptures tells us that the expression "break bread" meant to eat a meal, and not to partake of the "Lord's Supper."

The event in Acts 20:7 most likely took place in April of 58 A.D., which was at least 20 days after the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. As noted in verse 6, this was not a Passover or the Lord's Supper as some call it. This event was an ordinary meal on the first day of the week, and Paul preached during and after the meal. Even if it had been a formal preaching service, does this verse contain any indication that the Sabbath day had been changed from one day to another? Again, the answer is no!

"After eating Paul preached to them, and continued his speech until midnight being ready to depart on the next day" (Acts 20:7 Para.).

Paul began to speak right after sundown, on what we would call Saturday evening. Remember that the Bible counts days as beginning and ending at sundown. Therefore, Paul obviously started to speak soon after sundown and preached until midnight. This is precisely what the Good News Bible says.

Verse 9 states that a young man named Eutychus fell asleep while sitting in a third-floor window and fell out of the window and died. He was subsequently revived by Paul's intervention. And in verse 11, after having eaten, Paul talked until dawn and departed early Sunday morning.

Nowhere did it say Paul went to church services on this Sunday morning. It says he used that Sunday to begin his trip; a trip which would end in Jerusalem before the day of Pentecost. See Acts 20:16.

In Acts 20:13, Luke wrote that he and some others went ahead and sailed off to Assos where they were to take Paul aboard. Paul went to Assos by land, and as Luke says in verse 14, Paul met them in Assos and they took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. We know that Paul had been at Troas (verse 6) and preached all night on the night we call Saturday night; then, he left and walked to Assos on Sunday. This walk would certainly have taken about a day to complete, because it is approximately 19 ½ miles from Troas to Assos where he was met by Luke and the others. Instead of Paul attending a church service on this particular Sunday, he walked all day.


Another place where the first day of the week is mentioned is in First Corinthians 16:2. But is this reference showing a Sunday church service where they are passing baskets through the congregation and taking up a collection as is the custom in many churches today? 

1.Corinthians 16:1-2 Paraphrased

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do you" (v1).

This describes a collection for the saints and says that the collection is for the elect in Galatia.

"Upon the first day of the week [our Sunday] let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come" (v2).

Here, Paul instructs the church to gather up something on Sunday and have it ready when he comes.

Verse 3 and 4 of chapter 16, shows that they were to appoint men to help him carry the gatherings to Jerusalem, and that whatever they were gathering would be quite bulky and heavy because it was going to take several men to carry it.

What were they gathering? In order to discover what they were gathering we need to review Romans 15:25-28:

"For now I go to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. For it has pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make certain contribution for the poor saints who are at Jerusalem" (vs.25-26 Para.).

The Book of Romans was written around 56-57 A.D. from Corinth. While Paul was in Corinth, the brethren had gathered an offering for the poor saints in Jerusalem who had just lived through the drought of 41-54 A.D., predicted by the prophet Agabus (Acts 11:27-28).

"It has pleased them truly; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in carnal things. When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed them this fruit, I will come again by you into Spain" (vs.27-28 Para.).

In verse 28, Paul says that when he delivered their gatherings of fruit, he would go up to Rome on his way to Spain. The churches in Corinth were gathering up fruit and produce from the field to be delivered to the poor saints in Jerusalem. This is what was referred to in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, not a collection of money during a Sunday church service.


Does the "Lord's day" mentioned in the Book of Revelation have anything to do with Sunday church services? It is clear that these scriptures say that the apostle John was in the spirit on the Lord's day, but what does the phrase the Lord's day mean? 

"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show to his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel to his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand" (Rev.1:1-3 Para.).

Here, Christ is going to reveal some future events for John to record.

"I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet" (Rev.1:9-10 Para.).

John states that he was in the spirit and was projected by the spirit into the time of the Day of the Lord.

Prophecies concerning this particular Day of the Lord can be found in more than thirty places in the Bible. One example is in the prophecy of Zephaniah where this day is mentioned as a day of wrath, trouble, distress, and destruction. See Zeph.1:1-18.

Through a vision, John was projected into the future, and Christ revealed to him what was going to take place at the end of the age.

The word revelation means to reveal. Christ revealed the future to John, and John recorded it in the Book of Revelation. Thus, we can plainly see that this scripture has nothing to do with worshiping on a certain day of the week; it has to do with a prophecy for the future.

Even though the first day of the week is mentioned in seven out of the eight texts we have reviewed, there is not a formal Sunday worship service mentioned in any of them, and there is nothing mentioned in any of these texts which show the first day of the week being observed in the place of the seventh-day Sabbath. Therefore, we can conclude that these scriptures do not justify the replacement of the seventh-day Sabbath with the first day of the week as a day for worshiping God.

By B.L. Cocherell       b5w10