There are only eight references to the first day of the week in the New Testament. Five of these references have nothing to do with a meeting or gathering of Christians. They simply state that some women were going to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body on the first day, or that Jesus appeared to someone on the first day (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-2; 16:9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1).
The other three “first-day” references are as follows: In John 20:19 the disciples are gathered together on the evening of that same first day of the week. Why were they gathered? Was it for a worship service? No! They were gathered together behind closed doors for “fear of the Jews” (John 20:19)! They were afraid of also being arrested and crucified as Jesus was. In fact, a few verses later, in John 20:26, we’re told that they gathered together again eight days later. That would have been on a Monday. Does that mean the Sabbath was changed to Monday? Of course not!
Christians gather together on various days of the week for different reasons that have nothing to do with the Sabbath. For example: Tuesday night Bible studies, Wednesday night praise and worship services, Thursday night communion services etc. Does that mean that the Sabbath has been changed to Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, simply because a group of Christians have gathered together on that day? Absolutely not! Most Christians would agree that such a suggestion would be ridiculous.
However, that same absurd reasoning is used for the previous “first-day” text, and for the following “first-day” text in Acts 20:7-11. Here we find Christians gathered together to share a meal with Paul on the first day of the week. It says that they had come together to “break bread”. Sunday proponents insist that “breaking bread” indicates that they were celebrating the Lord’s Supper (communion), and, they then insist, that celebrating communion indicates that they were holding a worship service and celebrating the Sabbath on the first day of the week. If there was ever an example of “reading into” a text and stretching a “biblical inch” into a “biblical mile”, this is it. The words “worship” and “Sabbath” are not even mentioned in this passage. And yet, Sunday proponents are trying to use this text to eliminate the Sabbath, which is one of God’s Ten Commandments. This shows how scripturally desperate Sunday advocates are to try to justify their Sunday doctrine. They don’t have one, single, solid, pro-Sunday verse in the entire Bible, so they have to try to “manufacture” verses, such as this one in Acts. If the “breaking of bread” indicates the celebration of communion, as suggested by Sunday proponents, then the disciples were celebrating communion every day of the week, because Acts 2:46 states that they were in the temple and “breaking bread” from house to house “daily”. Therefore, using the logic employed by Sunday advocates, the Sabbath must have been changing from one day to the next as the disciples broke bread each day, which Sunday adherents insist means celebrating communion. Of course, they never refer to this “breaking of bread” passage in Acts 2:46 when they promote their phony “breaking of bread” argument in Acts 20:7, because it would contradict their position. In Scripture, the “breaking of bread” refers primarily to sharing a meal together, not to celebrating communion. In fact, in the Acts 2:46 passage, after referring to the disciples “breaking bread” together, it states that they ate their “food” with gladness. In other words, breaking bread was sharing a meal, not celebrating communion. For the common people in that culture, a meal often consisted of bread. That’s why, when responding to Satan’s temptation in the wilderness, Jesus said that man shall not live by “bread alone”; bread being considered as a primary food staple. Also, when Jesus agreed to stay with the two disciples whom He met on their way to Emmaus in Luke 24:28-31, He “broke bread” for their meal together; bread being a primary food staple once again. Jesus also referred to Himself as the “Bread of Life” in John 6:35, because bread was considered to be the major food staple sustaining life. As you can see, the primary meaning of “breaking bread” in that culture and in Scripture was sharing a meal and eating food together, not celebrating communion. Therefore, it is virtually certain that the disciples were simply sharing a meal together in Acts 20:7-11 as well. And, considering the context of this passage, the probable reason for the disciples gathering to share this meal together was because, as this text states, Paul was going to depart the next day. In other words, it probably was a “farewell dinner”. Churches frequently have farewell parties for important members and pastors. It is also interesting to note that this was almost certainly a night meeting, not a Sunday morning worship service, for Paul speaks until midnight. The bottom line, however, is that there is no mention of any kind of change in the Sabbath day in this text. And, Sunday proponents’ desperate manipulation of this passage is both unbiblical and unjust.
The final “first-day” reference is found in 1st Corinthians 16:1-2. Paul is trying to organize a large donation for the poor Christians in Judea. He has asked all the churches that he has been associated with to participate in this offering. So, he reminds the Corinthians to “lay something aside” for this special offering, “first thing” at the beginning of the week. The word “day” is not even in the original Greek manuscripts. It simply says the “first of the week”. English translators have supplied the word “day”, probably because of their own preconceived ideas concerning first-day worship, and also because there are several instances where other New Testament writers seem to intend to indicate the usage of the word “day”, although they don’t specifically use the Greek word for day.
However, the Apostle Paul’s letters are consistent as to how he uses the words “day” and “first”. In each and every case when Paul wants to say the word “day”, as referring to a specific day, he always uses the Greek word “hemera”. He never omits the word as he does here. If Paul chose not to use the word for “day”, because he obviously does not intend to convey that meaning, why do English translators insist on inserting it anyway?
Also, in all other cases when Paul uses the word “first”, immediately preceding the noun that it describes, or to denote importance, order, place or time, as it would here if the insertion of the word “day” by modern translators is correct; Paul always uses the Greek word “proton” or “protos” for our English word “first”. He never uses the Greek word “mia” for those types of usages, as he does here in 1st Corinthians 16:2. This is another strong indication that Paul does not intend to say the word “day”, and that is why he did not do so. Paul simply told the Corinthians to lay something aside at the “first of”, or in other words, at the beginning of the week. He does not designate a specific day.
Paul even gives his reason for “laying aside” their offering on the “first of the week”. He says so that there will be no collections when he comes. In other words, do it now so it will be ready when I get there. Paul does not mention anything about a church service on Sunday, or about a change in the Sabbath.
To attempt to use any of these eight “first day” verses to authorize changing the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday is obviously incorrect and unbiblical! There are close to two hundred Sabbath references in the Bible. Many of them are stated as a specific commandment from God to honor, keep, obey or rest on His seventh-day Sabbath. There is no comparison between the voluminous biblical authority for the seventh-day Sabbath, and the few unrelated “first-day” texts in the Bible.
Some attempt to excuse their disobedience to God’s Sabbath by claiming that the Sabbath is not specifically repeated in the New Testament. To begin with, the Old Testament is three times longer than the New Testament. You would have to eliminate at least two-thirds of the Old Testament to make it mathematically possible to repeat all of it in the New Testament. In fact, according to this argument, you could completely eliminate the Old Testament, because it would only be “in force” if it’s repeated in the New Testament. And, using this argument would eliminate many beautiful Bible verses and promises in the Psalms and other Old Testament books, because they are not specifically repeated in the New Testament. After all, you must be consistent in applying this line of reasoning. I think most people would rather reject this faulty argument, rather than eliminate half of the Bible.
We must also remember what the New Testament says about the Old Testament. In 2nd Timothy 3:16-17, we’re told that “all” Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for instruction, correction, reproof and “doctrine”. When Paul wrote this, the only Scripture they had was the Old Testament! And, we know that Paul meant the Old Testament because he specifically refers to the Scriptures Timothy had as a “child”, in 2nd Timothy 3:15, which would have been many years before most of the New Testament had been written. So, the Old Testament Scriptures are still to be used for church doctrine in New Testament times, according to the Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy.
Moreover, this argument is not even accurate. There are dozens of references to preaching, teaching and worship services on the Sabbath in the New Testament, but not one, single, specific reference to Sunday worship services. Also, in Luke 4:16, we’re told that it was Jesus’ custom to keep the Sabbath. And, in Mark 2:28, Jesus declares Himself as “Lord of the Sabbath”. Additionally, in the book of Acts there are several references to the Apostle Paul keeping the Sabbath (Acts 13:42-44; 17:2; 18:1-4). In fact, in the Acts 13 reference, Paul invited “Gentiles” to meet with him on the Sabbath! Finally, Jesus even stated that the Sabbath would still be important during the “great tribulation” at the end of the world (Matthew 24:20-21). In my article titled, “Great Tribulation Period”, on this website, I biblically prove beyond question that the “great tribulation” mentioned by Jesus in this passage, pertains to the end of the world, not the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Others try to eliminate the Sabbath by saying that it was only a “symbol” of our “rest” in Jesus, and that Jesus fulfilled that rest. However, there is no specific Bible text that actually states that the Sabbath was only a symbol of our rest in Jesus. In fact, the Sabbath commandment does not point “forward” to some future rest, but rather points “backward” to remember and honor God as Creator. Also, it is significant that, in Hebrews chapter four, where adherents to this argument try to establish their case, there is actually an interesting “twist” in the Greek language, which suggests the perpetuity of the Sabbath. After repeated references to the “katapausis” rest (spiritual rest) that we receive in Jesus, it almost seems as if God is trying to make sure that we don’t misunderstand this text and disregard His Sabbath, by reminding us that, even after receiving that “katapausis” rest (spiritual rest) from Jesus, there still also remains a “sabbatismos” rest, which literally means a “Sabbath rest” or “keeping of a Sabbath”, for God’s people (Hebrews 4:9). In other words, the observance of a Sabbath rest continues.
There is not a single verse in the entire Bible that blesses or sanctifies the first day of the week, such as God did with the seventh-day Sabbath; there is not a single text that commands us to keep or honor the first day of the week, such as God also did regarding the seventh-day Sabbath; furthermore, there is not a single scripture that states that the Sabbath was ever changed from the seventh day (Saturday) to the first day (Sunday).
Most “fair-minded” and reasonable people would certainly agree that if a Bible was handed to someone from another culture, who had never heard of either Saturday or Sunday worship; then asked him to read the Bible from the opening book of Genesis through the final book of Revelation, in which he will find close to two hundred references to the seventh-day Sabbath that endorse, command or bless its observance, while not reading one single passage that endorses or commands first-day observance; then asked him which day of the week that he should honor, based upon the Bible alone; that his response would unquestionably be the seventh day, Saturday! It would be an absolute “no-brainer” for any previously unbiased and “unbrainwashed” reader. When you eliminate the non-inspired input from other books and from finite, fallible human beings, the Sabbath issue becomes “crystal clear”. Scripturally, there is only one day of the week that God commands us to honor and keep, the seventh-day Sabbath, Saturday.
The Sabbath issue, from a biblical standpoint, is an “open and shut case”. How open and shut? Our church ran several ads in the “Minneapolis Star and Tribune” and “Minnesota Christian Chronicle” newspapers, in which we offered $10,000.00 to anyone who could produce just one Bible text that specifically states that the Sabbath has been changed from Saturday to Sunday. No one has ever come forward to collect the money.
To find out how and when the Sabbath was officially changed from Saturday to Sunday, and who was responsible for this change, read my article titled “Sabbath” on this website. My “Sabbath” article also lists all of the 18 excuses/reasons given for disregarding God’s Sabbath, and presents dozens of scriptures which totally refute each of these excuses/reasons beyond the shadow of a doubt.