When is the Sabbath? Most in the Christian church would answer “Sunday.” But what is the truth? What does Scripture have to say about this?
Most in the Christian Church believe that the sabbath was changed to Sunday. Mostly because of the passage in Acts 20 where Paul is preaching on the “first day of the week.” The story goes on to tell about the young, man named Eutechus, who fell asleep because Paul was speaking for so long that he fell out of the window and died. Read it sometime, it’s interesting.
So, the foundation for the argument made by most is the idea that “Paul did it,” as well as a passage where Paul is writing to a church in 1 Corinthians 16, and he mentions taking up a collection:
1 Corinthians 16:1-2
1 Now concerning the collection for the saints:as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
Certainly, the “first day of the week” is mentioned in this passage, as an appointed time at which to take up a collection to be put away (for safe keeping or some other purpose). But is there any prescription for this to be a new mandate, a replacement for the Biblical command to rest on the 7th day? Is there any mention of why they were to take up the collection on the first day of the week? Aside from what Paul says, “so that there will be no collecting when I come,” no, not really. One would think that if Paul was telling the believers that this was supposed to be the new “meeting time” or “the new Sabbath,” that it would be more clear. Paul is not telling the Corinthians that they should congregate on the first day of the week, simply that they should set aside some money for a collection on that day. This is not too different from the practice of setting aside funds for bills at the beginning of the month. It’s just good advice.
But why not on the sabbath itself? They were definitely still meeting in the temple on a regular basis, so we can’t overlook the fact that they assembled regularly on the Sabbath, so why not prescribe the “offering” then? Most likely because part of the Sabbath command is to “keep it holy,” or as set apart from the everyday norm, since that’s the actual meaning of holy, to be separated or set apart. Deuteronomy 5:12-14 states that we are to abstain from all work on the sabbath. What is work? It is the exchange of labor for wages. Therefore, wages are considered a common thing, not to be dealt with on the Sabbath. Jewish halakhah, traditional observance of the Torah, expounds on this by prohibiting buying and selling at all on the sabbath, because buying and selling is something that is supposed to be completed before the sabbath.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
It is likely that Paul had this in mind – since, after all, he was a devout Jew himself – when he suggested the collection be taken up on the first day.
Another favorite of sunday Sabbath advocates is that the reason the Sabbath was changed to Sunday is because Yeshua rose on the first day of the week. That is hard to both prove and disprove, but instead of using any kind of verifiable scripture to back up this tradition, they point to the passage about Paul teaching “on the first day of the week,” and say that because Paul did it, that makes it right. There is absolutely no explicit mention of anything being changed regarding the sabbath. Where in all of the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah is any mention made of the Messiah changing anything in the Torah? Yeshua Himself even declared that He did not come to do His own will, but that of the Father. What is the Father’s will?
So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.
So did Yeshua come to do anything that was not already established? No! He came to do the will of God, which was so that His people might know Him. Yeshua is God. God is Yeshua. If one does something to contradict the other, they are not one and we should forfeit the whole thing. If Paul instructed his readers to do anything that contradicted the Torah of God, then he is a false teacher, and should be rejected. Paul even exclaims that he upholds the Torah!
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the Torah.
So what are we to do then? Should we uphold the many mistranslations of Paul’s letter as saying that he somehow has some unexplained authority over and above that of Messiah himself? Or should we take Paul’s own words and realize that simply because we are not held to the Torah as a means of salvation does not mean that we throw it out?
What is more, the Sabbath is mentioned 66 times in the Old Testament (in the ESV at least), and every time it is referred to as being on the 7th day, and most of these are attached to a following condemnation or punishment for not observing it as such. Of the 57 times it is mentioned in the Apostolic Scriptures, the majority of times is is in reference to Yeshua or his disciples, or both. Often, Yeshua is being accused of doing something that ought not to be done on the Sabbath, but every time, Yeshua offers a rebuttal to the Pharisee’s accusations based on the Torah itself to uphold the fact that what He was doing was in line with the Sabbath commandment even though it did not line up with the manmade traditions of the Pharisees. I think it is significant that most of the time we see Yeshua healing or doing other miracles, it is on the sabbath. Why would He make a point of doing so? So that we would see that it’s no longer important if we work on the sabbath? If we take that stance and believe that Yeshua was a Sabbath breaker, we agree with the Pharisees, and we condemn Him of transgressing the Torah, and thereby obliterate His sinlessness, and Messiahship. If we agree that He was sinless and did nothing to transgress the Torah, then we have to recognize that everything He did was in an effort to uphold the Scriptures, not change them. Each time He was accused of breaking the Sabbath by healing, He relates the event to an instruction given in the Torah to help even our enemies if they need it on the Sabbath. What good is sabbath observance if you are going to be a jerk while doing it? No. Healing those who needed it, if anything, was required as a part of keeping the Sabbath.
But what if Paul did observe a first-day Sabbath? What are we to do with that? Certainly Paul was an influential author in the Apostolic Scriptures. Why would we ignore a practice that he observed? What would be the harm? Certainly if Paul did it, then it must be okay, right? Or is that kind of thinking the very type that undermines the authority of the Scriptures? Should we follow the advice of a single man simply because he was of proven character? What if what he does contradicts the authority of Scripture itself, as well as that of our Messiah? What are we to do with that? The same thing we would do with a teacher or preacher who either changes or contradicts anything contained in scripture: disregard their teachings and strip them of all authority. Did Messiah observe the Sabbath? Think about it carefully before answering. If yes, then either we are misunderstanding what Paul is teaching and doing regarding Sabbath observance, or he is blatantly disregarding a sacred commandment that even our Messiah observed, and should therefore be removed from Scripture. If Messiah did not observe the Sabbath – specifically on the 7th day – then He cannot be anything other than a false prophet, because we are told in 1 John 3:5 that He is sinless, and what is sin besides disobeying God’s commands, of which the observance of Sabbath is a huge one. If we acknowledge that Yeshua kept the Sabbath holy and observed it on the 7th day, yet we still insist that Paul observed a 1st day sabbath – despite all the warnings given for doing such a thing – then we are observing the traditions of men, something that our Messiah was heartily opposed to (see my previous post)
Let me clarify: I do not believe at all that Paul observed a sunday sabbath. I believe, because he states so very clearly multiple times in his writing, that Paul was a devout Jew, trained up in the Torah, a Jew among Jews. Does that make him a better person? No. Does it give him anymore authority on scriptural matters? I think yes. We in western churches test a person’s Biblical authority based on their training and foundation. Paul was raised studying scripture. He memorized whole books of the Bible as part of his training as a young man. He was likely in the process of earning his smicha when he experienced first-hand our Messiah on the road to Damascus. So should we accept his authority? Absolutely. However, if anything he says or instructs his readers to do contradicts even a single word of Scripture or even a single word from our Messiah, his authority should be thrown out along with all of his writings. If Paul contradicts the teachings of Messiah in any way, they should be discarded. However, I do not for even a single moment believe that this was the case. I believe that Paul was very much in agreement with the whole of Scripture and everything that Messiah did and said. So something must have gotten twisted in our understanding of his writings. If not, then we ought to disregard his writing entirely. Since we cannot do that, we should carefully consider what Paul is actually teaching and doing