Why Sunday?

Lions With Commandments

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I had a conversation with a good friend of mine regarding the observance of worship on Sunday as opposed to Saturday. My friends main concern over the move of worship to Sunday was that it might present a hindrance to Jews accustomed to meeting on Saturday. I would say not Jews only but any other religious group that meets on another day might find it difficult to make the shift from one day to another. Also many people including my friend are of the persuasion that the shift from Saturday to Sunday occurred later in Christian history and was likely more politically motivated then Biblicly or Spiritually motivated. I can truly appreciate these concerns which prompted me to consider the origins of the Church’s shift to Sunday.

I had read the first couple volumes of the Ante-Nicene Fathers about five years ago and also a book called the Church of the Catacombs in which I remember statements about Sunday being made. I have also heard some sermons in the past where a pastor gave arguments for Sunday. I had not really given it much thought or consideration until my conversation. I still have the copies of the Ante-Nicene Fathers in PDF format and so I opened them up and did some searches and I also did some searches online. I came up with the following quotes.

If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death — whom some deny, by which mystery we have obtained faith, and therefore endure, that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Master — how shall we be able to live apart from Him, whose disciples the prophets themselves in the Spirit did wait for Him as their Teacher? And therefore He whom they rightly waited for, being come, raised them from the dead. – St Ignatius (30 – 107 AD), Letter to the Magnesians, Ch9, P126 (The Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1, A. Roberts and J Donaldson)

And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week]. Looking forward to this, the prophet declared, “To the end, for the eighth day,” on which our life both sprang up again, and the victory over death was obtained in Christ, whom the children of perdition, the enemies of the Savior, deny, “whose God is their belly, who mind earthly things,” – Barnabas (100-150AD), Epistle of Barnabas, Ch9, P127 (The Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1, A. Roberts and J Donaldson)

But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and JesusChrist our Savior on the same day rose from the dead. For He wascrucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day afterthat of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to Hisapostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we havesubmitted to you also for your consideration. – Justin Martyr (110-165AD), First Apology (150AD), Ch 67, P344 (The Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 1, A. Roberts and J Donaldson)

For the Jewish feasts are the Sabbath and “the Purification,” and Jewish also are the ceremonies of the lamps, and the fasts of unleavened bread, and the “littoral prayers,” all which institutions and practices are of course foreign from your gods. Wherefore, that I may return from this digression, you who reproach us with the sun and Sunday should consider your proximity to us. We are not far off from your Saturn and your days of rest. – Tertullian (145-220AD), AD Nationes, Book 1 CH13, P224 (The Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 3, A. Roberts and J Donaldson)

The most interesting to me are the earliest quotes from St Ignatius who was a disciple of John and the Bishop of Antioch and Justin Martyr who was a disciple of Polycarp and Polycarp was another disciple of John and the Bishop of Smyrna addressed by John in Revelations. The first quote is pretty much in the First century and the second quote in the middle of the second century. Additionally some of the quotes themselves are addressing the reasons for why the early church and it appears with the apostles endorsement chose Sunday for worship.

Further there is evidence in the Bible itself for the change.

Romans 14:5-9 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Colossians 2:16-17 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

These two passages show Paul calling for us not to judge one another about the day itself because the most important thing is that their be a day on which the focus is to honor the Lord Jesus. Further he says that these things are “mere shadows” or symbols that have a spiritual meaning. The weight then seems to be taken off the day and placed upon the meaning. These passages are not saying that since Jesus has come and made atonement that we now have nine commandments not ten. They are affirming the significance of the principle and purpose of the day.

Revelations 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet

Corinthians 16:2 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.

In Revelations we find John noting the Lord’s day. The question is which day would be associated with the Lord Jesus? The tradition of Jesus dying and then subsequently rising on Sunday goes back to these writers in the first century so it must be more then a tradition. Sunday is most likely the day Jesus rose. It would seem logical to conclude that the Lord’s Day likely means the day the Lord Jesus rose. Then in 1 Cor 16:2 Paul calls the Christians to take up an offering on the first day of the week. Paul doesn’t tell them to gather together to take this offering so he must have presumed that they were already gathering together on this day.

Then going back to Romans 14:5-9 and Colossians 2:16-17 passages prioritizing meaning and the concept of the sabbath being a symbol or shadow. The number 7 in Hebrew is Shevah its root meaning is “To be Full, Satisfied” and the number 8 in Hebrew is Sh’moneh its root meaning is “To Super-Abound, Having abundantly more then needed”. So if we consider Christ’s resurection on Sunday to be an 8th day then it makes spiritual sense in the realm of the Kingdom of God. God created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh having provided for man all that was sufficient. Then God again provides with Jesus Christ above and beyond what is sufficient so the day subsequent to Saturday being an 8th day would symbolically align with Christ’s death and resurrection as being God’s Super Abundant provision above and beyond and that this would then even be a transition to Sunday that God would have intended.

I know many have concerns about this transition being a road block for some coming to Christ. But again looking back at Romans 14:5-9 . As an example if we take the Membatu tribe in Africa whos esteemed day is Monday lets say and this person is presented with Christ and accepts Christ. If he can then going forward turn away from his misconceptions of God and see and honor Christ on that day then more power to Him. But if his historic view of God keeps encrouching on that day or on his brother’s then it would be best to turn and esteem another day so that Christ will be honored as He is. The gospel and conversion are a stumbling block and foolishness as scripture says and Salvation is not just believing for even the daemons believe and tremble but it is a calling of people to be broken on that rock and to become fools and to follow Christ. Only an answer to that calling is one that will save.

The physical artifacts of the manuscripts are pretty much conclusive that the day was turned to Sunday with the approval of the Apostles based upon the date of the manuscripts and the relation of the authors to the apostles. Further looking at the spiritual symbolism it would seem that a strong case for God intending it to be so could be made. But God also calls us not to place stumbling blocks or hinderences (Romans 14:13) in the way of a brother. Churches in or near Jewish or Muslim communities would be well served to consider having a service on Saturday if by any chance this might make Christianity more available.

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About Devin Adint
I have always had many interests; technology, science, philosophy, theology, politics, history, etc... Currently, life for the past twelve years has placed me in the area of technology fulfilling roles in System Administration and Architecture. But I have always been involved in the local church and enjoy researching and discussing issues of theology, philosophy, history and politics...

3 Responses to Why Sunday?

  1. marcusmaxis says:

    you might find this educational in your search for truth on Saturday vs Sunday.

    http://marcusmaxis.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/the-history-of-sun-day-worship/

    • Devin Adint says:

      There are several issues with the assertions regarding the link between Sunday and Satan. The first is that who exactly Nimrod was is very much lost in history and is given over to much speculation and folklore. There are dozens of ancient documents identifying him as this king or that in Mesopotamia. Some scholars believe he may be Gilgamesh, other the father of Gilgamesh. Some say he started the worship of idols while others say he rejected the worship of idols and moved north to found cities in opposition. One story in the Talmud has him throwing Abraham in a furnace from which Abraham emerges unscathed.

      The second issue is that when Abraham left UR of ancient Mesopotamia for Canaan the land was already polytheistic and the primary god was the moon god. The gods of this region and others (Egypt, Greece and Rome) have always shifted in popularity. One scholar commented that they swapped deities like baseball cards. The fact that Constantine early in his life identified himself with Sol doesn’t mean that it was so through-out the empire and through-out Roman history. In fact at the Areopagos Paul quoted a Greek Philosopher who was identifying with the transcendence of God though the philosopher was speaking in terms of the greek god Zeus. It is also interesting to note that Mohammad came from polytheism himself and when he ran across the idea of monotheism he chose Allah which was a somewhat generic term for god but was commonly used to refer to the moon god in Arabia.

      Further these deities had their own days. It is not just one day that you can say was associated with idols. The Bible says that we know that behind idols are daemons. But even further back before this God created on each day and called each day good. So ultimately each day is God’s. For example Saturday was given over to the god Saturn but that doesn’t mean Saturday is no longer a good day to worship the true God. Any day is a good day to worship.

      The fact that there are manuscripts earlier then Constantine show that the move predates him. The only thing notable under Constantine was that his grandmother was a professed Christian and because of her Christians started to be protected. Later when he accepted it as a state sanctioned religion he made certain proclamations but it appears that their observance predates these proclamations. The proclamations just made it politically formal.

  2. Paul says:

    I would say that if it were true that Sunday was a day of worshiping Satan, then Christians have redeemed the time by refusing Satan and worshiping Christ. I don’t see that as a problem. So if anyone does anything evil does that mean that evil wins and we can never touch it? So we must stop singing and playing music, after all, look what has happened with wickedness celebrating evil in song, stories, or anything else for that matter. No rather we stand up and speak against it and redeem the times.

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