“Why do Christians meet on Sunday?”
“Scripture never mentions any Sabbath (Saturday) gatherings by believers for fellowship or worship.”
That is not true!
If you are like me, you have read this claim in blog posts and books; or listened to sermons and teachings with this declaration made – with great confidence and certitude.
It’s one of those untruths that become “facts” because they are repeated so often. I call this sound-bite theology. It doesn’t originate in the pews; it comes from men and women who ought to know better! It’s the common kind of falsehood repeated ad nauseam by teachers in the church.
I can confidently say this is not true, because the evidence is all over the Apostolic writings! The evidence is overwhelming in the Word of God.
For our example, we are looking at the article on the Q-and-A site GotQuestions.org. The site answers thousands of questions relating to the Bible, many inaccurately.
The question was, “Why do Christians worship on Sunday?”
As part of their answer, they categorically state, “Scripture never mentions any Sabbath (Saturday) gatherings by believers for fellowship or worship.” I am going to correct that falsehood, using the Scriptures, below.
First, I think we should note the first sentence: “Most Christians traditionally worship on Sunday.” This is in fact a fully accurate statement! It is by tradition that Christians moved from keeping the Fourth Commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” because “the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD (YHVH) thy God.”
Does the Bible command Sunday or Sabbath?
There is only one day in Scripture that God set apart as holy and commanded to be kept: the Sabbath. Nowhere in the Gospels and Apostles is there any commandment to no longer keep the Fourth Commandment, to keep another day holy or to replace the Sabbath with another day of rest. This is recognized by theologians and scholars because it is that obvious in the Scriptures. Worshiping on Sunday developed over time by tradition; not by any commandment found in Scripture.
This is affirmed in GotQuestions’ answer when they say, “It is very important to remember, though, Sunday worship is not commanded in the Bible.” True again!
The main point of the article seems to be to affirm that the Sabbath is not kept by the apostolic era saints and that Sunday is, therefore affirming Sunday-keeping as having it’s origin in the practice of the Apostles, despite no command by them or the Lord to do so. It’s a rationale for keeping tradition rather than a commandment of God, the Lord of the Sabbath.
The article, however, contains more than one gross inaccuracy. People make mistakes, but this article has been up for 15 years, time enough to correct it.
The best thing to do is leave the presuppositions at the door, dump the urge to defend “my” doctrine at all costs and just teach the truth (facts) in humility.
Defending a practice using falsehood, does not honor God or truth.
The truth is that believers in the Messiah, Jesus, the Savior, did worship on the Sabbath and in synagogues throughout the era from the cross to the closing of the canon and for centuries beyond, before the establishment authorities passed so many laws with grave punishments that it naturally became a minority practice to this day.
The best thing for GotQuestions to do would have been to acknowledge this fact and then just explain how things changed and why it was biblical change. If it is biblical, this should not be a problem.
It could go something like this: “We see early believers meeting in synagogue on the Sabbath but that eventually changed because …”
To the Scriptures:
We know from the Scriptures that the Torah and the Prophets were read every Sabbath day in the synagogues.
- Act 13:27 KJV (all Scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.
For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.
We know that it was the “manner” or “custom” of both Jesus and Paul to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath to hear the Scriptures, pray and preach the Gospel.
- Luke 4:16
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures. …
And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.
Paul just followed his Master’s ways.
Before Paul’s repentance, he was zealous for persecuting the Body of Christ. He terrorized the disciples of Messiah. At that time, where were they meeting and when?
Paul testified that he persecuted the assembly (εκκλησια/church) in the synagogues where they worshiped on the Sabbath. And the chronicle of his ministry after his repentance also bears witness to the truth of Sabbath and synagogue worship by the first saints – both contradict this oft repeated false teaching.
Let’s go to Paul’s accounts.
Prior to his repentance, Paul was zealous for the Lord in actively persecuting the saints in throughout the empire including Jerusalem, Judaea, Galilee, Samaria and other cities.
- 1 Corinthians 15:9
For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church (called-out assembly) of God.
For ye have heard of my conversation/conduct in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church (called-out assembly) of God, and wasted it:
Concerning zeal, persecuting the church (called-out ekklesia/assembly); touching the righteousness, which is in the law, blameless.
Who was Paul persecuting? The εκκλησια (ekklesia), which is the “called out assembly of God.” This word refers to people in a gathering. Centuries later, the Teutonic or Germanic word for a building, the church, began to be used in the Germanic lands as they were evangelized. This became the English word, church, used today. But around the world, the word for “assembly” is still used for the assembly or people of God: French, l’ église; Spanish, la iglesia; Latin, ecclesia; Irish, eaglais, etc. all use the biblical word, εκκλησια (ekklesia), for the people of God. It means assembly.
The assembly, εκκλησια, met in the synagogues (a building) every Sabbath to hear the Word of God. Just like today in every church, those meetings would be comprised of a mix of people who are saved and those who are not yet receiving Messiah.
The same word is used for the people of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. The nation of Israel were the saints, the assembly (εκκλησια) in the Exodus and throughout all of Scripture.
So, when we read Paul’s testimony saying, “I persecuted the church of God,” in our English Bibles the real word there in the Greek is εκκλησια, assembly, we can be misled into thinking he was persecuting people who are meeting in a church on Sundays. He wasn’t.
Here is Stephen’s confession that we all know so well:
- Act 7:38
“This is he [Moses], that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.”
Were all the churches (ekklesias) “in Christ”? No, some were, some were not. For instance:
- Galatians 1:22
And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:
1 Thessalonians 2:14
For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus. …
He is referring to churches that are “in Christ,” while others are not “in Christ.” Some churches (assemblies/εκκλησια) had not received the good news yet and were not “in Christ.”
Remember, the Teutonic/Germanic/Anglo-Saxon word church (the building) did not replace the word “assembly” or “congregation” until centuries after the resurrection and the canon was closed.
To give you assurance of what I am saying, I am going to provide much more Scripture.
- Act 8:1, 3
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church (the called-out assembly) which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. … As for Saul, he made havoc of the church (the called-out assembly), entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this Way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
The people who Paul was seeking were members of the assembly meeting in the synagogues who worshiped on the Sabbath.
Continuing this same story, Jesus calls out to Paul:
- And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. … (Acts 9:3-5)
Who was Paul persecuting according to Jesus? Paul was persecuting him, Jesus/Yeshua! By him he meant his body, the εκκλησια, the assembly of God – translated in English/German as “the church.”
And he is the head of the body, the church (the assembly-εκκλησια) (Colossians 1:18).
What happens next?
- Act 9:18-20
And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
What did Paul do after hearing from his Lord? He went right back to where he was persecuting the disciples of Messiah, the εκκλησια, in the synagogues, preaching the message he once persecuted others for believing!
Now, the persecution led by Paul comes to an end. The church (εκκλησια), meeting in synagogues on the Sabbath had rest.
- Act 9:31
Then had the churches (the people, congregations, called out assemblies/ekklesias) rest throughout all Judaea, Galilee, and Samaria and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
Paul gives his testimony before the people in Acts 22 and 26, telling the same story, confirming that the “church” (εκκλησια/ekklesia) he was persecuting, were in the synagogues.
- Act 22:19
And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:
Remember, earlier his persecution campaign was described this way:
- As for Saul, he made havock of the church (the called-out assembly), entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. (Acts 8:3)
(By the way, synagogues were also called house of prayer, house of the assembly, house of study.)
Paul says he beat the “called-out assembly,” the εκκλησια, in every synagogue.
In his great apologia to King Agrippa and Festus, he says again:
- … [A]nd many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled [them] to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. (Acts 26:10-11)
Why did Paul need to obtain authority from the chief priests? Paul was arresting members of the assembly in the synagogues.
So, is it remotely true that, “Scripture never mentions any Sabbath (Saturday) gatherings by believers for fellowship or worship,” like GotQuestions teaches?
Shouldn’t we all be concerned about this kind of teaching, whether we keep the Sabbath or go to church on Sunday? Whether we agree to disagree?
What do you think?
Keep searching the word for yourself, testing all things! Truth matters.
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