After Jesus Christ died on the cross Joseph of Arimathaea, along with Nicodemus, took the body of Jesus, wrapped it in a linen cloth with spices, and laid it in Joseph's tomb. Three days and three nights later, according to the Scriptures, the resurrection occurred. Jesus rose from the grave, victorious over death and sin.
According to the Bible, the resurrection took place on the first day of the week. Luke puts it this way in Luke 24:1-3: "Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus." Further information gleaned from Matthew 28:1 and John 20:1 tells us that the resurrection took place before sunrise.
Now, considering that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to Christianity, it seems reasonable that the early Christians would put some importance on the first day of the week, even meeting that day to worship. But did they?
There are those, most notably Covenant Keepers, Seventh Day Adventists and, before them, Seventh Day Baptists, who claim the early Christians did not worship on Sunday. Some even say it is wrong to worship on the first day of the week rather than the seventh. Many even go so far as to claim that worshiping on the first day of the week is taking the mark of the beast.
Such people claim that there is no evidence in the Bible of the early Christians worshiping on the first day of the week. Instead, they claim that the Roman Catholic Church instituted the change hundreds of years later as a satanic counterfeit of God's Sabbath. In fact, the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, compiled by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and published by Ignatius Press in 1994, claims on page 524, "Sunday is expressly distinguished from the Sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the Sabbath."
But, to be fair, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, never actually refers to Sunday as the Christian Sabbath but as the Lord's Day. In fact, the statement quoted above says that Sunday is "expressly distinguished from the sabbath". However, down through the ages Catholics did become guilty of referring to Sunday as the Sabbath. Protestants carried the term with them when they came out of the Catholic church and passed it down through the years as well. Unfortunately, even some Baptists picked up and passed on the term.
So just what does the Bible say about this subject? Is there any evidence in the Bible of Christians meeting and worshiping on the first day of the week? Is the term "the Lord's Day" synonymous with "Christian Sabbath"? Are Christians required to keep the Sabbath? Will God condemn you for worshipping Him on a Sunday? Just what does the Bible say?
Let's start in Acts 20:7. The Bible says, "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight." In this verse we see the early Christians clearly gathering on the first day of the week. While gathered together they celebrated the Lord's Supper by the breaking of bread and they listened to Paul preach.
Some may object and claim that Acts 20:7 was a special case. They didn't have a choice as Paul was only in town for a short time and was going to leave the next day. However, that wasn't the case at all. The previous verse states that Paul and his companions were there for seven days.
Notice next 1 Corinthians 16:1-2: "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." Here, then, is a command for tithes and offerings to be collected on the first day of the week. A command which only makes sense if the early Believers were in the habit of meeting on the first day of the week for worship. Besides, it follows the Jewish practice of bringing their tithes and offerings when they went into the synagogue to worship on the Sabbath.
Now, if it is a sin for us to worship on the first day of the week, why do we see Paul and the early Christians doing just that? The answer is that it is not a sin! We have liberty in Christ to worship on ANY day of the week. The first day, the last day, and every day in between.
In fact, you see just that in the book of Acts. Acts 2:46-47 says, "And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." And again in Acts 5:42, "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. (Acts 5:42)"
Be that as it may, proponents of Sabbath keeping like to point out that the Bible does say in Genesis 2:3, "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." Furthermore, the Fourth Commandment says, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8)" In fact, the Bible is filled with passages referring to Sabbath keeping.
Well, that is true. However, if you believe those passage forbid Christians to worship on Sundays and compel us to keep the Sabbath instead, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. (Matthew 22:29)"
The Scriptures plainly present the Sabbath as a special sign between God and His Covenant People, the Jews. Exodus 31:12-18 makes it very clear that sabbath keeping is a sign between God and the Jews throughout their generations, "a perpetual covenant" and "a sign between [God] and the children of Israel for ever…"
Christians, however, have entered into a New Covenant with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus "...[botted] out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross... (Colossians 2:14)" "…[h]aving abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances…(Ephesians 2:15)"
If you are still convinced that Sunday worship is sinful, look what Paul has to say about the subject in Romans 14:4-6: "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks."
Nevertheless, some still object. They reach into Revelation 14, claiming that the third angel of Revelation 14 equates Sunday worship with the mark of the beast due to a refusal to keep God's commandments. In doing so, they take Revelation 14:9-12 out of context, grossly misinterpreting and misapplying the angel's message. Again, they do err-GREATLY-not knowing the scriptures.
Revelation 14 is not a record of past events. It is very plainly and evidently a record of future events. It is prophecy of things to come, not history of things which have been. The setting is sometime in the future, after the rapture (1 Corinthians 15: 51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), after the revelation of the Antichrist, also known as the beast (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10), and probably at the midpoint of the Tribulation.
It is then, during the Tribulation, that people are commanded to worship the image of beast and, by extension, the beast himself as God and to receive his mark (Revelation 13:15-18). The mark of the beast, however, will not be gained by sitting in a church service on a Sunday morning. It is a physical mark, based on either the name of the beast or his number, 666, which will be placed on either the forehead or the right hand (Revelation 13:16-18). Furthermore, the message of the third angel in Revelation 14:9-12 makes it clear that the receiving of the mark is an intergal part of worshiping the beast.
To insist that Believers need to keep the Sabbath as the Jews did is to force Believers to live under the Law. However, Romans 6:14 plainly says to Believers, "...for ye are not under the law, but under grace." If we were under the law, then we would be required to keep the whole of the law, not just the Sabbath. After all, Galatians 3:10 says, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."
Consequently, those who insist that true Christians must keep the Sabbath must, if they are to be consistent, keep the whole of the law. But, they do not. In fact, not only do they not keep the whole of the law, they do not even keep the whole of the Sabbath. After all, when is the last time you heard of a Seventh Day Adventist or a Covenant Keeper being put to death for defiling the Sabbath or working on the Sabbath? (Remember, according to Genesis 1:31, the TRUE Sabbath starts at sundown on Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday.)
Exodus 31:14-15 makes it clear: "Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death." By failing to put to death Sabbath breakers, Sabbath keepers are themselves guilty of breaking the Sabbath.
Remember, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:10)" Therefore, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)"
Is it wrong to worship on the first day of the week? No! What is wrong is to corrupt the Word of God and rob Believers of the liberty that they have in Christ and force them to live under the very laws and commandments that they themselves do not keep.
Paul wrote in Galatians 3:23-26, "But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."
To insist that Christians must keep the Sabbath is to insist that they never graduated from the schoolmaster.