Why do most Christians worship on Sunday when the Old Testament commandment sets apart Saturday as the day of worship?
The commandment in Exodus 20:8-11 states that the seventh day of the week, Saturday, is the day which the Lord selected as the day of rest and worship. However, in the New Testament the Christian church began to worship and rest on the first day of the week, Sunday. Are most Christians violating the Sabbath commandment by worshipping on the first day of the week rather than the seventh day? I do not think so.
A Pattern of Rest and Work
The basis for the command to observe the Sabbath, as stated in Exodus 20:11, is that God rested on the seventh day after six days of work, and that God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. The Sabbath day was instituted as a day of rest and worship. The people of God were to follow God's example in His pattern of work and rest.
However, as Jesus said in correcting the distorted Sabbath view of the Pharisees,
“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
The point Jesus made is that the Sabbath was not instituted to enslave people, but to benefit them. The spirit of Sabbath observance is continued in the New Testament observance of rest and worship on the first day of the week.
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.
Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
—1 Corinthians 16:1-2
A shadow of the redemption, a symbol
It must be remembered that, according to Colossians 2:17, the Sabbath was "a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ." The Sabbath observance was associated with redemption in Deuteronomy 5:15 where Moses stated, "Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day."
The Sabbath was a shadow of the redemption that would be provided in Christ. It symbolized the rest from our works and an entrance into the rest of God provided by His finished work.
The New Testament
Although the moral principles expressed in the commandments are reaffirmed in the New Testament, the command to set Saturday apart as a day of rest and worship is the only commandment not repeated. There are very good reasons for this.
By Christ's resurrection on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1), His continued appearances on succeeding Sundays (John 20:26), and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Sunday (Acts 2:1), the early church was given the pattern of Sunday worship.
Sunday worship was further hallowed by our Lord who appeared to John in that last great vision on "the Lord's day" (Revelation 1:10).
It is for these reasons that most Christians worship on Sunday, rather than on the Jewish Sabbath.
Author: Dr. Ron Rhodes of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries.
Copyright, 1999, Ron Rhodes.