You’ll never guess what happened on Sunday. I think you’ll be surprised to discover some of the great events of the Bible that took place on Sunday, and just what God says about “the day after the Sabbath”!
1. The SDA Challenge
1.1. Are we wrong to worship God on Sunday?
Is there any warrant for worshiping God on Sunday? Recently the churches of Vanuatu have been challenged to find just one verse that supports the practice of worshipping on Sunday. Never mind the historical fact that for nearly 20 centuries the church of Jesus Christ has met on Sunday for teaching, preaching, prayer, worship, and fellowship… But is there any biblical support for the practice of worshipping on Sunday?
On the other hand, is this a major issue that could put one’s salvation in jeopardy? I mean, is it true that by meeting to worship God on Sunday, that instead of truly worshipping God in spirit and truth, we are somehow worshipping the sun, because it’s SUNday? Would that then mean that people who worship on SATURday are actually worshipping the planet Saturn? Is it true that worshipping God on Sunday is blasphemous? Is it true that this is the mark of the beast?
Wow! Those are some fantastic remarks made about the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Is God really upset that people would worship him on a Sunday? Is it true that our salvation is so fragile that it depends on worshipping on a certain day? Is salvation something that we do for ourselves by worshipping on a certain day of the week? Is salvation something that we do, or something that was done for us by Christ’s death on the cross?
Christians who know the Word of God will not be intimidated or shaken by these scare tactics. We know that the message of the gospel was not the preaching of the Sabbath but the preaching that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross for our sins and was literally, physically raised from the dead that we might be right with God through faith in his Son.
We have spent the last several weeks showing what the Scriptures teach about the Sabbath, the Law, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the kingdom of God.
We have seen that
- the Law pointed to Christ who completely fulfilled the Law.
- that the work of Christ on the cross is a complete and finished work.
- that Christ is the end of the Law for everyone who believes.
- that our salvation does not depend on keeping the Sabbath.
- Rather, our salvation is secure in our Savior Jesus Christ.
1.2. Just One Verse
One of the tactics used is to challenge listeners to find just one verse in the Bible that says that we are to worship on a Sunday. Money is often offered by such groups to anyone who can find a verse that speaks of worship on Sunday. When no one responds, everyone is convinced that it must be wrong to do right on Sunday. As we have seen, this sounds so very much like the Pharisees who found wrong in all the good works that Jesus did on the Sabbath. We are told that worship is a matter of observing the calendar, that what God real wants is for us to get the day right.
The Christian churches of Vanuatu could also ask our friends who have raised the question, “Please show us one verse in the New Testament that shows that believers have to keep the sabbath.” No gat. There is not one single verse in the New Testament that tells believers to keep the Sabbath.
Now, it is not my purpose to make enemies. I would like to help people to see the truth of God’s Word. I would even hope to help those leaders who have been deceived and who are now deceiving others. I hope that you can sense that my desire is not to divide but help those who through grace have believed the good news of what Jesus Christ has done for us (Acts 18:27-28).
We have seen that there are many commandments for New Testament believers. Jesus has clearly instructed us to make disciples of all peoples everywhere and to teach them to obey all that he has commanded us. But as we read through all the commandments of the New Testament, not once are we ever told to keep the Sabbath.
I should point out here that obeying God’s Word is not how we are saved. We are saved by what Christ has done for us, not by what we do for him. Obedience flows out of love and joy for what he has done for us.
So there are commands in the New Testament, but never a command to keep the Sabbath.
On the other hand, there are also many lists of various sins that the believer will avoid, but breaking the sabbath is never listed. In fact, we are told not to let anyone judge us about the Sabbath for it is only a shadow; the reality is Christ.
2. Shadow and Reality
We have seen in previous broadcasts that the Old Covenant was a shadow of the New Covenant. I want to look more closely at some of the shadow because the shadow points to the reality.
In Leviticus 23, Moses gives a detail description of the appointed feasts of the LORD (Leviticus 23:2, 4).
- The Sabbath Lev 23:3
- The Feast of Passover Lev 23:5
- The Feat of Unleavened Bread Lev 23:6
- The Feast of Firstfruits Lev 23:10
- The Feast of Weeks Lev 23:15.
- The Feast of Trumpets Lev 23:24
- The Day of Atonement Lev 23:27
- The Feast of Booths Lev 23:34
I want to consider two of these feasts: the Feast of the Firstfruits, and the Feast of Weeks (also known as the Feast of Pentecost).
2.1. The Feast of the Firstfruits
We read about the Feast of the Firstfruits in Leviticus 23:9-11.
Leviticus 23:9-11 ESV And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, 11 and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.
Let us well notice that the Feast of the Firstfruits was to take place on the day after the Sabbath. This feast took place right after the Feast of Passover, on the day after the Sabbath of the Passover.
Let me underline that it took place not on the Sabbath, but on the day after the Sabbath. Verse 11 says that the priest,
shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.
We all know that “the day after the Sabbath” was a Sunday. God prescribed that the Feast of the Firstfruits was to take place on a Sunday.
This offering of firstfruits took place at the beginning of the harvest and signified Israel’s gratitude to and dependence on God.
We have a further description of this feast in Deuteronomy 26.
Deuteronomy 26:1-11 ESV “When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, 2 you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there. 3 And you shall go to the priest who is in office at that time and say to him, ‘I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our fathers to give us.’ 4 Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the LORD your God. 5 “And you shall make response before the LORD your God, ‘A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. 6 And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor. 7 Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8 And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. 9 And he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O LORD, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the LORD your God and worship before the LORD your God. 11 And you shall rejoice in all the good that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you.
Notice exactly what God says the Israelites were to do on that Sunday after the Passover. Verse 10 says that they were to present the firstfruits of the ground which the LORD had given them. “And you shall set it down before the LORD your God and worship before the LORD your God.” Here is a shadow of the reality that was to come. They were to worship the LORD on a Sunday.
The Feast of Passover had taken place just days before the Feast of the Firstfruits. The Passover commemorated the time when God had delivered the Israelites out of Egypt. For 400 years the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt under the rule of Pharaoh. A Passover lamb had been slain for each family. The blood of the lamb had been painted on the doorposts of every home. The angel of death had been sent to kill the firstborn of every family in Egypt, but when the angel saw the blood of the lamb on the doorpost, he would “pass over” that home, sparing the firstborn child. That night the Israelites were delivered from Egypt (Exodus 12:1-13). All of this pointed to the Lamb of God who would be slain on a hill called Calvary in order to deliver us from Satan’s rule and the slavery of sin.
In celebration of this great deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites were to present the firstfruits of their crops and to worship the LORD, the first day after the Sabbath of Passover. It happened on a Sunday.
- Every year
For 1,446 years
- From the giving of the Law
Until the coming of Christ
And until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit
- The Jews were commanded to celebrate the Feast of Firstfruits and to worship the LORD
- The day after the Sabbath of the Passover.
It happened on a Sunday, “the day after the Sabbath.”
It happened on a Sunday and pointed to that great event that the New Testament tells many times took place on “the first day of the week”: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This was the Feast of the Firstfruits and it pointed to Christ, the firstfruits of the resurrection:
1 Corinthians 15:20 ESV But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 15:23 ESV But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
Romans 8:23 ESV And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
So Christ is the firstfruits of the our future resurrection. The firstfruits came first; the full harvest came weeks later. Christ’s resurrection was first; our resurrection is still future, but both Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection are part of what the Bible calls “the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5-6). The Feast of the Firstfruits took place “the day after the Sabbath.” It happened on a Sunday. The Feast of the Firstfruits pointed to the resurrection of Christ that would take place on Sunday, “the first day of the week.”
Just how important is the resurrection of Christ? The Scriptures tell us that if Christ had not been raised from the dead, then our preaching would be in vain, and your faith would be in vain. We would still be lost in and would perish (1 Corinthians 15:14-19).
Again and again, the New Testament emphasizes that this most important event took place on Sunday, after the Sabbath, on “the first day of the week”:
Matthew 28:1 ESV Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
Mark 16:2 ESV And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.
Mark 16:9 ESV [Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.
Luke 24:1 ESV But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.
John 20:1 ESV Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
All these events of the resurrection day took place on Sunday, the first day of the week.
John 20:19 ESV On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
- It was on a Sunday that the Lord arose from the grave (Mark 16:9).
- It was on a Sunday that He appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:1).
- It was on a Sunday that He walked and talked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-31).
- It was on a Sunday “when he was at table with them, [that] he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them (Luke 24:30 ESV).
- It was on a Sunday that the ten apostles and others had gathered in the upper room (John 20:19).
- It was on a Sunday that the resurrected Christ appeared to them in the upper room (John 20:19).
- It was on a Sunday that He gave the great commission “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21 ESV).
- It was on a Sunday that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22 ESV).
It happened on a Sunday.
It happened on a Sunday, but Thomas was not there. It was a eight days later — count them: 1 – Sunday, 2 – Monday, 3 – Tuesday, 4 – Wednesday, 5 – Thursday, 6 – Friday, 7 – Saturday, 8 – Sunday — It was on a Sunday that Jesus chose to appear again to his disciples, this time Thomas was with them:
John 20:26 ESV Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
It happened on a Sunday. And it had been prefigured in the Feast of the Firstfruits. God had specified that Feast of the Firstfruits was to take place on “the day after the Sabbath” of Passover. God had commanded that the Feast of the Firstfruits would take place on a Sunday and that the Israelites were to worship God and thank Him for delivering them from slavery in Egypt. God had said that it was to take place the day after the Sabbath because he was going to raise his Son from the dead on the first day of the week, not the last day of the week. It would be a new beginning. A new creation. And it happened on a Sunday.
2.2. The Feast of Pentecost
Back in Leviticus 23, immediately after the instructions about the Feast of the Firstfruits, God gave instructions about another shadow, the Feast of Weeks, that would point to another reality. The Feast of the Firstfruits took place on a Sunday at the very beginning of the harvest. That Sunday was the starting point for the count to the Feast of Weeks.
Leviticus 23:15-16 ESV “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the LORD.
Two times in these two verses, the phrase “the day after the Sabbath” is used. In verse 15, “the day after the Sabbath” refers to the Sunday when the Feast of the Firstfruits took place. The Israelites were to count seven full weeks from the Feast of the Firstfruits from that Sunday to the “day after the seventh Sabbath.” Seven full weeks were counted to the Feast of Weeks. Verse 16 says, “You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath.” The Feast of Weeks was fifty days after the Feast of the Firstfruits. The Greek translation of this Old Testament verse uses the word πεντήκοντα (pentêkonta, Leviticus 23:16 BGT). That is where we get the word “Pentecost.” The Feast of Weeks was the Feast of Pentecost. It was a time of great celebration as the harvest was brought in.
Deuteronomy 16:10-11 ESV Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. 11 And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God…
They were to rejoice before the Lord. It happened on a Sunday, “the day after the seventh Sabbath.”
- Every year
For 1,446 years
- From the giving of the Law
Until the coming of Christ
And until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit
- The Jews were commanded to rejoice before the LORD on Sunday, the Day of Pentecost,
- The day after the 7th Sabbath after the Feast of Firstfruits.
It happened on a Sunday, “the day after the 7th Sabbath” for nearly 1,500 years.
The Feast of the Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks. The Feast of the Firstfruits pointed to the resurrection of Christ on a Sunday, “the first day of the week.” Then, from Resurrection Day, seven full weeks were counted. Fifty days until “the day after the seventh Sabbath.” A Sunday. The Day of Pentecost.
Acts 2:1-4 ESV When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
It happened on a Sunday.
- It was on a Sunday that “there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind.”
- It was on a Sunday that “divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.”
- It was on a Sunday that 120 disciples “were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
- It was on a Sunday that they “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
- It was on a Sunday that a great multitude of devout Jews from “every nation under heaven” heard the disciples telling in their own languages “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:5, 11).
- It was on a Sunday that the Apostle Peter preached to the Jews at Jerusalem that God had raised Jesus up from the dead and exalted him to the right hand of the Father and that he, Jesus, had pour out the Holy Spirit on the disciples, on a Sunday (Acts 2:33).
- It was on a Sunday that Peter gave the invitation to those who heard him, telling them to repent and to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38).
- It was on a Sunday that 3,000 people received Christ, were baptized in water and were added to the church (Acts 2:41).
It was the beginning of the Church. It was the Feast of Pentecost, a harvest celebration, and what a harvest of souls it was!
It happened on a Sunday.
3. Sunday and the Early Church
It was for this reason that with time and the more the church spread beyond Jerusalem that Christians began meeting on Resurrection Day. Sunday.
3.1. The Church in Troas
In Acts 20, on Paul’s third missionary journey, we read that the Christians in Troas met on the first day of the week.
Acts 20:6-7 ESV …we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days. 7 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.
Though Paul was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem (Acts 20:16), Paul and Luke waited in Troas for six days until the first day of the week when the believers met. They met. They broke bread together, meaning that they celebrated the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion together. And Paul preached to them.
And it happened on a Sunday.
3.2. The Church in Corinth
We read in 1 Corinthians 16, that the church at Corinth met the first day of the week.
1 Corinthians 16:2 ESV 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.
The churches took special offerings every Sunday for the church in Jerusalem.
OBJECTION: Some think that Paul was telling the believers to simply be systematic and put an offering aside every week in the privacy of their own homes.
ANSWER: IF THAT WERE THE CASE…
- It would not matter what day of the week they collected it. Paul specifically tells them to put aside their offerings and to store them up “the first day of every week.”
- If the families were simply putting aside an offering in their homes, there would still have been a need to collect it when Paul came. But he had specifically instructed them to collect the offerings “so that there will be no collecting when I come”
3.3. The Churches of Galatia
Paul founded the churches of Galatia during his first missionary journey. These churches were in the cities of Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Derbe, and Lystra. These churches also met on the first day of the week. Note again what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 ESV 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.
So Paul had instructed the churches of Galatia to set aside an offering on the first day of every week.
3.4. The Lord’s Day
God had ordained that the Feast of the Firstfruits and the Feast of Pentecost take place on “the day after the Sabbath,” i.e. on a Sunday. Those feasts pointed to the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which took place on a Sunday. Instead of meeting to worship on the Sabbath, the churches began meeting on the day of the Lord’s resurrection. The day of the Lord’s resurrection soon became known as the Lord’s Day. We read in Revelation 1:10,
Revelation 1:10 ESV I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet…
The Apostle John was worshipping the Lord. He was in the Spirit on a Sunday, the Lord’s Day. The Lord Jesus met him and revealed himself to John, and revealed to him The Book of Revelation.
It happened on a Sunday.
4. The Testimony of the Early Church Fathers
The early Church Fathers, those first Christians who left us their testimony of life in the early church, confirm that the church met on the Lord’s Day and not the Sabbath.
4.1 Ignatius of Antioch lived during most of the first century and into the second century.
He was a student of the Apostle John. Ignatius describes Christian believers as those who…
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…
He goes on to say,
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].
4.2 Justin Martyr lived from A.D. 110 to 165. This is what he says about Sunday:
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 Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.
The FIRST DAY of the week was the day set apart for special worship by the saints of God, LONG BEFORE CONSTANTINE WAS BORN, OR THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH WAS KNOWN.
What shall we say then to these things? Is Sunday the Christian Sabbath? No, it is not. Nor is Saturday.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 2:16 not to let anyone trouble you or pass judgment on you concerning the Sabbath. It was only a shadow. Christ is the reality.
Will keeping the Sabbath save you? No. Neither will going to church on Sunday. Someone said that if a mouse lives in a cookie jar (biscuit jar), it won’t make him a cookie. Going to church on a Sunday will not make you a Christian. It will not save you. Nor will going to church on the Sabbath. That is not the gospel. It is not the teaching of the New Testament. It is a different gospel that is not the gospel at all.
Christ alone can save you. Do not put your trust in anything you can do. Put your trust in what Christ has done. He died on the cross to take the punishment for your sins and to set you free from the power of sin. Do not reject him who calls you to put your trust in him alone.
 Duane A. Garrett, “Feasts and Festivals of Israel” in Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, p. 250.
 Epistle Of Ignatius To The Magnesians, “Chapter IX.–Let us live with Christ.”
 Justin Martyr, First Apologia – “Chapter LXVII.—Weekly worship of the Christians.”
 Maurice Nicholson, “Disproving Seventh-day Adventism.”
See also “Seventh Day Adventism”:
- Sabbath Day Controversies
- The Old and the New: Two Testaments, Two Covenants
- The King Has Come!
- Law and Sabbath, the Old and the New
- It Happened on a Sunday!
- Are we lawless Christians?