A great deal of argument has been made throughout the history of the church as to which day of the week should be the Christian day of worship.  In the Old Testament era, the Lord instituted the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, as a day of remembrance and rest.  Most Christian churches throughout history have observed Sunday, the first day of the week as a day of worship.





The first gathering of the disciples following the resurrection took place on a Sunday (John 20:19).  It was at that time that Jesus revealed Himself to all of the apostles save Thomas.  A week later they were again gathered together and again Jesus revealed Himself to them on the first day of the week (John 20:26).


The first meeting of the church took place on a Sunday.  This was on the day of Pentecost.  That feast took place 50 days after the seventh Sabbath of the Feast of Firstfruits (Leviticus 23:16).  This means that the Feast of Pentecost ALWAYS took place upon the first day of the week.


Both Christ’s resurrection and His Spirit’s descent took place on the first or “eighth” day of the week.  It is significant to look at the seventh day and eighth day rituals of the Old Testament.


Seventh Day Rituals

Eighth Day Rituals


Fulfilled in Christ’s death and 7th day rest in the tomb.


Fulfilled in the Resurrection and the resulting giving of His Spirit


Feast of Unleavened bread

Sabbatical Year

1st and 8th day of the Feast of Tabernacles



Just as all the Old Testament “seven-day” rituals — the Saturday Sabbath, the Passover, the Sabbath year, etc. — were fulfilled in Christ’s death and seventh-day rest of death in the tomb, so too were all the Old Testament "eighth-day" rituals — circumcision, the first day of the unleavened bread, the first and the eighth days of the Feast of Tabernacles, the feast of trumpets on the first day of the month, all ritual cleansings on the eighth day, the jubilee year and of course the fiftieth (7 x 7 + 1) day of Pentecost — precisely fulfilled in Christ’s new life on Resurrection Sunday the first day of the week and in Christ’s outpouring of His life-giving Spirit on the first day of the eighth (7 + 1) week after the Passover, Pentecost Sunday.


Paul indicates in his epistle to the Corinthians that they were to put aside a special offering on the first day of every week.  This necessarily assumes that the Corinthian Christians were already meeting together on the first day of every week.


Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2  On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).


The fact that this was a collection by the church and not merely individual savings accounts in view is seen that the entire purpose for this command was so that no collections be made when Paul finally did come.


The only two references to the specific day on which the church met (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2) place that meeting on the first day of the week.  There is not a single instance anywhere in the New Testament where we read of the church meeting on the Sabbath day.


When Paul came to Troas, he deliberately remained there seven days so that he could meet with the church.


On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight (Acts 20:7).


The purpose of this gathering was for the breaking of bread, but that did not actually take place until after midnight, because his message was prolonged.  The passage goes on to say that after they did eat, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left (Acts 20:11).


There are some who want to say that this meeting took place on Saturday evening after the sun had set, thus marking the beginning of a new day which could have been classified as “the first day of the week.”  However, the passage goes on to add that he was “intending to leave the next day” and that he actually did depart at “the break of day.”  This disproves the Saturday evening theory, for then the passage would have said that Paul was ready to depart on that same day rather than on the next day.




Possible the earliest post-Biblical documentary testimonial to Sunday worship is the Epistle of Barnabas written between 70-100 A.D.


            Finally He saith to them; Your new moons and your Sabbaths I cannot away with. Ye see what is His meaning ; it is not your present Sabbaths that are acceptable [unto Me], but the Sabbath which I have made, in the which, when I have set all things at rest, I will make the beginning of the eighth day which is the beginning of another world. 9 Wherefore also we keep the eighth day for rejoicing, in the which also Jesus rose from the dead, and having been manifested ascended into the heavens. (Translation by Lightfoot — Epistle of Barnabas 15:8-9).


This is explicit to point out that it was the habit of Christians to keep the eighth day for rejoicing as opposed to those present Jewish Sabbaths that were considered to be unacceptable.


Justin Martyr gives this testimony in the second century: And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. (First Apology 67).


The Epistle to the Magnesians was written by Bishop Ignatius of Antioch some time before his martyrdom in about 107 AD. only eleven years after his friend the Apostle John had written of “the Lord's day” (he kuriake hemera) in about A.D. 96.  Writing to the Magnesians, Gentile converts to Christianity living in Asia Minor near the Colossians whom Paul had previously warned against forced Saturday sabbath observance, Ignatius asks the rhetorical question of the Jewish converts to Christianity:  “If those who walked in the ancient practices have attained unto newness of hope, no longer observing sabbaths (meketi sabbatizontes), but fashioning their lives after the Lord’s day (alla kata kuriaken zontes), on which (day) our life also rose through Him and through His death which some men deny—a mystery whereby we attained unto believe, and for the cause we endure patiently, that we may be found disciples of Jesus Christ our only teacher—if this be so, how shall we be able to live apart from Him?” (Epistle to the Magnesians 9).


A bit further, he continues his exhortation:


            Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; for "he that does not work, let him not eat."  For say the oracles, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread." But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. 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. 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 Saviour, deny, "whose god is their belly, who mind earthly things,"who are "lovers of pleasure, and not lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof."  (Epistle to the Magnesians 9).


Notice that Ignatius specifically distinguished between the observance of the Sabbath versus the Lord’s Day as that which was observed as the eighth day.


Emperor Constantine’s statute of 321 A.D. did not inaugurate Sunday worship at all, but was merely a civil enactment to guarantee Sunday as a public day of rest to his subjects who had been observing Sunday for countless years beforehand





Paul warns against judging others over non-essentials and he specifically uses the example of the observance of days to make his point when he says:  One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. (Romans 14:5).  While it can be established that Christians throughout history have generally adopted a Sunday worship as an ongoing memorial of the resurrection of Christ, we ought not to pass judgment upon those who regard a different day upon which to worship.


About the Author

Return to Stevenson Bible Study Page