The New Testament was written almost entirely by Jews. With the exception of Luke, the New Testament writers were Jewish, as were almost all of the individuals mentioned in the gospels, including and especially Jesus of Nazareth. The movement Messiah founded was viewed as the full flowering of Judaism and the fulfillment of centuries of Jewish aspirations. Teaching and prayer meetings were held on the 7th Day or on the Sabbath.
The Hebrew word ("šhabbat", שַׁבָּת, Strong's H7676) means "the [day] of rest (or ceasing)", as it entails a ceasing or resting from labor. The institution of the Old Testament Sabbath, a "perpetual covenant ... [for] the people of Israel" (Exodus 31:16-17-NRSV), was in respect for the day during which God rested after having completed the Creation in six days: Genesis 2:2-3, Exodus 23:12, Isaiah 56:6-8
SABBATH & THE SCRIPTURES
"And by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done" (Genesis 2:2).
When God the Creator of the universe had finished creating the heavens and the earth, the moon, the sun and the stars, the living creatures of the sea, the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, after He had created man in His own image He rested.
"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus 20:8-11)
THE SABBATH AT THE JERUSALEM COUNCIL
In the great Christian council of c. A.D. 49, in the presence of the apostles and thousands of disciples, James calls it the "Sabbath day" (Acts 15:21). At this very important council, Sunday should have been mentioned, if it had been decided upon as the new day for worship. But this did not happen.
SABBATH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
GENTILE MEETINGS ON SABBATH
In Acts 15:1-2,14-21 we read that "Certain men had come down from Judaea to Antioch, teaching that the Gentile converts there must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses to be saved. Quite a dissension arose between them and Paul and Barnabas. So it was decided Paul and Barnabas should go to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about the question.
"... For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath Day." (verse 21).
The Torah, The law of Moses —which is the first five books of the Bible — was being taught in the synagogues every Sabbath Day. The apostles were communicating only these decrees, because Gentile converts were attending meetings on the Sabbath Day. They had heard God's Law read and expounded every Sabbath in the synagogues and did not need further instructions. It shows that the Gentile converts were keeping 7th Day Sabbath. The apostles letter did not reprove them for this Sabbath-keeping. This is very significant, since Gentiles had not previously kept Sabbath. Therefore it is something these Gentiles had started doing after they were converted under the teaching of Paul and Barnabas!
SABBATH IN PHILIPPI
And "we were in that city abiding certain days. And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by the river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, and when she was baptized."
Paul and his companions waited until the Sabbath, and then went to a place of worship, and preached, and this woman, probably a Gentile, was converted. The passage indicated it was the custom to meet there on the Sabbath, and that it was custom for Paul and his companions to go to a place of prayer and worship when the Sabbath day
In Acts 16:12-15, we see Paul and Silas at Philippi keeping Sabbath. And "we were in that city abiding certain days. And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a riverside, where prayer was wont to be made, and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened and she was baptized."
Here again Paul and his companions waited until the Sabbath, and then went to a place of worship, and preached, and this woman, probably a Gentile, was converted. The passage indicates it was the custom to meet there on the Sabbath, and that it was custom for Paul and his companions to go to a place of prayer and worship when the Sabbath day came.
"Now concerning the collection for the Saints, as I have given order to the Churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first of the Sabbaths, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gathering when I come." (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)
THE APOSTLE PAUL KEPT THE SABBATH
The Apostle Paul kept Sabbath. Scripture records that he held eighty-four meetings on the Sabbath (Acts 13:14, 44; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4, 11). In all their accusations against Paul, the Jews never charged him with disregarding the Sabbath. They would have done so, if he had not faithfully kept it. In contrast, regarding Sunday, Paul taught the Christian believers that they should do their secular business at home on that day (1 Cor 16:2). Why would he do this if the first day were to be sacredly observed? This is the only time in all his writings that Paul ever mentions the first day of the week. In Acts 18:1-11, we see that "After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; and found a certain Jew named Aquila with his wife Priscilla and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tent makers. And he reasoned in the synagogue each Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks."
The Apostle Paul worked on the weekdays, but went to church and taught Gentiles as well as Jews every Sabbath.
"But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and sat down. And after the reading of the Law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on." (Acts 13:14-15, 42-44)
Then Paul stands up and preaches the gospel to them. "And when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath" (verse 42). Since Paul was preaching "the grace of God" (verse 43), here is his opportunity to explain to these Gentiles that the Sabbath was done away. But he does no such thing.
BELIEVERS ARE NOT UNDER OBLIGATION TO EMPEROR CONSTANTINE OR CATHOLIC BISHOPS
The first 300 years following the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Messiah, there was a marked rise in anti-semitism, as Gentile bishops vied for a position of authority over the followers of Jesus Christ. One would think there would have been a healthy appreciation for the Messianic Jewish believers in whose hands the Lord entrusted His church. But as the Apostle Paul himself warned that "after his departure" false doctrine would continue to be a battle, false apostles arose to deceive many.
In Acts 20 Paul met with the elders from the church at Ephesus, urging them to "take heed to yourselves and to all the flock." (20:28). He then warned "that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves" (20:29-30).
The New Advent Dictionary states the following: Sunday (Day of the Sun), as the name of the first day of the week, is derived from Egyptian astrology. The seven planets, known to us as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon, each had an hour of the day assigned to them, and the planet which was regent during the first hour of any day of the week gave its name to that day (see CALENDAR). During the first and second century the week of seven days was introduced into Rome from Egypt, and the Roman names of the planets were given to each successive day. The Teutonic nations seem to have adopted the week as a division of time from the Romans, but they changed the Roman names into those of corresponding Teutonic deities. Hence the dies Solis became Sunday (German, Sonntag).
There was no limit to the strategies, devices, clever manipulation, and outright persecution directed against the people of God.
Period of no record (100-150 AD), events are obscure. Apostasy occurs during this time.
From 60 AD to 135 AD
was a period of intense anti-Jewish sentiment. Roman literature and law condemned Jews and especially their Sabbath keeping. Roman armies crushed Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple about 70 AD.
Gave an extermination order to kill Christians and Christians moved into catacombs .
The Romans crushed a second Jewish revolt led by Bar Kokeba. Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD)
Outlawed Judaism and Sabbath keeping. Professing Gentile believers of Jesus Christ under a tirade of anti-semitic intimidation, found it dangerous to observe Sabbath and Jewish festivals.
To avoid problems, Christians began to hold Sunday meetings immediately after midnight and this led to the belief that Christians were responsible for most of the problems that occurred at night. Christians refused to go to the games, chariot races, and gladiators.
Marcus Aurelius people blamed the Christians and their lack of loyalty to the Roman gods as the cause of the famines and plagues of the period
Septimus Severus attacked the Christians throughout the empire as non-believers in the state religion
313 AD: Emperor Constantine issues the Edict of Milan
Legalizing Christianity in the Roman Empire March 7,321 AD - Roman Emperor Constantine declares Sunday a civil Holiday "Let all the judges and town people, and the occupation of all trades, rest on the venerable day of the sun". This was not for the sake of Christians but for the Sun god worshipers, of which Constantine was the state religious head. In the article "Sunday," The Encyclopaedia Britannica, seventh edition, 1842, says: "It was Constantine who first made a law of the proper observance of Sunday; and who, according to Eusebius, appointed that it should be regularly celebrated throughout the Roman Empire."
325 AD: Constantine convened the First Ecumenical Council in the city of Nicea.
The Jewish Passover (14 th of Nisan) is changed to Easter Sunday. "Easter" was the name for the pagan goddess of the dawn celebrated during the spring equinox. In the second century, St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor journeyed to Rome to confer with Pope Anicetus regarding the disagreement over the proper date for the celebration of Pascha. Neither was able to convince the other, and they decided that the two practices could coexist. I included this example to show that other non-Biblical changes were linked to anti-Semitism and paganism
364 AD Council of Laodicea
The Roman Catholic Church, made laws forcing all Christians to work on the Sabbath or be anathema. This was fostered by the non-Jewish part of the church, which held deep-seated anti-Jewish views. "Christians must not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honoring the Lord's Day, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be Judaizing, let him be anathema from Christ" (as quoted in A History of the Church Councils, by Charles J. Hefele, Volume 11, p. 316).
431AD: The Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus
condemns the Nestorian heresy and approves the veneration of the Virgin Mary as Theotokos (God-Bearer or Mother of God). The Nestorians go into exile in the Persian Empire and become the Assyrian Orthodox Church of the East. This shows the progress of heretical ideas.
“He (Constantine) sent to the legions, to be recited upon that day (Sunday) a form of prayer which could have been employed by a worshiper of Mithra, of Serapis, or of Apollo, quite as well as by a Christian believer. This was the official sanction of the old custom of addressing a prayer to the rising sun.” Victor Duruy, History of Rome, Vol. 7, page 489.
SABBATH KEEPING IN THE FUTURE
But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath-day. (Matt.xxiv:20)
Even with their present distress which they were forced to endure, believers in the Messiah, Lord Jesus Christ, kept Sabbath. Fleeing the Roman Persecution God's people kept Sabbath. Speaking of the persecution to come forty years after the new covenant was in force, Jesus prayed that their flight would not be on the Sabbath. (See Matthew 24: 20)
The Prophet Isaiah states that all mankind will come to worship God every Sabbath. In chapter Isaiah 66: 22-23, the writer of Hebrews in chapter 4: 9, states that there is a Sabbath rest for all of the people of God. Have they all entered this rest? The answer is no. The Sabbath Day prefigures the rest of salvation, ceasing form ones own works, and being lead of the Holy Spirit.
"There remaineth therefore a Rest to the people of God. for he that is entered into his Rest, he also hath ceased from his own work, as God did His. Let us labour therefore to enter into that Rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief". (Hebrews 4:9)
For if Joshua has given them rest, he would not have spoken of another day after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through the same example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4: 8-11)