Is Sunday the Sabbath Day?


Is there any Scripture for making the first day of the week or the Lord’s Day, a Sabbath, on the ground that the Sabbath has been changed from the seventh to the first day?

None whatever; the Sabbath never was changed from the seventh to the first day of theweek by any divine revelation in the Scriptures. The two days are quite distinct.  The former was the Jews’ day, and we read in the Acts that the apostles would improve the occasion, by going to the Jewish synagogues on the Sabbath to get an opportunity for testimony (Acts 13:42; Acts 18:4), and then on the first day of the week, break bread with the disciples (Acts 20: .). Their idea of the Sabbath was a well earned physical rest after six days of work, but true spiritual rest they never earned. The true rest, that of the Lord’s Day—the resurrection day—is rest in Him. We begin with this rest, and then work throughout the week. The two days ran concurrently in the Acts period, but there is not a line to show that the first day of the week was a physical rest-day. Probably the reason why the early disciples broke bread at night was that they were working all day. A certain legal sect gets a great advantage over denominational Christians owing to this common, mistaken notion. Its adherents point out that God never changed the seventh to the first day, and therefore, as they are legal to the core, they enforce on all literal obedience to what is to them the greatest commandment of all— Sabbath observance. Yet they themselves do not strictly keep it as the law enjoins, but are content with an approximate obedience, as long as you join the ranks of their denomination. It is perfectly true that “God rested on the seventh day from all His works,” as recorded in Genesis 2:2, but though God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, there is no mention that it was instituted as a rest day for man till Millenniums later, nor have we a single case recorded in the history of the antediluvian patriarchs, nor of Abraham, Isaac or Jacob, of Sabbatical observance. What we read of Sabbatical resting in Gen. 2. 2 was no doubt coincidental with creation, but Genesis was only written by Moses, toward the end of the sojourn in Egypt. The Sabbath was not formally enjoined upon Israel till the giving of the law at Sinai in Exodus 20, though shortly before, when God gave the Manna, He arranged for a double quantity to be collected on the sixth day, “in view of the rest of the holy Sabbath,” so soon to be instituted. The collecting of the manna was to go on right through the desert wanderings, so that the question was settled at the start by anticipation, how manna was to be collected for the Sabbath’s consumption, preparatory to the institution of the day, in chap. 20. Later, in chap. 31. the true import of the Sabbath is explained (verses i 3, x 6: “Verily My Sabbaths ye shall keep, for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. . . . It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever”).

The death-penalty was attached to a failure to observe it in every particular, e.g., the man found gathering sticks on the Sabbath. Nor were Israelites allowed to light a fire on the seventh day. But the Sabbath with its stringent laws was never given to the Gentile nations and still less to the church. The question as to the advantages of one day’s rest in seven is not disputed here. There can be no doubt at all that in practice some such rest is called for. Doubtless governments have a perfect right to decree such cessation from work on the pattern of the Jewish Sabbath, but that is totally different from enforcing a sort of Sunday Sabbath as a religious obligation, which is one of the pillars of Christendom under the title of “Sabbath Observance” (see Colossians 2:16). What then is the Lord’s day?

It is the first day of the week, the resurrection day, on which the early disciples came together to break bread (Acts zo), and on which they were enjoined to lay by them in store as God prospered them, to avoid special collections when the apostle arrived (1 Corinthians 16:2). But because the day is not the Jews’ day, it is not for that “my day,” any more than any other day is “my day.” This is negative, but is there no positive enforcement? The first day is what no other is said to be: “the Lord’s day,” and though there is not a line of Scripture, known to the writer, which enjoins a legal or Sabbatical observance of the day on anyone, if it is His day, it is peculiarly fitting to regard it as such, and to avoid anything which would unnecessarily make the day common. The way we spend the Lord’s day may well be the straw which shews how the wind blows. The man who deliberately flouts the Lord’s day, flouts the Lordship of Christ, and shews the direction in which his whole life is trending.