Sunday Sacredness Examined

“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.” – Acts 20:7

“Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” – 1 Corinthians 16:2

“The Christian Sabbath is Sunday” says the believer of Sunday-Worship. Then follows a  collection of Scriptures, which on the surface seem to support this very claim. Seemingly triumphant over the Sabbath-keeper, the average Sunday-keeping Christian exults in an apparent victory over the observer of the fourth commandment. The above two Bible passages, thrown out to support these claims as stock arguments against the Seventh-Day Sabbath, are often produced by those seeking to combat Sabbath keeping.

It is saddening to see the great lengths many will go to in defense of tradition, rather than adopting a teachable spirit and allowing the Bible to speak for itself. As I point out in my writings on how to study the Bible, we must always come to Scripture with a teachable spirit, rather than making the Bible say what we want it to. These Scriptures, produced in support of Sunday-worship, are an evidence that somebody approached Scripture with a lot of assumptions. They came to the Bible with the idea that they were going to make it ‘prove’ that we must worship on Sunday, and then forced that meaning on to the text without thorough examination. This should become much more obvious as we engage in a deep examination of these passages.

The question should then at this point be asked, “what exactly makes a day sacred?” This question holds a high degree of importance to it. The answer will determine whether or not these texts prove the sacredness of Sunday, and if Sunday has indeed become the Christian Sabbath. With that thought in mind, it is a logical deduction to examine the original Sabbath to determine what attached sacredness to this day. This will give us the answer as to what exactly attaches sacredness to a day, and sets it apart from any other day of the week. Then we must turn back to the beginning, when the earth was first created.

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” – Genesis 2:1-3

“But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” – Exodus 20:10-11

The statements from the book of Genesis speak of the creation of the earth. The very next thing which is mentioned is the end of God’s work on the seventh day, followed by a description of him resting from all of his work. He then blesses the seventh day and sanctifies it, with the reasoning being connected to his resting from the creation of the earth. Notice that in the book of Exodus in the twentieth chapter, these events are clearly referenced. The eleventh verse mentions the creation of the world, then God’s resting on the seventh day, which is then followed by a blessing on the Sabbath day and it being hallowed. The tenth verse also identifies the seventh-day as being the Sabbath, finishing off a clear connection between these passages.

It would stand to reason that the word “hallowed” is essentially the same thing or holds the same meaning as the word “sanctified”, because Exodus 20:11 uses this word in place of “Sanctified” and contains an obvious reference to the passages from Genesis, which suggests that the two are synonymous. However, in order to arrive at the true definition of these words I have produced a series of Scriptures below. You will notice that in Leviticus 27:14 it states “And when a man shall sanctify his house to be holy”. The passage makes this statement as though the act of sanctifying the house would make it holy in and of itself, indicating that the word bears huge connotations of making something holy. I would also single out Exodus 40:9, which uses the word “hallow” and then concludes with “and it shall be holy”, thus indicating that to hallow something would essentially make it holy. Note that the way the Bible is using these terms in all of the passages quoted below is in complete harmony with Webster’s definitions for the two words. Thus to sanctify and hallow something is to make it holy.

“Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.” – Leviticus 20:7

“And when a man shall sanctify his house to be holy unto the LORD, then the priest shall estimate it, whether it be good or bad: as the priest shall estimate it, so shall it stand.” – Leviticus 27:14

“And the altar of burnt offering with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot. And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy.” – Exodus 30:28-29

“And thou shalt take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle, and all that is therein, and shalt hallow it, and all the vessels thereof: and it shall be holy.” – Exodus 40:9

Sanctified

SANC’TIFIED, pp.

1. Made holy; consecrated; set apart for sacred services.

2. Affectedly holy.

Hallowed

HAL’LOWED, pp. Consecrated to a sacred use, or to religious exercises; treated as sacred; reverenced.

If something therefore has been made holy, than obviously there is a degree of sacredness attached to it. Than truthfully this is what would make a day sacred in Scripture. If it has been directly sanctified or hallowed, than we may conclude that it is to be regarded as sacred. Nothing else is acceptable as evidence for the supposed sacredness of a day. Even apparent meetings taking place on that day do not prove the day in question to have been regarded with sacredness, as there could be a number of common reasons for meetings [whether they are of a religious character or not] to be held.

We might also direct your attention to the word “blessed” as used in both Genesis 2:1-3 and Exodus 20:11. This word does not need any lengthy explanation, but we may logically conclude that this term would indicate that something is to be regarded as special. The two words “blessed” and “sanctified” or “hallowed” when combined carry a weighty testimony as to what constitutes sacredness. Can any of this be produced in connection with the first day of the week? In spite of access to a very powerful Bible search engine in the form of E-sword, I conveniently am unable to produce a text which connects these words with that day.

In fact, all of the references to the first day of the week in the Bible have been produced below. You will notice that none of them ever attach the words “blessed”, “sanctified”, or “hallowed” to that day. Therefore none of these statements prove that Sunday has any sacredness whatsoever. The majority of them describe events taking place on this day, but never attach any level of sacredness to it. You will find that not one of these texts says anything to the effect of, “Remember the first day of the week, to keep it holy; because on the first day of the week he rose from the grave.” When studied in context, many of these texts reference the resurrection of Christ. Yet not one of them, when all the verses are examined before and after these texts, uses the words “blessed”, “sanctified”, “hallowed” or flat out “made holy.” Those words cannot be located in any of the surrounding Scriptures either. This fact is something I invite you to see for yourself, as you will notice some of the Scripture references below contain embedded links.

“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.” – Matthew 28:1

“And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.” – Mark 16:2

“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.” – Mark 16:9

“Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.” – Luke 24:1

“The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.” – John 20:1

“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” – John 20:19

“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.” – Acts 20:7

“Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” – 1 Corinthians 16:2

If none of these statements attach any sacredness to Sunday whatsoever, than it is clear that really these statements of the Bible do not prove anything. Without the markers of sacredness, they do not define the first day of the week as anything other than an ordinary day. It is also prudent at this point to expose what else is missing from these statements. Were one to take a look at the difference between the fourth commandment and these passages, what might they notice?

It is all in the name, for the fourth commandment is just that — a commandment. Only one of these statements bears any appearance of a command, and you might notice that the instruction is not to worship on Sunday but rather to “every one of you lay by him in store” on the “first day of the week”. The fourth commandment is much more explicit. You are told the exact day on which you are to worship, how you are to observe that day as holy, in addition to the fact that you are given the reasons why you are to do this; namely being the creation and God’s sanctifying and blessing of that day.

In contrast, if these statements from Scripture regarding the first day did prove that we’re now to worship on Sunday they are in fact rather vague. A fresh convert with no knowledge of the Bible or Christianity could read these passages and never get the idea that we’re to worship on Sunday from them alone, strictly because none of these texts include any instruction of the sort. Six of the verses are historical records, one is a recording of a gathering taking place, and the final statement talks about laying money aside. However none of these verses really transfer sacredness from one day to the other, command worship on the first day of the week, instruct us to remember it, or give directions as to how to keep it holy.

It is interesting to note that the reasons which Christians commonly claim for Sunday worship, that being that Jesus rose from the grave on that day, are not connected to the two most common quotations that supposedly prove Sunday sacredness. One mentions a gathering on the first day of the week “to break bread”, but says nothing about the resurrection either in the context or the passages that immediately follow. The second verse makes some vague statements about “laying by him in store”, says something about a collection in the verse before it, but doesn’t say a word about the resurrection. Whereas the statements that are connected to Jesus rising from the grave do not command worship on that day, say nothing about Sunday’s supposed holiness because of it, or strangely enough do not say anything to the effect of “and now Christians commonly gather on this day because of these things.” You would think with such powerful descriptions of the resurrection, there would be room to say something along those lines. Surely an extra sentence could not in any way make Scripture too lengthy.

Is it not a logical deduction that if God wanted us to worship on Sunday, he would give us exact directions surrounding his desires, that we may not be left in darkness as to what his will is? Would he not want to leave no question in people’s minds as to what he wants us to do? It seems kind of odd that God would, in the place of explicit directions, give us nothing but vague statements to work with. The reality is that some one has taken the first two statements in question, and twisted them in support of tradition, without investigating the Biblical foundations for their practices. When some one takes liberties with Bible verses, it is probably a good bet that their teachings are starting to lean in the direction of false.

So what of the gathering that the passage from Acts mentions? It is claimed that since the disciples are described as coming together to break bread on the first day of the week, and Paul is preaching, than therefore this must be a church service taking place on Sunday. The reasoning is then that this was becoming the regular practice of the Christians, that they had begun to abandon the Sabbath for the First day of the week to honor the resurrection, and that this text somehow proves that early Christians worshiped on the first day of the week. There are a couple of realities that somebody missed in their neglect to examine the foundations for their thinking.

The first comes from the mysterious phrase, “to break bread.” This is usually looked at by the advocate of Sunday sacredness and worship as being something significant, like communion, or in and of itself referencing a church service. The claim then might be something to the effect of communion always falling on a Sunday, which is a thought that has been demolished by others. However, we might direct your attention to the neglected verses. You might notice that these passages comment on the issue of “breaking bread.”

“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” – Acts 2:46-47

Breaking bread does not always mean something significant like communion. The disciples are described in the second chapter of the book of Acts as doing this every day. In reality, the phrase “breaking bread” simply just means that they came together to eat food. That thought also destroys the possibility of it referencing their Church services. If one were to interpret the phrase this way, they may as well claim that early Christianity regarded every day as holy.

Another fact so often missed by the advocates of first-day worship rests in the claim that early Christians worshiped on the first day of the week in Paul’s day. In response, I might direct your attention to the references above which use the phrase “first day of the week.” These are the only verses in the Bible which use that phrase. Bible search engines and concordances fail to produce another verse, neither can anyone claim to have read one without lying. To further illustrate this point, I narrowed the search range on E-sword to the book of Acts and have produced the Bible-wide search results in this link for your perusal.

Act_20:7 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.

1 verse found, 8 matches

Acts 1 verse found 8 matches

The book of Acts, being a historical record of Christianity directly after Christ, would be the most likely place to mention the switch from the Seventh-Day to the first. The only other places in which this could happen would be the epistles and the gospels, but none of those locations in Scripture say a word about the supposed change. In this particular case, it is pretty clear that the book of Acts doesn’t mention any other instance in which Paul, the disciples, or the apostles met on the first day of the week. With these facts before us, its clear that this is the only recorded instance in the entire Bible in which the followers of Christ appear to be having a meeting of an apparently religious character on Sunday. They are never mentioned as doing this again anywhere in the Bible.

I find it strange that from this lone Bible verse we are expected to believe that early Christianity in the time of Paul worshiped on Sunday. It is a thought which leaves a man who truly thinks the matter through scratching his head in apparent confusion. To further illustrate why this doesn’t constitute real evidence of that thought, I would like to direct your attention to the passage I’ve produced below. Notice that it describes Jesus [see verses 14-15 of Luke 4] entering the synagogue on the Sabbath, and standing up to read. Specifically you should focus in on the phrase “as his custom was.” This statement implies that this was a regular habit for Christ, or rather a tradition if you will. Note that this phrase is missing from Acts 20:7.

If this lone Bible verse had said that it was the custom of the Christians to meet on the first day of the week, than perhaps there would be a valid case. Yet such a statement is missing from the passage! The implication is that this is the only time that early Christianity in the time of Paul ever met on a Sunday. In which case it was not their regular practice, and therefore it cannot be claimed that early Christianity in the time of Paul worshiped on Sunday in honor of the resurrection. There just simply is not sufficient evidence upon which to make that case.

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.” – Luke 4:16

Let us stop and think about this for a moment. The lack of Bible passages elsewhere in Scripture which describe similar occurrences bears the marks of something quite sad. Somebody came to the Bible with the idea that they were going to make it say what they wanted it to. They have practiced what is known as Eisegesis, which is something we have discussed in other articles. Having practiced this, they abused the text in support of tradition rather than approaching the Scriptures with a teachable spirit. It is my hope that you do not approach the Bible in this way!

The arguments surrounding this text from the book of acts are quite obviously full of holes. This fact becomes much more clear as the surrounding passages are examined. The reality of it is this meeting never actually really took place on what we would call “Sunday”. Most who use this passage in support of traditional thinking do not consider the description of what a day is in the Biblical sense. Note that Genesis 1:5 defines a Biblical day by stating that the, “evening and the morning were the first day.” According to Scripture, a day is defined as evening to morning, which is a huge difference from the modern definition of midnight to midnight. Thus a statement can read, “first day of the week” and in actual fact be in reference to the evening of what we would interpret as the previous day.

Paying careful attention to the passage, we notice details such as many lights in the upper chambers, the length of the sermon defined as being until midnight, and Eutychus falling into a deep sleep. Every single one of these details bears the markers of “evening”. The presence of lighting indicates that it was dark, the statement about ‘midnight’ places the setting at evening, and Eutychus falling asleep indicates that he was tired. Boring preaching did not put him to sleep, but rather the fact that they had been awake late. With all of these facts before us, it is clear that in actual fact they did not meet on Sunday but rather on Saturday night. Therefore the concept of a Sunday church service completely disappears under the weight of the original connection of the passage.

“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. And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.” – Acts 20:7-9

“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” – Genesis 1:5

This is of course even further the case as one examines the defined reasons for the meeting. The passage often abused contains the phrase, “ready to depart on the morrow.” This statement implies that Paul was intent on leaving the following day. In other words, the whole point of the meeting was not having a religious meeting in honor of the resurrection, coming together for communion, or something of that sort but was indeed rather a farewell meeting. Paul was leaving, therefore the disciples came together to break bread and say their goodbyes on Sabbath evening.

I hope that you are able to see that this argument in support of Sunday sacredness is not sound. Chances are, the use of 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 to support Sunday sacredness is even less sound. I have produced the passages below with their original connection, as context is always important and sheds much light on the meaning of a verse. The claim is that these passages are referencing a church collection which took place on Sunday, and are therefore an argument in support of Sunday sacredness, or the transfer of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. However, it is my hope and prayer that you might see that this argument actually doesn’t work or bear the scrutiny of Scripture. Notice also that I have produced the fourth commandment underneath this statement for comparison.

“Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” – 1 Corinthians 16:1-2

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” – Exodus 20:8-11

Although I have already made similar points above, I see it as prudent to restate a few details. In comparison with these passages from Exodus, I hope that you might be able to see what I am talking about with much more clarity. Notice the difference between these two statements from the Bible. One mentions a collection, and then says something to the effect of “lay by him in store.” The other says to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. It then gives directions as to how the Sabbath may be kept, and closes by mentioning creation and the blessing and hallowing of the Sabbath.

The question which arises in my mind comes right down to this. If these statements from 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 transfer the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, why are they missing a statement of blessing and sanctification? Why is it that these statements say nothing about the Christian’s supposed duty to Remember the “Christian Sabbath”? Why do they not outright command Sunday to be kept holy? Why is it that these statements do not include a word about the resurrection of Christ? All of the necessary information was together in one place with the original Sabbath, so that the reader is without excuse. Yet obviously this is not the case with these statements from Paul, as they are clearly missing huge details.

The missing details indicates that somebody has obviously twisted these statements. Others have even provided significant evidence further detailing this fact, showing conclusively how these Scriptures have been abused. They’ve even gone so far as to point out that these passages actually do not indicate that the Corinthian believers worshiped on Sunday, as is so often claimed from this text. Of course, this should’ve been clear as there is a huge difference between laying money aside on a particular day and making that a day of worship. These texts are read with a ridiculously large amount of assumptions taking place.

There is a reality that every abuser of these passages must face. It is that these statements neither command worship on the first day of the week, neither do they forbid the keeping of the fourth commandment. These statements do not in anyway prove that a day other than the Sabbath should be the date of worship for the Christian, as clear statements commanding this are not found in any of the passages in question. The lack of commands automatically means that the Christian should feel no guilt for worshiping on the Sabbath and not being in Church every Sunday, and that there really is no Scriptural foundation for Sunday sacredness.

 

3 thoughts on “Sunday Sacredness Examined

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