Bible · Christianity · church · faith · God · religion

Constantine, the sabbath, and Sunday worship

Roman emperor Constantine the Great is the one many believe changed church worship from Saturday sabbath to Sunday with his 321 AD Edict of Milan. The biggest sticklers for this bit of history remembersabbathare usually Seventh Day Adventists who use it to claim they are the only ones who worship correctly by observing Saturday sabbath, since Constantine was a sun-worshiping pagan posing as a Christian and all other churches bow to Constantine’s pagan tradition with their Sunday worship.

I’ve never read the Edict of Milan, so I don’t know if Constantine made Sunday worship official or not. Here’s what I do know. God is the one who established sabbath as the seventh day of the week and has never changed that. What did change is that Christians eventually moved away from worshiping on the seventh day and neither the Lord nor his apostles had a problem with that according to the New Testament (NT). This change was made long before Constantine was even born and the NT bears witness to this.

Before I get to what the NT says, I would like to point out that early Christians from the 100s AD, like Justin Martyr and Ignatius of Antioch, stated that the first day of the week, Sunday, was the day believers gathered together to observe the Lord’s day–i.e. the day of the Lord Jesus’ resurrection (see Ignatius’ Letter to the Magnesians, ch. 9, and Justin Martyr’s First Apology ch. 67). Now, to the NT. Jesus prophesied in John 16:2 that his followers would eventually be kicked out of the synagogues, although he and his disciples customarily attended synagogue on the sabbath (Matthew 12:1-9; Luke 4:16).

This happened during the missionary journeys of Paul, who also regularly attended synagogue. Acts 19 is the very last time scripture mentions Paul entering a synagogue. It was at Ephesus. After he preached the gospel in their synagogue, Jewish opposition to the gospel became so intense that Paul “departed from them, and separated the disciples,” (Acts 19:9). In the next chapter, which was several months later, we find that “upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them” in Troas (Acts 20:7). So the tradition of believers meeting on Sunday, the first day of the week, had already begun.

Sunday worshipIn 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul instructs the congregation to collect their offerings for the poor on the first day of the week, which implies that’s when they were all gathered together. The final reference to the “Lord’s day” is by John in Revelation. The Lord’s day is when Jesus gave him the Revelation (Rev. 1:10).

Taking into account what Paul witnessed in Acts, it’s no wonder he said to the Romans:

Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. Romans 14

Additionally, he told the Colossians:

14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Colossians 2

Therefore, we can conclude God is only concerned about us setting aside time to worship him, not what day that time occurs on.

Harry A. Gaylord

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8 thoughts on “Constantine, the sabbath, and Sunday worship

  1. We are also told that we can Rest in The Lord which makes everyday a sabbath. Only through Jesus can we find true rest, both physically and spiritually.

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  2. I believe we should worship the Lord every day by calling out to Him in thanksgiving and living Christ-like lives. If we are able to come together more than once a week that is good. In the early church, believers often met in their homes and, I suspect, on every chance they had. It was a good way to stay strong in the faith while going through great persecution. I remember when going to church once a week was an obligation. Now I delight in it.

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    1. Thanks for pointing this out. You’re probably right about them meeting more than once a week since they gave out food regularly to widows and others in need as Acts tells us. I bet they had more of a family feel in the early church.

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  3. DOES the Bible teach that the seventh day Sabbath has been changed to Sunday, the first day of the week, or is it, as the Roman Catholic church teaches, a Roman Catholic institution?
    If the Bible teaches a change it must be shown in the following 9 verses, as these are the only verses in the Bible that mention Sunday…

    Genesis 1:5; Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1-2, 9; Luke 23:54 – Luke 24:1.
    Genesis shows that the first day is a work day. The next three texts state that by Sunday morning “the Sabbath was past.” (Mark 16:1).

    Is John 20:1, 19 the beginning of Sunday observance?
    On the first day of the week, following Christ’s brutal crucifixion, the disciples were assembled, not for worship but, “For fear of the Jews.” (v 19). Nothing says that the Sabbath had changed to Sunday and there is no evidence that Christians met regularly on Sunday.

    Is Acts 20:7-11 proof that the disciples observed Sunday as a holy day?
    ‘Breaking bread’ doesn’t necessarily refer to a communion service, it was a term commonly used for eating a meal. Early Christians broke bread “daily.” (Acts 2:46).
    Acts 20:7 was not a regular meeting but a final farewell (v 25), which explains why Paul preached right through the night (v 7, 11).
    As Biblical days begin at sunset (Gen. 1:5; Lev. 23:32) this meeting actually took place on the dark part of the first day of the week, or, as the New English Bible translates it, “On the Saturday night.” On the Sunday morning Paul showed that Sunday is nothing special by departing on a 19 mile journey to catch a ship at Assos. (v 11). Nothing says that the Sabbath had changed to Sunday and there is no evidence that Christians met regularly on Sunday. Paul’s regular practice was to attend services on the Sabbath with both Jews and Gentiles. (Acts 18:4, 11; 17:2; 13:42, 44).

    Does 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 speak of Sunday school offerings?
    There is no mention here of a church meeting. “Lay by him in store” means “at home,” as eight translations put it. Nothing says that the Sabbath has changed to Sunday and there is no evidence that Christians met regularly on Sunday.
    Is Sunday the Lord’s day? Rev.1:10
    Many years after Christ’s crucifixion the Apostle John had a vision on “the Lords day.” This first thing this shows is that the Lord still has a day, but what day is it? Some claim that this was Sunday but this cannot be supported by the Bible. The only day the Lord ever claims as His, is His Sabbath – “For the Son of man is LORD even of the Sabbath day” (Matt. 12:8). “…turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day” (Isa. 58:13). “…the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord…” (Exo. 20:8-11).

    Should Christians keep Sunday because Jesus arose from the dead on Sunday?
    Jesus died on Friday and arose on Sunday, the first day of the week, after resting the seventh day Sabbath in the tomb, but nowhere are we told to keep Friday or Sunday holy. The memorial of Christ’s resurrection is baptism (See Romans 6:4).

    Don’t the so-called early ‘church fathers’ speak of Christians meeting on Sundays?
    “The writings of the so-called apostolic Fathers have unhappily for the most part, come down to us in a condition very little worthy of confidence…”* Because there is no biblical proof for Sunday some appeal to these uninspired writers but in doing so they have given up the Protestant principle of the Bible and the Bible alone. Sunday observance did come in slowly (while the Sabbath was also observed) but the Bible nowhere requires the observance of Sunday.
    *Augustus Neander, General History of the Christian Religion and Church (1854), Vol. 1 Appendix, sec. 4, p657.

    Conclusion
    Roman Catholics are correct. The Bible does not teach that the Sabbath had been changed to Sunday. Those who take the Bible as the final authority on all matters of faith and practice, should not therefore observe Sunday in place of the Lord’s Sabbath.

    The Protestant claiming the Bible to be the only guide of faith, has no warrant for observing Sunday. In this matter the Seventh-day
    Adventist is the only consistent Protestant.

    The Catholic Universe Bulletin, Aug. 14, 1942, p. 4.

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    1. Martin,

      First of all, your opening question is deceptive. I didn’t say anything about anyone changing the seventh day sabbath to Sunday as the sabbath. What I did say was that Christians moved from worshiping on the sabbath to worshiping on Sunday the first day of the week. So basically you set up a straw man.

      And for all your lengthy words, there are at least two New Testament church scriptures that basically blow your legalistic thinking out of the water– the Romans 14 passage and the Colossians 2 passage that I quoted at the end of my post above. Keeping the sabbath does not make a person right with God, nor does it keep them in good standing with God. Salvation is not based on any works that took place before the Mosaic law, during the Mosaic law, or after the Mosaic law–whether it be circumcision or keeping the sabbath. By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Galatians 2:16).

      Please stop trying to put a yoke of legalistic, false doctrines of works-based salvation on people. You’re wrong, the Catholic Church is wrong, Seventh-day adventists are wrong, and the Hebrew Roots movement is wrong for that.

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  4. Mr. Gaylord. We are not saved because we keep God’s law, any part of it. Not the Sabbath, not not worshping other Gods. This is not a reason not to keep the Sabbath . We demonstrate our love to God by keeping His law. It was Christ who told us that “5 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
    16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;”
    Now please notice what it gives as a condition for us demonstrating our love for God by keeping His commandments.” AnMr. Gaylord. We are not saved because we keep God’s law. We demonstrate our love to God by keeping His law. It was Christ who told us that “5 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
    d I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter,” We don’t receive His Holy Spirit if we don’t keep His commandments and demonstrate our love for Him.
    Remember Paul had his hands full of the church was falling away. It was a full time work writing and getting letters to the other churches because there was error creeping into the church. And you your self said that. “What I did say was that Christians moved from worshiping on the sabbath to worshiping on Sunday the first day of the week.” So you acknowledge that the Sabbath was being kept, but for some reason they started worshiping on Sunday. The question is why. Let me see if I can show you something.
    When Christ was on this earth, He Himself initiated a new ordinance. The foot washing ceremony. It was to follow the communion service. Christ made it a point to tell us this and the New Testament writers made it a point to tell us the Christ told them this.
    Now let’s go to Peter on the roof of Simon the tanner. God gives Him a dream. And in this dream He tells Peter not to call any man common or unclean. Later on when Peter goes to the home of Cornelius He tells Cornelius in Acts 10 verse 28 “28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”
    Later Peter was called onto the carpet about his ignoring of this custom that had become embedded in the Jewish culture. And Peter told the them what God had told Him and the New Testament writers passes down that information for us to know today what God said.
    Now where do you see the New Testament writer passing along any such message from Christ that the church was to now call the first day of the week the Christian sabbath. You don’t.. All you have are deceived members who have forgotten what God said and are following the deceptions of satan, just like the members that Paul was trying to correct with the letters written to them. Some people are taking God’s word and twisting them to make it say what they want it to say. But there are plenty of other scriptures that completely contradict how they are trying to manipulate God’s word.
    And you should remember what Peter said about this in 2 Peter 3:16. “as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things. Therein are some things hard to understand, which those who are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.”
    God told us to keep His commandments, in the Old Testament. And we see Paul telling us that those who are saved by grace are to keep God’s commandments in the New Testament.
    Are you going to call Paul and Timothy legalistist also? Christ told us that to keep all but one of His commandments was like breaking them all. James 2.
    “10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
    11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
    12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.”
    Here we have James listing a few of the 10 commandments, so we know of which he is talking. He is talking about God’s law the 10 Commandments. And just because he doesn’t mention the other Commandments, like the first, second or the third or fifth, are you going to tell me that they don’t need to be kept either. Then you can’t just toss out the fourth, just because it has become and inconvenience to some or just become it has become a tradition to others. Jesus told us that there will be some followers who will do this. And do you know what He said they were doing? He stated, “9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew. And if you are not worshiping God who are you worshiping. The devil. He is the one that deceives. And I know you remember what God said satan’s intentions were to do in Isaiah 14. “13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”
    And here we have satan making good on his intentions. But causing God’s church to forget His commandments and start to worship him. Stealing the worship of God’s followers and soaking that worship up, all the while laughing at God, for the gullibleness of God’s creation.
    Tell me this. We know that we have a straight forward, clear commandment from God to keep holy His Sabbath. It is a commandment nestled in the middle of God’s other 9 commandments We know that the table of stones that God’s commandments were written on were stored in the “Ark of the Covenant” here on earth and that God tells us that the Ark down here was a copy of the original Ark in heaven. And we know that God promises us that in the earth made new, that His creation would come to worship Him in heaven On The Sabbath. That’s right. Look at Isaiah 68.”22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.

    23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.” So you see, by now you should be asking yourself, “Why would God, go to all the trouble, to create His Sabbath, make it holy, set it aside for His worship, then give it to His people in His 10 Commandments, telling them that
    “13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
    14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” And then do a turn about and have His followers, just forget about what He said, Just to have them remembering it again in the earth made new. I ask you is that logical reasoning?
    Here is some more background about the verses that you feel are giving us the idea that the early church was showing, (not saying, or saying that Christ told them), that they were keeping the first day of the week instead of the day that God specifically said was holy, And never do we see where it says anywhere that Christ or His Father blessed any other day for us to keep holy.
    Please read this, keeping in mind. That time is short. And we know that the Bible already told us that some in God’s church would be deceived and stray from the truth. How can this not be a deception of satan? How is this not a falling away, where men would think to make up their own commandments and put them in place of God’s?
    You have a following. A flock that God has given you to shepard. Are you gong to take a chance by using as your defense that because some men started to disobey God that you are using it as an example to mean that God okay’ed for you to follow them. What about the Jews that approached Jesus asking about marriage. They were committing adultery..This is something that had crept in and had become a tradition among the Jewish nation. Did Jesus say that was okay. Or did He set them straight? Are you going to risk out on eternal life because of the flimsy evidence that you are clinging to, especially when there is so much evidence showing you, that someone is not rightly interpreting God’s word. If you would but depend upon the clear “thus sayeth the Lord” you wouldn’t have to worry. You can go before the Judgement seat of God and say you followed what is written in His word. And not have to explain how you felt it was okay to follow a church that was already slipping from the truth, being deceived by satan. Culminating with the Catholic church, usurping God’s authority, making up their own verses and telling people it was okay to bow down before idols. To pray to the saints, and Christs mother for intercession before God. To work their way to heaven and not by faith. To sprinkle and not immerse for baptism. Tell me what would be the best way to go. With what is clearly written or something else. Please let me know what you think.

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