Did the Catholic Church Change the Sabbath?


That’s the day most Christians around the world attend church. It’s very different from the Jewish faith that Christianity came from.

Jewish people are quite strict about the Sabbath, which lasts from sunset Friday until sunset on Saturday.

Why? Because of Exodus 16:23, where God commands the Jewish people to observe the Sabbath.

While Sunday is a great day to go to church, it brings up a few questions:

Why do most Christians go to church on Sunday? Did the Catholic Church change the Sabbath?

Or did the Pope Change the Sabbath to Sunday?

Now here’s another interesting thing.

Some Christians go to church on Saturday. They claim this is the proper day to worship because it falls on the Sabbath.

The Sabbath is mentioned in the 4th commandment, “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.”

Why did we change the 4th commandment? Isn’t it bad to mess with the Ten Commandments?

When did the Catholic Church change the Sabbath to Sunday?

The Catholic Church never changed the Sabbath day. The Sabbath cannot be changed.

Well –didn’t the Emperor Constantine change the Sabbath in AD 321? Not exactly.

By the time Constantine arrived on the scene, Christianity had grown -nearly 300 years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ– to become the majority religion in the Roman Empire.

Not only that, but the number of Christians worldwide increased by huge numbers!

Christianity started out with perhaps a few dozen or even a few hundred mostly Jewish believers right after the ascension of Jesus Christ.

Then, according to Acts 2:41, 3000 souls joined the church on Pentecost only a few days later.

But within 300 years, over 50% of the Roman Empire (around 30 million people) was Christian –and it was mostly Gentile. You can read about it in this book by Rodney Stark, called The Rise of Christianity and you can take a look on Amazon.com.

This part is in the very first chapter of the book where Stark outlines his methodology.

It parallels the growth we’ve seen in the Mormon Church over many decades. And the Mormon church growth numbers in this modern era are easy to come by.

Christians had been attending church on Sunday ever since the Resurrection as you can see at this other post I wrote.

Constantine was simply institutionalizing what had become a practical reality.

If over half of your population is already going to church on Sunday, why not just go ahead and codify it? That’s what Constantine did.

So did the Catholic Church change the Sabbath? No.

All they did was make Sunday the official non-working day. But this has no effect on the Sabbath – nada, zilch, zero effect.

Did the Pope change the Sabbath to Sunday?

Christians began attending church on Sunday long before the first Pope.

So -no- the Pope did not change the Sabbath to Sunday any more than the Catholic church did. And Christians were attending church on Sunday well before the Catholic church existed.

Christians began holding church on Sundays –immediately after the Resurrection- for two reasons:

1) That was the day Jesus rose from the dead

2) Jesus Christ’s own teaching about the Sabbath revealed the Sabbath was a ceremonial law that was only for the Jews.

The Sabbath was to teach us that our bodies needed rest. Sunday came because now our Sabbath rest is in Jesus Christ (and you can learn more at this other article I wrote).

Jesus revealed that all of the Old Testament law was fulfilled in him.

Since Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, the Law of the Sabbath is now fulfilled in him.

Here’s a pithy saying you might have heard from students of the Bible:

The New is in the Old concealed. The Old is in the New revealed.

-Saint Augustine

Of course, Saint Augustine is telling us of the Old Testament and New Testament of the Bible.

It tells us this was God’s plan all along.

Our righteousness- based on our own efforts and our own works- is revealed as insufficient.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ reveals that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ. It’s not found in good works or in a special day.

Salvation is found only in the name of one person. That person is Jesus Christ. (Acts 4:12)

Let’s take a closer look at the details from scripture:

Because Jesus is our Sabbath, He is our promised rest from all labor and works we thought we needed to please him. (Hebrews 4:9-10).

God already established and blessed the seventh day and made it holy (Genesis 2:3).

We receive additional reassurance in Exodus 20:11 that the Lord rested on the seventh day and therefore blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

We also know that God doesn’t change and that there is no variableness in Him (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17).

Or in other words, the Sabbath was established by our Heavenly Father long ago. And no man -and no church- can undo or change it.

And Jesus -our ultimate Sabbath rest- fulfilled the law and didn’t abolish it (Matthew 5:17-20).

Since the law is fulfilled in Jesus, so is our Sabbath fulfilled in him.

Also note that the early Christians were predominantly Jewish.

What caused these lifelong Sabbath keepers to start attending church on Sundays in AD 33? Notable scholars have pointed out that this alone is compelling evidence of the Resurrection.

And there is plenty of other evidence of the most important event in history -the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Why do most Christians go to church on Sunday?

Because this is the day Jesus Christ rose from the grave and defeated death.

Once and for all.

He paid the debt of sin in full so that we may have eternal life by believing in Him (John 3:16).

We also consider the Feast of Firstfruits from the Old Testament (Leviticus 23:9-14) and how Jesus fulfills it by being the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20).

By attending church on Sunday (read more at my post here), we are commemorating this day.

We see Jesus’ resurrection as the down payment that will be fulfilled when we join him as he reigns in righteousness and we look no longer through a glass darkly, but see him face-to-face.

Other reasons for going to church on Sunday include important New Testament passages such as 1 Corinthians 16:2, Acts 20:7 and Mark 16:9.

Perhaps the most dramatic verse in the Bible that teaches Sabbath observances are only for Israel is in the Old Testament!

It’s a verse from the Book of Exodus –hiding in plain sight- that leaves no question at all. And you can view it here in this post.

This is a big reason we know the Sabbath is a ceremonial law.

But does that mean that Sunday is the only day of the week for worship?

Not at all.

Sure, Sunday has become the day of assembly for most Christians as they worship the Lord and praise His name.

However, we have to realize something fundamental…

Worshipping Christ is to be done every day, not just on Sundays!

We are free to praise our Lord every minute and every hour of every day.

There are plenty of Bible verses that reveal this.

On one hand, we have Psalm 113:3 that shows us that God is to be praised from sunrise to sundown.

However, in Revelation 4:8 we also find that the four living creatures around God’s Throne in Heaven sing praise to the Lord without ceasing.

Don’t wait for Sunday to come (or any other day of the week for that matter) to worship your Creator.

Do it fervently, constantly.

The Lord is great and He is to be praised greatly (Psalms 145:3).

When did Christians begin attending church on Sunday?

Shortly after Jesus Christ was raised on the third day (the first day of the week).

Now, we have to open a particular book from the New Testament to get a better idea.

The book of Acts.

In Acts 20:7 we see that the disciples gathered on the first day of the week (Sunday) to break bread, as a form of communal worship.

The “breaking bread” part implies that this was their day for assembly.

And what’s the day that the church of Corinth has to “put something aside and store it up”, according to Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 16:2)?

You guessed it – the first day of the week.

It’s safe to say that Sunday has become the focal point of weekly Christian gatherings as this was the day on which Jesus rose from the grave.

Once again, don’t confuse this with the Sabbath day.

And even more importantly, don’t wait until a particular day of the week to worship the Lord.

Worship God and give Him glory continuously.

What did Jesus say about the Sabbath?

In Mark 2:27 Jesus said that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”.

This was in response to the hypocrisy of the rabbis who were furious that Christ would heal sick people on the Sabbath day.

Let’s now take a closer look at what’s written in the Gospel according to Matthew concerning Jesus’ teachings regarding the Sabbath day.

Our first stop is Matthew 12:1.

Jesus was out and about with his disciples. On the Sabbath.

But His disciples were hungry and started plucking heads of grain to satisfy their hunger.

Next up, we focus on Matthew 12:10-14.

Here Jesus heals a man’s withered arm. On the Sabbath.

Needless to say, both of these accounts made the Pharisees rather uncomfortable.

They viewed this as completely unlawful. Something that shouldn’t be done on the Sabbath day.

These religious leaders were so stuck on their own man made rules that they couldn’t see Old Testament prophecy unfolding right before their eyes.

They couldn’t and didn’t want to recognize the promised Messiah standing in front of them.

Scripture shows that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath

In Matthew 12:8 Jesus tells the Pharisees that “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath”.

Christ is the heir of everything in existence and the world was created through Him (Hebrews 1:2).

What the religious leaders of ancient Israel failed to realize is that the Sabbath is much more than a mere day off work.

Jesus Christ displayed the purpose of the Sabbath. It’s not about having specific rules and customs for observing it.

The Sabbath was implemented in the Old Testament so we could see in the New Testament that Jesus is our Sabbath rest!

Jesus Christ is the believer’s Sabbath rest. All the works of the Law are fulfilled in him.

Man’s works of righteousness are a complete failure. Jesus is our only hope. And he never fails!

Is the Sabbath day Saturday or Sunday according to the Bible?

Sabbath day is the seventh day of the week i.e. Saturday according to the Bible.

Now, the first account of God blessing the Sabbath and commanding His people to keep it holy is found in Exodus 20:11.

This is a nod to Genesis 2:3 as God created everything in six days and rested on the seventh.

And Sabbath (or Shabbat in Hebrew) literally means “He rested”.

Thus, it’s safe to say that Genesis 2:3 was a foreshadow of the commandment that our Heavenly Father gave to His nation after they left the land of Egypt.

Saturday (the seventh and last day of the week) was God’s rest day.

On a side note, keep in mind that there’s no Biblical record of men resting on the Sabbath day prior to Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.

Sabbath-keeping practices made their entrance as part of the 10 commandments given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. And here you can read about how God gave the Sabbath Law only to Israel.

Is Sunday the first day of the week according to the Bible?

Yes and the New Testament provides great insight into this matter.

Let’s go to Luke 23:53-56 and Luke 24:1.

These verses concentrate on the events immediately after Jesus’ death on the cross.

We learn that Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus’ body in the tomb where no one had ever laid before on the preparation day as Sabbath drew near.

After that, the women from Galilee returned to prepare fragrant oils and spice and they rested on the Sabbath day.

Lastly, in the early morning of the first day of the week (Resurrection day) they came to the tomb with all the spices and oils they had prepared.

All of this points to the following conclusion:

  • Friday is the sixth day of the week (preparation day)
  • Saturday is the seventh day of the week (Sabbath day)
  • Sunday is the first day of the week (Resurrection day)

No matter what secular researchers and scientists say, the Bible is very clear.

Sunday is the first day of the week, not the last – remember this.

The thing that really matters: Jesus is our Sabbath

We’ve already learned that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8) and that Sabbath was made for men and not men for Sabbath (Mark 2:27).

But when we open Hebrews 4:9-10 we find that Jesus (God the Son in the flesh) is our promised Sabbath rest.

He is our current and eternal Sabbath rest as Jesus gives us rest from works because we don’t acquire salvation through good works.

Jesus paid the price for our sins and conquered death by rising on the 3rd day.

And we are saved by faith, which is a gift from the Lord and not by works so that no one boasts about it (Ephesians 2:8-9).

So when we accept His free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ we enter into His eternal rest.

Free from spiritual labor and works.

Even the Old Testament Sabbath law pointed to Jesus

The Sabbath commandment in the Old Testament was about resting from physical labor and it was part of Old Testament law.

And what was the purpose of the law before Christ paid the ultimate price for all sin?

It was meant to make us conscious of sin and to serve as our tutor to guide us to Jesus so that we might be justified by faith as Apostle Paul says:

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

Galatians 3:23-26

Eventually, the Old Testament law was fulfilled in Christ as He gives us the ultimate rest and assurance of eternal life (John 3:36).

Jesus is our Sabbath

Don’t stress too much about the exact day of the week associated with the Sabbath (which is sunset Friday until sunset Saturday).

That’s not the most important thing here as Apostle Paul reassures us (Romans 14:5).

After all, Jesus is our Sabbath.

During the Old Testament the Sabbath rest was a rest from physical labor.

In the New Testament the Sabbath rest is a rest from the works we think we need to be righteous.

Since our righteousness comes from our belief in Jesus Christ’s work at the cross, we now enter the Sabbath rest.

Remember what the Lord of the Sabbath (Jesus) said in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Don’t forget that Christ came to fulfill the law, not abolish it (Matthew 5:17).

Is your Faith Founded on Fact? Have you committed to follow Jesus?

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