Sunday or Saturday Worship?
A Reply in regard to a book on Sabbath –keeping by Ron Spencer
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. James 3:13
“Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth “ James 3;5,6
As to the subject taken on by the author, I appreciate the renewed emphasis on
giving to God one day in seven- Exodus 20:9…. That is a valuable privilege that our
generation of “church-goers “ is quickly losing.
I also appreciate the willingness to acknowledge the points of opponents of his opinion in the matter of Sabbath ( Saturday) worship.
Also of notice is his interest in allowing that church councils have declared Sunday worship to be “Christian” while seeing Sabbath as Judaistic (.pp.5-8 ) as well that
early teachers like Justin Martyr held to Sunday worship.
Nt. Frankly, I do not trust “church councils” , but only allow these to encourage boldness to stand where I see the Holy Scriptures agree.
Like C.H.Spurgeon once said “ Some like the church fathers, but I prefer the
“grandfathers, the apostles.”
Here in short are some things I agree with in this book:
1. That corrupted manuscripts were being advanced as early as the first century,
especially by Eusebius in early days and have been revived by modern scholarship
as seen in Westcott and Hort and the flood of new versions following the “critical text”
as given by Nestle-Aland’s Greek New Testament . (pg 16)
The Majority of manuscripts support that which has come through Erasmus’s
2. That we see around us a departure from sound doctrine that surely characterizes
the Laodicean church that feels rich,strong and spiritual, but is none of the them.
3. The explanation of “Nicolaitanism” on page 16. The concern that pastors do not
abuse their God-given authority and lead their flock astray is a solemn duty
entrusted to those God has set over His flock.
4. The claim to believe in justification by faith without the works of the law.
In short , here are a couple concerns before looking at the meat:
1. It is a tendency for all teachers to fully espouse their own reasoning, but in order to
raise the pretence of scholarship, some do the following:
a. class all who might disagree with “ignorance” or “deceit”, calling them such
biblical names as would cast an evil shroud about them.
– such are the ways of the world … Matthew 12:24
b. appeal to those who are basically ignorant of the subject to evaluate his
writings. … based on what? His interpretations!. No wonder such might
want to exclude pastors. They might know something he does not.
c. assume that all who hold another view are simply “weak” or fearful”
(– pg 59 ) .
2. True honest reasoning does not make a statement and then challenge the
opponent to disprove it. Disputing the other’s points does not prove your own.
3. The argument from silence is always just that , a quiet statement that proves
nothing unless someone that was there breaks it. Nothing should be assumed
4. Old Testament types are all subjective unless revealed. A teacher may teach any
truth from them unless they are particularly interpreted by the Spirit , for example
the Tabernacle in Hebrews 9,10 and the Sabbath rest in Hebrews 4.
Finally: After reading this book, I am yet convinced that the author has not answered his own question in the title “ Why We Worship on Sunday”.
At least he missed it as to why I do.
( Another issue addressed is Circumcision, as well a uniquely Jewish command.
The fact is that God never told us why He gave circumcision to Abraham. The application is there in Colossians 2:11-13, but God did not reveal why He first gave this.)
Please note before we get going that I take a high view of the Word of God and do not
recognize church practice, traditions or councils unless the Bible agrees with them.
All evidence in my writings will come from the Bible evidence only.
The core reason of Sunday worship: I will address these in order of importance:
1. Acts 20:8-11 “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together
to break bread..”
To break bread is to eat . Sometimes it refers directly to the commemoration of the
Lord’s table ( Acts 2:42, I Corinthians 11:20) , others in simple eating ( Acts 27:35).
In order to discern the evidence here, we only refer to logic of reason in reading:
a. Matthew 28:1 refers to the dawn as constituting the “first day of the week” , not
the Sabbath evening lapsing over into the first day. This is Roman reckoning and
differs from the Jewish tradition on “ the evening and the morning were the
….day “ from Genesis 1. The interpretation that Paul preached into the first day
is not sound when you notice the word “ day” , not evening.
b. Paul appears to have waited seven days to attend this gathering vs. 6
c. The words” when the disciples came..” seems to indicate a pattern or habit vs 7
d. Paul came here to preach. It is written as if planned.
e. The breaking of bread in verse 7 is followed in vs 11 by another meal. This
points as well to the idea that the first eating was the ordinance from I Cor 11
which Paul had already established.
f. John 20: 19 mentions evening of resurrection Sunday as part of that day!
While all these points are arguable, they establish a probability of a “first day” gathering.
2. The New Testament is silent about the Sabbath.
Not only is it silent, there is not one positive word from either Paul, James, Peter,
or Jesus Himself about Sabbath keeping. When mentioned, it is all negative . I would
at least expected that a more current application might be made regarding Sabbath
keeping if it were to be so diligently maintained.
Consider Matthew 12:1-12 Jesus and the Sabbath exceptions , the healing of the
Mark 2:23-28 Picking grain on the Sabbath- Jesus correct the extremists.
John 5: 1-17 Jesus heals on the Sabbath – defends doing good that day.
Colossians 2:16 Paul addresses Sabbath days without exceptions.
In addressing Gentile applications of church law, James is quiet about Sabbath
keeping in Acts 15:19-21.
Just a note regarding the idea that the Gentiles worshipped every Sabbath day
from a note by James in Acts 15:21. That verse says absolutely nothing about Gentiles
nor is it referring to verse 19. The “For” in opening verse 21 is simply a defense of the
statement that was not in question at the meeting there, about things strangled and
eating of blood , referencing it back to the Torah which the Jewish community would
be familiar with. Remember, this meeting at Jerusalem was not held to help Gentiles
to know God’s mind, but to silence the radical voices of the Judaisers in the church.
– refer back to Acts 15:1,2
It is strange that James, the apostle to the Jews, would not emphasize such a vital
point , if indeed it was such. The reasoning that the Sabbath was so established that
it did not need mentioning is to ignore the fact that the church was not an outgrowth
of the synagogue or Judaism.
It was a brand new organism with new
a. regulations ( church order) I Corinthians 14
b. leadership Ephesians 4:10-12
c. ordinances I Corinthians 11:23, Acts 2: 38
d. Spirit I Corinthians 12:13
e. membership I Corinthians 12;13
f. diet – Acts 10:9-16, Hebrews 13:9
g. method, place of worship – forecast in John 4:23,24
h. priesthood I Peter 2;5
James actually tried to combine them and it ended up a fiasco, and the Lord scattered them . James 1:1, Acts 21:17 ff. Jesus warned against it in Mark 2:22.
3. Revelation 1:10. “ I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day”
The mere denial that this was Sunday does not make it so . Notice the evidence:
a. Nowhere else in the Bible is this term mentioned
– Isaiah 58:13,14 calls the Sabbath “my holy day”
– Peter refers to a “day of the Lord”, but it is a day of terrible judgment!
b. Let us look at the basic four days that are mentioned of Jesus:
i. His birth – no day given
ii. His circumcision- the eighth day- no point of reference for the day
iii. His baptism- no day given
iv. His death – Wednesday, Thursday, Friday…? no certainty
v. His resurrection – positively given – Matthew 28:1 The day we call Sunday
Now this no more proves that he worshipped that day than to assume that he only
was in the Spirit on Sunday. But, it points toward a logical probability .
4. I Corinthians 16:2 “ Upon the first day of the week , let every one of you lay by him..”
My main question is – if this is but a banking, why do it on the first day? Who
would ever do that? I have been in business 25 years and do not know anyone
who does his books up on Sunday- obviously we are missing something . There
has got to be a better explanation that this. Most people do it Friday or Saturday –
at weeks end!
It seems to me that this command had some cultural element familiar to them!
What better explanation than the most common: an offering bag, plate…at the
weekly gathering ?
Evidence: the reason given for the command “ That there be no gatherings when I come”
ie. that there be no going around gathering it up because it is already in one place, the
common treasury. Such was not uncommon to them . Even Jesus had Judas keep
“the bag” in John 12:6. Again, no full proof , just another probability.
5. No Sabbath mentioned between Genesis 2:1 and Exodus 16
a. it is not a logical conclusion to state that the words “how long” mean a long time.
After all, they had only been out of Egypt about 45 days when God said this in
b. God referred to His commandments and laws. Obviously there were others that they
were in disregard of as well . The reference to the Sabbath prohibition in collecting
manna was certainly one of the new laws they were breaking
c. The lack of evidence that any of the faithful from Adam to Moses kept any sort
of Sabbath seems to be the “silence that is deafening” . Stretch it as you will,- and I
personally believe in a day of rest to the Lord- I cannot get a Sabbath proof in
the Book of Genesis. Although God rested that day and sanctified it to HIMSELF,
I see no evidence that He instituted it to man to do the same.
( although I still think He might have ). Why not be clear on such an important
event since the Bible was written for us who came later ! Romans 15:4
d. Exodus 31:12,13 say that the Sabbath was given to Israel , and in vs 16,17 that it was
a sign between God and Israel. Ezekiel 20:12,13 says the same thing ie that the
Sabbath was a sign with Israel.
6. Sabbath rules are not applicable to today, so do we just apply them culturally and hope
God is OK with our intentions of the heart?
a. Acts 1:12 refers to Sabbath days journey. Rabbis advise that it is 2000 cubits.
That is less than a half mile and would be hard to keep today.
b. Exodus 35:5 prohibits kindling fire in your habitations. I read one article that
said it referred to fires for forging steel and baking clay. That would fit the
resting aspect of verse 4 well , and help us out in this day quite well who need
to have heat in the winter and drive cars that run on combustion.
It does not meet the letter of the law too well though…unless you can have
a fire already kindled and just keep it going. The Jews had many ingenious ways
of getting around the letter of the Law.
Any way you might apply this is fine (as far as I am concerned)as long as you recognize
the principle: Israel was required to rest the seventh day. As slaves to the Egyptians,
they could not, now they have the choice!
To get to the main point however, I believe that the strongest argument for Saturday Sabbath is in Exodus 20 where it is mentioned as one of the 10 commandments.
No, it is never mentioned in the New Testament and we can argue back and forth
as to why. Was it because God assumed that it was established well enough that it did not
need to reaffirmed, as this author assumes- or was there another reason- ie a new day
chosen as the temporary day of this church age? That it will return to that day is obvious
from Ezekiel as well as Matthew 24:20- AFTER the rapture of the church, when the literal
earthly kingdom ,seen by all the prophets ,would come and Christ will be King.
Does God really desire us to worship on Saturday?
Why does the author suggest that the disciples did not gather for worship in John 20:19 ?
The text makes no comment on the fact that they assembled. Upon careful reading, I
do not see that the words “ for fear of the Jews” modify the word “assembled”, but rather
explain why the doors were shut on the meeting house . I read it like this: .. :” the first day
of the week, when the doors were shut for fear of the Jews , where the disciples were
assembled …” . We read what we want to read , but to say that they definitely did not
assemble purposely the first day of the week is not conclusive especially when you read that they came back and assembled again the same way the next Sunday – John 20: 26
As well, I do not see any reason to assemble if they were in fear. I would just stay home!
…. but it is remarkable that the Spirit came on a Sunday- and told us clearly of it in Acts 2, for Pentecost is clearly the day following Sabbath. That the church would be blessed with her very life and birth that day would lend a credence to it being special.
But, the real issue at hand here is the nature of the church. She is spiritual. All of her sacrifices are such I Peter 2:5. Her law keeping is vain. Her cleansing is in the Blood .
She cannot keep a law she is dead to -. Romans 7:6. Her newness is the power of the Spirit.
I used to live by law. I used Sunday as a day of rest. Now I serve that day , fellowship and worship, and hope to get a rest as well if there is time.
So, do only 9 of the 10 commandments apply today? No- they all do! But just like
Jesus was free to apply the commandments in his day, so He is free today. He said
David broke the law in eating the shewbread reserved for priests and God justified him.
– Matthew 12:4
He forgave the woman taken in adultery and sent her away in peace. – John 8
The Spirit told Peter to eat flesh that the Law forbade in Acts 10 and signified the
biggest change in Jewish history explained by the Apostle Paul in Romans 9.
The Old Testament types were all fulfilled in Christ Jesus ( see Matthew 5:17) and the
Sabbath is seen as the rest that stands available to us in Him in Hebrews 4:9.
I believe that we ought to worship the closest to the way the church did . My accepted
view is that Sunday is the day for church age .If others choose otherwise, I have no
point to prove.
I grew up in a very “lawful” church.. I was saved there. We rested Sunday. No movies, no
running, no ball, no physical games, – only walks and quieter forms of activity. We had friends in, good meals, and a rest. Our ladies practiced wearing head coverings all the time
to fulfill I Corinthians 11 to the letter. I grew up and became a leader in it – but one day I
met the Lord . I saw the sin in my heart that lay beneath all of the “lawfulness” and I found in Him a new liberty that I never had known.
Have I changed much? A little- mainly that I am willing to give others a liberty to differ from me and allow that they might be spiritual as well.
To lay down rules for everyone that the scriptures are not clear on is a dangerous thing.
To do so causes 1. instability in the lives of the weak
2. unnecessary divisions within the church
3. pride of personal performance ( Phariseeism)
I close with this admonition: Romans 14:23 If you believe that the Spirit is leading you in
some application of His Word, here are a few guidelines to follow:
1. Study it carefully to make sure your application is correct. II Timothy 2:15
2. Check church history to see where it was practiced and when, then see why it
was dropped. Stephen in Acts 7 knew his history well as Paul did in his application
of new church doctrine in Romans 7-11.
3. Talk to a spiritual leader you trust and ask him to pray with and for you in this.
It is easy to turn to the right or left when out of fellowship with other spiritual
people. Acts 15:1-3. Beware of just finding folks that you know agree with you.
4. Never breach your conscience. It is your spiritual lifeline. Acts 24:16
5. If your idea is new and novel, it is likely false doctrine. Evil angels are seeking
to spread false doctrines. Do not become a victim. Galatians 1:6-8
6. Stay charitable toward others who do not agree. It is the more excellent way.
I Corinthians 12: 31.
One of the ways that I test my correctness in a conflict is my spirit. If I can hold brethren who disagree with me in a spirit of charity, I believe that my stand is sustained by the Spirit. Ephesians 4:14,15.
I am conservative in stand and lifestyle. My wife and I hold standards that clearly divide
in dress of men and women; in Bible versions, I hold the King James position, in use of
the Lord’s Day, I hold to worship and fellowship ( only necessary work), not using the day
for sports; in fellowship I am Baptist-independent ; in entertainments, no movies at the
theater; in alcohol consumption, total abstinence . These are held by only a few. I do
not take these principles as binding for all, but have rest in my own soul with the Lord.
That is my highest prize and reward- fellowship with the Father and with His Son.
I John 1:3
Some have told me that Constantine ( c. 313…AD) introduced pagan worship into the church and that is the true source of Sunday worship. Justin Martyr ( 100-165 AD) does not reflect this opinion in his writings:
Here is what Justin said in the second century. “On Sunday a meeting is held of all who live in cities and villages, and a section is read of the memoirs of the apostles and the writings as long as time permits. When the reading is finished, the president in a discourse gives the admonition and exhortation to imitate those noble things. After this we all arise to offer common prayer. At the close of the prayer, as we have described, bread and wine are placed before us, and thanksgiving made and the congregation answers, “Amen”. Then the elements are distributed to each one and are partaken of and carried by the deacons to the house of the absent. The wealthy and willing then give contributions according to their free will and this collection is deposited with the president who therewith supplies orphans, widows, prisoners, strangers in want.” Thus we see that those who claim the early church carried on the Judaic tradition of assembling on the last day of the week are grossly ignorant of what history actually sets forth, and are therefore not worthy of confidence.
Pastor Warren Jones