Christians and the Sabbath

How important is it for Christians to observe the Sabbath? I know that this is one of the Ten Commandments, but is it still valid for believers who are now living under grace rather than the law? And while I'm at it, how did the Sabbath get switched from Saturday to Sunday? Where in the Bible did God authorize such a change?

The first thing you need to understand is that Sunday is not simply a Christian version of the Jewish Sabbath or Day of Rest. Far from it. As a matter of fact, the observance of Sunday worship has a unique history and significance within the framework of the church’s liturgical tradition.

Although the earliest Christians, themselves Jews, probably did worship on Saturday according to Jewish custom, they also held Sunday to be a day of special significance. They called it “The Lord’s Day” and observed it as a memorial of Christ’s resurrection – a mini-version of Easter, if you will, celebrated on a weekly basis.

The New Testament provides us with a window into the primitive church’s practice in this regard. In Acts 20:7 we find that the Apostle Paul “broke bread” (celebrated the Lord’s Supper) with the believers in Troas “on the first day of the week,” and then proceeded to preach a lengthy sermon. Presumably this reflects customary procedure among the first Christians. In time, as the church became predominantly Gentile, the celebration of the Lord’s Day often took the place of the Jewish Sabbath among Christians altogether. Sunday worship became the norm and remains that way today.

This leads us back to the first part of your question. Here at Focus on the Family we believe that observance of a weekly day of worship, whether it be Sunday, Saturday, or any other day, should never be allowed to become a matter of religious legalism. The Apostle Paul warns us against this specifically when he says, “Let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:16, 17).

Christ has set us free for something better: namely, the pursuit of holiness and fellowship with the living God as a daily lifestyle. Our highest calling is to glorify God every day of our lives, while also setting aside special times for worship with fellow believers (Hebrews 10:25). Our goal is to say, with the Psalmist, “I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1).

We realize that Christians differ in their perspectives on this issue, and we recognize the right of others to disagree with our viewpoint. Love requires that we exercise patience with one another as we seek God’s truth and attempt to put it into practice. After all, none of us can claim to have a monopoly on correct interpretation of Scripture for, until the Lord returns, we still see many things “through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). That’s why, as our final recommendation, we strongly suggest that you discuss this question with your own pastor.

You can also call and talk it over with one of our pastoral counselors if you think this might be helpful.


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