This is one of the questions that has come in to the Q&A box (don’t forget that it’s on the welcome center desk, if you want to submit a question): “How did the Sabbath Day of worship used through the Scriptures become the first day of the week?”
I think the best place for us to start is actually in the book of Colossians. In chapter 2 of this letter, the apostle Paul writes, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (v. 16-17)
Pay attention to what Paul calls the Sabbath – “a shadow of things to come.” In other words, it’s simply a precursor to something better, or something more tangible. And, that “something,” Paul says, is Jesus. So, the Sabbath, which was for rest and reflection on God, was something that was going to be superseded by Jesus. In essence, Jesus has become our Sabbath, because it’s in Him that we find rest.
In addition to the passage in Colossians, we have ample evidence that the church established by Jesus’ apostles was meeting on the first day of the week. Acts 20:7 speaks of the church gathering on the first day of the week to “break bread” (participate in the Lord’s Supper). 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 is where Paul encourages the Corinthian church to be taking up a collection for the church in Jerusalem, when they came together on the first day of the week.
But, why the first day of the week? Well, this ties back to why we worship. It isn’t to remember God resting after creation. We worship because of our Sabbath – Jesus Christ. And it was on the first day of the week that Jesus rose from the grave, completing his victory over sin and death, and giving us hope. We also know that the Day of Pentecost was the 50th day after the Passover, which would have meant it was celebrated on a Sunday.
So, not only did Jesus rise from the grave on a Sunday, but the church was first established in Acts 2 on a Sunday as well. It should therefore be no surprise that the church of the New Testament would meet to worship on the first day of the week. Keep your questions coming! I love that we are investing in deeper understanding of God’s Word.
— Bryan Dill