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Chapter 18: A Sabbath Switcheroo
“If you keep from desecrating the Sabbath, from doing whatever you want on My holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight,
and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways,
seeking your own pleasure, or talking too much; 14 then you will delight yourself in the Lord, and I will make you ride over the heights of the land,
and let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob. ”For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
– Isaiah 5:12-14
“On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he extended his message until midnight.”
– Acts 20:7
“On the first day of the week, each of you is to set something aside and save in keeping with how he prospers, so that no collections will need to be made when I come.”
– 1 Corinthians 16:2
“Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah.”
– Colossians 2:16-17
The Sabbath day is a critically important Bible topic, especially in the Old Testament. The word itself is used approximately 150 times in the Bible, with several long and detailed discussions in the Old Testament that outlined how the Jewish people were to deal with the Sabbath day. Strangely enough, something radical changed after the resurrection of Jesus, because the Sabbath is only mentioned 11 times, including such verses as Colossians 2 above, which seems to imply quite strongly that individual Christians had liberty as to how they observed the Sabbath. Not only that, but it is quite clear from the Acts passage and the Corinthians passage that Christians, unlike Jews, met together for corporate worship on a Sunday, and not a Sabbath day (sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.)
This might not seem like a huge shift for some, but keep in mind that this represented the changing of thousands of years of Jewish history, and the change happened remarkably fast – in a few years or less. What was the catalyst for this massive calendar change? The resurrection, of course. All the church – even Jewish believers who had been worshipping on Sabbath/Saturday their entire lives, were worshipping on Sunday, post-resurrection. A major shift had happened, and happened quickly. The resurrection is a very plausible explanation for such a shift. As further evidence of this major shift, and the reasons behind it, here is one of the earliest descriptions of the gathering of the early church, written by Justin Martyr in the 150s A.D.
On the day which is called Sunday we have a common assembly of all who live in the cities or in the outlying districts, and the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the Prophets are read, as long as there is time. Then, when the reader has finished, the president of the assembly verbally admonishes and invites all to imitate such examples of virtue. Then we all stand up together and offer up our prayers, and, as we said before, after we finish our prayers, bread and wine and water are presented. He who presides likewise offers up prayers and thanksgivings, to the best of his ability, and the people express their approval by saying ‘Amen.’ The Eucharistic elements are distributed and consumed by those present, and to those who are absent they are sent through the deacons. The wealthy, if they wish, contribute whatever they desire, and the collection is placed in the custody of the president. [With it] he helps the orphans and widows, those who are needy because of sickness or any other reason, and the captives and strangers in our midst; in short, he takes care of all those in need. Sunday, indeed, is the day on which we all hold our common assembly because it is the first day on which God, transforming the darkness and [prime] matter, created the world; and our Savior Jesus Christ arose from the dead on the same day. For they crucified Him on the day before that of Saturn, and on the day after, which is Sunday, He appeared to His Apostles and disciples, and taught them the things which we have passed on to you also for consideration.
 Thomas B. Falls with Justin Martyr, The First Apology, The Second Apology, Dialogue with Trypho, Exhortation to the Greeks, Discourse to the Greeks, The Monarchy or The Rule of God, vol. 6, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1948), 106–107.
Links to the other 20 posts in this series (20 Reasons To Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead)