Why Did Popular Christianity Replace the Sabbath With Sunday?

Did God really transfer the Sabbath to Sunday in the New Testament? What were the reasons why mainstream Christianity adopted Sunday instead of God’s Sabbath? This study will be a very interesting read.

Most Christians believe that the seventh-day of the week (later called the Sabbath) which God designated to be holy right after the creation of man — and which was observed as such by God’s obedient people for thousands of years — has been abolished and its reverence transferred to the first day of the week, called Sunday, in the New Testament era. Do you know how this happened?

It’s time to carefully examine the facts behind these claims and objectively study the verses referred to in support of such beliefs.

There are four main factors which we need to examine:

  1. The claim that Christ was resurrected on a Sunday morning;
  2. The claim that the apostle Paul supposedly introduced the new practice of church assembly on the first day of the week;
  3. The fulfillment of the predicted apostasy; and
  4. The surprising obedience to the decree of Emperor Constantine the Great.

Finally, we will also see what the Bible really teaches on this matter.

Reason # 1: False interpretations on when Christ was resurrected

Was Christ really resurrected on the first day of the week?

Five misinterpreted verses:

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb … “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said … ”
~Matthew 28:1,6

[NOTE: At dawn on the first day of the week, Christ was no longer in the tomb. The angel whom the women saw referred to Christ’s statement about when He will rise.]

Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they [the women] came to the tomb when the sun had risen … “He is risen! He is not here … ”
~Mark 16:2,6

[NOTE: Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, He was already (past tense) risen.]

Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.
~Mark 16:9

[NOTE: The absence of a comma in the proper place in this sentence can give a wrong interpretation to erroneously say He rose on the first day of the week. The subject matter in this verse is when He appeared to Mary Magdalene, not when He rose or was resurrected. So as not to contradict with all other verses regarding Christ’s resurrection, the sentence should be punctuated to read: “Now when He rose [or had risen], [comma] on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene … ”]

Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
~Luke 24:1-3

[NOTE: Consistent with all the other Gospel writers, Luke also says, that very early in the morning of the first day of the week, Christ’s body was no longer in the tomb.]

Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
~John 20:1

[NOTE: The word “day” in this verse is in italics, which means that such word was not in the original manuscript, but was supplied by the KJV translators. Please remember also that in Jewish reckoning, days begin and end at sunset. Thus, in this case, her going to the tomb alone can be understood in our Roman reckoning of time to be still Saturday evening. Much later, she went back to the tomb, this time with the other women bringing spices. What is significant here is Mary Magdalene’s discovery that as early as Saturday evening, the stone was already removed, indicating that Christ was already resurrected long before early Sunday morning when the other witnesses came to the tomb, too.]

Conclusion to Reason # 1

There is NO verse in the Bible which says that Christ was resurrected on Sunday morning. Such belief is based on a false conclusion resulting from successive misinterpretations of the stated verses, emanating from an erroneous reckoning of chronology, or the lack of proper understanding thereof. The FACT is that Christ was resurrected from the tomb, exactly as He claimed, after “three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:40). Since He was placed in the tomb before sunset on Passover, the prophesied day He would die (Daniel 9:26,27) — which was in the “middle of the week” [Wednesday], the 14th day of the first month of the Sacred Calendar (Exodus 12:2,6) as our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7b) — God the Father also raised Him from the dead, before sunset of Saturday, showing that Christ was also “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). Clearly, Christ was NOT resurrected on a Sunday morning, contrary to popular claims.

[For a thoroughly documented discussion of this subject and to view the Chronological Chart of Christ’s Death, Burial, and Resurrection, please read the article, “Did Christ REALLY Die on Friday and Rise on Sunday?” published on this website.]

Reason # 2: False interpretations on what Luke and Paul meant

Did Paul inaugurate “first day of the week” (Sunday) worship services?

Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.
~Acts 20:7

Today’s English Version renders the verse more accurately:

On Saturday evening, we gathered together for the fellowship meal. Paul spoke to the people, and kept on speaking until midnight, since he was going to leave the next day.
~Acts 20:7, Today’s English Version (TEV)

[NOTE: Please remember that in Jewish time-reckoning, days begin and end at sunset. Obviously, Paul met with the Troas brethren on that Sabbath day. After Sabbath sunset, it was already considered the “first day of the week.” Since they were scheduled to depart from Troas early the following morning [Sunday], Paul took that rare opportunity (which became his last visit to Troas on this third missionary journey) to extend his talk until daybreak (Acts 20:11b). Therefore, Paul’s meeting with the brethren in Troas extended into Saturday night. Notice that Paul considered the following day (Sunday) as a normal work day (Acts 20:13), since he himself hiked the distance of about 20 miles (or about 30 kilometers), following the short-cut route from Troas to Assos. He allowed his companions to sail around the peninsula (a distance of about 60 miles or 90 kilometers). Based on this account, Sunday was not a rest day to be kept holy. Moreover, Paul did NOT assemble the people for a religious meeting on that Sunday. Otherwise, he and his companions should not have departed yet on that Sunday to resume their journey.

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.
~1 Corinthians 16:1-4

First, it is very important to always know and understand the context of the verses under study, and not simply jump to one’s own personal conclusions or interpretations. A significant motto in Exegesis and Hermeneutics classes is: “A text without context is a pretext.” Pretext means false reasoning or a false explanation.

The subject matter in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 is NOT about the format of Sunday worship services, as is commonly but erroneously assumed. Rather this is a letter of instruction from the apostle Paul to the Corinthian brethren about the system of gathering food products to be sent to the brethren in Jerusalem who were suffering from famine.

This great famine in Jerusalem and Judea was earlier predicted by Agabus in Acts 11:28-30. Some secular sources which documented this famine can be found in the writings of Tacitus [Annals, XI.43], Josephus [Antiquities, XX.ii.5], and Suetonius [Claudius 18], which affirm that this happened ca. A.D. 45-46 during the reign of Claudius, Emperor of Rome (A.D. 41-54).

Notice that in the above-stated verses, Paul considered the “first day of the week” (Sunday) as a normal working day. The brethren were in effect instructed to go to their farms to gather food products and to take measures to preserve them (such as drying) and properly pack them to withstand weeks of transport to Jerusalem. These advance instructions were intended so that “there will be no [time-consuming] gathering [of food products] when [he] comes.” He indicated also the need for men whom they will approve to carry those large bales or sacks of food stuff. If he were referring to the Sunday worship money collection, that can just be carried by one person. Very clearly then, contrary to popular belief, these verses were NOT about Sunday worship and collections.

Conclusion to Reason # 2

The apostle Paul did NOT inaugurate a new worship day contrary to biblical teachings. The only Scriptures available then was what we call the Old Testament. There is never any authorization therein for any other weekly worship day except the seventh-day Sabbath. Paul wrote to the believers to follow him as he follows Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Christ would never authorize any other man-made worship day apart from what is already in the Scriptures. Actually, Paul had the real opportunity to add a new worship day for the Gentiles in Antioch. After the Sabbath meeting, the Gentiles came wanting him to preach to them also. He could have told them, “Come back tomorrow (Sunday).” Instead, he told them to come the next Sabbath  (Acts 13:42-44). So, contrary to popular beliefs, Paul did NOT inaugurate or authorize a new Sunday worship day, even for the Gentiles.

REASON # 3: Prophetic fulfillment of “departure from the truth”

Hidden through vague translations is a very important Greek word which should have alerted people to the developing doctrinal errors. That Greek word is “apostasia” (apostasy in English) which means departure from or “falling away” or “rebellion” from the Truth.

The popular King James Version (also the NKJ and YLT) inaccurately translated that important Greek word simply as “falling away” (from what?). Other translations (ESV, NIV, NLT, RSV) didn’t do any better by just translating that Greek word as “rebellion” (from what?). Among the popular versions today, only the New American Standard Version (NASB) translated it correctly as “apostasy” directly and literally from the original Greek word, “apostasia.”

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction…
~2 Thessalonians 2:3, NASB

This is a tricky problem. Unless one is knowledgeable enough, and because the word apostasy is hidden under other vague, unrelated words, one cannot find it in most Bible translations (except in the NASB) — none as a word entry in concordances and lexicons, except in some Bible dictionaries.

As a hidden entry, apostasy is cataloged as G646 in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, and in The New Englishman’s Greek Concordance and Lexicon by Wigram and Green.

In Greek it is written as apostasia, pronounced as apostasia {ap-os-tas-ee’-ah}, and defined as: apostasy, defection, rebellion, revolt, falling away, or to forsake. The only other use of the word in the New Testament is in Acts 21:21 where it is again hidden under the word “forsake” (referring to the Jews’ accusations against Paul allegedly having forsaken Moses’ laws).

While most references today are confused about its proper definition or interpretation, there should first be a solid basis from where any defection, falling away, or rebellion should be based from. Obviously, the basis should be the untampered TRUTHS in the Bible. Christ, in His long, final prayer to the Father referred to God’s Words as Truth (John 17:17).

Therefore, any teaching which departs from the Scriptures, from what Christ and His original apostles taught, becomes classified as “apostasy,” such as substituting Sunday for the Sabbath.

Conclusion to Reason # 3

Due to the effectively hidden or vague translation of the word apostasy, most Christians today have not been aware of their massive doctrinal drift away from the truths of God in the Bible. Lacking awareness on the warning concerning apostasy, most have been led to simply follow the false and unbiblical ideas of men, as we will see in the next example.

REASON # 4: Obedience to the Decree of Emperor Constantine

It is very surprising to note that most Christians have simply obeyed the Sunday decree of the ruthless pagan Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, rather than the divine command of the Almighty Creator God concerning the Sabbath as the true worship day.

Who is Constantine the Great?

Constantine the Great’s Latin name is Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus. He was born on 27 February c. A.D. 272, and died on 22 May A.D. 337. He is also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine (by the Orthodox Church and considered Equal-to-the-Apostles). He was a Roman Emperor from A.D. 306 to 337. Constantine was the son of Flavius Valerius Constantius, a Roman Army officer, and his consort named Helena.

Constantine did not patronize Christianity alone. After gaining victory in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (in 312), a triumphal Arch for Constantine was built (in 315) and decorated with images of the goddess Victoria, and at its dedication, sacrifices to [pagan] gods like Apollo, Diana, and Hercules were made. Absent from the Arch are any Christian symbolism.

In A.D. 321, he legislated that the venerable Day of the Sun [Sunday] should be a day of rest for all citizens. Furthermore, Constantine’s coinage continued to carry the symbols of the sun.

Sunday in Christianity

In Roman [pagan] culture, Sunday was the day of the Sun god. It was adopted by Christians who did not have a Jewish background. In paganism, the sun was the source of life, giving warmth and illumination to mankind. It was the center of a popular cult among Romans, who would stand at dawn to catch the first rays of sunshine as they prayed [sunrise worship service]. The celebration of the winter solstice (which also influenced Christmas) was part of the Roman cult of the sun. Christian churches were built with an orientation so that the congregation faced toward the sunrise in the East.

On 7 March A.D. 321, Constantine I, decreed that Sunday would be observed as the Roman day of rest. Emperor Constantine’s Sunday Decree (in part) reads:

On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed…

In A.D. 363, Roman  Catholic Canon 29 of the Council of Laodicea prohibited observance of the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) and encouraged Christians to work on Saturday and rest on the Lord’s Day (Sunday). Here is what Canon 29 says, word for word:

Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.

The fact that a Canon on this particular Sabbath subject had to be issued at all is an indication that adoption of Constantine’s decree of A.D. 321 was still not universal, not even among Christians. It also indicates that Jews were still observing the Sabbath on Saturday.

Conclusion to Reason #4

Emperor Constantine the Great, an ardent pagan “sun worshipper” with his ever-faithful loyalty to the “VENERABLE DAY OF THE SUN [SUNDAY]” can be truly considered as the “FATHER OF SUNDAY WORSHIP” since he was the first to legislate and mandate such a decree for all the entire Roman Empire. Surprisingly, most of the world of mainstream or popular Christianity (which considers Rome as their Spiritual Mother Church) simply obeyed his pagan-inspired decree, rather than the command of the All-wise and All-powerful Creator God of the universe, and of the Sabbath.

What the Bible really teaches: The “New Covenant” book of Hebrews still affirmed the Sabbath day

There had been some transformation in the Old Testament laws, such as:

  • Animal sacrifices (Hebrews 10: 1-22), wherein Christ became our ultimate Sacrifice, while we are expected to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1);
  • The Levitical priesthood (Christ re-assumed His earlier role as the Melchizedek Priest of God (Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:1-28);
  • Temple worship (Hebrews 9:1-28), wherein true believers are now the temple of God’s Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16) and where true worship is no longer associated with any mountain or place (John 4:20-24).

Yet, in view of these major transformations, the keeping of God’s Sabbath still stands.

“For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest [“a keeping of the Sabbath,” sabbatismos] for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His [referring to God Himself resting, stated in Genesis 2:2,3].
~Hebrews 4:8-10

NOTE: The writer [believed to be Paul himself], did not just use the words “sabbaton” or “katapausis” to depict the Sabbath rest command, but used a special word used only once in the entire New Testament to stress the importance of keeping the Sabbath. God inspired the word “sabbatismos” [G4520 {sab-bat-is-mos’}] which means “a [literal and actual] keeping of the Sabbath.”

Final conclusion

We have clearly shown the following facts:

  1. Christ was not resurrected on Sunday morning but right before sunset on the Sabbath day;
  2. Paul never taught nor practiced Sunday as the new worship day;
  3. The clever hiding of the word “apostasy” led people to massive doctrinal error;
  4. Sunday worship came from paganism and was championed by Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.

As a final point, we have clearly seen that the Book of Hebrews still maintains and upholds Sabbath-keeping for the people of God.

The Creator of all things (including the Sabbath [Genesis 2:2,3]) is identified as “The Word” and also known as Christ, the Messiah (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16,17). Regardless of all the ignorance, debates, and unbelief now, when Christ comes back to rule this whole world, one thing is certain and clear: the seventh-day Sabbath will be imposed upon all humanity as was clearly prophesied by prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 66:23).

The big question now is: Will you obey Emperor Constantine, or the Great Creator God?

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks for the good informations, sir. But, as for me.. heart MATTERS the most, If the Spirit of God is there. The Object of worship is the most important thing to me.
    The way how I please GOD IS by my faith in Him. I am blessed to read your articles. Very much thank you. Blessings !

    • Edmond Macaraeg

      Thanks for your positive comments, Fely.
      Christ said, our worship should be “in spirit AND in truth” (John 4:24).
      In other words, there are TWO main factors to consider, NOT just one.
      One concerns the “Spirit” which involves God’s Spirit, and our attitude.
      The second concerns “Truth” based on Scriptures. Sunday is not based on God’s truth.
      It is a man-made, Satan-inspired COUNTERFEIT for God’s Sabbath. Let us not be deceived.

    • Edmond Macaraeg

      Thanks for your comments, Fely. The Bible instructs us to accompany our faith by our works, which includes of course, obedience (James 2:17, 20, 24, 26).

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