I have always wondered how the Sabbath day was changed to Sunday. As Reformed and Presbyterian, I do worship on Sunday, but have always wanted to know specifics of the change.
Obviously, Sunday was the day of our Lord's resurrection, but I was curious to know your position and specific scripture references to back this up.
I have been asked this question by a Seventh-Day Adventist.
Last week we observed the continuity from old covenant to new in the continued authority of the Fourth Commandment. But there is also discontinuity. The new covenant is new! That discontinuity appears in two ways:
1. Old covenant features are removed. (We'll look at that this week.)
2. The day is changed from the 7th to the 1st day of the week. (We'll look at that next week.)
First, there is discontinuity in that old covenant features are removed for the Christian.
From Acts 2:46, 3:1, 9:1,2, and other passages it is evident that the first Christians, who were Jewish, did not immediately abandon the ancient practices given through Moses, but continued to meet in the temple and synagogue for worship on the Jewish Sabbath while at the same time observing the first day of the week as the Lord's Day (see below). The word "Sabbath" did not become attached to the Lord's Day because it continued to be associated with the ongoing Jewish system zealously adhered to by those who rejected the Messiah and His followers.
As Gentiles became Christians tension arose over the authority of old covenant law in the church. Are Gentile believers in Christ obligated to assume "the yoke of the law" in order to be truly God's people? This issue was very broad in its effects, touching on dietary rules (Acts 10:9-28, Galatians 2:11-14), the practice of circumcision (Acts 15:1, Galatians 2:1-5, etc.), and other matters.
Among the "other matters" is the question of the observance of the Jewish Sabbath, which Paul addresses in Colossians 2:16 and Romans 14:4-12. In these passages Paul affirms the Christian's liberty from ordinances of the old covenant which were merely the shadows of the glorious reality which has now come in Christ (Col.2:17). The 7th day Sabbath, with its old covenant ceremonies prefiguring Christ and his work, has been superseded by the fullness that has come. Jewish Christians who wish to continue in the old practices have liberty to do so, so long as they do not suppose that they are under obligation from God to do so or that there is any merit in so doing (Romans 9:31-10:4). No one should condemn them; and even Paul exercised such liberty when it was useful for the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:20; Acts 16:3, 18:18, 21:20-26). By the same token, Jewish Christians are not to condemn Gentile believers who disregard the old Sabbaths, feast days, and new moons (Col. 2:16).
Under the Sinaitic covenant the simple creation ordinance of the Sabbath (Genesis 2:3, which preceded the later Mosaic covenant and did not expire with it) was greatly expanded. The Lord ordained various legal and ceremonial elaborations of the Sabbath, ordinances which were of a temporary nature, looking forward to the coming of Christ and the new covenant.
(1). The Sabbath idea was expanded to include Sabbath years (every 7th year), during which the land was to be given rest and the oppressed were to be liberated (Leviticus 25:1-8, 6:34f., 43, 2 Chronicles 36:21).
(2). Special Sabbaths, days of "holy convocation", were added: the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of First Fruits (Leviticus 23:2, 16:31, 23:11-16, 24, 32, 38f.).
(3). Special ceremonies and sacrifices were appointed for the weekly Sabbaths along with new moons and festival days (1 Chronicles 23:21, 2 Chronicles 2:4, 8:13, 31:3, Nehemiah 10:33, Isaiah 1:13f., Hosea 2:11, Leviticus 24:8, Numbers 28:9,10, 1 Chronicles 9:32; cf. Colossians 2:16).
It is this conjunction of Sabbaths with new moons and festival days that is emblematic of the distinctively Mosaic order as Paul refers to it in Colossians 2:16. He is not saying that believers in Christ may now disregard the Fourth Commandment, but that they are not bound to the distinctively Jewish (old covenant) observances associated with that Command under Moses.
Next week we will (finally!) deal with the second discontinuity, i.e., that the day is changed from the 7th to the 1st day of the week.
"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.
The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.
At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)
The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.
While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.
You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.
Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been editedall personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expandedto make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.