Should We Observe the Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday?

Question from a reader:

After reading Heaven, my husband said to me that since there would be Sabbath observance in Heaven, that we should observe it now. However, he believes that the true Sabbath is on Saturday. Is there scriptural support for observing the Sabbath on Sunday? 

Answer from Chelsea Dudley:

First, let me say that I think it’s wonderful that you and your husband want to set aside a day of rest to honor the Lord. Though we aren’t under the Old Testament Law anymore, the principle still stands (Galatians 5:18, Colossians 2:14, 1 Corinthians 9:19-23). I believe God will honor your efforts to set aside a day to rest and focus on Him! Here are a few articles we have on our website about observing the Sabbath now and in the life to come:

It sounds like where the tension comes in is whether or not you should observe the Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday.

Paul actually addresses this very issue in Romans 14. I would suggest reading the whole chapter. But in Romans 14:5-6 he says, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers ever day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord.” Paul concludes by saying, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification” (v. 19). I think what Paul is saying is that because we’re no longer under the law but under grace, we’re free to eat meat sacrificed to idols or free to not celebrate the Sabbath on a certain day. But we shouldn’t let our freedom hinder someone else’s walk with the Lord. Instead we should do whatever it takes to promote peace and edification with our brothers and sisters. So for Paul there are times he wouldn’t eat meat sacrificed to idols for the sake of his brother even though he knew he was free to do so. The fact that you’re wanting to set aside a day to rest and honor the Lord is a good thing and the day you choose is not as important as the heart behind it.

Here is a brief explanation from this article by John Piper on why the early church started celebrating the Sabbath on Sunday instead of Saturday:

The early church embraced Sunday rather than Saturday as “the Lord’s Day,” because God’s new creation was decisively purchased on Good Friday and inaugurated by the resurrection on “the first day of the week.” Thus the first great work of God, creation, was marked with a day of rest in honor of the Lord Jehovah; and the second great work of God, redemption (or new creation), was marked with a day of rest in honor of the Lord Jesus. The eternal Sabbath rest for all God’s people is enjoyed by “entering God’s rest” (Hebrews 4:10) through faith in Christ who said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

I argued that two texts in the New Testament point to the shift from the seventh to the first day of the week for the day set apart especially for Christ in anticipation of the consummation of our eternal rest:

Acts 20:7, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day.”

1 Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.”

I concluded that the world needs to feel the shade of the cool shadow of the Lord Jesus to be cast weekly across its weary, secular landscape. The name of that Shadow is the Lord’s Day (cf. Colossians 2:16f).

I hope this is helpful and that you and your husband are able to talk this through and land somewhere that you both feel good about. I’m praying you find much joy and rest in the Lord on your Sabbath days!

Photo: Unsplash

Chelsea Dudley served as Randy's personal assistant at Eternal Perspective Ministries for several years.