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Why do Christians worship on Sunday rather than on the Sabbath?

This article is from Hank Hanegraaff, The Complete Bible Answer Book—Collector’s Edition (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008)
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Although some Christian traditions denounce Sunday worship as the end time “mark of the beast,” there are good reasons why millions of Christians gather on the first day of the week for worship.

First, in remembrance of the resurrection the early Christian church changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. Within weeks, thousands of Jews willingly gave up a theological tradition that had given them their national identity. God himself had provided the early church with a new pattern of worship through Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week as well as the Holy Spirit’s descent on Pentecost Sunday.

Furthermore, Scripture provides us with the reasons behind the symbol of the Sabbath. In Genesis, the Sabbath was a celebration of God’s work in creation (Genesis 2:2–3; Exodus 20:11). After the Exodus, the Sabbath expanded to a celebration of God’s deliverance from oppression in Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15). As a result of the resurrection, the Sabbath’s emphasis shifted once again. It became a celebration of the “rest” we have through Christ who delivers us from sin and the grave (Hebrews 4:1–11). For the emerging Christian church, the most dangerous snare was a failure to recognize that Jesus was the substance that fulfilled the symbol of the Sabbath. In the end, religious rites must inevitably bow to redemptive realities.

Finally, if you insist on being slavishly bound to Old Testament laws you should also be forewarned that failing to keep the letter of the law might be hazardous to your health. According to the Mosaic Law, anyone who does any work on the Sabbath “must be put to death” (Exodus 35:2). As the apostle Paul explains, however, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’”(Galatians 3:13). The Sabbath was “a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Colossians 2:17). In the end, religious rites must inevitably bow to redemptive realities.

For further study, see D. A. Carson, ed., From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Investigation (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1999, originally published by Zondervan, 1982)

“Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink,
or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon
celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow
of the things that were to come; the reality, however,
is found in Christ.”

Colossians 2:16–17

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