Should We Worship on Sunday or Saturday (or Maybe Even Both)?

This Saturday our church launches a Saturday night worship service.  The reason for this is first and foremost a necessity of space. We have outgrown the three worship services we currently have on Sunday morning.  Additionally, we are hoping to reach new people with the gospel.  I must admit, when the idea of a Saturday worship service first came up, I had some hesitation.  Would such a service just be a convenience to people?  How do you plug folks into a small group and provide accountability and fellowship?  I think we have those matters settled, but the greater questions about a Saturday worship service involved the biblical perspective.

I have had a few people ask me questions regarding the proper day of the week in which Christians should participate in corporate worship.  Should the day of worship be Sunday only?  Is Saturday worship the “true” biblical day for worship?  Is Sunday worship even biblical- why aren’t we observing the Sabbath, commanded in the Old Testament, which is Saturday?  In this post, I want to try and address these questions.

Exod. 20:8-10 states, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work.”  In this verse God clearly commanded His people to set aside Saturday as a day of worship and rest from labor.  Why did God give this command in the first place?  After God finished creation, the Bible says that He rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:1-3).  Notice that the text never says God was tired from His work of creation.  God, being omnipotent, doesn’t get tired.  “Rested” in this sense simply means he stopped His work of creation.   So, why is there the obvious connection of God “resting” on the seventh day with the command for man to rest on the seventh day?  Mark 2:27 provides the answer- “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”  Thus, God established the Sabbath as a rest for His people, not because He needed to rest, but because we, being human, need a time of rest and a time of focused worship.

And so the Jews did just that. They devoutly honored and kept sacred the Sabbath.  In fact, some of the rules they came up with to keep the Sabbath became ridiculous (e.g. on the Sabbath you couldn’t spit on dirt because that would be cultivating soil and considered work).  Furthermore, Jesus went to the synagogue on Saturday to teach (Matt. 12:9), as did the apostle Paul (Acts 17:2; although he was also teaching Christians on Sundays).  So, the big question that arises is if the Old Testament commands us to keep the Sabbath and we see Jesus and Paul honoring that command, then why do we worship on Sunday and not Saturday?

Let’s start by understanding that the command to keep the Sabbath was part of the Old Testament system of Law.  For followers of God in the Old Testament (under the old covenant), keeping the requirements of the Law (obeying the commandments, making sacrifices, keeping the Sabbath, etc.) were necessary to satisfy God’s requirements for righteousness and forgiveness.  But upon the incarnation/death/resurrection of Jesus Christ (inaugurating the new covenant) Jesus perfectly satisfied the righteous demands of God.  As such, we now live under grace and no longer have to satisfy the demands of the Law (Rom. 6:14-15).  Thus, keeping the Sabbath is no longer a necessary requirement. If it were, we would still be under Law and not grace.

In the New Testament we see how the church lived out this principle.  They gathered to worship, not on Saturday, but on Sunday (most notably because this is the day of the week Jesus rose from the dead).  Acts 20:7 states, “And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.”  Here we see the church gathering for worship (breaking bread [i.e. observing the Lord’s Supper/communion] and hearing a message).  In addition, Paul instructed the church to gather on Sunday in 1 Cor. 16:1-2- “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.  On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.”  Implicit in this verse is that the act of giving was part of the weekly worship gathering of the church.

Just as important are the theological considerations given in the New Testament as to why observance of the Sabbath is no longer required.  Perhaps the most important passage demonstrating this is Col. 2:16-17- “Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”  To me, this passage shows that Paul was also dealing with the issue of what is the proper day of worship with his readers.  He clearly states that we are not to judge one another regarding which day of the week we set aside for worship and rest.  Why?  Because adhering to a certain, fixed day was no longer required under the new covenant of grace.  Paul illustrates this by stating that past established days for festivals and worship (and diet as well) are only “shadows” compared to the substance of Christ.  In other words, the Old Testament Law was merely pointing the way to the new covenant that was to come and be inaugurated and fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Our rest and worship is not bound to the observance of a certain day of the week, but in Christ Himself.

In addition, consider this passage from Rom. 14:5-6- “One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.”  The day of the week that is set aside for rest and worship is up to the choice of the individual.  Again, why would Paul say this?  Because observance of the Sabbath is no longer required.

The biblical evidence, as I see it, clearly reveals that we are no longer required to worship on Saturday, nor is Sunday the only day of the week that is valid for a worship service.  We are free to choose whatever day we want (we are under grace, not Law) and no one should judge us for our decision.  That said, I believe the church should principally adhere to the example set out by the early church to worship corporately on Sunday.  However, if by necessity or ministry philosophy, a church feels led to conduct a Saturday worship service (or Thursday, etc.) is not violating any biblical principle.

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One Response to “Should We Worship on Sunday or Saturday (or Maybe Even Both)?”

  1. Thanks for your insights. Congratulations to your church that you’ve outgrown even three Sunday services! I think you’ve taken the right approach with your analysis. Simply put, it is preferred, but not required, to meet together on Sunday. If you can provide a more impactful meeting time for other believers or witness opportunities for unbelievers at other times, do it! Good luck with your Saturday services – may you continue to do the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that [you] might walk in them.” Eph 2:10.