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January - February 2001_ The Sabbath Sentinel

Christian Worship & The Sabbath Day (Part 2)

by Wayne L. Atchison

(8) The Roman Calendar

The names of the days of the Roman week are very revealing in coming to understand about Sunday worship before it became a Christian institution. Sunday, or the day of the sun, was the primary day of pagan worship. Although other pagan gods had days named after them, only "dies solis" (Latin for "day of the sun") was proclaimed to be holy. The following describes how in pagan Roman times (before, during and after the coming of Jesus Christ), Sunday was the most prominent day of worship in the Roman Empire.

"There is no question that the existence of the planetary week with its Sun-day (dies solis) is crucial for determining any influence of Sun-worship on the Christian adoption of Sunday observance, inasmuch as the Sun before the existence of a weekly 'Sun-day' was venerated every morning" (From Sabbath to Sunday, Samuele Bacchiocchi, 1977, p. 237).

"The prominence of Sun-worship in the Roman Empire was attributed to two factors. First, it had been a part of the religious worship system of Pagan Rome for a long, long time. It was widespread, but not the official dominant religion." Next, the Eastern cult of sun-worship, 'Sol Invictus' (Invincible Sun), through the cult of 'Sol Invictus Mithra' and 'Sol Elagabal,' became the dominant religion of the Empire. [Notice the 'bal' at the end of the name; this signifies that it incorporated ba(a)l worship.]

"Mithraism primarily was a private cult, though it numbered among its adherents magistrates and emperors. Sol Invictus Elagabal, on the other hand, was a popular cult with grandiose temples, and during the rule of the young Emperor Elagabalus (A.D. 218-222) was made the official cult of the whole empire" (ibid., p. 241).

"That the day of the Sun enjoyed preeminence already by the middle of the second century is clearly indicated by the famous astrologer Vettius Valens. In his Anthology composed between 154-174 A.D., in explaining how to find the day of the week of any given birth date, he explicitly states: 'And this is the sequence of the planetary stars in relation to the days of the week: SUN, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn'" (ibid., p. 251).

"The 'dies solis' was evidently the most sacred (day) of the week for the faithful of Mithra and the gods have arranged the days of the week, whose names the Romans have dedicated to certain stars. The first day [of the week] they called the day of the Sun because it is the ruler of all the stars" (ibid., p. 250, footnote 53).

(9) The Early Church Worshipped On The Sabbath Day

Notice which day Christ kept while He was here on earth: "...and as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up for to read." (Luke 4:16). Not only was it the custom of Jesus Christ to keep the Sabbath, it was also the custom of the apostle Paul, who was taught directly by Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:15-18), and preached to the Gentiles (Acts 13:41-44, and 17:2).

It should be noted that the event in Acts 13 took place about 45 A.D., and the one in Acts 17 took place about 49 A.D. Here Paul is worshipping and teaching on the Sabbath day, week after week, many years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Also notice that Paul could have met to teach them on Sunday, but he did not. The Sabbath day was the day to meet for worship and to learn God's ways.

(10) Roman Catholic Church Confessions

The "Cathechismus Romanus" was commanded by the Council of Trent, and published by the Vatican Press, by order of Pope Pius V, in 1566. This catechism for priests says: "It pleased the church of God, that the religious celebration of the Sabbath day should be transferred to 'the Lord's day.'," (Catechism of the Council of Trent (Donovan's translation, 1867), part 3, chap. 4, p. 345). Notice that the celebration of the Sabbath was transferred to Sunday, and done so by the authority of the Catholic Church.

"Question: How prove you that the Church hath power to command feasts and holy days?

"Answer. By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants allow of, and therefore they fondly contradict themselves, by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other feasts commanded by the same Church.'

(Henry Tuberville, An Abridgement of the Christian Doctrine (1833 approbation), p. 58). (The same statement is in "Manual of Christian Doctrine ed.," by Daniel Ferris, 1916 ed., p. 67).

Notice that the changing of Sabbath worship to Sunday worship is one of the proofs which the Catholic Church uses to demonstrate that they have the authority to command holy days and feasts. Also note that the Protestants inadvertently submit to their authority by also worshipping God on Sunday.

"Question: Have you any other way of proving that the Church has power to institute festivals of precept? ... Answer: Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her; she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday the seventh day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority." (Stephen Keenan, A Doctrinal Catechism (3rd ed.), p. 174).

"The Catholic Church, ... by virtue of her divine mission, changed the day from Saturday to Sunday." (The Catholic Mirror, official organ of Cardinal Gibbons, Sept. 23, 1893).

Notice that the Catholic Church admits that they changed the day of worship to Sunday, not God, or the Bible, or early Christian writings. Worshipping Jesus Christ on Sunday is a Roman Catholic tradition, not a Biblically sanctified practice. This tradition is the primary sign of being under their authority.

  1. "Is Saturday the 7th day according to the Bible and the 10 Commandments? I answer yes.
  2. Is Sunday the first day of the week, and did the Church change the 7th day Saturday for Sunday, the 1st day? I answer yes.
  3. Did Christ change the day? I answer no!

Faithfully yours, J. Card. Gibbons." (James Cardinal Gibbons autograph letter).

Most scholars of the Bible and denomination leaders will admit that the practice of Christian Sunday worship is a tradition, not instituted by Jesus Christ, or prescribed in the New Testament.

"Question: Which is the Sabbath day?
Answer: Saturday is the Sabbath day.

Question: Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?
Answer: We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday."

(Peter Geiermann, The Convert's Catechism of Catholic Doctrine (1946 ed.), p. 50. (Geiermann received the "apostolic blessing" of Pope Pius X in his labors Jan. 25, 1910).

The Catholic Catechism teaches its students the truth about Sunday worship and the Sabbath day. Why is it that most Protestant Christians are never taught these facts? Because to teach them would mean that the Protestant denomination would be admitting that they derive their own traditions and authority straight from the Catholic Church, not the Bible.

"You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify." (James Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers (1917 ed.), pp. 72, 73).

"Nowhere in the Bible is it stated that worship should be changed from Saturday to Sunday. The fact is that the Church was in existence for several centuries before the Bible was given to the world. The Church made the Bible, the Bible did not make the Church."

"Now the Church ... instituted, by God's authority, Sunday as the day of worship. This same Church, by the same divine authority, taught the doctrine of Purgatory long before the Bible was made. We have, therefore, the same authority for Purgatory as we have for Sunday."
(Martin J. Scott, Things Catholics Are Asked About (1927 ed.), p. 136).

Some theologians have held that God likewise directly determined Sunday as the day of worship in the New Law, that He Himself has explicitly substituted the Sunday for the Sabbath. But this theory is not entirely abandoned.

"It is now commonly held that God simply gave His Church the power to set aside whatever day or days she would deem suitable as Holy Days. The Church chose Sunday, the first day of the week, and in the course of time added other days, as holy days." (Vincent J. Kelly (Catholic), Forbidden Sunday and Feast-Day Occupations (1943 ed.), p. 2).

The Catholic Church claims to have the authority of God to change the day of worship. It says the same thing about Purgatory, and by extension to all doctrines. How many Protestant Christians are willing to submit without question to the Catholic Church to determine what they believe as doctrine? A national-poll does not need to be taken, just consider how Christians (both Catholic and Protestant) obey the Catholic Church on the issues of Birth Control, praying to Mary, and Confessionals. These doctrines also "have the authority of God," being claimed by the Catholic Church. Perhaps the real issue is not who claims to have God\'92s authority, but rather in believing the scriptures which absolutely has God's authority, letting the word of God decide these matters. The word of God tells His followers to worship Him on His day of worship, the Sabbath.

"Regarding the change from the observance of the Jewish Sabbath to the Christian Sunday, I wish to draw your attention to the facts:

  1. That Protestants, who accept the Bible as the only rule of faith and religion, should by all means go back to the observance of the Sabbath. The fact that they do not, but on the contrary observe the Sunday, stultifies {appears ridiculous} them in the eyes of every thinking man.

  2. We Catholics do not accept the Bible as the only rule of faith. Besides the Bible we have the living Church, the authority of the Church, as a rule to guide us. We say, this Church, instituted by Christ to teach and guide man through life, has the right to change the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament and hence, we accept her change of the Sabbath to Sunday. We frankly say, yes, the Church made this change, made this law, as she made many other laws, for instance, the Friday abstinence, the unmarried priesthood, the laws concerning mixed marriages, the regulation of Catholic marriages and a thousand other laws.

  3. We also say that of all Protestants, the Seventh-day Adventist denomination is the only major Protestant denomination that reasons correctly and is consistent with its teaching. It is always somewhat laughable, to see the Protestant churches, in pulpit and legislation, demand the observance of Sunday, of which there is nothing in their Bible."

(Father Peter R. Kraemer Catholic Church Extension Society, Chicago, IL.)

"My brethren, look about you upon the various wrangling sects and denominations. Show me one that claims or possesses the power to make laws binding on the conscience. There's but one on the face of the earth, the Catholic Church, that has the power to make laws binding upon the conscience, binding before God, binding under pain of hell fire. Take, for instance, the day we celebrate Sunday. What right have the Protestant churches to observe that day? None whatever. You say it is to obey the commandment, 'Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.' But Sunday is not the Sabbath, according to the Bible and the record of time."

"Everyone knows that Sunday is the first day of the week, while Saturday is the seventh day, and the Sabbath, the day consecrated as a day of rest. It is so recognized in all civilized nations. I have repeatedly offered $1,000 to any one who will furnish any proof from the Bible that Sunday is the day we are abound to keep, and no one has called for the money."

"If any person in this town will show any scripture for it, I will tomorrow evening publicly acknowledge it and thank him for it. It was the Holy Catholic Church that changed the day of rest from Saturday to Sunday, the first day of the week. And it not only compelled all to keep Sunday, but at the Council of Laodicea, A.D. 364, anathematized those who kept the Sabbath and urged all persons to labor on the seventh day under penalty of anathema."

"Which church does the whole civilized world obey? Protestants call us every horrible name they can think of, anti-Christ, the scarlet colored beast, Babylon, etc. and at the same time profess great reverence for the Bible, and yet by their solemn act of keeping Sunday, they acknowledge the power of the Catholic Church."

"The Bible says: 'Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.' But the Catholic Church says, 'No, keep the first day of the week,' and the whole world bows in obedience." (Father T. Enright, Roman Catholic Priest, Kansas City, MO.).

"Incidentally, there is no proof in scripture that God willed the Sabbath to be changed from Saturday to Sunday, so that those non-Catholics who do not accept the value of tradition as a source of faith, should logically still observe Saturday as the Sabbath." (This Is The Faith: Catholic Theology For Laymen, Francis J. Ripley, p. 176).

Notice again the certainty that each quote has. There is no mistaking the truth. Each quote boldly teaches that the holy scriptures do not allow for Sunday worship by Christians. Rather, the practice is solely based upon the authority of the Catholic Church. Protestant denominations which keep Sunday, and say they are not under Catholic authority, are fooling no one but themselves.

(11) Protestant Church Confessions

"The extracts that follow are from noted clergymen, scholars and other eminent writers, all of whom doubtless kept the Sunday as a matter of church custom. But they nevertheless bear witness that there is no Bible command for it." (The Bible Sabbath Association ). Take special notice of the dates of the quotations, this subject is not new, and was never hidden.

ANGLICAN: Sunday worship is not biblical, it is tradition.

"And where are we told in the Scriptures that we are to keep the first day at all? We are commanded to keep the seventh; but we are nowhere commanded to keep the first day ... The reasons why we keep the first day of the week holy instead of the seventh is for the same reason that we observe many other things, not because of the Bible, but because the church, has enjoined it." (Isaac Williams (Anglican), Plain Sermons on the Catechism, vol. 1, pp. 334, 336).

Sunday worship is not practicing the forth commandment, it is tradition.

"The Lord's day was merely of ecclesiastical institution. It was not introduced by virtue of the fourth commandment." (Jeremy Taylor (Church of England), Ductor Dubitantium, part 1, book 2, chap. 2, rule 6, secs. 51, 59 (1850 ed.), vol. 9, pp. 458, 464).

Early Christians worshipped on the Sabbath. "The Primitive Christians had a great veneration for the Sabbath, and spent the Day in Devotion and Sermons. And 'tis not to be doubted but they derived this Practice from the Apostles themselves." (A Discourse in Six Dialogues on the Name, Notion, and Observation of the Lord's Day, p. 189).

BAPTISTS: The transfer of Sabbath to Sunday worship is not biblical. "There was and is a commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day, but the Sabbath day was not Sunday. It will, however, be readily said, and with some show of triumph, that the Sabbath was transferred from the Seventh to the First day of the week ... Where can the record of such a transaction be found? Not in the New Testament, absolutely not." (Paper read Aug. 20, 1893, by Dr. Edward T. Hiscox (Baptist), at a Baptist ministers' meeting at Saratoga, New York).

"The Lord's Day is not sanctified by any specific command or by any inevitable inference. In all the New Testament there is no hint or suggestion of a legal obligation binding any man, whether saint or sinner, to observe the Day. Its sanctity arises only out of what it means to the true believer." (J. J. Taylor (Baptist), The Sabbatic Question, p. 72).

CONGREGATIONALIST: Sunday worship is not the same thing as Sabbath worship. "It is quite clear that, however rigidly or devotedly we may spend Sunday, we are not keeping the Sabbath ... The Sabbath was founded on a specific, Divine command. We can plead no such command for the obligation to observe Sunday ... There is not a single sentence in the New Testament to suggest that we incur any penalty by violating the supposed sanctity of Sunday." (Dr. R. W. Dale (British Congregationalist): The Ten Commandments, pp. 127-129).

Sunday worship is not biblical, and was not originally called the Christian Sabbath. "The Christian Sabbath (Sunday) is not in the Scripture, and was not by the primitive church called the Sabbath." (Timothy Dwight's Theology (American Congregationalist) says: Sermon 107 (1818 ed.), vol. 4, p. 49).

DISCIPLES OF CHRIST: Sabbath day worship could never have been changed to first day worship. "'But,' say some, 'it was changed from the seventh to the first day.' Where? when? and by whom? No man can tell. No; it never was changed, nor could it be, unless Creation was to be gone through again: for the reason assigned must be changed before the observance, or respect to the reason, can be changed !" "It is all old wives' fables to talk of the change of the sabbath from the seventh to the first day. If it be changed, it was that august personage changed it who changes times and laws 'ex officio' I think his name is Doctor Antichrist." (Alexander Campbell (the founder of the Disciples of Christ); The Christian Baptist, Feb. 1, 1824, vol. 1, no. 7).

"The first day of the week is commonly called the Sabbath. This is a mistake. The Sabbath of the Bible was the day just preceding the first day of the week. The first day of the week is never called the Sabbath anywhere in the entire Scriptures. It is also an error to talk about the change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. There is not in any place in the Bible any intimation of such a change." (First Day Observance, pp. 17, 19).

LUTHERAN: Sabbath day worship practiced by early church. "We have seen how gradually the impression of the Jewish sabbath faded from the mind of the Christian Church, and how completely the newer thought underlying the observance of the first day took possession of the church. We have seen that the Christians of the first three centuries never confused one with the other, but for a time celebrated both." (The Sunday Problem (1923 ed.), a study book of the United Lutheran Churches, p. 36).

Sunday worship has always been a human tradition. "The festival of Sunday, like all other festivals, was always only a human ordinance, and it was far from the intentions of the apostles to establish a divine command in this respect; far from them, and from the early apostolic church, to transfer the laws of the Sabbath to Sunday." (The History of the Christian Religion and Church, Dr. Augustus Neander, p. 186).

METHODIST: Other non-biblical practices are excused because of worshipping on Sunday. "It is true there is no positive command for infant baptism ... Nor is there any for keeping holy the first day of the week." (Methodist Episcopal Theological Compend, by Amos Binney, pp. 180, 181).

Today many Protestant denominations attempt to use isolated scriptures and logic to "prove" that Sunday is now the Christian's day of worship. However, their attempts are baseless. The leaders of the Catholic Church and the Protestant denominations know that there is not one scripture in the Bible which gives God's permission to worship Him on any other day except on the Sabbath day. This single fact reduces all of their spiritual sounding logic and quotations of isolated scriptures into the domain of "human reasoning." Men are not a Christian's authority, and neither is a Church.

(12) Sabbath Day Worship And Christian Salvation

There is no doubt, historically or biblically, that God intends for Christians to worship Him and His son Jesus Christ on the Sabbath day, which is Saturday by our Roman calendar. But what about the millions of Christians which are not doing this, and worshipping Jesus Christ on Sunday? To ask the question in the language of most Protestant denominations, "Is Sabbath keeping required for salvation?" The answer is no, it is not required for salvation.

Salvation is given to a Christian by God's own sovereign choice. Salvation is given as a gift, and is made possible through the righteousness of Jesus the risen Christ. The individual's own righteousness does not obligate God to give them salvation. There is nothing that a Christian can do, or not do, which will obligate God to grant His gift of salvation. No "work" or combination of "works" can buy salvation. Therefore, keeping the Sabbath will not earn salvation, and for those millions of Christians who are not keeping the Sabbath, that practice will not cause them to lose salvation.

What then does Sabbath keeping gain a Christian? The answer is rewards. Once a Christian is given salvation, they are then given rewards by Jesus Christ. The amount of reward given is based upon their works. When discussing subjects like the Sabbath, or any other topic dealing with Christian conduct, a Christian's salvation is not at issue, but the amount of reward that may be received is the reason for discussion.

Since very few modern denominations actively teach about this distinction between gaining salvation and receiving rewards, here are a few scriptures which describe this distinction: Please read 1Corinthians 3:6-17, 1John 3:4-7, Colossians 3:24-25, Luke 19:15-19, and Revelation 2:23.

(13) Conclusion

By God's grace Christians are saved through our Lord Jesus Christ. Christians are to live their lives in such a manner which is pleasing to God, and to show others about Jesus Christ through example and lifestyle. Jesus Christ warned about listening to preachers who use His name, but in actual fact are leading people into errors and false practices. The practice of worshipping God on Sunday instead of on the Sabbath day is just such a deception. This deception has been forcefully and purposefully taught as truth by the bishops of Rome for over 1600 years. The other side of the issue, telling the side of the other Christian Bishops who refused to go along with Sunday worship, has not been taught. Today, most people are completely unaware that Sunday worship has no basis in scripture, that it was rejected by most of the early church leaders, that the numerous denomination's leaders know this, and that its observance is a proof-example of the authority of the Catholic Church.

In contrast, the Sabbath day is the memorial of God's creation. It represents the day of the Creator, in contrast to the day of the sun-god. To worship God and Jesus Christ on the Sabbath day, the only day God has set aside as being sacred time, recognizes that God is the authority on earth, not men, and not a Church.

May the sovereign Creator of the universe grant you grace through His Son Jesus Christ, and lead you into a more rewarding Christian lifestyle.

(This article [originally © July 4,1992] is part of the author's ongoing research titled "Christian Technical Notes.") Wayne Atchison is also the author of The Seventh Circle in Bible Prophecy (Vantage Press, New York). Wayne and family reside in Bend, Oregon. Comments are welcome:z2cs@bendnet.com.


January - February 2001_ The Sabbath Sentinel