Baptist History Homepage

By Roy Beaman, Th. D.
     I feel that I have a special right to speak on this theme because it gave me much trouble as a young Christian. I read the arguments in favor of keeping the seventh day and I believed them, in the main, before I heard the points in favor of keeping the first day of the week, the Lord's Day, in honor of Christ's resurrection. I confess with shame that I argued for the keeping of Saturday instead of Sunday, but a candid study of the facts convinced me of my error. Because of this experience, I am stronger in my convictions and feel that I am more qualified to speak the facts and to help others over their difficulties.

     Christians through the centuries have almost universally kept the Lord's Day, Sunday, in honor of the resurrection of Christ. Those who keep the seventh day urge upon Baptists and Protestants that the Pope changed the day from the seventh to the first day of the week to honor the pagan day of sun-worship.

     What are the facts? It is true that Cardinal Gibbons makes the claim, but I quote a higher Catholic authority, nothing less than the Catholic Encyclopedia, "Sunday was the first day of the week according to the Jewish method of reckoning, but for the Christians it began to take the place of the Jewish Sabbath in Apostolic Times as the day set apart for the public and solemn worship of God."

     It is claimed by Seventh Dayists that Constantine in A.D. 321 changed the day. The facts are rather that Christians were already observing the first day in honor of Christ's resurrection, but had no civil sanction for it until Constantine's edict. Constantine did not make the change, but gave his approval to what already existed and caused it to be "observed with greater solemnity than it had formerly been" (Mosheim, quoted by Canright, p. 243).

     The testimony of Christian Church History demonstrates beyond dispute that Christians all the way along observed the first day. The writings of the early Christians could be cited, but I think that you would like better a summary statement from an eminent historian. I quote Mosheim, "In the first century all Christians were unanimous in the setting apart the first day of the week on which the Savior arose from the dead, for the solemn celebration of public worship, . . . and it was observed universally as appears from the united testimony of the most credible writers" (Vol. 1, p. 45). I may add the word of Prof. Stewart without seeming tedious with historical quotations, "The early Christians one and all of them, held the first day of the week to be sacred" (from Moody, The Seven Sabbaths, p. 30). We do not approve everything these Christian Fathers are supposed to have written, but on a matter of fact they are to be trusted. Their testimony for the first day is unimpeachable.

     It is sometimes objected that Sunday is the day of pagan sun-worship and unfit for Christians to observe. But observe: Saturday was sacred to Saturn as Sunday was to the sun. So Seventh Dayists are keeping a heathen day the same as we are! Further, the day of pagan sun-worship was an annual affair, not a weekly observance - it came only once a year - therefore it came on the first day of the week only once in seven years; it came on Saturday just as often as it did on the first day, exactly as does our Fourth of July. "Here is exactly what was done. The Romans had their rest day, their Sabbath, every eighth day. It was called 'Nundinae.' The Christians had their rest day, their Sabbath, every seventh day. It was called 'Sunday'" (Biederwolf, p. 30). Constantine made Sunday legal, and later the pagan Nundinae was suppressed.

     We turn to what will be more interesting to our listeners, the testimony of the Bible. Note some negative arguments. "We have no warrant for supposing that God ever gave the command to keep the seventh day holy to any but the Israelites" (Mauro, p. 13). Where is there a command for Gentiles to keep the seventh day? The prophet Hosea definitely foretold the passing away of the Sabbath in the Jewish sense. I will cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her Sabbaths and all her solemn feasts" (2:11). Jewish law put to death the desecrator of the Sabbath; why do not Seventh Dayists do it now? Why did Jesus not name the keeping of the Sabbath In enumerating them to the young ruler? Everyone of the Ten Commandments is emphasized in the New Testament except the keeping of the Sabbath. Why?

     Now let us see what the NT Christians practiced. There can be no justifiable doubt that Jesus' body rested in the grave on the Jewish Sabbath and arose on Sunday, the first day of the week. But the question is: Did the NT Christians meet on the first day instead of the seventh day? When opportunity afforded, the apostles met with the Jews on their Sabbath day that they might witness to them. Instance, Paul's frequent preaching in the synagogues on the Jewish Sabbath. But let me underscore this statement - When the Christians met for their own worship, it was on the Lord's Day, the first day of the week.

     On the first resurrection day, Thomas was absent. During the week the others testified repeatedly, "We have seen the Lord." The second resurrection day, eight days after, Thomas attended. Jesus met his challenge of unbelief, and Thomas cried out, "My Lord and my God." Every man who stays away from the house of God on Sunday misses the glorious opportunity of meeting with the Risen Christ.

     When Paul came to Troas, Luke tells us that (Acts 20:7), "And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight." Some make the flimsy objection that he stayed until after midnight, which would make it Monday. The fact remains that they came, as was the well established custom, on the first day to break bread. Even if they were defeated in their purpose, the fact of their intent and custom is beyond doubt.

     I Corinthians 16:1-2, "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come." One is driven hard in his views to have to explain away this passage. The meaning of it appears on the face of it - "upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store." The dodge offered is that they were to lay it aside in their homes. This would defeat the thing Paul is stressing; have it ready so there need be no collections. He did not want to go to the homes for it; it was to be brought on the first day of the week in their gatherings so that this trouble might be avoided.

     John triumphantly tells the persecuted Christians of Asia Minor, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day" and received the vision of the Glorified Lord. Efforts have been made to make the Lord's day refer to the Jewish Sabbath. They fall of their own weight. D. M. Canright, who for 28 years contended for the seventh day and was one of the strongest men that ever sailed under that banner, has this comment on Rev. 1:10, "To every unbiased mind the evidence must be conclusive that the Lord's day of Revelation 1:10, written A.D. 96, is the resurrection day the same as it is in every instance where it is used by all the Christian fathers immediately following John.

     Mark this fact: IN NOT ONE SINGLE INSTANCE EITHER IN THE BIBLE OR IN ALL HISTORY CAN a passage be found where the term the LORD'S DAY IS APPLIED TO the seventh day, the JEWISH SABBATH. This fact should be, and is decisive as to the meaning of Rev. 1:10. Even Sabbatarians themselves do not call the seventh day the Lord's Day, but always say 'Sabbath day.'" If John meant the Sabbath, he would have said so. The word used is new to the NT being coined to indicate something definitely belonging to the Lord Jesus. Instance, the Lord's supper. Why coin a new word to designate an old institution. Only one answer is possible; the new day commemorating His resurrection required a new word to convey the idea. It commemorates the gospel facts.

     But my deepest concern today centers around the meaning of the first day worship. It was this that stacked my arms of defense for the observance of Saturday. It is here we enter holy ground and worship the risen Christ. The moral principle of a day of rest from ordinary pursuits and worship lies not in the observance of a certain day of the week, but only in a certain proportion of time. God requires that one seventh of our time be given over entirely to Him. Sabbath means, not Saturday or Sunday, but rest day, rest from ordinary labor.

     Why keep any day? Why keep July the Fourth? Because of what occurred on that day in our national life. Why observe Sunday? Because of what occurred on that day.

     Of all the things to commemorate past events, a memorial day is better. A monument, a statue, a college, and the like are local and only seen by the few; but a day comes to all and regularly. "On the Jewish Sabbath the Savior lay under the power of death. It was to His disciples a day of restlessness and gloom. The remembrance of that day would always be to them a grievous day. The thought of the cross, the bitter cry, the expiring groan and the mournful sepulcher could only create a feeling of sorrow. Forevermore the Jewish Sabbath day was despoiled of its gladness to the Christian heart."

     But His resurrection means "Satan's last hope is gone; the wicked Jews are dismayed; the holy women are glad; the hope of the disciples is revived; angels rejoice; the salvation of the world is secured; the sufferings and humiliation of the Son of God are ended; and He walks forth the Almighty Savior, the Lord of all. Never such a morning dawned on this world before. No wonder the memorial day; it was impossible to be otherwise" (Canright, p. 197). In God's providence the Jewish Sabbath was set aside with its gloom and fear; the Lord's day was established with its consequent gladness. "The young church was delivered from the fetters and the weights which the Pharisees had put upon the seventh day" (Wallace, p. 104).

     That brings me to the most important point in the whole discussion. Keeping the seventh day belongs to a system of salvation by works and keeping of commands instead of reliance on the finished work of Christ on the cross. The believer is no longer under the law, and to command him to keep the law is to annul the freedom of the gospel and to deny Christianity. The Lord's day is the badge and reminder of a finished redemption through the precious blood.

     In the seventh day system, men labor looking toward rest; in Christ and His resurrection we rest or gain strength to go out to meet the burdens of the week. Rest after labor; or rest for labor, which? That is the question.

     The Sabbath and its commands put a yoke on the soul that will drag the last man down to hell; but the first day of the week speaks to the Christian of the victory and triumph of his Savior and was the day they met together to remember Him and show His death till He comes.

     The Seventh Day commemorated a finished creation; the First Day commemorated a finished redemption.

     Remember that the word Sabbath means rest, not the seventh day. The Lord's day, the Christian Sabbath or rest-day, is a shadow of things to come. First of the millennial rest that awaits the earth and the saints.

     Then comes the eternal rest, the eternal Sabbath-keeping of His presence forevermore.

     I have at last preached to my text. Psalms 118:22-24, "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."

     (Preached over station WPAD, Paducah, KY, November, 28, 1937.)

     (I declared above that "kuriakos" was most likely coined by the Christians, Moulton and Milligan give no papyrus instance earlier than A. D. 163. The "imperial" inscriptions are difficult to date.)



Canright, D. M.,
Catholic Encyclopedia.
Mauro, Philip.
Moody, J. B., The Seven Sabbaths.
Mosheim, (Vol. 1, p. 45),
Moulton and Milligan,


[From Notes provided by the author; Dr. Beaman received the Th.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. - Scanned by James Kenneth Duvall.]

Roy Beaman Index
Baptist History Homepage