According to Colossians, there appears to be some disagreement amongst the first century church on whether to keep the Sabbath:

Colossians 2:16

Therefore 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.

Did the first century church keep the Sabbath?

And if so which day was it on? The Jewish Saturday or the new Christian Sunday?


4 Answers 4


The writings of the early Christians make it clear that Christians abandoned the Jewish custom of worship on the Sabbath (seventh day) and instead held the first day, which they called the Lord's Day, to be the sacred day of worship. One of the simplest explanations on the subject comes from Tertullian, around 200 AD:

But why is it, you ask, that we gather on the Lord's Day to celebrate our solemnities? Because that was the way the Apostles also did.

-- De Fuga in Persecutione, XIV: 11

This was not an innovation of the second century AD, as a full century earlier, (101 AD,) we find Ignatius saying:

Those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's day on which our life was sprung by him and his death.

-- Epistle to the Magnesians, Chapter 9

And just in case there is any confusion as to the identity of the Lord's Day, we can turn to Justin Martyr. (140 AD)

And on the day which is called Sunday there is an assembly in the same place of all who live in cities or in country districts; and the records of the apostles, or the writings of the prophets, are read as long as we have time.


Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the day on which God, when he changed the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.

-- Apologies 1:67

And again from Justin Martyr, we see that Christians did not keep the Jewish holy days:

We neither accord with the Jews in their peculiarities in regard to food nor in their sacred days.

-- Apologies Sec. 21

So yes, it's clear from the historical record that the first-century Christians, such as Ignatius, had organized worship meetings on the Lord's Day (Sunday), and that they did not consider observance of the Jewish Sabbath important, it having been fulfilled by Christ with the rest of the Law of Moses.

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    You've made it clear that Sunday was their chosen day and that they held worship services, thanks. But did they keep the Sabbath ie refrain from work on that day? Jan 11, 2012 at 18:57
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    @Wikis: No. (See the second quote. I've got more I could share, but I'll have to wait until I get home and can use my reference library. A lot of my theological knowledge is in books, and not all of it is available in online format.)
    – Mason Wheeler
    Jan 11, 2012 at 19:23
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    @Wikis: Updated.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Jan 12, 2012 at 2:56
  • Regarding the confusion regarding the Lord's day, we should ask the Lord Himself who has made it abundantly clear that the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath day and never once anywhere in the Scripture has this been said about any other day.
    – One Face
    Mar 12, 2022 at 3:09

The first Christians were Jewish, so they naturally observed the Sabbath on Saturday--just like they always had. They worshiped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--just like they always had, but they did so with the realization that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and visited them, that is, that Jesus the Messiah, the eternal Son of God had become a man, had been crucified, buried and rose again on the third day, that is, on Sunday.

It also appears that they began to observe the first day of the week as Jewish believers in order to honor the day of the resurrection.

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. 1 Corinthians 16:2 ESV

Gentiles were never required to become Jewish in order to follow Jesus. They were not required to be circumcised or to observe the Jewish Sabbath or refrain from eating pork--or any of the covenant laws of Israel.

Still, Paul and Peter continued to attend Sabbath days in the synagogue and to proclaim Jesus.

The verse immediately after the one you cited states this:

These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Colossians 2:17 ESV

So, Paul is stating that the New Moons, Sabbaths and all that (from the Law) were a shadow of the things that were to come. The reality is found in Jesus. Therefore, if Gentile believers did not do all of these things, they should not be concerned with the Judaizers or any who would criticize them for that.

As Gentile believers in Jesus the Messiah, it seems appropriate to honor the day of resurrection, following the pattern set forth by the early church.

Still, if you happen to celebrate and worship Jesus on the wrong day, I'm sure that's alright. In fact, we should probably worship Him every day of every week, and certainly not just one day a week.

  • They were not required to keep the Sabbath and I completely agree with your Biblical reasoning, in line with the doctrine of Grace. But did they keep the Sabbath, ie refrain from work? Or was it, as the text appears to imply, not so black and white but rather a mixture of some people keeping the Sabbath and some not? Jan 11, 2012 at 19:00
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    I'm not sure how the 1 Corinthians quote supports the idea - if I put money in savings on Sunday it doesn't mean I'm observing it religiously. And that he addresses "each of you" suggests he's speaking about something they should do on their own, not in assembly.
    – Muke Tever
    Jan 12, 2012 at 14:13
  • Paul is talking about shadow of things to come - the sanctuary and the special sabbaths related to that - See Lev 23, not the Sabbath of the 10 commandments. Regarding the shadow of things to come see Heb 8:5 and Heb 10:1 - the Bible makes it clear that it is the mosaic laws regarding the Sanctuary which served as shadow, not the 10 Commandments. James makes it clearer when he said if you break one of the 10, you are breaking all 10. This includes the Sabbath commandment which is in the very center.
    – One Face
    Mar 12, 2022 at 3:08

I see you have all agreed on the same point that Sunday became the Lord's Day, according to my understanding of the Holy Scriptures this is untrue. Jesus called Himself the Lord of the Sabbath which makes the Saturday the Lord's Day (Matthew 12:1-14). Jesus Christ kept the Sabbath, Apostles kept the Sabbath.(Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks). If you understand this verse Paul was in a foreign land which is Corinth. He kept the Sabbath and reasoned in the synagogue 'every' Sabbath. He even stayed the for 18 months (Acts 18:11) attending on the holy convocation called Sabbath.

With your use of Colossians 2:17, 'shadows of the things to come', why would God transfer the Sabbath to Sunday when He will again restore it in future? We will have to Sabbath as it one of the thing to come. You confuse church meeting that took place on Sunday to collect the things that were to be sent to help other Christians (1 Corinthians 16:2). That was to be done on Sunday so that 'there would be no collection' [when] Paul comes. When would Paul come, on Sunday or on Sabbath? This does not mean they would assembly for worship on Sunday. In the Revelation again, it does not say Sunday, John was in Patmos for the Word of God and the testimony of Christ. Was John a Gentile? John the Apostle was not the Gentile, He was a Jew. So why would he refer to Sunday as a Lord's day? In the Book of Acts, it is making it clear that Paul and other Apostles still used the Seventh Day as the Sabbath, they still kept it. In another foreign land which is Antioch, we see reference of meeting in Sabbath days i.e. Acts 13:14 c.f. Acts 13:27, 42-44, 15:21, 16:13. There is no where in the Scripture we find apostles saying the First day of the week replacing the Seventh day. It is only from the traditions of man.

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    Of course Jesus kept the Sabbath. He was made under the Law (Gal. 4:4). Christians, whether Jew or Gentile, who have died in Christ, and have been begotten again, are NOT. Once someone dies, any and all bilateral covenants are void, including the Law of Moses. Paul preached the Gospel to the Jews in the synagogue on the Sabbath because that's where the unbelieving Jews were on the Sabbath. He wasn't preaching to believing Jews --- for the simple fact that one preaches the Gospel to unbelievers in order to save them. Common sense.
    – user900
    Jan 18, 2013 at 9:16
  • Welcome to c.se! If you could label your perspective (Seventh Day Adventist), it would be helpful. We welcome all sorts of views, and I'm +1'ing the sda answer. Jan 18, 2013 at 13:33
  • Jesus said, think not I have come to change the law or the prophets, I have come not to destroy but to fulfill (i.e. show it in its perfection) and we are called to follow Christ in keeping the Law. See Rev 22:14 - those who do not keep the Law will not enter into the city of God
    – One Face
    Mar 12, 2022 at 3:12

In Antioch, Paul went into the synagogue on the sabbath day per act13vs14.

but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.

But in verse 16 told you why because those people were Jews living in Antioch.

So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said: “Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen.

In 27 Luke is telling us about in historical event

For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him.

In 42,44 Paul preach in the synagogue last.

42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.n44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.

I check still going on on Saturday also for 15:21 and act 20:7-12 Paul preaching on Sunday

  • Hi, could you edit this answer to add in punctuation so that we can follow your logical flow? It would help to quote the verses you reference as well.
    – curiousdannii
    Jan 7, 2014 at 15:30

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