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The Sabbath and the First Day in the New Testament

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Divine Mercy icon, Byzantine style

Divine Mercy icon, Byzantine style

Adventists and other Sabbath keeping Christians often present arguments from the New Testament to show that Christians are still expected by God to keep the Sabbath day on the 7th day of the week, Saturday (Friday sunset till Saturday sunset.)

They tell us that Jesus kept the Sabbath, and therefore so should we. They tell us that Jesus prophesied that Christians would be keeping the Sabbath after his death. They even tell us that because Jesus said he is Lord of the Sabbath, the Sabbath can be termed “the Lord’s Day,” even though there is no other historical or biblical evidence for their position, and plenty against it. Adventists also claim that the Bible shows that the early Christian witness was one of Sabbath observance – they show us several texts that they claim shows the Apostles and other Christians keeping the Sabbath. That is a huge blow to many Sunday-keeping Christians who believe in following the practices of the Apostles, serving God the way the early Christians did.

Or it would be – were it true. If you take the verses Adventists use as proof texts, and look at what they actually say, in the context of the verses around them, it soon becomes evident that all the passages have had their context seriously abused. By looking at everything the New Testament says about the Sabbath, it becomes clear that not once are Christians told to keep the Sabbath, not once do the Apostles keep the Sabbath as a witness to us, and the only three times that any Christians do keep the Sabbath after the resurrection of Christ, they are reprimanded by Paul. What is even more fascinating is that there is only one time when the day of the week when a specific Christian worship service was held is named. And that day? The first day of the week!

Considering the impressive lack of commentary by the New Testament on the importance of keeping the Sabbath, considering its absolute silence on the necessity of keeping the Sabbath, where do Adventists get their Sabbath theology from? Certainly not the New Testament. They are simply carrying over into New Testament times something from the Old Testament that the New Testament doesn’t give the same emphasis to. I wonder how an Adventist can read the Bible and find the Adventist Sabbath message there without looking through the tinted spectacles of Adventism, without reading Adventism into the Bible.

In this essay, I want to list all the verses in the New Testament that mention the Sabbath. Some do not discuss the principle of Sabbath observance, and I will deal with those directly in this essay. Where a verse does discuss Sabbath observance, I will usually discuss that in a separate essay linked from this one, and from the main Sabbath index.

The Bible translation used throughout is the King James Version. I have tried to keep the verses in sequence, but when one topic is discussed in more than one book, I have brought those passages together.

See also the section on the Old Testament quotes used by Adventists.


The Sabbath in the New Testament


(Mat 12:8) For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

(Mar 2:23) And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.
(Mar 2:24) And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?
(Mar 2:27) And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
(Mar 2:28) Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

(Luk 6:1) And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.
(Luk 6:2) And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days
(Luk 6:5) And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
(Luk 6:6) And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered.
(Luk 6:7) And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.
(Luk 6:9) Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?

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(Mat 24:20) But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day.

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(Mat 28:1) In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.

(Mar 15:42) And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath,
(Mar 16:1) And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

(Luk 23:54) And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.
(Luk 23:56) And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.

(Joh 19:31) The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was a high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

Sometimes Sabbatarians claim that these were Christians who had just rested on the Sabbath … they forget that Jesus had not yet risen from the dead when they were keeping that Sabbath – man was still living under the Mosaic Law, and since Jesus had not risen from the dead, there could obviously not be any other day they could think of to keep.


(Mar 1:21) And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.

Jesus had not yet died and risen from the dead – this refers to the Old Covenant, the Mosaic Law, and can’t be used to argue for Sabbath observance by Christians who live after the change in Covenant.


(Mar 3:2) And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.
(Mar 3:4) And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.

(Mar 6:2) And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?

Again, Jesus had not yet risen from the dead, and so these passages can’t be used to argue for Sabbath observance by Christians who live after the change in Covenant.


(Luk 4:16) And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
(Luk 4:31) And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.

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(Luk 13:10) And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.
(Luk 13:14) And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.
(Luk 13:15) The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?
(Luk 13:16) And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?

(Luk 14:1) And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.
(Luk 14:3) And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?
(Luk 14:5) And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?

(Joh 5:9) And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.
(Joh 5:10) The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.
(Joh 5:16) And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
(Joh 5:18) Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

(Joh 9:14) And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.
(Joh 9:16) Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

Again, Jesus had not yet risen from the dead, and so these passages can’t be used to argue for Sabbath observance by Christians who live after the change in Covenant.


(Joh 7:22) Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.
(Joh 7:23) If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?

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(Act 1:12) Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.

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(Act 13:14) But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.
(Act 13:27) For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.
(Act 13:42) And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.
(Act 13:44) And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.

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(Act 15:21) For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

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(Act 16:13) And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

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(Act 17:2) And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures,

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(Act 18:4) And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.

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(Col 2:16) Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.

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The Seventh Day in the New Testament


(Heb 4:4) For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.

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Sunday in the New Testament


(Mat 28:1) In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.

(Mar 16:2) And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun.

(Mar 16:9) Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

(Luk 24:1) Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

(Joh 20:1) The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher.
(Joh 20:19) Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

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(Act 20:7) And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

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(1 Cor 16:2) Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

Click here for a more detailed commentary … and here for another one … and Further analysis of 1 Corinthians 16 verses 1-2


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