Christian Worship: Most on Sunday, a Few on Saturday

A question: on what day do Christians worship? It is not as silly as it sounds, for not all Christians worship on Sunday. Three Protestant denominations worship on Saturday only. Many people can name one of these groups, but what about the other two? I would be impressed, because one of them is small, with only one church in North Carolina.

First to the issue of worshipping on Sunday. The first Christians worshiped on Saturday. Why? Most of the first Christians were Jews and Jews worship on Saturday. Why Saturday? It is the seventh day of the week and God stated in the 10 Commandments to "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God." (Ex 20:8-10) That is why Saturday is the last day of the week on the calendar and Sunday is the first.

Eventually, Christians by the mid-first century (AD 50) began to worship on Sunday in memory of Jesusí raising from the dead on a Sunday. The first part of Acts 20:7 states that "On the first day of the week we came together to break bread." (This breaking of bread may have indicated the Lordís Supper.) In the first part of I Corinthians 16:2 Paul gives directions concerning an offering: "On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income." This first day of the week, or Sunday, became known as the Lordís Day.

Early writings of Christian leaders also show this. The Didache (author unknown but still very important in the early church period) dates from the late first or early second century. It states: "But every Lordís Day you gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions." An early church leader, Ignatius, wrote in AD 110 that "those who were brought up in the ancient order of things [meaning Jews] have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lordís Day."

The worship of Christians on Sunday, therefore, was practiced by Christians from the first century up until the 1500s. In that century Oswald Glait and Andreas Fischerówho had been Catholic priests then Lutherans and then Anabaptists (early forms of todayís Baptists)ócame to the conclusion that worship should be on the Sabbath, meaning Saturday. These two are the first recorded Christian Sabbath worshippers since the very early history of Christianity; this view is known as Sabbatarianism.

In the 1600s, the Sabbatarian view appeared again in a few early Baptist leaders in England. Stephen Mumford brought this idea to America in 1671; he organized the first Seventh Day Baptist Church in America in New Port, Rhode Island. In the mid-1800s, Ellen White of the Seventh-day Adventists initiated Sabbath worship in the newly-formed Adventist group; this led to the formation of the Seventh-day Adventists.

So, here are the three denominations. The Seventh Day Baptists have around 5000 members in America with only one church in North Carolina: The Asheville 7th Day Baptist Fellowship. The Church of God (Sabbath Day) has around 15,000 members with at least four churches in North Carolina: Clinton, Statesville, Farmville, and Greensboro. And the Seventh-day Adventists (SDA) with around 750,000 members in America; a number of SDA churches exist in North Carolina. In addition, the Bible Sabbath Association ties together some of these churches plus independent Sabbath-observing churches.

©2006 Mark Nickens All Rights Reserved

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