What is the Sabbath? Is the Sabbath day for rest or for worship?

In Genesis 1—2, God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day. The word Sabbath, meaning rest, became one of the Ten Commandments given to the Jews in the wilderness. Exodus 20:8-10 shares, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God." The Jews were allowed to do no work on this day, marked as Friday evening until Saturday evening on the Jewish calendar.

The earliest Christians were Jews and kept the Law, including the Sabbath. As Christianity spread to non-Jews (Gentiles), questions concerning the keeping of the Law and the Sabbath had to be addressed. Paul wrote to the Romans, "One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord" (Romans 14:5-6). In Colossians 2:16 he added, "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath." The Saturday Sabbath was not a requirement for Christians. There was nothing wrong with keeping the Sabbath, but it was not required for Christians.

Early Christians also began to meet together for worship on the "first day of the week" (Sunday) in honor of Christ's resurrection on Sunday morning (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1).

Today, there are Christian groups such as the Seventh Day Adventists who teach that Christians are to worship on the Sabbath. While there is nothing wrong with worshiping on Saturday, the earliest church worshiped together several times per week (Acts 2:46-47). Christian worship is not about which day but about regularly gathering for worship with other believers (Hebrews 10:25).

Other groups hold to a view called Christian Sabbatarianism that argues that Christians are to worship together on Sundays and refrain from work. However, this too both reinterprets biblical passages related to Sabbath laws for Jews and limits worship gatherings to one day per week. The early church gathered on whatever days they could, especially when traveling teachers were in their area. Many of the formalities associated with modern church worship simply did not exist in the New Testament period.

The Sabbath day has not changed. It remains Saturday as it has always existed on the Jewish calendar. The Sabbath begins on Friday sunset and lasts until Saturday sunset. While Jewish Law required Jews to refrain from work during this time period each week, Christians have not been given this command. The choice to worship and/or to rest from work on this day is a matter of personal conviction rather than biblical command. Ideally, Christians would desire to join with other believers several times per week for fellowship and to worship Christ (Acts 2:46; Hebrews 4:12).

Related Truth:

Is the Sabbath Saturday or Sunday?

Is Sabbath-keeping something Christians should do?

How can I worship the Lord in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24)? What is true worship?

What was God's purpose in establishing the church?

What is a Christian perspective on retirement?

Return to:
Truth about Church

Subscribe to the CompellingTruth.org Newsletter:

Preferred Bible Version:

CompellingTruth.org is part of Got Questions Ministries

For answers to your Bible questions, please visit