The Observance of Sunday

Paul E. Kretzmann

The Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ

“Those that are of the opinion that the order of Sunday has been established as necessary in place of the Sabbath, are badly in error. For the Holy Scripture has abrogated the Sabbath, and teaches that all ceremonies of the old Law may be omitted after the revelation of the Gospel; and yet, since it has been necessary to establish a certain day, in order that the people might know when they should come together, the Christian Church has ordained Sunday for that purpose, and has had all the more pleasure and desire for this change, in order that the people might have an example of Christian liberty and know that the observance neither of the Sabbath nor of any other day is necessary.” [Augsburg Confession, Of the Power of the Church, Mueller, 67].

The observance of the Sabbath is abolished

“St. Paul and the entire New Testament have abolished the Sabbath of the Jews, in order that it may be palpable that the Sabbath concerns the Jews only. Therefore it is not necessary that the heathens keep the Sabbath, though it was a great and strict law with the Jews. The prophets have also adduced that this Sabbath should be abolished. Isaiah 66:23 says: When the Master comes, there will be such a time that one new moon will follow the other, one Sabbath be beside the other. As though he would say: Every day will be Sabbath, every day will be new moon. Thus, in the New Testament the Sabbath no longer exists after the rude, external form. For this commandment also has a twofold meaning like the other commandments, an external and an internal, or spiritual, one. With the Christians of the New Testament all days are holy days, and all days are free. Therefore Christ says: The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath, Matthew 12:8. Therefore Paul in various places admonishes the Christians to permit themselves to be bound by no days: Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain, Galatians 4:10-11. Again, to the Colossians still more plainly: Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come, Colossians 2:16-17; Romans 14:5.”


“Though the Sabbath is now abolished and the consciences are free from it, it is still good, and also necessary, to observe one special day in the week, in order to use, to hear and learn the Word of God on that day. For not every one can tend to it every day. Nature also demands that men be quiet one day in the week, and both men and beasts abstain from work. But whosoever would make a necessary commandment of the Sabbath, as of a work demanded by God, must keep the Saturday, and not the Sunday; for the Saturday is commanded to the Jews, and not the Sunday. The Christians, however, have till now kept the Sunday and not the Saturday, for this reason, since Christ arose on a Sunday. This is a certain indication that the Sabbath no longer concerns us, and all of Moses [the ceremonial law]; else we should be obliged to keep the Saturday; and this is a great and strong proof that the Sabbath is abrogated. For throughout the whole New Testament we find no passage in which the celebration of the Sabbath is commanded to us Christians.”


“Why, then, is the Sunday observed by the Christians? Although all days are free, and one is as the other, it is still useful and good, yea, very necessary that one day be celebrated, whether it be the Sabbath, the Sunday, or any other day. For God wants to lead the world carefully and rule over it peacefully; therefore has He given six days for work, but on the seventh day servants, day-laborers, and workmen of all kinds, yea, also horses, oxen, and other working cattle, shall have rest, as the sense of this commandment is, in order that by rest they might find recreation. And above all, that they who at other times have no leisure, may hear the sermon on the holy day, and thereby learn to know God. And for such reasons, namely, for the sake of charity and necessity, has the Sunday remained, not on account of the Law of Moses, but for the sake of our need, that we might rest, and that we might learn the Word of God.” [Luther, 3, 1083-1085].