Why Don’t Catholics Worship on the Sabbath?

The Seventh Day Adventists insist that Christians should set aside the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) for rest and worship instead of Sunday.  Moreover, the Seventh Day Adventists believe that the change from the Sabbath to Sunday, which most Christians call “the Lord’s Day”, is evidence that the Catholic Church has “apostatized”, or abandoned orthodox belief in God.  The founder of the Seventh Day Adventists, Ellen Gould White, taught that in the last days, Sunday worship would be “the mark of the Beast.”[1] So then, the task before us is to defend the practice of Sunday worship in the Catholic Church against those that say that it is of the devil.

Some Background Information

First, let’s get some background information on the Sabbath.  We see in the book of Exodus that God commanded His people to set aside the seventh day of the week to rest from work.[2]   The Jews observe the Sabbath rest from sunset on Friday through Saturday’s sunset, which corresponds to God “resting” on the seventh day after He created the world (Gen 2:3).[3]  This day is called the “Sabbath”, from the Hebrew root “SBT” (“sabbat”), which means “to cease to do”, or “to rest”.[4]

Binding and Loosing the Gentiles

So why don’t Catholics, and most other Christians, worship and rest on the Sabbath?   To begin to answer this question, we must remember that Jesus gave his Apostles authority to “bind and loose”:  “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  Matthew 18:18.  We see the first major example of the exercise of this authority at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, where the Apostles and other leaders of the Church gathered together to decide what parts of the Law of Moses to enjoin upon the new gentile Christians.[5] The apostles decided that the gentile Christians should refrain from eating the meat of strangled animals, blood and food that had been offered to idols, as well as refrain from sexual immorality.  Note that the Apostles did not mandate worshiping or resting on the Sabbath.

St. Paul further “loosens” the gentile Christians (that’s us, by the way) when he tells the Colossians by letter to let no one judge them on whether they keep the Sabbath:

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.  These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ”. Colossians 2:16-17

Resurrection Appearances

It is important to note that Jesus’ Resurrection and His subsequent appearances to the gathered apostles happened on the first day of the week, Sunday.  In fact, the Scriptures do not record any appearances on the Sabbath after the Resurrection [Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2 & 9, Luke 24:1, John 20:1 & 19].[6] In other words, Jesus appeared to his disciples when they were gathered together to pray.  And when was that?  On the first day of the week.

When Did Early Christians Worship?

We have scriptural evidence that the early Church celebrated the Eucharist (the Breaking of the Bread), listened to preaching and even took up collections for the poor at their gatherings on Sunday, first day of the week.  Here are some examples from the New Testament:

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and he prolonged his speech until midnight.  Acts 20:7

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 contributions need not be made when I come. 1 Corinthians 16:2

 “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying…” Revelation 1:10

 We also see the Apostles and other disciples gathered for prayer and worship on the first day of the week when the Holy Spirit fell upon them on the feast of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover Sabbath (Acts 2:1).


It is important to remember that Jesus, after having been accused of breaking the Sabbath law, said the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. [7]  You see, man has a need to rest and man has a need to worship, but God does not have these needs.  The Church of the New Testament, exercising the authority given to it by Jesus, began to worship on the first day of the week in order to memorialize and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.  They did not throw away the institution of the Sabbath rest, but rather, they saw it’s fulfillment in Jesus’ resurrection.  The Sabbath is a memorial of God’s act of creation, while the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, is a memorial of His act of redemption.  And that’s why we worship on Sunday.

Quotations From The Church Fathers

The Didache

“But every Lord’s day . . . gather yourselves together and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned.”

Didache 14 [A.D. 70]

The Letter of Barnabas

“We keep the eighth day [Sunday] with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead.”

Letter of Barnabas 15:6–8 [A.D. 74]

Ignatius of Antioch

“[T]hose who were brought up in the ancient order of things [i.e. Jews] 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 also our life has sprung up again by him and by his death.”

Letter to the Magnesians 8 [A.D. 110]

Justin Martyr

“We too would observe the fleshly circumcision, and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined [on] you—namely, on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your heart. . . . How is it, Trypho, that we would not observe those rites which do not harm us—I speak of fleshly circumcision and Sabbaths and feasts? . . . God enjoined you to keep the Sabbath, and imposed on you other precepts for a sign, as I have already said, on account of your unrighteousness and that of your fathers . . .”

Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 18, 21 [A.D. 155]

“But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.”

First Apology 67 [A.D. 155]


[1] “The Great Controversy”, Ellen G. White, 1911, p. 605:  “The Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty, for it is the point of truth especially controverted. When the final test shall be brought to bear upon men, then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve Him not. While the observance of the false sabbath in compliance with the law of the state, contrary to the fourth commandment, will be an avowal of allegiance to a power that is in opposition to God, the keeping of the true Sabbath, in obedience to God’s law, is an evidence of loyalty to the Creator. While one class, by accepting the sign of submission to earthly powers, receive the mark of the beast, the other choosing the token of allegiance to divine authority, receive the seal of God.

The Seventh Day Adventists regard the writings of Ellen White as an authoritative source of truth: https://www.adventist.org/gift-of-prophecy/#ellen-white

[2] “This is what the LORD has commanded: `Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay by to be kept till the morning.'”  Exodus 16:23

So the people rested on the seventh day.  Exodus 16:30


“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; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates;  Exodus 20:8-10

[3] “So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation. “ Genesis 2:3

[4] The New World Dictionary Concordance, “Sabbath”, pg. 585.  Published by C.D. Stampley Enterprises, Inc. 1970.

[5] “Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antiochwith Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsab’bas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, with the following letter: ‘The brethren, both the apostles and the elders, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cili’cia, greeting.  Since we have heard that some persons from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth.  For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:  that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity.  If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.’ “Acts 15:22-29

[6] Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulcher Matthew 28:1

And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen.  Mark 16:2
Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.  Mark 16:9

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared.  Luke 24:1

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. John 20: 1
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”   John 20: 19

[7] “And he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath;  so the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath.’” Mark 2:27-28

It is also worthy of note that when Jesus takes the opportunity to reiterate the commandments to the rich young man, He does not include observance of the Sabbath:  And behold, one came up to him, saying, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?’  And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”   He said to him, “Which?”  And Jesus said, ‘You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 19:16-19