A Rebuttal To Patrick Madrid's

Why Do We Worship on Sunday
and Not on the Jewish Sabbath?


Patrick Madrid is a Roman Catholic apologist, and his remarks in defense of Sunday keeping are in the boxed text, which is followed by my comments in reply. His original article, as he posted it, is here. It also appeared in the web site of The Pilot, the official newspaper of the Boston Archdiocese, in the Opinion section, and his Surprised By Truth site, and has been broadcast on EWTN.

Christians have worshipped on Sunday, instead of the Sabbath, since the days of the Apostles.

Catholic scholars generally date the books of the New Testament to have been written no earlier than some 30 years after the crucifixion, and there isn't even one verse that states the first day of the week was being observed in place of the seventh day Sabbath. Not one verse of the New Testament associates the keeping of Sunday with honoring the resurrection. Patrick Madrid has no scriptural proof for his assertion.

But the practice of observing the Lord’s Day (i.e. Sunday) instead of the Sabbath seems to some to be contrary to the Ten Commandments.

Seems? Let's be more firm than that. There isn't the slightest doubt about it.

Groups such as the Seventh-Day Adventists object to Sunday worship as being a violation of God’s commands.

That is not an accurate statement. Christians are free to worship on any day of the week, including Sunday. However, the Sabbath commandment of God can neither be kept, or broken, on Sunday the first day of the week. The Sabbath commandment can only be kept or broken on the specified day, the seventh day of the week, which is Saturday.

They criticize the Catholic Church for “changing” one of God’s eternal decrees.

That this change of one of God's Ten Commandments has been attempted is obvious, and Patrick will defend the supposed authority of the Catholic Church to make this change.

Let’s examine the scriptural evidence to see what conclusions we should draw.

Indeed. Let scripture be our guide.

First, note that in Exodus 20:8-10, the Lord God said to Moses, “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....” This commandment was a “perpetual covenant” that God wanted His people to observe through the ages (cf. Ex 31:16-18; cf. Dt 5:12). Henceforth, the Jews observed the Sabbath on Saturday, resting from all work and emulating God’s own rest on the Seventh Day of creation (cf. Gn 2:1-3).

Israel was observing the seventh day Sabbath before Sinai, as demonstrated in Exodus chapter 16. The commandment in Exodus 20:8-10 calls upon the people of God to remember what they already knew.

This commandment was not abandoned by the Catholic Church, as some erroneously claim.

"... is not every Christian obliged to sanctify Sunday and to abstain on that day from unnecessary servile work? Is not the observance of this law among the most prominent of our sacred duties? But, you may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify."

Source: The Faith of Our Fathers, by James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, 88th edition, page 89. Originally published in 1876, republished and Copyright 1980 by TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., pages 72-73.

The 63rd edition, 1905, pages 111,112 online at Google Books.

The seventh day of the week, as specified in God's commandment, is not kept holy and sanctified as a day of rest by the Catholic Church, as Cardinal Gibbons candidly attests. God's seventh day Sabbath has indeed been abandoned by the Catholic Church, and by most Protestants as well.

Rather, observance of the Third Commandment to “keep holy the Sabbath” was transferred to Sunday, also known as the "Lord’s Day” (cf. Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2; ), because it is through His Resurrection that we become a “new creation” (cf. 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15).

Here Patrick very effectively concedes that the Catholic Church does not keep the Sabbath commandment as written by the finger of God. Neither Acts 20:7 or 1 Cor 16:2 use the phrase "Lord's Day", and none of the verses he cites demonstrate the keeping of the first day of the week in place of the seventh day Sabbath to celebrate the resurrection, since there is no such testimony in all of the New Testament.

Around the year A.D. 100, the Didache instructed Christians to “gather together on the Lord’s Day.” In A.D. 155, St. Justin Martyr wrote a letter to the Roman emperor mentioning that the early Church celebrated the Eucharistic Liturgy on Sundays instead of Saturday. This practice was already universal.

Since the inspired Bible is silent regarding the keeping of Sunday in place of the Saturday Sabbath, there being no "thus saith the Lord" on the matter, the unbiblical and uninspired Traditions of men are now appealed to in order to legitimize changing one of the Ten Commandments of God.

The primary reasons the early Church transferred the observance of the Third Commandment from Saturday to Sunday are these:

1) Sunday is the day Christ rose from the dead (cf. Mt 28:1-6; Jn 20:1). And as St. Paul said, if Christ did not rise from the dead, we are the most pitiable of people because our faith is in vain.

There is no doubting the importance of the resurrection, however, there is only one day of the week that God ever blest and sanctified as a holy day:

Gen 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

As important as the resurrection of Christ is, no where in the New Testament are we told that that event abolishes the keeping of the Sabbath commandment, or that Christ or the Apostles in any way instituted the keeping of Sunday to honor the resurrection.

2) The early Christians sought to differentiate themselves from the Judaism.

That's to say that a motivating factor in the change to Sunday was anti-Semitism. That is true, but that is not a valid reason for changing one of the Ten Commandments of God.

This included their abandonment of Judaism’s system of ritual animal sacrifices. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World [cf. Jn 1:29, 36), and His perfect sacrifice replaced the Old Covenant Passover lamb that was ritually slain and consumed as mere symbol of sacrifice for sin.

The animal sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant did prefigure or symbolize the sacrifice of Christ, and when Jesus died on the cross, the temple veil was torn from top to bottom (Matt 27:51), signifying the end of need for the Levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices to approach God for forgiveness. Jesus, the lamb of God, was now our High Priest, and Mediator between God and man for the forgiveness of sins. Again however, anti-Semitism is not the reason for the institution of the New Covenant.

Similarly, circumcision, Jewish ceremonial rituals and precepts, the Kosher food laws and dietary restrictions imposed by the Law of Moses (c.f. Dt 12:15-28; 14:3-21), and the observance of the Passover and other Jewish feast days (cf. Col 3:16-23) were also relinquished by Christians.

That these were dispensed with by the church is undeniable, a matter of history, but anti-Semitism is not justification for these changes.

3) The early Christians wanted to show forth the true meaning of the Sabbath, which achieved its full purpose in the New Covenant of Christ, in whom we find our perfect, ultimate rest. “Come to me, all you who are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11: 28).

4) The Old Covenant (including the Sabbath, temple ceremonies, animal sacrifice, etc.) prefigured in a shadowy, incomplete, and imperfect way the perfect fulfillment by Christ in and through the New Covenant. The Old Covenant observances were but “types and shadows of heavenly realities” (cf. Heb 8:5; cf. Heb 10:1). Once the perfect had come, the imperfect prefigurements passed away. This is as true of the way the Church observes the Third Commandment as it is with baptism replacing the Old Covenant ordinance of circumcision.

Mat 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
Mat 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Mat 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

The New Covenant did not destroy or dispense with any of the Ten Commandments of God (see below).

As St. Paul wrote, “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” (Col 2:16-17).

The yearly ceremonial sabbaths were indeed shadows of events to come, which is to say they were prophetic in nature, but they are not part of the Ten Commandments. The seventh day Sabbath, on the other hand, is a memorial to creation (Exo 20:11), and the Creator, that we are commanded to remember (Exo 20:8) by refraining from working (Exo 20:10). This memorial is not dispensed with by anything in the New Testament.

And in Galatians 4:9-11 St. Paul scolded Christians who still clung to the Old Covenant restrictions and ceremonies. The ritual observance of the Sabbath was part of the Old Covenant. But in Christ, we are no longer bound by the Old Covenant. So the demands and obligations of the Old Covenant, including the ritual observance of the Sabbath, have passed away, having been replaced by the spiritual observance of the Sabbath in the New Covenant.

The seventh day Sabbath, as previously mentioned, was observed before Sinai and its covenant. It was instituted, blessed and sanctified by God at creation (Gen 2:3), and was made for man's benefit (Mark 2:27).

Interestingly, in Matthew 19:16-22, Christ enumerated all of the Ten Commandments except for observing the Sabbath when He was asked what one must do to be saved.

Actually, Christ in those verses omitted reciting all the commandments regarding one's duty to God, the commandments of the first table of stone, although they all are surely included in verse 17:

Mat 19:16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
Mat 19:17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

That Jesus did not then recite the first few commandments does not indicate that they had been abolished.

Seventh-Day Adventists, however, argue that the Catholic Church had no authority to change the Third Commandment.


But the fact is, the Catholic Church was established by Christ and was granted by Him the authority to “bind and loose” (cf. Mt 18:18) and teach with His own authority (cf. Lk 10:16, Mt 28:18-20). Now, since Christ revealed that He is the Lord even of the Sabbath day (cf. Mt 12:8; Mk 2:28; Lk 6:5), and that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mk 2:27), it follows that His Church also has a share in that authority (cf. Mt 10:40).

As Christ said to Simon Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19; cf. 18:18-20).

Binding and loosing in Matthew 18, in context, is dealing with a brother that has fallen into sin (Mat 18:15), and the subsequent process the church (not just Peter) is to follow (vs. 16-20). It does not give the church blanket authority to supersede, rescind, or modify any of the Ten Commandments.

What does "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" refer to?

Mat 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

That Jesus is the Christ, is rock upon which the church is built (v.18).

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is the Gospel, the testimony of both the Old and New Testaments, the keys of the kingdom of heaven. The binding and loosing of Matt 16:19, again, is explained in chapter 18, and deals with the specific process for church discipline of those who have fallen into sin. It does not give the church unlimited authority.

Notice also that the Seventh-Day Adventists themselves do not observe the “eternal commandment” of circumcision given by God to Abraham in Genesis 17. This commandment predated the Ten Commandments given to Moses by hundreds of years. It has no less weight of authority than the Ten Commandments. And yet, as even Seventh-Day Adventists are forced to admit (since they do not practice ritual circumcision), even though the Bible shows that Jesus Christ nowhere expressly taught that God’s commandment regarding circumcision was to be changed to the sacrament of baptism, the Church had the authority — His authority — to enact that change. In so doing, it did not abandon God’s eternal commandment regarding circumcision, but instead, it observed that commandment in a new and perfected form, that of the sacrament of baptism (cf. Gal 3:27-29; Col 2:11-12).

This is an excellent parallel with the Church’s authority to transfer the observance of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. It was not an abandonment of God’s Law, but rather a fulfillment and perfecting of that Law.

The Seventh Day Sabbath: Began at creation, when it was instituted, blessed, and sanctified by God (Gen 2:3). It's purpose is to be a sign between God and His people that He is Jehovah God that sanctifies them (Exo 31:13, Eze 20:12, 20).

The Abrahamic Covenant: Circumcision began with Abraham and his seed (Gen 17:7, 10), the male being circumcised the eighth day after birth (v. 12), and was a physical sign or outward token of the Abrahamic covenant (v. 11). That covenant was that Abraham would be a father of many nations, and that Canaan was to be an everlasting possession (vs. 4-8). With the Gospel going to the Gentiles after the stoning of Stephen, the Abrahamic covenant  is no longer limited to the physical bloodline descendants of Abraham, but also includes the Gentiles who are spiritual descendants by faith:

Rom 2:25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
Rom 2:26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
Rom 2:27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?
Rom 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
Rom 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Gal 3:29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

The Mosaic Covenant: Began with Moses at mount Sinai, and was a promise of obedience to God. The ark in which the two tables of the Ten Commandments were kept, was called the ark of the covenant (Num 10:33, Heb 9:4).

Exo 19:5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
Exo 19:6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
Exo 19:7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.
Exo 19:8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.

Exo 24:7 And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient.
Exo 24:8 And Moses took the blood [of oxen, v.5], and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.

The New Covenant: Begins in the heart and mind with faith in Christ, and is a promise from God of redemption through Jesus' sacrifice for our sins:

Rom 3:29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
Rom 3:30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
Rom 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

Heb 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

2 Cor 3:3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.

Mat 26:27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
Mat 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Rom 11:27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

The Baptism of Believers: John the Baptist (Matt 3) began baptizing Jews before the public ministry of Jesus, which is to say, before the Christian church came into existence, and Jesus Himself commanded that it be done:

Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Mat 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Note the sequence, teach and then baptize. Baptism by full immersion is to be a public confession of faith by the believer. Infant baptism by sprinkling as taught and practiced by Roman Catholics is not found in scripture, and is an erroneous Tradition of men. Baptism is the biblical way of celebrating the resurrection of Christ, not Sunday keeping. Paul tells us it is a symbolic expression of faith in the death of the old man (the sinner) with Christ, and our resurrection with Him in newness of life:

Rom 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Rom 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Rom 6:5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Rom 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

The Jerusalem council (A.D. 49) in Acts 15, seeing that God was blessing uncircumcised Gentiles with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:45), as testified to by Paul, Barnabus, and Peter, concluded that God was not requiring circumcision of Gentiles, so neither should they. James also concluded that this was in agreement with scripture (Acts 15:15), quoting Amos 9:11-12. So did the apostolic church, exercising a presumed divine authority, unilaterally decide to abolish circumcision? No, obviously not. As cited above (Rom 2:29), the external physical circumcision of the flesh for Jews has become the internal spiritual circumcision of the heart for Gentiles, according to the plan of God, not by church decree.

Baptism is clearly biblical, as it was practiced by John the Baptist several years before the Christian church began, and was commanded by Jesus, but did the apostolic church decree that baptism should replace circumcision? No, as Patrick rightly points out, scripture does not testify to any such decree. Neither can the Catholic Church cite any scripture where the apostolic church abandoned the seventh day Sabbath for the first day of the week, or that they kept Sunday to honor the resurrection. The truth is that both Sunday keeping in place of the seventh day Sabbath, and infant baptism, are unbiblical corruptions and Traditions of men.

So baptism does not provide Catholics with biblical support for any alleged church authority to abolish or modify one of the Ten Commandments of God, which is amply demonstrated by the very words of Christ that Patrick now quotes:

As Christ explained, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Mt 5:17-18).

Some additional Bible passages to study:

Luke 10:16
Acts 15
Acts 20:7
2 Corinthians 5:1-5
Galatians 5:2
Colossians 2:16-17

Related Catechism sections:

CCC 128-130, 2175, 2168-2196

(Copyright 2004, Patrick Madrid, all rights reserved.

Patrick Madrid, the Sabbath, and the Calendar: "Surprised By Truth"
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Did the Apostles Abandon The Sabbath And Keep Sunday Instead To Honor The Resurrection?
Sunday is NOT the Sabbath!
The Seal of God and The Mark of the Beast
The Seal of God in the Old and New Covenants
Biblical Baptism - A Confession of Repentance and Faith.