Did Christians Keep the Sabbath in the Book of Acts?

A Terrible Abuse of Scripture

Reading time: approximately 26 minutes

Why am I writing about this?

There is an off-brand of the 7th Day Adventists that has unfortunately hooked a friend of mine. He made a claim that the disciples kept the Sabbath 85 times in the book of Acts. Since I knew that the Sabbath isn’t even mentioned anywhere close to that many times in the New Testament, I was curious where he got that from. He sent me a link to this article. The Disciples Kept the Sabbath 85 Times in the book of Acts. I am just going to quote the article and inline my comments in brackets.

The Disciples Kept the Sabbath 85 Times in the book of Acts

There are many scriptures that verify the Sabbath day being the 7th day of the week. All throughout the ‘New testament’, the first day of the week is called “The first day of the week” and the 7th day of the week is called “The Sabbath”. This fact alone should prove when the Sabbath truly is.

[Right at the beginning, we see that he is mixing two arguments. There is no doubt in the mind of any good Bible student that the Sabbath is on the 7th day of the week. Proving that, has no bearing on the topic he is addressing about the disciples “keeping the Sabbath” 85 times.]

However, let us examine the pattern of the disciples after Yahushua’s resurrection in the book of acts to determine what day that they attended Sabbath Services and what day they expected others to observe. We will keep a count of how many times the Sabbath is observed.

[This guy insists on calling Jesus by what could have been His Hebrew name, which is ridiculous since the apostles and prophets throughout the New Testament always referred to Him by His Greek name (they didn’t insert Hebrew into the Greek).

He says that “Yahushua’s” name got corrupted in the Greek, which is “False Teacher Language” for I want to be able to claim the Bible originally said something else whenever it suits me. I’m sure he is claiming, as many false teachers do, that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew, but until they produce those Hebrew manuscripts that were not translated from the Greek, we shouldn’t give them any ground to stand on there.]

We see one example in Acts 17:1…

Acts 17:1 (NKJV) Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Acts 17:2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, Acts 17:3 explaining and demonstrating that the Messiah had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and [saying], “This Yahushua whom I preach to you is the Messiah.” Acts 17:4 And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.

Here we see that Paul went to a Sabbath service where there were both Jews and Greeks. The scripture also mentions that this was a regular custom of Paul. Was this also the custom of Yahushua the Messiah?

Luke 4:16 (NKJV) So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.

So here we can see that 22 years after Yahushua’s death and resurrection the disciples were attending Sabbath services. In no place do we see Paul or any other disciple teaching them that they should come back the next day for a ‘first day of the week’ service. But they went to three Sabbath services where there were both Jews and Greeks present. So then the doctrine that says the Jews have their day (the 7th day) and the Gentiles have their day (the 1st day) is foreign to scripture.

[Paul did indeed go to a Sabbath service and it was his custom to do so. However, his custom was to go there and reason with them about the Christ. Notice that some of them joined Paul and Silas. Paul was not part of the people there in the synagogue. This was not some church service on the Sabbath he was attending. That is made even more clear in the later verses when the Jews there ran him off–the same Jews who were in the synagogue.]

Some would argue that Paul was at the synagogue only because that is where he would find people to witness to…not to observe the Sabbath. But the scripture does not say that. This is an assumption that those who refuse the simplicity of the scriptures want to make, not one that the scriptures support. Again, the Seventh Day is called “The Sabbath day” in this passage.

[Actually, that is not an assumption. It is what the scriptures say he did every time it mentions him going to the synagogue. Since the Jews who met at the synagogue were not fellow Christians, he could not possibly be going there to have fellowship with them in worship. They were unbelievers. Paul condemns having fellowship with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). To say that he went there observe the Sabbath is a huge assumption since his mission was to preach the gospel and that’s what he was doing. Nowhere here or elsewhere does it ever mention him or any other disciples keeping the Sabbath. That would mean not working at all, etc. Going to the synagogue and preaching does not qualify as keeping the Sabbath.]

So lets see where we are at now..

Seventh day - 3 First day - 0

Another example is found in Acts 13…

Acts 13:13 (NKJV) Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. Acts 13:14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. Acts 13:15 And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Men [and] brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.”

So here is another example where Paul and the other disciples came to the Synagogue in Perga to attend the Sabbath Service.

[Also another example where we are told it was the Sabbath and not told that they kept the Sabbath, only that they went there for an opportunity to preach.]

Seventh day - 4 First day - 0

A little later in the chapter, after Paul shares Yahushua with them we see that the Gentiles were quite interested.

Acts 13:42 (NKJV) So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.

Now here is a perfect situation for Paul to tell these Gentiles “Hey just come back tomorrow, we keep the Sabbath on the first day now!” But we don’t see this written anywhere in scripture.

[Again, this is a completely different issue. We don’t keep the Sabbath on the first day now. We worship the Lord and remember His death on the first day, but that’s not the Sabbath.

So why did he not invite the Gentiles to the Sunday service, regardless of what it’s called? Because there wasn’t any church there! There were no believers in Antioch of Pisidia at that time except Paul and those who were travelling with him. There was nowhere to invite them. And inviting people to church isn’t usually how they taught people the gospel then either. They went where the people were.

In this case there was another reason, which Paul explicitly states in verse 46, where he tells the Jews that the gospel had to be preached to them first. Why did Paul always go first to the synagogue? Because the gospel was to go to the Jews first and then the Gentiles after the Jews rejected it.]

Acts 13:43 Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of Yahweh Acts 13:44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of Yahweh.

So here is the fifth time that the disciples attended a Sabbath service on the day that Yahweh sanctified at creation. Again, the seventh day is called “the Sabbath” in this passage.

[He just throws in here about God sanctifying the 7th day at creation. That’s true. But remember that the Sabbath day was never given to anyone except the Jews at the time the Law of Moses was given. That means for thousands of years, God never expected anyone to keep the Sabbath. Him sanctifying it at creation has nothing to do with whether we are supposed to keep the Sabbath today. That all comes down to whether God expects us to keep the Law of Moses today, especially as Gentiles. (He doesn’t by the way. Colossians 2:16-17 makes that clear.)]

Seventh day - 5 First day - 0

Here is another example in Acts 16…

Acts 16:11 (NKJV) Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next [day] came to Neapolis, Acts 16:12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. Acts 16:13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met [there].

It was the custom of the Jews of that day for the rabbi to shut down the synagogue if there were not at least 10 men that would show up for the Sabbath meeting. This could very well be why there were women meeting by the riverside for prayer. Nevertheless, we see that the disciples sought a place to meet for the Sabbath and they did. Again, the seventh day is called “the Sabbath Day” in this passage.

[He’s skipping the purpose of seeking for that place. He preached to the women there and Lydia and her household were baptized. There is nothing here that talks about them “keeping the Sabbath."]

Seventh day - 6 First day - 0

Acts 18:1 (NKJV) After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. Acts 18:2 And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. Acts 18:3 So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.

So we see that he worked on the other days as a tentmaker…but on the Sabbath He was not. And here again we see that both Jews and Greeks are in the synagogue and on the Sabbath. Paul also is among them attending the Sabbath services. The interesting thing about this verse is that instead of the scripture saying that they attended only one or three sabbath services, it says that he was there every Sabbath persuading both Jews and Greeks. Again, the seventh day is called “the Sabbath” in this passage so we know that we can at least count one. Let’s do that..

[He claims that Paul did not make tents on the Sabbath. Where does it say that!? Nowhere. This man is injecting his own thoughts into the scripture and twisting them terribly. Could Paul have rested on the Sabbath? Certainly. But it doesn’t say so or indicated it in any way. It only says that he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath. That didn’t take all day long. What he did the rest of the day, we don’t know because that’s not the point. The point is that he went there to reason with the people. He didn’t go there to “keep the Sabbath."]

Seventh day - 7 First day - 0

Now if Paul was in Corinth and was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath, if we could find out how long he stayed in Corinth then we would know how many Sabbaths he actually attended. Let’s look furthur..

Acts 18:5 (NKJV) When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews [that] Yahushua [is] the Messiah. 6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook [his] garments and said to them, “Your blood [be] upon your [own] heads; I [am] clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he departed from there and entered the house of a certain [man] named Justus, [one] who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Master with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized. 9 Now the Master spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; 10 “for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.” 11 And he continued [there] a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

A year and six months! Finally the ruler of the synagogue was converted to Yahushua and Paul was there a year and six months! So the scripture says that Paul was there every Sabbath and that he was there for a year and six months. If we counted this by our present calendar that would give us 52 Sabbaths in a year plus 26 Sabbaths in the following six months which gives us a total of 78 Sabbaths!

[This year and six months was after he left the synagogue and went to the Gentiles. There is absolutely nothing mentioned about the Sabbath here at all. He’s just assuming that they were keeping the Sabbath and using that assumption to increase the number of times disciples kept the Sabbath in the book of Acts! Talk about circular reasoning. He might as well work on the number of Sabbaths there were from the beginning of Acts to the end and use that number.

But since he is actually claiming times the book of Acts specifies that they kept the Sabbath, this number makes no sense here at all. In most places, Paul could not stay in the synagogue long before the Jews basically kicked him out, but we don’t know how long was involved in the “every Sabbath.” The year and six months definitely was not part of it. He had clearly left the synagogue and nothing is mentioned about him doing anything on the Sabbath from then on in Corinth. He either doesn’t know how to read or is deliberately twisting the scriptures.]

Now lets add this to our present total:

Seventh Day - 85 First day - 0

So we can see that the disciples observed the Sabbath and attended a Sabbath service 85 times in the book of acts alone! Again, the seventh day is called “the Sabbath” in this passage.

[Not once did it mention them observing the Sabbath. They did attend Sabbath services to teach, but the 85 number even for that is based on horrible use of the passages.]

Now how many times do we see them meeting together on the first day? Some would cite one example in Acts 20. Let’s examine the text…

Acts 20:6 (NKJV) But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days. Acts 20:7 Now on the first [day] of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

Here we see an example of the disciples gathering together on the first day of the week. There is no mention of a Sabbath being observed in this verse. Nowhere is this day called “The Sabbath”. In fact, we know that Paul was ready to depart the next day. According to verse 7, Paul spoke to them a message because for this very reason.

[That’s right, there is no mention of the Sabbath being observed here. Even though they were clearly there on the Sabbath since they waited 7 days. The first day is not the Sabbath. It is the time for Christians to worship which is something completely different.]

Now some would say that coming together to ‘break bread’ constitutes a meeting that includes the observance of partaking in Yahushua’s body. But this is not true…consider this verse:

Acts 2:44 (NKJV) Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising Yahweh and having favor with all the people. And Yahweh added to the assembly daily those who were being saved.

According to this scripture, breaking bread was not an uncommon thing to do on a daily basis. It was one of the customs in those days to eat their ‘daily bread’. Even in Yahushua’s prayer He said “Give us this day our daily bread”.

[Also consider Acts 2:42 which clearly uses “the breaking of bread” to refer to something religious (look at the context and the things listed with it there) and was different from the daily meals “breaking of bread.” The only thing it can refer to in a religious sense is the Lord’s supper. Does that prove that it is the Lord’s supper in Acts 20:7? Yes it does. Notice that when it talks about daily meals, it’s talking about something they did “house to house.” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11 that they were supposed to eat their meals at home and the Lord’s supper when they came together. So the only thing this could be as something that was done when all the disciples met together for this particular thing is the Lord’s supper.]

So we cannot confirm that this scripture in Acts 20 is a Sabbath day observance. In fact, nowhere does it say that the first day of the week is the Sabbath. But the 7th day of the week is always called “the Sabbath” in the ‘new testament.’ Unless you don’t believe in the New Testament, you would have to conclude that this was not a Sabbath meeting. So what was it really? Many may not realize that in scripture, a new day begins at sundown. This would mean that at sundown on ‘Saturday’, the first day of the week begins. This was most probably an ‘after Sabbath’ fellowship meal where Paul continued to speak until midnight because he wanted to get as much teaching in as possible before he departed the next day.

[It was not a Sabbath meeting, that is true. That has nothing to do with whether it was to eat the Lord’s supper or not, since that was never part of the Sabbath.

Many may also not realize that in scripture, it depends on who is writing as to how time is counted. The Jews counted a day from sundown, but the Romans did not. Some places use Jewish time, others use Roman. In Acts, it is unclear what time system Luke used in his writing (or at least I don’t know how to figure it out). Since these would have been Gentiles in Troas, it seems that they would probably count time the same as we do (as the Romans did).

But it doesn’t make any difference. The first day of the week is the first day of the week. So if they count their day from sundown and it was what would call Saturday night, they still waited for the first day of the week to come together to eat the Lord’s supper. Calling this an “after Sabbath fellowship meal” is to talk about something the scriptures never talk about at all. Where is there any fellowship meal besides the Lord’s supper? This is a huge assumption he is making.]

Nevertheless some will hang onto this one verse so that they don’t have to forsake tradition and keep the true Sabbath. But you can search the scriptures from Genesis to Revelations and you will not find a single verse that says His Sabbath was changed to a different day. There is not a single verse that tells us that the Ten Commandments are not to be kept. And there is not a single verse that prophesied either of these two events occurring! In fact, the scriptures declare the seventh day to be the Sabbath in the Law, in the words of the prophets, in the writings about Yahushua and in the acts of the apostles as well as in the scriptures that speak of Yahweh’s kingdom. Therefore that final tally will remain at:

[This is scripture, not tradition. Nowhere do we read about eating the Lord’s supper on the Sabbath. We see them going to the synagogues on the Sabbath, not meeting with other disciples.]

Seventh Day - 85 | First day - 0

There is also evidence that the early disciples kept the Sabbath on the true day:

“The primitive Christians did keep the Sabbath of the Jews; therefore the Christians for a long time together, did keep their conventions on the Sabbath, in which some portion of the Law were read: and this continued till the time of the Laodicean council.” The Whole Works of Jeremey Taylor, Vol. IX, p416 (R. Heber’s Edition, Vol.XII, p.416)

[Taylor wrote in the 1600s, so just quoting from him without giving his evidence is worthless. (I couldn’t find where the quote is taken from–it’s not in the version of the book on The Internet Archive as far as I can find.)

He was with the Church of England (very closely associated with the Catholic Church even though they had broken off from it) and they have it in their interest to convince people that they changed things (and had the right to do so) so that nobody will question them when they continue to change things. We see nothing like that in the scriptures.]

“The ancient Christians were very careful in the observation of Saturday, or the seventh day..It is plain that all the Oriental churches, and the greatest part of the world, observed the Sabbath as a festival…Athanasius likewise tells us that they held religious assemblies on the Sabbath, not because they were infected with Judaism, but to worship [Yahushua], the [Master] of the Sabbath, Epiphanius says the same.” Antiquities of the Christian Church, Vol. II, Book XX, chap. 3, Sec. 1, 66.1137, 1138

[From Antiquities of the Christian Church, Vol. I: “Whatever theories may exist respecting the original institution of the christian sabbath, it is an established historical truth that it was observed very early in the second century ; and that the sacrament was usually celebrated on that day. This was doubtless the status dies, the fixed, appointed day of Pliny.^ It is distinctly mentioned in the epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, p. 57. The genuineness of the passage has indeed been called in question, and the controversy is still unsettled. The observance of the day may be clearly shown from Tertullian. Justin Martyr says, " We all meet together on Sunday ;” and the reason assigned is, that this is the first day of the week, when in the beginning light was created, and when also our Lord Jesus Christ, arose from the dead.^ It was called also dies panis — the day of bread, with evident allusion to the celebration of the sacrament on that day. The weekly celebration of the sacrament was strongly recommended at the reformation, but no positive enactment was made to that effect.”]

[Here is from a section in the same work dealing directly with the Sabbath and what he calls “the Christian Sabbath” (Sunday). I don’t agree with what he says at the first, primarily because he gives no evidence for it or the evidence is from sources claiming to be inspired but are not (remember this is a source the author of this article is using to try to prove that early Christians kept the Sabbath).

Remember this man is also writing in the 1600s. But notice the evidence he gives at the end from Justin Martyr:

“The primitive church observed both the Jewish and the christian sabbath. The Jewish converts considered the abrogation of the ceremonial law, and of the sabbath, to relate only to their exemption from its burdensome rites ; and religiously observed the day as holy.

Converts from paganism, on the contrary, contemplated Christianity as a dispensation altogether new, and the religion of the Jews as totally abrogated. The resurrection of Christ was to them a fixed point, the beginning of this new dispensation, the new passover from bondage to freedom, from death to life. This great event they refused to commemorate on the same day which the Jews observed for another end, and for this purpose they selected the first day of the week. The import of the christian sabbath they accounted more significant and important than that of the Jewish. The one commemorated the completion of the work of creation ; the other, the beginning of a nobler work by the great Creator himself, who was light and life to all.

The silence of the writers of the New Testament relative to the christian sabbath, is no matter of surprise. It is in strict accordance with that law of liberty which is the basis of the christian dispensation. But there are various passages which evidently refer to this institution. The divine Word, by whom all things were made, is styled Light and Life, with evident reference to the work of creation. To this we may add Acts 20: 7. 1 Cor. 16: 2. Mark 16: 2, 9. John 20: 19, 26, and especially Rev. 1:10.

The author of the epistle of St. Barnabas introduces the Lord as saying, ‘The sabbaths which you now keep are not acceptable to me; but those which I have made, when, resting from all things, I shall begin the eighth day, that is, the beginning of the other world.’ “For which cause,” he adds, “we observe the eighth day with gladness, in which Jesus rose from the dead, and, having manifested himself to his disciples, ascended into heaven.”

Justin Martyr, who lived in the fore part of the second century, says that they. Christians, neither celebrated the Jewish festivals, nor observed their sabbaths, nor practised circumcision.^ In another place he says that they, both those who lived in the city and they who lived in the country, were all accustomed to meet on the day which is denominated Sunday, for the reading of the Scriptures, prayer, exhortation, and communion.”

I looked for the quotation he made from Volume II. Right after he says that ancient Christians were careful to observe the Sabbath, he points out that he is talking about the Oriental Church (this is well after the Catholic Church began, so “ancient” here does not go back to the original Christians we read about in the New Testament) and then points out that they did not actually keep the Sabbath at all! They still worked on the Sabbath, but only stopped working enough to meet together for worship. Regardless, these were Catholics, not the early disciples we read about in the scriptures so whatever they did with the Sabbath doesn’t matter in proving what is right or wrong about it.]

“Ambrose, the celebrated bishop of Milan, said that when he was in Milan he observed Saturday, but when in Rome observed Sunday. This gave rise to the proverb ‘When you are in Rome, do as Rome does,’ " Heylyn, The History of the Sabbath, 1613

[You might want to look at these two sites: formeradventist.com and phrases.org.uk

They both show that Heylyn was mistaken. In fact, Augustus just talks about fasting on Saturday, not keeping the Sabbath (and that was in Rome, not the other way around.)]

Constantine later enforced keeping a Sabbath on the first day of the week, which he calls “the venerable day of the sun.” Venerable means ‘commanding respect’.

The text of Constantine’s Sunday Law of 321 A.D. is:

“One the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits because it often happens that another day is not suitable for gain-sowing or vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost.”

[Actually, Constantine came before the things described in these other quotations. All the evidence is based on men who lived a couple hundred years later.]

This doesn’t even really sound like Yahweh’s Sabbath which forbids any kind of work at all on His day!

Later, those who observed the Sabbath were persecuted and killed by the Catholic church. When the Jesuit St. Francis Xavier arrived in India he immediately requested to the pope to set up the Inquisition there.

[Constantine certainly did some terrible things. He was a big influence in the formation of the Catholic Church which has changed many things from what the scriptures say. But he didn’t establish Sunday as the day to observe the Lord’s supper. That’s all that matters here. God did that hundreds of years before. So this adds nothing to his argument.

Acts 20:7 shows that the early disciples met on the first day of the week. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 shows that were to collect money together on the first day of the week. They were meeting on that day.]

“The Jewish wickedness” of which Xavier complained was evidently the Sabbath-keeping among those native Christians as we shall see in our next quotation. When one of these Sabbath-keeping Christians was taken by the Inquisition he was accused of having Judaized; which means having conformed to the ceremonies of the Mosaic Law; such as not eating pork, hare, fish without scales, of having attended the solemnization of the Sabbath.” Account of the Inquisition at Goa, Dellon, p.56. London, 1815

“Of an hundred persons condemned to be burnt as Jews, there are scarcely four who profess that faith at their death; the rest exclaiming and protesting to their last gasp that they are Christians, and have been so during their whole lives.” Ibid p.64

[What the Catholics did in their wickedness doesn’t add anything to the argument of whether the disciples in the book of Acts kept the Sabbath. It took place hundreds of years later.]

Today, some of the leading Baptists even have admitted that the Sunday Sabbath isn’t in the scriptures:

“There was and is a commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day, but that Sabbath day was not on Sunday…It will be said, however, and with some show of triumph, that the Sabbath was transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week….where can the record of such a transaction be found? Not in the New Testament. Of course, I quite well know that Sunday did come into use in early Christian history as a religious day, as we learn from the Christian Fathers and other sources. But what a pity that it comes branded with the mark of paganism, and christened with the name of a sun god, when adopted and sanctioned by the papal apostasy, and bequeathed as a sacred legacy to Protestantism!” Dr. Edward Hiscox, author of The Baptist Manual

[And his final quote is about whether Sunday is the Sabbath which has nothing to do with the point he is claiming to make about the disciples keeping the Sabbath.]


[I hope this examination helps you see how some people who seem to be well-studied completely twist things to come to the conclusions they want. We need to be careful never to be misled by such things, but to really look at what the scriptures themselves say.]