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Christine wrote:

Hi, guys —

About eight years ago, my husband joined the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church. I still am not sure why he did this. He started out being sarcastic and critical of the Catholic Church. Why, I do not know. It wasn't long before he started going to seminars held by the SDAs. He became completely obsessed with it and it wasn't long after, that he had himself baptized into this church. He said he just couldn't believe all of the false doctrines that the Catholic Church teaches.
He particularly puts down the Pope and makes fun of him.

His biggest complaint is that the Catholic Church changed the Sabbath from Saturday (the true Sabbath according to SDA) to Sunday. He says man has no right to change God's commandments. It is so hard hanging on to my Catholic faith (which I love dearly) and living this way. I feel betrayed and very, very, lonesome when I attend church by myself every Sunday.

I wish I had an answer about why the Christian community worships on Sunday and why the SDA church worships on Saturday.

  • Was it changed?
  • Where did this Saturday worship come from?

I would be grateful if you could shed some light on this subject for me.
I forgot to mention that my husband was a baptized Catholic when we married.

Thank you so much.


  { What do I say when he asks me, why did the Church change the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Christine —

Thanks for the e-mail.

The Seventh Day Adventists are certainly a tricky lot. They are correct in that the day of worship was changed by the early Church from Saturday to Sunday. Technically, the Sabbath is Saturday, and Sunday is referred to as the Lord's Day. The Jews always worshipped on Saturday, the seventh day of the week, and abstained from work on that day.

The Christians changed worship to the Lord's Day in honor of Christ's Resurrection from the Dead, which occurred on the eighth day of the week (the day after the Sabbath or the seventh day).

The early Christians saw eight as a symbol of fulfillment. Actually, to be technical, ever since the early Church, Christians have worshipped daily, not just on Sunday and Saturday, however, this question only pertains to when the primary day of worship is.

Ask your husband when he thinks this change to Sunday happened. Then give him a surprising fact: It was in the first century that the Christians changed the day. Here is a quote from St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was thrown to the lions and thus martyred for his Christian faith in 107 A.D.:

"Consequently, if the people who were given to obsolete practices faced the hope of a new life, and if these [people] no longer observe the Sabbath, but regulate their calendar by the Lord's Day, the day, too, on which our Life rose by His power and through the medium of His death . . . " (Letter to the Magnesians, 9)

Here is a quote from the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (or Didache), which was written around 90 A.D. (before the Apostle John died):

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. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.

(Didache, 14)

Here we have three Catholic doctrines:

  1. the Lord's Day as the day of worship
  2. the practice of confessing sins and doing so before coming to worship, and
  3. the Mass as the sacrifice.

St. Justin Martyr, who explained the Christian faith to hostile pagans, was the first to describe Christian worship. He lived and wrote in the second century. He wrote:

"On the day called after the sun [Sunday] there is a meeting for which all those dwelling in the cities or in the countryside come together. The records of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time allows. When the reader has stopped, the one who is presiding admonishes and encourages us by a sermon to the imitation of those good examples.

Then we all stand up together and lift up our prayers and, as I said previously, when we have finished our prayer, bread is brought forth and wine and water. The one who is presiding offers up prayers and thanksgiving according to his ability and the people acclaim their assent with "Amen". There is the distribution of and participation on the part of each one in the gifts for which thanks has been offered, and they are sent to those who are not present through the deacons.

We all come together on the day of the sun since it is the first day, on which God changed darkness and matter and made the world. On that day, Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the dead. They crucified him on the day preceding that of Saturn [Saturday], and on the day of the sun he appeared to his Apostles and disciples and taught them these things which we have presented also to you for inspection."

(Apology, I, Chapter 67, Weekly worship of the Christians.)

So there is ample evidence that the early Christians worshipped on Sunday rather than Saturday. While there is no direct biblical evidence that they did, the Lord's Day is mentioned in Revelation, where it is written,

"On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet ..."

(Revelation 1:10)

Here we can see that there was a recognition of the special character of that day.

  • Why did the Church change the day on which we worship, and
  • By what authority did She do so?

As mentioned previously, as the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead was the primary truth proclaimed by the Christian faith, and as he rose from the dead on Sunday, celebration of the Resurrection of Christ on Sunday became the dominant day of worship. (While liturgically it is not very evident in the Latin Rite, we are in fact celebrating, even today, the Resurrection of Christ in our Sunday liturgy. Every Sunday is a little Easter, liturgically speaking.)

  • By what authority did the Church change it?

We could argue that could have been a tradition Jesus established, but it would be more cogent to point out that Jesus gave the Apostles the authority to bind and to loose (Matthew 16:19), which meant they had the authority to do such things. Finally, let's ask whether strict observance of the Sabbath according to the old Law of Moses is essential for Christians, given that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and it is not binding for Christians anymore.

  • What does St. Paul say?

"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day."

(Colossians 2:16)

Clearly then, we should not allow anyone to disturb our conscience on account of whether we celebrate the Sabbath the right way or not. You may be interested in reviewing some of the tracts provided by Catholic Answers:

Incidentally, St. Justin Martyr in the same section I quoted above, has something to say about the Eucharist as well, proving that the early Christians believed that the bread and wine were transformed into the real Body and Blood of Christ:

It is allowed to no one else to participate in that food which we call Eucharist except the one who believes that the things taught by us are true, who has been cleansed in the washing unto rebirth and the forgiveness of sins and who is living according to the way Christ handed on to us. For we do not take these things as ordinary bread or ordinary drink.

Just as our Savior Jesus Christ was made flesh by the word of God and took on flesh and blood for our salvation, so also were we taught that the food, for which thanksgiving has been made through the word of prayer instituted by Him, and from which our blood and flesh are nourished after the change, is the flesh of that Jesus who was made flesh. Indeed, the Apostles, in the records left by them which are called Gospels, handed on that it was commanded to them in this manner: Jesus, having taken bread and given thanks said, "Do this in memory of me, this is my body." Likewise, having taken the cup and given thanks, he said, "This is my blood", and he gave it to them alone.

(Apology, I, Chapter 66, Of the Eucharist.)

If you continue to look at the writings of the Christians of the first three centuries (and beyond), you will see that what they believed matches, in essentials, what the Catholic Church believes, and is at odds with what Seventh Day Adventists (and other Protestants) believe.

I hope that this has helped confirm for you the truth of the Catholic faith and has given you some helpful information against the charges laid out by the Seventh Day Adventist church. If I may recommend a book to you for your task in dealing with your husband, it is the book:

Search and Rescue: How to Bring Your Family and Friends Into, or Back Into, the Catholic Church by Patrick Madrid

Write back if you have any further questions. Meanwhile we'll pray for you and your husband!

Yours in Christ,

Eric Ewanco

John replied:

Hi, Christine —

I'd like to add to the wonderful job Eric did by adding a couple of Biblical points which I believe will be important to your husband. The question is not only the day of worship but "man's authority" to change it. Now your husband is quite right, "men" cannot change God's Law, but the Church is the Body of Christ on Earth!! Let's look at a few Scriptures:

18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven." (Matthew 16:18-19)
17 "And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. 18 "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven. (Matthew 18:17-18)

In Matthew 16, Jesus has just warned the Apostles about the yeast of the Pharisees, yet elsewhere, Jesus asserts that the Pharisee's sat in the Chair of Moses. To the Jew, the Chair of Moses meant the authority of the Law Giver, or the authority to interpret and apply the Law. There was popular rabbinic expression for this exercise of the Law. The phrase was to bind and to loose. So in Matthew 16, and again in Matthew 18, Christ is giving this authority to Peter, the Apostles and by extension, the Church. To fully understand how the Apostles and Jews understood this phrase, we look to the Old Testament:

20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: 21 And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. 22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

(Isaiah 22:20-22)

Again, let's put this text in context. Israel's leader had become corrupt so God takes away his authority and gives the key to Eliakim, giving him the authority to administer God's Law. Note the similarity in language. The Jewish reader and the Apostles (also Jewish) would have been familiar with this text and understood that Peter (and the Church by extension) was being given the authority which had previously been in the hands of the Pharisees. But Jesus goes even further. He promises that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the teaching authority of the Church. Again it's important to understand how the reader and the Apostles understood the phrase gates of Hell. In Biblical days, the elders of the city would meet at the gates of a city or town, and hold council. That is where the decisions were made. Therefore, Jesus was saying that the councils of Hell would not influence the teaching of the Church.

So now that we have established that the Church has authority to teach and establish discipline, let us look at a New Testament use of this authority:

1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." 2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.

(Acts 15:1-2)

7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 "So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, 9 "and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 "Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they." 12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles.

(Acts 15:7-12)

19 "Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 "but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.

(Acts 15:19-20)

In this scene, the Church has to deal with whether or not non-Jews need to observe all the Mosaic laws, including circumcision, in order to become Christians. The Church, led by the Holy Spirit, declares that they do not. Then they add a provision about eating certain meats. This provision was later done away with by the same Church. So you see the Bible supports the Church's authority to declare doctrine and impose disciplines and practices. The doctrines are not open to change, but can be developed and clarified. The disciplines and practices may be changed in order to meet the Pastoral needs of the Sheep.

Now these texts don't deal directly with the issue of Sunday worship but they do establish the Church's authority to change the day of worship!! As a matter of fact, it is this same authority which enabled the Catholic Church to decide which books belong in the Bible. In other words, when sects such as the SDA, or any Protestant group, use the Bible to attack the Catholic Church, they need to think about how exactly they even have the Bible!! It was the Catholic Church which accepted the 27 books of the New Testament, and excluded:

  • the Gospel of Thomas
  • the Shepherd of Hermas
  • the Epistle of Barnabas . . .
  • along with many other books which were being passed off as inspired.

So if the Church does not have this authority, then the SDAs can't even trust the Bible.

Well, I hope this helps.

John DiMascio

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