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Acts 13:42-48 (ESV)

42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.

44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

Acts 15:19-21 (ESV)

19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

Acts 16:11-14 (ESV)

11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

Acts 17:1-4 (ESV)

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.

Acts 18:4 (ESV)

4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.


I've seen these passages cited many times as evidence that the Gentiles in the New Covenant are to keep the Sabbath, just like the Jews.

At face value, I can agree that these passages are clear evidence that the Gentiles attended synagogues on Sabbath, there is no question about that. However, can we go one step further interpretatively and assert that they were actually keeping the Sabbath commandment and, by reasoning inductively, that these passages of Acts are evidence that Christian Gentiles in general are to keep the Sabbath?

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  • This over-simplification sidesteps the vastly more weighty matters of legal works and eternal rest; of old covenant and New Testament; and of the sufferings and death of Christ in regard to the curse of the law, the demands of the law and the rule of the Spirit. As though a superficial regard to the attendance at a certain building (solely to hear the gospel being reached) had some huge significance. – Nigel J Mar 28 at 23:24
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    @NigelJ - feel free to explain your reasons in an answer and I'll be happy to accept it if the argument is compelling – Spirit Realm Investigator Mar 28 at 23:26
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    See God-fearer. – Lucian May 14 at 1:56
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Let us tread very carefully here so as not over-step what the NT is saying. Many denomination fasten on texts that appear to support their position and ignore others that do not. The Sabbath vs Sunday debate is a prime example of wooly think by both sides on this topic.

Sabbath-keepers will advance these texts as evidence that Paul and the apostles, as well as gentiles, were keeping the Sabbath well after the resurrection of Jesus. (This is obviously true.)

Sunday-keepers simply dismiss these claims by saying that Paul simply went where there was a crowd, interested in spiritual things, to listen. (This fact cannot be ignored just as Paul went to the market place to preach which does not make that a sacred place.)

So, what can be deduced from these texts?

  1. The Jews were antagonistic to Paul's Messianic, Jesus-centered preaching. Thus, while gatherings could be found in synagogues each Sabbath, they would often be unsympathetic, except for the Gentiles as in Acts 13, and elsewhere.
  2. Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles (Gal 2:8), not the Jews, but still retained a great burned for his country-men (Rom 10:1).
  3. Even in places where there was no Jewish Synagogue (eg, Phillippi), Paul and his companions still sought a place of meditation and prayer on Sabbath - by the river on that occasion where they found Lydia and other women.
  4. Sunday-keepers who dismiss these post-resurrection Sabbath texts are then left bereft of any authority for keeping any other day as the NT is silent about Sunday sacredness.
  5. The text in Acts 13:44 is interesting as it suggests that on the first Sabbath, there was a smaller crowd and on the "next Sabbath" the "whole town" (clearly hyperbole) tuned out to hear Paul which aroused the jealousy of the Jews. The large crowd clearly did not usually attend.

Thus, there are fundamental flaws in this debate between two implacable sides.

  • Sunday-keepers accuse Sabbath-keepers of legalism, but then insist upon keeping the other 9 commandments.
  • Sabbath-keepers insist upon the Sabbath as a sign of God's salvation but ignore the fact that it was part of a covenant relationship with God and not an end in itself (compare 1 Peter 2:9 with Ex 19:5, 6)
  • Sunday-keepers' accusations of legalism (validly) also ignores the bitter disputes over the way communion is to be celebrated despite the fact that the service is nowhere described in the NT. They also ignore the fact that there is no Sunday-commandment in the NT.
  • Sabbath keepers (and often Sunday-keepers) ignore the fact that the disciples often met daily (Acts 2:46, 16:5). This is NOT to suggest that there should be a special day of meeting and corporate worship, but private worship in the NT is constant every-day lifestyle.

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