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Christians And The Sabbath - Part 1

In these times when so many are worried about our country's moral and political decline, this suggestion is sometimes made by Christians that it would be reasonable and correct if we need to go back to the ten commandments as our rule of behaviour. Although the motivation for such an exhortation is undoubtedly noble, it indicates a widespread, though incorrect, misconception about the nature of the ten commandments.

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TEN COMMANDMENTS AND HEBREWS

First and foremost, the majority of us (all non-Jews) have never lived under the Ten Commandments. The ten commandments were part of the Mosaic law, which was only given to the Hebrews.

Deuteronomy 5:1-5 -- And Moses called all Israel, and said to them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that you may learn them, and keep, and do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day. The LORD talked with you face to face in the mount out of the middle of the fire, (I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to show you the word of the LORD: for you were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount;) saying..."

That does not absolve the Gentiles of those times of religious and moral duty. It does not, however, imply that non-Israelites were never subject to the Mosaic law in general.

Aside from that, it is a logical truth that if one argues for the reinstatement of the ten commandments, he must, if consistent, argue that the Sabbath requirements are also obligatory. This viewpoint, of course, is advocated by Seventh-day Adventists and other Sabbath keepers, but it is not scriptural. 

I have friends who are Seventh-day Adventists and also orthodox Messianic who observe the Sabbath, and we love them in the Lord, but now found it necessary to clear the air with respect to doctrine. I also know that many of them love the Lord sincerely however the traditions and burdens of Judaism are still prevalent in their doctrinal practices even today.

SUMMARY

Three points are intended to be made in this post. First, as instructed by inspired leaders (disciples), the church of the first century did not keep the Sabbath.

Second, the distinctive characteristics of the Old Testament Sabbath show that it was never intended to be a universal obligation.

Third, the Scriptures state unequivocally that the Sabbath has been abolished to be kept physically as Christ is our Sabbath and Rest. Let us go further into each of these facts from the scripture.

EARLY CHURCH CHRISTIANS

No matter how hard one tries, they will find no New Testament proof that the early church kept the Sabbath with apostolic sanction. Yes, the apostles did visit synagogues on Sabbath to preach the gospel. That is where the largest concentration of Jews would have been.

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 17:1-2 -- Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in to them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

It was to them that the word of Jesus was to be delivered first.

Romans 1:16 -- For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

But where is the proof that the early church, led by God, gathered to worship God on the Sabbath?

The kingdom of God that Christ preached was near, and in reality, came on the day of Pentecost by the Holy Spirit which always fell on "the morrow following the Sabbath," hence on Sunday.

Acts 2:1 -- And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Leviticus 23:15-16 -- And you shall count to you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even to the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering to the LORD.

As a result, the church began gathering for worship on the first day of the week.

Acts 2:42 -- And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

On "the first day of the week," the followers of Troas "were brought together" to break bread, that is to worship.

Acts 20:7 -- And on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

The date of the meeting was not chosen at random. Despite his eagerness to be in Jerusalem, Paul waited seven days for the chance to meet with the congregation.

Acts 20:16 -- For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hurried, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.

Furthermore, the coming together as mentioned in the scripture above implies that the gathering was organised by someone other than the disciples. It was the result of heavenly inspiration.

Every first day of the week, the believers of Corinth gathered and contributed to the church their offerings.

1 Corinthians 16:2 -- On the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

John was "in the spirit" on the isle of Patmos on "the Lord's day." The Greek word for "Lord's" is kuriakos, which means "related to the Lord." Thayer adds in his dictionary, "the Lord's day, holy to the remembrance of Christ's resurrection."

Revelation 1:10 -- I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet..."

Of course, the Gospel accounts make it plain that the resurrection happened on Sunday. While Revelation 1:10 by itself is not conclusive, the fact that the day is explicitly stated is important and may be considered.

This is also something we should mention. While it is true that some weak or ignorant Christians had difficulty breaking free from the Mosaic Age and economy of the law, it is also essential to note that inspired apostolic preaching attempted to rectify this mistake. One can read Galatians, Romans, and Hebrews for a better understanding of this.

Romans 14:1 -- Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations.

Galatians 4:10-11 -- You observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed on you labor in vain.

PATRISTIC WRITER'S TESTIMONIES

There is also the record of post-apostolic patristic authors (early church fathers). The evidence of the first three centuries of Christian history is consistent: the first followers of Jesus Christ worshipped on Sunday, not the Sabbath. Here's a selection of that testimony.

According to the Didache (about A.D. 120), Christians come together and "break bread" on "every Lord's day." (ANF.VII.381).

In addressing incense, new moons, and Sabbaths, the Epistle of Barnabas (about A.D. 120) states that the Lord "abolished these things" in deference to "the new rule of our Lord Jesus Christ." (ANF.I.138). Later, it is said, "Therefore, too, we observe the eighth day with gladness, the day also on which Jesus resurrected from the dead." (I.147).

According to Justin Martyr (A.D. 140), early Christians gathered for worship "on the day named Sunday." He went on to say that this was the day Christ was resurrected from the grave (I.186).

Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 194) described the person who "keeps the Lord's day" as "glorifying the Lord's resurrection in himself" (ANF.II.545).

Tertullian (A.D. 200) contended that the “old law” had been fulfilled, and therefore "observance of the Sabbath is shown to have been temporary." (ANF.III.155). He also adds that "Sabbaths are strange" to Christians and that they enjoy "the Lord's day" together (70).

The "father of church history," Eusebius (A.D. 324), declared that Sabbath observance did not "belong to Christians." He said, on the other hand, that Christians "celebrate the Lord's days... in memory of his resurrection." (26,113).

Schaff, a well-known historian, concludes,

"The widespread and consistent observance of Sunday in the second century can only be explained by the fact that it had its origins in apostolic practice." (478-479).

Finally, we must make this observation. Sunday should not be referred to as "the Christian Sabbath."

Stay tuned to the upcoming posts where we go through the Old and New Covenants to understand the reason, meaning, and use of the Sabbath.

Blessings,

Godwin.


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