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By Request: To Sabbath or not to Sabbath? Pt. 4 – Lingering Issues
Tonight we are looking again at some final lingering questions we have about the Sabbath and observing it under the New Covenant. Now this is our fourth teaching and I have thought for sure at the beginning of each of them that surely, this will be our last teaching on this… and I as much as said so. So TONIGHT I am NOT going to say that and see where it takes us.
I’m not going to review again what we have covered for time’s sake, but it IS all on the website and the most important parts will be worked into an article on our website AND into our official statement of beliefs.
A quick bullet point on what we’ve covered so far including last week is that…
- Sabbath means “to cease” or “ceasing”.
- God was deliberate in making the week 7 days long.
- God commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath with regard to the manna BEFORE He ever gave the 10 commandments to them through Moses.
- We learned that like all the other commandments, this command was entirely based upon the person, character and actions of God.
- We learned that the way to keep it holy was to observe no common labor on the 7th day. To honor God by remembering what He did on the 7th day and doing likewise, this includes the idea of observing with appreciation and delight all He and we have made in our days of labor.
- We learned that Sabbath and the commands regarding it NEVER had ANYTHING to do with gathering together in fellowship or hearing God’s word.
- We learned that even though it was not “officially” part of the command, attending synagogue and hearing the word was the practice of Jesus, Paul and the early church.
Upon turning our attention to the New Testament we learned…
- We learned only the other 9 commandments are ever specifically mentioned as required of the church .
- That Jesus, Paul and James all indirectly assert the need for believers to observe the Sabbath by mentioning the need to keep the commandments as a whole. When they do so they NEVER once mention excluding the Sabbath.
- That in Paul’s letters of Romans 14 & Colossians 2 cannot rightly be used to say the Sabbath has been annulled under the New Covenant.
- Then last week we looked at 3 more passages:
- Gal. 4 – which mentions observing religious days, months, seasons and years. To which Paul said he was afraid that he had labored in vain over them because of this. The reason for Paul’s statement was NOT because they were observing those things -even Christian Jews and Paul himself observed them. His concern he clearly stated in the previous chapter and later in the same chapter AND in chapter 5 – which was that they were seeking to be placed back under the law for their righteousness, for justification and for the person of the Holy Spirit. Not one time is Sabbath mentioned specifically, but even if it had been, Paul was NOT speaking against it – only against placing faith in the observing of it to do for them what only faith in Christ can do!
- Then Heb. 4 which speaks of a rest that still remains to be entered into by God’s people. That rest is found in Christ Jesus. People use this to claim that because Jesus is our rest He is also our fulfilling of the Sabbath and therefore we do not need to keep the 4th commandment. We learned by walking and thinking through the verses that while Jesus IS our Sabbath, He is also our righteousness and so even though Jesus IS our Sabbath that does not free us to commit murder or adultery (the 6th and 7th commandment) so it naturally follows that Jesus being our Sabbath does not free of from obeying the 4th commandment.
- We also noted that the words “Sabbath rest” in these verses is NOT talking about THE SABBATH literally (though the 7th day IS specifically mentioned). The word is a symbolic, figurative word which could be translated into modern English vernacular as “a sabbathism”.
- Finally, people try to tie this passage in Hebrews 4 with the passage in Deuteronomy where Moses informs the 2nd generation of Israelites that ONE of the reasons God gave them the Sabbath other than to honor the day He had declared holy from the beginning was because it commemorated their departure from slavery in Egypt. So people today have claimed that even so Jesus is our freedom from the world and so we observe Jesus even as they observe Sabbath, which means we are free from the 4th commandment. To which we simply apply the same obvious logic as above as well as realize that we are still laboring to enter the rest since we are not yet been made perfect into the image of Christ which is what that symbolic word for Sabbath was most likely referencing.
This week we are looking at:
- Is there any justification for Sunday being the New Covenant Sabbath.
- How did the greatest part of the modern Christian world come to make Sunday the Sabbath of the New Covenant.
- What does the words, “the Lord’s day” mean and what is its connection with the Sabbath.
- What you should know about keeping the Sabbath.
Ok, so we have already tackled the only real passages which people point to as the New Testament examples of switching Saturdays to Sundays regarding observing the Sabbath but let’s refresh your memories.
The first one is found in Acts 20 and this time we are going to read the passage beginning in verse 1 since it serves to further illustrate other things we have taught regarding Sabbath.
Now as you are turning, let me remind you that the words “first day of the week” are actually only two Greek words.
- The word “One” – means literally ONE as in the first number othe than zero
- the word Sabbath.
So the words “One Sabbath” are translated as “on the first day of the week”.
Now while we might immediately cry foul – there are apparently some reasonable reasons for this.
In the end, it is worthy of note, that there are probably as many who oppose such a translation as there are those who support it. However, BOTH have convincing reasons from the grammar of the Greek as to why their view is the correct one.
Since this is NOT a course on advanced Greek and since am I NOT qualified to teach such a course, pursuing these grammatical arguments I believe to be pointless. Why try to settle a Greek interpretative issue which people, who have a MUCH HIGHER education in the language cannot agree on.
So we are going to look at these two passages from another angle to see if it reveals anything.
Acts 20:1-11, “(1) After the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples; and after encouraging them and saying farewell, he left for Macedonia.
(2) When he had gone through those regions and had given the believers much encouragement, he came to Greece, (3) where he stayed for three months. He was about to set sail for Syria when a plot was made against him by the Jews, and so he decided to return through Macedonia. (4) He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Beroea, by Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, by Gaius from Derbe, and by Timothy, as well as by Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia.
(5) They went ahead and were waiting for us in Troas; (6) but we sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we joined them in Troas, where we stayed for seven days.
(7) On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight.
(8) There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were meeting. (9) A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead.
(10) But Paul went down, and bending over him took him in his arms, and said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” (11) Then Paul went upstairs, and after he had broken bread and eaten, he continued to converse with them until dawn; then he left.”
So we do in fact learn a few things.
1st, it appears as if Paul observed Passover in that he did not travel until those days had passed. Passover includes the observing of “days, months & seasons” like we addressed last time in Gal. 4:8-11.
Even if this is not a clear case of Paul observing Passover, there are proofs of his observing at least some Jewish traditions. So I would point to this as another proof that such feast days, new moons, sabbaths and THE Sabbath are not wrong to observe and were not spoken against UNLESS one was seeking to use the observance of them as a basis for their righteousness instead of faith in Jesus alone!
Next we see that they met on the first day of the week or “One Sabbath” in order to “break bread”.
The wording “could be” indicative of a normal pattern of behavior. However, even if we assume that the wording means they met on Sunday, with the intention of “breaking bread”, that alone is no proof that such was their custom NOR that it was in celebration of some New Covenant Sabbath which is now being celebrated on Sunday.
If you remember, earlier in Luke’s account of these early days of Christianity, they used to “break bread” from house to house DAILY!
“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,” – Acts 2:46.
So just because they had gathered to “break bread” was no indicator that this was a celebration of Sabbath. To say it is, is to add to the text something it does not even imply. As it stands, it cannot even be said that what they were doing here was a normal activity.
As such, this CANNOT legitimately or responsibly be used as any proof whatsoever of Sabbath being changed to Sunday.
I’m fact knowing that Paul was going to be leaving the next day and that he was headed for Jerusalem where the Spirit had warned him that imprisonment and persecutions awaited him there, it is most likely that this was nothing more than a gathering around dinner to have time with Paul and bread his words once more before he left. They quite literally didn’t know if they’d ever see him again.
The same can be said of the only other cited example in scripture which is in 1 Cor. 16:1-4 which says,
“(1) Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: (2) On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. (3) And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. (4) But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.”
In order to see this as a collection taken up IN assembly of some weekly church gathering which took place every Sunday and that Sundays had therefore been universally declared to be the New Covenant Sabbath, an unprecedented number of assumptions have to be made. One thing is for sure, it is not a conclusion one could naturally arrive at based solely upon the text itself.
First, Paul did not say “bring your contribution and present to the Elders” – he said, store them up!
That collections were typically brought to the Elders is witnessed in other scriptures.
Also the words “store up” are translated as “lay by him in store” in the KJV and with good reason. The word “lay” means, “to set in a proper place nearby”.
The word “store” means, “to treasure up goods for future use”.
NONE of this implies a trip to the local assembly. It does not mention them gathering together nor does it mention the Sabbath.
It literally would be the same thing as a modern Pastor making an announcement that as a church they would be taking up a collection in ‘x’ number of weeks for a missionary supported by their church.
In keeping with this, the Pastor encourages them to start setting money aside weekly from any extra funds they had based on each week’s income so that when the week of the collection arrived, no special collections would have to be made at a later date.
It was a VERY practical statement and if anyone were to read Paul’s concerns regarding the giving of the Corinthians, they would all the more understand the practicality of this encouragement. But again – there literally is NOTHING in these verses upon which to base a change in the day Sabbath was recognized or celebrated!
Nevertheless, these two passages are mentioned FREQUENTLY as the first biblical examples of the early church observing Sabbath on Sunday.
As I told you a few weeks ago, in order to have a first example of something there must be the first declaration of something.
For example, the first Passover was only observed AFTER God announced what it was, how they were to keep it and when.
The first Feast of Weeks was not observed until AFTER God announced what it was, how they were to keep it and when.
In like manner, the same stands true of the observance of Sabbath.
So IF Sabbath had in fact been changed to Sunday by apostolic decree of the Apostles of the Lamb, who are the ONLY ONES who possessed anything approaching that level of authority, we would HAVE to see an example of such a declaration in the scriptures in order to take any passage like Acts 20:7 or 1 Cor. 16:1-4 as first examples of it.
The Lord’s day
This leads us to our need to look at the phrase “the Lord’s day” as being used to represent Sunday as the New Covenant’s observance of Sabbath.
Now – not that it matters, but just for interest’s sake let me first ask you a question.
When you hear the words “the Lord’s day” what first springs to mind?
For me it was the Sabbath, which I fully admit also meant Sunday to me since that is the day I have celebrated Sabbath since I was born. But, it did NOT represent a replacement of Sunday for Saturday as Sabbath, it simply meant Sabbath to me.
Now, a similar phrase occurs MANY times in scripture and that is “the day of the Lord” which literally has several manifestations. [See ‘The Day of the Lord… setting the record straight’]
The ‘DAY of the Lord’ does not appear in scripture as if it were just one event taking place at a particular time, but rather a series of events which build on one another.
Now the word for ‘day’ in this context really means the time of the Lord… or the time when the Lord begins to judge His creation and bring all fallen earthly matters to a closure.
All throughout the Old Testament, the Day of the Lord was presented as something which was TO COME and which was very, VERY scary if not understood in context.
The Thessalonian believers were being told that ‘the Day of the Lord’ was already here and it caused some concern & confusion! These people were under constant threat and persecution, so no doubt they interpreted the idea that the Day of the Lord was already here as if they were on the wrong end of that stick!
The specific things which are included in the events of the “time of the Lord”, in my opinion, fall into one of about 7 separate events, three of which have already happened.
(1) The Advent.
(2) His return from the grave..
(3) Then ten days later, His coming in the person of the Holy Spirit.
(4) The Rapture
(5) The Tribulation
(6) The coming of the Lord at the end of the seven-year tribulation period
(7) The Final Judgment when even death and hell are cast into the lake of fire.
But the phrase referenced most often today is “the Lord’s day” and though if taken literally both of these phrases mean the same thing, they do not refer to the same event(-s).
There is literally only ONE place in all of scripture where the phrase ‘the day of the Lord’ is used and it is at the beginning of John’s book of Revelation.
Now before we read this, I want you to understand that THIS verse, perhaps above ALL OTHERS is THE ONE, used to force the issue of Sundays being the day which New Covenant believers are to keep the Sabbath.
Try not to let your jaw drop to the floor when we read it.
Revelation 1:10, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day when I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,”
Now I can tell you are thinking… “and then…?” But, that’s it… that’s all there is!
Let’s back up and read it in context along with the verse following it to see if it adds anything to it.
Revelation 1:1-11, “(1) The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants what must happen very soon.
He made it clear by sending His angel to His servant John, (2) who then testified to everything that he saw concerning the Word of God and the testimony about Jesus Christ.
(3) Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud, and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it, because the time is near!
(4) From John, to the seven churches that are in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from “He Who is,” and Who was, and Who is still to come, and from the seven spirits who are before His throne, (5) and from Jesus Christ – the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, the ruler over the kings of the earth.
To the One Who loves us and has set us free from our sins at the cost of His Own blood (6) and has appointed us as a kingdom, as priests serving His God and Father – to Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever! Amen.
(7) (Look! He is returning with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes on the earth will mourn because of Him. This will certainly come to pass! Amen.)
(8) “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God – the One Who is, and Who was, and Who is still to come – the All-Powerful!
(9) I, John, your brother and the one who shares with you in the persecution, kingdom, and endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the Word of God and the testimony about Jesus.
(10) I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day when I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, (11) saying: “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches – to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”
Now I could keep on reading, but it would not in any way serve to enlighten us the slightest bit as to what day, “the Lord’s day” was, how it has come to mean Sunday as the day Jesus rose from the dead nor how that somehow changed God’s mind about the 7th day being the Sabbath.
I will briefly give you a REALLY short synopsis of most reliable, extra-biblical accounts we have regarding the development of Sunday becoming the new Sabbath and it’s rather lose affiliation with this phrase the Lord’s Day.
The claim is that because Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week (the day following Sabbath) the early church chose to commemorate that day as the day the New Covenant would celebrate and honor Sabbath.
Now let me state the obvious…
You cannot honor the 7th day by observing the 7th day
on the 1st day or any other day for that matter.
Nevertheless, here is your brief history lesson.
- W. Dugmore, was a British scholar and ecclesiastical historian who greatly contributed to the development of the study of church history and is still highly recognized today for his work.
He correctly points out that the first clear evidence of a Christian Sunday observance as a replacement for Sabbath came from Justin Martyr in Rome about the middle of the second century A.D..
Dugmore makes an additional interesting observation regarding how little evidence there is in the New Testament and in the literature of the post-apostolic age that Sunday was the most important day in the Christian week.
I will quote from an article which referenced Dugmore, though I will slightly alter the quote for clarity’s sake and leave a link to the original in the post for this message on the website. [Ministry Magazine – article entitled ‘SABBATH AND SUNDAY OBSERVANCE IN THE EARLY CHURCH 2’]
In this article the writer uses the word “polemic” which even I did not recognize but it is a great word to use for this.
Polemic means, a contentious rhetoric or argument intended to support a specific position much like the Apostles and Elders did in Jerusalem regarding the need for Gentile converts to be circumcised in order for the work of Messiah Jesus to apply to them by faith. [See – “…these necessary things…”]
“If Sunday had replaced the Sabbath during the New Testament period, would not the literature have indicated this specifically, and might we not also have expected some polemical overtones in the rather numerous references to these two days?
After all, the many references to circumcision in the New Testament almost invariably carry an overtone of polemicism, reflecting the Christian attitude toward change in this regard. Should we expect less if at the time Sunday was tending to replace the long-standing Biblical weekly day of worship, the seventh day of the week?
The matter-of-course way in which the New Testament refers to attendance at services on the Sabbath, together with the lack of emphasis on Sunday as a new day for Christian worship, would suggest that this absence of evidence of struggle and argumentation over the two days means that such a status quo was still not achieved. In other words, the seventh day was still the day for Christian weekly worship, whereas Sunday had not yet taken on this particular role.
Apparently, Sunday was not at first generally looked upon as a substitute for the seventh-day Sabbath.”
I personally believe the most stunning thing about the near universal acceptance of Sunday replacing Sabbath is the near total absence of any mention of it until the middle of the second century.
Polycarp, who bridged the 1st to the 2nd century, is said to have been an immediate disciple of John who himself recorded the book or Revelation.
St. Jerome of the 3rd century claims that John appointed Polycarp as one of the Elders of the church in Smyrna, which is one of the 7 churches addressed by Jesus Himself in the book of Revelation.
All of that to say that in Polycarp’s famous, but non-canonical letter to the Philippians, the Elder said nothing of a switching of Sunday for Sabbath or an honoring of Sunday since it was the day our Lord rose from the dead. L
Furthermore, The Martyrdom of Polycarp, which is a manuscript written in the form of a letter that relates his martyrdom and is the single earliest account of Christian martyrdom outside of the New Testament – it states that Polycarp was taken on the Sabbath and killed on “the Great Sabbath“.
While I admit to not knowing a difference between a garden variety Sabbath and a great one or THE great one, the point is that it still seemed like a relevant term to use in regard to the Gentile Christian church of the second century.
The first two locations where Sunday began to take hold as a recognized day on which to meet in the Christian church was in Rome and in Alexandria.
Justin Martyr, who I mentioned earlier, being the one from Rome around 150A.D..
In his now somewhat famous “Dialogue with Trypho” who was a Jew, he offers negative statements about the Sabbath and argues that if nature itself does not recognize a rest on the Sabbath neither should we. Of course, that does not exactly bolster his argument for a Sunday observance, but I guess that does not matter.
Then there was the slightly earlier testimony of a man named Barnabas who may have written from Alexandria in 130A.D..
In his famous Apology he describes to the Roman emperor and Roman senate the Christian Sunday service this way…
“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read.”
Toward the end of the second century, Clement of Alexandria is the church’s first example of a “so-called” Christian theologian who clearly uses the phrase “the Lord’s Day” to refer to a weekly Sunday observance which replaced Sabbath.
It is most likely therefore that it is from this 2nd century theologian that the words of John in Revelation 1:10 came to be defined as the day Jesus rose from the dead.
It was only a short hop, skip and a jump from there to arrive at the observance of that day as the recognized New Covenant Sabbath, but that is too far away from scripture and from apostolic authority to be of any credence.
From the end of the 2nd to the beginning of the 3rd century on through to the 5th is the first proof of a weekly observance of Sunday throughout Christendom and it became more apparent and widespread from that point onward.
Socrates Scholasticus and Sozomenus, both historians from the 5th century, mention two weekly Christian gatherings. One on Sabbath AND one on Sunday, during both of which they took communion. In fact, there is some record that people were encouraged to give their servants both days off in order to increase their piety.
By this time in the 5th century, the practice of observing both Saturday AND Sunday had actually ceased in the first two cities of Alexandria and Rome where the idea of Sunday being the New Covenant Sabbath first began to take off.
Now I could go on and offer a blow by blow historical account of the spread of this idea, but we are really only interested in where it began and upon whose authority.
So it is my view as derived from the only authority our church recognizes – that being the scriptures – that what God alone ordained and declared as holy and a day of ceasing – only He can undo.
So in view of the fact that there is in NO clearly stated alteration from the Sabbath day to Sunday, we here at Living Grace Fellowship accept into our Statement of Faith the following…
- Sabbath is in fact on the 7th day of the week and corresponds to our Saturday.
- That Sabbath begins on what we call Friday at sunset and continues until sunset on Saturday.
- That we are to consider the Sabbath as a gift and celebrate it with delight.
- We are to focus our attention on the Lord, our brothers and sisters in Christ, on God’s work in Creation and on the completed works of our own hands in his name.
- That Sabbath should be observed as God directed – as a day of ceasing from the normal activities of daily life, especially from business oriented labor and any other labor which is self promoting.
- We should seek earlier in the week to prepare the foods we eat and enjoy on the Sabbath, especially those which take some effort in preparing.
- That there is nothing wrong with fellowship or eating meals with family and friends on Sabbath.
- There is nothing wrong in enjoying Sabbath so long as God is still the center focus of our activities.
- There is nothing wrong in helping others and doing good for others on the Sabbath.
- Though we may, upon occasion and upon agreement, meet on a Sabbath for fellowship and maybe even as a replacement for that Sunday’s services – it will not be our normal activity – at least at this point.
- We MUST remember not to be legalistic nor carnal in our observance of Sabbath.
That having been said, I open the floor to questions or statements.
Doing business with businesses on the Sabbath.
Fire – Exodus 35:1-3
Exodus 35:1-3, “(1) Moses assembled the entire Israelite community and said to them, “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do: (2) For six days work is to be done, but on the seventh day you are to have a holy day, a Sabbath of complete rest to the LORD. Anyone who does work on it must be executed. (3) Do not light a fire in any of your homes on the Sabbath day.”
In context this would be to use fire for labor.
Cooking is probably fine, warming food is probably fine. A fire in a fireplace is probably fine – these are NOT examples of labor as God is defining it for Sabbaths.
I would however avoid cooking a feast, or laborious cooking. If possible, perhaps be in the habit of preparing food beforehand on Thursday or Friday to be warmed up on Saturday.
Remember the disciples picking grain, rubbing in hands and eating on the Sabbath? That was a “type” of gathering and preparation. Why was that ok, but gathering mana was not?
Gathering mana was FIRST a matter of trust and obedience. Secondly it was gathering for preparation. The disciples just happened to be walking through a field of grain, they did not seek it out and did not gather it for provision, they simply grabbed handfuls, rubbed their hands together to rid the grain of the husks and ate it.
Doing business with merchants – Nehemiah 13
Nehemiah 13:15-22, “(15) At that time I saw people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath. They were also bringing in stores of grain and loading them on donkeys, along with wine, grapes, and figs. All kinds of goods were being brought to Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. So I warned them against selling food on that day. (16) The Tyrians living there were importing fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah in Jerusalem. (17) I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them: “What is this evil you are doing–profaning the Sabbath day? (18) Didn’t your ancestors do the same, so that our God brought all this disaster on us and on this city? And now you are rekindling His anger against Israel by profaning the Sabbath!” (19) When shadows began to fall on the gates of Jerusalem just before the Sabbath, I gave orders that the gates be closed and not opened until after the Sabbath. I posted some of my men at the gates, so that no goods could enter during the Sabbath day. (20) Once or twice the merchants and those who sell all kinds of goods camped outside Jerusalem, (21) but I warned them, “Why are you camping in front of the wall? If you do it again, I’ll use force against you.” After that they did not come again on the Sabbath. (22) Then I instructed the Levites to purify themselves and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember me for this also, my God, and look on me with compassion in keeping with Your abundant, faithful love.”
As such things like going to a hospital, visiting rest homes, working at a hospital or rest home – if as a volunteer Fine. If on call as a volunteer – all is fine.
Jesus said, “It is lawful to do good and to save life on the Sabbath”
So visiting a hospital, hospice or rest home on the Sabbath is not sin. However be gainfully employed on the Sabbath is.
Following this we had a question and answer time which is on the recording.