The Sabbath Issue

Chapter 12: The Principles of Time

*The Principles of disciplining our Time. There are godly Principles for STRUCTURING our Time. There are so many demands on our time. How practically do we put God first in our time? We must structure it according to God’s Righteousness (Ways). Putting God first must also show in our timings of our life.

* 1. God has structured our time into DAYS. Therefore we must put God first in the structure of our daily lives. When I became a Christian, I was told that I should have a quiet time with God, to pray and read His Word. This is a vital principle of discipline for our Christian life, whether we feel like it or not. God revealed this to Israel through providing them daily Manna from heaven, which they had to collect fresh every morning, for it would not keep. 

Deuteronomy 8:3: “He fed you with Manna, that He might make you know that man shall not live by Bread alone; but man lives by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” Thus the Manna symbolised our spiritual food, which we are to collect daily from the Presence of God, in our daily devotional time (quiet time) with God, as Jesus confirmed in Matthew 4:4: “Man shall not live by Bread alone; but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”

Matthew 6:11: “Give us this day our Daily Bread (from Heaven).” Every day, God has fresh Daily Bread for us, which we must receive from Him in daily prayer and meditation of His Word. Just as we all have a daily discipline of eating natural food, so we should have a daily discipline of eating the spiritual food of God.

Lamentations 3:22,23: “His compassions fail not. They are new (freshly available) EVERY Morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:24-26: “The LORD is my Portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the Salvation of the Lord.” 

*The first important Principle of structuring our Time is to have a DAILY DEVOTIONAL TIME with the Lord.

* 2. God has also structured our time into WEEKS, 
so there should also be a Weekly Cycle and Rhythm to our lives.

There are 2 distinct WEEKLY Principles that we ought to fulfil:
1. The 7th Day Principle -a Day of REST unto God, with family.
2. The Church Principle - joining in PUBLIC WORSHIP. 

Now, you may be able to combine both of these into one day as the 
Jews did. Initially the Sabbath was simply a day of rest unto the Lord spent at home with the family, but later on, since the Babylonian Exile, they also met together in the local synagogue every Saturday and Jesus honoured this aspect of keeping the Sabbath in His life. For most Christians today, it is still practical to fulfil both these Principles by making Sunday special - by taking it as a complete day of rest from work, and by worshipping God in Church. Others (such as Ministers) whose work-lives do not allow this (because they have to work on Sunday), need to make a discipline of taking a complete day of rest from work on another day of the week from Sunday. Thus it is possible (and sometimes necessary) to honour these two Principles on two separate days.

I am so glad that, as a new Christian, I knew that it was a key Principle of Righteousness to go faithfully to Church. I knew that I needed regular fellowship in Church at least once a week (and to really grow spiritually, I found I needed something midweek as well). Most of all, I wanted to go to Church. So, I made a decision that whether I felt like it or not, I would always go to Church. I would let nothing stop me. This was part of my Christian commitment and worship of God, honouring Him in my life. By doing this, I acknowledged that I was not in this Christian Life on my own, but was part of the family of God, who need each other. 

So as a student and later as a schoolteacher, I generally did no work on a Sunday, but rested and went to Church, and that was such a blessing for my spiritual life. Now, as a Minister, I have to 
separate the two Principles, because Sunday, the day of Public Worship, is not a rest day for me, so I need to take another day for that, in order to implement the 7th Day Principle. 

*The Church Principle. We need to go to Church, if we want to be in God’s will, living in His Righteousness. The first reason we should go to Church every week is to put God first, to honour God. Don’t be a cruiser, drifting from Church to Church. Don’t wait for a perfect Church, and if you find it, please don’t join it, otherwise it won’t be perfect anymore! Don’t be a solitary Christian! It is against God’s will for you. God made us to live in families, both natural and spiritual. By going to a local Church, you honour God and acknowledge your need to be with other believers.

The New Testament (especially in Ephesians) has many pictures of God’s people that emphasise that we are all to be connected together: we are members of one Body, brothers and sisters in one Family, living stones in a Building, a holy Temple to God, together being a dwelling place for God, the one New Man, the Bride of Christ and the Church (Assembly) of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church (local and universal) was instituted by Jesus and belongs to Him. Jesus said: “on this Rock I will build My Church” (Matthew 16:18). It is His will that we be built together as a Church.

1Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (those who have become isolated from the herd).” Satan operates as a hunting lion, which seeks out those who become detached and isolated from the herd, because they are easy prey. There is great safety in being properly related within the community of God’s Church. Without humbling ourselves within a fellowship, we are more prone to temptation, pride and deception. 

A Minister once visited one of his deacons who had been absent from Church for a time. The deacon expected to get a lecture, but as they sat down over a cup of tea in front of a warm fire, the Minister said nothing about his Church attendance. Then he walked to the fire and with the tongs he removed one burning coal from it, and placed it on the ground. First of all, it glowed with great heat, but as they talked on other things it gradually got cooler, until when the Minister got up to go, it was cold. As he left, the deacon said to him: “Thank you, Minister, for your most eloquent sermon. I will see you in Church on Sunday.” He had gotten the message!

The Early Church gave us the right example:
Acts 2:42: “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
They did this by gathering together on a regular basis. 

* Regular Worship in Church is commanded in the New Testament:

Hebrews 10:25: “NOT forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: so much the more, as you see the Day approaching.” 

It is God's will that we attend Church Services regularly. Jesus said in Matthew 18:20: "For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them." He promises to meet with us as we gather together in His Name. He promises to honour and bless every gathering in His Name. Church attendance is necessary if a person is to grow in the "grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ".

It is a means of grace in which every Christian should participate. The zeal of the early Christians was seen in the regularity of their meetings. The members of the early Church met weekly and often daily. Whenever the Church assembles, faithful members will endeavour to be present. This agrees with the Old Testament: "I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord" (Psalm 122:1). Also Psalm 22:22; 35:18; 40:9-10, 55:14; 111:1, 149:1, Proverbs 5:12-14. 

*However the day we gather for Church Worship is not commanded. There is no Divine Law in the New Testament that commands us to worship together on a certain day of the week (such as Sunday). However the Church chose Sunday because (1) it was practical, and (2) because Jesus rose on Sunday Morning (bringing in the New Covenant). Moreover many of His post-resurrection appearances were on a Sunday, as was the Birth of the Church at Pentecost. 

1. We have already seen that believers in New Testament times met together regularly. Many (at least for a time) also attended Jewish 
synagogue worship, to identify with their people’s customs and for evangelistic purposes. Therefore, in order to avoid a clash, the Christian meetings had to be on another day apart from the Sabbath (the last day of the week). The obvious choice was to meet soon after the Sabbath had ended, on the first day of the week, the beginning of the new working week. 

2. More significantly, regular Sunday Worship was based on the fact that Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday morning. Thus Sunday, the first day of a new week, marked the first day of the New Creation, the new beginning through Christ’s Resurrection. It was on a Sunday that the New Covenant came into operation through the resurrected Christ. Moreover, it was on Resurrection Sunday that God made Jesus Lord (Acts 2:36, Philippians 2:9-11). 

Therefore, it was for very good reasons that Sunday (the first day of the week), became known as ‘the Lord’s Day’ (Revelation 1:10), the day for regular Public Christian Worship, although for a time it was also a normal workday. Sunday was the most appropriate day for a Memorial Celebration of the Resurrection and the start of the New Covenant, when the believers gathered together as a Community to remember Him through receiving the Lord’s Supper. 

As the Sabbath had been the regular Memorial Feast and Sign of the Old Covenant, so Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper as the regular Memorial Feast and Sign of the New Covenant, saying: “as often as you eat this bread (representing My broken body) and drink this cup (representing the New Covenant in My blood) REMEMBER ME.” This explains why God revealed it directly to Paul (1Corinthians 11:23).

The Lord’s Supper can be taken on any day, but it it must have seemed particularly fitting for the whole Church to take it on the Lord’s Day (Sunday), since both these parallel phrases mark the celebration of the New Covenant that originated from and began with the Resurrection of Christ. Although Sunday Worship was not a Commandment of Christ, by AD 95 Scripture itself called Sunday: ‘the Lord’s Day’ (Revelation 1:10), so the Church’s choice of Sunday was endorsed by God.

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