The Sabbath Issue

Chapter 12: The Principles of Time - Part 2

*Sunday became the main day for when the Church gathers, as an early development of Church history. The historical evidence is strong, that even from the first Century, it was normal for Christians to regularly meet together on the first day of the week. (These were separate meetings from the Jewish Saturday synagogue gatherings). Moreover the New Testament indicates that already from very early on in the Church-Age, believers chose the first day of the week as their main regular day for corporate Public Worship:

Acts 20:7,8,11: “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight....Now when he had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed.” 
1Corinthians 16:22: “On the (every) 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.” 

These verses indicate that it was the habit for believers to gather together to Worship on the first day of the week. This included the breaking of bread and receiving offerings. Luke would have used the Gentile Roman day (that we use today) which starts at midnight. Thus Acts 20 describes regular Sunday evening meetings to share the Lord’s Supper. In the 2nd century, the Church met on Sunday mornings and evenings (at the start and end of the first day). 

The first day was also practical, being at the start of a new working week, straight after the Jewish Sabbath. There is no evidence that believers saw it as a Christian Sabbath day, replacing the old Sabbath, for it continued to be a working day for hundreds of years. They did not apply the old Sabbath rules to it. It was a working 

day with fellowship meetings before and/or after work. It was the day they generally chose to obey Christ command to gather together in His Name (Matthew 18:20). It had nothing to do with obeying the Sabbath Commandment. That is a different issue. Although Sunday became the day for Public Worship, it is not commanded by Jesus of His Apostles, so it is not a Law of God.

Revelation 1:10: “I (John) was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet.”By the time the Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation (AD 95), Sunday was called: “the Lord’s day.” This is a parallel expression to: “the Lord’s Supper.” The use of this phrase for Sunday is confirmed by other writings from Church History soon after. The way that John uses the phrase shows that Sunday was generally understood to be the Lord’s day, as it was on this day that His Lordship was established through His Resurrection. Moreover, the 
fact that John (inspired by the Spirit) used this phrase, shows that God endorsed its use. Thus although the Lord Jesus did not institute Sunday as the day of worship (for all days are considered equal in the New Covenant), He approved the Church’s practical decision to chose Sunday as their regular day for Worship to honour and memorialise His Resurrection. (In practice, it was necessary to choose one day of the week for all believers to gather together). 

However if believers by choice or necessity worship on another day they are not breaking any Law. We are free to gather on any day.

Eventually (in the 4th Century), Sunday was made an official day of rest to encourage Public Christian Worship. However, the Church had already been practising Sunday Worship for hundreds of years. The quotes from Church history in the Appendix prove this, and make nonsense of the (ignorant) claim that Constantine invented and enforced Sunday worship to honour the sun god. To suggest that Sun-day is somehow evil because it is named after the sun and its god is foolish, for (unfortunately) all the days of the week have been given pagan names that relate to the sun, moon and planets (and their gods), including Saturday (after Saturn)!

From the 4th Century, theologians mistakenly began to add force to the Lord’s day, by interpreting it as the ‘Christian Sabbath’, and transferring the Jewish Sabbath Laws to Sunday. The teaching was that we must still obey the Sabbath Commandment, but now Sunday, rather than Saturday, is the Sabbath. This has no basis in Scripture. It only brings confusion to say Sunday (the first day) is now the Christian Sabbath. By definition the Sabbath is the 7th day.Sunday should NOT be thought of as the Christian equivalent to the Jewish Sabbath.

These are 2 distinct Weekly Concepts: 
1. The Sabbath - the Jewish rest day under the Law is the 7th day.
2. Sunday- the traditional day for Christian public worship (1st day)
This is where we get our two day weekend, which is a blessing!

In Christ, every day is alike (equal), and there is no Law that makes one day special above another, so that it is left to each individual, in their seeking to do God’s will, to chose how to observe each day, and if they should treat certain days as special, above other days: 

“One person esteems one DAY above another; another esteems every DAY alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind (of God’s will for his own life). He who observes the DAY (as special), observes it to the Lord, and he who does not observe the DAY, to the Lord he does not observe it” (Romans 14:5,6a). 

Nevertheless, we need to incorporate both of these important Weekly Principles into our lives: 
(1) The 7th Day Principle of REST, and (2) The Church Principle - Meeting together for corporate PUBLIC WORSHIP as a CHURCH.

The Jews kept the Sabbath Day holy as a sign of their submission to the Law of Moses. It was primarily a day of REST, family time and worship (as the Memorial Sign of the Covenant it was a day for spiritual focus as well as natural rest), although later (after the Exile to Babylon) public (synagogue) worship also became incorporated into it. The Sabbath became one of the major things that identified and unified Israel. One Rabbi said: “It is not so much that Israel kept the Sabbath, but that the Sabbath kept Israel.” It helped to unify families by giving them a day of rest to spend together. It 
helped Israel maintain her identity especially when scattered abroad. 

It was legally enforced, but it was not meant to be a bondage. Jesus said: “The Sabbath was made for (the benefit of) man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). The Sabbath was made for Israel’s benefit and blessing. Moreover, this verse indicates the Sabbath was a revelation of God designed to bless all mankind. As with other ceremonial revelations to Israel that she embodied in her lifestyle (such as the Feasts), all mankind has been blessed by the 7th Day Principle, even if it is not for us to practice as Law. 

Although in the New Covenant we don’t uphold the Sabbath as Law (as for Israel before the Cross), it revealed a Principle of God’s wisdom (the 7th Day Rest Principle), based on the Creation, that is designed for the benefit of all mankind. It is a wonderful revelation of God’s wisdom for man, that God gave to all mankind through Israel. We need to apply this Principle to our lives by taking a weekly day of rest. It’s been shown experimentally that man works best with a weekly day of rest, so all nations have now adopted this. 

Genesis 2:1-3: “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the 7th day, God (had) ended (ceased from) His work which He had done, and He rested on the 7th day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the 7th day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”

The 7th Day Principle is based on the way God did His work of Creation (working 6 days and resting on the 7th day), and on the fact that He made us in His image (like father, like son). Therefore, it is how He has made us to live and work best (by taking one day off every 7 days, one day of rest every week). It is part of the rhythm of life as designed by God - regular work (for 6 days) followed by rest (for 1 day).

It does not necessarily have to be a Sunday or a Saturday (for example, the Old Testament Priests had to work on Saturdays and rest on another day), but ideally we should take a full day off work every week, as a day of rest, recreation and worship with family (but it is not a Law). This is godly wisdom that will cause us to be at our best and allow more of God’s blessing to be released in our life. Even though we can enter into and abide in God’s spiritual Rest every day, the Principle still applies of enjoying a day of physical rest from work each week. It is a good way to give time to God and put Him first in our life. 

The commands to Israel about the Sabbath, although no longer binding, remain instructive about God's concern for His people's physical rest. If God commanded His people to rest every 7 days back in the Old Testament and it was considered valuable, is it not likely that such regular rest will be just as valuable today? One of the aspects of salvation that still awaits realisation is the redemption of the body. Therefore our need for physical rest is still applicable to all of us, as long as we remain in the body. Although the literal Sabbath day of rest has been abrogated and has not been transferred to Sunday regular periods of rest, one day's rest in 7 was inherent to the way in which humans were meant to function; and this would not be a factor that would change with the inauguration of the New Creation in Christ. Therefore our need for physical rest and recreation remains. This motive of ‘humanitarian’ and ‘social’ concern figures prominently in Exodus 23:12 and Deuteronomy 5:14. In its institution, there was a special concern for those who were subject to the command of others (servants and animals).

Just because it is a Principle based on Creation does not necessarily mean that it was operative from Creation, or that it is eternal Moral Law, or that it is a Law (obligatory) for us. For example, although Marriage was instituted from the beginning, it is not compulsory (Law). People are free before God to marry or not to marry.

To help understand how something revealed in the Old Testament (like the 7th day rest) may still continue as a Principle, even after the old Law ceases, let us consider an analogy with FASTING. The Jews had certain prescribed days for fasting, especially the Day of Atonement (called the Fast). These no longer apply, although the general Principle of Fasting still applies, except now we are free to choose when to fast (Matthew 6:16-18).

This is most clear from Matthew 9:14-17: “Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the Bridegroom mourn as long as the Bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the Bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins and both are preserved.”



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