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The Sabbath and the Christian day of Worship

 

 

 

   It is without controversy that the greatest enemies of Christ and Christianity at the beginning of the Church Age were the most “devout” keepers of the “law”.  They, without spiritual understanding, followed endless rules in an attempt to either create or simulate spirituality.  Some engaged in many occultic practices of rule and worship, known as Jewish mysticism.  Many in leadership were extremely hypocritical in practice, and bloodthirsty in their condemnation of all who disagreed.

   Conversely, it must be acknowledged that prior to the day of Pentecost A.D. 33, the Hebrew religion was the only means to a covenant relationship with God, and there were many faithful adherents and leaders whose sinecerity was verified by the fact that they accepted Jesus’ ministry and later became the founding members of THE CHURCH.

   This treatise is written in reference to the observance of the Sabbath, its origins, and relevancy today, or the first day of the week, in reference to Old Testament prophecy and also the historical implications of early church practice.  In our study, we shall be careful to observe the following principles:

  1. HISTORY is a good indicator of how people, in times previous to our own, understood or practiced  the Christian faith.  When using the historical record, the following must be kept in mind:  A. The earliest church was entirely Hebrew.  B. The entrance of Gentiles into the church caused no small stir and resulted in much controversy and division.  C. Because of this, conference(s) was (or were) held by the apostles, as recorded in SCRIPTURE, to determine whether certain issues pertaining to the Jewish faith were mandatory to Christianity.  These issues included, but were not limited to, circumcision, dietary law, and Sabbath observance.  D. Although the apostles, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, received an understanding from God on these issues, there were many in the Jewish church who rejected the decisions and doctrines of the apostles. These men were known as “Judaizers” who remained “Christians”, but were actually causing division in the body of Christ and spreading false doctrine based on a refusal to accept God’s New Testament plan and a misunderstanding of holiness and Christian liberty.  Thus, two differing “gospels” were being preached simultaneously from the earliest of times.  E. We do not possess the ENTIRE historical record.  F. The recording of history is a matter of perspective and neither validates nor negates the word of God; it is simply a record of what may have occurred.  Ancient historians can provide insight but they were not divinely inspired nor without flaw.  For example, one famous historian SOCRATES SCHOLASTICUS “had no preparation for the task (of writing church history) and after his work was finished he became a student of Athanasius  …and accordingly rewrote his first two books” (Encyclopaedia Brittanica Vol. 20 p. 921).  In other words, when the historian changed his belief system, he REWROTE HISTORY TO FIT IT.
  2. TRADITION is a strong and necessary link to heritage, a force which creates unity and defines culture.  It should not be discarded simply because it is not fully understood.  Neither is it to be blindly defended without careful and HONEST consideration of scripture.  All traditions have an origin and many have faded into obscurity or demise.  One tradition may be similar to or coincide with another, and yet be unrelated as to origin or purpose.  Each tradition must be judged on its own merit and by its own beginning and connotations.  For example, secular sociologists point to the fact that the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days of the month were observed in ancient Babylon before the Sabbath was instituted in the Mosiac law.  These were “evil days of magic” during which many activities were prohibited.  The fifteenth day was “shabbat” or Sabbath and was so observed (Encyc. Brit. Vol.19 p.789 “Sabbath”).  Does this mean the Jewish Sabbath was a pagan tradition?  Some worshipped the sun on Sunday, the moon on Monday, etc. etc.  Is each Wednesday night Bible study a tribute to Woden, for whom the day is named?  Is a Thursday prayer meeting mystically connected to the worship of Thor because it may be the established tradition or practice at a local church?  Each custom must be evaluated on its own origin and intent, without bias or dishonesty.
  3. SCRIPTURE is the utmost and ultimate authority.  “Every word of God is pure.  He is a shield to them who put their trust in him.  Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5,6)  God has preserved His word for us today in the Authorized Version of the Holy Bible.  Any interpretation which pretends to “correct” the translation is nothing better than a hypocritical attack on the authority of the WORD.  Any such interpretation being critical to a “new understanding” of scripture is built on sinking sand.  The words of scripture supercede all tradition and are superior to all historical record.  Our belief must be fundamentally based upon the WORD of God. 
  4. THE HOLY GHOST is a gift given to all who obey God (Acts 5:32).  A true, Holy Ghost filled Christian receives an innate ability to perceive the word of God that a man without the Holy Ghost can never receive.  His understanding has been opened, and if he continues to walk in the light, he has fellowship and cleansing from sin.  The Spirit he has will give him a LOVE for the WORD of God, even when it is crossgrained to his nature, custom, or education.

“Wherefore, I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed:  and that no man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” (I Cor. 12:3)  According to the King James Bible, anyone who denies the name of JESUS (and replacing it with a Hebrew-only transliteration which denies the fact that Jesus grew up speaking Greek and answered to “Jesus” as well as “Joshua” or something similar qualifies as denying his NAME) is not speaking by the Spirit of God.  This is critical to our understanding, as a large percentage of seventh-day proponents also deny the only saving name of the New Testament dispensation.  “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God:  for they are foolishness unto him:  neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?  But we have the mind of Christ.” I Cor. 2:12-16  HOW do WE have the mind of Christ?  The inspired scripture, the baptism of the Holy Ghost; these combined elements are our source of direction amid the contest of voices in this world.          

THE ORIGIN OF THE SABBATH OBSERVANCE

   The first Sabbath observance mandated by God occured in approximately 1491 B.C. as recorded in Exodus 16 and coincided with the beginning of manna provisions for the children of Israel.  At this time Moses found it necessary to explain to the children of Israel the concept and purpose of the Sabbath.  Although history reveals that time was reckoned in seven-day weeks by the vast  majority of ancient peoples (an interesting study with implications of a common understanding of creation), the Sabbath as defined by scripture was previously unknown.  As creation has been dated by scholars at 4004 B.C. =/- we find that for 2513 years, no Sabbath had been commanded or observed.  During the dispensations of Innocence, Conscience, Human Government, and Promise it was totally unknown and therefore not observed by Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Joseph or Job.

   Nehemiah 9:13 reiterates Exodus 16 beyond all doubt as the beginning of Sabbath observance in saying, “Thou camest down also upon Mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven…  And madest known unto them thy holy Sabbath…  and gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger.”  Two weeks later (cf. Ex. 16:1; 19:1), the fourth commandment was given on Mt. Sinai as recorded in Exodus 20:9-11 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…  In it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates:  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (cf. Gen.2:2-3)

   The Sabbath was scripturally a day of rest (Ex. 35:2,3) and was strictly enforced as such, to the extent that God himself decreed a death sentence upon a man for simply gathering sticks to kindle a fire (Numbers 15:32-36).  Other than special sacrificial provisions (Numbers 28:9), and the connection of the Sabbath to annual feast days (Ex.12:16; Lev. 23:2,8; Num. 28:25) the Sabbath was NEVER MADE TO BE A DAY OF WORSHIP OR RELIGIOUS SERVICE. It was a REST.  Personal worship or sacrifices were brought by the common man to the temple on OTHER DAYS OF THE WEEK.  It was a day for rest, contemplation, an equalizer of humanity – the master and servant rested alike.  It was indicative of God’s care for the animal world:  even they had a day of recuperation.

   Synagogue practice evolved during the 400 years of silence and was neither ordained nor condemned by God, but took place as corporate Sabbath observance unknown to Old Testament scripture.  Jesus, the creator of the Sabbath, was held to be in contempt of the very day he had established when he declared, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.”  In Matthew 12:1-14 the issue of Sabbath observance is what incensed the Pharisees to kill the man they Knew to be their messiah.  In verse 8 Jesus declared, “For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.”  It is interesting to note that the same God who once sentenced a man to death for picking up sticks in defiance to the commandment of Moses was now picking corn and even commanded a man to carry his bedroll home on the Sabbath day.

   Therefore, it is is inconsistent, and indicative of scriptural ignorance to demand or practice strict worship on the Sabbath day.  If you are going to observe the Sabbath, a commendable option for the new-testament believer, observe it scripturally:  stay home and REST.  Worship corporately any other day of the week, but do not drive across town, or the countryside for that matter, to hold a church service on the Sabbath day and then hypocritically condemn all other Christians for a lack of Sabbath observance.  Tithes and offerings were not to be given on the Sabbath.  Sacrifices (worship) should not be offered on the Sabbath.  All labor, including excessive travel was prohibited.

   The New Testament offers precedent for an appropriate day of worship - the first day of the week, what we know as "Sunday".  The apostles came together to break bread on that day (  ) a commeration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Tithes and offerings are to be collected on that day (  ).  Even the apostle John, in exile on the Isle of Patmos, worshipped on that day in the spirit and in so doing received a personal visit from the Lord and a revelation for the church (Rev. 1).

   QUESTION:  IS THERE ANY SCRIPTURE STATING THAT THE SABBATH WAS LIMITED TO THE OLD COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND THE NATION OF ISRAEL?

   ANSWER:  YES!  Exodus 31:16,17 “Wherefore the CHILDREN OF ISRAEL shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout THEIR generations, for a perpetual covenant.  It is a sign between ME and the CHILDREN OF ISRAEL  forever:  for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.”

   QUESTION:  WAS THE SABBATH OBSERVED BEFORE MOSES?

   ANSWER: NO!  Exodus 16, Neh. 9:13-15

   QUESTION:  DID THE APOSTLE PAUL SPECIFICALLY MENTION THE SABBATH AS BEING NO LONGER BINDING – TO THE POINT OF COMMANDING GENTILES NOT TO LET ANYONE JUDGE THEM FOR NON-OBSERVANCE?

   ANSWER:  YES!  Colossians 2:16-17 “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, OR OF SABBATH DAYS:  which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”  CASE CLOSED.  This is not history or tradition; this is scripture.

   QUESTION:  DOES THE BIBLE SPECIFICALLY MENTION THE KEEPING OF A DAY AS BEING A MATTER OF PERSONAL CONVICTION, TO WHICH PARTIES ON EITHER SIDE SHOULD RESPECT THE PRACTICE OF THE OTHER?

   ANSWER:  YES!  Romans 14:4-7  “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?  To his own master he standeth or falleth.  Yea, he shall be holden up:  for God is able to make him stand.  One man esteemeth one day above another:  another esteemeth every day alike.  Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.  …For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.”

   QUESTION:  DID THE APOSTLES AND EARLY CHRISTIANS ATTEND SYNAGOGUE ON THE SABBATH?

   ANSWER:  YES!  Acts 13:14,42; 18:4  In every case mentioned, it was to witness to messiahship of Jesus Christ, and never as a meeting of Christians.

   QUESTION:  DID THEY ALSO MEET ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK?

   YES!  I Cor. 16:2 mentions the taking of offerings on the first day of the week.  Offering giving was always a part of worship, and was not connected to the synagogue, but the temple.  Psalm 96:8,9  “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name:  bring an offering, and come into his courts. O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness:  fear before him all the earth.”

   Acts 20:7  “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread (the breaking of bread was a custom established immediately in the primitive church (Acts 2); it does not refer to a custom established by Jews some 1000 years later known as “havdallah”), Paul preached unto them…”  This is nothing more than old-fashioned church with dinner on the grounds and preaching past midnight.  Holy Ghost church is the same in every culture.

   QUESTION:  WERE THERE JUDIAZERS IN THE CHURCH WHO REJECTED THE DECISION OF THE APOSTLES AND THE HOLY GHOST AND DESIRED TO KEEP THE CHURCH IN BONDAGE TO EXPIRED JEWISH ORDINANCES?

   ANSWER:  YES!  Acts 15:5,19-21; 21:20-25  Galatians 2:3-5  Phillipians 3:1-3  Revelation 2:9; 3:9  I Peter 2       Consider this:  Galatians was a letter written to former Jews who were being removed from the gospel (1:6) by Judaizers who compelled Titus to be circumcised, and were not tolerated by Paul (2:3-5,14-16).  He REBUKES them because of their attempt to be justified by the works of the law (3:1-5) and specifically names what they were doing (4:9-10) – observing days (i.e. SABBATH), months (i.e. new moon), times and years.

   QUESTION:  EXPLAIN MATTHEW 24:20  “Pray that your flight be not in winter, neither on the Sabbath day.”

   ANSWER:  The twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of Matthew is a record of a private conversation between Jesus and his disciples (24:3) who lived in a Jewish nation.  Whether the view of Mt. 24 is preterest (i.e. abomination of desolation occurring in A.D. 70, cf. Luke 21) or futurist (has not yet occurred), the location of the named scenario is Judea (West Bank), Israel.  The jewish nation has and always will observe the Sabbath which would or will complicate any necessary evacuation which might or may occur.  There is no endorsement of Sabbath keeping expressed or implied here (nor any condemnation of such), merely a warning based on practicality and concern; much as a man who would state, “There will be a future nuclear attack on St. Louis, MO; pray that it doesn’t happen at Christmastime or when Busch Stadium is full.”  The inevitability of a future tragedy does not remove the compassion from the one giving the prophecy.

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This website is a means of connecting with people who want truth, fellowship, spiritual edification or are just curious about the concept of "God". The Old Paths Bible Church is a home for people who are longing for non-contemporary, old fashioned church .  We are seeking to be more scriptural, more Spirit-led, and therefore more truly relevant.  If you are a distraught Christian tired of production, amplification, and showmanship, a seeker of sound, simple Bible teaching, or a non-Christian with an open mind to Christianity and a desire to find purpose,  we invite you to come seek out the "old paths, where is the good way and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls".

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