More On The Sabbath Day
This is Part 2 of an article I wrote regarding the Sabbath Day. I received a few strong criticisms of my studies on this subject. Here I would like to share a bit about those responses, including also a few thoughts which came from another sister who supported my stand on this issue. All the names of those who responded to my article shall be removed to protect their privacy.
As I said in my previous article, this is not an attempt to be argumentative, but rather to elaborate on what I believe the New Testament teaches both directly and by implication about the Sabbath day and the Lord’s day.
THE HEART OF THE ISSUE:
Several times in my other article I used an expression that Jesus, Paul, and all Christians since their day are no longer "literally bound" by the 4th commandment. Let me also say that in every place I didn't use the word "literally", that was the intended and inferred meaning.
The Scriptures quoted in my previous article clearly reveal that, viewed literally, Jesus and the apostles did do work on the Sabbath day. It was "good" work, but was nevertheless work if the 4th commandment is interpreted strictly by the letter of the law. Surely Jesus did not ever break the deeper, spiritual meaning of this or any other commandment.
However, (1) the disciples pulling and eating corn in the fields so that they could be strengthened for ministry and (2) Jesus healing on the Sabbath, was work. But, according to Jesus, it was good work. Jesus used these situations to teach the difference between, let’s call it ‘the letter of a law versus the spirit of a law’. The Lord and His disciples were certainly not breaking the true intent and meaning of the 4th commandment. He was elucidating on the true intent and heart of the 4th commandment. (As my friend points out in her remarks which appear below, Jesus also taught a similar, deeper meaning of the 7th commandment relative to adultery.)
Thus, one can break a commandment in a spiritual sense while at the same time abiding by it to the letter; the Pharisees were guilty of this. One can also “break” the letter of a commandment, and yet not violate its real meaning; this is what Jesus and the apostles did. Fellow Christians, you and I can abide by the spiritual intent of the 4th commandment if we choose to worship congregationally on Sunday and at the same time, to shallow-thinking onlookers, appear as if we are breaking the law. Jesus and the apostles did not break the spiritual intent of the 4th commandment by the good work they did on the Sabbath. But, by their weak and shallow reckoning, the Pharisees accused Jesus and the disciples of breaking the commandment.
Personally, I know that I cannot perfectly obey any of the commandments, neither to the letter nor to the deeper spiritual intent of them. But I can choose to believe that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to me, and thus fulfill the law through grace. This I can do because of Who the Lord Jesus Christ is and because of what He did. Jesus pleased the Father to the fullest. Brothers and sisters, is this not the central essence of the whole New Testament Gospel? Jesus fulfilled the whole intent and purpose of The Law, and so doing, freed me from legalism. It is in this truth that I abide and rest. But I can also say this, as I focus on and grow in the truth of grace, I find the commandments of the Old Testament laws, while I can't keep them perfectly, are less of a challenge than if I try to do my best to keep the commandments through striving. The freedom, peace and joy which I know in my spirit and my soul which has occurred by adhering to these truths causes me to strongly resist being taken back to the old letter of the law. I can’t and won’t go back there for a specific reason: I’ve experienced a better view from the mountain top.
Now, let me include here the remarks of a sister who begins her remarks speaking of the way I had responded to one of my critics. (I have left all her emphases ‘as is’.)
“Bravo! Excellent, Scripturally sound reply. It takes understanding the relationship of the Old and New Covenants to see this. A 'literal' interpretation of the 4th Commandment in this N.T. age causes a person to wear a burdensome yoke.... Yet Christ said, "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:30).
Thus, it can only mean that it should be interpreted spiritually. That is, as you said, that we are to REST from our 'works' of trying to save ourselves. Those who say we MUST worship on a particular day in order to be really 'saved' are not only placing people in bondage (heavily yoked), but they place themselves and everyone they've misled under the curse of the Old Covenant. In so doing, though they may think they 'keep' the 4th commandment, it is without question that to break one commandment is to be guilty of breaking the whole law:
James 2:10: "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."
And as Jesus aptly pointed out, the spiritual interpretation of the Ten Commandments is the HEART of the matter:
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matt. 5:27-28; see generally, ch. 5).
And it is this Spiritual interpretation that causes NONE to be righteous:
Romans 3:10: "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one;"
Romans 3:23: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God..."
In fact, the idea that one MUST worship on a certain day to keep the 4th commandment, VIOLATES the very SPIRIT and intent of that commandment (that is, resting from OUR works).
Romans 3:27 "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the LAW OF FAITH.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified BY FAITH without the deeds of the law.
31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we ESTABLISH the law."
This seems pretty clear to me that it is FAITH in the blood of Christ, not the observance of the Law, that justifies a person, and as the concluding verse shows, our FAITH does not make void the Law, but rather ESTABLISHES IT.
How does our faith establish the law?
Simply, that Christ fulfilled the whole Law: He observed the two greatest commandments~~ Love of God, and Love of man. Our faith in HIM and HIS work in fulfilling the whole law is what establishes it.
This concludes “C’s” comments.
WRAPPING IT UP
I would like to make one more comment about Sunday and then share a few other thoughts on Scriptures which have helped me to see how Sunday probably commenced being a day of worship in the early Church.
Some religious folks, but especially Seventh Day Adventists, speak prolifically about how worshiping on Sunday came about. They like to focus on the Constantine era because he “legalized” Sunday, attempting to make Sunday literally the new Sabbath. I agree that this should never have been done . Be assured though that it is not at all because Sunday has the endorsement of the Roman Catholic Church that I choose Sunday as the day I prefer to worship congregationally.
The “Holy Roman Empire” was guilty of introducing many perversions and heresies into the Church. Legally changing the sabbath from Saturday to Sunday was wrongdoing. It was a typical Satanic deception and diversion. Satan loves to take real truths and correct doctrines and twist them into a caricature of the original intent and purpose of those truths and doctrines. I believe that’s precisely what Satan did through Constantine relative to the Sabbath day. He took the fact that early Church Christians were indeed worshiping the Lord in special ways on Sunday, then proceeded to distort this fact into his devilish scheme.
THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK
Let’s look now at a few Scriptures which seem to strongly suggest that early Christians did indeed worship congregationally on Sunday:
“And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” Acts 20:7.
The book of Acts is as early a picture one can get of Church activities among Christians in the first century A.D. These people were obviously getting together on Sunday to worship the Lord, and Paul preached to them. WOW! Did he ever! In the above situation he preached until midnight, so long that one fellow fell out of the window and was killed. Of course, the apostle Paul also raised him from the dead (doing good work on Sunday), and then proceeded to preach the remainder of the night! Satan didn’t win that battle. What zeal the apostle Paul had. If only in our day we Christians could (I should say “would”) get our hearts right, we could-would tap into that ‘Pauline’ kind of power. But then, that’s another subject altogether.
Another passage that speaks loud and clear is 1 Corinthians 16:2:
“Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”
Clearly implied here is that Paul was directing the saints to take up a collection of money for evangelization purposes as they were gathered together on Sunday to worship the Lord. Christian churches, rightly so, still make this a practice.
THE LORD’S DAY
Lastly, and most importantly, I present you with the crowning scripture which seals this subject matter for me.
The book of Revelation is called “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants — things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,...” Rev. 1:1.
It is generally believed by most scholars and worthy biblical teachers that the apostle John was placed on the island of Patmos as a place for imprisonment because of his preaching and teaching “...the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ”. (Rev. 1:9) John was faithful. Regardless of the opposition, he went right on spreading the word of God and talking about Jesus, His Gospel, and his relationship to Him. But he ended up on this lonely island, his captors obviously thinking, “That’ll be the end of this upstart!”.
But what a surprise! God chose John to receive the greatest revelation of all time, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which included the forecast of the whole Christian era as well as Jesus’ return to earth as King of kings and Lord of lords, to receive His own people and to establish His coming Kingdom. Here’s the way John began his description of how the vision he received came about:
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, ‘I am Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, and, ‘What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” Revelation 1:10&11.
Here John makes very clear what day of the week he was “in the Spirit”. It was “on the Lord’s day”. Nowhere in Scripture have I found that the “Lord’s day” implies a Sabbath. Clearly, the Lord’s day was and is the first day of the week, Sunday. John was recalling the day of Jesus’ resurrection, not the Sabbath day during which he lay in the tomb.
Think about it, is it not especially pertinent that John points out that he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day”? We must realize that it was Jesus who had chosen that particular day to reveal the most significant prophetic revelation of all time, the insights of which John recorded into a book biblical Christians revere and call the book of Revelation. Why do you suppose John was so caught up on that day? Is it not obvious that as he was worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ the Spirit of God moved upon him and filled him with the Spirit? The Spirit of God was honoring the apostle John because his heart was right and because he had been chosen to receive “the Revelation of Jesus Christ”.
I suppose it could have been any day of the week. God respects and looks upon our hearts as we worship Him in Spirit and in truth on any day of the week. According to Colossians 2:16 & 17, we must not judge anyone for whatever day one chooses as his/her “festival”, “holy” or “Sabbath” day. But the truth found here in Revelation 1 is that John considered it important enough to define the day of the week the revelation commenced. So, if the day on which he was speaking wasn’t significant enough to record, why specify it at all? Surely, if John was “in the Spirit” on a Sabbath day, he would have included that fact too.
If one can’t see these obvious implications, then no matter how much exegesis which might be put together that the early Church worshipped on Sunday in honor of Jesus’ resurrection probably won’t sway his/her thinking. I am emphasizing and presenting this truth primarily for the Church to see the clear, biblical basis of why most born again Christians have traditionally and still refer to Sunday as the “Lord’s day”, believing also that because this was a preferred day for saints of the first century to worship, still should be so recognized. I want to repeat that it is not because of what Constantine and his followers did that makes any persuasion upon my mind about Christians congregating on Sunday for worship. It is because of what appears very clear to me in the Word of God.
I do not judge Seventh Day Adventists or any others who choose to worship on Saturday. But it would also be a mistake for others to judge me and say that it is sinful for me and other Christians to worship on the first day of the week, Sunday. If you make that judgement of me, then you must also include the apostles Paul and John.
I close with this question: Where is your heart on the special day you set aside for corporate worship? Are you, like John, “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day”? I believe this is a requirement if one expects to truly receive anything from the Lord.
Sincerely, God bless you as you worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth this week, wherever or whenever,
Lance Johnson, O.D.