Is Sunday the God-commanded Christian day of worship?...

The Weekly Christian Worship Day

Bible Basics Lesson 8

James McBride: In Lesson 7 we noted the varieties of worship that abound, and concluded that God was particularly jealous about how and when He - the one and only true God - wanted to be worshipped. Now we turn specifically to the religion of Jesus Christ. How did he change the worship of God? Did he have different views to that revealed in the Torah - the writings of the Old Testament?

Certainly when we look at the world of Christianity today its worship bears little resemblance to the worship that Jesus and his fellow countrymen took part in. The sacrificial worship is gone, of course. The regular weekly worship is now on Sundays rather than the Biblical seventh-day Sabbath. And the annual round of festivals reviewed in our last lesson have been replaced by a new "Christian year" with but one original festival ("Pentecost") remaining.

Does any of this matter? In Christ are we now free to introduce new times for worship, new festivals? Has God's "jealousy" subsided? Is He now pleased with any kind of worship at any time of year? Could it be possible that some - perhaps you - are actually, as Jesus himself warned, worshipping in vain?

In this lesson we will investigate these questions! We will review the history of the Christian church to see why and how and when the varied practices we see today were introduced. And we will answer the question How does God want to be worshipped today?

Christianity In Transition

Compare the myriad brands of Christianity in the supermarket of religion and it's hard to believe they all derive from the same source, the Bible - the "Holy Scriptures"! Not just in the externals, but also in the fundamentals of belief. The high drama of a pontifical mass contrasts sharply with the spontaneity of a charismatic house church. And the range of conflicting doctrine is staggering. How can this be when all base their faith on the same Bible?

Review Lesson 2 of Bible Basics regarding the authenticity of the Bible text

- the Bible in its various translations and with its numerous manuscript sources maintains a consistency that should ensure a common understanding of its meaning

- but it is not an A..B..C of doctrine, not a "systematic theology" text

- its message is dispersed from Genesis to Revelation, and initially each new student needs a guide to understand more than its surface teachings ... Isaiah 28:9-13, Hebrews 5:11-14

- its message is unlocked by the direct action of God on our minds ... I Corinthians 2:6-14

God's right to choose is a key part of the understanding of "predestination" - the subject of a later Lesson

- having experience of God's miraculous intervention doesn't necessarily mean we can understand His Word. God chooses those to whom He wants, at this time, to reveal Himself ... Deuteronomy 9:4, Romans 9:8-10, Hosea 4:6

" shall call upon me, and you shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you, and you shall seek me, and find me when you shall search for me with all your heart" ... Jeremiah 29:12,13

- but He responds to those who wholeheartedly want to know and obey Him and who search for Him ... I Chronicles 28:9, Jeremiah 29:12,13; Proverbs 2:1-9

- the Bible, however, is complete in itself and every point of doctrine and every act of worship must not conflict with its overall message. Failure to recognize this is a source of much doctrinal conflict ... Revelation 22:19, Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:29-32, Isaiah 8:20

The apostles were the witnesses of Jesus and the repository of the Gospel message. All that we need to know is recorded in the writings of the Old Testament, and in the inspired record in the books of the New Testament. Since their deaths, the only "apostle" (in that sense) is the Scriptures!

- the first Christians held strictly to the doctrines taught by the apostles. For them, this was "the truth" from which they ought not to deviate ... Acts 2:42, Jude 3f, 11 Timothy 2:2, Titus 1:9, Romans 6:17

- the lives of the apostles reflected the faith taught them by Jesus Christ. They were, as his witnesses, powerfully influenced by God acting in them through His Spirit ... I Corinthians 11: 1, Acts 1: 3; 21-26, John 16:13

- confusion as to the consistent Bible teaching therefore results from (a) failure to understand the Bible as a whole, and (b) introduction of ideas antagonistic to the Bible - both factors have contributed to the distortion of the "truth" revealed in Scripture both in the matter of doctrine and of worship

- an example of the doctrinal distortion, the "immortality of the soul" was discussed in Lesson 4 of Bible Basics, and others will be addressed in later Lessons.

When Do Christians Worship God?

recall (Lesson 7) that when we worship is one identifying mark of our religion

The previous Lesson began our study of this aspect of worship. There we saw the times and pattern for worship which God gave mankind and developed more fully for His nation of Israel

these days and seasons generally focus on events in the life of Christ and the Church. Easter was introduced to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. Christmas his birth

- Christianity today is marked by a fairly consistent pattern of worship, worldwide. Sunday is set aside for weekly worship. Interspersed through the year are specific "holy days", notably Easter, Whitsunday (Pentecost) and Christmas. There are, too, a number of minor festivals and seasons. e.g., All Hallows, Michaelmas, Advent, Lent, Trinity Sunday, Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Ascension Day. Also noted by many Christians are various "saints days" in honor of noted Christians

"The practice of celebrating Christmas on the 25th December began in the Western Church early in the 4th century; it was a Christian substitute for the pagan festival held on that date to celebrate the birth of the unconquered sun (sol invicta). Many Christmas customs are of non-Christian origin; for example Christmas trees, holly and mistletoe decorations are of north European pagan origin" [Dictionary of Beliefs and Religion, p. 105] ... Jeremiah 10:1-5

- it is now universally accepted that many of these observances were late imports to Christianity from other religions, introduced as inducements to the pagans to become Christian. The origin of these festivals and their special practices is documented in most encyclopedias

- what's important is that their observance has obscured the significance of God's festival year and led to the absorption of Christianity by a paganized culture

- the record of the New Testament, however, is that the first Christians, guided by the twelve apostles, continued to follow the same pattern, the same times for worship, observed in ancient Israel. They "feared God and kept his commandments" - i.e., they had respect for Him and were in awe of His sovereign authority to set the pattern of worship for His people.

the true season of the birth of the Messiah can be readily determined, see Feast of the Nativity

The remainder of this Lesson and Lesson 9 will examine these festivals in the light of the New Testament record.

New Testament Practice

"In the interval between the days of the apostles and the conversion of Constantine [325 A.D.] the Christian commonwealth changed its aspect... Rites and ceremony of which neither Peter nor Paul ever heard crept into use ,then claimed the rank of divine institutions" [Dr. Killen: The Ancient Church]

No reader of the New Testament can doubt that the first Christians were, apart from their profession of Jesus as Messiah, virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding Judaic faith

- all those converted on the Day of Pentecost were of this faith. They were Jews native of Palestine, or Jews of the diaspora (i.e., scattered members of the House of Judah), or they were proselytes (Gentile converts to the faith of the Jews). The door of faith was not yet officially opened to Gentiles ... Acts 2:5-12, ch.10

The writer of Hebrews says "there remains [lit. "is left behind" or "is reserved"] a rest (Gk. sabbatismos) to the people of God". The word was used anciently to designate sabbath observance [Plutarch, Justin, Epiphanius, Apostolic Constitutions] ... Hebrews 4:9

- they didn't abandon their ancestral customs, but continued in the synagogue and in the Temple - even to taking vows and participating in the sacrifices, being "zealous for the law" ... Acts 21:20-27, 6:7, 9:2, 16:3, 22:19

- Paul, about thirty years after the resurrection of Jesus, claimed to be observant of Jewish practice ... Acts 23:9, 24:14, 25:8, 28:17

The "Holy Scriptures" were "The Law of Moses (Torah), the Prophets (Nebi'im) and the Psalms (Ketubim)" - (abbreviated by modern Jews Tanakh) - terms which embraced the whole of our Old Testament ... Luke 24:44, Acts 28:23

- notice that the apostles continually referred to the Holy Scriptures (i.e., what we term the Old Testament - the New Testament was not yet written) as evidence for their teaching ... Acts 15:21, 28:23, 11 Timothy 3:15-17, etc.

- Gentile Christians, too, began to worship in the same manner. Later, in Lesson 9, we will note that they observed not only the weekly Sabbath but also the annual Holy Days ... Acts 10:35, 13:42-49, 15:21, 20:21, 21:19,20

it's important to note that the Judaism of that era was in part a distortion of the true faith previously revealed. For instance, there were 613 additional regulations - the Mishnah - though most are, without an active priesthood, now obsolete

Mishnah: a compilation of laws supplementary to the scriptures, passed down by oral tradition, and set down in writing over a period of two centuries. Final editing was about 200 A.D. by Rabbi Judah the Prince. The Gemara is a rabbinic commentary on it. The Mishnah and Gemara comprise the Talmud, which is in two versions, the Babylonian and the Jerusalem.

- Jesus never transgressed any law of God, though the Jews accused him of this. For example, healing on the Sabbath was forbidden by them - but was nowhere prohibited in the Scriptures. They also demanded, additional to the Law, certain purification rites. Their obsession with such blinded them to the true spirit of the Law ... Luke 13:1-17, Matthew 15:1-3, 5:17-18

- at no time did Jesus "break the Sabbath", as is often claimed! He restored the true spiritual intent, ignoring the accumulated traditions that the Pharisees had added (with the misguided intention of "putting a hedge" around the law).

The Christian Sabbath

The vast majority of those who are called Christians pay at least lip service to the observance of Sunday as a weekly day of worship. It is claimed that the observance of this day was introduced by the apostles, and preachers regularly refer to a few texts in support of this contention. We will examine each of these texts

we must remember that in Bible terms the days are numbered and only the seventh day was named - Sabbath. All began at sunset - around 6 p.m. depending on season ... Genesis 1: 5, 8, 13 etc.

- anciently, and in the Near East up to relatively modern times, the "day" began at sunset. When, therefore, we read of "the first day of the week" in Scripture it refers to the period between sunset on our Saturday to sunset on the day we call Sunday. The word Sunday does not appear in the Bible

- the term "first day of the week" is used eight times in the New Testament, but nowhere is that day described as a substitute for the Sabbath, nor is there a religious service held on it

Matthew 28:1: "Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn towards..." the Gk. is epiphosko a word "...used of the conventional day beginning at sunset" [Dean Alford]. One translation has: "Now late on Sabbath as it was getting dusk towards the first [day] of the week" [Englishman's Greek NT] (Commentators argue vehemently about this because epiphosko can refer both to the sun dawning and the evening lighting of lamps.)

- the first NT use confirms that it is the day immediately following the close of the weekly seventh day Sabbath. Note that the Gospels were written at least twenty years after the resurrection, and yet the Sabbath is still regarded as the seventh day ... Matthew 28:1

- the same event is recorded by Mark, agreeing that the "first day" was "after the Sabbath was past". It was a regular work day, evidenced by the fact that the women had brought along aromatics for burial rites. Later that same morning Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene - but so far the first day of the week has for the disciples no special religious significance (though that particular day was probably, at the Temple, the day of the annual Wave Sheaf offering) ... Mark 16:1,2; v.9 ff, John 20:1

- the fifth NT use of the term first day of the week finds the disciples - still unbelieving of Jesus' resurrection - gathered "for fear of the Jews" inside a locked room. Again, there is not statement that this was a religious service! Nor does the factual account indicate a change from Sabbath to Sunday observance ... John 20:19

In Acts 20 we find some disciples meeting after Sabbath for a meal - at which Paul discoursed with until midnight. It was his last opportunity, as he was off first thing Sunday morning on a nineteen-mile walk from Troas to Assos to meet his companions who had left just after Sabbath by ship (there was a three-quarter moon - v.6).

"to break bread" (v.7) was the normal way to express having a meal (v. 11). It is still in use! We can not read into this a celebration of "the Lord's Supper". Compare Luke 22:16 with 24:30

- one religious meeting (an informal one) is indeed recorded on the first day. But it was on Saturday night after sunset, i.e., after the Sabbath ("there were lights..."). This was a gathering on a special occasion. Neither Paul nor his companions were concerned about the effort of walking and sailing on many hours of Sunday. Clearly they did not consider it to have any sabbatical meaning ... Acts 20:6-14

- the final text is often quoted on church offering envelopes! But, of course, it refers to something different - the gathering of relief supplies for Christians in Jerusalem affected by drought. The Corinthian disciples were instructed that on the first day of the week (Sunday) they were to "lay by them in store" their individual contribution of food. (They were not instructed to "bring it to church"). It would have taken each of them considerable effort to gather in "fruit" - see Romans 15:25-28. Paul wanted it ready for when he came to collect it! There is no support here for a regular Sunday service or "resting on Sunday", rather for working! ... I Corinthians 16:1-4

Another misunderstood text concerns the term, "the Lord's Day", which is used just once in the New Testament in Rev. 1:10. It refers to "the Day of the Lord" (referred to many times by the OT prophets and Jesus) into which the apostle John was projected in vision. The Day of the Lord is the substance of Jesus' revelation to him. Though there is nothing in Rev. 1:10 to connect it with a particular day of the week, we could make a Biblical connection. Since Jesus revealed himself as "Lord of the Sabbath", the Biblical "Lord's Day" would be the Sabbath! ... Revelation 1:10, Mark 2:28, Isaiah 58:13. Of course, Baal, which means "master", can also be translated "Lord", and, as far as we can tell, Baal's day was Sunday! But surely nobody wants to observe Baal's day.
"In the year 325, Sylvester, Bishop of Rome (AD 314-337), officially changed the title of the first day, calling it the Lord's day." (Lucium, Historia Ecclesiastica, p. 739)

None of these eight "Sunday texts" in any way suggest that the first Christians observed Sunday as a holy day or in any way substituted Sunday for the seventh-day Sabbath which God had appointed and set apart at creation. The first Christians are invariably shown to be meeting at the same time as the Jews - on the Sabbath. None of the apostles would have imagined to change the day that God set apart as His holy day

- to both Jew and Gentile the Gospel was preached on the Sabbath ... Acts 13:14-15, 42-49

- it was Paul's custom to preach on the Sabbaths. He worked at a trade the rest of the week ... 16:12-15, 17:2, 18:1-11

the Scriptures were rarely available outside the synagogue. Few private individuals could afford a personal copy. In the synagogue the entirety of the Holy Scriptures were read through and explained in a three year cycle - the Lectionary system ...see Acts 13:15

- the leading elder in the Jerusalem assembly guided Gentile disciples to the Jews' Sabbath synagogue services "in every city", where they would hear the Law read and explained ... Acts 15:19-21

- later, the Jews became intolerant of all who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, called by them minim. Christians (i.e., followers of the Messiah) began to worship separately, on the Sabbaths ... Acts 18:9-10

First Century Apostacy

"Centuries of the Christian era passed away before Sunday was observed by the Christian church as a sabbath. History does not furnish us with a single proof or indication that it was so observed previous to the sabbatical edict of Constantine in 321 A.D." [William Domville Examination of Six Texts] (But other authorities claim to find such evidence.)

Apostacy set in as early as the apostolic era. Persecution by Jew and Gentile combined to ensure that true believers remained a "little flock", as Jesus had predicted. The prevailing religious environment did not favor the followers of the Way - who wanted to remain faithful to the apostolic teachings. Throughout the Greek and Roman world, by the first century A.D., the sun was highly venerated under the cult of Mithra. (Cult is a technical term for "a system of religious belief". Do not confuse that meaning with the modern use of the term, cult, to mean "religion I think is wrong".)

"The largest pagan religious cult which fostered the celebration of December 25th as a holiday throughout the Roman and Greek worlds was the pagan sun worship - Mithraism... This winter festival was called the Nativity of the Sun" [James Frazer: The Golden Bough]

- the birth of the sun was widely celebrated with feasting in the Saturnalia festival held around December 25th - the time of the winter solstice when the sun began to ascend from its lowest point in the heavens

- the "day of the sun" - Sunday - was venerated weekly, and became the official cult in the 3rd century. Even then it was an ancient practice, traceable through Hinduism back to earliest ages

there was a "sun-cult" in ancient Israel ... II Kings 23:11

- another rite associated with sun worship was that of adoration of the sun at sunrise. This was prevalent anciently in many nations, including Israel ... Ezekiel 8:16

- such practices were utterly condemned by God ... Deuteronomy 4:19

religious syncretism is the blending of different forms of religious practice

- equally condemned is religious syncretism. The eastern peoples who replaced the House of Israel (they became known as Samaritans) imported their own forms of worship - but pretended it was the worship of the true God. ... II Kings 17:24-41

Baal (Heb. "master") was the lord of heaven and earth - the sun, and by consequence, the god of fire. His priests called down fire, beginning at dawn until noon ... Kings 18:26

- the House of Israel was expelled from their land by God. He indicted them for the very reasons of Baal worship and the abandonment of His revealed worship ... II Kings 17:6-23

Any encyclopedia provides the evidence that these Christian festivals are deeply rooted in pre-Christian religious tradition

- Modern Christianity is guilty of this practice! It has embraced Baal's day, holds sunrise services at Easter (near the spring equinox), celebrates the birth of Jesus at the winter solstice - "Christmas". All are related to the sun!

History of Sunday

use of the named planetary week (Saturn-day. Sun-day etc) was widespread from the first century before Christ

It is thus evident that the observance of days and festivals other than those inspired by God has no support anywhere in the Old or New Testaments. They came into the church of God over the centuries as theologians added to the Word of God which was "once for all delivered to the saints" ... Jude 1:3.

After the initial "explosion" of Christianity, fewer were inclined to accept the rigors of following Christ. As predicted, apostacy set in and "the love of many grew cold" ... Matthew 24:12

despite apostacy, Jesus ensures that his church will continue till he returns ... Matthew 16:18. 8-20

- by the end of the first century compromise with the world's system, and persecution, had devastated the church. It is paralleled in our day, as we approach the end of this age ... Matthew 24:12, I John 2:15-19, II Thessalonians 2

"Since the institution of the Sabbath at the close of creation ... there has been an unbroken line of God-loving men who have kept the seventh day of the week... In the Western church the seventh day continued to be observed quite generally till the fifth century" [Schaff-Herzog: Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Art: Seventh-Day Baptists]

- religious compromise resulted in widespread acceptance of pagan practice and beliefs. The Roman Empire was "christianized" and became the state religion under Constantine [325 A.D.]... Revelation chs 2 and 3

- since then, the numbers of those who refuse this syncretism and who hold to the seventh day Sabbath has been relatively few. But in every generation someone believed, observed and taught it, and it is now observed by several million Christians around the world - but still a tiny fraction of world population

The Julian calendar continued until 1582 when it was adjusted by Pope Gregory XIII for errors. Ten days were dropped. But this did not affect the order of the days of the week - Thursday October 4th was followed by Friday 15th. The orderly seven day sequence has never been disrupted.

- the day is still venerated by the ancient Coptic, Armenian and Nestorian churches

- it was widely observed in the Middle Ages in central Europe (e.g., Transylvania) and Holland - from there it spread to England organized as Sabbatarian Baptists. Their Mill-Yard church is still active in London.

- in 1664 Stephen Mumford went from England to America, founding a sabbatarian church seven years later in Rhode Island

- the Sabbath will be part of Christian practice in the years before Jesus returns ... Matthew 24:14-22

- ...and its observance will be the norm for all peoples in the millennial Kingdom he will establish ... Isaiah 66:23, Ezekiel 46:3

Texts That Challenge

"I am the LORD, I change not; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed [i.e., He is patient]. Even from the days of your fathers you are gone away from my ordinances, and have not kept them. Return to me and I will return to you" ... Malachi 3:6-7

"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever" ...Hebrews 13:8

A few texts in the New Testament have been used in an attempt to explain away observance of the Sabbath. All such verses must be viewed in the light of what is clearly revealed in the Scriptures - that God jealously guards the way He desires to be worshipped. He did not tolerate Israel's rejection of this way, but sent on them national punishment. Jesus nowhere claims the Sabbath is obsolete. Nor do the apostles

observe: the Greek paratereo (Gal 4: 10) "...the middle voice suggests that their religious observance of days, etc., was not from disinterested motives but with a view to their own advantage [Vine: Expository Dictionary]

Galatians 4:8-11 "Howbeit then, when ye [pagan idolaters] knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods [i.e., demons]. {9} But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? {10} Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. {11} I am afraid of [for] you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain."

the pagan astrological mythology was being applied to the Biblical festivals

- the Galatian Christians had been idolaters before conversion. Paul took them to task because they were reverting to their former enslaving religious practices - including various pagan worship days and seasons ("days of Baal"). Recall that the heathen "gods" were not gods but "demons". Also recall that the Galatians had been taught by Paul's example to worship on the Sabbath ... Galatians 4:8-11, Hosea 2:11-13, Acts 13:42-44, 1 Corinthians 10:20

- remember that the observance of any form of worship - even those revealed by God - doesn't save us. But deliberate refusal to follow God's way can cause us to lose salvation ... Hebrews 12:25

- the false teachers in Galatia were introducing a Gospel of salvation through human effort - "works". They thought that by doing more religious rituals they would gain credit with God. This mistaken idea is the substance of Paul's denouncement of them throughout his letter ... Galatians 5:4

Colossians 2:8-23 "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world [demons], and not after Christ. ... {16} Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: {17} Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. {18} Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels [i.e., fallen angels = demons], ... {20} Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, {21} (Touch not; taste not; handle not; [asceticism] {22} Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?"

In Colossians Paul is not condemning sabbath and festival observance as commanded by God to Israel, but those false teachers who try to regulate them by ascetic practices. These were imported from demon-influenced human traditions ... Col. 2:22

- Paul urged the Colossian Christians not to let anyone judge them for their observances of holy days. They reflect ("are shadows of") the reality of God's plan. They were feast days - hence Paul's encouragement not to allow others to judge them for "eating and drinking" on these days. Some in Colosse were deceiving the brethren into angel worship and unnecessary self-denial ... Colossians 2:16-23, Deuteronomy 14:22-27

"Herein lay the error of the Pharisees. They had so interpreted the Sabbath day and so loaded it with minute, absurd and vexing requirements and restrictions, that its observance was no longer a delight but a burden. The Law, instead of being a servant, had been transformed into a cruel master and under its many men were groaning" [Charles Erdman: The Gospel of Mark]

Colossians 2:14-15 "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; {15} And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it."

- what were the ordinances that were "against us"? Surely the traditions of demon-influenced men. What were the "principalities and powers" Christ triumphed over? Obviously the evil spiritual and physical rulers of this world (the demons and their lackeys), those who promulgated and attempted to enforce those traditions. These verses are not talking about God's laws - His commandments were written in stone and cannot be "blotted out". In fact, not one "jot or tittle" will be erased from God's Law till heaven and earth pass away and all be fulfilled - and there is much yet to be fulfilled ... Exodus 34:1, Matthew 5:18; 24, Ephesians 6:12

how we observe Sabbath is not now subject to civil law as in ancient Israel

the Sabbath was first appointed "in the beginning" - at man's creation. Israel didn't observe it in their Egyptian servitude, but God revealed it to them again after the exodus from Egypt - and before He covenanted with them at Sinai ...Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 16:1-30

- part of Christ's work was to introduce a deeper understanding of God's law and a new administration of it. The Sabbath law (similarly to many other OT laws) dictated that all who deliberately transgressed the day were to be executed. That law code was called "the ministration of death". The administration of that law code (in which disobedience to the letter of God's law had civil penalties) was a civil responsibility, and the Scriptures placed it in the hands of the civil authorities, the rulers of Israel. God's laws haven't changed, but their administration has. Christians are now individually responsible to God for the manner in which we observe the Sabbath and other divine laws (not only in the letter, but also in the spirit). These laws define sin. We are now, as Christians, living under the "administration of the Spirit." There can be no civil enforcement of true Christianity, because disobedience to God in the spirit incurs spiritual, not civil, penalties ... Numbers 15: 30-36, Romans 13:1-10, II Corinthians 3:6-8

No-one can attain eternal life by means of Sabbath observance. Salvation is God's gift extended freely to us through the shed blood of our Saviour. To receive that gift we must have faith and "repent" - that is, turn from our transgression of His revealed will to a life of obedience and submission to Him. The manner and time of our worship is a vital aspect of that submission ... Acts 2:38; 5:32, Romans 6:1-2, I John 3:4

- the Law of God is the "instruction manual" for mankind. We function best to the degree we live by it, and we suffer to the degree it is ignored - personally and as a nation (any nation). As we have seen, it explains how to love God and how to love our fellow-humans. The "Ten Commandments" are a summary of that Law, and as such they were written into the constitution of God's physical nation of Israel ... Deuteronomy 4:1-9, Psalm 19:7-11

- the Law defines sin. All Christians at least pay lip service to the Commandments, many even to the extent of renaming Sunday as "the Sabbath" ... I John 3:4, Romans 3:20

Romans 14:1-9 "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. {2} For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.... {5} One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. {6} 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. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks."

Chrysostom (4th cent) said of this passage in Romans 14:"There were some that on fixed days abstained [from food]. and on fixed days did not." On certain specified days, some Jews had partial fasts, abstaining from meat and wine

- having asserted earlier in his letter to the Romans that the Law is "spiritual" and "holy and just and good", the apostle Paul addresses those Christians who are "weak in the faith" and urges mutual toleration by all Christians. Some were vegetarians. Some abstained from certain foods on certain days. Each, says Paul, has to come to a Biblical understanding ("be fully persuaded in his own mind") - for each of us answers to the Lord who alone has established what is right and what is wrong. Paul is not talking about choosing your own holy days or saying that it's up to you to keep the Sabbath - or not to! ... Romans 7:12, 14; 14:1-9

- if verses about "days", etc., in Galatians, Colossians and Romans condemn the Biblical seventh day Sabbath and the annual Holy Days of Israel, then they apply even more to other religious "days", Sunday, Christmas, Easter, etc., - religious days which are deeply rooted in pagan worship and which are nowhere commanded for Christian observance in the Scriptures of the Old or New Testaments!

Sabbath Symbolism

Many calendars depict Sunday as the last day of the printed week. This is a convenience which facilitates business, but which could make it easier to "sell" the idea of Sunday as the Sabbath! Both Catholic and Protestant leaders claim that Sunday observance is in honor of Christ's first resurrection appearance which happened on the first day of the week.

The Sabbath was introduced to mankind as a celebration of the miraculous work of the physical creation. It is also a reminder that the spiritual creation is still underway. It is a time to be refreshed and to recuperate from physical effort, but also a time for spiritual creation, to fellowship with the Creator and one's fellow "new creations in Christ". To Israel it also recalls their "rest" after centuries of slavery in Egypt

- it commemorates the reality of the divine Being as Creator, a day set apart for Him and graciously given for the physical and spiritual well-being of all mankind ... Exodus 20:11, Hebrews 4:3-6, Mark 2:27, Isaiah 58:13-14

- at a time when God is about to bring in salvation, He reveals that the Sabbath is not to be "polluted", and is given as a joyful celebration for Israel and for "the sons of the stranger" - i.e., the Gentiles ... Isaiah 56:1-8

- the seventh-day Sabbath commemorates Israel's miraculous deliverance from unending effort in Egyptian servitude ... Deuteronomy 5:12-15

"rest" [Gk. sabbatismos]: literally, a keeping of the Sabbath ... Hebrews 4:9

- for Christians it is a weekly celebration, in God's time, of our rest in Christ, and a sign of our willing submission to His commands, to be His "new creation" ... Hebrews 4:9, Revelation 12:17, II Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15

- the Sabbath is the last day of the week, when we cease our normal labor - we "enter into rest". In symbol it represents the last thousand years of human physical life on earth. In one interpretation of Bible symbolism, mankind is allotted six thousand years to do his own "works". The final, seventh, thousand is the peaceful and prosperous and godly reign of Jesus the Messiah - a thousand years of spiritual rest and freedom for all mankind. It is an era more fully symbolized by one of the annual festivals appointed by God, the Feast of Tabernacles ... Acts 3:19-21, II Peter 3:8, Hebrews 4:1-11

Students of Bible Basics are invited to contact any of our addresses with any questions they may still have, or for the address of Sabbath services near to you.

In Lesson 9 we will examine the annual holy day sabbaths and their significance for Christians and for the world - especially for the troublesome near future.

Reprinted with permission of Church of God, UK. Email comments to: the comment form below.
Editor: James McBride.
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