Having traced the idea of a Sabbath all the way through Scripture, I am still at a loss to make a completely valid decision.With all I have learned, something is still missing. What seems to be strong and important to God loses its significance as the Bible story continues on. Let's take a look at how the church of later generations understood their Sabbath responsibility before God. But because the church is always fallible, we must reserve the right to come back to the Scriptures, and see if we can discern what grace has done to the law of God. When it is all said and done, will the Sabbath go the route of circumcision and burnt offerings? Will it be at the level of the tithe? Will it be changed into a different day altogether likewise labeled Sabbath? Or will it be written on our hearts like the other of the ten commandments? I'm far from finished with this quest
What says History?
It certainly is a long way from the statement "Do this or die!" as the Old Testament speaks of Sabbath-keeping to the idea,"Do this wrongly and you might as well not do it at all!" as Jesus had to teach the leaders of His day. It's even further to saying , "Choose whatever you want or even nothing at all," as Paul seems to be saying later in Church history. What did we miss along the way? Why the radical change? Can God's heart desires really be that different? What did the early and later church do with all of this?
To begin, consider the following two quotes and see if you agree:
1. T. Enright, C.S.S.R., February 18, 1844 lecture: "I have repeatedly offered $1000.00 to anyone who can prove to me from the Bible alone that I am bound to keep Sunday holy. There is no such law in the Bible. It is a law of the holy Catholic Church alone. The Bible says, 'Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.' The Catholic Church says: 'No. By my divine power I abolish the Sabbath day and command you to keep holy the first day of the week.' And lo! the entire civilized world bows down in a reverent obedience to the command of the holy Catholic Church.' "
2. D.B. Ray, The Papal Controversy, 1892, p. 179: "From this same Catholic Church you have accepted your Sunday, and that Sunday, as the Lord's day, she has handed down as a tradition; and the entire Protestant world has accepted it as tradition, for you have not one iota of Scripture to establish it. Therefore that which you have accepted as your rule of faith, inadequate as it of course is, as well as your Sunday, you have accepted on the authority of the Roman Catholic Church."
What say you? Is there any iota of truth about a Sunday holy day in Scripture? Well, we cannot say that those who built this doctrine started from nothing. Let's admit to the iota anyway, maybe even a few iotas, but nothing more. Let's look quickly at these particles of Scripture and then see how history built from there:
1. We can't forget that Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. There is no official Scriptural union made between His resurrection and our weekly observance of 24 hours of celebration, but the resurrection does figure into why people believe the first day is now holier than the others. Of course, it was a day of work for God the Father. It was in fact the greatest work accomplished on the planet.
2. Pentecost, the very birthday of the Church of Jesus, when the Spirit of God fell and empowered the apostles, is likewise on the first day of the week. Still there is no commandment given to continue this observance every week until the end of the Church age. But a strong "silent" case certainly seems to be made by what God sovereignly did. Remember always that the word did implies yet more work. This too was not a day of rest.
3. Acts 20:7 is perhaps an even stronger argument for something happening on the first day, but certainly not for an all day rest. I quote: "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."
So did the disciples meet every first day either before or after Troas? Even if this could be proved, the only message being given in this passage is that the first day was becoming a meeting time, and that the actual clock hour was after sun-down. Could this in fact have been Saturday evening, following Sabbath observance? Or was it Sunday night? Whichever, there is no reason to jump from first-day celebration to first-day holy Sabbath of rest. But church history is clear that this jump was made anyway.
4. Finally there is that command of Paul about a certain offering, I Corinthians 16:2. "On the 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." This could well stop the mouths of those who say there was nothing special about that first day. Not only in Asia Minor , but now here in Greece there seems to be a growing practice of meeting on this day to celebrate the resurrection, fellowship in the Spirit, hear the Word of God, even minister to the material needs of the saints. In short, church. I think it important to say again here that from the beginning of the church, there was a daily fellowship of believers and a daily intake of souls into Christ, Acts 2:46-47, but it is hard to avoid the rising up of this first day as a clear pattern developing in those early days.
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