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The Christian Counter

   

From Sabbath to Sunday
Lesson 34

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Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.

- Ezekiel 22:26

Most Christians believe that Sunday is the Lord’s Day. They believe that Jesus trans- ferred the sacredness of the seventh day Sabbath to Sunday, the first day of the week, at the time of the resurrection. If Jesus made such a change, there should be sufficient evidence in the Bible to support this claim.

Bible review

Eight texts in the New Testament mention the first day of the week. Biblical support for the sacredness of Sunday, if it exists, has come from these verses. Here are the texts:

Matthew 28:1        

Mark 16:2

Mark 16:9                             

Luke 24:1

John 20:1

John 20:19

Acts 20:7

1 Corinthians 16:2


Six of these texts refer to Jesus being resurrected on the first day of the week – a well-known fact. However, none of these texts indicate anything about Sunday sacredness. In fact, Luke 23:56 points out that a group of women delayed preparation of Christ’s body for burial on Friday evening because of the nearness of the Sabbath. They rested on the Sabbath “according to the {fourth} commandment.” Therefore, it would be fair to say that the women had no prior knowledge that the fourth commandment was voided that Friday afternoon.

Since the first six texts simply date the resurrection of Jesus on the first day of the week and say nothing about Sunday being sacred, we will investigate the remaining two verses

Acts 20:7

Some people use Acts 20 as evidence to support that Sunday worship was practiced by the apostles. “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to t he people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.” (Acts 20:7) Let us consider the details surrounding this verse.

The event recorded in Acts 20:7 took place about 30 years after Jesus ascended. During this 30-year interval, there is not one text in the Bible that describes how Sunday had become the day of worship or that the disciples worshiped on Sunday. Surely, if Jesus’ death on the cross-had made such a profound change concerning the day of worship, this would have been a very controversial issue. All of the disciples, including Paul, were Jews and as such, were Sabbath keepers! Paul’s writings leave no doubt that the question of what was nailed to the cross was a matter of intense discussion for early believers. I find it interesting that nothing is written in Acts or the New Testament about the sudden sacredness of Sunday or the sudden obsolescence of the Ten Commandments.

The Apostle Paul stayed in Athens some length of time preaching the gospel. (Acts 17) When Paul finally left Athens, he went to Corinth.  There he lived with Jewish believers, Aquila and Priscilla, who had been evicted from Rome by Claudius because they were Jews. (Acts 18) Actually, Aquila and Priscilla were converts to Christ, but Emperor Claudius could not distinguish between a Christian and the “repugnant” Jews, so the Romans evicted all Christians and Jews from Rome at this time. For a period of 18 months, Paul sustained himself in Corinth by making tents and he preached in the synagogue “every Sabbath” attempting to make believers of Jews and Gentiles alike. (See Acts 18.) If the seventh day Sabbath had been nailed to the cross, and if Sunday was God’s holy day, why is there no record of Paul preaching this new doctrine? Paul wrote 14 of the 27 books in the New Testament and he says nothing about the sacredness of Sunday! (Luke wrote the book of Acts.)

In Bible times, a day began at sunset and ended the following evening. Since creation, Earth’s rotation has produced this great clock. (See Genesis 1.) The Jews in Christ’s time regarded a day from “evening to evening” and observed Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.  Compare Luke 23:50-56 with Leviticus 23:32. So, the actual timing described in Acts 20:7 is as follows:  Paul stayed with the believers in Troas for seven days. (Acts 20:6) At the beginning of the first day of the week, at suppertime, the believers came together to eat supper with Paul and say goodbye to their dear friend. The first day of the week for Paul began at sundown, or what we call Saturday evening, Therefore, according to Scripture, Paul preached Saturday night until midnight. A few hours later, what we call Sunday morning the first day of the week Paul departed Troas for Assos. If Sunday had been a sacred day, Paul would not have departed for Troas. (See Acts 1:12)

Paul met with believers for supper and preached to them until midnight. Saturday night. A farewell supper and the Saturday night Bible study do not change or abrogate God’s fourth commandment. Even if Paul chose to worship on Tuesday night, his actions could not make God’s law void. Only God can make His law void. Some people claim that the term the “breaking of bread” indicates Paul’s visit was a communion or worship service. This is not true! The disciples broke bread every day! (Acts 2:46,47 {KJV} in Luke 24: 13-31, Jesus “broke bread” at supper time with two of His disciples after walking with them more than seven miles to Emmaus. To this day, breaking bread is a custom in the Orient because bread is often baked so firm that it has to be literally broken in order to eat it. As was the custom at Passover, Jesus “broke bread” with His disciples on Thursday night during His last Passover and it was there that He instituted the “Lord’s Supper.” (John 13) Jesus’ actions on Thursday night did not make Thursday a holy day. If this is true, Paul’s actions in Troas could not make Sunday holy!

Paul did not confirm or authorize “Sunday sacredness” in Troas. Actually, he held a farewell meeting on Saturday night because he was leaving the following morning. The point here is that if Christians wish to exalt Paul’s farewell at Troas as proof of Sunday sacredness, they should follow Paul’s example and worship on Saturday night (between sundown and midnight).

! Corinthians 16:2

Some people insist that Paul required offerings for the poor be collected on the first day of the week (as in a church service). Notice: “Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.” (1 Corinthians 16:13)

When this text was written, Rome was severely persecuting Jews and Christians. (Jerusalem’s destruction in A.D.70 occurred about 10 years after this appeal was written.) Paul appeals to the believers in Corinth, where he had lived for 18 months, to help fellow Christians suffering in Jerusalem. Paul does not hesitate to make this request because it was customary among Jews to use a portion of their tithe to help those in financial need. (Deuteronomy 14:24-26)

In Paul’s day, money was not a common medium of exchange like it is today. The exchange of goods and services was done by barter; that is, a person might trade a chicken or something for cloth or pottery. Since Paul would not be able to travel to Jerusalem with a menagerie of roosters, goats, pottery and other things of value, he asked the believers in Corinth to convert their gifts into cash, “the first thing after the Sabbath has passed.” Paul suggested they begin each week by selling something at the bazaar so that he might be able to gather up a sum of currency. Paul indicated that “the first day of the week “was the appropriate day to conducting this business. Paul did not suggest doing this on Sabbath because it would have been inappropriate. (See Nehemiah 13:15.) Obviously, Paul’s instruction did not change or make the fourth commandment void.

Thoughts on Roman 6

Some people suggest that Sunday worship is proper because Jesus arose from the dead on Sunday morning, the first day of the week. Yes, the resurrection is important, and the Bible does provide a celebration of the resurrection! It is called baptism. Notice what Paul says, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:1-4) Baptism absolutely does not make the fourth commandment null and void. Jesus was baptized at the beginning of His ministry and He faithfully observed the Sabbath afterwards! (Luke 4:16; Mark 2:27,28)

What was nailed to the Cross-?

It is common, but not substantiated argument that the Ten Commandments were nailed to the cross. However, if this is true, then whatever happens to the fourth commandment also happens to the other nine! For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.” (James 2:10,11) If we do away with the fourth commandment that declares the seventh day to be a holy day, then the seventh commandment that says adultery is wrong must be void as well. Paul wrote, what shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.’” (Romans 7:7)

Many people are surprised to learn that the ceremonies of the sanctuary services, which were a shadow or explanation of the Plan of Salvation, were nailed to the cross. The key word is shadow. Notice what Paul said, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is head over every power and authority…When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross…Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize…” (Colossians 2:9-18)

If we look at these verses carefully, we see that Paul is writing about the regulations regarding religious feasts, New Moon observances and Sabbath days. The Sabbath days that Paul is talking about is not the seventh day Sabbath of the fourth commandment. Rather, the term “Sabbath days” in this context applies to Sabbath “feast days,” such as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or the Day of Atonement. (Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 16:31) The feast days of the Jews fell on different days of the week (like our birthday). These feasts days declared to be “special Sabbaths “because they pointed forward to different aspects of the death and ministry of Jesus. For example, the Passover not only reminded the Jews of their deliverance from Egypt, but it also pointed forward to the time when the Passover Lamb- Jesus Christ – would die and all who put their faith in Him could be delivered from the bondage of sin!

The Jews confused the Ten Commandments law of God with the laws of Moses, much like Christians do today. Even though one set of laws was written with God’s finger on two tablets of stone, and the other penned by the hand of Moses, the Jews did not understand the relationship between moral law (written by the finger of God) and the ceremonial laws (written by the hand of Moses). One law is permanent and enduring while the other was temporary.

Understanding Shadows

Paul speaks plainly in Colossians 2 and Ephesians 2 disclosing that the laws nailed to the cross were those laws that were shadows of the real thing. Laws that governed the constitution of Israel ended at the cross. Since the shadows have been voided, there is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ. The ceremonial laws requiring the observance of new moons, feast days and the sacrifice of lambs became unnecessary because the Lamb of God had died and the shadow of salvation’s process was now fully disclosed. In other words, ceremonial laws were temporary until Jesus revealed the meaning. Moral laws are not temporary, because love never ends. One set of laws was written on paper, the other on stone. One law was penned by a man; the other, by God. Surely this reveals something about their enduring nature. A time is coming during the Great Tribulation when everyone living on Earth will see the ark that contains the covenant, the Ten Commandments. In Revelation 11, the Bible says that God’s temple in Heaven was opened and everyone saw the Ark of the Covenant. (Revelation 11:19; Deuteronomy 4:13)

Which is the Greatest Law?

As you might expect of a legalistic society, the Jews loved to argue about their laws. An expert lawyer challenged Jesus asking which law was the greatest. (Matthew 22:24-40) Of course, Jesus answered wisely saying that “loving God” with all of our heart, mind and soul is the greatest commandment, and the second is like the first, we are to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” The Ten Commandments actually define the reciprocal of love. If we love God, we will want to comply with the first four commandments and more! The first four commandments define what love for God produces. Likewise, if we love our neighbor, we will want to comply with the last six commandments and more. When we love our neighbors, we will not want to steal from them because we want the best for them. Love is expressed in giving, not taking.

If we become self-centered and love ourselves more than God or our neighbor, our relationship with God’s law changes 180 degrees. Instead of loving God’s law, it becomes a legal standard for behavior rather than love serving as the standard for righteousness. Self-righteousness focuses on conformity to the law, whereas a life of love and faith focuses on fulfilling the principles of love. When the widow gave her mite, Jesus said she had given more than anyone else present. She responded out of love and she gave all that she had while the others had given out of obligation. (Luke 21:3,4) Because of their carnal hearts, the religion of the Jews degenerated into a legal system of darkness. When  God’s law is imposed on the carnal heart, the response is either defiant rebellion or the religious experience that follows is miserable and unbearable. (Matthew 23:2-15)

What About Romans 14?

Romans 14 is also used to prove that it does not matter which day of the week we worship God. Notice the text: “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, only eats vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He, who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He, who eats meals, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” (Romans 14:1-10)

The context of these verses does not imply that a person can worship God whenever he or she feels like it. Instead, it is addressing specific problems that early Roman believers had to deal with; namely, the numerous customs of the Jews that have nothing to do with salvation through faith in Christ. In other words, if a Jewish believer felt the need to continue observing Passover, Paul did not condemn him except to say that his faith was weak. Also, if a new believer could not consciously eat meat purchased in the marketplace for fear it had not been killed correctly or that it may have been offered to idols. Paul said to leave him alone! (The Jews would not purchase or eat meat unless it was killed according to Mosaic code. Leviticus 19:26) The point here is that Paul is not condemning lawlessness. Paul does not declare the fourth commandment null and void. Paul is advocating tolerance because he knew that the more a person understands Jesus, the greater will be his religious experience.

Pentecost on Sunday

Another argument used to support Sunday worship is that Pentecost came on Sunday during the year Christ died. Somehow, this is supposed to prove that Sunday is God’s holy day. Interesting enough, Pentecost always falls on Sunday! The wave sheaf offering was made on the first Sunday after Passover and after seven full weeks or seven Sabbaths had passed, Pentecost occurred on the 50th day (counting inclusively). This means that Pentecost always occurred on a Sunday. (Leviticus 23). The annual Feast of Weeks occurred on Sunday for more than a millennium before Jesus came to Earth. The fact that the Feast of Weeks was regularly celebrated on Sunday cannot make the fourth commandment void. One last point. Some people claim that nine of the Ten Commandments are mentioned in the New Testament, but the fourth commandment is missing. This statement is not true. Even if were true, does the absence of the fourth commandment in the New Testament prove that the commandment is void. A more reasonable explanation of this absence is that New Testament writers never doubted the continuing presence of the seventh day Sabbath. Paul removes any doubt for us when he wrote in A.D.63, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:9,10)

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