Five Essential Bible Truths – Part 4
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What Happened to the Lord’s Day?

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Most Christians today recognize Sunday as the Lord’s day, a day to attend church and worship God. However, since World War II, the significance of observing Sunday as a “holy” day had dropped dramatically. Yes, church bells still ring and people attend church on Sunday morning, but Sunday afternoon is considered a holiday instead of a holy day.  The Bible teaches that God Himself, blessed the Lord’s day, called it holy and rested from His work the entire day. If God rested the entire day, then shouldn’t we observe the Lord’s day all day? Has our society become so degraded that we no longer know what holy and scared means? Does worshiping God on His holy day include shopping, conducting business, washing the car, watching TV, mowing the lawn, cleaning out the garage, attending ball games or skiing? Many Christians believe it does. However, what was God’s intention for his holy day? Answers to these and other questions about the Lord’s day are found only in the Bible.


The Lord’s Day Created

At Creation, the Lord set aside one day of the week that belongs to Him. He included a seventh day in the weekly cycle at the time of Creation for the benefit of man. So, the Lord’s day is as old as our world and God designed it to be special. He did not make the first six days of the week holy. Notice this verse: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And the Lord blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2-3) This verse states that the Lord only made one day of the week holy at the time of Creation. Webster says the word holy means “to set apart” or “to make unique.” For example, when a couple marries, God makes their relationship holy and they are “set apart” from the dating crowd. In like manner, God “set apart” the seventh day of the week from His work of creating our world; He blessed the seventh and then declared it holy. If God Himself rested from His labors on the seventh day, what do you think He required Adam and Eve to do each week? Consider this profound point: There is a direct link between observing the Lord’s day and honoring the Lord. If His people do not carefully observe the Lord’s day, they will eventually forget the Lord. Two Biblical examples illustrate this point. First, the antediluvians forgot God and His laws governing the universe, which include His weekly day of rest. Second, the nation of Israel also forgot God and His holy day. (Genesis 6:5-6; 2 Peter 3; Ezekiel 28) If history proves anything, it proves that it does not take long for succeeding generations to forget the Lord. The time period from Adam’s creation until the flood is a mere ten generations. In that short span of time, mankind became so wicked that God grieved that He had created man.  By the time of Noah’s birth, the world had forgotten God and consequently, Adam’s descendants eventually neglected the Lord’s day. Because of this neglect, it should not be a surprise that the antediluvians doubted the Lord’s promise to destroy the world with a flood.


Lord’s Day Renewed

Eight hundred years after the flood, God called Moses to lead Abraham’s descendants from Egyptian slavery to the Promised Land. However, before God delivered Israel, He required the slaves to rest from their weekly labor on the seventh day of the week as a condition to obtain freedom. God’s demand was bittersweet. Naturally, every slave welcomed a day of rest. Every Hebrew also wanted to be delivered from Egyptian bondage. However, after Israel kept their first Sabbath, Pharaoh sensed he was losing control of the Hebrews. Therefore, he required the slaves to produce the same quota of bricks in six days as they had in seven. In addition, he required them also gather straw for the bricks as well! This unreasonable demand pushed the Hebrews beyond their physically ability and stamina. Their failure proved the “license” he needed to beat the Hebrew slaves unmercifully, since they could not meet the demands for bricks. (See Exodus 5.)

Note: Scholars debate whether Moses and Aaron called for God’s seventh day Sabbath to be observed, thereby causing a work stoppage. Even though the Bible does not specifically say that, the slaves observed the seventh day Sabbath, this question can be resolved in four texts:

  1. The language Pharaoh used supports the claim that Moses and Aaron had called upon Israel to rest from their usual labor. Pharaoh’s words in Exodus 5:5, “…You make them rest from their labor” (KJV) or “You are stopping them from working.” (NIV) identify two points. First, Pharaoh blamed Moses and Aaron for leading the slaves to rest from their labor by emphasizing “You…” Second, the word for rest Pharaoh used was shabath (Strong’s #7673). This is the same and idea expressed in Genesis 2:2 when God “rested” or ceased His creative work on the seventh day. To suggest that God, through Moses and Aaron, told the Hebrews to rest from their labors on any day of the week other than His holy day is inconsistent with the events that soon followed in the wilderness.
  1. The Bible identifies only one holy day between Creation and the Exodus, the seventh day of the week. (Genesis 2:2,3)
  1. The Bible reveals that God tested Israel on their observance of His seventh-day rest before He spoke the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai. (See Exodus 16.) For example, God’s provision of manna proves two interesting things: First, Israel knew about God’s seventh day rest before He gave the Ten Commandments. Second, the holiness of the seventh day was important to God before He spoke the Ten Commandments. God’s intention for the seventh day – that it was set apart and special – did not change between Creation and the Exodus.
  1. When the Lord spoke the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai, He expressly required observing the seventh day as a day of rest. The fourth commandment begins with, “Remember the Sabbath day….” (Exodus 20:8) If Sabbath observance were a new concept of worship codified in the Ten Commandments at Sinai for the Hebrews, as some scholars maintain, why would the fourth commandment begin with the word “Remember?” The wording of the fourth commandment makes it clear – the holiness of the seventh day did not suddenly begin at Mount Sinai. The holiness of the Lord’s day, God’s Sabbath rest, began at Creation and the patriarchs who walked and talked with God knew of the Creator’s holy day. In addition, the word “Sabbath” (Strongs #7676), in the fourth commandment, is a derivative of shabath – the word Pharaoh used when he accused Moses and Aaron of making the Hebrews rest from their labor. Further, God’s caution to “Remember” His holy day is necessary, for when it is neglected, people soon forget the Lord! Therefore, if we honor the Lord by keeping the Lord’s day holy, we will not forget the Lord!

As we carefully analyze these four points, it is obvious that the work stoppage caused by Moses and Aaron came because Israel elected to honor God and His Sabbath rather than submit to Pharaoh demands. Obedience to God and deliverance by God are inseparable. It is possible for a person to knowingly disobey God and at the same time receive His favor. Moses told the Hebrew elders that deliverance form bondage was based on Israel’s submission to the God of Abraham. Israel’s faith in the Most High God was to be tested by observing God’s higher law and disobeying Pharaoh’s lower law. Further, when Moses explained the corporate guilt of Israel to Israel’s leaders, they earnestly sought reconciliation with God by asking Pharaoh for a three-day pass to offer sacrifices for atonement, “…or he may strike us with a plague or with the sword.” (Exodus 5:3)

The Ten Commandments

The fourth commandment is the only commandment that requires man to do nothing at the right time each week! Here is the law: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20: 8-11)

This command states four principles that should be carefully considered:

  1. Do not forget to set the seventh day of the week apart from the other six.
  1. Do not work on the seventh day.
  1. Do not allow others who are under your authority to work on the seventh day, whether man or animal.
  1. The seventh day belongs to God. It is the Lord’s Day because He rested on the seventh day, blessed the seventh day and made it holy.

Principle 1

God was very specific when He said, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Amazingly, some people say, “It does not matter which day of the week I worship God.” God’s law refutes this. Some people say, “I worship God every day of the week. Therefore, one day is just like any other – every day is the same.” God’s law refutes this. Some people say, “The Ten Commandments were nailed to the cross and the observance of the seventh day is a Jewish requirement – not for Christians. If the Sabbath commandment is so important, why is it mentioned in the New Testament? These statements are untrue. Jesus said, “,The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27,28) If Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath (has dominion over the Sabbath), then He can tell us how and when to observe the Sabbath. If the Ten Commandments were nailed to the cross, then God’s grace is no longer needed and we are not sinners. Sin is the violation of the law. If there is no law, there can be no sin. (Romans 4: 15) If the Ten Commandments were nailed to the cross, then God has no law against adultery (and judging by what goes on today, many people really believe the Ten Commandments were nailed to the cross.) So, if there is no law, who needs grace from the penalty of a law that does not exist? The fourth commandment is mentioned in numerous places within the New Testament, including Hebrews 4. Paul clearly says: “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)

Note: Many Christians believe the duties and sacredness of the seventh day Sabbath were transferred to the first day of the week when Christ was resurrected. However, the Bible does not explicitly place man under any obligation pertaining to Sunday observance. Part II includes a presentation on the change from Sabbath to Sunday observance.

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