Keeping the Sabbath

Recently, a number of books, articles and videos have been published that discuss the Sabbath’s place in the life of a Born-again Christian. The books and tapes that I was shown all take a very one-sided stand and do not discuss the New Testament’s view of the Sabbath at all. The basic premise that these authors put forth is that keeping the fourth commandment and strict observation of the Sabbath is going to be the basis for the end-times judgment and accepting the mark of the beast. The opinions of these various writers are always represented as fact but, because they are based totally on the Old Testament representation of the Sabbath, they lack scriptural balance. The authors also have a common and alarming tendency to use a modified “Straw man” methodology to assert their beliefs and establish a foundation for what I believe is false doctrine.

The author first creates a distorted representation of a scripture or doctrine, then mounts an attack on his own false description to invalidate the original. We have seen the same process used in politics to discredit opponents and their programs and the public seems to fall for the ruse on a regular basis.

These recent books, articles and videos that attack Sunday worship and, at the same time, create a potentially dangerous obsession with “Sabbath-keeping” seem to be a perfect example of the “Straw Man” process. The “Straw Man” in this exercise is based on the erroneous or false premise that Constantine and the Roman Catholic church deliberately changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, in the fourth century AD, to deceive Christians into breaking the fourth commandment. The action, called the “edict of Laodicea” or “Constantine’s Blue law” is stated to be the main reason that the Church or body of Christ now worships on Sunday. Sunday is then represented as a Pagan day of sun god worship. The “Straw Man” has now been successfully established. Christians are being foolishly misled into worshipping their Lord on a day that is actually a Satanically established day of worship for the sun god, thus angering God. If true, it would certainly smack of conspiracy and Satanic intervention, but both God’s word and historical accounts present strong evidence that the early Christian church, led by the Apostles, observed the first day of the week or Sunday as a day of worship and observation of communion from the very beginning of the church.

This is established in Acts 20:7 “And upon the first day of the week when the Apostles came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them and, ready to depart on the morrow; continued his speech until midnight.” Even though the word clearly states that Paul was in Troas for seven days, he and the brethren waited until Sunday, the first day of the week, to worship and break bread (observe communion). The book of Acts was written around 60 A.D. by Luke so we must accept the fact that Paul, in 60 A.D., was worshipping and having communion on the first day of the week. Additionally, in first Corinthians 16 verses 1-2, Paul says, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches in Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.” Both scriptures seem to show that the very early Christian church met, gave and worshipped on the first day of the week, not the Sabbath.

Interestingly, the Church itself may have actually begun on the first day of the week and not on the Sabbath or seventh day of the week. There is strong evidence that the day of Pentecost, marking the arrival of the Holy Spirit and the creation of the body of Christ, occurred on the first day of the week, not the Sabbath. Leviticus 23:15-17: “And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD.” I believe that works out to a Sunday! It seems almost logical that the Father would have started to construct the Bride of Christ on the day that signified resurrection, redemption and the beginning of a new thing. I believe that the seventh day Sabbath signifies completion while the first day signifies a new beginning.

Historical documents are in harmony with the scripture on this subject. In letters written around 100 A.D., by the Roman governor of Bithynia to the emperor, he seeks approval from the emperor for assigning the death penalty for Christians who had refused to worship the Roman gods. In his response, the emperor gives his approval but tells the governor, Plinius or Pliny, that, should the Christians agree to stop worshipping Christ, and denounce Him, they should be set free. In his letter, the governor describes the Christians as meeting early in the morning to sing hymns to Christ. He described the Christian’s meetings as being held on a “certain day,” not randomly – yet there is no mention of the Sabbath. These meetings were not held in the evening when the Sabbath was and still is observed, but instead, early in the morning. Although the “Straw Man” says that Constantine is credited with deliberately subverting the Sabbath by changing it from Saturday to Sunday, both God’s word and the historical evidence seem to show that, instead, he simply signed into law that which was already occurring from the very beginning of the Church.

The infant Church might have considered Sunday as a special day for the Church because Christ’s resurrection was discovered on the first day of the week. He then showed Himself to His followers on the first day of the week. He had clearly established a new covenant with His disciples and, after being confronted by the Pharisees for violating the Sabbath, specifically told them, as quoted in Mark 2:27, “that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” C.I. Scofield states: “The Sabbath commemorates a finished creation; the first day, a finished redemption. The Sabbath was a day of legal obligation; the first day, one of voluntary worship and service.”

From the time of Adam and Eve, to the giving of the law to the nation of Israel, the Sabbath is never mentioned in God’s word. The Sabbath is again discussed when it is revealed as having special significance to the nation of Israel in Exodus 16:23, “And he said unto them, this is that which the Lord hath said, tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord.” The Sabbath, a perpetual sign to the nation of Israel, spoke of the fact that they were special, unique and were to be eternally separated out for God. The Sabbath was never declared as a day of worship or sacrifice to the Israelites, but was declared as a day of rest. No scripture exists that instructs the Church that the Sabbath has any special significance other than the opportunity for partaking of the Lord’s rest. Contrarily, in Colossians 2:16, Paul specifically instructs the brethren “let no man, therefore, judge you in food, or in drink, or in respect to a feast day, or of the new moon, or of a Sabbath day.”

Several weeks ago, the Lord showed something very special to me. I have been very disturbed by these books and videos for some time now, and have been asking the Lord for understanding and truth in the matter. Even though I had been led to many scriptures, I didn’t feel that I fully understood everything the Lord wanted me to know. Then, while I was at church one Sunday, I noticed a woman that I knew, standing alone in the hallway trying to sooth her sobbing toddler. This little boy was not a happy camper. Now, even though I’m a grandfather, there aren’t too many little children that are desperate for me to hold them. I think they tend to view me as kind of a “Jack Palance” kind of guy. But the Lord sent me over to her where I was led to hold my hands out to her little boy. To his mom’s astonishment (and mine), he immediately held his hands out to me. I took him from her and put him over my shoulder. He stopped crying almost instantly, went totally limp and started falling asleep in less than a minute. Then I started to puddle up because I heard that small voice speak to me and say: “This is how I want you to rest in Me, your Father in heaven. Escape all of your worries, fears and anxieties, feel totally protected and safe in the arms of the one who can keep you from harm.”

I now have a practical understanding of what the Sabbath is meant to be to the body of Christ. The Sabbath is not a commandment that must be kept for fear of punishment, but a blessing that we should partake of. I believe the Sabbath-Keepers are trying to lure us away from grace and get us into doing works for salvation.