Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Lord's Day

This is the last post in a series on the Sabbath. As we have seen before the Sabbath day was for the people of Israel under the Mosaic covenant as a sign of that covenant. It pointed them back to the creation rest and redemption from slavery in Egypt. The Sabbath was a type and shadow that pointed them forward to the spiritual rest and liberty in Christ. We have seen from Colossians 2:16,17 that we are not required to keep the Sabbath. So in this post we will look at the Lord's day. Is there any connection between it and the Sabbath? Is the Sunday our new day of rest? I will answer these questions as best as I can from scripture. If you disagree that is fine, just make sure you back up your conviction with scripture, not tradition.

 The basis for worship on the first day of the week comes from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first day of the week is when Christ rose from the dead. Salvation was completed. Death was defeated. Our Savior is alive. Oh! There have been few days so filled with joy as that day. The apostles went from the deepest depths of despair to an incredulous joy. The resurrection is the pillar of Christianity. For if Jesus did not rise, then our faith is vain. His resurrection ushered in a new era. To celebrate a finished salvation, Christians started to meet on the first day of the week to worship.

The first reference to meeting on the first day of the week is found in Acts 20:7. "On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day....." Here we read of believers gathering together on the first day of the week to take communion and to hear the preaching of God's word. The next time we read of the first day of the week is found in 1 Corinthians 16:1,2. "Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up,....." This verses teaches that it was Paul's frequent instruction to churches that each Sunday, they collect an offering for other needy believers. This also implies that every first day of the week believers were gathering together for worship. One part of that worship was giving financially. The last reference to the first day of the week or Sunday is found in Revelation 1:10. There we find that on the Lord's day, John saw a vision of Jesus Christ. The Lord's day is a reference to the first day of the week. It seems likely that John was worshiping on the first day of the week as was the pattern of the church, even while he was alone on the island of Patmos. These verses are the only references in the New Testament to believers gathering together to worship on the first day of the week. This pattern of worshiping on the first day of the week continues on through the early church and through out church history.

Now I think we can agree that the first day of the week is a day of worship, joy, and fellowship. But is it a day of rest? Did the Sabbath day become the Sunday? If it did, what proof do we have? Nothing I have found in the New Testament has made a link with the Sabbath and the Sunday in regard to resting. Now the Sabbath was a day when the Jews would worship in the synagogues. The synagogues were meeting places where the Jews came together to be taught God's word. These came into being during the exile. Now on this point of worship, there is a connection between the Sabbath and the Sunday. But as to the Sunday being a day of rest that replaces the Sabbath; nothing is said. If the Sunday was a replacement, then where is that clearly laid out? The Sabbath had clear rules on what couldn't be done and how to punish Sabbath breakers. Are those laws still in force or are they changed? The Sunday is not a day of rest like the Sabbath is, rather it is a day to rejoice in the rest we have in Christ together with God's people.

Do we have no day of rest? I believe that there is a principle in the Sabbath that should be applied to our lives. We need to rest physically. We can't continue working until we drop. Our bodies and minds need time to rest and relax. Jesus understood this and tried to give His disciples a time for rest. We would be wise to take time to rest; to take a day off from work. Sunday is one of the best days to do that. It a normal day off for most people and if we are to worship on Sunday, we need to take time away from our work to do that. Thus we don't have a day of rest or rules laid down for us to follow for resting, we have a principle we can apply to our lives. If you can, rest on Sunday. If you can't, find another time to rest on. Just let us remember the command to "not neglecting to meet  together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." Hebrew 10:25

Lastly, if you disagree with all that I have written concerning the Sabbath and Sunday, that is all right, provided you are fully convinced from God's word about your position. You have freedom in this matter and I will respect that freedom. But also allow me my freedom in this matter as well.
 Romans 14:5-6 says, "One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.."


Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Shadowy Sabbath

In the last post I wrote about the Sabbath day, I looked at a large overview of the Sabbath day in the Bible and even into early church history. I explained that for those who live in the New Covenant, we are not obligated to keep the Sabbath day. I want to show from scripture the meaning of the Sabbath day as it will help us understand why it is only a temporary law for Israel. Let us look at the purpose of the Sabbath day.

 Every covenant has a sign to confirm it. The covenant with Noah had the rainbow as a sign of God's promise. The Abrahamic covenant had circumcision. The New covenant has baptism. And the Mosaic covenant had the Sabbath day. "Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you through out your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you." Exodus 31:13  And in verse 17, "It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed." This point is also made in Ezekiel 20:10-12, "So I led them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. I gave them my statues and made known to them my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live. Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them."  The Sabbath day was to function for Israel as a reminder that they were set apart by God to be His people. The Mosaic covenant was where the Lord formally entered into covenant with His people. There He set the terms of the covenant, one of which was keeping the Sabbath day, which was something new, even to the people of Israel.

  There are two reasons given why Israel was to rest on the Sabbath day. One is given in the 10 commandments given in Exodus 20:1-17 and the other is given in Deuteronomy 5:6-21. In the Exodus version of the 10 commandments the reason given for the Sabbath day is the Lord's rest on the seventh day. The 10 commandments in Deuteronomy the reason given is the Lord's deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. These two reasons explain the meaning of the Sabbath day for Israel.

 The people of Israel were to rest on the Sabbath day because God rested on the seventh day. God did not rest on the seventh day because He was tired. His rest was a cessation of His labors and an invitation for man to enjoy this rest with God. Man was to enjoy fellowship and harmony with his Creator in this true rest. But sin came into the world and this rest was lost. Sin makes us restless. Sin destroys our peace with God. Fallen human nature cannot rest, but tries to work to find salvation. As Israel rested physically on the Sabbath they were to remember this spiritual rest that was lost because of sin. The Sabbath day was to direct their hearts to come back to God in true faith and repentance to find that true rest. We know from Hebrews 4 that this rest of God's was to be restored in Christ. He is our rest. Christ has fulfilled the Sabbath. "So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from His." Heb 4:9-10.

The Sabbath day was also to remind Israel of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Israel was for many years a nation of slaves. They worked and worked to build cities in Egypt. Slavery is tiring business. You don't get to pick your hours or vacations. They were owned by a very strong nation. They were oppressed and worked almost to death. I am sure they would have loved just one day to rest from their hard labor. The Lord stepped in to save His people. He destroyed their oppressors by 10 plagues. He delivered them from Egypt and led them to freedom. Yet in a sense they were still slaves, just of a different owner. The Lord now owned this people. But He is a good owner. He gave His people many good things. One of the many festivals and holidays was the Sabbath day. As they rested on that day, they were to remember their hard labor in Egypt and how God delivered them. Thus Israel would be thankful to their God for His liberation. They would remember that they were His people and they were called to live to His standards. Even this reason for the Sabbath day was to point to something greater. The freedom given in the exodus is a picture of a greater freedom found in Christ. He delivers us from the power of sin and Satan. We were slaves to sin, but now we are free to be slaves of Christ and righteousness. Thus resting on the Sabbath should have directed the minds of the Israelites to seek a greater freedom; a freedom from slavery to sin.

The Sabbath day was full of types and shadows that are all fulfilled in Christ.See Col 2:16,17. It was a sign of God's covenant with Israel. Now that Christ has come it is no longer binding on Christians. For us to observe the Sabbath would be like sewing a new patch on an old garment. It just doesn't work in this New Covenant age of grace.

So what about Sunday? Is that our new day of rest? Do we have a day of rest? Well in the next and last post in this series I will examine what the Bible says concerning the Sunday and our need for physical rest.


Friday, May 13, 2016

The Sabbath

The question of whether we are to keep the Sabbath in this New Covenant era is one which has been on my mind for a number of years. Over the years as I have studied the Bible an understanding of the Sabbath has been put in place brick by brick. But in the last few weeks I have given a bit more time reading and studying this issue of a Sabbath day. The reason for this is that I came to this passage in my reading of the scriptures. "Therefore let no one pass judgement on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ." Colossians 2:16-17. In this passage Paul is saying that the Jewish laws about food and drink and festivals and the Sabbath do not apply to the Christian. No one is to force you to observe these laws for they have passed away with the coming of Christ. Those rules were only shadows but Christ is the fulfillment of those shadows. This applies to the Sabbath day as well, which may be hard to believe. Yet the text is very plain and it would be dishonest to try and escape its teaching with all its implications. So in order to help us understand better why the Sabbath day is no longer in effect, lets take a brief look at its history. I say brief because this subject could fill a book.

The first time the Sabbath day is mentioned is in Exodus 16:23, when the Israelites were commanded to gather enough manna on the sixth day for the seventh day. Before this there is no mention of a Sabbath day or a day of rest, besides the seventh day of creation where God rested. "And on the seventh day God finished his work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation." Gen 2:2-3.  We know God didn't need to rest since He never gets tired. But it is also true that man at this time didn't need to rest either since he was perfect. While God blessed the seventh day because He rested on it, there is no command for man to rest on that day. From Adam all the way to Moses we never read of anyone keeping the Sabbath. Even the book of Job which was written before the coming of the law, never speaks of a Sabbath. It is when God makes a covenant with Israel that we first read of a Sabbath day.

In the Mosaic Covenant, the Lord formally institutes the Sabbath day. "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God." Exodus 20:8-10. Before this there were no Sabbaths. This is confirmed by Nehemiah 9;14, "and you have made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant." Here we see that God gave the Sabbath day to Israel. Through out their history Israel was to keep the Sabbath day. The prophets called them to observe the Sabbath. By the time of Christ, Israel had corrupted the Sabbath by many rules and had forgotten the intent of the law. Our Lord often confronted them about this and taught them how God wanted the Sabbath observed. Jesus kept the Sabbath as well as all the laws and ceremonies of the Mosaic covenant since He was born under the law and still lived under the law of Moses. But after the resurrection of Christ we never read of any Christians observing the Sabbath day. In all the letters of the New Testament, there is no command to observe a Sabbath day. In fact we find in a number of places that Christians are not bound to keep a Sabbath day as well as all the other rules of the Old covenant.

This absence of a Sabbath continues in the early church. As far as we know the early church did not observe the Sabbath. They didn't consider the Sunday to be a Christian Sabbath. While they did gather together for worship on the first day of the week, they did do work on the Sunday. In 321 A.D. Constantine proclaimed Sunday to be a day of rest, although it was not strict as various activities were permitted. Yet even in this, the basis of this proclamation was not the fourth commandment. It wasn't until the Middle ages that theologians began to connect the Sabbath day and the Sunday. So it seems fair to say that the Christian Sabbath idea is a much later development.

Why then is there no Sabbath for those in the New covenant? A look at the meaning of the Sabbath will help us understand this. But I'll look at the meaning of the Sabbath day next time. If this is all strange and new to you, I understand. Let me finish this series before you come to a judgement on this matter.