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God's Holy Sabbath

It seems as though things keep getting faster and faster. Travel is faster; knowledge increases; technology accelerates and events seem to be happening faster almost everywhere. It's very easy for us to become caught up in the hectic frenzy of our fast-paced lives without taking the time to analyze the true meanings of those things we so routinely do.

Most people in the western world grow up just assuming Sunday is the day of worship. That is the day most so-called "Christians" observe. There are other groups, however, who worship on different days of the week. The Muslims observe the sixth day of the week or "Friday" as their holy day of worship and prayer. The Jews observe the seventh day of the week or "Saturday" as their holy day of worship and prayer. Are the world's "Christians" better or more righteous in the eyes of God for observing the first day of the week or "Sunday" as their day of worship, or is one day just as good as another?

Line of Authority

The key to the answer lies in tracing the line of authority. We need to ask who has the authority to determine what is the proper standard we should follow. If all three major religions profess to supposedly worship the same God, then we must find the original instructions given by that great God who, after all, is the sole source of determining how he desires to be worshipped.

The world's Muslims who follow the religion of Islam have, as their written instructions, the writings of the words of their prophet Muhammad. He lived and preached in the 800's AD. Many of the world's "Christian" denominations accept only the New Testament of the Bible, written by the disciples of Christ in the first century AD. The Jews, however, follow the most ancient words of God, given through and written by the prophets of the Old Testament. As archaeologists search for the most ancient findings to establish a more accurate record, so must we search for the most ancient and authoritative of God's writings.

Remember God's statement in the book of Malachi at the end of the Old Testament, just a few hundred years before the birth of Christ:

(Mal 3:6 NASB) "For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

If God does not change, then what he commanded in the most ancient of times must be the same today. We need to look at the actions and the habits of the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah, and ask if he could change. Is Christ different today than he was 2,000 years ago while he was in the flesh on earth? In Hebrews 13:8, we can find the answer.

(Heb 13:8 NASB) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.

If neither the Father nor his Son change over the millennia, then we must go to the most ancient and historical of accounts to ascertain God's original instructions and intentions for mankind to worship him in the most profitable and acceptable manner.

Old Testament Teaching

Most people are familiar with the account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis, as well as with the Ten Commandments expounded in the twentieth chapter of Exodus. Few, however, have given much thought to the implications of either.

Let's look at some of those scriptures dealing specifically with the Sabbath. Start with a review of the Sabbath in the second chapter of Genesis, long before the human birth of Jesus the Christ.

(Gen 2:1-3 NASB) Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. {2} And by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. {3} Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

The Sabbath day looks back on creation and God's rest from his labor. More than a mere history lesson, the Sabbath day gives us a personal example of behavior that's pleasing to our Creator on the day he separated from the other days of the week.

God set us the example by resting; but we need to ask ourselves why God rested. Was it because he was tired and needed a rest? After all, renewing the face of the earth and creating all life was certainly a daunting task. All of the interdependent complexities of the various species and the harmony with which all life exists is so far above the abilities of mere mortals that it would be understandable if God needed a rest. Is that, though, the nature of our great Creator? Does he tire and need rest? In Psalms 121, David, the ancient King of Israel, answers that question.

(Psa 121:3-4 NASB) He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. {4} Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep.

In Isaiah 40:28, the prophet Isaiah also speaks of God's great stamina.

(Isa 40:28 NASB) Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.

If God does not become weary or tired, why did he rest on the seventh day? The answer can be found in the book of Deuteronomy where Moses told all the Israelites the reason for God demanding obedience to all his commandments.

(Deu 10:12-13 NASB) "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, {13} and to keep the LORD'S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?

Yes, our great Creator, in his infinite wisdom, created a special day of the week on which his creation could rest and recharge. It was not for his own needs that God created the Sabbath day. It was for our own good.

We are reminded of that in Exodus, in the fourth of the Ten Commandments, where God shows that the Sabbath command applies to more than just us, as individuals. It applies to our sons and daughters, our servants, our animals and to the foreigner who lives among us.

(Exo 20:8-11 NASB) "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. {9} "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, {10} but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. {11} "For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

The Sabbath day is also to serve as a reminder of the captivity in Egypt. As part of that reminder, all people, whether or not they are Israelites, are to rest from their labor. In the restatement of the ten commandments in Deuteronomy 5:12, we can see the commandment expounded.

(Deu 5:12-15 NASB) 'Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. {13} 'Six days you shall labor and do all your work, {14} but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. {15} 'And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.

When Moses returned from the mountain to deliver the Ten Commandments on the tablets of stone, the fourth commandment was nothing new to the Israelites. Even those who had forgotten it during their captivity in Egypt had already been reminded. Remember that God had provided Israel with manna six days a week, which they gathered daily to make bread. The only exceptions to the daily fixed provision of manna were on the seventh day when there was none and on the sixth day when there was more. On that day, God provided twice as much, so the Israelites could prepare an extra portion of bread on that day for the Sabbath.

(Exo 16:22-30 NASB) Now it came about on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, {23} then he said to them, "This is what the LORD meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning." {24} So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul, nor was there any worm in it. {25} And Moses said, "Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. {26} "Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, there will be none." {27} And it came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. {28} Then the LORD said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My instructions? {29} "See, the LORD has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." {30} So the people rested on the seventh day.

When the discussion of the proper day of the week comes up, an often-heard argument is: "It doesn't really matter which day you observe. What is important is that you set aside one day a week for worship." Is that really true? Well, the proper day apparently mattered to God. Look at the account in the book of Numbers of one who treated the Sabbath as just another, ordinary day.

(Num 15:32-36 NASB) Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day. {33} And those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation; {34} and they put him in custody because it had not been declared what should be done to him. {35} Then the LORD said to Moses, "The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp." {36} So all the congregation brought him outside the camp, and stoned him to death with stones, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Was the death penalty imposed without warning? Did it take the Israelites by surprise? No, the penalty for breaking the Sabbath had been recorded earlier in Exodus 35:1. It was before the Tabernacle had been built and after all the people of Israel had agreed to the terms of the covenant with God by saying to Moses, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do"

(Exo 35:1-2 NASB) Then Moses assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and said to them, "These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do. {2} "For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a sabbath of complete rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.

Ezekiel 20:5 summarizes Israel's continual failure to observe the Sabbath during their forty years in the wilderness.

(Ezek 20:5-13 NASB) and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "On the day when I chose Israel and swore to the descendants of the house of Jacob and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, when I swore to them, saying, I am the LORD your God, {6} on that day I swore to them, to bring them out from the land of Egypt into a land that I had selected for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands. {7} "And I said to them, 'Cast away, each of you, the detestable things of his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.' {8} "But they rebelled against Me and were not willing to listen to Me; they did not cast away the detestable things of their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I resolved to pour out My wrath on them, to accomplish My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. {9} "But I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made Myself known to them by bringing them out of the land of Egypt. {10} "So I took them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. {11} "And I gave them My statutes and informed them of My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live. {12} "And also I gave them My sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them. {13} "But the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness. They did not walk in My statutes, and they rejected My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live; and My sabbaths they greatly profaned. Then I resolved to pour out My wrath on them in the wilderness, to annihilate them.

The Jews and all of Israel fell away from keeping God's commandments on many occasions and had to be repeatedly reminded of their obligations through the warnings of the prophets. When the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon, many had never kept the Sabbath. Nehemiah had to be quite forceful in reestablishing Sabbath observance.

(Neh 13:15-22 NASB) In those days I saw in Judah some who were treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sacks of grain and loading them on donkeys, as well as wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, and they brought them into Jerusalem on the sabbath day. So I admonished them on the day they sold food. {16} Also men of Tyre were living there who imported fish and all kinds of merchandise, and sold them to the sons of Judah on the sabbath, even in Jerusalem. {17} Then I reprimanded the nobles of Judah and said to them, "What is this evil thing you are doing, by profaning the sabbath day? {18} "Did not your fathers do the same so that our God brought on us, and on this city, all this trouble? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the sabbath." {19} And it came about that just as it grew dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and that they should not open them until after the sabbath. Then I stationed some of my servants at the gates that no load should enter on the sabbath day. {20} Once or twice the traders and merchants of every kind of merchandise spent the night outside Jerusalem. {21} Then I warned them and said to them, "Why do you spend the night in front of the wall? If you do so again, I will use force against you." From that time on they did not come on the sabbath. {22} And I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come as gatekeepers to sanctify the sabbath day. For this also remember me, O my God, and have compassion on me according to the greatness of Thy lovingkindness.

In Isaiah 56:1, God promises a blessing for keeping the Sabbath. Notice that the blessings are not limited to just the Israelites.

(Isa 56:1-7 NASB) Thus says the LORD, "Preserve justice, and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come And My righteousness to be revealed. {2} "How blessed is the man who does this, And the son of man who takes hold of it; Who keeps from profaning the sabbath, And keeps his hand from doing any evil." {3} Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, "The LORD will surely separate me from His people." Neither let the eunuch say, "Behold, I am a dry tree." {4} For thus says the LORD, "To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant, {5} To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off. {6} "Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, To minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath, And holds fast My covenant; {7} Even those I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples."

Notice, God's Sabbath day is not just for the Jews. It is for gentiles, called foreigners, as well as all the Israelites. All people who wish to be servants of God Most High, to learn his ways and to do what is pleasing in his sight are commanded to keep the Sabbath day. Again in Isaiah 58:13, God promises more blessings for Sabbath observance.

(Isa 58:13-14 NASB) "If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day, And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure, And speaking your own word, {14} Then you will take delight in the LORD, And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

In the seventeenth chapter of Jeremiah, God had his prophet remind his people of the blessings that would accrue for keeping the Sabbath and the penalties they would earn for not keeping it properly.

(Jer 17:19-27 NASB) Thus the LORD said to me, "Go and stand in the public gate, through which the kings of Judah come in and go out, as well as in all the gates of Jerusalem; {20} and say to them, 'Listen to the word of the LORD, kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all inhabitants of Jerusalem, who come in through these gates: {21} 'Thus says the LORD, "Take heed for yourselves, and do not carry any load on the sabbath day or bring anything in through the gates of Jerusalem. {22} "And you shall not bring a load out of your houses on the sabbath day nor do any work, but keep the sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers. {23} "Yet they did not listen or incline their ears, but stiffened their necks in order not to listen or take correction. {24} "But it will come about, if you listen attentively to Me," declares the LORD, "to bring no load in through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but to keep the sabbath day holy by doing no work on it, {25} then there will come in through the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city will be inhabited forever. {26} "They will come in from the cities of Judah and from the environs of Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin, from the lowland, from the hill country, and from the Negev, bringing burnt offerings, sacrifices, grain offerings and incense, and bringing sacrifices of thanksgiving to the house of the LORD. {27} "But if you do not listen to Me to keep the sabbath day holy by not carrying a load and coming in through the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day, then I shall kindle a fire in its gates, and it will devour the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched."'"

We know the choice that the Jews made from the end result in the last chapter of Jeremiah.

(Jer 52:12-13 NASB) Now on the tenth day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard, who was in the service of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. {13} And he burned the house of the LORD, the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; even every large house he burned with fire.

New Testament Teaching

Was the Sabbath command done away with in the New Testament? In the next-to-the-last verse of Isaiah is a prophecy showing that all people will eventually worship God on the Sabbath.

(Isa 66:22-23 NASB) "For just as the new heavens and the new earth Which I make will endure before Me," declares the LORD, "So your offspring and your name will endure. {23} "And it shall be from new moon to new moon And from sabbath to sabbath, All mankind will come to bow down before Me," says the LORD.

If all people are to eventually come to worship God on the Sabbath, it seems strange that the Sabbath would be done away with or changed to Sunday upon the death of Christ, only to be reinstated upon His return.

Before looking at the words of Jesus, it is important to note that neither he nor His cousin, John the Baptist, were very popular with the established religion of Judaism embodied in the Pharisees and Sadducees. That should not come as a surprise to anyone. Both John and Jesus publicly proclaimed the hypocrisy and errors of the religious leaders. Both John the Baptist and Jesus gained a following with the common people. That meant the Pharisees and Sadducees were losing power and influence with the masses.

As Sabbath observance was the existing standard and norm for most people in Israel, most of Jesus' comments are in response to several criticisms by religious leaders of the day. There would be no reason for Christ to dwell on the necessity of keeping the Sabbath. It was plain to see that Jesus kept the Sabbath, often reading and teaching in the Synagogues. In Matthew 12:1, we can see one example of proper, though politically incorrect, behavior on the Sabbath day.

(Mat 12:1-8 NASB) At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath through the grainfields, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. {2} But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Behold, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath." {3} But He said to them, "Have you not read what David did, when he became hungry, he and his companions; {4} how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? {5} "Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath, and are innocent? {6} "But I say to you, that something greater than the temple is here. {7} "But if you had known what this means, 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,' you would not have condemned the innocent. {8} "For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

The Pharisees had built a religion of minuscule "do's and do not's" and had certainly added to the Word of God. Look again at the passage we just read. What happened? The disciples, walking through a field, picked a few grains of barley and rubbed them in their hands to remove the husks. The Pharisees also would have criticized them for picking an apple or a few grapes, had it been later in the year. In condemning the Pharisees, Jesus quoted from the sixth chapter of the book of Hosea.

(Hosea 6:6 NIV) For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Later the same day in Matthew 12:9, the Pharisees made another attempt to condemn Jesus for Sabbath breaking.

(Mat 12:9-14 NASB) And departing from there, He went into their synagogue. {10} And behold, there was a man with a withered hand. And they questioned Him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"-- in order that they might accuse Him. {11} And He said to them, "What man shall there be among you, who shall have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it, and lift it out? {12} "Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." {13} Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand!" And he stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. {14} But the Pharisees went out, and counseled together against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

The events of Mathew 12 are repeated in Mark 2 and 3, and Luke 13. John 5 also records healing on the Sabbath. In John 7:19, we see that Jesus again defended healing on the Sabbath.

(John 7:19-24 NASB) "Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?" {20} The multitude answered, "You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?" {21} Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one deed, and you all marvel. {22} "On this account Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. {23} "If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath that the Law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? {24} "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."

Jesus continually expounded the intent of the law. He didn't condemn the Sabbath. He kept it. He had to keep all of the law to be able to present Himself as an acceptable sacrifice to God the Father for our sins.

How did he keep it? We know that He healed people on the Sabbath. He also taught the people and cast out demons on the Sabbath.

(Mark 1:21-31 NASB) And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. {22} And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. {23} And just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, {24} saying, "What do we have to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are-- the Holy One of God!" {25} And Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!" {26} And throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice, and came out of him. {27} And they were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him." {28} And immediately the news about Him went out everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee. {29} And immediately after they had come out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. {30} Now Simon's mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Him about her. {31} And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.

Look at another example of Christ teaching on the Sabbath in Mark 6:2.

(Mark 6:2-6 NASB) And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? {3} "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" And they took offense at Him. {4} And Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his home town and among his own relatives and in his own household." {5} And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands upon a few sick people and healed them. {6} And He wondered at their unbelief. And He was going around the villages teaching.

Still another example of Christ teaching the people on the Sabbath day can be found in Luke 4:15.

(Luke 4:15-30 NASB) And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all. {16} And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. {17} And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, {18} "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE DOWNTRODDEN, {19} TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD." {20} And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. {21} And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." {22} And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, "Is this not Joseph's son?" {23} And He said to them, "No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your home town as well.'" {24} And He said, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his home town. {25} "But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; {26} and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. {27} "And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." {28} And all in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; {29} and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. {30} But passing through their midst, He went His way.

Jesus expanded the meaning of the Sabbath, just as He expanded on the rest of the law. In Matthew 5:17, Christ made a point of saying that He did not come to do away with the Law of God.

(Mat 5:17-48 NASB) "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. {18} "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. {19} "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. {20} "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. {21} "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' {22} "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. {23} "If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, {24} leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. {25} "Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, in order that your opponent may not deliver you to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. {26} "Truly I say to you, you shall not come out of there, until you have paid up the last cent. {27} "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; {28} but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. {29} "And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. {30} "And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell. {31} "And it was said, 'WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE'; {32} but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. {33} "Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.' {34} "But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, {35} or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. {36} "Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. {37} "But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; and anything beyond these is of evil. {38} "You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' {39} "But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. {40} "And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. {41} "And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. {42} "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. {43} "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy.' {44} "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you {45} in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. {46} "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? {47} "And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? {48} "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The New Testament Church of God

Did everything change after Jesus' death and resurrection? Was the law of God abolished? Was the Sabbath changed to Sunday? If it was, somebody forgot to tell the Apostle Paul. Read the following Sabbath exhortation in the synagogue in Antioch.

(Acts 13:14-42 NASB) But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. {15} And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, "Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it." {16} And Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand, he said, "Men of Israel, and you who fear God [so, he was not talking to Jews alone but also to "you who fear God"], listen: {17} "The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it. {18} "And for a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness. {19} "And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance-- all of which took about four hundred and fifty years. {20} "And after these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. {21} "And then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. {22} "And after He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, 'I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.' {23} "From the offspring of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, {24} after John had proclaimed before His coming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. {25} "And while John was completing his course, he kept saying, 'What do you suppose that I am? I am not He. But behold, one is coming after me the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.' {26} "Brethren, sons of Abraham's family, and those among you who fear God, to us the word of this salvation is sent out. {27} "For those who live in Jerusalem, and their rulers, recognizing neither Him nor the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning Him. {28} "And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that He be executed. {29} "And when they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. {30} "But God raised Him from the dead; {31} and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people. {32} "And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, {33} that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, 'THOU ART MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN THEE.' {34} "And as for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no more to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: 'I WILL GIVE YOU THE HOLY and SURE blessings OF DAVID.' {35} "Therefore He also says in another Psalm, 'THOU WILT NOT ALLOW THY HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.' {36} "For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers, and underwent decay; {37} but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. {38} "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, {39} and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. {40} "Take heed therefore, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you: {41} 'BEHOLD, YOU SCOFFERS, AND MARVEL, AND PERISH; FOR I AM ACCOMPLISHING A WORK IN YOUR DAYS, A WORK WHICH YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE, THOUGH SOMEONE SHOULD DESCRIBE IT TO YOU.'" {42} And as Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath.

Did you notice the last sentence? Both the Jews and the Gentiles in the synagogue wanted him to preach again the next week on the Sabbath! They kept the Sabbath on a weekly basis. It was not a unique event.

In Acts 16:13, we can see what Paul did in the gentile city of Philippi in Greece on the Sabbath day.

(Acts 16:13 NASB) And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.

In Acts 17:14, there is another example of Paul's behavior while still in Greece, in the city of Thessalonica. Notice that it was Paul's custom to preach in the synagogue on the Sabbath and to reason with the gentiles from the Scriptures.

(Acts 17:1-4 NASB) Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. {2} And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, {3} explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." {4} And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.

Further south in Greece, in the city of Corinth, in Acts 18:1, we can see another example of Paul's behavior on the Sabbath day.

(Acts 18:1-4 NASB) After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. {2} And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, {3} and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working; for by trade they were tent-makers. {4} And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Notice that Paul continued to use the scriptures to reason with them in the synagogue every Sabbath. Furthermore, note that it was not just the Jews he addressed but the gentiles, as well.

The Sabbath or Sunday?

There are several common arguments for celebrating Sunday as a day of worship. The major one is that since Jesus was resurrected on Sunday, we should also observe that day. The preponderance of Scriptural evidence, as well as prophecy, indicates that he was actually resurrected late on the Sabbath day, near sundown (see our booklet, Dates of the Birth and Death of the Messiah and our sermon, Easter - Truth or Fiction?). There is no argument, however, that he ascended to Heaven on the first day of the week (see our booklet, The Wave Sheaf Offering).

The day of Jesus' ascension to Heaven doesn't, however, change the Sabbath to Sunday. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets." If Christ changed the Sabbath to Sunday, then he did away with the Law and, after all, he said that we were not even to think he would do that.

The history of the movement to abolish the Sabbath and substitute Sunday is a fascinating study, but it would require hundreds of pages to cover thoroughly. The short version is that, heavily influenced by the strong anti-Jewish movement within the Roman Empire and, later, within the Roman Church, many converts during the latter first, second and third centuries left the Sabbath observing practice of Jesus and the Apostles and adopted instead the practice of Sunday worship. Notice what we just read in Acts 18 about Aquila and his wife Priscilla being evicted from Rome by the emperor Claudius Caesar, who commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. Aquila and Priscilla did not abandon the seventh day Sabbath but you can see that persecution against Jews and Sabbath keepers was already beginning in the middle of the first century AD.

There are two scriptures commonly used to justify Sunday worship over keeping the Sabbath day. Both are generally not read in context. The first can be found in Acts 20:7.

(Acts 20:7 NASB) And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.

Now, let's read it in context.

(Acts 20:6-13 NASB) And we sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days. {7} And on the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to depart the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. {8} And there were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. {9} And there was a certain young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor, and was picked up dead. {10} But Paul went down and fell upon him and after embracing him, he said, "Do not be troubled, for his life is in him." {11} And when he had gone back up, and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. {12} And they took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted. {13} But we, going ahead to the ship, set sail for Assos, intending from there to take Paul on board; for thus he had arranged it, intending himself to go by land.

So, we can clearly see the context of Paul observing the Days of Unleavened Bread in Philippi and then leaving for Troas. He must have arrived on a Sunday because it says Paul had only seven days in Troas and was to leave on a Monday. So, on the last full day of his visit he preached to the Christians in Troas as he may well have done every day of his visit. Actually if you want to use this sermon to identify when to worship, you must include Sunday night until Monday morning since Paul "talked a long while, even till break of day..."

The second argument can be found in 1 Corinthians 16:2.

(1 Cor 16:2 NASB) On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.

Even if we take it out of context, it does not seem to have anything to do with worship. If taken in context, the meaning is clear.

(1 Cor 16:1-8 NASB) Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. {2} On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come. {3} And when I arrive, whomever you may approve, I shall send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; {4} and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me. {5} But I shall come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; {6} and perhaps I shall stay with you, or even spend the winter, that you may send me on my way wherever I may go. {7} For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits. {8} But I shall remain in Ephesus until Pentecost;

It was a collection of food for the Christians in Jerusalem. It was not a collection for the ministry; rather it was for the needy. Paul wasn't "passing the plate" in a Sunday morning service. You don't have to "gather" money, but you certainly would have to gather goods for distribution to those in need.

Remember two more scriptures.

(1 Cor 11:1 NASB) Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

Paul said to follow him as He followed Christ. Christ kept the Sabbath. If Paul hadn't kept the Sabbath on the same day as Jesus, he would not have been following in Christ's footsteps. The next scripture to remember is found in the second chapter of Colossians.

(Col 2:4-16 NASB) I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument. {5} For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ. {6} As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, {7} having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. {8} See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. {9} For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form, {10} and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; {11} and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; {12} having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. {13} And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, {14} having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. {15} When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. {16} Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day--

If you keep the Sabbath and the Holy Days, those around you will judge you and condemn you. Look at what Christ said, however, in Matthew 10:25 about those who criticize the teacher, as well as his disciples.

(Mat 10:25 NASB) "It is enough for the disciple that he become as his teacher, and the slave as his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

We should continually ask ourselves if our actions are pleasing to God. How can we know? We have, as a sure standard of measurement, the scriptures God has given us for guidance. To deviate from the clear expressions of what God expects of his servants is to invite the displeasure of our Creator. We should strive to avoid evil and seek righteousness. That righteousness, however, is not by our own determination. It is by God's standards of righteousness that we are to live.

God's Sabbath day also looks forward to a time of world peace and Christ's millennial rule when all of Creation will be at rest.

(Heb 4:8-13 NASB) For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. {9} There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. {10} For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. {11} Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience. {12} For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. {13} And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

We need to continually remove from our lives the error defined by God's righteous law. We need to be steadfast and committed to obeying the truth revealed by God in the scriptures. Since there "remains ... a Sabbath rest for the people of God," we should be obedient in keeping the day that pictures the great millennial rest to come. By so doing, we are continually reminded of its meaning.

As we have learned, the Sabbath day looks back to creation as well as God's rest from his labor. The Sabbath day is a reminder both of Israel's captivity in slavery in Egypt and their miraculous deliverance from that sin through the exodus from Egypt. The Sabbath day also looks forward to the return of the Messiah and the worldwide peace that is to come through his millennial rule. If we want to be with Christ in that glorious time of peace in the Kingdom of God, we should be keeping the Sabbath day as he kept it in obedience to our great Father.

Sermon given by Philip Edwards
13 October 2007
Copyright 2007, Philip Edwards

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