A few statements to get us on the same page
With regard to faith in God, the Creator of everything, I have seen that there are many different groups - all with slightly different views on who God is and what He expects from us. If you ask members of these different groups questions as to why they hold their particular views, you get many different, and sometimes surprising, answers. Most recognized church groups will answer that the Bible, the Word of God, is behind all their beliefs. Others will add a book here or a prophet there, but the Bible nearly always figures in somewhere. If they all hold the Bible as the basis for their beliefs, then why are there so many different groups that believe so differently?
It seems that it is because there are several ways in which the Bible can be the basis for an understanding of who God is and what He plans for us. The primary ones are: 1) read it; 2) have someone read it to you; 3) have someone tell you what it means. Let's look at these for a bit.
So many ways
The first way is the one that most people think is the best one, if they have the time to read it. I agree, but with some reservations. Even this direct method comes with at least one problem - which version do you read? Do a little research and you will find that none of the versions use the same words in all the passages. Like Rush Limbaugh says, "Words mean things."
If you read a word, you get one or more meanings that you understand when you see it. If you read a different word in the same place, you may get a slightly different meaning. Whichever meaning you get, you will form your understanding of the meaning of the passage from the words used there - and, unless you can get beyond it, from your current viewpoint which is largely determined by the culture in which you live. To get the full, original meaning of a passage written 3500 or even just 2000 years ago, you must understand the language, culture, and history for the time and place in which it was written. But who reads, and understands, Hebrew or Greek? Well, there are books for that, also.
Have it read, or interpreted and read to you
The second way to understand what the Bible says is to have someone read it to you. This is akin to the first way, but removes you one step from the learning process. Also, there is a difference between having someone read what the Bible says and explaining what that reading means, which leads us to the next way.
Have someone tell you, the worst of all
The third way, having someone tell you what the Bible says, is fraught with a new danger - the addition of the opinion and understanding of the one telling you the meaning of the passages. But that is exactly what is happening in church every Sunday when the pastors speak. You must trust the methods and intentions of the one passing the message.
Most then find a comfortable group
If you say that the Bible provides the basis for your view of God's desire for us, then I expect that you have read or heard at least part of the Bible and have some feel for the story. If you look around, you will probably find a group of nice people who believe pretty much the same way you do about the Book, so you join the group and become a solid believer in their viewpoint. The more you have studied, the pickier you are when choosing a group. Trust me, I know because it has happened to me. Once you choose a group, whatever that church relates in the sermons and Bible studies becomes pretty much your viewpoint.
If you stop studying...
I have found that when attending a "Sunday School" class at church, the view of the teacher or leader is often accepted without question. His or her view is often accepted as a deeply researched and proven fact because the presentation is very convincing with "proof" verses and references to quotes made by Jesus Himself.
I speak from experience by attending, as a member for at least six months for each, these classes in the Catholic Church (6 months of RCIA training), Lutheran, Mormon, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, and several non-denominational Charismatic (Pentecostal) churches. Sometimes the membership was for years. I found convincing teachers in each of them, until I continued studying the Bible and compared it to what I was being taught.
Wait a minute...
It is from this perspective that I want to discuss with you the stand one takes when joining to a church or group. I think most churches have a great deal of truth. Please do not consider this an attack on any of them. However, I want to point out the end result of taking a stand on an issue. Where does the logic lead? If the position is still strong after we apply common sense to the issue, and the instruction from the Word of God, then the stand is valid. If not, shouldn't we evaluate the position in the light of the supposed foundation of the view - the Bible?
I keep this day because...
Those who feel the need to "keep" Sunday, rather than the Sabbath, stand on a platform that confuses me. When asked why they do not keep the Sabbath, they say that Jesus rose on the first day of the week so they worship on that day instead of the Old Testament Sabbath. They mention Acts 20:7. They mention Galatians 3 and 4. They say that the Law was "nailed to the cross" (Colossians 2:14). They say "because everyone does" or "that's the day my church meets".
These responses bring to mind several questions that, whenever I ask them, get a response that is not an answer but more a resistance to the discussion. The resistance seems to be because people do what "everyone else does", and think I am making myself "superior" when I even consider challenging their practices by asking why they do not follow what God said to do. I would like to approach the subject with you and do more than just state what I think is right or wrong. I would rather approach the subject by having both of us discover what God says on the subject.
What is God's Sabbath?
God's seventh day is to be a day of rest (Exodus 20:8-11
8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 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 male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 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."
). Observing the Sabbath has not only to do with worshiping in church. Anyone who honestly believes that God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1 and 2), and has a plan for our salvation, worships Him every day. The weekly gathering to worship as a congregation is a way to review God's Word, strengthen each other, learn from the experiences of others, and stay aware of those who need spiritual, emotional and physical help and provide that help when needed. Of course I have no problem with worship on any day of the week. That is not the point that I want to make. When I read the Bible with God's plan for man in mind, I think He makes clear points for us to learn.
Why did He say that?
How can I say that God is trying to make a point? I read the Bible and study it with others. I say "study" because just reading the Bible alone with a particular viewpoint merely tends to enhance the strength of that viewpoint. Without a challenge to look closer or try to obtain a deeper understanding of the historical events, both Biblical and personal, that brought everyone to this time of life, we keep what we already think (or have been told) and never grow.
This love letter from the Creator is meant to tell us something. It has so much to tell us that it seems a bit arrogant to think that any of us has all the answers and that everyone else is wrong because "my pastor says..."
Can you give a reason beyond, "That's when my church meets."?
So, if you call Sunday your Sabbath, why? It is not my business what you do in worship of God, but if He wants respect for one day and you change your respect to "your" day instead, are you doing what He wants?
In six days God created the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested. That seventh day is the Sabbath. Look at your calendar. Unless you have a "modernized" version that moved Sunday to the last column on the right, the seventh day is now called Saturday (named after the god for which the planet Saturn was named) or in Latin terms Sabado. The Latin word stays in context with the original name of the seventh day - Sabbath. This is God's Sabbath day.
In Leviticus 26:1-2
1 " 'Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the Lord your God.'
2 " 'Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the Lord.'
, He told the people who wanted to be recognized as his people, and who recognize him as their God, to honor the Sabbath day with specific instructions in Exodus and Deuteronomy as to how to do so. In Leviticus 26:3-13
3 " 'If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, 4 I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. 5 Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land.
6 " 'I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove wild beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country. 7 You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you. 8 Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.
9 " 'I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you. 10 You will still be eating last year's harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new. 11 I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. 12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. 13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.' "
, He explained what He would do in return for our faithfulness. He made the point about which day it was to be with manna for 40 years.
So, worshipping on Sunday is one thing, but "keeping" Sunday instead of Sabbath would at least entail doing on "your" day what He said to do on His day. If you "keep" Sunday, do you respect all of God's instructions for doing so? We talk more about "keeping" a little later.
Take a stand, defend it to others, learn more
Of course, there is nothing wrong with standing on a position if you are right to begin with, but who is right all the time? Even if you are right part of the time, what about the rest of the time? How do you find out where you are right and where you are wrong? Just compare what you think to the Bible - the Word of God.
I don't mean just a passage here and there, but the Word of God, in context, with reference to the entire message from Genesis to Revelation. Your understanding must fall in line with the entire Bible to be correct. However, it is not usually possible to just read it alone to see if you are right.
To make sure, you should view different possible meanings of each passage, taken in the context of the culture, language, and historical facts of the time in which the passage was written. Then discuss your findings with others. Get input, compare notes, defend your thoughts. Modify where it doesn't fit.
Of course, there are times when more than one meaning is possible from a single word or passage, sometimes even when you interpret in the context of the whole Book. These different interpretations are often the reasons why different churches exist, the members of which each think they are correct. Many consider anyone who tries to question, or even discuss, the premise(s) upon which they build their understandings to be wrong, legalistic, deluded, old-fashioned, or stuck in the past. The reaction of many to any question as to why they hold to what they believe is often anger.
I have never understood this reaction. I can understand frustration, boredom, not caring, or a considered response with examples that form a basis for their position. But anger? Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
that we should all be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. He also says that this should be done with gentleness and respect - not anger.
Share your understanding
You are probably a member of a church. Get together with people who "believe as you do", compare notes, and see how the beliefs of others in your own fold may give you a different insight into the meaning of the Word. This is what I mean when I say I study the Bible. Is there another way to see what is said? I suggest that you may be surprised at the many interpretations that exist within your own group, especially if they have different versions of the Bible. Some concepts will be very close to yours, but others will not.
Find out why
When you see a difference in your readings, bring attention to the difference, discuss it, and expand on the concept and see which, if either, agrees with the Word of God. Check the version - King James will differ considerably from the NIV or the ASB. People often say that the King James Version is the most accurate translation. If you compare the King James Version to a Hebrew-English and a Greek-English translation, you will see many places where the translation is so different from what was meant by the original language that the original meaning is lost. That doesn't mean that I think the others are better, but a deeper look is required to get the meaning of any passage. Some versions are closer to the original in some places; other versions are closer in other places.
But Bible versions are not the only reason for differences in church worship practices. It is critical to understand the culture, history, and language of the period in which the passage was written to understand what the author was trying to communicate. If you try to interpret something that happened thousands of years ago in the context of today's culture, you are bound to get at least part of it wrong.
A simple example
Even in the days of the writing of the King James Version, the word "let" can mislead you. If I "let" you do something, what does it mean to you? Most would say that I allowed you to do it. However, if you read Romans 1:13
13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. (KJV)
13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. (NIV)
in the KJV, how would you interpret it? In the same passage in the NIV, you clearly get the impression that Paul was prevented from visiting. Not so in the KJV. How about Genesis 1:3
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
? Here, the KJV word is in the traditional understanding of the word "let" and is clearly similar to our modern understanding for this context.
Is that like our use of the word "bad" to mean bad or good, depending on the context? I am at a loss as to why so many people think the KJV version of the Bible is so accurate. Maybe they look at the language and think that anyone who speaks that way must be more literate than the masses. If I explain calculus to someone in Latin, I may sound intelligent, but if they don't get it because they don't understand Latin, what good was the sophistication of the language?
Now, rather than letting me continue to ramble on, how about some more examples of what I mean?
First, look at a common reference to Acts 20:7
7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.
where Paul spoke to some people on the first day of the week when they came together to "break bread". If you look at a Greek/English translation version of the Bible, the phrase "the first day of the week" is a mistranslation of the original text. I know, that is easy for me to say, but I have some evidence for you. Look at several Greek/English translation texts and you will see varying translations of the verse. How can that be if they are all "translating from the same text" in the Greek?
Which one is "best"?
Using The Interlinear Bible with Hebrew, Greek, and English, I see the translation of the Greek for Acts 20:7:
as "in but the one of the sabbaths" - not "the first day of the week". A better translation is seen at Abarim Publications, a more accurate free online interlinear (Greek/English):
That site parses word for word, rather than parse into supposedly "intended phrases" (as in "they said that, but this is what they really meant"), and indicates that the verse really says "in(to) - to the one of the Sabbaths". (Click the link if you can't read this in the window above). Now, there is a common usage of similar words to refer to a Sunday as the first day of the week, but there is no indication in the Biblical text or need to apply that to a worship day here. Granted, there are other translations that are usually geared to the version of the bible being translated (NIV, KJV, NASB), which are by their own nature biased before the translation. However, like I mentioned in the Replacement Theology page, the interpretation must match both Old and New Testament context. If you look up the description of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost, you will see what I mean.
Now to give you both sides of the story, there is a site called The Interactive Bible that tries to defend their view of Sunday-keeping with cartoons and colors accusing other believers of ignorance and under-learning. There is another site presenting the Biblical view for Sabbath-keeping at Yahweh's Assembly in Yeshua. If you have not already decided, take a look and get some details before making your decision.
They did it for centuries, now it means something else?
Now, before you yell at me, hear me out. When you look into this reference to Pentecost, you will find that it refers to the first day of a series of weeks (also called "sabbaths") leading to Pentecost. And the first day of the first of these seven weeks is - Sunday. I mention more about this later. There is culture, history and language involved in this. Remember, in Jesus' time they had been doing this for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years. There are more references to this than in just Acts 20.
(NOTE: See an example of the controversy at Stack Exchange. The trouble is often caused by the ill-phrased question referring to "the first Sabbath" rather than "the one of the Sabbaths", as stated in the Greek, or "the first day of the Sabbaths", thereby taking the argument off the main track. However, that is the reason for most of the disagreements about what the Bible actually says. The lack of education in the Greek language then makes it easy to "snow" the one who dares to object to the modern "Sunday" interpretation.)
Old term, new meaning?
Next, the term "break bread", then and now, usually means to sit down to a meal. Some interpret it to always mean "have church services", and use the passage in Acts 20:7
7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.
as proof that Sunday was the new day of worship for the Apostles even that soon after Christ died and rose again. If this is the case, why do we wait until Sunday morning at 10:00 to start instead of starting at dark on Saturday evening and have services until midnight? It's hard to be sure where the latest interpretation started, but it is definitely present in our culture.
There is another teensy, insignificant issue that I will bring up in more detail later. The Jewish days began and ended at sundown. The Jews celebrated a ceremony immediately after the sun went down on the Sabbath (according to the beginning of the Jewish day at sundown, this would be officially on the "first day of the week", even though it was actually "the one of the Sabbaths" leading to Pentecost) called Havdalah. It uses wine and spices and a light meal.
Since it is commonly understood that this paticular gathering took place just after the sun set on the Sabbath, why doesn't anyone see this as a Jewish gathering that they had performed for centuries? Instead, people grab it, make it some sort of "new" convention to change the commands of God, and somehow meaning Sunday morning rather than immediately after Sabbath sundown when it actually took place?
Why are we even told of this gathering?
In this passage, Paul was leaving the next day, so he spoke to this group late into the night to make sure they had the message. The interesting thing about this meeting was that the main point made is about the death of one of the listeners who fell out the window and the fact that Paul used the power of faith to restore his life.
There is no reference or hint that they were changing the rules of God or establishing a new day of worship. Even if that is possible, which I do not yet accept, how does that change the obligation to observe the Sabbath? I see no reference to this as being a new day for honoring God's Sabbath or the establishment of a new day of worship. Paul spent every day doing the same thing - spreading the gospel. He also ate every day that he could find food. So where does this line of reasoning take us?
A meal that means a new day...
If you are going to use the eating of a meal to set a new day to replace the Sabbath, then why not the day of the original Lord's Supper? That would be the Passover meal, by the way. Jesus performed the new covenant breaking of the bread as a symbol of His sacrifice on that day (something He did only once a year, right up until that time).
However, nobody seems to want to change any weekly services to happen on Thursday (which I think is not even the right day for the "Lord's Supper", but we will get to that another time). If you are going to try use Acts 20:7 to break a commandment, why not instead use Jesus' actions on that Thursday to establish the regular practice of the Passover, already commanded by God, rather than make up something entirely new?
Why not use a real holiday?
If the reason for the change is breaking bread on a certain day, then why not use the episode on the road to Emmaus that happened on Resurrection Day? Jesus went home to eat with the two men He met and they did not even recognize Him until he "broke bread". As soon as they recognized Him, what happened? He disappeared! Not much of a church service.
Another quick thought; even if we want to worship the Lord on Sunday, how does that negate the command to rest on the Sabbath? Sorry, but using a meal is not a convincing way to establish a new Sunday "covenant" with people who are expected to believe God and His Son, practice true faith, and obtain salvation.
The Law is bad...?
When the discussion of the Sabbath vs. Sunday comes up, people invariably go to Galatians 3:10
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law."
and say something like, "See? You are wrong if you follow the Law." I agree, if you are depending on the law to save you! But, how does this verse say to anyone that you can break, or even ignore, the law that Jesus Himself told the rich man to follow?
Now, my wife Ann says I always say the same thing for this discussion and for her it is getting old. The Fourth Commandment is the one that tells us to observe the Sabbath Day (the Catholics break them up so that it is the third one for them - and lately, they are changing it to read "The Lord's Day" rather than the "Sabbath Day", but it still means set apart the day as commanded by God). Here it comes... - Does that mean you can break the Ten Commandments? Did God forget to give us a memo explaining that we can just forget something that Jesus, while he was alive, told us to do without fail? Can we break all of them, some of them, or even just one of them?
If that's OK with God...
Yeah, yeah, but rather than react to the nature of the question, try to answer it honestly. The usual response I am given is always the same - "Of course not! We know instinctively what is right and wrong and we do it naturally." So, you, modern person who has just learned about Christ in the last xx years, how did you learn what is right and wrong?
What Law is Paul referring to when he says that the Galatians are falling back under the curse? What is he actually saying? It sounds like he is warning people that they need to have faith in Christ as well as obey the law, not just obey the law and think they are saved. Do people read the whole thing, or just interpret it to fit with what they already think?
Definition of terms
Now we have to define some terms so we are speaking the same language. Law - what is the Law? If the Law mentioned in Galatians is the Ten Commandments, then we have a problem of huge proportions. Let's start with the premise, as some do, that we can break any commandment, but we still must obey God and keep Jesus in our hearts or we cannot enter the Holy City. Can we break #1? Well, if we do that I see a problem coming up at the time of the Judgment. How about #6? Well, it says in Revelation 22:15 that murderers are among a long list of those who will not be allowed to enter the Holy City.
Pick any commandment of the Ten. Which of these placed a curse on us? Any of them we decided to break without believing in Jesus! They all seem to be critical to our salvation according to Jesus, Paul, and John the Revelator. Well, some say, all except one. We can break the fourth one. This one evidently no longer matters because it is Old Testament. And the others aren't? How silly would I sound if I said you were being legalistic about following the Commandment about murder? Why can we disobey God only with regard to the fourth, and not the other Old Testament laws? I think we have to define the Law of God as everything that He told us is a Law.
Keep it in context
I submit that if you read the Bible from cover to cover, and put all statements in the proper context, you will find that you cannot disobey any of God's commandments. I am not going to specify what the "proper context" means. That would be setting up a condition for me to be right, and that is not my intent or my point. You must read the Book and apply the passages to obtain that context - which is God's intent and His point to make. When you apply them, there can be no contradiction with any other part of the Bible. If there is a conflict, something is wrong in your interpretation.
Believers are slipping...
Now, bear with me for a minute while we move over to the next big passage that people use to prove we need no longer follow the Law - Galatians 4:9-11
9 But now that you know God - or rather are known by God - how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
. Here Paul says that the Galatians are falling back under the curse of the Law by worshipping on the Sabbath, right? Nope. That's not what I see here at all. First off, he never mentions the Sabbath. He mentions special days.
"Aha!" you say. That means the Sabbath! Are you aware that for every Holiday period specified by God, the first and last days are called Sabbaths? Some are even called High Sabbaths. They can fall on Tuesday or even Thursday, which is when many believe that Passover fell in the week that Jesus died. Passover was a Sabbath day. Not the Sabbath day, just a Sabbath day. Any study of the Jewish culture will tell you that, if you are willing to look. I'm not saying you should become Jewish, just look at what you are actually being told by the writers of the Bible.
Jots and tittles
Now let's go back and read the handwritten Law given to Moses and passed on to the people. This is given mostly in Leviticus and Deuteronomy and goes on for chapters and chapters. It is full of special days and months and seasons and years. This was given to Moses to write down. Now, as a result of the handwritten communication used, what does the written Law have that Jesus referred to in Matt 5:17-18
17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."
? Jesus refers to "jots and tittles" or, in the less flowery language of the New International Version, to "the smallest letter, the least stroke of a pen".
That it will not pass away means to me that the written Law of Moses, passed to the Israelites, is still in effect "until heaven and earth pass away." When I look outside, I still see the earth. OK, we don't keep the Law of Moses and no one expects us, as Christians, to do so today - at least not like the Jews do. However, that does not release us from the law of God - the Ten Commandments. Even Isaiah tells us that in Chapter 56
This is what the Lord says:
1 "Maintain justice
and do what is right,
for my salvation is close at hand
and my righteousness will soon be revealed.
2 Blessed is the one who does this -
the person who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it,
and keeps their hands from doing any evil."
And if you think this is just for Jews:
6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
to minister to him,
to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant -
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Nailed to the cross
And, you say, if that Law is still in effect, then what was "nailed to the cross" in Colossians 2:14
14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
? Well, read the words for what they say in the Greek:
With the translations:
It was the debt that was cancelled. The Law of Moses is still here and very much alive. It has meaning for those who do not accept the salvation Christ offers. Examples are the Jews and the Muslims. Without Christ, others need a standard to follow that keeps them in line with the will of God. The Jews do not accept Christ as Savior, so they are still under the "curse of the Law". So how do they know they are doing the will of God? They can only know by following both the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses.
What was nailed to the cross, for those who accept the offering of Jesus, was the curse of the Law, the certificate of indebtedness, a curse placed on us by our disobedience to the Law of Moses, a natural act of being human. The Law itself was not "nailed to the cross", just our need of only it for salvation. If it was the Law itself, the non-Messianic Jews are lost as they have no law and they do not believe in Jesus - and God promised that they will not be lost.
The Commandments and the Law - not always the same in context
Now, when I read Exodus 19 and 20, I see two ways in which God delivered the Ten Commandments. First, He spoke them aloud to the entire nation of Israel. Now, this may have scared the pants off them, but the point is that there were no jots and no tittles involved. After they pleaded with Moses to intercede for them, God used stone tablets to convey the Ten Commandments to the people - including the fourth one - written by the finger of God Himself without a pen! That's where the jots and tittles com in.
The problem we keep running into is the definition of the term Law. When the gospel was written about the time that Jesus walked the earth, the (bad) Law was mentioned often by Paul, Peter, James, and others. What Law was this? The Law of Moses - as modified and enhanced by the Pharisees - the never-ending list of do's and don'ts that Moses passed on to the people as guides as to how they were to lead their lives.
The Law, or the law
Jesus himself referred to the law. He derided the Pharisees because they held the law in front of the people and used it against the people even when they could not keep it themselves after they modified it to "be safe". He even spoke about the Sabbath - the day about which He said that He was Lord. The Pharisees accused Jesus of doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath. He chastised the Pharisees because of the way they modified the way to observe the Sabbath to the point that no one could keep it.
He said that He was Lord of the Sabbath. Some take this to mean that He did away with it. But, is that within the framework of the context of the entire Bible? That concept does not even square with Jesus' own practice or the fact that the Apostles kept the Sabbath after His death.
Another view, with facts
A book written by Danny Shelton and Shelley Quinn called Ten Commandments Twice Removed does an excellent job of explaining the difference between the Ten Commandment Law and the Law of Moses. They used sound reasoning and quote scripture liberally. While I feel they stop a little short in some areas when they discuss the original Hebrew and Greek translations of words and phrases, they are right on track and I think the book is an excellent source of information for anyone who wants to do a little research on their own. They wet your thirst and get you reading the scriptures for what they say, not what everyone thinks they mean.
Where does your stand lead?
There are a couple of points to make here, but many do not even think about them when they take a stand on the issue of the Sabbath. They get stuck in their personal view and forget to look to see where they are going with their own viewpoint. Let's look at those points.
One, the Pharisees accused Jesus of doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath. Notice that they did not say that He was breaking God's Law, but their revision of it. They had changed the practice of observing the Sabbath so much that it could not be observed without breaking it. Jesus responded that He was Lord of the Sabbath. I read that as something like saying, "I created it; I should know how to keep it properly."
What was the problem?
"Wait a minute", you say. "How about John 5:17-18
17 In his defense Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working." 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
? It says that Jesus broke the Sabbath!" I believe that if you put this phrase in context with the rest of the Bible, you must conclude that the Jews were trying to kill Jesus because He was showing the regular people that the Jews were wrong in their abundant modifications of the Law - their Sabbath. He broke their "law", not the Law of God. That is, unless you agree with the Pharisees who thought Jesus was wrong to make "Himself equal with God."
The Lord's Day?
A second point, Jesus said that He was Lord of the Sabbath. When you read the few mentions of the Lord's Day in the Word, see if you can figure out when it became another way of saying Sunday. My first thought is that if Jesus claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath, why would the Lord's Day be Sunday? In some passages, the text is clearly referring to the great and mighty Day of the Lord - or the end of time, a time for judgment and the vengeance of the Lord, and the lifting up of the righteous (Isaiah 13:6
6 Wail, for the day of the Lord is near;
it will come like destruction from the Almighty.
, Jeremiah 46:10
10 But that day belongs to the Lord, the LORD Almighty-- a day of vengeance, for vengeance on his foes. The sword will devour till it is satisfied, till it has quenched its thirst with blood. For the Lord, the LORD Almighty, will offer sacrifice in the land of the north by the River Euphrates.
, Joel 1 and 2, with reference to 1:15
15 Alas for that day!
For the day of the Lord is near;
it will come like destruction from the Almighty.
Once again, in Ten Commandments Twice Removed, it is explained that the Lord's Day in Roman times was the day named after the emperor, and signified the day he was given taxes in tribute. I think it is just plain dangerous to accept a practice without finding out what it is about. If you find out later that it is not what you thought it was, stop accepting it.
When Jesus mentioned the Law, He was often referring to the Law of Moses. How can I say this? Because when He referred to the Ten Commandments, He said "My commandments" or "the commandments". In fact, in Mathew 19:17-19
17 "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments."
18 "Which ones?" he inquired.
Jesus replied, "'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"
, when He was asked by the rich young man about the best way to eternal life, Jesus did not refer to the Law of Moses, but to the Ten Commandments. If you doubt this, just read the passage. It is not hidden in some unclear, symbolic, metaphorical reference. If He was soon to discount them as no longer necessary, why would He refer to them as the way to eternal life?
Freedom from Law - or from the consequences of the Law?
People say that Jesus freed us from the Law when He died for us. I often hear that this is the "new covenant". They say that if we love Him, we have no need of the Law because it is written in our hearts. Is that some different interpretation of John 14:15
15 If you love me, keep my commands.
that I missed? I mean, "If you love Me, keep My commands." kind of says it all.
Of course, when Sunday-keeping (as opposed to Sabbath) people quote this passage, what they mean is "we have no need of the Law because it is written in our hearts, and the Fourth Commandment doesn't matter at all." And, there's that word-phrase again, "Sunday-keeping". For those who say that Jesus commands are just "Love your God..." and "Love your neighbor...", remember His answer to the rich man. He even included one of those two in his answer, along with the others.
Keeping a day
What does it mean to "keep" the Sabbath or Sunday? Well, keeping the scope small for this discussion, God had the people set the Sabbath aside as a holy day or rest. Isaiah 58:13 gives a great general description of what God expects from us: "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words..."
Also, according to Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy, no work was to be performed on that day. Here, everyone says, "What is considered work?" Glad you asked. What did God rest from on the seventh day? Creating the universe. OK, so we can't do any universe-creating on the seventh day (sorry, just had to do that). During their extended stay in Egypt, what did the Israelites do for four hundred years, seven days a week? Anything the Egyptians told them to do. So, God said for them to stop that working all the time stuff and take a break. Keep the Sabbath. A new concept? Nope, He just put them back on the track from the beginning.
So what does "keeping" mean? Well, when God told them not to work on the seventh day, He meant to rest, worship, and don't do the same thing you do on the other six days to get along in life. OK, that's my interpretation. You read the Scripture and see what you see. The days of the world, according to the chronicles of Creation (Genesis 1), begin in the evening and end the next evening. That is not just my interpretation. So, the Sabbath begins on the evening after the end of the sixth day and extends until the evening at the end of the seventh day.
Not only does the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8-11) say that you should rest and stop work during that period, but also everyone associated with you - including the stranger within your gates (town). So nothing you do should cause someone else to work, either. You cannot hire someone to work on the Sabbath for your seven-day-a-week business so that you can keep the Sabbath.
Or make others work
Some, including me, think that when you go into a market or restaurant, you cause a need for someone to be there working - so you are requiring them to work for you. Some say that they are already working, so it doesn't hurt to go in and purchase something. I find this interesting and see a connection between this line of thought and an event that takes place well after the death of Jesus - the move from Sabbath-keeping to Sunday worship without even recognizing the Sabbath.
Since "everyone" is already "keeping" Sunday, though all they do is "go to church" and return to normal work and routine activities for the rest of the day, "everyone" must feel that it has to be OK with God for them to do so. I do not deny that it happened, it's just that this move was not in line with God's will as He expressed it to us. Also, those that moved to the first day worship originally did so out of fear of being persecuted along with the Jews, not because of their need to stand for their faith in Jesus. In fact, the "church" is not even a place to go, but is the "ecclesia", the people who believe, not where they believe. The instructions from the Lord about a day are to rest on it, not change even that small requirement to become a need to create a building and insist you are not a true Christian if you do not travel to it at least once a week - on the wrong day.
Plenty of proof
Some well-documented web sites mentioned later have more information about when the change started. The book I mentioned earlier, Ten Commandments Twice Removed quotes printed letters written by the Catholic Church that claim responsibility for the change to Sunday and the writers laugh at the Protestant churches of today for following the Catholic choice of Sunday when (even according to them) the Sabbath was never replaced by Scripture or by God. They say that this means the Protestant churches acknowledge the authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church by their capitulation in the matter.
Some thoughts from others
I apologize in advance for the use of websites to demonstrate my understanding. I use them not as proofs, because I have a web site available to the public and realize what the information is worth if it is not properly documented. However, the sites mentioned have references to document their points. So, use these as a point of reference that you are free to question and research on your own. Please do not discount them merely because they express views different in view from your own understanding.
Pagan origins of Sun worship
When Israel left Egypt, God told them not to worship the gods of Egypt and not to work on the seventh day. The king of the Egyptian gods was Ra (various names for him are Amen-Ra, Amon, and others). This most-powerful of their gods was also called the Sun-God. Pagans throughout the world worship deities that, in one way or another, worship the sun and they do it on the day named for the sun god - Sunday.
From The Seven-Day Week, you can learn that the Greeks named the seven days of the week after the sun, moon, and the five planets known at the time - and these were named after their gods and they called them Theon hemerai, or "days of the gods". The Romans changed some of the names to the names they had for the same gods Mars, Mercury, Jove (Jupiter), Venus, and Saturn. The Germans (Germanic) roughly used the Roman god's names with their Germanic language - Tiu (Twia), Woden, Thor, Freya (Fria), but did not replace the name for Saturn. So you can see the progression to the English terms we have today for the days of the week. So, why did Sunday become the popular day of worship?
First day of the week(s)
Now, many worship Christ on the first day of the week (Sunday) because that was the day He rose from the dead in triumph over death. I mean, it says it right there in black and white in Matthew 28:1
1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There is a little tidbit of information about the phrase of "the first day of the week". Hang with me for a little setup information. The period from the Passover celebration to Pentecost (50 days) is a period of 7 weeks plus the one day to make 50. The period is called "the Sabbaths", often translated into English as "the weeks", because there are seven Sabbaths (or seven periods of seven days) in the period.
You say tomato, I say...
There is no word for "week" in the Greek/Aramaic language for the translation of the phrase that described the events of Resurrection Day. The period is referred to as "the weeks" in English, but "the Sabbaths" is more accurate (see any Greek/English translation version). It is an annual celebration, not a weekly one since there are only 7 weeks involved (think in terms of "the twelve days of Christmas" or "the forty days of Lent"). So, when the phrase "first day of the week" is mentioned, it is a translation of "the one of the Sabbaths", the first day of the seven Sabbath periods from the first "Sunday" after Passover to Pentecost. Our Greek/English translation confirms this.
Now, if you take this information and try to change the day for worshipping Christ based on what the text means in context rather than what it means when converted to our language and culture, where do you wind up? That would leave you worshipping Christ on the first Sunday after Passover - once a year!
Sabbath still around after Christ
At The Bible Timeline, I learned that in the fifth century, Socrates Scholasticus wrote:
"For although almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries [the Lord's Supper] on the Sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, have ceased to do this." Also, a contemporary of Socrates, Sozomen, wrote "The people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria."
The author also mentions that some churches had worship services on both Sabbath and Sunday, but I have yet to find a biblical reference for the change.
Reasons given for change to Sunday
Several historical reasons are given to persuade Sabbath keepers to change their Sabbath to Sunday:
1) Toward the end of the Hellenistic period (330-166 B.C.), from about 200-166 B.C., the Seleucid rulers of Syria were trying to force Hellenism on the Jews. In fact, from 175-164 B.C. Judaism was prohibited by Antiochus Epiphanes. Copies of the Scriptures were ordered destroyed and laws were enforced with extreme cruelty (see From Malachi to Christ and The time Between the Testaments, pp. 1423-1427 in NIV Study Bible, 1995 Zondervan). In 167 B.C., the 24-year Maccabean revolt begins with Mattathias and his sons. Following this came the Hasmonean period (166-63 B.C.) when the persecution was under full swing. In 63 B.C., the Romans took over, besieged Jerusalem for six months. During this time, there was a period of a three month siege of the Jewish temple area when the Romans massacred the Jewish Priests while they performed their priestly duties. Considering the constantly waffling stand that the Israelites took with regard to worshipping carved images and cast idols (Judges 17 - 21), it seems highly likely that some moved to Sunday to avoid the persecution of the Jews (Sabbath-keepers).
2) At Got Questions
, we find that in the year 321 A.D., Constantine decreed, "On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed" (Codex Justinianus lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; trans. in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, p. 380, note 1)."
3) Christ rose on Sunday, so I am changing God's Law to suit me (because everyone else does).
However, the most complete analysis I have read is From Sabbath to Sunday by Samuele Bacchiocchi. He was a Seventh-Day Adventist, but he wrote the book based on his doctoral thesis from the Pontifical Gregorian University (a Catholic school) where he attended as the first non-Catholic student. The book received the Imprimatur from the Catholic Church, their stamp of approval for scholarship and accuracy. In this book, Mr. Bacchiocchi explains in great detail the myths, history, and motivation for the move from the Sabbath to Sunday.
Final shot over the bow
In 1934, a man who had attended a Seventh-Day Adventist Church heard a sermon claiming that the Catholics were the reason for the change from Sabbath observance to Sunday observance. He took it upon himself to write to the Pope (Pius XI at the time) to see if this was true. The rest of the story is available at bible-sabbath.com. Here is a reprint of the letter he wrote, and the reply with the blessing of the Pope, relayed through James L. Day, the editor of The Catholic Extension, the largest Catholic magazine then published in the U.S.A.:
Asking the Pope about the Change of the SabbathTHE CATHOLIC EXTENSION MAGAZINE
Thomaston, Georgia May 22, 1934
Pope Pius XI Rome, Italy
Is the accusation true, that Protestant's accuse you of? They say you changed the
seventh' day Sabbath to the, so called, Christian Sunday; identical with the first day of
the week. If so, when did you make the change and by what authority?
(Signed) J. L. Day
The largest Catholic Magazine published in USA180 Wabash Avenue, Chicago, Illinois(Under the blessing of Pope Pius XI)
Regarding the change from the observance of the Jewish Sabbath to the Christian
Sunday, I wish to draw your attention to the facts:
(1) That Protestants, who accept the Bible as the only rule of faith and
religion, should by all means go back to the observance of the Sabbath. The fact that they do not, but
on the contrary observe the Sunday, stultifies them in the eyes of every thinking man.
(2) We Catholics do not accept the Bible as the only rule of faith. Besides the Bible we
have the living Church, the authority of the Church, as a rule to guide us. We say this
Church, instituted by Christ, to teach and guide men through life, has the right to change
the Ceremonial laws of the Old Testament and hence, we accept her change of the
Sabbath to the Sunday. We frankly say, "Yes, the Church made this change, made this
law, as she made many other laws, for instance, the Friday Abstinence, the unmarried
priesthood, the laws concerning mixed marriages, the regulation of Catholic marriages,
and a thousand other laws."
(3) We also say that of all Protestants, the Seventh-day Adventist are the only group
that reason correctly and are consistent with their teachings. It is always somewhat
laughable to see the Protestant Churches, in pulpit and legislature, demand the
observance of Sunday, of which there is nothing in the Bible.
With best wishes,
(Signed) Peter R. Tramer, Editor
Here is a photocopy of both the letter and the reply: Sabbath Letter
The Pope can do what he wants
Without shame or reservation, and by its own authority, the Catholic church puts itself as the final authority on earth. More than that, they claim the authority to change the foundations set up by God. They have added new law to "guide men through life" by adding to, and removing from, the word of God. Oops, what about Deuteronomy 4:2
2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
, Deuteronomy 12:32
32 See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.
, and Revelation 22:18-19
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.
? I know that the last reference here is from John's words in Revelation, but if that book was inspired by vision, from where do you think that came? Why do the new "freedom" churches feel so strongly about following an unGodly "leader"?
Are you a "Pope-ist"?
If you do not keep the Sabbath, and can find a way to justify following a church that puts itself between men and God, then you should continue ignoring the Sabbath. With absolutely no evidence for removing the command to keep the Sabbath and every Biblical evidence pointing to the fact that it is still important to God and Jesus, I choose to remain obedient while depending on Jesus to provide my salvation. After all, isn't that what we are commanded to do?
Worshiping on Sunday is not a violation of any Commandment, Law or decree of either God or Jesus. Not keeping the Sabbath (notice I did not say "a" Sabbath) is a direct violation of one of the only two Commandments that were given by God Himself, both orally and in stone, where He said to "Do this!" instead of "Do not do this!", and never changed. If you can find a reference in His Word to indicate that He intended otherwise, please let me know. Hint: It ain't in there. Otherwise, research your stand and evaluate where it leads if you follow the thought to its logical conclusion. If it does not lead to the accomplishment of the will of God in your life, you may want to reconsider the stand.
Disagree? Find an error? Contact us at email@example.com and give us your view.