A Dialogue on the Day
Note: The Christian observance of Sunday as the Lord's Day is debated in the correspondence dialogue recorded below. Names, personal introductions and discussions not relating to the topic of Sabbath and Sunday have been removed; original format and content are retained.
QUESTION FROM A READER:
I note your home page "statement of purpose" claim: "We will be judged according to our responses to the law and commands of Holy God."
If this true, why does the Christian church ignore the one command which Yahweh through the Bible states to remember?
"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the Seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work ..."
I challenge you to name just one Christian church which is keeping all the "law and commands of Holy God."
Regarding churches which keep all the laws of God: As Christians we believe that we are called to live according to the laws of God, especially as you mentioned as they are embodied in the ten commandments. We believe the laws of God have a dual purpose -- they are the commands of God to all -- to show men that they fall short of God's holy requirements and point them to salvation and forgiveness by faith in Jesus Christ; and then for Christians they serve as a daily guide for a life of thankfulness to God for salvation and forgiveness in Christ. That is not to say that when one becomes a Christian they begin to live perfect lives, rather it means that they trust in the work of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, and then with God's help strive to live a life of honest faithfulness and thankful obedience.
There are still many Christian churches which do hold to a Sabbath rest/special day of worship. Where Old Testament Israel held the Sabbath rest on what would be Saturday, the New Testament church early on worshipped on today's Sunday as a remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ; Protestant churches today continue to worship on Sunday; and there remain a good number of the Reformed and Baptist groups that continue to hold Sunday as a special day in high esteem, a day of worshipping God, and of rest from one's weekly labors. There is no doubt that secularization has crept into much of Western society which is in the main only nominally "Christian" at best, and Sabbath observance has fallen along with the trend to an irreligious secular society; this has also affected some churches. But Sabbath observance in the biblical sense certainly it does remain alive in churches in Europe, Africa, and North and South America, and throughout much of the rest of the world as well.
REPLY FROM READER
I repeat your mission statement: "We will be judged according to our responses to "the law and commands of Holy God."
A God according to Christian scripture who "is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:10)
A God who said "yesterday", "remember" "the seventh day" not the first day!!!!
A man charged with travelling at 65 miles per hour in a 35 mile zone can not argue that "a good number of the Reformed and Baptist groups" got together last week to change the law, if the change does not have the consent of the legitimate government of the land. Nor can God's "law and commands" be changed without the consent of the legitimate government of the universe.
By whose authority then was "the law and commands of Holy God" (relating to the Sabbath Exodus 20:8) changed?
Islamic scripture recognizes that God has a right to change the law, but warns: Al- Baqarah 2:79
"Then woe to those who write the scriptures with their own hands, and then say:' This is from Allah,' ..."
In the Christian scriptures one also reads a stern warning Revelations 22:18.
I have no reason to doubt that "the Reformed and Baptist groups ... continue to hold Sunday as a special day in high esteem ..." So did the Ancient Egyptians!
However my challenge was to name just one Christian Church which is keeping all "the law and commands of Holy God" with specific reference to the Sabbath as ordained in Exodus 20:8.
Abraham pleading with God to spare Sodom gained God's pledge not to destroy the city if he could find 10 righteous people within its gates. (Genesis18:32)
All I want is the name of one Christian church which is keeping the commandments of God, not within a city, but on earth!!!!
In a message dated 01/19/2000 7:25:59AM, you write:
By whose authority then was "the law and commands of Holy God" (relating to the Sabbath Exodus 20:8) changed?
Here is a detailed answer to your question:
As Christians we believe that the day was changed by God, and that the God-given obligation to keep a new specific day of worshipping God remains unchanged. The Old and New Testament have continuity between them as they are the Word of God. Whatever the New Testament does not repeal from the Old Testament remains in effect today. For example much of what Christians believe about marriage and the family is revealed in the Old Testament. Similarly the foundation for the doctrine of the Sabbath as a Christian institution is laid in the Old Testament Scriptures. Gen.2:1-3 and Exodus 20:8-11 establish that Sabbath observance is a permanent moral requirement. Some would argue that Jesus did away with Sabbath observance in Matthew 12:1-14; however that passage rather shows Him teaching us and giving us helpful guidelines for our behaviour on that day.
In the book of Colossians, the apostle Paul deals with the heresy of those who would teach that salvation was by the works of man which included the observance of the Old Testament ceremonial law (these groups are referred to in history as the Judaizers). In the second chapter Paul reaffirms the authority of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lawgiver, in accord with Jesus own teaching as recorded in the Gospels. In 2:16-17 Paul takes up the matter of days: "therefore let no one act as your judge, in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. Is Paul repealing Sabbath observances as such, or the observance of the seventh day Sabbath along with the other ceremonial days? We find the answer to this question as we examine the three terms Paul uses: "festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day (or Sabbath days)." These three terms are often used together in the Old Testament to describe the various ceremonial days that God's people were required to observe. See for example 2 Chronicles 31:3; Nehemiah 10:32,33; Leviticus 23; etc. The Greek translation of these passages (called the Septuagint) uses the exact three terms that Paul uses in Colossians 2:16. In light of the Old Testament passages we see that Paul uses the term 'Sabbath days' to include the seventh day Sabbath. By use of these three phrases, Paul is describing the Old Testament ceremonial days and Sabbaths and says that the Christian is under no obligation to observe these days.
This instruction was necessary in the time of the transition from the Old Covenant (the era prior to the completion of Jesus' work on earth) to the New (after His resurrection), as Jesus fulfilled the law and prophecies of the Old Testament. In the early New Testament many Jewish Christians continued to observe the Old Covenant feasts and days. Although they were not obligated to do so, since Christ had fulfilled these observances, they worshipped Him through them. Some however in misguided zeal thought that these days ought to be imposed on Gentile (non-Jewish) Christians. In response Paul repudiates any required observance of any Old Testament ceremonial day, because they were "a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Paul reminds us that these Old Testament rituals and ceremony pointed forward to the person and work of Jesus Christ. These things were the foreshadowing for the Old Testament believer, for that which we now can understand fully as Hebrews 1:1,2; 11:39-40 teaches. Thus every part of Old Testament ceremony had reference not simply to God as such, but particularly to Jesus Christ the coming Messiah, who would save His people from their sins. John tells us in the Gospel of John 1:14 that the Word (Jesus Christ) became flesh and tabernacled among us. In John 2:19 Christ claims to be the true temple, fulfilling all that the temple had pointed forward to and promised. After His coming the temple itself paled into insignificance and was no longer necessary (John 4:21-24) because with its festivals and sacrifices it was only a foreshadowing of Christ Himself and His perfect self-sacrifice for sin.
The ceremonial days, festivals, etc all pointed to Jesus Christ and His relation to His people. The most significant sign of these was the seventh-day Sabbath rest. When Adam fell into sin, God gave the promise of the Saviour. Until He came the Old Testament saints would remain under bondage awaiting the day of their inheritance (Galatians 3:23-26). In their end of the week Sabbath, they anticipated the coming of the Messiah who was to be the true rest-giver. The one who would pay the price for their sin, so that they did not have to seek to earn their salvation by good works. Thus the day of their Sabbath observance was a shadow of the Saviour's coming. When He came He actually did part of His atoning work on the Sabbath by remaining in the tomb, suffering death and burial in the place of His people. When He arose on the first day, His substitutionary work for His people was completed, and He entered into His glorious rest.
One day of rest in seven thus does remain the God-ordained and continuing pattern. However as a result of the work of Christ the New Testament era believer is no longer under obligation to observe Old Testament ceremonial days or the seventh day Sabbath. However, it is essential to note that in his discussion Paul never abrogates the moral obligation of keeping holy one day in seven. At creation God established the moral obligation of keeping holy one day in seven, and He reiterated this obligation in the Ten Commandments, along with all the other great moral principles of revealed religion. The particular day, however was not a part of the moral requirement of the law, but a positive law to regulate the fufilling of this moral responsibility to honour the Creator, and to look forward to the fulfillment of His promise of salvation, eternal rest. Thus the day of the week could be changed, and as seen in Scripture it was changed by the work of Christ Himself, and this truth is reinforced by the inspired writing of the apostle Paul, as well as in the Gospels themselves.
Clearly the church continued to observe one day in seven. The New Testament church, keeping the pattern of one day of worship in seven, immediately began to worship on the first day of the week. In Acts 20:7 Paul's own practice confirms this as he worships with the church of Troas on the first day of the week; in 1 Corinthians 16:1,2 he states that he commanded all the churches to gather their offering for the poor on the first day of the week -- the offering being an integral part of Sabbath worship.
One author, R.L Dabney states "the facts in which all are agreed, which explain the Apostle's meaning in these passages, are these: After the establishment of the new dispensation (in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ), the Christians converted from among the Jews had generally combined the practice of Judaism with the forms of Christianity. They observed the Lord's day (on today's Sunday -- the first day of the week, when Jesus' resurrection took place) baptism, and the Lord's Supper; but they also continued to keep the seventh day, the passover, and circumcision. At first it was proposed by them to enforce this double system on all Gentile Christians; but this was rebuked by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 15. It was to end problems of a similar nature in Colosse that the Apostle Paul wrote these passages -- as for instance the one in Colossians 2:16-17.
One cannot escape the particular references to first day worship such as Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1,2; and Revelation 1:10. Nor can we as Christians escape the prohibition of Colossians 2:16-17 in binding any to seventh-day Sabbath keeping. Some may argue that the abrogation is certainly clear, but that the determination of the new day of worship is not. But there are only two options: either the Bible reveals the proper day, or the church may simply choose a day. The latter is expressly denied in Romans 14 and Galatians 4 where Scripture teaches that no man or church has the prerogative to establish a day for others to be compelled to worship. Thus if we are forbidden to compel worship on the seventh day due to the old system's fulfillment in Christ, and may not of our own accord legislate a new day, the only alternative left is that God has revealed this in His Word.
Several scripture passages have already been alluded to as support for the New Testament move to the first day Sabbath. The book of Hebrews is one which clearly teaches the fulfilling work of Jesus Christ in completing the requirements of the law. Hebrews 4:9-10 states: there remains a present Sabbath-keeping because "the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works as God did from His." In verse 10 the writer compares Christ's rest from His work of redemption with God's rest from the work of creation. Verse 10 refers to the individual work of Christ, a rest which is already for Him begun, as His work is completed, while in verse 11 it is made clear that the responsibility to enter into the rest remains with the believer. Thus the Christian has begun to participate in God's rest on this earth already, but will not fully enter into that rest until with Christ in glory in heaven.
This understanding of Hebrews 4 provides a parallel between God's work of creation and His work of salvation in Christ. At the conclusion of creation, God rested on the seventh day to declare His work completed, to delight in His work, and to promise the eternal rest promised to Adam if he would keep God's command in the garden. When Adam broke this covenant or agreement, God in His mercy renewed the offer of eternal rest through the promise of a coming Redeemer, or Saviour who would make atonement for the sin of any who trust in Him. Thus the Old Testament seventh day Sabbath looked forward to that rest.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, rested from His work of redemption on the first day of the week as a sign that His work had objectively been accomplished and nothing remained to be done. In His resurrection He entered into the joy of His work and confirmed that eternal life had been purchased (Isa.53:10,11; Heb.12:2). By His example the day was changed, as He had fulfilled all of God's holy requirements, indeed including the seventh day Sabbath.
It is interesting that the Old Testament alludes to the rest of the resurrection in the eighth day that climaxed in the ceremonial feast of the booths: "For seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day, you shall have a holy convocation... it is an assembly. You shall do no laborious work," Leviticus 23:36. This high Sabbath at the end of this Old Testament Jewish ceremonial feast typified the rest promised by God to the people, and was seen as the conclusion of the annual cycle of feasts. This link seems to be reinforced by John's referral to Jesus' second resurrection appearance in John 20:26 -- on the eighth day.
Thus there are many indicators, first of all in the work of Jesus Christ, and then also including the apostles own theological understandings as directed by the inspiration of God and recorded in Scripture to form the basis for the new Sabbath being the first day of the week. The immediate continuity of this is borne out by various historical records of early Christianity.
So that is our conviction, and the basis for it from the Word of God.
Note: As the above is now posted on the internet credit for the content of this section is rightly due to Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., author of The Lord's Day (Fearn, Ross-shire, GB: Christian Focus, 1997) 95-155.
What a tangled web ...
Why do you seek to preach to Muslims when you have made a such a hash of interpreting your own scriptures???
Colossians 2:16-17 You have confused moral law with ceremonial and typical law. The moral law (the ten commandments) of which the 7th day Sabbath is the fourth are not shadows of things to come, but universal and perpetual (Psalm19:7-9). The weekly Sabbath is a memorial of creation an historical event (Genesis 2:2,3 Exodus 20:8-11) and deliverance (Deuteronomy 5:15) and hence looks back as well as forward. It was instituted before Adam sinned and the promise of a Saviour. Paul is in fact referring to ceremonial Sabbaths being shadows pointing forward to Christ (Leviticus 23: 6-8, 15,16,24,25,28,37,38). He states that in Christ these shadows became reality and that Christians no longer need concern themselves with the typical and shadowy. He condemns "false teachers" who would lead his converts back to Judaic ceremonial requirements. Paul in no way undermines the moral law or the seventh day Sabbath which is eternal (Romans 7:7-12,14)
Did Christ change the Sabbath???
Luke 4:16 on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue as was his custom ...
John 15:10 ... I have obeyed my fathers commands and remain in his love.
1 Peter 2:21 ... Christ ... leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.
Matthew 5:17-19 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law ... not until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law ...
By whose authority then was "the law and commands of Holy God" (relating to the Sabbath Exodus 20:8) changed?
Dr. Edward T. Hiscox author of The Baptist Manual in a paper read before a New York Ministers' Conference held Nov.13, 1893. "Earnestly desiring information on this subject, which I have studied for many years, I ask, Where can the record of such a transaction be found? Not in the New Testament, absolutely not. There is no scriptural evidence of the change of the Sabbath institution from the seventh to the first day of the week ..."
Acts 20:7 This meeting occurred on the first day of the week, but there is nothing to indicate that the meeting was held because it was Sunday. Paul was leaving the following day and this was the last opportunity to meet with those at Troas. The early Christians were in the habit of meeting often, even when it was not the Sabbath (Acts 2:46 every day they continued to meet)
1 Corinthians 16:1,2 Paul is promoting a special project and is encouraging systematic saving on the part of Corinthian Christians. There is nothing to suggest that there is any sacredness attached to the first day of the week.
Revelations 1:10 "Kuriake Hemera" This term has come to be associated with Sunday. However in John's time the only day of the week which was given a name was the Sabbath, the rest were numbered. (Microsoft Encarta "Saturday") "In Sweden, ... Saturday is Lordag, or Lords Day; and in Denmark and Norway it is Lordag". (Microsoft Encarta 99 "Saturday")
It is interesting to note that Jesus referred to himself as the Lord even of the Sabbath Mark 2:27
God refers to the Sabbath as my holy day and the Lords holy day Isaiah 58:13.
Matthew 28:1 Clearly states the seventh day is the Sabbath.
In the absence of even the barest thread of evidence that God has changed his holy day from Saturday to Sunday in the New Testament it is safe to assume that John was in the Spirit on Saturday rather than Sunday.
Al-Nisa 4:171 "People of the book, do not transgress the bounds of your religion. Speak nothing but truth about God ...."
To quote from your letter:-
"At creation God established the moral obligation of keeping holy one day in seven"
You have distorted the truth!!! God established a particular day. The day on which he completed his creation. The seventh!!!
Does God really care?
Matthew 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven ...
"The particular day was not part of the moral requirement of the law"
This is no longer a distortion. You are now on very dangerous ground!!! You are in the process of rewriting the word of God!
"... as seen in the Scripture [the Sabbath] was changed by the work of Christ"
You have not demonstrated this! According to Christian scripture Christ fulfilled the ceremonial and typical law, but did not change the moral law.
"The New Testament church ... immediately began to worship on the first day of the week" Wrong!
"In the early days of Christianity, the holy day gradually shifted to Sunday..." (Microsoft Encarta 99 "Saturday")
"The Christian Church made no formal, but a gradual and almost unconscious transference of one day to the other." F.W.Farrar, The Voice from Sinai, p167.
This is of itself evidence that there was no divine command for the change of the Sabbath. The church historian Socrates, who wrote in the fifth century. says: "Almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries on the Sabbath of every week, yet Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on the account of some ancient traditions have ceased to do this." Ecclesiastical History, Book 5, chapter 22, in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,2d series, Vol.2, p32
In A.D. 364 many Christians were still observing the seventh day Sabbath. This is proved by the fact that the Church Council of Laodicea in that year outlawed the observance of the seventh day Sabbath. "Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, but shall work on that day; but the Lord's day they shall especially honour, and as being Christians, shall if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ." A History of the Councils of the Church: from the Original Documents, Rt. Rev. Charles Joseph Hefefe, DD., Bishop of Rottenburg, book 6, sec. 93, canon 29 (Vol.2, p. 316). Edinburgh: T.&T.Clark, 1896.
There is no evidence in the New Testament to support a pattern of worship on the first day of the week. You have cited one text Acts 20:7 which refers to a meeting possibly religious? However we are told: "Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news ..." Acts 5:42 Reformed and southern Baptists, with far less enthusiasm I suggest, would have met at least once in the last 10 years, as a church group on a day other than Sunday.
What the New Testament record does indicate is a continuing observance of the seventh day Sabbath among the early Christians! Acts 17:2 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the scriptures ... (See also Acts13:14,42,44)
Acts16:13 On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate to a river, where we expected to find a place of prayer ....
I asked only that you answer my questions honestly and simply. I did not want to get involved in a debate. I have taken time to respond to your letter because dishonesty grates whether the source is among the Jews, Muslims, Christians or atheists.
You have consistently failed to meet my challenge to name one Christian church which follows all the commandments of God. My first reaction to your letter was that you were being dishonest with me in an attempt to deceive.
To be charitable you may actually believe what you have written. If this is the case you have a far more personal challenge to face, rather than answering mine. For as you have written in your mission statement: We will all be judged according to our responses to 'the law and commands of Holy God.
In a message dated 01/21/2000 5:52:29AM, you write:
"Paul is in fact referring to ceremonial Sabbaths being shadows pointing forward to Christ (Leviticus 23: 6-8, 15,16,24,25,28,37,38). He states that in Christ these shadows became reality and that Christians no longer need concern themselves with the typical and shadowy. He condemns false teachers who would lead his converts back to Judaic ceremonial requirements. Paul in no way undermines the moral law or the seventh day Sabbath which is eternal (Romans 7:7-12,14)"
Exactly where do you find your proof that Paul is referring to Sabbaths other than the seventh day Sabbath? Your reference to Leviticus does not support that argument being the case for the verses in Colossians. In linguistics it is clearly recognized that when there is a term referring to a common general usage apart from qualified terms for minor specific usages of a similar nature and the general term is used it does not refer to _only_ one/some of the minor specific usages, but rather to the general use. To prove otherwise is crucial for your argument to be considered even a plausible alternative -- you have given it no valid grounds.
Your quotation from Romans 7 certainly does relate to God's law -- and Paul's early aquaintance with it showing him that he had failed in his attempts to live a holy and right life before God, to show him his sinfulness, that he might understand and realize his need of the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. I wonder at the fact that while you seem to quote this passage with such rapidity, as a (related?) buttress for your unproven (and very weak) proposition about Colossians 2:16,17, that your writing does not at all reflect its truth -- in contrast you seem bitter and virulent towards those who in your estimation, and by your interpretations have failed.
Yes, the Holy God of all will judge men by His righteous standards -- all those who do not trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and shortcomings.
You have been given more than "the barest thread of evidence" -- rather a logically valid argument. Whether or not you choose to agree, or to attempt to structure a counter-argument is your prerogative; but to blast in response that not "the barest thread of evidence" has been given shows little academic candour at best. A cogent textual and theological argument has been presented; you may indeed present your counter argument; I have responded at this time to portions which I believe are central to showing the weakness of your own, the first being the ones above.
Your historical quotation of a Microsoft Encarta article is interesting:
"Revelations 1:10 Kuriake Hemera
This term has come to be associated with Sunday. However in John's time the only day of the week which was given a name was the Sabbath, the rest were numbered. (Microsoft Encarta "Saturday")...etc..."
First of all: certainly part of the above "the only day of the week given a name was the Sabbath" is true for the Roman province of Judea, and the other areas that comprised the once nation of Israel. The only day of the week given a name there in general during this period was the Sabbath. The fact is the term the Lord's Day which does refer to Sunday (as New Testament and early church history abundantly testify) was used by John on the isle of Patmos -- in a part of the Roman Empire where the term Sabbath was not generally recognized. So the above quote from Encarta does not really apply too well to your argument.
F.W. Farrar's quote: I'm sure I could find more like it as well -- there are undoubtedly scholars today, and have been in the past who simply disbelieve, or dislike Christianity and the Bible, and that perspective no doubt shines through in their historiography, thus tend to favor a process of gradual change from Saturday to Sunday worship; Scripture itself would however even explain this apparent graduality, as some Christians of Jewish descent, and especially Judaizers continued for a time to hold the Jewish Sabbath. In fact this is the very point Paul addresses in Colossians. Added comment: The verses alluded to as New Testament Sabbath worship simply show Paul taking opportunity to evangelize the Jews in their synagogues; and for the other passage, again we see simply a situation where Paul and the others were looking for a quiet place to pray, but end up evangelizing the people they meet by the river. Jesus of course as mentioned did keep the Sabbath -- as the Messiah he kept all of the law of God perfectly, fulfilling the ceremonial -- as explained previously.
Of course intellectual supporters of Christianity have their own perspectives as well; there are many scholars, and among them men and women of faith; the question is are the arguments valid; and then which are better founded, most cogent? Which are most coherent both in their formal and material adequacy? There can only be one truth.
Phillip Schaff, a historian of the early church states "the Christian Sunday was regarded by the fathers as based on the resurrection of Christ and apostolic tradition..." Following the example of the Apostles the early church replaced seventh day worship with worship on the first day of the week.. there is no doubt this change was of apostolic origin. (Schaff, II, p.202)
Primary historical source support includes: Justin Martyr: Apology I, 67; Irenaeus: Against Heresies 4.16.2; Tertullian: An Answer to the Jews, VI; Ignatius: Magnesians 9; The Didache 14; The Epistle of Barnabas XV.8,9; Origen: Homilies on Numbers; Eusebius: Commentary on the Psalms, 75; Clement of Alexandria: The Instructor III, XI; Second Clement, XVII c.120-140AD. All of these deal with Sunday the Lord's Day, and the Jewish Sabbath. There are many more references to the same in early history.
I would be interested in seeing a stronger argument from your side regarding Colossians 2:16-17, as you neither seem to consider ours sincere or valid. Beyond that exactly what you are trying to prove or argue in the main? What is your worldview/religion? You quote from the Bible and the Quran as though they are both authoritative sources for life and behaviour, while they are at odds historically, logically, theologically, and in general content.
We believe the biblical, theological and historical arguments you have been presented are correct and faithful to God's Word.
"So then each of us shall give account of himself to God." Romans 14:12
I thank you for your correspondence, I am sorry, if by contrast mine seemed "bitter and virulent."
May the love of the only God be with you!!!
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