Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – The Lord’s Day

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays

 

The origins of Christianity and the original customs thereof come not from pagans. They come from the Holy Bible and ancient Hebrew thought.

Christians did not see the institution of holidays like Christmas (Feast of Nativity) and Easter (Pascha) as a negation of God’s law.  They saw these as traditions instituted by the Apostles (1 Corinthians 11:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6) who were believed to have authority to institute such celebrations (Matthew 16:16-19; 18:17-20).

The early Church, from whom the holidays of Lent, Easter & Christmas come, were not committing apostasy because they didn’t believe in following the law of Moses.  They were following their understanding of the writings of the New Testament and which agrees with Hebrew thought of the time.

Note: the purpose of sharing this information is not to bring forth strife and debate about the law (Titus 3:9) but to attempt to display that early Christians were staying faithful to the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3) not turning aside to “paganism”.

Tit 3:9  But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

The Lord’s Day

Lord's Day

Rom 14:5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
Rom 14:6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
Rom 14:7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
Rom 14:8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
Rom 14:9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
Rom 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
Rom 14:11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
Rom 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

Col 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Col 2:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

 

shabbat pict

 

The Hebrew word for sabbath is שבת ‘shabbat’ which pictographically displays a “return to the house through the cross/covenant”. Christ Jesus is the door that we enter in order to abide in God ‘House’ (John 10:7). It is through Him that we are covered/hidden. This is the definition of who the Israel of God is (Galatians 6:16)…His hidden ones (Psalm 83:3). It is by the covenant cut in Messiah (Daniel 9:26; Isaiah 42:6), by His sacrifice on the cross that we are covered (1 John 1:7). It is through His Outstretched Arms (wings) that Messiah is calling us (John 3:14; 12:32) and gathering us together as a Shepherd does His flock (John 10:14-16). This is how we enter the Door into the House, this is how we are declared innocent and pure in His eyes. This is how we become His friends and enter into His House in an intimate relationship.

He gathers and then carries in His bosom His people through the crucifixion.  It is through the work of Messiah on the cross that mankind is brought into His family.

Isa 40:10  Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
Isa 40:11  He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

Joh 10:14  I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
Joh 10:15  As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
Joh 10:16  And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

Psa 89:50  Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants; how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people;
Psa 89:51  Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O LORD; wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.

Eph 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Eph 2:9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Eph 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Eph 2:11  Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
Eph 2:12  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
Eph 2:13  But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Eph 2:14  For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Eph 2:15  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
Eph 2:16  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
Eph 2:17  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
Eph 2:18  For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Eph 2:19  Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

Psa 22:22  I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.

Heb 2:9  But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
Heb 2:10  For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Heb 2:11  For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
Heb 2:12  Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
Heb 2:13  And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.
Heb 2:14  Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
Heb 2:15  And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Heb 2:16  For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
Heb 2:17  Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

The only way to truly observe the sabbath is by resting in God…ceasing from our own works and trusting in the work of Jesus

Heb 4:8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
Heb 4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
Heb 4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

Those who believe in Christ have entered into His rest
Heb 4:3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
Heb 4:4 For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.
Heb 4:5 And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.
Heb 4:6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:
Heb 4:7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Heb 4:8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
Heb 4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
Heb 4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

If you believe in Christ you have entered into His rest…if you believe not you have not entered into His rest. The seventh day sabbath is a shadow which points to the rest found in Christ. If one believes in Christ should they still keep the shadow? If one is keeping sabbath for the sake of keeping sabbath then one is missing the point. Keeping the sabbath should only be done as a remembrance of one’s salvation/rest in Christ.

If one is keeping sabbath as a “work of the law” then one is denying their rest in Christ. If one sacrifices a Passover lamb they are denying that Jesus is their Passover. If one afflicts their soul through fasting as a means of atonement on the Day of Atonement they are denying that Jesus is their Atonement.

 

“One should know that the works which Paul repudiates and frequently criticizes are not the works of righteousness [opera iustitiae] which are commanded in the law, but those in which they boast who keep the law according to the flesh; that is, the circumcision of the flesh, the sacrificial rituals, the observance of Sabbaths and new moon festivals [cf. Col 2.18].

These and works of a similar nature are the works by which he says no one can be saved, and concerning which he says in the present passage, ‘not on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace.’ For if anyone is justified through these, he is not justified gratis. But these works are by no means sought from the one who is justified through grace; but this one should take care that the grace he has received should not be in him ‘in vain’ [cf. 1 Cor 15.10] . . . So then, one does not make grace become in vain who joins works to it that are worthy and who does not show himself ungrateful for the grace of God. For anyone who sins after having attained grace becomes ungrateful to him who offered the grace.”  {Origen, Commentary on Romans 8, 7, 6}

Gal 2:21  I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Col 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
Col 2:7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
Col 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Col 2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
Col 2:10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
Col 2:11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
Col 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
Col 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Col 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
Col 2:15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
Col 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Col 2:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Col 2:18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
Col 2:19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.
Col 2:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
Col 2:21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;
Col 2:22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
Col 2:23 Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

The cross points us back to the beginning and the choice between the two trees in the Garden. Life or death, blessing or cursing. The cross teaches us that redemption and righteousness is only found in Jesus Christ. Once we come to the cross we die to our selves and then take up our cross to follow Him (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; 10:20; Luke 9:23). It is the path to walking in the Spirit where we become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The cross encapsulates the entire message of Scripture. Man sinned and was separated from God but the promise of the Seed of the woman would bring victory over sin and death (Genesis 3:15). This comes through the Messiah who is pierced by the serpent but at the same time crushes His head.

Gal 6:12 As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
Gal 6:13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
Gal 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
Gal 6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
Gal 6:16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
Gal 6:17 From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
Gal 6:18 Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. To the Galatians written from Rome.

 

Sabbath in Hebrew is spelled שבת ‘shabbat’ from the root שב ‘shuv.’  שב ‘shuv’ is the Hebrew word for repentance or literally returning to an “original state” which I believe, in case of the subject of sabbath, points us back to the Garden of Eden before mankind sinned.

All of the sabbath commands in the Old Testament point to rest from the curse that Adam and Eve received through sin (no work – work was a part of the curse Genesis 3:17-19; no kindling fires – Adam and Eve didn’t need fire as they didn’t need to cook and they were naked implying they didn’t need clothes for warmth etc. Dale Ratzlaff does a great job of displaying this concept in his book Sabbath in Christ)…The sabbath is a picture of restoration back to God which comes only through Christ. The letter ת ‘tav’ is literally the picture of a cross in ancient Hebrew so שבת ‘shabbat’ shows that restoration/reconciliation comes through the cross.

שבת ‘shabbat’ pictographically displays the concept of “returning to the house through the cross.”  This concept of “His house” is seen in the beginning (see Messiah in the Torah Genesis 1:1).

 

Scripturally, we are not to judge our brothers in Christ in regards to their understanding of the feasts and sabbath days (Colossians 2:16-17; Romans 14). Following are some articles which display the sabbath – Lord’s day controversy from an historical Christian viewpoint. I leave it up to the reader to work out their own salvation in regards to the sabbath and how that is to be implemented in their life, whether it be a literal resting on the 7th day, a spiritual sabbath in Christ, or a combination of both.

Sunday was a day of worship from the days of the early Church.  It was not instituted hundreds of years later from Apostates as is claimed by many.

“Wherefore also we keep the eighth day for rejoicing, in the which also Jesus rose from the dead, and having been manifested ascended into the heavens.”  {Epistle of Barnabas}

“Further, He says to them, “Your new moons and your Sabbath I cannot endure.” You perceive how He speaks: Your present Sabbaths are not acceptable to Me, but that is which I have made, [namely this,] when, giving rest to all things, I shall make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world. Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day (Sunday) with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead. And when He had manifested Himself, He ascended into the heavens.” {Epistle of Barnabas}

“If then those who had walked in ancient practices attained unto newness of hope, no longer observing Sabbaths but fashioning their lives after the Lord’s day, on which our life also arose through Him and through His death which some men deny.” {Ignatius: to the Magnesians (A.D. 35-105) ch.9}

“He, in fulfillment of the precept, according to the Gospel, keeps the Lord’s day, when he abandons an evil disposition, and assumes that of (knowledge), glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself.” {Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 195) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.2 pg.545}

“This [custom], of not bending the knee upon Sunday, is a symbol of the resurrection, through which we have been set free, by the grace of Christ, from sins, and from death, which has been put to death under Him. Now this custom took its rise from apostolic times, as the blessed Irenaeus, the martyr and bishop of Lyons, declares in his treatise On Easter, in which he makes mention of Pentecost also; upon which [feast] we do not bend the knee, because it is of equal significance with the Lord’s day, for the reason already alleged concerning it.”  {Irenaeus of Lyon Fragments 7 (120-180 ad)}

“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.

And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.

For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.” {Justin Martyr (A.D. 160) Ante-Nicene Fathers vol.1 pg.186}

“If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death-whom some deny, by which mystery we have obtained faith, and therefore endure, that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Master-how shall we be able to live apart from Him, whose disciples the prophets themselves in the Spirit did wait for Him as their Teacher? And therefore He whom they rightly waited for, being come, raised them from the dead.

If, then, those who were conversant with the ancient Scriptures came to newness of hope, expecting the coming of Christ, as the Lord teaches us when He says, “If ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me;” and again, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad; for before Abraham was, I am; ” how shall we be able to live without Him? The prophets were His servants, and foresaw Him by the Spirit, and waited for Him as their Teacher, and expected Him as their Lord and Saviour, saying, “He will come and save us.” Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; for “he that does not work, let him not eat.” For say the [holy] oracles, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread.”

But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week]. Looking forward to this, the prophet declared, “To the end, for the eighth day,” on which our life both sprang up again, and the victory over death was obtained in Christ, whom the children of perdition, the enemies of the Saviour, deny, “whose god is their belly, who mind earthly things,” who are “lovers of pleasure, and not lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”

These make merchandise of Christ, corrupting His word, and giving up Jesus to sale: they are corrupters of women, and covetous of other men’s possessions, swallowing up wealth insatiably; from whom may ye be delivered by the mercy of God through our Lord Jesus Christ!”  {The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians}

“This [custom], of not bending the knee upon Sunday, is a symbol of the resurrection, through which we have been set free, by the grace of Christ, from sins, and from death, which has been put to death under Him. Now this custom took its rise from apostolic times, as the blessed Irenaeus, the martyr and bishop of Lyons, declares in his treatise On Easter, in which he makes mention of Pentecost also; upon which [feast] we do not bend the knee, because it is of equal significance with the Lord’s day, for the reason already alleged concerning it.”  {Irenaeus of Lyon Fragments 7 (120-180 ad)}

Why Worship on a Sunday?

“Why do Christians assemble for worship on a Sunday when the Old Testament clearly endorses observation of the seventh day (Saturday)?

Many modern Christians have almost touch with the theology of their predecessors and therefore can easily fall prey to various seventh day theologies and lines of attack. They are sometimes susceptible when they are accused of ignoring the clear command of several Old Testament statements including the Fourth commandment,

“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy…” (Exodus 20:8)

This command originally referred, of course, to the day we now call Saturday, whereas a majority of Christians now assemble on a Sunday. Many seventh day groups darkly associate Sunday worship with receiving ‘the Mark of the Beast’ and believe that Christians who attend church on a Sunday have been duped by Satan into actually worshipping him! These groups are often characterised by an astonishingly selective approach to early Christian history in which they dilligently search for “historical evidence” which suits their approach, whilst being quite prepared to ignore other evidence which does not fit in with their schema. They then proceed to marry this flawed historical approach to various fanciful and mystical theories about ”The Mark of the Beast”- the approach is usually authoritative and dogmatic with an air of moral indignation which tends to mask the fact that there is a singular lack of evidence to back up their theories – No, one can go further: They impose their theories upon the evidence rather than allowing the evidence to speak for itself.

The fourth century Roman Emperor Constantine usually plays a major role within their idiosyncratic approach. He is seen as the Arch-villain who imposed Sunday worship upon the Empire and persecuted Sabbath-keepers and his fourth century Edict which upheld Sunday as a day of rest is gleefully pointed out as evidence of this; In fact, typical seventh day claims about Constantine amount to a gross distortion of history which are now widely believed by seventh day people simply because they have been repeated so many times (mostly by people who have never opened a single authoritative book on 4th century history). But this reveals their highly selective approach to history, for they never go back even further – to the second century – in order to consult the writings of Justin Martyr. He wrote,

“Sunday is the day upon which we all hold our communion and assembly” (Justin Martyr, First Christian Apology)

“But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure…” (Chapter 14. ‘The Didache’; Christian Assembly on the Lord’s Day. A first century document.
Justin’s testimony is important, for their exists a direct link from him, through Polycarp, right back to the Apostle John. During his life, Polycarp was personally acquainted with, first of all, John – then later with Justin Martyr, with no evidence of doctrinal dispute existing between them. Other very early documents such as the non-canonical Epistle of Barnabbas and the Didache appear to show that Christians were very soon assembling on Sundays. The Epistle of Ignatius which can be dated to about A.D. 107 gives the reason why The Lord’s Day was now seen as having more importance than the sabbath:

‘Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish Law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace….If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and By His death.’ Of several other early church documents which can be fruitfully consulted on this topic, ‘Apostolic Constitutions: Church life in the 2nd Century’ says this:

‘On the day of the resurrection of the Lord–that is, the Lord’s Day–assemble yourself together without fail, giving thanks to God and praising Him for those mercies God has bestowed upon you through Christ.’
In fact, the evidence of gathering for worship on a Sunday is present within the New Testament itself (Acts 20:7 1 Cor 16:1-2 and Revelation 1:10, for instance).

But why, then, the change from Saturday to Sunday as preferred days of worship?

First of all it should always be borne in mind that the original Sabbath was given in a national scenario to a people who had no access to God’s Holy Spirit nor explicit promise of salvation at that time. In effect, God was saying to them, ‘One day in every seven I want you all to sit down, do no work and contemplate on the beauty and wonder of Creation, and the things of God for the entire day.’ In fact, circumcision and the Sabbath became the two identifiers of God’s Old Covenant people. The Sabbath (Saturday) identifies those who, in turn, identify themselves with the Old Covenant and wish to claim it’s promises. The New Covenant, however, which commenced with the Sacrifice and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, marked a distinct change in approach (see Matthew 26:27-28; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 8:7-13; Hebrews 10:16-18). Jesus is now our Lord and Master (Hebrews 1:1-2). Christians are no longer subject to legalistic law codes but, rather, the Spirit of Christ is to lead those who have been spiritually regenerated (born again). The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) clearly reveals this insufficiency of Old Covenant law as a guide for the disciples of Christ. Christians are not required to ‘sit down and think of God’ one day in seven in the old, legalistic sense because, as Spirit-led believers, we should enjoy regular communion with Him through the Spirit! (2 Corinthians 3:6).
Interestingly, the Sabbath command is never repeated in the New Testament, not even once. Furthermore, Jesus is often critical of the Jewish authorities who took a ‘picky’ and literalistic approach to Sabbath day observance. Jesus was quite prepared to heal the sick on this day, something which the Pharisees strongly objected to such was their legalistic approach to the sabbath. The New Testament teaches that the Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ (Matthew 11: 28-30). The book of Hebrews specifically shows how not only the weekly Sabbath, but the ‘Promised Land’ itself are vague foreshadowings of the Eternal Rest which Christians are to enjoy in the New Heavens and New Earth of the future. The faithful finally inherit this – but only in and through Christ. (Carefully study Hebrews 4).

But it is important to understand that Christians now understood themselves to be part of a New Creation, in comparison to the earth’s original creation ( 2 Corinthians 5 : 16-19). This exciting New Testament teaching is often strangely lacking from modern preaching. God created the world on the First Day but an estrangement occurred, of course, when Adam and Eve fell into sin. In due course, however, God sent Jesus – the Second Adam – and, as Paul says, Christians are really part of God’s New Creation. In Genesis 1, on the First Day of creation week, God separated the light from the darkness. In his Gospel, John uses that concept, going back to creation (in his first chapter) and saying, “The true light which illuminates all men was coming into the world” (John 1:9).
This, of course, clearly refers to Christ and lends itself to the conception that those who accept Christ become part of a new First Day – this is why a few started referring to Sunday as ‘the eighth day’ – the idea is that it is a new First Day of Creation; furthermore, Christ rose from the dead on the First Day of the week. (Of course, some ‘seventh day people’ have performed major contortions here by saying, ‘Yes, but that only proves that He was already risen then,’ but, wait a moment, if the Bible wanted to tell us that He actually rose on the Sabbath why did it not clearly do so? What the text certainly appears to say is that he rose, or was ‘arisen’ on the First Day of the week!) Pentecost too occurred upon the first Day of the week (Pentecost, with new meaning, is the continuation of the old ‘Feast of Weeks’ and it is interesting that the Jews were commanded to observe very precise regulations in order to ensure that this day always fell on the First Day of the week – Sunday. Leviticus 23: 15-16).
As Paul Haffner points out,
“While the seventh day brought the first creation to a close, the eighth day marked the beginning of the new creation. Thus the act of creation finds its culmination in the greater act of the redemption.” (Paul Haffner, ‘The Mystery of Creation,’ 1995 ‘Gracewing’ paperback , p142).

Moreover, if we return to Christ’s Resurrection day, we can find several other points worthy of note;

First of all it is surely interesting that Christ entered his own rest from His earthly labours on a Sunday – not a Sabbath.
Secondly, we find in the account what can justly be referred to as the first Sunday evening worship service! (John 20: 19-22). And as if to underline the desirability of seeking after the Lord on this day, the disciples can again be found assembling on this day one week later (John 20:26). (The Old King James says here; “after eight days…” and this is true to the original Greek, but misleading since it appears that the inclusive method of counting is being used here; One Sunday to another being eight days. Almost every modern translation says here, “One week later”) Again, Jesus appears as if to bless this assembly. Quite obviously, Jesus did not appear in order to rebuke His disciples for “keeping” the wrong day!!
While Paul can certainly be found going into synagogues on the Sabbath in order to maintain his practise of approaching Jews first upon entering any town for the first time, he – quite obviously – chose to preach on a Sunday – see Acts 20:7. Sunday rejecting groups either ignore such New Testament verses or produce some woefully inadequate explanations for them.

Some though will still say, ‘Yes, but the Bible clearly upholds the seventh day throughout the Old Testament, can those verses simply be ignored?’ The answer is, absolutely not – but we have to understand that the Old Testament should now only be considered in the greater light of the New Testament since therein lies the greater revelation! Revelation is progressive. But, sadly, this is precisely where many go astray! They attempt an Ebionite approach of trying to “keep” and live within the two major Bible Covenants – but it simply cannot be done, and this shows a lamentable understanding of the doctrine of Grace. The Old Testament is eternally valid for teaching, we don’t attempt to get rid of it like the heretic Marcion (some Adventists have claimed that Luther tried to get rid of it, which he did not). But it represents a Covenant which – for those in Christ – is now obsolete, as it plainly says in Hebrews 8: 13:

“In that He says, ‘ a new covenant,’ he has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

The 70AD destruction of Jerusalem did indeed cause it to finally ‘vanish away’!

Christians are not to attempt to put ‘new wine into old wineskins’! What we must hold on to from the Sabbath command amounts to 3 points:

a. That – as Christians – we do need to continue to meet regularly for worship (Hebrews 10:25)
b. That we should never lose sight of the glorious principle that we now find true rest, repose and joy in Christ alone (Matthew 11: 28-12:8), whom we can worship at any time, but should take into account New Testament precedent.
And finally,
c. Knowing that as we continue to cleave to Christ, we will eventually enter the ultimate ‘rest’ from all of our labours, in the New Heavens and the New Earth – Eternal Life in unspeakable joy in the very company of God (Hebrews 3:18-4:11).

The truth is, Holy Spirit – led Christianity is not about keeping days! – we can be sure about this (if we otherwise doubted) from comments which the Apostle Paul makes. In fact, he seems to give the impression that believers who are too concerned about keeping days are immature,

“Let no one pass judgement on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a new moon or Sabbath, these things are only a shadow of what is to come. But the real substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2: 16-17)

In Galatians 4, Paul takes a legalistic element at Galatia to task about their immature desire to keep, “…days, and months, and times, and years” He tells them, “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (verse 11)

He goes on to give his famous allegory about Hagar and Sarah. Hagar, says Paul, typified the Old Covenant while Sarah typified the New. He concludes the chapter by saying,

“What says the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son : for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free” (verses 30-31)

This really should be crystal clear to all. We are no longer to be legalistic about these things! These two verses also clearly show us the error of trying to live within two covenants.

Will be accept the straightforward teaching that the Old Covenant (or, the ‘bondwoman’) has to be cast out in order for us to serve Christ?

So we find within the New Testament no specific command to assemble for worship on any particular day nor should we expect to find such an instruction since there is a certain freedom in Christ, His blood having released us from Old Covenant penalties/prohibitions. Nevertheless, we do find a strong precedent for assembling for worship on what soon became known as ‘The Lord’s Day’ – Sunday : the day of the resurrection, the day of the disciples meeting and seeking after Christ – with the risen Christ’s revealing of Himself to them, the day of Pentecost, the day on which Paul can be found preaching to other Christians (rather than to Jews), the day on which Paul requested the Corinthians to make a collection for Christians affected by the famine in Judea (1 Corinthians 16: 1-3), the day on which John wrote that he found himself, ‘In the Spirit’ (Rev 1:10) and the day of which Justin Martyr wrote, ‘We all hold our communion and assembly’.

Seventh day adherents might just ponder that they resolutely hold to the day which was a main mark of the Old Covenant, identifying God’s Old Covenant people who placed their trust in the sufficiency of that particular covenant to save them. The Christian, on the other hand, prefers to be associated with the Day of the Lord which identifies them as followers of Jesus Christ whom they look to as Saviour, Lord and Master – and who is fully sufficient for salvation.
Despite all of the above, if Christians prefer to assemble on the seventh day (Saturday) they do no wrong, but the danger is in the legalism and judgmentalism of other Christians (to say nothing of the distortions of church history) which so often seems to accompany seventh-day observance.”  {Why Worship on a Sunday? – Robin A. Brace}

“Perhaps you have read the commands to observe the Sabbath in the Old Testament and asked yourself: “How does this command apply to me?” The history of biblical interpretation has produced several answers to this question. Many teach that Christians are called to keep the Sabbath, in the sense that the Old Covenant commands (i.e. no work on the seventh day of the week [Saturday]). These teachers are quick to point out that Sabbath keeping is one of the “Ten Commandments.” They argue: “Since we believe that the commands against murder, stealing, and adultery are still binding, why should we think the command of Sabbath keeping has been abolished?” End note1)

In this article I will demonstrate that the New Testament teaches that true “Sabbath rest” is not found through obeying an Old Covenant ordinance, but rather through trusting in the person and finished work of Jesus Christ. Since the teaching of the New Testament is primary, let us now explore the teaching of Christ and His commissioned apostles regarding the place of the Sabbath in the Christian life.

Entering True Sabbath Rest

The first text we will interact with is in the book of Hebrews. The entire thrust of the book of Hebrews is to exhort Christians to remain in the perfect, completed work of Jesus Christ and not return to the elements of the Mosaic Covenant. In fact, the Messiah and his work are described as being greater than all that was held dear under the Old Covenant: Moses, the priesthood, angels, sacrifices, and the Sabbath. In chapter four of this epistle we are granted keen insight into the New Covenant view of “Sabbath.”

The precept of “the Sabbath” is related by the Spirit-led author to the promise of entering God’s eternal, enduring rest. He declares that those who refuse to listen to God’s word of salvation will never enter (see 3:11, 19) and those who listen and believe the message brought by His Son have already entered. He writes:

Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest. (Hebrews 4:1-3a).

Consider that the means of entering God’s “Sabbath rest” is belief. The faithful are at rest, not through the works of the Law, but rather through faith in Jesus. The author of Hebrews continues to note “the Sabbath” rest that we find in the New Covenant: “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:9-10). The Sabbath day observance, like the Old Covenant sacrifices and the priesthood, pointed towards the day when God’s people would find rest for their weary souls through the power of the cross. Jesus fulfilled the Law and we who believe have entered true Sabbath rest.

In light of these precepts, we must always remember Paul’s exhortation to the Colossian church, who were being troubled by those who advocated a return to the elements of the Old Covenant:

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17).

These are powerfully instructive words. The elements of the Old Covenant were shadows of the Savior. Since the substance, Jesus, has come and fulfilled the Law, we dare not return to the shadows.

In a related text, Paul, in writing to the Galatians, was so distressed by those who were returning to elements of the Old Covenant rather than remaining in the simplicity of faith in Christ, he severely admonished them, stating:

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain. (Galatians 4:9-11) End note 2).

We are warned not to return to the shadows of the Old Covenant, or fear those who would judge us for not observing them. Instead, our fear should be directed elsewhere. The author of Hebrews continues: “Let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it” (Hebrews 4:1).

When we consider the intent of the book of Hebrews and its implications, we encounter a subtle irony. We, as readers, are warned to not return to the elements of the Old Covenant because of the great salvation that has arrived, superseding the Mosaic Law (see Hebrews 1:1-3, 3:1-6, 8:6). If one adheres to observing the Sabbath as a necessary means of being at peace with God, they are falling short of entering His rest.3 They have become “Sabbath-breakers” because they have not entered true rest through belief in the terms of the New Covenant established by Christ and His apostles. On the other hand, those who believe in Christ and His work alone as the way to peace with God have entered the eternal rest brought about by His blood. By His grace, these are the true “Sabbath-keepers.” That, is irony.

Saturday, Sunday, Any Day?

Given the centuries of Jewish tradition preceding the coming of Christ, it is not surprising that this teaching of the New Testament caused great controversy in the Jewish culture of the time. As the controversy crept its way into the church, questions arose: When should we worship? How should we view those who set aside a specific day for worship? How should we view those who see all days alike? These questions have continued to be asked throughout the age of the church, and have received a wide range of answers.

In Romans 14, the Apostle Paul answered these inquiries in this way:

Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. (Romans 14:4-5) End note 4).

If Paul wanted to command mandatory Sabbath keeping for New Covenant Christians, this was the perfect place to do so. One of the issues he addressed in this text was “regarding one day above another” referring to days of worship. Yet rather than command a specific, binding day of worship, the Apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, established something different: Freedom in worship under the New Covenant.

Some time ago in a debate about mandatory Sabbath keeping, I challenged my opponent with this passage and its implications. He replied: “Peter tells us that Paul often writes things that are hard to understand. This passage is one of them.”5 While his comment was cleverly elusive, his response spoke volumes: He had no good answer to this text.

Sunday “Sabbath?”

Beyond teaching that there is no mandatory Saturday Sabbath observance under the New Covenant, this text also implies there is no mandatory Sunday “Sabbath.” Some have answered the Sabbath question by asserting that the Sabbath has been moved from Saturday to Sunday in light of Jesus’ resurrection. An example of this is the so-called “Puritan Sabbath.” M. James Sawyer explains some of its dynamics:

The Puritans established a Christian Sabbath (Sunday) during which Christians must “not only observe an holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of [God’s] worship and the duties of necessity and mercy.” The Puritans saw this Sabbath as binding and honored it with the utmost seriousness. In fact, they believed so strongly in Sabbath adherence that they thought natural disasters resulted from a lack of obedience. End note 6).

To address this teaching, it is significant to note that there is no text in the New Testament where the authors equate the first day of the week (Sunday or “the Lord’s day”) with the Sabbath. When this is considered along with Paul’s teaching regarding days of worship in Romans 14, it is well established that there is no binding command to New Covenant believers to worship on a specific day. Instead, Christians are given freedom in the Gospel to gather and worship according to their conscience. Yet, do not misunderstand, it is essential that we worship and gather, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25) Yet, under the New Covenant, we are free as to when we engage in worship, and are called to not impose our personal conscience upon others. If a community desires to gather, rest, and worship on Saturday, they are free to do so. The same applies to Sunday. The perilous practice we need to avoid is mandating that all Christians must observe a specific day.

Resting in Jesus’ Perfect Work

Many hearts become troubled by those who advocate the need for a Christian to observe the Old Covenant Sabbath. Misguided teachings such as the following do such:

The overwhelming evidence of the Bible and history proves that the Seventh day Sabbath—Saturday today—is the true day of rest and worship of God. God puts His presence into that day. He fellowships with His people on that day, as well as, the annual holy days which, He has commanded to be observed in worship of Him. Now that you have this knowledge and God holds you responsible for it, what will you do? Jesus Christ commands, “Repent and believe the Gospel.” Will you repent sins [sic] and turn to God, or will you continue in your sins? Your eternal life, or eternal death is at stake. End note 7).

On the contrary, we must never allow such distorted views of salvation to eclipse our view of Jesus’ perfect, finished work.

Whenever I have debated the “Sabbath” issue with those who believe we are required to observe it to be pleasing to God, I am grieved by their focus: Jesus and his perfect work are minimized and in its stead is a misplaced zeal for the Law of Moses. We well remember that:

What the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4).

Since our King has come and fulfilled the Law, we need to continue to rely on Him for salvation, sanctification, and security. When we meet people who condemn us as not pleasing to God because we do not obey the Old Covenant Sabbath observance, we should announce to them the Gospel of grace and keep our eyes fixed on the all sufficient Savior. We will then know what it means to heed Jesus’ invitation:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29).”  {Entering True Sabbath Rest – Robin A. Brace}

 

See also: Was the Mosaic Sabbath Eternal and Unchangeable?

“First Century Christian Practice

Try as one might, he will search in vain for New Testament evidence that the primitive church observed the sabbath with apostolic approval. Yes, it certainly was the case that the apostles frequented the synagogues on the sabbath for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel. That is where the greatest concentration of Jews would have been (cf. Acts 13:14; 17:1-2, etc.), and the message regarding Jesus was to be spoken first to them (Rom. 1:16).

But where is the evidence that the early church, under divine guidance, came together to worship God on the sabbath day?

(1) The kingdom of Christ was established on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1), which always fell on “the morrow after the sabbath” (Lev. 23:15-16), hence, on Sunday. So the church started out meeting for worship on the first day of the week (cf. Acts 2:42).

(2) The disciples at Troas “were gathered together” [passive voice] upon “the first day of the week” to break bread, i.e., to worship, (Acts 20:7). The specific day of meeting was no accident. Though Paul was anxious to get to Jerusalem (20:16), he waited seven days for the opportunity to assemble with the church.

Moreover, the passive voice (see above) indicates that the assemblage was orchestrated by someone other than the disciples; it was of divine initiative.

(3) The saints in Corinth were assembling, and contributing into the church treasury, “every first day of the week” (1 Cor. 16:2 — Greek text; cf. NASB).

(4) On the isle of Patmos, John was “in the spirit” on “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). The term for “Lord’s” is kupiakos, which is defined here as “relating to the Lord.” Thayer comments: “. . . the day devoted to the Lord, sacred to the memory of Christ’s resurrection” (365).

The Gospel narratives, of course, make it clear that the resurrection occurred on Sunday. While Revelation 1:10 would not be conclusive by itself, the very fact that the day is specifically mentioned is significant.

We must also add this note. While it was true that some weak or uninformed Christians had a problem making a clean break with the Mosaic economy (Rom. 14:1ff; Gal. 4:10-11), it is important to recognize that inspired apostolic teaching sought to correct this error.

Also, there is the record of the post-apostolic patristic writers. For the first three centuries of Christian history, the testimony is uniform that the original disciples of Jesus Christ worshipped on Sunday — not on the sabbath. Here is a sampling of that testimony.

(1) The Didache (c. A.D. 120) declares that “every Lord’s day” the Christians gather themselves together and “break bread” (ANF.VII.381).

(2) The Epistle of Barnabas (c. A.D. 120), in discussing such things as incense, new moons, and sabbaths, says that the Lord “abolished these things” in deference to “the new law of our Lord Jesus Christ” (ANF.I.138). Later, it is affirmed: “Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead” (I.147).

(3) Justin Martyr (A.D. 140) declared that “on the day called Sunday” the primitive Christians met for worship. He further stated that this was the day on which Christ was raised from the dead (I.186).

(4) Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 194) spoke of the one who “keeps the Lord’s day” as “glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself” (ANF.II.545).

(5) Tertullian (A.D. 200) argued that the “old law” had been consummated; thus the “observance of the Sabbath is demonstrated to have been temporary” (ANF.III.155). Elsewhere he says that “Sabbaths are strange” to Christians, and that they share together “the Lord’s day” (70).

(6) Eusebius (A.D. 324), known as the “father of church history,” stated that sabbath-observance does not “belong to Christians.” On the other hand, he asserted that Christians “celebrate the Lord’s days . . . in commemoration of his resurrection” (26,113).

(7) Noted historian Philip Schaff concludes: “The universal and uncontradicted Sunday observance in the second century can only be explained by the fact that it had its roots in the apostolic practice” (478-479).

Finally, we must make this comment. It is incorrect to refer to Sunday as “the Christian sabbath.”

The Scriptures are emphatic that the requirement to keep the sabbath has been terminated. New Testament data lead to the conclusion that the law of Moses (with all of its components — including the sabbath) has been abrogated. Paul affirmed that the “law of commandments” was abolished “through the cross” (Eph. 2:14ff). Similarly, the “bond written in ordinances” (which contained such things as feast days, sabbaths, etc.) was taken out of the way, having been nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14-16).

Sabbatarians allege, however, that only the ceremonial features (e.g., animal sacrifices) of the Mosaic covenant were abolished at the cross. The moral elements of the law (e.g., the ten commandments), it is argued, continue to this very day.

This position is arbitrary, artificial, and will not stand the test of scripture. Observe the following:

(1) God promised to make a “new covenant,” which would not be like the one given to Israel when the nation left Egypt (Jer. 31:31ff). When that “new covenant” was given, a “change” in laws was made (Heb. 7:12). But the old law, bestowed when Israel came out of Egyptian bondage, contained the ten commandments (1 Kgs. 8:9,21). Thus, the decalogue passed away when the Old Testament was replaced by the New.

(2) In Romans 7, the apostle argued that the Christian is “dead to the law through the body of Christ” (4). He further contended that the child of God is “discharged from the law” (6).

Well, exactly what “law” was in view? Merely a “ceremonial” law? No, that is not the case, for subsequently Paul says: “[F]or I had not known coveting, except the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’” (vs. 7; cf. Ex. 20:17).

Clearly, the law to which the Christian is “dead,” i.e., separated from, and from which he is “discharged,” included the ten commandments. The Christian is not under obligation to keep the sabbath.

The fact is, just after he affirmed that the law was “nailed to the cross,” Paul declared that no one could “judge,” i.e., condemn (cf. Thayer, 361) a Christian for not keeping feast days, sabbaths, etc. (Col. 2:16). That statement could not have been made had the sabbath-law still been operative.

We do not doubt that many sabbatarians are genuinely sincere in their profession of keeping the seventh day. But sincerity alone does not justify. The modern practice of “sabbath-keeping” is erroneous.”  {Sunday “sabbath”?}

See also: Jesus and the Sabbath

Dale Ratzlaff: Does the Sabbath continue in the New Covenant?

The Sabbath and the Covenants – A Refutation of Sabbatarian Theology

The Old Covenant / New Covenant and The Sabbath

 

pagan-christianity

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays part 1

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays part 2

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Examine Yourself

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Pagan Christianity?

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Alexander Hislop

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Ralph Woodrow

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Pagan Parallels

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Church Fathers & Paganism

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Constantine

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Origins of Christian Holidays

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Easter & Paganism?

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Easter Eggs

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Easter Lily

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Easter Bunny

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Resurrection Celebration

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Christmas & Paganism?

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Christmas Trees

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – The Law & Holidays

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Change in Law

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – The Law of Christ

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – A New Commandment

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – God Changes Times and Seasons

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Binding & Loosing

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Establishing the Law

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays – Fulfillment of the Law

Hebrew Roots of Christian Holidays –  Receiving One Another

littleguyintheeye@gmail.com

Blessing2

 

Comments

comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *