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Can Any Day Be Your Sabbath?
Dr. Henderson Ward
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In the grand scheme of worker exploitation and the unrelenting pursuit of profit, is it not right for there to be a dedicated day of rest? If the answer is yes, then who determines that day, and does there have to be universal agreement for it to be viable? Good questions these, and for people of faith there is an even more important question.
Are believers free to choose the day they want to set aside for worship?
The Apostles seemed to worship on two days. They worshipped on Saturdays because they were Jews (as did Jesus) and the Old Covenent was existing, and they, after the crucifixion, worshipped also on Sundays under the New Covenant, the first day of the week.
Paul must have considered this question at great length, and because he was the “Professor” among the apostles, no not the “Leader” because Peter was the unchallenged leader, but Paul was very learned, erudite, analytical and intellectual with an unmatched passion for theological accuracy.
Paul gave an excellent summary of this conundrum when he wrote:
“Some people might believe that one day is more important than another. And others might believe that every day is the same. Everyone should be sure about their beliefs in their own mind.” (Romans 14:5 Easy to Read Version)
In many people’s mind there is a blending of Israel and the church, and this failure to see that the two are not the same adds to the problem. Some even say that the church is spiritual Israel.
Let it be clear, Israel is not the church.
This is a fact, and it is one of the fundamental flaws contained in some peoples’ theology. There are many parallels between Israel and The Church and in hermeneutics, symbols of one can at times be referring to the other but the two are distinct and separate.
Israel in the biblical sense is a Semitic nation of Jews who can trace their beginning to a man called Abraham. Abraham came from a family of atheist but he was God-fearing and God asked him to leave his own country (Haran) and kindred and travel to a far off land (Canaan) that God would show him.
Abraham obeyed and fathered offspring, among them Isaac, who in turn fathered Jacob, whom God renamed Israel, and who in turn fathered 12 sons who became the 12 tribes of Israel (See Genesis Chapters 12 – 35).
God made a covenant with Abram (the Abramic Covenant); Abram was later renamed by God Abraham, who conferred on his descendants (the Israelites) special blessings and ownership of land (Canaan) in perpetuity. This in summation is what we mean when we refer to Israel.
The Church, sometimes referred to by other names such as “the people of God” and “the Elect”, is a body of believers in Jesus Christ who have experienced the new birth and become the children of God under the New Covenant. Jesus Christ said to Peter in Matthew 16:18 “…that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…” showing clearly that the church was to be subsequent to that statement.
To be a member of The Church one has to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, as shown in 1Corinthians 12:13. In Acts 1:5 the baptism by the Holy Spirit was spoken of in the past tense, meaning it had already taken place. The interval between these two scriptures was when The Church was created by Jesus Christ; and Christians generally regard its commencement, or birthday, as falling on the day of Pentecost (see Acts chapter 2).
It is generally accepted theologically and hermeneutically that the Jews (Israel) were the covenant people of the Old Testament and Christians are the covenant people of the New Testament. Days of worship must therefore be seen in this context.
The Sabbath was given TO ISRAEL ONLY for its day of worship, not to any other people, and the Bible confirms this, “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you.” (Exodus 31:13)
On which day therefore should Christians worship?
Under the New Testament covenant Jesus Christ and his chosen apostles laid the foundation of the church. The Bible says, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2: 19-20)
Christians follow the Apostolic doctrine, as outlined in scriptures, and we take seriously their example of worship.
The first day of the week is the day the Apostles and the early church chose to meet on and it is the day that Christ rose from the dead and so worshipping on the first day each week is an everlasting memorial of the resurrection. As Paul said “...one man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special does so to the Lord.” (Romans 14: 5-6).
Saturday worshippers are quick to point out that man (the Pope) changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday and is not Sunday named after a false god. This argument is meant to derogate the first day of the week but it signally fails to do so.
All protestants regard the Pope, and by extension the Roman Catholic Church, to have strayed from sound biblical doctrines over many centuries. This theological malaise in fact gave rise to the Reformation and the creation of the Protestant Movement and church fragmentation.
However it must be understood that when the church was united, Jesus gave its leader Peter, and hence the early church, some awesome powers, among them the power to make sweeping and profound changes on earth.
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16: 17 - 19).
It can be argued that The Church, acting under authority of this scripture, and the dictates of The Holy Spirit can so decide which day Christians regard as their Sabbath. Since no Sabbath was prescribed for Christians then The Church has every right to make such a prescription for its members. Under the New Covenant, freedom to choose the day you worship is in order; as long as you dedicate that day fully to the Lord.
The Church has used these powers time and again, and the Bible has so recorded. For example:
1. Peter pronounced instant death on Sapphira and God immediately carried out the sentence “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes” she said, “that is the price”. Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” At that moment she fell down at his feet and died…” (Acts 5: 8 – 10).
2. Paul brought Eutychus back to life after he had fallen and died. Seated in the window was a young man named Eutychus who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third storey and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said, “He’s alive!” Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted. (Acts 20: 9 – 12).
One should not assume that The Church can forgive people’s sins, only God can do that. The Church can declare sins forgiven, following a person’s confession, and repentance, and acceptance of Jesus Christ by faith; because this is God’s will. The declaration is by The Church following the forgiveness by Almighty God and heaven ratifies the declaration.
God would not have given The Church such sweeping powers as to bind things on earth, and have them ratified in heaven, if He did not intend them to be used to progress his work on earth.
At the close of the New Testament, The Church still has important work to do. As people seeks out inventive ways of defying God and perverting the cause of justice, peace and brotherhood, it still needs to speak with divine authority on earth; to warn, guide and direct humanity on matters pertaining to God.
Believers need to keep in mind what Paul said about your day of worship, “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5)
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