Post Mortem

Perpetuality of the seventh day Sabbath

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 3/3/2019 12:47:06 PM IST

 Mhonjan Lotha’s Sabbath and Sunday write-up appeared in Nagaland Post on Feb. 23, 2019, is impregnated with some significant Sabbatical questions that invite biblical perspectives.  

Quoting Romans 14:5, which reads, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should fully convince in his own mind” (Romans 14: 5) Mhonjan wrote, “The Scriptures make it clear that for Christians Sabbath keeping is a matter of spiritual freedom, not a command from God.”

Response: To understand Paul’s context of Romans 14:5, we may also read Galatians 4:10, 11-- “You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!  I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” In both the cases, Paul was dealing with the “aspects of Mosaic Law and the Jewish tradition” which were often controversial among the new Christians, not with the Seventh day Sabbath of the Ten Commandments which was written by God’s own finger (Exodus 31:18).  Unlike the ceremonial Sabbaths such as the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:32) that were symbols or shadows of things to come and ended at the cross (Col 2:16), the 4th commandment of the Decalogue, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy…” (Exo 20:8) is a command from God for Christians as much as the other 9 of the Decalogue are. 

Jesus kept the Seventh day Sabbath (Luke 4:16; Matt 24:20) during His earthly life, and His followers did the same even after the cross (Read Luke 23:56; Acts 17:2, 18:4, etc); this Sabbath observance will go on even in the new heavens and new earth which God will make (Isaiah 66:22, 23). 

“In Exodus 20:8-11, Sabbath command was to do no work on the Sabbath day. Nowhere in the scripture is the Sabbath day commanded to be the day of worship.” 

Response:  “…in it you shall not do any work” is in verse 10 of Exodus 20. But passage begins with “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Does keeping a day connote merely idleness or no work? How do people keep Sunday? 

Leviticus 23:3 “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. Is not this a call to worship on the Sabbath day?  Jesus, too, kept the Sabbath and went to the Synagogue and read the Scriptures (Luke 4:16). 

At the Jerusalem Council, the apostles told the Gentile Christians only “to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” Acts 15:20. Sabbath was never mentioned in that council. 

Response: Does “never mentioned” of the Sabbath observance in that Jerusalem council indicate abolition of the 4th commandment of the Decalogue? What about the rest of the commandments that were not mentioned there? “Thou shall have no other gods” is still binding even though the council did not mention.  The reason why the council did not deal with the Sabbath was that it was not a controversial subject—God’s people kept the Seventh day Sabbath before and after the cross as pointed out earlier from the scriptures. 

“In the book of Acts whenever a meeting is said to be on Sabbath, it is a meeting of the Jews not Christians.” 

Response: The following texts show that both the Jews and Gentiles met on Sabbath day in the Synagogue, and sometimes in nature.  

Acts 18: 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Acts 13: 44, 45 —“On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.” 

Acts 13:14, 16--From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!

Acts 16:13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.

Was the Seventh day Sabbath only for the Jews? Response: “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27), not only for the Jews. Ceremonial Sabbaths that were instituted during Moses’ time to teach God’s OT people about the coming Messiah, ended at the cross. But the Seventh day Sabbath was rested upon, blessed, and made holy by God Himself (Gen 2:2, 3) in the prelapsarian period in Eden Garden, more than 2000 years before Jewish nation existed. Therefore it cannot be only “Jewish Sabbath” but “the Sabbath of the Lord” for all. 

“If there was a day that Christians met regularly it was the first day of the week, i e, Sunday, not the Sabbath day (Saturday).” 

Response:  The New Testament Bible mentions the first day of the week (Sunday) only 8 times. They are mentioned in connection with Jesus’ resurrection and Paul’s missionary events. None of these Sunday texts in the New Testament tells it was a day of worship for Christians. But Bible clearly indicates Jesus’ followers kept the Sabbath according to the commandments even after the cross. The Seventh day Sabbath is the only weekly holy day in both testaments. Moreover, can any man make a day holy if God does not?  Sunday worship came into the Church after the New Testament was written. 

 Listen to what some sincere Christians say: “The first four commandments set forth man’s obligations directly toward God.... The fourth commandment sets forth God’s claim on man’s time and thought.... Not one of the ten words [commandments] is of merely racial significance.... The Sabbath was established originally [long before Moses] in no special connection with the Hebrews, but as an institution for all mankind, in commemoration of God’s rest after six days of creation. It was designed for all the descendants of Adam.” —Adult Quarterly, Southern Baptist Convention series, Aug. 15, 1937. 

“There was and is a commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day, but that Sabbath day was not Sunday.... It will be said however, and with some show of triumph, that the Sabbath was transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week.... 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.

“To me [it] seems unaccountable that Jesus, during three years’ intercourse with His disciples, often conversing with them upon the Sabbath question.... never alluded to any transference of the day; also that during forty days of His resurrection life, no such thing was intimated.

“Of course, I quite well know that Sunday did come into use in early Christian history as a religious day, as we learn from the Christian Fathers and other sources. But what a pity that it comes branded with the mark of paganism, and christened with the name of the sun god, when adopted and sanctioned by the papal apostasy, and bequeathed as a sacred legacy to Protestantism!” —Dr. Edward T. Hiscox, author of The Baptist Manual in a paper read before New York ministers’ conference held Nov. 13, 1893. 

Many practices and doctrines that are not biblical have crept into the Christian Church in the early centuries. Jesus is coming soon. There is a call to reexamine the present practices and teachings in light of the Bible and Bible alone. Millions are responding to this call. Will you? For questions, Bible studies, and comments write to dhormo@yahoo.co.in

Dhormo Kamei, 

Walford, Dimapur

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