Final Observations Involving The Sabbath
Cecil N. Wright

 1. Christ and the Sabbath till His Death (The Gospels).

Christ lived and died on earth under the Old Covenant law of Moses, and he and his disciples kept the seventh-day, Sabbath of the Decalogue, though at times he and they violated what had come to be the traditional Jewish interpretations of its intended restrictions -- he being divine as well as human, and knowing the divine intent of it, declared himself to be "lord of the sabbath" (Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5).

 But as already documented, at his death the Old Covenant law was abrogated and his shed blood was the blood of the New Covenant, which did not incorporate the sabbath command as it did in the other nine commandments of the Decalogue of the Old Covenant, for reasons that have already been noted. After his resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week, that day begins to be featured.

 2. The First Day of the Week Featured after His Resurrection (Gospels through Revelation).<</b>/P>

 On resurrection Sunday, the risen Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, a group of women, the apostle Peter, two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to all his apostles that evening except for Thomas, who was absent from the others at that time, but was present a week later when Jesus made his next recorded appearance.

 The Pentecost day, when the kingdom came that had been preached by John the Baptist and then by Jesus as "at hand," was the first day of the week – occurring fifty days after the sabbath of Passover week (Leviticus 23:15-16). And following that, when about three thousand were baptized and added to the number of Christ’s disciples, "they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42) – with "the breaking of bread" in the context obviously referring to partaking of "the Lord’s supper" (1 Corinthians 11:20), instituted by Christ the night before his death (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25).

In Acts 20:6-7, we have a record of Paul and his company, who had arrived seven days earlier in Troas and tarried till "the first day of the week, when we were gathered to break bread, [and] Paul discoursed with them [with the disciples at Troas], intending to depart on the morrow" – implying a weekly practice of meeting together on the first day of the week to "break bread." Or partake of the Lord’s supper.

In 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, we have the apostle Paul giving directions to the saints in Corinth, as he had given to the churches in Galatia, for a collection for the needy saints in Jerusalem, saying: "Upon the first day of the week [literally, ‘of every week’] let each one of you lay by him in store [perhaps more accurately, put into the treasury by itself,’ that is in a separate fund], as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come" to take or send "your bounty unto Jerusalem" – the implication being that their contributions be made on every first day of the week before his arrival, because of the regularly coming together on that day for Christian worship. (See Macknight, Apostolical Epistles, and McGarvey and Pendleton, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans, with reference to 1 Corinthians 16:2 in particular.)

In Revelation 1:9, likely written about A.D. 96, the apostle John speaks of being "in the Spirit on the Lord’s day" (te kuriake hemera) when having his first vision during exile on the isle of Patmos, understood by early Christians as referring to the first day of the week, also called "the eighth day" – the day following the Jewish sabbath, the seventh day. To them it was a day in memory of the resurrection of Christ, as "the Lord’s supper" was a supper in memory of the death of Christ; and they assembled on "the Lord’s day" to observe "the Lord’s supper" – their "Lord" being Christ, and him alone.

That distinguished Christians (a) from Jews religiously speaking, whose weekly worship assembly day was Saturday, their sabbath, on one hand, and (b) from pagans on the other hand, who in Egypt and Asia Minor had a similar phrase, te sebste herma, for the first day of the month, in honor of the Roman emperor, Caesar, whom they worshipped as divine, employing the Greek word sebaste, a symbol of kuriake used instead by Christians of Christ. (See Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. KQ, p.152).

Sebaste is the genitive of sabastos, from sebas, meaning reverential awe, and is a cognate of sebazomai, to worship, and sebasma, an object of worship. So, in the final analysis and in particular usage, the two words as applied to Christ and Caesar, respectively, were equivalents. And those who believed in Christ as Lord could not acknowledge Caesar as such, often resulting in the severest of persecution for Christians – which they were beginning to suffer in Asia Minor at the time of John’s banishment to the isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation at the behest of Christ for the immediate edification and encouragement of the seven churches in the Roman province of Asia (in the western part of Asia Minor, now Turkey).

The following excerpts of quotations from decades of the second Christian century will demonstrate the use of "Lord’s day" for the "first day of the week," the day Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and being a weekly assembly day of early Christians – instead of being "the day of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 34:10), when the Lord Jesus Christ returns at the end of time on earth for the universal resurrection and judgment of mankind, as claimed by some in our day.

DIDACHE: " … Come together each Lord’s day of the Lord, eat bread, and give thanks "(14:1) – late first or early second century A.D.

 NOTE: The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. KQ, p. 152, states this, to us, curious wording "seems to mean ‘meeting for worship on the Lord’s Day – his special day.’ In contrast to the sabbath." That interpretation is confirmed by the following considerations:

Although the expression "the Lord’s day" in Revelation 1:9 is he kuriake hemera, it became common to omit the word day, leaving it to be understood from context, with the adjective "Lord’s" actually coming to be used as a noun for "Sunday" or "first day of the week." which is the case in the above quotation from the Didache. "Thus in modern Greek the word for Sunday or the first day of the week is kuriake. This usage was well established at an early date, for the Christian Latin word for Sunday was dominica, the exact translation of the Greek, ‘Lord’s.’ The word for Sunday in modern Romance languages is derived from this usage – dominica (Italian), domingo (Spanish), and dimanche (French)." (Everett Ferguson, Early Christians Speak, p.71.)

IGNATIUS: " … no longer observing the Sabbath but living according to the Lord’s day, in which also our life arose through him …" (Magnesians 9) – 110 A.D.

 BARNABAS: "Wherefore we [Christians] keep the eighth day with joy, on which Jesus arose from the dead and when he appeared ascended into heaven" (15:8f) – about 130 A.D.

NOTE: If the 40 days of Acts 1:3 were exclusive of resurrection and ascension days, which is possible, then his ascension was also on the same day of the week as his resurrection – "eighth" (= "first"), as indicated in the quotation from Barnabas.

3. Christians and the Sabbath after Pentecost (Acts through the Epistles).

While Christians observed the first day of the week as their regular assembly day for their own distinctive worship, Jewish Christians usually still lived as Jews as a matter of custom and culture in whatever respects {it} did not conflict with Christian principles. Also, the apostle Paul; conformed in such respects to the customs or culture of whatever people he might be among – whether (a) Jews or Jewish proselytes, who lived according to the law of Moses, that he might gain them for Christ; (b) non-Jewish, who were without that law (though not being without law himself to Christ), that he might gain them also for Christ (c) those he called "weak," that he might likewise gain them (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

For example, Paul observed the Mosaic law in regard to Nazirite vows, found in Numbers 6:1-21 (see Acts 18:8; 21:17-26). He circumcised Timothy, a half Jew, to make him acceptable in Jewish as well as Gentile society (Acts 16:1-3). But he refused to circumcise Titus, a non-Jew, in order not to compromise the gospel when a Jewish faction was attempting to bind circumcision on Gentile converts (Galatians 2:1-5; cf. Acts 15:1-31). Yet he did not teach Jewish Christians not to circumcise their children as a matter of custom (Acts 21:17-26, as already cited) – but did teach that "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith [in Christ] working through love" (Galatians 5:6) – which principle he applied broadly, saying, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of feast days or a new moon or a sabbath day" (Colossians 2:16), because such were not binding on Christians, as previously discussed more fully.

The gospel was preached first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles (Romans1:16). And to Jews it was first preached in Jerusalem, not only in the temple, by the apostles, but also in the synagogues of the city by others. A notable example of the latter was that by Stephen in the synagogue "of the Libertines, and of the Cyretians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and Asia" (a synagogue of Jews outside of Palestine), who disputed with him but could not "withstand the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake." Yet they succeeded in bringing him into the "council" (Sanhedrin), and getting him stoned to death as the first Christian martyr. It is probable that Saul of Tarsus, who later converted and became the apostle Paul, was of that synagogue, for he was of Cilicia and held the garments of those who did the stoning. (See acts 6:8 - 8:1; 22:3-21).

And after Paul became an apostle to the Gentiles, when in a city where there was a Jewish synagogue, he would go to it first (for it was God’s will that all Jews as well as all Gentiles have opportunity to hear and obey the gospel of Christ and thus become Christians, and Gentiles would usually initially be reached through God-fearers attending Jewish synagogue services) – as in Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:13-51), in Iconium (14:1-7), in Thessalonica (17:1-9), in Berea (17:10-14), in Corinth (18:1-17), in Ephesus, where he left his helpers, Aquilla and Priscilla, until his return (acts 18:18 - 19:20). In some instances, Christians continued attending synagogue services as long as allowed to do so, but likely assembling in some member’s home for their own Lord’s day services (cf. Acts 18:7; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:9; Philemon 1-2), or some other welcome place, as the school of Tyrannus in Ephesus, where there was daily access (Acts 19:9-10).

So, according to principles involved in what has been noted, if a Jewish Christian as an individual wished not only to observe the first day of the week as the "Lord’s day," which was not necessarily a rest day as the sabbath had been under Moses, and in that sense "every day" could be "esteemed alike," but also felt constrained to continue observing the "seventh day as a day of rest and worship, he must not be forbidden to do so, yet he must not attempt to bind its observance on others – with the same thing true in reverse in regard to meats, which Gentile Christians could eat without reservations of conscience, that the Jewish Christians might still have scruples against though he need not have (Romans 14:1-23) – which principle, however, applies only to matters optional – only to what is permissible, but neither commanded nor forbidden.

On the other hand, if Gentile Christians were allowing themselves to be brought into bondage to (that is, bound to observe) that from which Christ had liberated even the Jews (including the "sabbath day" observance, Colossians 2:16), that was reason for the apostle Paul to be concerned about their salvation – a very insignificant faith (see Galatians 4;8-10; 5:1-8, also exegeted much earlier). The bottom line: "FOR FREEDOM DID CHRIST SET US FREE [in regard to such]: STAND FAST THEREFORE, AND BE NOT ENTANGLED AGAIN IN A YOKE OF BONDAGE" (Galatians 5:1).

Hence, although Christians ought to have private devotions daily, and may assemble for worship and edification at any time or at various times, or even daily for extended periods, as is possible and may seem expedient, only the first day of the week is featured for them in the New Testament scriptures as a day of regular and general assembly, observed as the "Lord’s day," when the "Lord’s supper" is a special and added feature of their worship.

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