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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Sabbath and the Christian-Part I

The Sabbath, which was instituted by God for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai and forms part of the Ten Commandments, is today still observed by a few denominations. These include some Baptists, Pentecostals, and more visibly the Seventh Day Adventists. Why do these groups do so? Is not Sunday the day that the church observes and on which it meets and worships as a corporate body? And if so, when did that begin and how did it come about?

The observance of the Sabbath is one of those things that should not be controversial, but nevertheless in some quarters it is. It should not be an issue because, biblically and historically, the first day of the week, Sunday, is the day that the church has universally observed from its outset. The one thing that seems to give impetus to those who believe that the Sabbath is still in effect for the people of God, is that the New Testament does not explicitly state that Sunday is now the day of worship. One thing should be pointed out here, however. Although Sabbatarians insist that Saturday should be the day of worship, for the most part they neither observe it the way that God demanded in the Old Testament, nor was the day originally set aside as a day of worship (how many Sabbatarians abstain from any form of work on the Sabbath?).

It is interesting to note that the Sabbath did not become what today we would refer as a day of corporate worship until the time of the exile. It was during the Babylonian captivity that small groups of Jews began to congregate to worship on the Sabbath. The absence of the temple and the worship that took place there, made it impossible for Jews to continue to carry out their temple duties and worship (which, by the way, took place on a daily basis). In addition, in the post-exilic age when the Jews returned to their land, the synagogue became an important focus of Jewish life. This was not, however, the original design of worship for the Jewish nation. Nowhere do we find that God commanded that the Jews come together to worship on that particular day. Rather, the day was a day of rest to remember the fact that God Himself had rested on the seventh day from His work of creation (Genesis 2:1-3). 

For a Christian today to say that we must worship on the Sabbath, then, becomes a problem. This is due in part to what I have already pointed out above. There are those who claim that, since the Sabbath is part of the Ten Commandments, that the Christian is obliged to keep it. However, this ignore the fact that the Sabbath is the only commandment of the ten that is not a matter of the moral nature of God or man, but of an outward activity that has a very specific purpose in the economy of the Jews. Whereas the rest of the Ten Commandments address issues related to the nature of God, man's relationship to Him, and his conduct toward other human beings, the Sabbath commandment addresses and issue related to the performance of particular actions that are not solely of a moral nature.

In the next article I will address the matter of the covenants and the place that the Sabbath held in the particular covenant in which it is found. I will also discuss why today, and throughout its history, the church has universally, with the few exceptions mentioned above (I will not here discuss whether the groups mentioned are truly Christian or not; that is a conversation for another day), has observed the Lord's Day as the day of corporate worship. 

 




2 comments:

  1. Completely agree with you. Will be interesting to see if you get any blowback over this...

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    Replies
    1. Indeed! It will be interesting to see. Thanks!

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