Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Sabbath part II

Last time, I began discussing the role of the Sabbath in the life of the Christian. I concluded that the handful of "Christian" denominations that observe the Sabbath as still special, in the mold of the Old Covenant, do so not because they are compelled by Scripture to do so, but because they fundamentally misunderstand the role of the Sabbath and the 4th Commandment within the Jewish Law and its repercussions for the Christian. 

This time I want to take a look at the observance of the first day of the week and why it is that it has, universally, been seen by the church as the day in which the church meets for communal worship. I will also briefly begin to examine Covenant Theology and why rightly understanding how God has worked in human history through covenants, can help us distinguish what belongs to the Old Law and must remain there.

One of the objections that is often raised against Sunday and the church meeting on that day, is what I would term an "all purpose" objection. And that is that the Council at Nicaea supposedly "invented" Sunday because Constantine wanted to honor the Sun god and other claims along those lines. Anyone who is even tangentially familiar with church history will recognize this objection. The Council at Nicaea has been blamed for everything from "making" Jesus into a God, to hiding His supposed marriage to Mary Magdalene, and conspiring to suppress other so-called "gospels." 

Here's the glaring problem with that theory. It's not true! The Council at Nicaea did not "invent" Sunday as the day of worship. All it did was to sanction the day which was already being observed and expanded certain rights of the "clergy" concerning that day and other issues related to their office. By the time Nicaea came about in the early decades of the 4th century, the first day of the week was far and wide the day when the church met. "And upon the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bred, Paul spoke until evening..." (Acts 20:7). "On the first day of the week, each of you is to put aside as he has prospered that there be no collections when I come" (1 Corinthians 16:2). 

These, among other scriptures, clearly show that the first day of week was special to the early church. It was not Nicaea that originated it! In addition to that Scriptural testimony (and for the Christian, the Scripture will always hold sway), we have the witness of, to mention but one, Pliny the Younger. Writing to emperor Trajan at the beginning of the second century he wrote that the Christians "met on a certain day of the week and sang hymns to Jesus as to a God." Guess what day they met in: The first day of the week!

Allow me now, to introduce Covenant Theology and its importance in the life of the Christian. When we examine the Scriptures, we can clearly see how God has dealt with humanity in a series of covenants. There are seven clear covenants that can be identified and which began with the couple in the garden. Adam and Eve entered into a conditional covenant with God concerning their obedience and their works in the garden. If they obeyed and did the work God commanded them to do, they would live eternally. Disobedience, however, would bring death. And the sign that stood for the covenant (and every covenant, as we will see, has its own sign), was the Tree of Life. The tree stood in the garden as witness between Adam and God that they had entered into a covenant in which both parties committed themselves to do something. Every time Adam saw the tree, he was reminded that he had made a covenant with God and that he owed Him his obedience.

In the next article I'll continue to examine the various covenants and how they impact the church today and the Sabbath in particular.


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