Recently I was invited to participate in a discussion on the question of the Sabbath by a group who upholds Saturday as the true day of worship. I went to the debate with the intent to explain the Catholic Faith which is the source of the Sabbatarianist attacks. At this meeting I was introduced to other Pastors from the Church of Christ, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, and some non-denominations.
I was placed in a place of honor at the head of the room which really surprised me, so I actually sat next to the moderator of the discussion. I almost felt like a VIP representing Christ and His Catholic Church. Even participating with this small delegation of local groups, it was a lot of fun for me.
The discussion opened up with a Church of Christ Minister defending the Sunday worship by quoting Catholic Saints like St. Justin Martyr sharing from his writing, “First Apology” from between 153-155 A.D.:
“On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray.”
Coming from a Church of Christ Minister, this grabbed my attention and interest because he was using this text to defend Sunday worship, but when you look at the whole text, St. Justin bears the worship out in detail speaking of the Mass. He also referred to Act’s 20:7:
“On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and he prolonged his speech until midnight.”
By this time. I interjected to the group that Acts 2:17-19 states:
“And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke…”
I went on to explain that St. Luke went on in Chapter 20 giving us such a great sign. It is true that verse 7 does tell us this event happens on the “first day of the week (Sunday)” but the Lord gave a great sign:
“And a young man named Eutychus was sitting in the window. He sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer; and being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and embracing him said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed.”
I conclude with this portion of this text that this would be the first recorded Midnight Mass! It was wild that in this case the Catholic and Church of Christ was on the same side.
I would soon learn that one of the members in the group was a former Catholic which became interested in what I would say from there on.
The Sabbatarians began to respond that God created the Sabbath for man, that this was a perpetual command from the Lord and they presented some of their perspectives coming from the Old Testament. The Church of Christ Minister began to fall and stumble with this portion of the discussion because the CoC do not hold much to the Old Testament. They see that the Old Testament was fulfilled and does not hold much weight.
I took up the debate with this reasoning, the first we see the Sabbath in the bible comes from the 16th Chapter of Exodus. The Israelite were wondering in the desert in the wilderness when God gave to the people manna to feed the people. The Israelite were to pick the manna for six days and then on the seventh day, there would not be any because this was a Sabbath. They were suppose to pick up double on the sixth day to have for the Seventh day. This is the first that the Sabbath is mentioned in the Bible.
The Sabbatarians will hold that you see God created everything in 6 days and on the seventh day He rested. My response to this is that we do not see the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob ever called to a Sabbath day. The Sabbath Day really becomes a command from the Lord on Mount Sinai when God gave the Commandments to Moses. This is the baseline why the Sabbatarians are so dogmatic on following Saturday as the Sabbath. They see this built into the Commandments.
Exodus 31:14-16 is very important in this debate:
“You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you; every one who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant.”
The words to pick out of this text are: Sabbath, Israel, perpetual, and covenant. The most important word here is “covenant” because this is the agreement God made with His people, the Israelite. This means that the Commandments given to Moses for the people to follow was perpetual, that means for all time. However, there was a catch to this covenant. The people would have to be faithful to it. The Sabbath was the sign between the Lord and His people.
Throughout the Old Testament we see the Israelite breaking this covenant time after time and God would always forgive them and it was a circular relationship. Finally, God does allow Israel to be taken away by the Babylonians because of their unfaithfulness. God makes this promise to Jeremiah 31:31-34:
“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
It is clear that God would establish a Covenant “not like the covenant” from before, it would be a new covenant. By this time I was getting the Seventh Day Adventist attention! I went on that Jesus fulfilled this promise of a new covenant with Matthew 26:28:
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
There is no mistaking that Jesus clearly was fulfilling the promise given to Jeremiah. I then ended this piece of my presentation that Jesus Himself was the first to offer the breaking of Bread on Sunday (Luke 24:30).
At this point a person in the back of the room representing one of the non-denomination groups began challenge me that the Emperor Constantine began the Sunday worship ordinance and I responded with what my Church of Christ friend first provided and then I went a little further, I presented Revelation 1:10 which states:
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to La-odicea.”
Notice that St. John refereed to “the Lord’s Day”. I explained that St. Ignatius of Antioch was a follower of St. John the Apostle, that St. Ignatius writes to the Magnesians stating that St. John referred to the Lord’s Day as Sunday. I wanted to make this point because I was aware that the Sabbatarians was holding Isaiah 58:13 what they thought would be a winning hand. Isaiah 58:13 states:
“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;”
Then another Sabbatarian challenged me asking when did the Catholic faith change the Sabbath Day to Sunday. I answered that The Apostles originally following the Ascension of Jesus still went to the synagogue but things changed rapidly with the increase of non-Jewish converts. With the healing of a lame man, St. Peter and John were brought before the Pharisees and Sadducees and were told not to preach the name of Jesus.
I responded that the Council of Jerusalem took place in 49 A.D. and this was important because it set the Catholic Church on it’s course set by the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28-29):
“For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
The Question revolved around whether a convert to the Faith had to first follow the law of Moses to become a Christian. The outcome is significant because the Church said no, they do not.
When St. John wrote the book of Revelation, the Lord’s Day had already been well established as Sunday. An early document known as “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” or most known as the Didache states, “But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving”.
It was a great honor for me to have participated in this discussion, there is so much more I could cover on the subject, a woman knowing that their case for Sabbataranism had been weakened gave her testimony that she was a former Church of Christ member who is now a Sabbatarian and she told the group she holds her day of rest with only prayer. I asked her why she couldn’t do that on Sunday? I shared that Christians do the same thing on Sunday and then I asked a question that really won our case.
I asked one of the non-denominational Sabbataranist if they believe Jesus Christ was God? The response was very surprising, their answer was “NO”! Hence this is why they are still living in the Old Testament, they deny the truth of who Jesus is. Jesus asked this question, “Who do men say that the Son of Man is”? St. Peter said you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God! It was at this point the leader of the discussion ended the event.
The authority of the Church will be for another time and they felt they needed to close this event down as I was just getting heated up and on fire! I really did enjoy the opportunity but I was given the opportunity to talk with people individually who were asking me and sharing with me their stories. I really loved the opportunity to speak with the fallen away Catholic who was a nice lady, she had been deceived in 1970 by one of these Protestant groups who told her their interpretation of the bible. I was able to peak her interest with stories of conversion and I told her that when people start reading the bible with Catholic eyes, the bible really opens up.
The Lady then became very interested in Deepertruth and the work that we do. Please pray for her, she has been resting 36 years away from the Church and hopefully she will be stirred to return home causing a great party in heaven (Luke 15:7,10)
An after thought: The seventh day, when God rested, that first Easter morning became known as the “Eighth Day”, the day beyond time and nature. It was a new beginning that did not do a way with the Commandments, but gave us greater light from the shadow of what was before the Resurrection (Colossians 2:16-17). Jesus is greater than Moses.