The Christian and the Sabbath!
If Jesus observed the seventh-day Sabbath, and if Paul, many years later, also seemed to observe it, then why do we gather for worship on the first day of the week? When was the Sabbath changed from the seventh day, Saturday, to the first day, Sunday?
These are interesting questions, the answers to which can only be found in the Word of God. In Exodus 31:13,17 we learn that the seventh-day Sabbath was a sign between Jehovah and the children of Israel. It was a part of the Mosaic law, and when Jesus Christ was here on earth, as a minister of the circumcision, He did not in any way interfere with Israel's law program. He was made under the law, He lived under the law, and He died under the law. As one with His nation, He kept the law and observed the seventh-day Sabbath (Luke 4:16). Christ did not come to bring an end to Israel's law regime. He said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matt. 5:17).
Remember, the law was given to Israel. The nation and the law stood together. When Israel rejected and crucified Christ and then continued in their rejection, God cast the nation away, temporarily (Rom. 11:1-5). Paul writes in Romans 11:25, "That blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." Surely those today who claim to be Israel, or who confuse Israel with the body of Christ, are also blinded. When Israel was thus set aside, the law, and all religion, including Sabbath-keeping, was set aside as well. When Paul was called out and sent to the Gentiles with the gospel of the grace of God, he resisted every attempt to put the Gentiles under the law. The council at Jerusalem was convened for that very reason, for some had said, "That it was needful to circumcise the Gentiles, and to command them to keep the law of Moses." Even Peter saw the folly of trying to force the law upon the Gentile believers who had been saved by grace, without the deeds of the law or any religious works. He said, "Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" (Acts 15:10). The decision of the council was, "As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing" (Acts 21:25).
Some time after this, Paul wrote to the Gentiles, "For ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom. 6:14), and that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Rom. 10:4). He also wrote that Christ had "blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross," and that therefore no man should judge us "in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days" (Col. 2:14-16). The word "Sabbath" means "rest" and the believer, in this dispensation, does not rest in a day, but in a Person, and that Person is the Blessed Son of God Himself.
While it is true, as stated in our question, that Paul seemingly did observe the Sabbath, let us note that during the early part of Paul's ministry the gospel was to the Jew first. He said, "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you." Naturally, in endeavoring to preach to the Jews, the best time and place to contact them would be in their synagogue on the Sabbath day. See Acts 9:20; 13:14; 14:1; 18:4; 19:8.
When Paul thus gathered with the Jews, it was simply that he might reach them. He was becoming a Jew to the Jews, that he might gain the Jews, but nowhere did he ever tell a single Gentile to observe the seventh-day Sabbath. In fact, it would seem that the Gentiles were accustomed to fellowship and worship on the first day of the week, as for instance at Philippi, "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them" (Acts 20:7). That this was the usual procedure seems to be indicated by 1 Corinthians 16:2, "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him." Nowhere, though, is the first day of the week referred to in Scripture as the "Christian Sabbath," nor even as the "Lord's Day."
During this age of grace God does not want man to be religious, but righteous. Those who turn away from the grace of God to religion, or to the weak and beggarly elements of the law, with its observance of days, are called "foolish" and "bewitched" and the inspired apostle said that he was afraid of all such. See Galatians 2:21; 3:1-3; 4:9-11.
However, even though we do not observe Sunday or any other day of the week because of commandment or legal constraint, and while we recognize the fact that every moment of every day should be dedicated to the Lord, yet we do praise Him that we live in a land where we are permitted on one day of the week to lay aside our secular tasks and to come together for the worship and service of the Lord. Surely this is pleasing in God's sight, and He will hold us accountable for our use or abuse of this great privilege. It is a sad commentary on our times to note that America is fast changing Sunday into "Fun-day." It only proves that we are living in days when men are "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God."
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