NATIONAL SUNDAY LAW CRISIS
11: CHOOSING the One We Will Obey
Throughout this entire controversy, the big question is Why is Rome so anxious to see Sunday exalted as the great national day of rest? The answer may come as a surprise. Here it is:
"Strange as it may seem, the state, in passing laws for the due sanctification of Sunday, is unwittingly acknowledging the authority of the Catholic Church, and carry out more or less faithfully its prescriptions."—John G. Shea, "The Observance of Sunday and Civil Laws for Its Enforcement," in American Catholic Quarterly Review, January 1883, 139.
John Shea, a high-ranking Catholic priest, then goes on to explain what he means in more detail:
"The Sunday, as a day of the week set apart for the obligatory worship of Almighty God, to be sanctified by a suspension of all servile labor, trade, and worldly avocations and by exercises of devotion,—is purely a creation of the Catholic Church.
"It is not the Jewish Sabbath; it is, in fact, entirely distinct from it, and not governed by the enactments of the Mosaic law. It is part and parcel of the system of the Catholic Church as absolutely as is any other of her sacraments, her festivals and fasts, her days of joy and mourning, her indulgences, and jubilees.
"The Catholic Church created the Sunday and made the very regulations which have come down on the statute books, and she still constantly, from her pulpits, her catechists’ chairs, and the confessional, calls on her faithful to obey them, to sanctify the day, and refrain from all that desecrates it.
"Protestantism, in discarding the authority of the [Catholic] Church, has no good reason for its Sunday theory, and ought, logically, to keep Saturday as the Sabbath . . For their present practice, Protestants, in general, have no authority but that of a church which they disown, and there cannot be a greater inconsistency than theirs in asking the state to enforce the Sunday laws."—John G. Shea, "The Observance of Sunday and Civil Laws for Its Enforcement," in American Catholic Quarterly Review, January 1883, 139, 149, 152.
Now I believe you can understand why Rome claims Sunday as her own. Remember: It all started nearly 1,700 years ago, when Pope Sylvester I and Emperor Constantine worked together to bring Sunday sacredness into the Christian church. Sylvester’s objective was to bring millions of the unconverted into the church. Constantine’s objective was to strengthen the empire by uniting nearly everyone into one vast megachurch. History has proven that, at that time and down through the centuries that followed, both objectives were fulfilled by the enactment of National Sunday Laws.
But, before A.D. 321, the majority of the Christians kept the Bible Sabbath—the seventh-day Sabbath. And the reason for this was simple enough: It was the only weekly Sabbath day ever commanded by God in the Holy Scriptures! This simple fact can be tested yourself: Just open the Bible and look for the first day sacredness; It is not there—anywhere. Then see what God says about the seventh day of the week.
Back, when all things began, the sacredness of the seventh day was one of the first things given by God to mankind.
"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made."—Genesis 2:1-3.
This was no meaningless requirement; the Bible Sabbath was given as the memorial of the creation of this world in six days by the Lord God, the Maker of heaven and earth. It is by keeping that day holy unto Him that we acknowledge Him as the Creator and our God! That is the teaching of Scripture.
"It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested, and was refreshed."—Exodus 31:17.
"And hollow My Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God."—Ezekiel 20:20.
That is the reason that the seventh-day Sabbath is in the heart of the most important set of commandments ever given by God to Mankind: the Ten Commandments. Here is the fourth commandment:
"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shall thou labour, and do all thy work. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, not thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hollowed it."—Exodus 20:8-11.
In keeping that day as a special day of rest and worship, we not only honor God as our Creator; but He also, in turn, blesses us with a deeper and closer walk with Him. He said in Scripture, "Them that honour Me I will honour" (1 Samuel 2:30).
"Verily My Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you."—Exodus 31:13.
"Moreover also I gave them My Sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctity them."—Ezekiel 20:12.
And this promise is for us today, for the Sabbath, set aside for centuries because of repressive persecutions by the church of the Dark Ages, is in these last lays to be restored. The people of God are again to repair the breach (hole) in the law of God and rebuild Sabbathkeeping in their lives and in the lives of their children. And with the prediction is the promise of God’s favor and blessing as they seek to do it.
"And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations: and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
"If thou turn away thy foot from [stepping on] the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor Him, not doing thing own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord, and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father. For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."—Isaiah 58:11-14.
Now that is quite a promise, isn’t it? It is a promise that I want to claim for myself. It is a promise I am sure you want a share in also. But what about all those who do not know the precious truth about the Bible Sabbath? God understands the sincerity of their hearts and is leading them. And then when they suddenly learn this glorious truth about the Bible Sabbath, the beauty and simplicity of this weekly day-by-day walk with God thrills their hearts and they want it for themselves. For in every command of God is enfolded a promise. As we, by faith in the enabling merits of Christ our Lord and Saviour, seek to obey the command, the blessings of the promise begin to be fulfilled in our lives.
But what about Jesus? What did He think of the Sabbath? Well, we know from Scripture that God the Father and God the Son—Jesus—together created the world.
"For by Him [the Son] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him."—Colossians 1:16.
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus."—Ephesians 2:10.
"God . . hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds."—Hebrews 1:1-2.
It was Jesus who, in the beginning, made our world and gave us the seventh-day Sabbath. It was He who gave us the Ten Commandments, and it was He who died on Calvary to forgive us our sins and enable us by His grace to do all that He asks of us in Scripture. God’s plan is a wonderful plan, and it is a simple plan. And it is clearly given to us in Scripture.
While here on earth, Jesus not only kept the moral law of the Ten Commandments, but He urged us to keep it also.
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."—Matthew 5:17-19.
The word for "fulfill," in these verses, is the same Greek word as in used in "that your joy may be full (fulfilled)" in 1 John 1:4 (compare John 15:11; 16:24; 2 John 12, etc.). The meaning is "to make more full." It does not mean "to destroy." Elsewhere, Jesus spoke about those who seek, by their traditions, to substitute man’s laws:
"But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of Men."—Matthew 15:9.
"And He said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition."—Mark 7:9.
It is a solemn fact that Jesus honored His Father’s law—and He is our Exemplar; He lived to give us an example of how we, through faith in His enabling merits, should live now.
"It is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart."—Psalm 40:7-8.
"For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me."—John 6:38.
"For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps."—1 Peter 2:21.
"He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked."—1 John 2:6.
Just before His death, Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem 39 years later, in A.D. 70, and the end of the world (Matthew 24); and He cautioned His followers to continue to carefully observe the Sabbath, even when those terrible events should come to pass years and even centuries later.
"But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day."—Matthew 24:20.
He carefully instructed His disciples to keep His day holy, for He wanted them to "remember the Sabbath day" (Exodus 20:8-11) long after He returned to heaven. His followers faithfully kept it after His death (Luke 23:56) and later in their missionary work (Acts 13:14-16, 40-46; 16:12-15; 17:1-4). When brought before their enemies, they boldly declared that Christians should obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29); and the Apostle Paul could sincerely say of himself and his fellow believers: "Do we then make void the law (Romans 3:31)! The Word of God was being fulfilled, that the day would come when Gentiles would faithfully keep the Sabbath that the Jews were desecrating (Isaiah 56:3-7).
We said something about the "Lord’s day." What day is that in Scripture? We are told, in Revelation 1:10, that John the Revelator saw Christ in vision on the "Lord’s day." Many people claim that text proves that we should keep Sunday today. But the passages say nothing about Sunday. What day, in the Bible, is the "Lord’s day"?
"The Lord’s day" is just another way of saying "day of the Lord. What day in the Bible is the "day of the Lord"? The Sabbath is "the day unto the Lord" (Exodus 16:23, 25; 31:15; 35:2), "the day of the Lord" (Exodus 20:10; Leviticus 23:3; Deuteronomy 5:14), and "His own day" (Isaiah 58:13).
We have already learned that Jesus is the Creator; He it was who gave us the seventh-day Sabbath in the beginning of this world’s history (Ephesians 3:9; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2; Genesis 2:1-2), and John heard Him call Himself "the Lord of the Sabbath Day" while teaching the people (Matthew 12:8: Mark 2:28). John well-knew which day was the "Lord’s day." It was the seventh-day Sabbath. The Bible teaching on this matter is simple, clear, and positive. There are few teachings in Scripture that are more simple and clear than the great truth about the seventh-day Sabbath as the day on which we are to turn from our daily work and worship God.
But what about Sunday sacredness? Is it not in the Bible? The astounding fact is that Sunday—the first day of the week—is nowhere called sacred in the Bible, and at no time was it ever regarded as sacred. It was never called "the Lord’s day." Sunday is only mentioned eight times in the Bible. The first instance is in Genesis 1:5, where the first day of creation week is mentioned. The next five times refer to the appearances of Jesus, on Sunday, to His disciples after His rest in the tomb on the Sabbath (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1, 2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19). They were hiding "for fear of the Jews," and Jesus came and told them that He was alive. Nothing here about Sunday sacredness.
The seventh time is in Acts 20:7-8, where Paul speaks to the Ephesian leaders. A few verses later (Acts 20:15-38), he speaks to another group in the middle of the week, but that doesn’t make that day any more sacred than the Sunday mentioned a few verses earlier. For only a direct command by God, in Scripture, can make any weekday holy—and He gave that command only in regard to the seventh day. The book of Acts is just as silent on Sunday sacredness as is Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
The eighth and last Sunday text in the Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, where Paul instructs the believers to do their bookkeeping at home on Sunday mornings. The Sabbath is past, a new week has begun—and it is a good time to do the preceding week’s financial accounting since they were so busy preparing for the Sabbath on the preceding Friday (called, in Scripture, the "preparation day"; see Luke 23:54; John 19:42; etc.). And Paul tells them to do it at home (a point which is more clearly stated in some of the newer versions). This one verse is the only mention of the first day in all of Paul’s writings.
The Bible Sabbath is the memorial day of the Creator (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 31:17) and the memorial day of our redemption (Ezekiel 20:12, 20). It is the Lord’s day—a day that God wants to share with you. He plans to keep it with you through all eternity to come.
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