for the Faith
The Plain Truth about the Sabbath or the
Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 4:00pm
"One person regards one day above another,
another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced
in his own mind." (Romans
sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all
your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in
it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your
male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who
stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the
earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh
day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy."
The Sabbath day is Saturday.
It is the seventh day of the
week according to our calendar. Furthermore,
the Sabbath day has never been
changed to Sunday.
The present-day controversy
over which day of the week
Christians should observe
hinges upon a false premise, which
resulted in a warped and
distorted viewpoint of the real meaning of the Sabbath day as found in
the Word of God.
Many Christians have a
woeful misconception of why the
church has always observed the first day of the week. Nothing but
abysmal ignorance has permitted
the protagonists of the Sabbath day to traffic in their legalistic
The question, "When was the
Sabbath changed to Sunday?" is like the old chestnut asked of the
man who was very much a Mr. Milquetoast: "Do you still beat your wife?"
You cannot answer that question without getting into a peck of trouble.
If you say, "Yes," you are wrong. If you say, "No," you are wrong, and
you are immediately in difficulty.
For the same reason, "When was
the Sabbath day changed to Sunday?" is one of those questions that
cannot be answered in a word or two since it is based upon a false
I am going to ask that you think
with me as I deal with this subject, for I believe this to be one
of the most important of the commandments, and it is
essential that we understand
what it means.
The Ten Commandments are given
first in Exodus 20. They are
repeated in Deuteronomy 5,
but it is interesting to note that in
no instance is this a repetition
of the Law - it is rather
an interpretation of the Law in the lives of the people and nation after
forty years of experience with it in the wilderness. Therefore,
all the commandments that we find given in Deuteronomy are identical to
those given in Exodus with one exception: The fourth commandment, the
one that has to do with the Sabbath day. Thereby hangs a tale, and
this is something our legalistic
friends never call to our attention.
Basis in Exodus - Ceremonial
"For in six
days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that
is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD
blessed the sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus
The reason given in
Exodus for the observance of the Sabbath day is that God in creating did
all the work in six days, and He rested on the seventh and hallowed that
day. Therefore, in Exodus the
basis is ceremonial or, as we could say today, theological or religious.
It is founded upon the fact that God rested on the seventh day.
After Christ had healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda,
the religious rulers accused Him
of breaking the Mosaic Law because He had done it on the Sabbath day.
He said, “ ... My Father is working until now, and I Myself am
5:17). In other
words, "We are not observing a Sabbath day any longer; we are working!"
Basis in Deuteronomy - Humanitarian
When we turn to Deuteronomy we
find an altogether different reason given for the observance of the
Sabbath day. Note this passage:
remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD
your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an
outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to
observe the sabbath day." (Deuteronomy
Back in Exodus, the basis is
that God rested on the Sabbath - the seventh day - and that basis is
But in Deuteronomy we learn that
God brought them out of bondage from the land of Egypt, and because of
this they were to observe the Sabbath day. They had
worked as slaves in hard labor
seven days a week, from sunup till sunset, without respite from sorrow
Now God tells them
that, because He has delivered them out of the land of Egypt and
permitted them to keep one day of rest,
He wants them to be equally
considerate of their servants and all their animals. Man and beast must
rest one day out of each week. That is humanitarian.
You will recall that our Lord had this in mind
when His disciples were plucking
the ears of grain on the Sabbath and the rulers challenged Him because
of this. Jesus said to the religious rulers:
“... The Sabbath
was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." (Mark
a flat statement of the
humanitarian aspect of the question. These two reasons are
tremendous, and we would do well to keep them in mind.
The Sabbath Belongs to the Hebrews
Since the Sabbath day actually
originated in creation ... "By the seventh day God completed
His work which He had done, and
He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done."
2:2) ... one would think that all the primitive nations of
the world would have observed it in some form and at some time. They all
did have a garbled account of the Flood and a garbled account of
creation, which reveals that there was one reliable source for these.
But the interesting thing is that
this very important matter of
the Sabbath day is not found to be observed by the other nations.
A similar observance in Babylon led liberal scholars to try to trace the
Hebrews' observance of the Sabbath back to Babylon. The Babylonians
observed the new moon, and there were four quarters in their month. That
would work out to seven and sometimes eight days to a week, but it was
never Sabbath to them. Dr. R. H. Charles followed the findings of the
liberals and their subsequent teachings and made this statement: "The
Sabbath belongs to the Hebrews." Isn't that interesting!
God had said when He first gave
the Law to His people that He wanted them to observe the Sabbath because
He had delivered them out of the land of Egypt. Well, who were
God's chosen people? I dare say that there are very few reading this
message whose ancestors were slaves in Egypt. And even if they were, I
have a notion very few of you have ancestors delivered out of the land
of Egypt by a mighty act of redemption on God's part. Obviously this
applies to a certain group of
people who are easily recognized as the nation Israel.
Proofs Pertaining to Israel and the
I turn now to several significant verses in the Word of God. First
"But as for
you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘You shall surely observe
My sabbaths; for this is a
sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you
may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.'"
God marked the Sabbath day as a
peculiar sign between Himself and the children of Israel. Then
in the next verse God cautioned
are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you.
Everyone who profanes it
shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that
person shall be cut off from among his people." (Exodus
That was very serious,
was it not? They were to forfeit
their very lives for defiling or profaning the Sabbath day. They
were to be dealt with as if they
had murdered someone in cold blood.
through with verses 16 and 17:
"So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate
the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.’
It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six
days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He
ceased from labor, and was refreshed.” (Exodus
It is a sign between God and the
people of Israel. That is clear, is it not?
Like the rite of circumcision,
the Sabbath belongs to the old creation, for the Sabbath was
built primarily on the old creation. After God had created during the
six days, He rested on the seventh day.
Israel, an earthly people,
belonged to an old creation, and the Sabbath was given to them as a
Now if you are not convinced that God meant business about this, turn to
another portion in the Book of Numbers. If you are one who feels that
you can keep the Sabbath day and you do keep it,
the penalty for breaking it
should make your hair stand on end.
Numbers 15 includes an example of one who broke the Sabbath law:
"Now while the
sons of Israel were in the wilderness,
they found a man gathering
wood on the sabbath day." (Numbers
Now I may be wrong,
but I have a notion that any one of you readers does more work on the
Sabbath or seventh day than this man did. He only picked up a few
sticks. Do you want to go under
Sabbath day restrictions? Let's read further and learn what
found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all
the congregation; and they put him in custody because it had not
been declared what should be done to him." (Numbers
We have come now to God's
verdict, and it is harsh:
LORD said to Moses, “The man shall surely be put to death;
all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.”
So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him
to death with stones, just as the LORD had commanded Moses."
Do you want to be under the law
of the Sabbath day? I'm afraid that a great
many people who talk of keeping
the Sabbath day are breaking it. God meant business about this
Sabbath day. Before we conclude this study we
shall see the reason God protected the day as He did. We will see
that it was symbolic of something tremendous that He has done for you
and me. He did not want it violated in any fashion whatsoever.
Neither can those who talk of
keeping the Sabbath violate what it symbolizes, as we shall see.
Sabbath Day Restrictions
Let us notice some of the things
that they could not do on the Sabbath day, which the Scripture enjoins.
"You shall not
kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the sabbath day.”
The Jews were forbidden to
kindle a fire. Now if you
were one who kept the Sabbath but you drove your car down to your church
on that day, the minute you inserted the key in the ignition and started
the motor of your car, you kindled a fire in every one of the cylinders,
although you did not see it. In
doing this you broke the Sabbath. I called the attention of a
friend to this, since he believes he ought to keep the Sabbath. But I
notice that he continues to start his car every Saturday, and I see no
indication that he is going to start walking.
And that's not all of it. I turn again to Exodus and read God's
provision for the Sabbath rest during the time He provided manna for His
people in the wilderness. Notice this language:
"then he said to
them, “This is what the LORD meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath
observance, a holy sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and
boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be
kept until morning.” So they put it aside until morning, as Moses
had ordered, and it did not become foul nor was there any worm in
it. Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the LORD;
today you will not find it in the field." (Exodus
No cooking was permitted on
the Sabbath day at all. And
it would not be permissible to
go to a restaurant where someone else had done the cooking, either.
Exodus 16:29 ties into the above verses:
"See, the LORD
has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days
on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out
of his place on the seventh day.” (Exodus
The expression "a
Sabbath day's journey," which is
about 750 yards, comes
from this verse of Scripture. Therefore the Jews could go no farther
than 750 yards on the Sabbath.
When Antiochus Epiphanes made his attack upon the nation Israel, he was
able to overcome some of the Maccabees, and the reason was that he
attacked on the Sabbath day. He knew the Jews would not strike back
because they would not even engage in defensive warfare on the Sabbath.
When you turn to the Mishnah
(The Mishnah was an early form of the Jewish oral law or tradition.)
that was combined with the commentary in the Talmud (containing the
civil and canonical laws of the nation Israel), you will find that they
had reduced the Sabbath day observance of Israel to minutiae, the
most trifling regulations.
They had 39 ways of
breaching the Sabbath, and they divided each one of those 39 ways into
another 39 ways, and 39 multiplied by 39 equals
1521 ways in which one could
break the Sabbath in Old Testament times!
Let me give you some
examples: If you tied a knot you
broke the Sabbath. A
scribe could not carry a pen, because that would be carrying a burden on
the Sabbath. A person was
not even permitted to kill a flea - it was rather amusing to me
that a man could not kill a flea even though it was biting him! In other
words, the flea had a free day on the Sabbath. A person
could not wear a coat or garment over his other clothing. The
thought was that the individual might become too warm, take off his coat
and put it over his arm, and that would be carrying a burden on the
Sabbath. A woman was not
permitted to look in a mirror on the Sabbath day for she might
see a gray hair and want to pull it out, and that would be reaping on
the Sabbath. Oh, my friend, they had reduced it to where it had become
all but ridiculous.
Beloved, would you
want to revert to the Sabbath?
But we find that God made it
very clear to the people of Israel that they were to observe the Sabbath.
He said in
Leviticus 19:30: "You shall keep My sabbaths
and revere My sanctuary; I am the LORD."
The Sabbath day was bound together with the ceremonial worship of this
nation - the two never could be divorced.
God said that they must keep
holy His Sabbath and His sanctuary.
It is little wonder that Simon
Peter stood up in the first Council of Jerusalem and said to those
why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the
disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to
He meant that they, the Jewish
people, had not been able to keep all these regulations, so why burden
the converted Gentiles with them?
A New Day
When we pass from the Old
Testament and come into the New Testament, nothing short of a revolution
has taken place as far as the Sabbath day is concerned. Every
commandment is repeated in the Epistles for the Christians as items for
our conduct, with one exception - the Sabbath day is not given to
Christians. Nowhere is it
given to the church. In fact,
just the contrary is true, for
the church is warned against keeping the Sabbath day, as we shall see.
Our Lord precipitated the wrath of the religious rulers at this very
point, and it is here that they broke with Him on the Sabbath question.
He claimed to be Lord of the
Sabbath, and He justified His claim by raising up the man at the Pool of
My friend, there is one thing that you need to turn over in your mind:
Jesus was dead on the Sabbath day! Regardless of what day you think He
was crucified (whether it be Wednesday, Thursday or Friday), one thing
is obvious, and upon this all agree - He was dead on the Sabbath day.
It was on the first day of the
week that He came forth from the dead. And when we
turn to the resurrection account
in the Gospel of Matthew (which was written primarily to Israel), it
opens with a remarkable statement:
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of
the week.... (Matthew
28:1) What beautiful language. "Now after the Sabbath"
- not just the end of a day, but
the end of keeping the Sabbath day - "as it began to dawn
toward the first day of the week ..." That is tremendous!
Pentecost - The Church Was Born
Then we turn to the Book of Acts, and there we read that the church was
born - and not on a Sabbath day,
but on the Lord's Day, the first day of the week. Notice Acts 2:1:
"When the day
of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place."
What does the Bible
mean by "had come"? Does it mean when the sun had come up or that
it was twelve noon or that it was late in the afternoon? No, it does not
mean any of that at all. Let me use a parenthesis to make it clear:
"When the day of Pentecost [and all of which it spoke] had come...."
That which Pentecost had symbolized in the Old Testament is now come.
It was the first day of the
week, the only first day of the week Israel ever observed - for they
observed seven Sabbath days after Passover, and then the day following
the seventh Sabbath was Pentecost:
On that day the Holy Spirit (3rd person of the Holy Trinity)
On that day the
church was born!
that the Church Met on the First Day
It would be exceedingly strange if the church did not make some
recognition of the first day of the week.
Actually you'll find that the church never met on any day other than the
first day of the week. As we turn to Acts 20:7 we find that Paul
was preaching in Troas:
"On the first
day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul
began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he
prolonged his message until midnight." (Acts
That was a long
sermon! But will you note that the writer
does not insert anywhere
such a statement as this: "Now I want to give you a little word of
explanation, for it was unusual for the church to meet on the first day
of the week." He does not say
that for the simple reason that it was the regular time for the church
to meet. It can be proven
that they never did meet on any other day. (There
was a group called Ebionites that met on the Sabbath day, but they were
called heretics by the early church.)
Paul said to the Corinthians when he wrote to them:
the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside
and save, as he may prosper ..." (1
Friends, why should he
designate that day? Plainly,
that is the day upon which the church came together.
The church is a new creation of
God. It does not belong to the old creation; it is a new work:
"For by grace
you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is
the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
For we are His workmanship, [His
"poiema," His poem, His new creation], created in Christ
Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would
walk in them." (Ephesians
the Christian is a new creation,
by the way:
anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed
away; behold, new things have come." (2
Paul writes to the
Galatians in the sixth chapter, verse 15:
"For neither is
circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision,
but a new creation."
John, when on the Isle
of Patmos, wrote: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day ..." (Revelation
1:10). I am aware that a great many commentators hold the
position that this has reference to this day of grace in which we live.
I will accept that, but I will not rule out the other - it also
carries the meaning of the
Lord's Day, the first day of the week.
In the opening of this message I made mention of the fact that the
Sabbath day has never been changed to Sunday, the first day of the week.
A false propaganda has been
circulated to the effect that the Roman Catholic Church changed the day
of worship from Saturday to Sunday.
That needs to be refuted.
The church never did observe the
Sabbath day, so how could it be changed?
The church observed Sunday, or
the Lord's Day, from the beginning.
We have this record not only in
Acts, but the body of
church history also bears testimony to that fact.
For example, during
the first century we find a lovely thing to corroborate this, a
quotation from one of the church fathers,
Ignatius (born in A.D. 69),
who was also a disciple of the apostle John: No
longer observing Sabbaths, but fashioning their lives after the
Lord's Day, on which our life also rose through Him.
Also Athanasius (born around
A.D. 296), a great man of the faith, left us this statement:
We keep no Sabbaths: we keep
the Lord's Day as a memorial of the beginning of the new creation.
The Epistle of Barnabas, which was never recognized or accepted in
the canon of Scripture, though no one has ever questioned the
accuracy of its historical statements, contains the following: I
shall make a beginning of the eighth day [that is, Sunday], that is
the beginning of another universe. Wherefore we keep also the eighth
day [Sunday] for gladness,
on which also Jesus rose from the dead.
The early church always met on
the first day of the week to honor a resurrected Christ and to recognize
the fact that they were a new creation. They
did not belong to the old
creation where the Sabbath day is at the end of the week, but to a new
day, the first day of the week.
It may surprise you to learn that the Seventh Day Baptists started the
observance of the seventh day, or the Sabbath. So you Baptists are going
to have to take the blame here. (The Presbyterians and the Methodists
have already got enough to answer for, and I think that you Baptists
ought to shoulder this one!)
The Ebionites rose in the early
church. They were called heretics then, and by the sixth and seventh
centuries they had called themselves Sabbatarians.
It was not until the seventeenth
century when Puritan theology became so dominant and legalistic that the
Ebionites began to call themselves the Seventh Day Baptists. And all of
the legalists today get the seventh day from them.
The Firm Position of the Lord's Day
Sunday - oh, how
important this is to see - does
not take the place of Saturday.
The Lord's Day is not a
substitute for the Old Testament Sabbath day.
In fact, all is contrast.
C. H. Mackintosh put it this way:
The Sabbath was the seventh
day; the Lord's Day
is the first.
The Sabbath was a test of
the Lord's Day is the proof of the church's acceptance on wholly
The Sabbath belonged to the
old creation; the
Lord's Day belongs to the new.
The Sabbath was a day of
bodily rest for the Jew;
the Lord's Day is a day of
spiritual rest for the Christian.
If the Jew worked on the Sabbath, he was to be put to death.
If the Christian does not work on the Lord's Day, he gives little
proof of life. That is, if
he does not get involved on the Lord's Day in some type of spiritual
ministry, he gives little evidence that he has spiritual life.
the Lord's Day is a day when you, as a Christian,
demonstrate that you belong
to Christ. It is not
a day when you are to do nothing.
I disagree with those
who hold that the Lord's Day is the Sabbath.
It is not a Sabbath; it is
something new. Today, by
meeting on the Lord's Day, we testify that Jesus came back from the dead.
For the early church, every
Lord's Day was an Easter!
Oh, if we could make every Sunday an Easter -
come in our new garments
and fill our churches
and talk about the resurrected
Christ - that would be
Sunday, or the Lord's Day, does
not take the place of Saturday, which is still the Sabbath.
Now I have a suggestion to make. It would be ideal if we would
acknowledge each day as it was intended to be in its own origin -
Saturday, a day of rest,
and the Lord's Day, a day of
worship. I believe that the Bible would sanction that, for it
"One person regards one day above another, another regards every day
alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind." (Romans
We observe the first day of the
week because our Lord came back from the dead on that day.
We do not observe it as a
substitute for the Sabbath day or any other day.
It is vital that we understand that the Sabbath day, which was part
of the ceremonial law, has already been fulfilled in Christ. And now
the injunction given to Christians is clear in Colossians 2:16-17:
one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect
to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a
mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ."
rituals in the Old Testament
were shadows of things to come - and
shadows are photographs.
When a photographer takes our picture, a shadow is registered on a very
sensitive negative. That shadow is developed and becomes our picture.
The Bible says that as we look
back to the Old Testament we find that even the Sabbath day was a
shadow of something.
In the Epistle to the Galatians
we find a tremendously important point:
"But now that
you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it
that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things,
to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days
and months and seasons and years." (Galatians
Judaism has passed away, and it
says here in Galatians that today it is the same as any other pagan
religion. Therefore, to observe the Sabbath in our day is to return to
paganism. Such a legal
system is one and the same in God's sight!
In coming to the final word in this study, I turn to the Epistle to the
"Therefore, let us
fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you
may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news
preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not
profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard."
My friend, I keep the Sabbath
day - I keep it in accordance with the preceding passage of Scripture.
Now let me give you a personal illustration: When I came to Pasadena to
live in 1940, my neighbor - a very fine man, but
a member of a legalistic system that keeps the seventh day -
nailed me first off. I had not been in southern California twenty-four
hours when he buttonholed me and asked, "Do you keep the Sabbath day?" I
looked him right straight in the eye and said, "I sure do." He countered
with a gleam in his eye and asked, "What day do you keep?"
I looked at him with a gleam in my eye and said to him, "Saturday,
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday." And then I
started all over again on the next week. He broke in on my recital and
blurted out, "What in the world do you mean?" I told him something like
this: I simply mean that when the Lord Jesus came to this world about
two thousand years ago, He said, " ... My Father is
working until now, and I Myself am working" (John
I tried to make it clear to him that when God created everything,
including man, man sinned and ran into the ditch. And from that day on,
God did not rest because He wanted to redeem the poor, lost sinner and
bring him into a place of rest. On the cross Christ died, but before He
died He said to the Father, "...It
is finished ..." (John
19:30). But when He said it, it was only one word - Tetelestai!
What was finished?
The work of redemption was
finished so that now you and I can enter into rest. And, my
friend, we don't dare try to add
any of our good works to His work of redemption! Look again at
Ephesians 2:8 and 9:
"For by grace
you have been saved through faith; and that
not of yourselves, it is the
gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may
Redemption is a
completed package, and He presents it to you wrapped up with everything
in it. He doesn't want you to
bring your do-it-yourself kit along. He does not need that.
When He died on the
cross, He provided a
righteousness that would satisfy a Holy Triune God. All He asks
of you is to receive this package, this gift of God, which is eternal
life in Christ Jesus.
He says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and
heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew
In other words, "I'll
give you a Sabbath in which you can rest in Me, your Savior."
He makes every day a Sabbath in
which you can rest in Him.
message is adapted from an article by J. Vernon
McGee, titled "The Sabbath Day or the Lord's Day - Which? at
Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB),
with links to the
"Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be
or email me if you have questions.
Amen and God bless you.
"Saint Pete", Sr.