|On-Line Bible Lessons|
Pastor Ovid Need
NOTE: Time requires I leave in the minor errors, e.g., abbreviations in text, wrong abbreviations, mixed tenses in a sentence (though I have tried to catch all of them), caps, etc. Time prevents correcting and adding to these lessons. There are also some comments at the end of this chapter.
Place your answer in the space provided. Put ANS before each answer. Capitalize, ANS:
In this lesson we would like to tie together the lose ends of this series on the Sabbath. As we mentioned in Lesson Two, there is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding in this area, so we will go a little more in depth here.
It is obvious that the Christian Sabbath is just that, Christian. It speaks of the rest that we have in Christ for our redemption. It speaks of our rest in the providence of God to bless labor done in obedience to His word. It speaks of the future rest that is in store for the redeemed. The Sabbath (Sunday rest) is thoroughly Christian, unknown in cultures which do not have a Christian influence. Therefore, as our culture turns from God, we can fully expect them to turn from this aspect of the word of God, rest on the Sabbath.
Now what? The early Church existed under pagan Rome. We can be assured that Rome did not recognize the Christian day of rest. This made 'Sunday' no more than another work day in that culture, giving the Christian no choice but to work. The command of Hebrews 10:25 would be given in this context.
At this point, let us look at this thought in action, Acts 20:7-12. First, notice what day this meeting was held on, the first day of the week. Every time we read of the new church meeting, it is on the first day of the week.
The next point is that this passage indicates this was such a long work day for the working man, that the lights had to be on, v. 8. If this had not been a work day, this church would have met during the day.
Next, they assembled together for fellowship (to break bread), and for preaching. This would have been after a hard days work, and then Paul preached all night. Thus, the command to faithfully assemble together in Heb. 10:25 is given in the context of society in general working on this day.
This would have held true until 321 A.D.
As Christianity slowly gained status as a legal and then as an official state religion, civil and ecclesiastical legislation was enacted to enforce strict observance of the Christian Sabbath. It was at this point that the Christian "Lord's Day" assumed the definite characteristics of a day of rest as well as a day of worship. In 321, plagued with the endless number of holy days observed by the various sects in his domain, the Emperor Constantine issued a decree which made Sunday a day of rest from all general labor. While the choice of Sunday as the official day of rest was certainly influenced by Constantine's Christian sympathies, it was selected also because it was a day which most of the other factions in the Empire could agree to observe also. (The Ten Commandments in Modern Perspective. Own M. Weatherly, John Knox Press. Pg. 59.)
Two things: First, the observance of Sunday as a day of rest by society in general did not come about for almost 300 years after Christ. Second, it came about because of the Christian influence in the Empire. The conclusion is that as this influence is lost, so is this day of rest. The official recognition of this day was because of political pressure from the people. The loss of this day is because of political pressure from the people, a loss of faith.
This gives a couple of other significant observations. We read of no effort to enforce the OT civil penalties against the breaking of the Sabbath rest after Christ. Nor do we read of the Apostles preaching against work on the Sabbath. Even so, the principle of rest is clearly established in the Sabbath, as is the implication of life and death of a society according to their attitude toward the Sabbath.
The Christian Sabbath (Sunday), speaks of freedom and redemption through Christ. The loss of this day is against this freedom. The loss of the Christian Sabbath will be met with a rise in socialism where man becomes no more than a machine to be used for the good of the godless state. We should say, "The loss of the faith that produces the Sabbath rest," or we will become no better than the Hebrews of Christ's day who saw the Sabbath no more than a set of rules. A vibrant faith will result in honoring the Sabbath.
The Apostle pointed out in Hebrews (4) that honoring this day will not bring rest (any more than living debt free will bring freedom). It is the honoring of the Lord of the Sabbath that brings rest. Christ is our Sabbath, rest.
We have rest from the worry of salvation, the work of Christ.
We have rest from the worry about the works of our hands. If done according to His word, the providence of God will prosper that work. Honoring the Sabbath is a sign for all to see that everything is committed to the divine providence of God. That commitment to His divine providence can be made even in the midst of the pagans who force a 7 day work week, as was being done under Rome.
Paganism can provide a 35 hour week, vacations and sick leave, but there will be no Sabbath rest. The child of God who must work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, will have more rest than will the pagan who only works 35 hours a week. The rest is in Christ, not in keeping ordinances.
We have rest AFTER we work, 1 Thes. 4:11; 2 Thes. 3:10. We live in a society that is seeking after rest with vacations, holidays of all kinds and Sundays off. Their search is useless without labor and faith in Christ. Therefore, as the faith which produces hard workers (thus, Sabbath keepers) becomes weaker in society, the mad search for rest will become more frantic, Isa. 57:20, 21.
What about the pagan situation which we are caught in, which results in forced work on the Sunday?
The first thing we need to remember is that this ignoring of the Christian Sabbath is a result of the return of society to paganism. This return to paganism includes professed Christians, and is an inditement against the church of our day. Under persecution the church became so powerful that Constantine had to give in to the pressure. Under material prosperity, the church has become so powerless that they have lost the freedom of the Sabbath.
Second, we are now in a pagan culture (because of a loss of
faith). The result is that many times the Christian is forced
to work as they had to under Rome. The key word is forced. If
the pagans force the Christian to work, that is one thing, but
many use this as an excuse. The child of God who willingly works
and plans on the Christian Sabbath, is saying that his planning
and work is necessary for his survival. He has denied the Lord
of the Sabbath, and is serving his own strengths and abilities.
(Or this labor on Sunday may be a result of poor planning through
the week. This is a lack of discipline that needs to be dealt
Heb. 10:26 identifies the ignoring of the Christian Sabbath as a willful sin that has the wrath of God against it. Under the law of Moses, the offender died; under Grace the punishment is sorer because it is treading under foot the blood of the covenant, v. 29.
The attitude toward amd the observance of the Old and New Testament Sabbath was and is the most obvious and perfect
barometer of the spirituality of His people. One of the first indications of a person's or nation's attitude toward the Lord of the Sabbath, is the attitude toward the Sabbath day. Because of this, we can expect no restoration of the Sabbath until Christ is restored as King, and His word as law in the hearts and actions of His people.
Now, some conclusions.
The OT Sabbath was given to commemorate the deliverance of the Children of Israel from bondage in Egypt. It also looked forward to the deliverance from bondage and rest, all through what Christ was going to do. The Christian Sabbath looks back on what Christ did and our rest in Him. The dividing line is early in the morning of the first day of the week.
There are efforts today to place Christians back under the OT Sabbath laws. To do this is to deny the plan of rest and redemption that is provided in Christ. The Christian Sabbath cannot be understood in the terms of Israel's Sabbath other than in the light of Hebrews 4. Our rest is in Christ and His freedom from the bondage of sin. This is a joyful remembrance celebrated with singing, fellowship with other people of God and of learning about Him through His word
Let us not get caught up in the thought that if the OT ordinances of the Sabbath are restored, the people will be restored. Keeping any one day above another will not free from the burden of sin. Freedom from sin is the redemption through Christ which writes His laws in the heart, Jer. 31:33. This true Sabbath will result in His people desiring to keep the Sabbath holy and apart for Him.
Pagan Rome fell to this desire in the heart. Pagan society today will also fall to this desire in the heart.