Sunday and the Sabbath

Israel and the Sabbath Day

The seventh day, according to the Scriptures, is the Sabbath (a day of rest) The Sabbath has never been changed from the seventh day to the first day (Sunday — Lord’s Day), and remains an everlasting covenant between God and Israel.

“Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever…” Exodus 31:16-17

The first reference to a Sabbath is found in Exodus 16:23. Prior to this time, from Adam to Moses, there was no Sabbath for man. God, through Moses, in Deuteronomy 5:2, reminds Israel of the covenant at Horeb (Exodus 31), and in Deuteronomy 5:3 says this covenant (keeping the Sabbath) was not … with our fathers, but with us.

God’s rest from Creation in Genesis 2:1-3 was not a day given to men, but set aside unto Himself. In Deuteronomy 5:15, the purpose of the Sabbath, again, reaffirms this was for Israel only… “that the Lord thy God brought thee out…therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.”

Worship on the First Day of the Week

We worship as an assembly on the first day (Sunday) as the Scriptures indicate concerning the church (see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; and Revelation 1:10). Certainly, the Apostles would not have changed from a Sabbath to a Sunday apart from the leading of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us in Colossians 2:16-17, we should not let anyone judge us concerning observing the Old Testament Law, including keeping a particular day (Sabbath Day).

Jesus addressed “religious tradition” in John 4 when He told the woman at the well that the Father is to be worshipped in Spirit and in truth. Jesus came to fulfill all that the Law commanded. Jesus, in addressing the rich young ruler, never mentioned keeping the Sabbath (Matthew 19:16-21; Luke 18:18-22).

Some have claimed that Constantine and the Roman Church changed the Sabbath to Sunday. This is not true. In the First Century AD, early church leaders wrote stating how the Apostles themselves began to meet each Lord’s Day (Sunday) to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This developed into a Sunday worship service. In 110 AD, Justin Martyr wrote:

“On the day called ‘Sunday,’ all who lived in cities or in the country gathered together in one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought to change in the darkest matter, made the world, and Jesus Christ, our Savior, on the same day, arose from the dead. Is there any other matter, my friends, in which we are blamed than this, that we live not according to the law, and are not circumcised in the flesh as your forefathers were, and do not observe the Sabbaths as you do. Christians would observe the law if they did not know why it was instituted. For we, too, would observe the fleshly circumcision and the Sabbaths, and insured all feasts if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined you. How is it that we would not observe those rights which do not harm us? I speak of fleshly circumcision, Sabbaths, and feasts.’

“The Gentiles, who have believed in Him, and who have repented of their sins, shall receive the inheritance along with the patriarchs. Even although we neither keep the Sabbath, nor are circumcised, nor observe the feasts, Christ is useless to those who observe the law. The Sabbath, the sacrifices, and the offerings and feasts have come to an end in Him who was born of a virgin. They have come to an end in Him. You keep the law, you keep the Sabbath, you’ve come to an end in Him. But if some through weak mindedness wish to observe such institutions as were given to Moses, along with their hope in Christ, they shall ‘probably’ be saved.”

Rather than be caught up on a day, why not follow Christ’s admonition in John 13:35 and 15:12 — to love one another, and as Paul says in Romans 13:8 — this fulfills all the Law.

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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