- THE DAY OF THE LORD
Keeping the seventh day of the week as a Sabbath has been associated with the covenant given at Sinai to the nation of Israel and therefore confined to the law given to them and not relevant to believers who are not ethnically of Jewish descent. The new covenant is understood to not be based upon the keeping of the Law and therefore the observance of the Sabbath has been superseded. Some have understood Sunday to be the day of worship for the Church and therefore a replacement of the Sabbath for new covenant believers. Is this understanding scriptural?
What has often been overlooked is that the Sabbath was given to man by the Creator at the beginning of time. He created man on the sixth day and rested Himself on the seventh day, setting aside the seventh day for all creation as a day of rest (Genesis 2: 2-3). What He established for Himself was a pattern and an example for the man who was created in His image, to follow.
Yahweh God chose the seven-day cycle to constitute a week and it has continued to be the standard pattern for measuring a week of time since, although there is no other determining factor to establish it as a period of time, except the decree of the Almighty. The daily cycle is determined by the twenty-four hourly rotation of the earth, the monthly cycle is determined by the moon's orbit around the earth. The year is determined by the earth's rotation around the sun, but there is no scientific basis for sectioning off a seven-day period to make a week.
In six days He created the earth in it's present form and "God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it" (Genesis 2: 3) He placed a special blessing on the seventh day for man and decreed it as a holy day - a special day which was 'sanctified' or set apart from all others as a holy day of rest from work for spiritual and physical refreshment.
It is understood that the patriarchs who walked with God kept His ordinances, including the Sabbath day. Abraham for one, had the testimony that he pleased God by keeping His commission and walking in all His statutes, commandments and laws, for which reason he was chosen to be the father of faith. Genesis 18:17-19; 26: 4-5
When the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob went down to Egypt they lived in a separate area in the land where they were free to follow their worship of God and to keep His statutes and commandments. After they had been delivered from the time of oppression to which they were subjected as slaves after Joseph's death and were safely out of Egypt, one of the first things which God re-instituted was the keeping of the weekly Sabbath. This was at least six weeks before they came to Sinai, before they became a nation in covenant relationship with Him. So at the time the covenant was made with them, they were already keeping the Sabbath. (Exodus 16: 4-5, 22-23, 27-30) This is why when He gave them the ten commands, it is written as "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.. .." - it was not a new commandment. (Exodus 20: 8) It became the fourth command in the list of ten commands which they were given that are still relevant today.
When Jesus came (Y'shua was His Hebrew name), He said in Matthew 5:17, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets, I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." He summed up the ten commands into two main precepts of loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and your neighbor as yourself , but they were not done away with or superseded (Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-31).
In the new covenant, through the impartation of His Spirit, we are enabled to walk in His ways, so that our obedience is coming from renewed hearts which are circumcised to obey Him. But, His instructions are our tutor to bring us into an understanding of the life and nature of the One who has given us His Spirit. Without the instructions, we would have no knowledge of what He required of us, or how we should emulate His life.
It is a misconception that the "Law" has been done away with. The "Law" is eternal. It is the transcript of the life and nature of God Himself. You can't do away with the "Law", the instruction manual of God for mankind. Y'shua is the Word of God (John 1: 1-3) and in His life we see the fulfillment of the Law. He fulfilled the Law by living it. In other words, He fully expressed it's precepts and lived it out in life's situations.
When it came to the Sabbath, He corrected those who were following a legalistic interpretation of it and making it a burden for the people to keep it as a result of the many detailed man-made regulations they instigated.
The instructions for keeping the Sabbath are deliberately simple. Do all your work in six days and rest on the seventh day. Keep it holy and set apart for Yahweh God. Exodus 20: 8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15
Those closest to Him kept the Sabbath even at His crucifixion, waiting till the Sabbath was past before they went to prepare His body for burial. Mark 15:47, 16: 1; Luke 23:55-56, 24: 1
By His sacrifice for sin, the old sacrificial system was done away with and those who believed were justified from all things which the old covenant was powerless to justify them from. Acts 13:38-39
He became the Mediator of a better covenant based on better promises, but the precepts for godly living remained the same. As our High Priest, He offered Himself as a sacrifice and obtained a superior ministry. Hebrews 8: 3, 6 The old sacrificial system and the old covenant was imperfect (8: 7-8) but by the testimony of Paul, the "Law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good." (Romans 7:12) He also says that the "law is spiritual".
The problem was not any imperfection with the Law, but with our carnal nature which the old covenant and it's sacrifices was powerless to deliver us from. Now through the perfect and complete sacrifice of the Son of God, the covenant which He instituted is empowered to deliver us from the "law of sin and death" (Romans 7:24-25). Sin brings death upon us, but through the atonement we have deliverance from it's dominion over us. Instead of a nature which desires to live contrary to God's righteous and holy Law, we now have a nature which desires to do His will. This is the difference of the new covenant from the old.
All of the original believers in Y'shua the Messiah, were of Israelite descent and they continued to practice the same manner of worship as their non-believing brethren. They still attended the Synagogue and the worship in the Temple together with those who had not accepted Y'shua as the Messiah.
Believing in Y'shua as the Messiah brought a measure of persecution which was accentuated after Simon bar-Kochba was declared the "messiah" in 130AD, but they were accepted in the midst of their brethren up till that time when the issue of who was the Messiah became a dividing factor. If they had not kept all the "law of Moses" they would have been rejected as apostate from the beginning.
Paul testified when under accusation by the Jews for teaching things contrary to the Law, that "Neither against the law of the Jews, not against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything at all" (Acts 25: 8), declaring that, "having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come - that Messiah would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles." (Acts 26:22-23).
He had been accused by the Jews of teaching against the Jewish people, the law and the temple (Acts 21:28), but by his own confession he did not do this. He did not teach against keeping the Law.
In his letters to the believers at Corinth, he admonishes them to follow him as he followed Messiah, saying, "imitate me", and sending Timothy to them to teach them more perfectly his way of life in Messiah, praising them for keeping the traditions which he had delivered to them. (1 Corinthians 4:16-17; 11: 1-2). This is a repeated emphasis in his letters (Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1: 5). He is not living as a "Jew" himself and advocating a different lifestyle to the so-called "Gentile" believers. Rather Paul says that there is no longer Jew or Gentile but a "new man" has been created in the Messiah. (Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:19)
Paul followed Messiah who kept the Law perfectly (if He had not He would not have been able to offer Himself for transgressions of the Law), and he taught the believers to follow him as an example of Messiah, which would mean that they also would be following the Law. The requirement to keep God's commandments had not changed.
At the Council held to address the issue of what was required of new converts from the nations coming to faith in Y'shua, the apostles made the ruling on four basic issues, expecting them to be going to the synagogue every Sabbath where they would be taught the Law of Moses and progressively learn the commandments of God.
As stated previously, the Sabbath preceded the giving of the Law but was also included in it as part of the national constitution. It was so basic that it was taken for granted that they would be following the observance of it from the beginning as a way of life, as a result of coming to worship the Creator who instituted it. (Acts 15:19-21)
The change from the original traditions to the present practice, came in through pagan infiltration and was incorporated as Church practice, with the advent of Constantine in 325AD. Since then, the error of Sunday worship has continued and the Church as a whole has not revised their doctrines according to the Word of God and returned to the original faith of the apostles of the Lord, as they were taught by Him.