Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 12, 1962
NUMBER 10, PAGE 2,10

Sabbath Keeping

James E. Cooper, Clarkson, Ky.

There are people who foolishly preach that Sabbath-keeping is required of Christians. This is the result of "foolish preaching," and both the preaching and the practice is contrary to the New Testament.

The Sabbath Day is the seventh day of the week, and Christians worship on the first day of the week. Saturday is the seventh day of the week; Sunday is the first day of the week. Some people, in trying to make Sunday the Sabbath Day, contend that Monday is the first day of the week, but a casual glance at the calendar should convince the honest heart that the week begins with Sunday, though the American phrase today calls both Saturday and Sunday "the week-end."

Christians worship God on the first day of the week In Acts 20:7 we find the disciples came together "on the first day of the week" to break bread. In I Cor. 16:2 Paul said, "Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come." These two passages indicate that it was the practice of the early church to assemble upon the first day of the week to worship God. This was very natural for them to do. Our Saviour was raised from the dead on the first day of the week. The church of Jesus Christ had its origin on Pentecost, which always occurred on the first day of the week. It was only natural that Christians should worship on the first day of the week in memory of the resurrection of Christ and in memory of the establishment of his church.

Not only do we have the testimony of the Scriptures, but we also have the testimony of post-apostolic writers. Justin Martyr, in The First Apology of Justin, Ch. LXVII, dated about 145 A.D said: "But Sunday is the day on which we hold our common assembly, because it is the first day of the week and Jesus our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead." From Justin's statement we gain two facts: (1) it was the practice of the second century church to assemble for worship on the first day of the week, and (2) Sunday was recognized as the first day of the week.

In The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, 9:1 (167 A. D.), we find this statement, "Those, then, who lived by ancient practices arrived at a new hope. They ceased to keep the Sabbath and lived by the Lord's Day, on which our life as well as theirs shone forth, thanks to Him and His death." Thus, the testimony of Ignatius shows that those who had observed the Sabbath under the Old Covenant ceased observing it when they became Christians, and began to worship on the Lord's Day.

In The Epistle of Barnabas (100 A. D.) we find, "Wherefore also we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose from the dead." Since the Sabbath always fell on the seventh day, the eighth day was not the Sabbath, but Sunday, the Lord's Day. Hence, we have by the testimony of three ancient witnesses, shown that the second century church did not observe the Sabbath, but worshipped on the first day of the week. We have shown from the New Testament that the first century church did not observe the Sabbath, but worshipped on the first day of the week.

Next, notice that the Sabbath was enjoined upon the Jews and only upon the Jews. It was not enjoined upon the Jews before their deliverance from Egypt. The first time the seventh day is mentioned in the Bible is Gen. 2:2-3: "And on the seventh day God finished 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 hallowed it: because that in it he rested from all his work which God had mated and made" Some have thought that this passage implies that God requires man to keep the Sabbath from the beginning, but there is nothing in Gen. 2:2-3 that demands that conclusion. The fact that God hallowed the seventh day because he began his rest on that day does not indicate that he began to require men to keep the seventh day. You do not read of anybody keeping the Sabbath until after the Jews were delivered from Egyptian bondage.

The first mention of the Sabbath is found in Exodus 16. God gave manna to the children of Israel, instructing them to gather what was needed each day, and on the sixth day they were instructed to gather enough for two days. Of the seventh day God said, "This is that which Jehovah hath spoken, Tomorrow is a solemn rest, a holy Sabbath unto Jehovah." These events occurred shortly before the giving of the Ten Commandments, one of which deals with observing the Sabbath.

In Deut. 5:15 Moses is repeating the Ten Commandments and explains why God commanded the Jews to observe the Sabbath Day. Moses said, "And thou shalt remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and Jehovah thy God brought thee out thence, by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm: therefore Jehovah thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day." Moses said God commanded the Jews to keep the Sabbath as a memorial of their deliverance from Egypt. Since the memorial could not have existed before that which they were to remember, it could not have been observed before they were delivered. If you will notice the first few verses in Exodus 20, and the first part of Deut. 5, you will see that the Ten Commandments were spoken to the Jews. Since no Gentiles were in that host, God did not utter the Ten Commandments to Gentiles. The Sabbath, then, was enjoined upon the Jews and not upon the Gentiles.

In Neh. 9: 13-14, we find that God made known the Sabbath unto the Jews after he had delivered them from bondage. "Thou tamest down also upon Mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments, and madest known unto them thy holy Sabbath, and commandest them commandments, and statutes, and a law, by Moses thy servant." Nehemiah does not say that God "reminded" the Jews of a Sabbath that had been required of men from the beginning. He said that God "made known" his holy Sabbath unto the Jews when he delivered them from Egypt. Over in Ezek. 20:10-12 we find, "So I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them my statutes, and showed them mine ordinances, which if a man do, he shall live in them Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am Jehovah that sanctifieth them."

Thirdly, notice that the Old Covenant, including the command to keep the Sabbath was abolished. 2 Cor. 3:6-12 reveals that the old covenant was abolished. Four times in that chapter Paul says that the old covenant was abolished. That he was including the Ten Commandments is evident by his reference to the fact that Moses put a veil over his face. Turn to Exodus 34:29 and you will see that the reference is to the time Moses came down from the mount with the two tables of stone on which were written the Ten Commandments. Hence, anybody who believes the New Testament will have to believe that the Ten Commandments were abolished, or taken out of the way.

People who today contend that Christians are required to keep the Sabbath do not recognize the distinction between the Old and New Covenants. They think that the Ten Commandments are binding today just as they were back under the law of Moses. They cannot "rightly divide the word of truth" and see the distinction. They want to observe the Ten Commandments, and fall to observe the simple language in the New Testament that teaches that the Old Covenant has been taken out of the way (Col. 2:12-17).

Most of the principles in the Ten Commandments are repeated, with some enlargement and variation, in the New Testament. The only Commandment not included in the New Covenant is the one about keeping the Sabbath. If our Lord had intended that Christians keep the Sabbath, he would have included instruction for it in the New Testament.

We do not even have a "Christian Sabbath." Some people designate the first day of the week as the "Christian Sabbath." There is no warrant in the Bible to call it by such a name. Sunday is the Lord's Day. It is the day on which Christians are to worship God. The Sabbath was a day of rest, but the people of God today are to be busy about the Master's business on the Lord's Day. Which will it be for you? Will you try to go back to the Law and keep a Sabbath, or will you humble yourself at the feet of King Jesus and serve Him? I trust that your decision will be to serve Christ

— Clarkson, Kentucky