As Christians who desire to have a “real faith for a real world,” we need to ask ourselves, “Do we base our faith on how we feel or on what God says is true?” It is so easy for us to fall into the trap that says, “If I want something” or “if I feel something,” it must be true. However, if we allow ourselves to fall into and even develop this way of thinking, we probably will find ourselves denying truth when it’s standing right in front of us, even if it is clearly written in God’s Word. If you only had the Bible and nothing else to guide you, what day of the week would you choose to worship, Sunday or Sabbath?
Years ago, I set out to disprove what Sabbath keeping Christians believe. I grew up with Sunday keeping churches all around me. Surly Sunday is the correct day to worship. It is in the Bible, right? Right there in chapter, ugh, chapter… Well right then and there I jumped into the Bible, and the Greek translations, and the Hebrew translations, and the many books of commentary I had from my college days, and I set out to prove Sabbath keepers wrong.
I stayed up all night. I prayed and I studied and I prayed some more. But the next morning when my wife woke up and came to the kitchen, there I sat at the dining table. “Have you been up all night”, she asked? Yes, all night”, I replied. “What have you decided”, she asked? “We are going to be Sabbath Keepers”, I told her. And we have been ever since.
Ever noticed how many Christians say something like, “If God said it, I believe it” Well God said it and most Christians DON’T believe it.”
But what is the Sabbath and why do we go to church on the Seventh day, (Saturday) Sabbath? Now I know the questions people ask. Are you guys legalistic? Did a cult brainwash you? Or, are you just weird? To answer that I want you to know that we’re not legalistic and we’re not brained washed or in a cult. Okay, I will admit that if you got to know me, I might be a little bit weird. But hey! Who isn’t!
Nonetheless, to the topic at hand, why do we go to church on Saturday, the Seventh day, the Sabbath. Why? Well, the answer is relatively simple, it’s just so blasted biblical! From Genesis to Revelation the Sabbath is consistently, consistent.
Think about it! God created us to enjoy a loving relationship with Him. In the book of beginnings, Genesis, we are told that God created everything, including you and me. And not only was what He created good, it was very good!
In Genesis chapter 2, verse 2 the Bible says, “2By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
The story of God’s creation tells us three things that God did with the seventh day, Sabbath. God rested, blessed it, and He made it holy.
God took the final day of creation, sat back, gazed upon what He had made, set it apart (which is the definition of “being holy”) and blessed it. And you know what? It was not only good, it was very good! But man messed it up. Willful disobedience from the first man and woman created caused mankind to go into a free fall, be separated from God and suffer the consequences. But the Lord had a plan, a plan to raise up an obscure people in an obscure land. A people that would not only tell, but show the provision of God. A nation that showed the world what sin had done and the grace He was offering. A nation that would give birth to God’s Son and rectify this mess they had gotten themselves into.
So, God called a man, a good man by the name of Abraham to give birth to a fledgling nation, Israel. And God used this nation as a living visual of the tragedy that had happened, the pain it caused and the redemption He would provide. God called Abraham to give birth to a nation that He called His children and then had them put into slavery to visually show what mankind’s disobedience had done.
So off to Egypt they went as slaves under the Satan-like oppression of the cruel Pharaohs who made life absolutely miserable. For 400 years, the number for waiting in Scripture, they waited in misery, without hope or a future.
But God raised up a deliverer, Moses. A man like them, but unlike any of them that would lead them out of slavery and oppression and into the promised land that God had for them. Moses, a symbol of Jesus who would later come to set all of God’s people free. And so, Moses battled with the Satan-like Pharaoh, as He lead them through the Red Sea, the blood of Christ, into the Wilderness known as Sin, and prepared them to enter into the promise land, the heaven that flowed with milk and honey.
Now like many of us, though these former slaves to sin were physically free, they had a hard time letting go of the past and many of them were still in bondage to their old ways. They had been slaves for so long, they didn’t know how to live as a free people. Besides, they had very little clue of this God who was setting them free.
So, the Lord does what He does best, He loved on them by providing for them. He literally “rained bread from heaven upon them,” (Ex. 16:4) and gave them a picture of the Bread of Life, Jesus that would later come. So for six days a week, year in and year out, He gave enough bread for that day teaching them to depend on Him and then on the sixth day He gave enough for that day and the next day, the seventh day. And this is what He told them. “Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD” (Ex. 16:23).
And to drive it home to their hearts He took Moses way up into the mountains and wrote it on two stone tablets along with 9 other commands, which we know as the 10 Commandments. This is what the 4th Commandment said, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).
Look at it this way, God has an appointment with you, so don’t be late. Every Sabbath when we go to church, it is a Family Reunion with your brothers and sisters in Christ. So, kick back and enjoy the day that God wants to spend in leisure with you.
That said, I’ll get back to the story of Moses and the Israelites.
God wanted the Israelites to reflect upon and remember that they didn’t evolve from some primordial soup or that their uncle was a chimpanzee, though they acted like one at times, but that He had created them in His image. And not only that, He had Moses remind them that they were in a world of hurt, separated from God, caught in and slave to their sin and acting like a bunch of apes. Duet. 5:15, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”
God wanted His children back then and right here and now to remember that He created them and God doesn’t make junk. However, sin has separated us from Him and every one of us is in prison and slaves until we put our trust in Jesus Christ for our salvation and allow Him to lead us out of our pain and misery. And so, from that point on and for evermore God wants His children every Sabbath day to remember that He made them and He saved them and He wants us to live for Him.
Now some people say to me, William that’s a great story, but all that changed when Jesus came. Really? I don’t know what version you’re reading from, but every version I’ve ever read, including the Greek, say just the opposite. When Jesus started His ministry “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” (Luke 4:16). I looked that up in the Greek and it says, “As was His custom!”
Jesus said in verse 17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 5:17-19.
In fact, Jesus anticipates that we’ll be keeping the Sabbath because in Matthew 24 He said that in the last days there will be famine, wars, earthquakes, tribulation, a great falling away, false prophets and lawlessness. The Persecution will be so great that many will need to flee their homes. And then He says, “Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath”, Matt 24:20. Jesus intends the Sabbath to exist until He comes again.
Now folks, I know that some people look at me as weird for keeping the Sabbath. But you know what, they look at me kind of weird anyway because I believe in Jesus. When I became a Christian my life changed so dramatically and everything in my life was so new, that I wanted to go into the ministry. My mother didn’t like that. She wanted her son to be an architect not a preacher. But that is another story for another time.
The Sabbath is a no brainer. You know why? Because it is in the Book. If I you have a question, go to the Book. If you need guidance, go to the Book. When I decided to follow Jesus, I put aside what I wanted to do and replaced it with what He wanted me to do. And how did I know what He wanted me to do, I went to the Book.
Folks, the 10 Commandments are not multiple choice. And though all of us our adamant “Christians,” God doesn’t want us to have a Personal Bible where we cut out the parts we don’t like, or are inconvenient or go against our geo-political-socio-economic perspective. I keep the Sabbath because its in the Book. And I figure that if God wanted me to change the day that he rested, blessed and set apart, for me to thank Him for creating me and pulling my “rear-end” out of the fire and saving me then He would have told me instead of giving me a small handful of obscure and vague passages that wouldn’t hold up in a court of law.
Now some people say, William aren’t you denying the resurrection. Let me tell you, if it were not for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and my faith in Him to save me I would be toast. My life would be a mess and I would spend eternity separated from God. You could hold a gun to my head and say “renounce your faith in Jesus or die and I would say, pull the trigger. Do I believe in the resurrection? I bet my life on it!
But that doesn’t change the fact that God never said change the Sabbath to another day. Believe me, I’ve studied it and scoured His Word, the Bible, and the evidence just isn’t there. It wasn’t even a topic at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. They talked about requiring the Gentiles to not eat food sacrificed to idols or having to be circumcised, but the topic of the Sabbath wasn’t even brought up. So how did it get changed? Well, being Americans you’re not going to be surprised by the answer. Politics! That’s right, good ole, back room, hand-greasing, crooked, politics.
Shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the mad Emperor Caligula, meaning “little boots” – attempted to desecrate the Temple. Everywhere in the Roman empire peoples had been forced to conform to the cult of Rome and acknowledge not only Caesar as Lord but also fall into line by adopting the Roman polytheistic or multiple gods. The Jews had been left alone and it was time they began to conform. So, Caligula gave an order to set up his statue in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Jews in their stubborn monotheism (one God) were willing to sacrifice their whole nation before they would allow the Temple to be defiled and the Jews revolted. One Jewish group, the Zealots rebelled and over the next 20 years blood ran through the streets. Then in 70 A.D. Titus the Roman General, later to become Caesar, began the siege of Jerusalem in April, A.D. 70 with 4 Roman legions. The city and the temple were destroyed fulfilling Jesus’ words when He pointed to the temple and said, Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.” Matt. 24:1-3. And so, for the next 1900 years the Jewish people were scattered throughout the earth, until 1948 when Israel again became a nation.
During the 1st century many Christians in Rome attempted to separate themselves from anti-Jewish sentiments and drop some of their practices, which included the Sabbath. Besides, the Christians had enough problems of their own. There are ten primitive persecutions mentioned in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. In 67 A.D. The insane Nero set Rome aflame and then blamed the Christians for the deaths and destruction. He had some Christians sewn up in skins of wild beasts and thrown to the dogs. Read about it in Heb. 11! Some Christians were dressed in shirts made with wax and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them. But rather than diminish the spirit of Christianity, this persecution increased the devotion and commitment to Christ.
The second was in 81 A.D. Domitian blamed everything from famine, pestilence, or earthquakes on Christians and put them to death. The third in A.D. 108, Trajan had Christians beaten, beheaded, and devoured by wild beasts. About ten thousand Christians were put to death. Persecutions followed by Marcus Aurelius and Severus in A.D. 192, who burned Christians at the stake, had hot tar poured on their heads, beheaded, placed in boiling water and ravaged by wild beasts. They continued consistently for the next 100 years until the tenth persecution took place under Diocletian in A.D. 303.
Now these 10 persecutions were commonly called the Era of the Martyr’s and they continued even though the Christians continued to grow in number.
Now you would think that if Christianity continued to expand under persecution, they would change their tactics, but you know politicians. However, in 321 A.D. Constantine got a brilliant idea, “if you can’t beat them join them.” Constantine allegedly had a conversion experience, had his whole army baptized and shrewdly combined Roman Paganism and Christianity and brought it under his command and named it the Roman Catholic (which means Universal in the Greek) Church. Since sun worship, known as Sol Invictus played such an important role in the Roman religion throughout the Empire, he decreed the first official Sunday law as a holiday in 321 A.D. By 364 A.D. The Council at Laodecia issued a decree that “Christians should honor Sunday.”
Now interestingly enough, Catholic Cardinal James Gibbon has written, “You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday.”
Throughout the years, church politics have dictated what the Bible says. We know Jesus wasn’t born on Dec. 25, but in the Roman world, Saturnalia was a time of merrymaking and exchanging of gifts and regarded as the birth date of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the Sun of Righteousness. Emperor Aurelian in A.D. 274 mandated a Winter Solstice celebration, and sometime (later)…was Christianized as a date to celebrate the birth of the Son of Light.” Christmas was actually outlawed during most of American history. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.
Though we know that Jesus died and rose over the Passover, that too was changed to what scholars believe reflect Easter goddess of spring and fertility. Her festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox and symbolized by the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and colored Easter eggs to represent the sunlight of spring.
We could spend hours looking at patron saints, the veneration of the Virgin Mary, infant baptism, and any number of additions to Christianity, but that’s not our topic this morning. My question to you is plain and simple.
“If you only had the Bible and nothing else to guide you, what day of the week would you choose to worship?”