Our children lived in the Middle East, in a country that was Islamic. Their day of worship was a Friday and just a part of the Friday at that. Most of the Christian Churches held their worship services on a Friday although some either included a Sunday or only used a Sunday for Worship. The problem was that Sunday was a working day, so the most suitable day for worship was the Friday. Was it wrong for the Christians to worship on a Friday? Then again, when one thinks of the Jewish people who have their Sabbath from Friday evening to Saturday evening, strictly upholding to the Old Testament Scriptures … are they right or wrong? Christians worship on the Sunday, the first day of the week. Is this correct? The Fourth Commandment states:
Ex 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy”
But the passage continues to explain what holiness means in this context:
Ex 20:9 ‘Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 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. 11 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.”
This is one command that is not new to Israel because God says … “remember”. That word informs us the command existed and is explained by God creating the heavens (all creation apart from our planet) and the earth (our planet) in a literal six day period and rested on the seventh day. (Just as an aside, if the six days as some say are six long periods of time, then why is the Sabbath day only a day long? Food for thought!)
1) We do not know which day God started creating, so we don’t know which day the sixth day was. There were many different calendars, some with different amounts of days in a month and months in a year. So we cannot be categorical and say God started creating on the Sunday which is our first day of the week according to our calendar. Neither can we say the sixth day was a Friday with the seventh being a Saturday. We just don’t know. What we do know is that the way our modern calendar is set up, it works perfectly with modern science backing up the various phases of the moon, etc.
2) We do know that God intends that we work for six days each week. What is comforting in most of the Western World is that we work a five day week to earn money and have the sixth day to do whatever needs to be done such as our main shopping, gardening and home maintenance. This gives us six days labour as was God’s in creation. A point not to be missed is that God was not lazy, nor was He unproductive. He requires this of us too. A believer in the Lord Jesus Christ ought to be the best employee or employer. We need to earn our wages by fulfilling our job description and even more. Christians do not cheat by getting to work late and leaving early. Nor do we take extended tea times and lunch hours. We do not fake illness or lie about why we were absent. Rather we hold the name of Jesus high (Third Commandment) for our employers and colleagues to see that we as Christians perform, produce and please because we serve Jesus before we serve man.
3) The day of rest (Sabbath) extends through the home … parents, children and employees … even animals (meaning no farming on the Sabbath).
4) The Sabbath is a blessed day because God made it holy. The word “holy” here means set apart. Six days we set apart for work and home duties but the seventh day was set apart for God! That is, the worship of God, the meditation on God and the service of God (acts or mercy and kindness to those in need because of poverty, illness or old age). The six days work might be a burden … but that is because of Adam’s sin (see Genesis 3) … but the seventh day was to be a day of joy and happiness because there was special focus on God, the LORD, Creator and Sustainer of all things, especially us as His people.
5) In coming to the New Testament we find Jesus and His apostles held to worship on the Jewish Sabbath. But something exceptional happened over the weekend that Jesus was crucified. He died before the Sabbath started on the Friday and rose from the dead on the third day … which was the first day of the week, our Sunday. The Saturday was the annual Passover Festival, the highlight of all Jewish Worship in commemoration on the Angel of Death Passing over the Jews in Egypt and their escape. What is significant is that Jesus was dead on the Passover … meaning He passed over the Jewish Passover and rose on the first day of the new week. He literally made the whole Levitical sacrificial system obsolete, starting a New Religion with a New Day of Worship because of the New Covenant. This is the reason Christians worship on the First Day of the Week. We call it the Lord’s Day. True, the early believers continued on the Sabbath Day in the Synagogues, but were soon kicked out (Book of Acts) and then conducted worship more or less as we have it today. One thing we need to be cautious of is a legalistic approach to the Lord’s Day as a day of worship. When Jesus said:
Mk 2:27 “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath”
He implied the day was to be enjoyable because He, the Son of Man (God) is above the Sabbath … or the Day of Worship. The Day must not control us. Rather Jesus must control how we use the day, firstly to honour Him and secondly to enjoy it with family, fellow believers and friends. All the requirements of the Fourth Commandment remain except that the day changes to the First Day of the Week and is known as the Lord’s Day in commemoration of Jesus rising from the dead on the first day of the week. You might need to work on this day and you might need to do emergency repairs at home … but your first focus is worshipping Jesus and your second focus is the family. You rest from your normal weekly activities to remember God’s glorious grace in your New Creation … forgiveness of sin, salvation and being made a Child of the True, Living God. The main way we start this day as believers is to gather together with our Christian Community to pray, praise and to hear God’s Word proclaimed.
Our Father, thank You for such love and mercy that You have given us through the Lord Jesus Christ and His meritorious work on the Cross. Help us to use the Lord’s Day wisely for Jesus sake. Amen.