Change of Divine Dealing Dates from the Cross – The Apostles Preaching in Synagogues on Sabbath Day no Indorsement of Jewish Sabbath or System as Binding on the New Creation – The Building in which One Preaches the Gospel does not Affect His Message – Neither does the Day – Origin of First Day of the Week as Christian Sabbath – Its Observance Began Long Before the Time of Constantine – Nearly All the Manifestations of the Risen Lord were Made on the First Day – The General Observance of the First Day as a Sabbath a Matter for Gratitude – It is not, however, of Divine Appointment – France and the Number Seven – Israel's Sabbath Typical – When the Sabbath of the New Creation Began, and How it Continues.
As respects the Gentiles, we have already seen that they were never under the Mosaic Law, and, hence, could not be made free from it; and we have already seen that our Lord Jesus – the New Creature, begotten at his baptism, and born of the Spirit in his resurrection – was the antitypical Seed of Abraham, and heir of all the promises made to him; and that both Jews and Gentiles coming unto him by faith, and unto the Father through him, when begotten of the holy Spirit, are likewise counted as of the New Creation, and joint-heirs with Jesus in the Abrahamic Covenant, no member of which is under the added Mosaic, or Law Covenant. Hence, although the man Christ Jesus was under the Law, and under obligations to keep the seventh day as a part of the Law, such obligations to the Law ceased as respected his followers, as well as himself, as soon as he had died, making an end of the Law righteously, justly, to all Jews who accepted him, and who through him became with him dead to the Law Covenant, and alive to the Abrahamic Covenant.
It is not astonishing, however, that we find that even the apostles required some little time to grasp thoroughly the meaning of the change from the dispensation of the Law to the dispensation of Grace – the Gospel age. Likewise, we see that it required a number of years for them to realize fully that in the death of Christ the middle wall of partition was broken down as between Jews and Gentiles, and that henceforth Gentiles were not to be counted unclean, any more than Jews – because Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, had tasted death for every man, and thenceforth whosoever would approach the Father, Jew or Gentile, might be accepted through him – accepted in the Beloved. Even years after the conference of the apostles, in which Peter and Paul testified of the grace of God bestowed upon the Gentiles, and gifts of the holy Spirit, miraculous tongues, etc., similar to those which witnessed the begetting of the Spirit upon the Jews, at Pentecost, we find Peter still hesitating, and
yielding to the prejudices of the Jewish believers, to the extent that he withdrew from Gentile converts, still treating them as unclean. He thus brought upon himself a rebuke from the Apostle Paul, who evidently grasped the whole situation of the new dispensation with a much clearer vision than the other apostles. If an apostle thus needed a rebuke to help him over his racial prejudices, we may readily assume that the masses of believers (nearly all Jews) were for several years considerably confused respecting the completeness of the change of divine dealings which dated from the cross.
The custom of the Jews, not only in Palestine, but scattered throughout the world, included a Sabbath observance which, although not originally appointed to be anything else than a day of rest, or cessation from toil, very properly came to be used as a day for the reading of the Law and the prophets and for exhortation in the synagogues. It was a day in which business was suspended throughout Palestine; and, hence, Jewish converts coming into Christianity would very naturally gather themselves on the Sabbath for the study of the Law and the prophets, from the new standpoint of their fulfilment begun in Christ, and for exhorting one another to steadfastness, so much the more as they saw the day drawing on – the great day of the Lord, the Millennial day, "the times of restitution, spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began." The apostles and evangelists who traveled outside of Palestine found the most hearing ears for the Gospel amongst the Jews who were already looking for the Messiah; and they found their best opportunity for reaching these at their usual seventh-day gatherings. Nor was there anything in the divine revelation to hinder them from preaching the Gospel message on the seventh day any more than on the first day, or on any other day of the week. We may be sure, indeed, that these early evangelists preached the Word incessantly, wherever they went and on all occasions, to whomsoever had an ear to hear.
The Apostle who declared that Christ made an end of the
Law Covenant, nailing it to his cross, said not one word to the early Church, so far as the record shows, respecting any law or obligation to observe specially the seventh day of the week – or any other day of the week. On the contrary, they followed strictly the thought that the Church is a New Creation, under the original Covenant; and that as such a house of sons the New Creation is not under the Law but under Grace. These inspired teachers distinctly pointed out in so many words the liberty of the New Creature; saying, "Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath, which are a shadow of things to come, but the body [substance] is of Christ." Col. 2:16,17
They would have the Church understand that all the various ordinances respecting feasts and fasts and times and seasons and days were a part of the general typical system which God instituted with typical Israel, which were only shadows of better things coming after – applicable to spiritual Israel. To the Jews these things were realities, fixed upon them and bound to them by divine decrees; to the New Creation they are shadows merely – lessons pointing us to the grand fulfilment, and nothing more. The fact that the apostles were willing to use the Sabbath day and the Jewish synagogues in connection with the promulgation of the Gospel of Christ, was in no sense an indorsement of the Jewish system and the Jewish Law as a rule or bondage upon the New Creation. We today, if granted the opportunity, would preach Christ in the Jewish synagogues not only on the first day of the week, but would gladly preach on the Jewish Sabbath, the seventh. Yea, we would be quite willing to preach Christ in a heathen temple and on a heathen holy day, but would not consider that in so doing we were indorsing either the heathen doctrines or the heathen holy day.
As respects the first day of the week, generally observed amongst Christians as a Sabbath or rest day, it is quite an error to claim that this day was sanctioned and made a Christian Sabbath by decrees of the Roman Catholic
Church. It is true, indeed, that in Constantine's time, more than two centuries after the apostles fell asleep, formalism had crept into the Church to a wonderful degree; that false teachers had gradually sought to bring the followers of the Lord into bondage to clericism; and that priest-craft and superstition were beginning to exercise a considerable influence. It is true that at this time a rule was promulgated amongst nominal Christians to the effect that they should observe the first day of the week for religious work, etc., and prohibiting manual labor, except in country districts, where the gathering of the crops might be considered a work of necessity. It is true that this small beginning of bondage and intimation that the first day of the week had, with the Christians, superseded the seventh day of the week of the Jews, gradually led more and more to the thought that every command of God to the Jews respecting the seventh day applied to the followers of Christ respecting the first day of the week.
But a proper observance of the first day of the week had its beginning long before Constantine's time – not as a bondage, but as a liberty, a privilege. The one fact that our Lord arose from the dead on the first day of the week would alone have made it a day to be celebrated amongst his followers as marking the revival of their hopes; but to this was added the fact that on the day of his resurrection he met with and expounded the Scriptures to his faithful, some of whom recalled the blessing afterward, saying: "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us by the way and opened unto us the Scriptures?" (Luke 24:32) It was all on the same first day of the week in which the two disciples met with him on their way to Emmaus that he was seen near the sepulchre by the two Marys, appeared to Mary Magdalene as the gardener, and made himself known at the general gathering of the apostles, etc. They waited an entire week for further manifestations from the risen Master, but none came until the following first day of the week, when again he appeared to the eleven. And thus, so far as we are aware, nearly all of our Lord's appearances to the
brethren were on the first day of the week. It is not surprising, therefore, that without any command from the Lord or from any of the apostles, the early Church fell into the custom of meeting together on the first day of the week, as a commemoration of the joys begotten in them by our Lord's resurrection, and as a reminder, also, of how their hearts burned within them as he on that day of the week had opened unto them the Scriptures.
They even continued to commemorate the "breaking of the bread" together on this day – not as the Passover Supper, or Lord's Supper, but as a reminder of how they were blessed at Emmaus, when he broke the bread to them and their eyes were opened and they knew him; and of how again they were blessed as he broke bread with them in the upper room, and gave them satisfactory proofs that he was indeed their risen Lord, though changed. (Luke 24:30,35,41-43) This breaking of bread, we read, was done with gladness and with joy – not as a remembrancer of his death, but of his resurrection. It represented, not his broken body and shed blood, but the refreshing truth which he broke to them, and by which their hearts were fed on the joyful hopes of the future, guaranteed to them by his resurrection from the dead. (The "cup" is never mentioned in connection with these references to the "breaking of bread.") These gatherings of the first day of the week were occasions of joy – rejoicing that the new order of things had been introduced by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
As gradually the Church became free from close association with Judaism, and particularly after the destruction of Jerusalem and the general disruption of the Jewish system, the influence of the seventh-day Sabbath waned, and more or less became attached to the first day of the week and the spiritual rest and refreshment of the New Creation, dating from our Lord's resurrection in glory, honor and immortality.
As for the heathen world in general, God has given them no special laws or commands; they have merely what remains
of the original law written in their nature and greatly blurred, almost obliterated by sin and death. To this has been added only one other command – Repent! because a new opportunity for life has been provided (attainable now, or during the Millennium) and every wilful act and thought will have a bearing on the final issue of each case. But to those out of Christ no more than this message, Repent, is given. Only to the repentant does God speak further, as they have ears to hear and hearts to obey his will.
As for the nominal Christian millions of our day, they have failed not only to apprehend the real character of the grace of God and the present call of the New Creation, but have very generally failed, also, to understand the law of the New Creation, and have misinterpreted its liberties, its symbols, etc. Churchianity has gained and is teaching to the world false conceptions of baptism, of the Lord's Supper, etc., as well as false conceptions of the Sabbath and of the divine Law and Covenant with the New Creation. Evidently it was never intended of the Lord that nominal "Christendom" should understand or appreciate the truth on these subjects during the present time. As the Apostle has declared: "Eye hath not seen, neither hath ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man [the natural man] the things which God hath in reservation for them that love him" – neither have they apprehended his will and plan respecting his "little flock." "But God hath revealed them [these things] unto us by his Spirit, for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God [his good and acceptable and perfect will concerning us, now and hereafter]." Not appreciating the spirit of the High Calling, nor the perfect Law of Liberty appertaining to the elect – not being able to appreciate these, because lacking the Spirit of the Lord, it is not surprising to us that forms and ceremonies, fast days, penances, restrictions of one kind and another, holy days and sabbath days, became manacles and chains upon nominal Christendom. Nor is it surprising that some of the Lord's true people, the "elect," the
"little flock," subsequently became so entangled with this bondage as to be deprived of a large measure of the true liberty of the sons of God.
We are not making an argument against the observance of the first day of the week. On the contrary, we rejoice that under divine providence the day is so generally observed throughout the civilized world. By reason of its general observance the Lord's consecrated few have special advantages and privileges of which they might to a large extent be deprived were the observance of the day less general. The New Creation everywhere may surely rejoice greatly that they have the opportunity of setting apart one day in seven specially for worship, spiritual fellowship, etc. It would be a serious loss to all of God's faithful were the day to be dropped from general usage. For this reason, if for no other, it behooves all who are the Lord's, not only to use the day reverently, soberly and in spiritual exercise and pleasure, but, additionally, to cast their influence in favor of its observance – to seek that by no word or act of theirs its observance be slacked amongst people in general.
But as some are deluded into thinking that the seventh day of the Jewish Covenant extended to all men as a bondage, so others have come under a similar bondage to the first day – laboring under the delusion that by divine appointment it became clothed with the outward sanctity accorded the seventh day among the Jews under their Law Covenant as a "house of servants" – "under the Law" and not under Grace. Indeed many, not too religious themselves – professing no consecration – set great store by such observances, and would lose respect for professed children of God who neglected in any measure to utilize the first day of the week for worship and praise, or used it, on the contrary, for secular business. We advise, for all these reasons, that those who most clearly discern the liberty wherewith Christ makes free shall not misuse their liberty so as to stumble others; but use it rather as unto God and each other, for opportunities to grow in grace, knowledge, and all the fruits of the
Spirit. We advise that within all reasonable bounds the Lord's consecrated people, and, so far as their influence extends, their families – not only the minor children, but the adult members also – should keep Sunday faithfully. All should be instructed respecting the appropriateness of such a day of worship and praise, and respecting also the necessity of a day of rest from physical toil, not only for the Church, but for the world.
While entirely free from the Jewish Law, we may, nevertheless, realize that since its provisions came from the Lord there is every probability that in addition to the typical significance of Israel's ordinances there was also a practical good connected with them. For instance, we may see a typical significance in the designation of certain animal foods as clean and fit for food, and of others as unclean and unfit for food; and although we may not understand just how or why some of these foods are unsanitary, unhealthful, we have every reason to believe that this is the case – for instance, swine, rabbits, eels, etc. We violate no law in eating these things, because we are not Jews; nevertheless, we should be rather suspicious of them, and rather on the alert to notice to what degree they are healthful or unhealthful; because we are bound to observe all laws of health, so far as we are able to discern them.
Similarly, we may see in the rest of one day in seven, provided for Israel, not only a typical teaching, but also a necessary provision for present human conditions. It is generally admitted, even by those who ignore the divine Word entirely, that a rest every seven days is advantageous, not only to the humankind, but also to the beasts of burden. Additionally, it is claimed by some that this law of the necessity for rest from continued work applies to some inanimate things. For instance, the rolling stock of railways, etc. We quote the following from the London Express, as illustrating this point. It says:
"It may sound strange to hear persons talk about a 'tired steel axle,' or a 'fatigued iron rail,' but that sort of talk is heard along
railways and in machine shops, and is considered correct. 'The idea of inanimate metal becoming weary!' may be your thought; but experts connected with the ways of machinery say that the work makes it tired, and that it needs rest, as you do. 'What caused the axle to break?' asked the traffic manager. 'Fatigue of metal,' answers the inspector. That answer is frequent, and often in accordance with the facts. At times an axle breaks or a wheel spreads, under much less than the usual strain, and the most careful examination possible will show no defect or weakness. This leads engineers to charge 'fatigue of metal' with the result. Sinews of steel can tire as well as muscles of brawn, and metal that does not have its rest will cease to do its work, and may cause great danger. At least, so the engineers say; and they assert that without rest the affinity of the molecules of metal for each other would become weakened, until the breaking point is reached. Then comes trouble."
In France, following the Commune and its period of infidelity, it was determined to obliterate the Sabbath period of the Bible – one day in seven – and instead to have one day in ten as a rest day; but this was found to work unsatisfactorily, and however much the French desired to count on the metrical system they soon discovered that Nature had a way of its own, and that Nature stamps the number 7 with its approval in some unaccountable manner. For instance, they found that the crisis of a fever would occur on the seventh day or the fourteenth day or the twenty-first day or the twenty-eighth day, and that if no favorable turn were had on or before the thirty-fifth day death usually resulted. They were unable to change this and to have the fevers reach a crisis on the decimal system.
So far, then, from advocating an abandonment of the Christian Sunday, we urge that it be retained as an advantage to the natural man as well as of spiritual advantage to the New Creation. We urge that nothing be done that would in any sense or degree break down or cast aside this great blessing which has come to us indirectly through the Jewish Law. True, we would be glad if all could recognize the day as one of voluntary devotion to the Lord; but since the majority cannot so discern it, we may as well as not permit them to rest under a harmless delusion on this subject –
a delusion which may really be to their advantage.
The New Creation needs no special advice respecting the proper use of the day, realizing that their lives as a whole have been consecrated, devoted to the Lord and to his service. Walking not after the flesh but after the Spirit, they will be seeking specially to use such a favorable opportunity to glorify God in their bodies and spirits, which are his. Praise, thanksgiving, meditations, and exhortations in accord with the divine Word and plan, will be in order. Nor do we urge that the Lord's Day, or Sunday, must be used exclusively for religious worship. God has not so commanded, and no one else has the right to do so. However, where our heart is, where our sympathies and love are, there we will delight to be, and we may safely conclude that every member of the New Creation will find his chiefest joy, his chiefest pleasure, in fellowship and communion with the Lord and with the brethren, and that, consequently, he will very rarely forget to assemble himself with them, as the Scriptures exhort, but do not command. Heb. 10:25
What we do voluntarily as unto the Lord, without being commanded, is all the more an evidence of our love and loyalty to him and his, and, undoubtedly, will be appreciated by him accordingly. Many of the members of the New Creation have children or wards under their care, and these should be rightly instructed respecting the proprieties of the day and its advantages, and the reasonable liberties they may enjoy. Nothing in the Word of God supports the tyrannical bondage which has found its way into Christian homes, under the name of the Puritanical Sabbath, according to which law a smile on this day would be a sin, and to kiss one's own child would be a crime, and to take a quiet walk, or to sit under the trees and consider Nature would be a desecration – even whilst looking up from Nature to Nature's God. It is well that in getting far away from this false conception we do not get to the other extreme, as do many, sanctioning hilarious conduct, playing of games, secular music, or labor of any sort which might be done on another
day. The children of the New Creation should in every reasonable way reflect the spirit of a sound mind, which God has promised to their parents through the holy Spirit and by the Word of Truth. A rational, dignified keeping of the first day of the week as a day of rest, mental and moral improvement and social fellowship in the family and amongst members of the Lord's family – the New Creation – will surely bring blessing to all concerned.
Another potent consideration in regard to the keeping of Sunday is – the laws of the powers that be. In many states certain laws and regulations prevail respecting Sunday. The Lord's people are to be law-abiding – not less, but more than others, in all matters which do not conflict with their consciences. If, therefore, two or three Sabbaths per week were commanded by civil law, the New Creation should observe them, and consider the arrangement a blessing, as increasing their opportunities for spiritual development. But since they would be of the world's appointment, and not of divine injunction, they need not feel bound to observe them beyond the world's estimate of the fulfilment of its laws, as indicated by their enforcement.
We have already noticed that the Sabbath obligation of the Jewish Law announced at Sinai was given to no other nation than Israel, and consequently was obligatory upon no other people than the Jews. Its first observance recorded in the Scriptures was after the first feature of the Jewish Law – the Passover – had been instituted. After Israel had passed out of Egypt and had come into the wilderness, they got their first lesson in the observance of a day of rest in connection with the gathering of the manna, before they came to Mount Sinai, when the Decalogue was given. Nothing was said to Adam or Enoch or Noah or Abraham or Isaac or Jacob respecting the keeping of a Sabbath. Neither directly or indirectly is it mentioned. The only previous mention of the word "sabbath" at all is in connection with the account of the creation, where we are told that God rested
on the seventh day, which, we have already seen, was not a 24-hour day but a seven-thousand-year day.
In giving the command of a seventh-day rest to Israel, God identified their keeping of a 24-hour period with his own rest on a larger and higher scale; and this leads us to infer that, aside from whatever blessing Israel obtained from a weekly rest, there was, additionally, a typical lesson in it for the New Creation; as indeed we find typical lessons in connection with every feature of that people and their Law.
The seventh day, the seventh month, and the seventh year were all prominent under the Law. The seventh day, as a period of cessation from toil, a period of physical rest; the seventh month as the one in which the atonement for sin was effected, that they might have rest from sin; and the seventh year, the one in which came release from bondage, servitude. In addition, as we have already seen,* the seventh year multiplied by itself (7 x 7 equals 49) led up to the fiftieth or Jubilee Year, in which all mortgages, liens and judgments against persons and lands were canceled, and every family was permitted to return to its own estate – relieved from all the burdens of the previous errors, wrongdoings, etc. We have already seen that the antitype of Israel's Jubilee year will be the Millennial Kingdom, and its general "times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets," the antitype being immensely larger than the type, and applicable to mankind in general.
Let us now notice particularly the typical seventh day. Like the seventh year it leads (7 x 7 equals 49) to a fiftieth or Jubilee Day, which expresses the same thought as the seventh day; viz., rest, but emphasizes it.
What blessing to spiritual Israel, the New Creation, was typified by natural Israel's seventh day Sabbath, or rest? The Apostle answers this question (Heb. 4:1-11), when he says, "Let us, therefore, fear lest a promise having been left us of entering into his rest [Sabbath] any of you should
seem to come short of it....For we which have believed do enter into rest [the keeping of the Sabbath]....Seeing, therefore, it remaineth that some must enter therein, and that they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief...there remaineth, therefore, a rest to the people of God; for he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labor, therefore, to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." Here the Apostle sets before us a double lesson: (1) That it is our privilege now to enter into rest; and, as a matter of fact, all who have truly accepted the Lord, and are properly resting and trusting in him, are thus enjoying the antitypical Sabbath, or rest, at the present time – the rest of faith. (2) He also points us to the fact that in order to maintain this present rest, and to insure entrance into the eternal Sabbath "rest that remains for the people of God," the heavenly Kingdom, it will be necessary for us to abide in the Lord's favor – continually to exercise toward him faith and obedience.
It is not necessary to point out to the members of the New Creation when and how they entered into the rest of faith – when and how the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, began to rule in their hearts, and full confidence in him began to drive out fear and discontent. It started with our full acceptance of the Lord Jesus as the High Priest who made the sacrifice, by which our sins were covered by the imputed merit of the Redeemer, the Messiah; it increased as we recognized him as the Head of the New Creation, and heir of the Abrahamic promise, and ourselves as being called of God to be his joint-heirs in that Kingdom of blessing. The perfect rest, or Sabbath enjoyment, came when we submitted our all to the Lord, accepting joyfully his promised guidance through a "narrow way" to the Kingdom. There we rested from our own works, from all effort to justify ourselves; we confessed ourselves imperfect and unworthy of divine grace, and unable to make ourselves worthy. There we gratefully accepted divine
mercy extended toward us in the redemption which is in Christ Jesus our Lord and the promised "grace to help in every time of need," and undertook to be disciples of Jesus – followers in his steps, "even unto death."
The Apostle declares that we entered into rest as God rested from his works. We have already seen that God rested from the creative work when he had finished it by making man in his own likeness. He has since permitted sin and death to mar his fair creation; yet has not raised his arm of power to prevent that work from going forward, nor to bind or restrain Satan, the great deceiver. God is resting, waiting – leaving the entire matter for Messiah to accomplish. We enter by faith into God's rest when we discern Christ to be God's Anointed One, fully empowered to do this entire work, not for us (the New Creation, the members of his body) only, but a work of blessing and restitution for the world of mankind – for whomsoever will accept divine mercy through him.
We see clearly where our rest began, as individual members of the New Creation; but it will be profitable also if we glance backward and note the beginning of this rest as respects the New Creation as a whole. We see that the apostles enjoyed a measure of rest and trust while the Lord was with them in the flesh, but not the full rest. They rejoiced because the Bridegroom was in their midst – rejoiced in him, though they understood not the lengths and breadths of his love and service. When the Master died, their rest and joy and peace were broken; and, in their own language, the cause for all their disappointment was, "We had trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed [delivered] Israel" – but they were disappointed. When he had risen from the dead, and appeared to them and proved his resurrection, their doubts and fears began to give way to hopes; but their joy and peace did not come back in full. They were in perplexity. They heard, however, and heeded his admonition to tarry at Jerusalem until they should be endued with power.
They waited in expectancy – how long? We answer that they waited for seven times seven days – forty-nine days, and the day following, the fiftieth day, the Jubilee Sabbath day, God fulfilled to them his gracious promise, and granted that those who had accepted Jesus should enter into his rest – the keeping of the higher Sabbath of the New Creation. They entered into his rest by receiving the Pentecostal blessing which spoke "peace through Jesus Christ" – which informed them that although Jesus had died for sinners, and although ascended up on high and absent from their sight, yet he was approved of Jehovah, his sacrifice made acceptable for sin, and that they might thus rest in the merit of the work which he had accomplished – rest assured that all God's promises would be yea and amen in and through him, rest assured of the forgiveness of their own sins and of their own acceptance with the Father. This assured them also that the exceeding great and precious promises centered in Jesus will all be accomplished, and that they shall share a glorious part when grace hath well refined their hearts – if they prove faithful to their part of the contract, and "make their calling and election sure" by abiding in Christ, by obedience to the divine will.
All of the New Creation, then, who have received the holy Spirit, have entered into the antitypical rest, and instead of keeping any longer a seventh day of physical rest, they now keep a perpetual rest of heart, of mind, of faith in the Son of God. Nevertheless, this rest of faith is not the end – not the full antitype. The grand "rest that remaineth for the people of God" will come at the end – to all those who shall finish their course with joy. Meantime the rest of faith must continue, for it is our earnest, or assurance, of the rest beyond. Its maintenance will require not only obedience to the extent of ability in thought, word and deed, but also trust in the Lord's grace. Thus we may be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, to walk in his footsteps. Our rest and trust must be that he is both able and willing to bring us off "more than conquerors," and grant us a share in the great work of the Antitypical Jubilee.