Answering the Sabbatarian
Text: Colossians 2:8-23
I. Though only a minority, there are several denominations who believe that worship should take place on the Sabbath – the seventh day of the week
A. Those adhering to the ideas that the Sabbath day regulations of the Old Testament should be keep today are very vocal
B. Let us examine some of their objections to worshiping on Sunday and see how we ought to answer - Colossians 4:5-6
II. Objections to the ending of the Sabbath explained
A. Jesus told people to keep the Ten Commandments - Matthew 19:16-22
1. Jesus told the young man that he needed to keep the commandments and lists six of the Ten Commandments as examples
2. Though the commandment for keeping the Sabbath day was not listed, we understand that Jesus was telling the young man to keep all the commands of God.
3. The man thought he had kept the commands and want to know what more was needed.
4. Jesus told him two more
a. Sell all he had and give to the poor
b. Follow Jesus
c. Notice that neither of these are found in the Old Testament
5. What the argument ignores is that a change in the law took place when Jesus died on the Cross - Colossians 2:13-14
a. The change was necessary to bring salvation to the uncircumcised (the Gentiles)
b. As a result we are not to be judged by the keeping of the shadow things (the former things, such as food and drink regulations, festivals and the keeping of Sabbaths) - Colossians 2:16-17
6. What about Matthew 5:19-20?
a. Jesus is teaching a Jewish audience.
b. The people needed to understand that though the law was soon to be fulfilled, they could not become Christians at that time by rebelling against the current law.
B. Christians are spiritual Israel, so the Ten Commandments would apply to us in a spiritual way - Romans 2:23-29
1. The Jews were charged with claiming to keep the law, but failing to do so.
2. True Jews were not those who kept the law outwardly (i.e. being circumcised in the flesh) but those who kept it inwardly.
3. The point is that the nation of God’s people would no longer be based on blood lines or physical markings - Romans 9:6-8; I Peter 2:9-10
4. But what is ignored is that circumcision was a requirement of the Old Law - Genesis 17:11, 14; Leviticus 12:3
a. Yet Paul stated that the uncircumcised in the flesh would be the true Jew today.
b. How could that be unless the law’s requirements changed? - Romans 7:6
(1) Note that Paul illustrates the law with the tenth commandment - Romans 7:7
c. Circumcision was replaced with baptism - Colossians 2:11-13
5. Hence, the changing of physical Israel to spiritual Israel does not imply that the laws given to physical Israel were transferred to spiritual Israel.
a. Go back again to Colossians 2:16-17 and see that Sabbath keeping was a mere shadow of reality
b. It represents something that came later in Christianity, but it wasn’t the reality – it wasn’t carried forward into the Law of Christ.
C. Christ didn’t come to destroy the law, but to magnify it. For instance, he enhanced the law by saying lust was equivalent to adultery - Matthew 5:27-28
1. The problem is that the quote is inaccurate - Matthew 5:17-18
a. Jesus did not say that he came to magnify the law, but to fulfill the law. He further stated that the law would remain until all was accomplished.
b. The word “fulfill” is from the Greek word pleroo, which means “Fill, make full, supply fully, complete”
(1) It was used to state that prophecy was fulfilled, or completed - Matt 1:22; 2:15, 17, etc.
(2) By extension, it also means coming to an end.
(a) When you fill up a car, you stop pumping gas because no more can be added.
(b) Luke 7:1 - Jesus finished his speech
(c) Acts 19:21 - Paul finished his work in Ephesus
(3) Jesus was the conclusion to the law - Romans 10:4
2. But in completing the law, it does not mean that Jesus left us lawless - II Corinthians 3:5-11
a. Notice that the glory of the old law was fading, but what remains is more glorious
b. What remains is a new covenant
c. Hebrews 8:6, 13
d. And in case you would argue that the Ten Commandments were not a part of the covenant - Deuteronomy 4:13
III. Objections to Sunday being the Christian’s day of worship explained
A. Acts 20:7 says nothing about worship, rest, or the Sabbath, let alone indicating it was a new commandment to worship on that day.
1. The first day of the week was the day the disciples came together (assembled).
a. They come together as a church - I Corinthians 11:18
b. That is what “church” means, an assembly
c. Paul assembled (came together) with the church - Acts 11:26
d. Coming together as a church was for the purpose of worship - I Corinthians 14:23, 26
2. It was the day the assembled disciples broke bread.
a. They come together to eat - I Corinthians 11:33
(1) What is eaten is the Lord’s Supper - I Corinthians 11:23-26
b. Breaking of bread can be a reference to the Lord’s supper - I Corinthians 10:16
(1) It recalls the institution - Luke 22:19
(2) Listed in with other parts of worship - Acts 2:42
3. The first day of the week is also the day contributions were to be collected - I Corinthians 16:2
4. We are commanded to follow the examples
a. Paul commanded that we imitate him - I Corinthians 4:16; 11:1
b. Note others who also follow - Philippians 3:17
B. The early church also worshiped on Pentecost, so why don’t you keep Pentecost as well?
1. The New Testament mentions that the church started on the day of Pentecost; however, it does not mention that the church celebrated Pentecost or observed any of the regulations for Pentecost. It simply marked the time when the church began. - Acts 2:1
2. Pentecost always fell 50 days after the feast of Unleaven Bread. Since the feast ends on a Saturday, this means that Pentecost always falls on a Sunday.
3. Hence, the church does happen to worship on Pentecost, not to celebrate the Jewish feast, but because the times happen to coincide.
C. Mainstream Christianity worships on Sunday only because the Catholic Church and Emperor Constantine changed the day of worship to Sunday.
1. Constantine ruled about AD 330
2. Acts 20:7 - Paul’s visit shows that Christians met on the first day of the week.
3. I Corinthians 16:2 - Paul’s instruction implies that Christians met on the first day of the week.
4. Didache, between 80 and 140 AD, “But every Lord’s Day, gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, so that you sacrifice may be pure.” [Didache, chapter 14]
5. Ignatius, about 107 AD, “If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also our life has sprung up again in Him...Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in the days of idleness; for "he that does not work, let him not eat." ...let every friend of Christ keep the Lord's day as a festival, the resurrection day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week]” [Epistle to Magnesian, chapter 9]
6. Aristides, about 125 AD, “However, [the Jews,] too have erred from true knowledge. In their imagination, they think that it is God whom they serve. Actually, by their type of worship, they render their service to the angels and not to God. For example, they do this when they celebrate Sabbaths.” [The Apology of Aristides the Philosopher, XIV; Ante-Nicene Fathers 9.276]
7. Justin Martyr, about 160 AD, “Is there any other matter my [Jewish] friends, in which we Christians are blamed, than this: that we do not live after the Law ... and do not observe Sabbaths, as you do?” [Dialogue with Trypho, chapter X; Ante-Nicene Fathers 1.199]
8. Justin Martyr, about 160 AD, “There was no need of circumcision before Abraham. Nor was there need of the observance of Sabbaths, or of feasts and sacrifices, before Moses. Accordingly, there is no more need of them now.” [Dialogue with Trypho, chapter XXIII; Ante-Nicene Fathers 1.206]
9. Justin Martyr, about 160 AD, “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place. And the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits. Then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs us and exhorts us to imitate these good things. Then we all rise together and pray. And, as we said before, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought. Then, the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability. And the people assent, saying “Amen.” Then, [the Lord’s Supper] is distributed to everyone, and everyone participates in [the bread and wine], over which thanks has been given. And a portion of it is sent by the deacons to those who are absent. ... But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God ... made the world. And Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead on that same day.” [First Apology, chapter 47]
10. Eusebius, citing Irenaeus, about 180 AD, “This custom of not bending the knee on Sunday is a symbol of the resurrection, through which we have been set free by the grace of Christ.” [Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenĉus, Fragment 7]
11. Tertullian, about 197 AD, “We devote Sunday to rejoicing for a far different reason than sun worship. ... Others ... suppose that the sun is the god of the Christians ... because we make Sunday a day of festivity.” [Testimony of Tertullian, chapter 7]
12. Tertullian, about 197 AD, “Just as the abolition of fleshly circumcision and of the old Law is demonstrated as having been consummated at its specific times, so also the observance of the Sabbath is demonstrated to have been temporary.” [An Answer to the Jews, "Of the Observance of the Sabbath;" Ante-Nicene Fathers 3.155]
13. Anatolius, about 270 AD, “It should not be lawful to celebrate the Lord’s mystery of Easter [i.e. the Lord’s Supper] at any other time but on the Lord’s Day, the day on which the Lord’s resurrection from death took place.” [The Paschal Canon of Anatolius of Alexandria, Section X]
14. Victorinus, about 280 AD, “And let this become a rigorous fast, lest we should appear to observe any Sabbath with the Jews. For concerning [ther Sabbath[, Christ himself, the Lord of the Sabbath, says by His prophets that “His soul hates.” In His body, He abolished this Sabbath.” [On the Creation of the World].
15. The evidence is solid that early Christian, long before Constantine, worshiped on the first day of the week and not the seventh day. Constantine could not have instituted a new practice since the practice pre-existed.
16. What Constantine actually decreed on March 7, 321 AD, “On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits.”
a. In other words, he established the first “Sunday closure law” or “Sunday blue law.”
b. He didn’t change anything in regards to the activities of the church.
IV. It is clear from the Scriptures that worship was done on the first day of the week. It is clear from history that the early Christians understood this as well.