Summary: As Christian we ought to have it clear in our minds that we are no longer under the law with all of its Sabbath regulations. If we were, we are all storing up the wrath of God for the day of judgment.
I had the unique opportunity to talk deeply about biblical matters with a
wealthy orthodox Jew. Among other things we talked about the Sabbath. He
was a very conscientious Jew who knew his Bible quite well, and so I asked
him how he reconciled operating a business on Saturday when the Old
Testament forbids work on the Sabbath. He responded by saying that he does
not come to his business on that day, but has Gentiles operate it. But I told
him I thought the law required for you to give rest to all your servants as well.
He said that it was so but that they have their Sabbath on Sunday, and so it all
works out just fine. Christianity and Judaism seem to make a good team in
the business world.
He did feel some misgivings about the whole thing, however, since the law
forbids making a profit on the Sabbath also, and this he was doing. He
admitted it was wrong, but justified it by pointing out how Christians are in
the same fix. Economic factors compel them to work on Sunday, and even if
they have the day off, if they have investments or stock in companies that
operate on Sunday, they too are making a profit on their Sabbath. He
concluded with a statement that the whole subject of the Sabbath is full of
technicalities. How true he was, for the history of the Sabbath has been a
history of the burden of technically. Few concepts have been as abused as the
concept of the Sabbath. Time does not allow us to study how Jesus despised
the abuse of the Sabbath, and of how He refused to be bound by man's
burdensome additions to what God gave as a blessing.
As Christian we ought to have it clear in our minds that we are no longer
under the law with all of its Sabbath regulations. If we were, we are all
storing up the wrath of God for the day of judgment, for we are constantly
violating the Old Testament law in ways that brought the death penalty for
those under the law. If you think you are under the law, every time you turn
on your oven or go out for a dinner on Sunday you sentence yourself to death.
He who lives by the law is fallen from grace says Paul, and must keep the
whole law or perish. Certainly no Christian has any desire to go back and
live under the law after living under grace.
There are many Christians, however, who think of Sunday as just the
Sabbath moved ahead one day. This has come about because the Puritans in
the 16th century began to call Sunday the Sabbath. Before this the church
never thought of Sunday as the Sabbath. Right from biblical days it was
referred to as the Lord's Day, and it had no connection with the Sabbath. The
Sabbath was instituted in Judaism to commemorate the deliverance of Israel
from Egypt, but Sunday is a commemoration of the resurrection of Christ.
Sunday use to be called little Easter because it commemorated on a weekly
basis what Easter does on an annual basis.
The first day of the week came to have more significance in Christianity
than the 7th. Old Israel had its distinct day, and New Israel had its distinct
day as well. With a new covenant, a new deliverance and a new life came a
new day. In Christ all things became new, and this extended even to the
unique day of rest and worship. It was on the first day that God began His
creation, and it was on the first day that Christ rose from the grave conquering
death and became the first fruits of a new creation that would be
spiritual and eternal. As the Spirit of God hovered over the waters of the old
creation when God said, "Let there be light," on the first day, so the Holy
Spirit hovered over the church at Pentecost on the first day of the week, and
again God said, "Let there be light," and the Holy Spirit filled the church, and
the light of truth of was seen by many, and the church was empowered to go
forth as the light of the world.
These events on the first day of the week make it the day of eternal
significance to the church. Christopher Wordsworth has put it into poetry:
On thee, at the creation
The light first had its birth.
On thee, for our salvation,
Christ rose from depths of earth.
On thee, our Lord victorious,
The Spirit sent from heaven,
And thus on thee most glorious
A triple light was given.
It was a day of light and joy on this first day of the week, and what could