Friday, September 12, 2008

The Christian Church and The Lord's Day

The Lord’s Day did not begin as a combination of pagan and Christian observances. The Christian church, by meeting on Sunday - The Lord’s Day - is not keeping a Sabbath. A true understanding of meeting on Sunday is that of assembling together to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord. That practice can be traced from the current time clear back thru each century to the early church as recorded in the Bible even though Adventists make loud objections to that assertion. Let me take you thru the history.

History of the "Lord’s Day," the First Day of the Week

Whether or not one believes that the first day of the week had any special meaning to the early church, it’s interesting to note that the only times a specific day is mentioned after the resurrection it is the first day of the week. Here they are:5

There are seven recorded appearances of Christ after the resurrection. Whenever a day is mentioned (five times out of seven) it is the first day of the week.

Mary on the morning of the resurrection:
“When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.” Mark 16:9 (NIV), Matt. 28:8, John 20:11-18

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus:
“Now that same day (in reference to the resurrection day) two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.” Luke 24:13-16 (NIV), Mark 16:12-13

To Peter:
“The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." Luke 24:34 (NIV)

To the eleven disciples:
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them.” John 20:19 (NIV)

To the eleven a week later:
“A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" John 20:26 (NIV) This text follows the text above, and therefore refers to the first day of the week also.

“Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating;” Mark 16:14 (NIV) The evening of the resurrection.

“While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." Luke 24:36 (NIV) The same day Jesus appeared to the men on the road to Emmaus.

Other post resurrection occurrences on the first day of the week:
The Spirit was poured out on the 120 on Pentecost, which, by historical record, was on the first day of the week, fifty days after Passover.5

Luke, Asia Minor 60 AD: “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them." Acts. 20:7

Paul 55-58 AD: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” 1 Cor 16:2 (NIV)

St. John on Patmos around 90 AD: “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day.” Rev. 1:10 Neither in scripture nor in history can one instance be cited where the term “the Lord’s Day” is used for the seventh-day Sabbath. In every instance it is used to indicate the first day of the week.

The Lord's Day in Early Church Literature

By the beginning of the 2nd century, the early church writers made it very clear that the first day of the week (Sunday) had become widely recognized as a special day for Christians to engage in public congregational assemblies. It was called “The Lord’s Day.” 5,6,9,10,11

Ignatius of Antioch (a disciple of the apostle John) (107-110 AD): described Jewish Christians with these words: "They have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in observance of the Lord's Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him" (Letter to the Magnesians 9:1-3).

Barnabas, companion of Paul (120 AD): “We keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead.” Barnabas, Ch XVII

In The Teaching of the Twelve (120 - 190 AD): the following statement is found: "But every Lord's day do ye gather yourselves together, and break bread." This statement harmonizes with the text above from Acts: “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them.” Acts. 20:7

Justin Martyr (150 AD): “But Sunday is the day on which we hold our common assembly, because it is the first day of the week and Jesus our saviour on the same day rose from the dead.” First Apology of Justin, Ch 68

Justin Martyr (150 AD): as quoted by Eusebius. “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.”

From a recorded discussion between Justin Martyr and Trypho (a noted Jew of the day) come the following revealing statements:

Justin M: “Is there any other matter, my friend, in which we are blamed than this, that we (Christians) live not after the law, and we are not circumcised in the flesh as your forefathers were, and do not observe Sabbaths as ye do?”

Trypho: “I am aware that your precepts in the so-called gospel are so wonderful that…you observe no festivals or Sabbaths, and do not have the rite of circumcision; and further, resting your hopes on a man that was crucified, you yet expect to obtain some good thing from God while you do not obey his commandments.”

Justin M: “There will be no other God, O Trypho...But we do not trust through Moses, or through the law…for I have read that there shall be a final law, and a covenant, the cheifest of all, which iJustin Martyrt is now incumbent on all men to 

observe. For the law promulgated on Horeb (Sinai) is old, and belongs to yourselves alone; but this (covenant) is for all universally…and has put an end to the previous one…The new law requires you to keep perpetual Sabbath, and you, because you are idle for one day, suppose you are pious, not discerning why this has been commanded you…The Lord our God does not take pleasure in such observances. For we too would observe the Sabbath if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined on you, namely on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your heart. Sabbaths were instituted on account of the people’s sins, and not for a work of righteousness. But if we do not admit this, we shall be liable to fall into foolish opinions, as if it were not the same God who existed in the times of Enoch and all the rest, who neither were circumcised after the flesh, nor observed Sabbaths, nor any other rites, seeing that Moses enjoined such observances. For if there was no need of circumcision before Abraham, or the observance of Sabbaths, or feasts and sacrifices before Moses, no more need is there of them now, after that, according to the will of God, Jesus Christ the Son of God has been born without sin.” Amazing. 150 AD, well before Constantine.

Tertullian (160 - 220 AD): was the first writer to urge the cessation of labor on Sunday. "We, on the day of the Lord's resurrection, ought to...defer even our businesses lest we give any place to the devil.”

Clement of Alexandria, Egypt (194 AD): says that we are to "keep the Lord's day" and thus "glorify the Lord's resurrection." The Constitution of the Holy Apostles says that on this day we are to "meet more diligently...assembling ourselves together, without fail." And “He, in fulfillment of the precept, according to the gospel, keeps the Lord’s Day, when he abandons an evil disposition… glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself.”7 Ch XII

As Christianity spread throughout the world, and as more and more non-Jews entered the church, observance of the Sabbath faded out. However, some of the distinguishing features of the Jewish Sabbath came to be incorporated into the Lord's Day observance. Like the Sabbath, Sunday was regarded as a day of joy, festivity, and praise. Fasting was forbidden. During the centuries that followed, a great many church councils, imperial laws, and renowned religious leaders sought to enforce the proper (as they deemed it) observance of the Lord's Day. It was not until the 300s that the Lord’s Day became confused with the Sabbath. Until that time it was simply a time to assemble in remembrance of the resurrection.

The Lord's Day Thru the Centuries

Going on thru each century to the present time (beginning with the Council of Nicea), we have these allusions to the Lord’s Day, or First Day of the week, as the Christian day of worship:

1) Council of Nicea (325 AD): called by Emperor Constantine to bring together the fragmented doctrines of Christianity and resulted in the famous Nicene Creed that affirmed Jesus as fully divine. It commanded that one must stand up during prayers on the Lord's Day (the 20th Canon). See above.

2) Council of Gangra (c. 350 AD): Fasting on the Lord's Day is condemned; also staying away from the "House of God" and attending any non-Christian assembly.

3) Council of Laodicea (363 AD): Observing the Jewish Sabbath is condemned; Sunday is commanded to be a day of rest from labor: "That Christians must not act as Jews by refraining from work on the Sabbath, but must rather work on that day, and, if they can, as Christians they must cease work on the Lord's Day, so giving it the greater honor." The 29th Canon

4) The Apostolic Constitutions (c. 375 AD): Worshippers are

 commanded to assemble twice on'Church Father' by Cherry Brandstater the Lord's Day -- morning and evening.

5) The 4th Council of Carthage (436 AD): Anyone who left church services during the preaching was to be excommunicated. Fasting was again forbidden. Attendance at public games or the circus was forbidden on the Lord's day. (NOTE: In 425 AD, Theodosius the Younger passed a law forbidding all games on Sunday - or any other church festival day. In 469 AD this law was strengthened to say that even if the Emperor's birthday fell on Sunday, no games would be allowed.)

6) The 3rd Council of Orleans (538 AD): All agricultural work is forbidden on Sunday. However, those who refuse to travel or prepare meals on this day are condemned as being "Judaistic."

7) The 2nd Council of Macon (585 AD): Work of any kind is prohibited on this day, and it is commanded that Christians worship God on this day.

8) Gregory the Great (became Bishop of Rome in 590 AD): He condemned Sabbath observance as a "doctrine of Antichrist" (also the applying of Sabbath laws, rituals to the Lord's day). In spite of this, however, Christendom increasingly during the time of the Middle Ages observed Sunday as a Christian Sabbath.

9) Alcuin (735 - 804 AD): He wrote, "Christian custom has transferred the observance of the Sabbath to the Lord's Day." Peter Alphonsus (12th century AD) was the first writer to actually use the term "Christian Sabbath" in connection with the Lord's Day.

10) Council of Clovishoff (747 AD): This council, which was held in England, decreed that travel is forbidden on the Lord's Day.

11) The Constitutions of Egbert (749 AD): Severe penalties are levied against anyone who works on Sunday.

12) Charlemagne (789 AD): In France he issued a decree prohibiting all ordinary labor on Sunday as a breach of the 4th Commandment.

13) The Archbishop of Canterbury (14th century) He ordered "abstinence from secular works on the sacred day of the Lord." However, he warned the people not to meet on Saturdays lest they "partake in the Jewish profession."

14) Martin Luther (1483 - 1546): By the time of the Reformation, the Lord's Day had "deteriorated into a mere holiday devoted to idleness and dissipation." It had been reduced to oppressive laws and ceremonies. Luther insisted that the believer was not to be bound by such legalism, and advocated revolt against it. In his Table Talk he says, "If anywhere the day is made holy for the mere day's sake---if anywhere anyone sets up its observance on a Jewish foundation, then I order you to work on it, to ride on it, to dance on it, to feast on it, to do anything that shall remove this encroachment on Christian liberty."

15) Huldreych (Ulrich) Zwingli (1484 - 1531): He taught that worship to God should not be tied down to any one day, for by doing so it "would impose on us a ceremony." John Calvin (1509 - 1564) agreed with Zwingli, saying worship of God was a daily and life-long activity. "Christians, therefore, should have nothing to do with a superstitious observance of days." Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 8 John Knox

16) John Knox (1505 - 1572): This reformer agreed with the above two men, but felt observance of Sunday should be maintained as a matter of expediency, "for it afforded rest for the body and an opportunity for united worship of God."

17) The Augsburg Confession (1530 AD): This was produced by Luther and Malancthon. It says in part: "For they that think that the observation of the Lord's Day was appointed by the authority of the Church, instead of the Sabbath, as necessary (unto salvation), are greatly deceived. The Scripture has abrogated the Sabbath. And yet, because it was requisite to appoint a certain day that the people might know when they ought to come together, it appears that the Church did for that purpose appoint the Lord's Day."

18) The 2nd Helvetic Confession (1566 AD): "Although religion be not tied unto time," yet they felt it expedient to set aside a day (the Lord's day) and "consecrate it to religious exercises and to a holy rest."

19) The Westminster Confession (1643 AD): "As it is of the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men in all ages, He hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto Him; which, from the beginning of the world to the Resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and from the Resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which in Scripture is called the Lord's Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath."

The above historical information was all gathered and quoted from various places on the internet and can easily be verified.

Ellen White's Statements Not Historically Accurate

The allegation that is voiced in Ellen White’s writings that the Pope was the first to “change Sabbath to Sunday” is a distortion of reality as is amply demonstrated above. This is one of such statements:

“When Sunday observance shall be enforced by law, and the world shall be enlightened concerning the obligation of the true Sabbath, then whoever shall transgress the command of God to obey a precept which has no higher authority than that of Rome, will thereby honor popery above God. He is paying homage to Rome, and to the power which enforces the institution ordained by Rome. He is worshiping the beast and his image.” {LDE 226.1}

Christians, as seen before, had already been meeting for three centuries on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day. I was taught from my earliest memories in Adventist education that Constantine, in 321 AD, changed the Sabbath from the seventh day of the week to the first.

Constantine was the emperor of Rome who became sympathetic to Christians. Until that time Rome had persecuted Christians and fed them to the lions in the coliseum. Constantine’s Constantine and Helenaconversion was a mixed blessing to Christians. In addition to a cessation of the persecution, he is also charged with institutionalizing Christianity in such a way as to rob it of its power.

The law that Constantine (who was not a pope but a Roman Emperor, by the way) enacted in 321 AD was to alleviate the persecution of the Christians and allow them the freedom to continue to meet on the Lord’s Day as they were already doing without provocation or repercussions. Here is that law:

“Let all the judges and town people, and the occupation of all trades, rest on the venerable day of the sun, but let those who are situated in the country, freely and at full liberty, attend to the business of agriculture; because it often happens that no other day is so fit for sowing corn and planting vines; lest, the critical moment being let slip, and men should lose the commodities granted by Heaven.”

There Was No Pope Until 606 AD

There it is. And that’s all that there is. At the time of Constantine there were only Bishops over Rome who had no jurisdiction over other bishops in other cities or countries. It was not until 606 AD that there was a Pope.5

At the beginning of this period, we have five equal "mother churches." At the end of the period, we have the bishop of Rome claiming to be the "Pope" or "Universal Bishop" who alone controlled the church world wide in the west.

Pope Leo, in protesting the fourth ecumenical council (held at Chalcedon in 451) started to make bold claims of Papal power that were ignored by most.

In 590 AD, Gregory acted like a Pope but denounced the title of Universal Bishop. Two popes later, in 606 AD, Boniface III is the first Roman bishop to both act like a Pope and take the name Universal Bishop.

Here is what EGW claimed that God had shown her in vision:

“Said the angel…Then I saw those whose hands are engaged in making up the breach and are standing in the gap, that have formerly since 1844 broken the commandments, and have so far followed the pope as to keep the first day instead of the seventh, and who have since the light shone out of the Most Holy Place, changed their course, given up the institution of the pope, and are keeping God's Sabbath, would have to go down into the water, and be baptized in the faith of the sanctuary (the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment), and keeping the commandments of God (specifically the fourth) and the faith of Jesus.” {Special Messages 3.6-7}

Ellen White's "Vision" Disputed

Considering that EGW claimed God had shown her this in vision, the following statements should be taken into account.

An early SDA church leader and contemporary of Ellen White who presented the message of righteousness by faith at the Minneapolis Conference of 1888, J.H. Waggoner, has this to say: “Constantine, in his decrees, said not one word either for or against keeping the Sabbath of the Bible. It is safe to affirm that there was nothing done in the time of Constantine, either by himself or any other, that has the least appearance of changing the Sabbath.”

Even the much-quoted author, Samuele Bacchiocchi, in his book From Sabbath to Sunday,2 disputes White's assertion that the Pope changed the day of Christian worship and admits that Christians were meeting on Sunday as early as 135 AD: “I differ from Ellen White, for example, on the origin of Sunday. She teaches that in the first centuries all Christians observed the Sabbath and it was largely through the efforts of Constantine that many Christians adopted Sunday-keeping in the fourth century. My research shows otherwise…you will notice that I place the origin of Sunday-keeping by the time of the Emperor Hadrian, in 135 AD.” In the same book he admits that for many authors, “There exists a legitimate possibility that the Sabbath could be included among the ordinances nailed to the cross.” p 348

Bacchiocchi’s book also brings up some other puzzles about Sabbath-keeping. If one keeps the Sabbath in the New Covenant, what does that mean? If one keeps it because the Ten Commandments are everlasting, then what are the guidelines of Sabbath-keeping? The Ten Commandments are only the "Reader’s Digest condensed version" of the entire covenant that commanded death for breaking the carefully specified rules for observing Sabbath. Bacchiocchi, in his book The Sabbath in the New Testament3 proceeds to become an arbiter of appropriate Sabbath observance by devoting twenty-one pages to the subject, laying out all the "do’s and don’ts" he deems appropriate.

Summary of The Christian Church and The Lord's Day:

1) Christians don’t keep the Sabbath on Sunday. They are celebrating the resurrection on the Lord’s Day.

2) There are multiple allusions to the first day of the week, or "the Lord’s Day," in the New Testament.

3) Barnabas (who traveled with Paul) and Ignatius of Antioch (a disciple of the apostle John) both made statements that the early church had stopped observing the Sabbath and were now gathering on the Lord’s Day.

4) From that time to the present, the observance of the Lord’s Day can be traced throughout the history of the Christian church.

5) The Pope didn’t change the Sabbath to Sunday. Christians had already been meeting on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, for over 600 years before there even was a Pope.

6) Samuel Bacchiocchi agrees that Christians were observing the Lord’s Day (Sunday) as early as 135 AD and that Constantine had nothing to do with changing the day of Christian worship.

If you have been around Adventism for any significant length of time, there must be texts popping up in your head as you've been reading along in this study. Most, if not all of them, are dealt with in the next chapter.


Ramone said...

Wow, I'd never seen that Justin Martyr quote before! What a clear statement on it, made so long ago!

Dennis said...

Cherry, I love your work, very complete. I do have a question. Your quote Barnabas, companion of Paul (120 AD): “We keep the eight day"

I thought the 8th day was related to the new moon? The new moon was worshiped and then 7 days later (8 total) the first sabbath of the month was also for worship.

I'm not picking there is plenty of info here. I'm just not sure if he is talking about the same thing.


Gently Broken said...

Dennis, the reason the early church writers referred to Sunday as the eighth day was that they saw the resurrection of Christ as the dawn of a new creation day - the eighth day of creation - in which His followers became a new creation. Here is a little more of Barnabus' thought process in this. I didn't include it in the article just for the sake of brevity (something I can't be accused of often - brevity, that is.)

The quote: "'Finally He saith to them; "Your new moons and your Sabbaths I cannot away with." Ye see what is His meaning; it is not your present Sabbaths that are acceptable [unto Me], but the Sabbath which I have made, in the which, when I have set all things at rest, I will make the beginning of the eighth day which is the beginning of another world. Wherefore also we keep the eighth day for rejoicing, in the which also Jesus rose from the dead, and having been manifested ascended into the heavens.'" (Barnabas 15:8-9)

In making the connection of the eighth day to the day Jesus rose from the day he is identifying it as the first day of the week or Sunday.

Thanks also for copying and pasting the quote from the article so that I could correct the typo! I appreciate all the help I can get.