Faith Bound, Not Sabbath Bound

Does God Especially Bless Saturday Worship Over Sunday Worship? (1.23.13)

Romans 14,5-6: "one person thinks that some days are holier than others [Jewish Christians in Rome], and another thinks them all equal [gentile Christians- nothing about the importance of Sunday here]]. Let each be convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who makes special observance of a particular day observes it to the honor of the Lord."

It's going to take a bit of bible to get to the practical aspect of this question.

So before that I'm going to open with a prayer:

Lord Jesus may this brief teaching on your Sabbath not be used judge others, but like all your teaching, that we would be open to your Holy Spirit guidance, as we press deeper into your word. In Jesus NAME we pray.

The first Christians in Jerusalem were almost exclusively Jews, as is our savior Jesus, king of kings and Prophet of the Jews (Acts3,22).

So the thought that Jesus replaced the Saturday Sabbath with a Sunday Sabbath, the first day of the week in the Greco Roman world, is a non starter.

He came to fulfill the law not to overturn it (Matthew 5,17).

This thought of changing the sabbath day doesn't bear biblical scrutiny.

It is remarkably similar to the wayward human decree of  "Replacement Theology" whereby some Christians of old posited that the non Jewish Christian church had somehow replaced the Jews as God's chosen people, and thereby inherited all her promises, as if God was done 2000 years ago with his own people!

As if all the extant and still operative prohetic promises to Israel- which we have seen for at last a 100 years in our own modern era- were nullified or erased from their book! No, Christianity- the bible says- is a mere wild olive shoot grafted into the trunk or root of Israel, and if this is so, how much easier for the lost natural branches of Israel to be re-grafted into itself . (Romans 11,16-24).

See also Zechariah 12,10 prophesying how this will take place.

The book of Hebrews teaches that clearly the priestly and cultic law of Israel was and fulfilled in Jesus' last sacrifice (Hebrews 9,28). 

But the idea that Jesus overturned the commandments is an invitation to lawlessness and libertinism.

Again he came to fulfill the law not overturn it (Matthew 5,17). His death and resurrection fulfilled the ceremonial law, and began a whole different priesthood (Hebrews 7,28), one capable of having the law of God written on all men's hearts and minds (Hebrews 10,16).

Or, to put it another way, we Christians are faith and Spirit bound to the whole counsel of God, not law bound to it (Romans 9,30).

We are yoked to Jesus (Matthew 11,29), the faithful and true one, not to the Mosaic law.

Yet Christ showed us how, with a changed heart, to live the commandments of God, as his disciplined ones.

He also made a point to remind the Sabbath legalists of his day (who turned on him) that this day afforded them gainful rest, and also perpetually reminded them of all God's creative and saving acts on their behalf (Genesis 2,3, Exodus 13,13, Mark 2,23ff).  

So, Jesus didn't overturn the Sabbath.

Neither did his first apostles.

Jesus began his public ministry on the Sabbath in a synagogue (Luke 4,16). His apostles did likewise (Acts 13,42-44; 16,12-13; 17,1-3; 18,1-4).

There's no Christian biblical abolition of the Saturday Sabbath.

Our New Testament bible flows out of the the Hebrew scriptures, and there's only one biblical Sabbath.

Originally when Israel was mostly agrarian, the Sabbath rest was primarily a day of physical rest. But when Israel became more attached to the tent and temple, Leviticus 23,3 adds holy convocations as valid Sabbath activities. Thus, the bigger Sabbath principle was that at least once a week human beings should primarily do what God wants emerged.

Yes Acts 20,7 tells us that Christians in Troas (Turkey), a gentile port city close to hub of Ephesus in Asia Minor, regularly met for the Lord's supper, on the first day of the week, Sunday. 

This is no surprise. It was a gentile city- and the church included gentiles, non Jews. Gentiles in the Roman empire were subject to the work requirements of the Greco Roman culture on Saturdays.

Just as the Christian mission and church never would have spread if circumcision was required for gentiles (Acts 15), so it never also would have spread if Saturday worship was exclusively required of gentiles either.

And as any pastor knows- there's no sense scheduling services at time when a large portion of the community can't attend. 

This is also the likely context of Romans 14 (vv.5-6 above).

Paul is uncharacteristically but wisely diplomatic here in Romans.

On the one hand, he knows that the Christian faith can't grow in the Greco Roman Empire, if the faithful Jewish base in many of the churches, and Rome especially, insists that the Christian gentiles, some of whom are slaves, have to lose a day's work, and or ask their masters for Saturday off.

I use this word "masters" because Paul interestingly uses this same word in verse 4 in making the point that the Lord Jesus is master of every faithful Jew and Gentile regarding this matter of special days, or equal days.

He brings up this master servant language advisedly to make the subtle point to his Jewish-Christian brethren in Rome (who are running the church there) that they must accomodate Roman slaves and other gentile workers who as outsiders to the Jewish community have no historical custom, or right, to a Sabbath without work, as the established Jewish communities had around the empire.  

On the other hand, he doesn't want to alienate the Jewish based Roman church, who is still keeping the Sabbath per Romans 14,6, and the most important feast days according to verse 5 (such as Passover and Booths, see also Acts 20,5 where Jews in Derbe, even in gentile territory, are keeping the week long feast of unleavened bread as was Paul with them). 

If he does so, he risks that his whole revolutionary letter might be cast into the Tiber river as unfaithful to the God of Israel.

No wonder then that in Romans 14,5-6 Paul rightly takes pains to make clear that it's OK for gentile Christians in Rome to esteem every day of the week alike, whereas it's OK for Jewish Christians to continue to esteem the Sabbath.

Back to Troas.

Again, the fact that Christians as one body, Jews and gentiles, broke bread on Sunday in Troas does not mean that Sunday becomes a Sabbath.

Some argue that 1Corinthians16,2 also sets up a Sunday Sabbath.

Paul exhorts the predominantly gentile body in Corinth to put aside something for the saints in Jerusalem on this first of the week. Most Christian folks read this as setting something aside or extra at the regular Sunday service, so that when he comes (which might have been there on a Sabbath for regular sabbath worship- some messianic congregations today don't announce the collections, no "work", just drop it in the box) there will be no need for public or individual appeals.  

But nothing in 1Corinthians 16,2 necessarily convinces that Sunday is the regular day of worship in Corinth, or has been elevated to Sabbath status.

Besides, regardless of whether Corinth regularly met on Sunday, like Troas, and whether the Jewish-Christian faithful in Rome kept a particular day (note the singular in v. 6, ie the sabbath day), or changed eventually to venerate Sunday as the Lord's day or as an invented sabbath, or how and when Corinthian collections were made- none of this changes God's biblical revelation of Saturday as the Sabbath.

In other words, by custom and for practical reasons, as Christianity moved outside of Jerusalem, Sunday became, over time, the day most Christians worship.

This doesn't change the revelation of the Saturday Sabbath, which becomes voluntary for Christians. (Colossians 2,16)

Revelation 1,10 esteems Sunday as "the Lord's day", the day he rose.

Again, no sabbath day change here. 

So where does this leave us as to the question at hand: "does God epecially bless Saturday more than Sunday worship?"

Conclusion And Answer

I'm uneasy with the the way the question is phrased as if we can "earn" our blessings. Christianity is about acting on the revealed promises of God (faith) and following Jesus.

It's not something we earn on our own merits.

But, if Saturday worship roots us more profoundly in our Hebrew biblical roots, and helps us understand the whole of scripture better, and follow our merciful Lord Jesus more closely, and be less influenced by the world, and provides a weekly re-creative rest, and helps us live by faith and every word that comes from the mouth of God, and doesn't divide the community based on the necessity of a sizable portion of it having to work, then perhaps Saturday worship would lead to more daily faith in God, and thus bring us closer to following Jesus.

But if Saturday is used as the principal means to recruit people to a particular denomination, and to brow beat people with legalism, any benefit of Saturday worship and Sabbath keeping would be squandered. An advocate would cry out: "stop brow beating my people about something that was meant to bless them, not bind them to the law once again." (cf Mark 2,27)

Jesus' yoke is easy and his burden is light.

And hey he promised to teach us all things.

So, if he wants you individually or as his qahal, his called out ones, his separated (as Israel was called to be separated from the nations) ones, to keep the Sabbath and or worship as a community on Saturday, He will be gently leading you by grace and faith in that direction.

To a healthy place, full of all manner of salvation.

Churches, whenever they worship, should be healthy.

Healthy churches are blessings to folks.

Hope this answer helps.

Shalom Br. Tobin- Faith Bound, Not Law Bound