Genesis 2:1-3 Christians and the Sabbath

Posted on May 11, 2008. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Redeemer Church Sunday School

Genesis: Finding Answers to Life’s Crucial Questions

Semester One: Genesis 1-3 “Beginnings”

May 11, 2008

Gen. 2:1-3 “Crucial Question- Should Christians Celebrate the Sabbath?” Part 2

Read: Genesis 2:1-3


Review: Last week we finally left Gen. 1 and began looking at Ch.2:1-3, the Seventh Day. We did not quite get finished with that discussion so I thought we could continue that for a little while today before we begin the next section. Last week we saw that the text in English is a little bit confusing about whether God finished working on the seventh day means that he worked some and the 7th day and then rested, or if it means He finished on the 6th day and rested completely on the 7th day. The Hebrew is a bit more definite showing that by the 7th day the work was finished, that is no work was done on the 7th day. This is emphasized in other ways as well because the 7th day stands alone with no corresponding day like the other 6 days and that you do not have an evening and a morning. Nowhere does the text say that God said or God spoke on the 7th day, and that is how God created on all the other days. Finally, in vss.2-3 you have 4 lines of 7 words each, and in the first 3 lines you have “the seventh day” as the middle words in each line. Very clearly, Moses is emphasizing the seventh day in several ways simultaneously to make his point: The seventh day is holy to the Lord.

We next looked at the Ten Commandments and how the Sabbath Day and seventh day are related and we saw that the difference between the 10 Commandments in Ex.20 and Deut.5 is not mistake or any kind of error or inconsistency; it was a deliberate effort to link the Sabbath Day to both Creation and Redemption. Thus the basic meaning of the Sabbath Day’s rest is for man to worship God as the Creator and Redeemer. We looked at a few other OT texts and some NT texts to briefly see how Israel violated the Sabbath and how Jesus treated the Sabbath. I think we included John 19:30 “It is finished!” and briefly mentioned that just as God rested after finishing Creation, so Christ proclaimed Redemption, the new Creation, finished after his work on the cross.

Introduction: Now, what remains in our discussion of the 7th day and the Sabbath? We really did not get to discuss much about how the Sabbath left the 7th day and went to the 1st day, Sunday and what the implications are for us today. The crucial question is: Should Christians Celebrate the Sabbath and if so, How? What can we do, should we do on Sunday? I remember as a small child being told by my parents that I could not go outside and play with my friends because it was Sunday. Is that a good thing, or legalistic? Read Ernest Reisinger Whatever Happened To The Ten Commandments, pp.42-45.

I. How/When Did the Believers Change Worship from the Sabbath to the First Day?

John 20:1; Luke 24:1; Mark 16:1-2; Matt.28:1- Jesus was resurrected on the first day of the week. Now this does not mean that there is a command for all believers to change their day of worship to Sunday, no such command exists. But the remembrance of the Resurrection day is a hugely important thing for the early church and it does make sense to meet on that day to celebrate. Here is a small, but important, apologetic point for the truthfulness of the Resurrection accounts: SOMETHING major happened that would cause committed Jews to change the Sabbath to Sunday. The exile had so changed Judaism in regards to keeping the Sabbath because the forsaking of the Sabbath was one of the key reasons for the exile. The concept of the Sabbath was now permanently and deeply ingrained within Judaism, therefore, it would take something as huge as the exile to change that practice.

Acts 2, Pentecost is on the first day of the week, and that is when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

In Acts 20:7 we see that Paul gathered with the believers on the first day of the week for breaking bread, remembering the sacrifice of our Lord, and for worship or at least Bible Study. This is an indicator that with the spread of Christianity into the Gentile world the day of worship was changing. These two factors, the Resurrection of Christ on the first day and the influx of Gentiles likely combined to make the change to Sunday more acceptable. In 1Cor.16:1-2 we again see Paul mentioning taking up a collection on the First Day of the Week, indicating the likelihood that the Church was meeting on Sunday. Finally, in Rev.1:10 we see John describing his vision as occurring on “the Lord’s Day”. Since Revelation may well have been the last NT book written, perhaps as late as the 90’s of the first century, we see that Sunday is considered by John, who was a Jew, to be the Lord’s Day.

Read Thomas Watson’s The Ten Commandments p.96

“Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, wrote to the Magnesians ca. AD115 urging them to ‘no longer live for the Sabbath but for the Lord’s Day, on which day our life arose.’ In…the Didache (ca.120AD), Christians were directed to assemble on the Lord’s Day to worship.” “The term Sunday, never used by NY writers, first appeared in Christian literature in the work of Justin (ca.150AD, First Apology) who followed the Roman calendar. The name Sunday came to the Romans through the Egyptians, who early adopted a week of days named after the sun, moon, and five planets. The first day of the week to the Romans was the day of the sun (Lat. Dies solis). In the course of time, however, the Christian designation ‘the Lord’s day’ (Lat. Dies dominica) came to displace the term Sunday throughout the Empire.” (Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter A. Elwell, ed.).

It was the Edict of Milan by Constantine in 312/313 that restored property back to the Christian Church that had been confiscated in an earlier persecution, and that established Sunday as an official day of worship. Later, Constantine made another law forbidding most types of labor on the Lord’s Day.

But here is the question: If the rest of the 10 Commandments are still in effect, and are clear and to the point, why not the fourth commandment? What is the difference? I think it is abundantly clear from the New Testament and from history that the principle of a day of rest is being kept by the Christian day of worship on Sunday so the Saturday observance is not important anymore.

II. How Has the Sabbath Been Kept By the Church Through History?

There was a trend towards sabbatarianism in the Eastern Church during the fourth century, despite the Edict of Milan and in the Irish church of the 6th century. It was in the Reformation, however, that a big movement toward a literal keeping of the Sabbath developed with the Socinian group in Transylvania in the late 1500’s. They eventually became Unitarian and actually converted to Judaism in the 1800’s. Luther’s old friend Carlstadt strayed into sabbatarianism. Some of the Dutch Mennonites became strict sabbatarians as did some Baptist groups in England and America, eventually producing the Seventh Day Adventists. Some of the 7th Day Adventists consider our worship on Sunday to be a sign of our being deluded apostates as per Rev.14:9-12.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism calls Sunday the Christian Sabbath and calls for a resting from worldly employments and recreation. The Puritans and Presbyterians prohibited by law labor or busyness and required church attendance. In Puritan New England you could be arrested for skipping church! Blue laws existed right here in Texas until the mid 1980’s and lingered even in England until the 1990’s.

III. What Do You Believe About How To Practice the Sabbath?

1. You obviously believe in going to church to worship with your fellow believers.

2. Do you go out to eat on Sundays, thus confirming people in their sin of working on Sunday and exercising needless financial transactions on the Lord’s Day?

3. How many of you have had or do have a job that requires you to work on Sundays?

4. Do you watch or attend sporting events on Sunday? What if your company offered you and your family box seats at a Cowboy’s game with a kickoff time of noon? Discuss little league soccer, etc. (Used to, you couldn’t schedule any little league ball games on Wednesday nights in any town in Texas or Oklahoma.)

5. Are blue laws a good thing? Should we be impacting our culture in regards to the Sabbath? Or should it only be voluntary? If we had the votes in the Legislature, and we had the Governor, should we re-enact blue laws?

6. Should we lobby school boards and sporting leagues to ban little league games on Sundays? Or should we just remove our children from those activities or form Christian leagues?

7. Is it OK to take a weekend off and go camping, hunting or fishing on Sunday?

8. How much of the Sabbath rest principle is a command and duty, and how much is it a joy and pleasure?


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