Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sunday or The Lord's Day (The Real Meaning Of Sabbath and Sunday, Part-2)

Sunday is the first day of the week, adopted by the first Christians from the Roman calendar (Lat. Dies Solis, Day of the Sun), because it was dedicated to the worship of the sun. The Christians re-interpreted the heathen name as implying the "Sun of Righteousness" with reference to this rising (Mal.4:2). It was also called “Dies Panis” (Day of Bread), because it was an early custom to break bread on that day. In The Teaching of the Twelve it is called the "Lord's Day of the Lord" (Kuriaken de Kuriou).

Jewish Christians at first continued to frequent the Temple and synagogue services, but at a very early date "the first day of the week" took the place of the Jewish Sabbath as the chief time of public worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor.16:2) in many of the churches of Jewish Christians. It was the day of the resurrection of Christ, of most of His appearances to the disciples after the resurrection, and on this day the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost.

For these reasons, and especially after the destruction of Jerusalem had rendered the sacrificial service of the Temple impossible, Sunday became the recognized day of assembly for fellowship and for the celebration of the Lord's Supper. The Jewish Christians at first observed both the seventh and the first day of the week, but the Gentile Christians kept the "Lord's Day" from the beginning. The relation of the seventh to the first, as understood by the Jewish Christians, may not be easy to determine; yet there seem to be indications that the seventh was regarded as a day of preparation for the first. The idea of Christian worship would attach mainly to the one; the obligation of rest would continue attached to the other; although a certain interchange of characteristics would grow up, as worship necessitated rest, and rest naturally suggested worship.

In his letter to the Magnesians, Ignatius evidently addressed a church of mixed character, since he spoke of some "who were brought up in the ancient order of things," who "have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day," etc.

"There is neither in this writer nor in the Barnabas epistle an intimation that Sunday was regarded as in any way a substitute for the Jewish Sabbath, nor yet a continuation of it; rather it was a new institution. It is, however, impossible to determine the time of its beginning; no impressive enactment, like that in the case of the Decalogue, was needed…Not until the 4th century do we find a statement intimating that the Jewish Sabbath, with its sanctions and duties, was transferred to the first, or the Lord's Day…The observance of the Jewish Sabbath in the churches of the Jewish Christians continued for the first five centuries. In the East both days were celebrated with rejoicing; in the West the Jewish Sabbath was observed as a fast”.

"The reign of Constantine marks a change in the relations of the people to the Lord's Day. The [decree] of the emperor, commanding the observance of Sunday, seems to have had little regard for its sanctity as a Christian institution; but the day of the sun is to be generally regarded with veneration. Later enactments made plain the duties of civil and ecclesiastical officers respecting the observance of Sunday, until it takes its place as an institution to be guarded and regulated by the government.

The resurrection of Christ was the one all sufficient fact which accounts for the rise and growth of the Christian Church. 'Jesus and the resurrection' was the burden of the apostolic preaching. Hence the recollection of the day of the resurrection was so indelibly impressed upon the hearts of the first disciples that on its return they came together to pray and to recall the memory of the Lord by breaking of bread and the celebration of the eucharist. It was the dictate of the glowing love for Christ, whose followers they delighted to be reckoned.  We fail to find the slightest trace of a law or apostolic edict instituting the observance of the 'day of the Lord'; nor is there in the Scriptures an intimation of a substitution of this for the Jewish Sabbath.

The primal idea of the Jewish Sabbath was cessation of labor, rest; the transference of this idea to the first day of the week does not appear in the teachings of Christ nor of his apostles. Nor in the Council of Jerusalem, when the most important decisions are reached relative to the ground of union of Jewish and Gentile Christians, is one word found respecting the observance of the Sabbath. Contrariwise, Paul distinctly warns against the imposition of burdens upon the Church respecting days, but declares for a conscientious freedom in these observances. 'Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind' (Rom 14:5-6). Still more strongly does he upbraid the Galatian church for putting itself again in bondage to the weak and beggarly elements, as days, months, times, and years; while in his letter to the Colossians (Col 2:16-17) he speaks of the entire abolition of the Jewish Sabbath."

Justin Martyr, in his dialogue with the Jew Trypho, who taunts the Christians with having no festivals nor Sabbaths, clearly claims that Sunday is to them a new Sabbath and that the entire Mosaic law has been abrogated (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, chaps. 10-11). The new law binding upon Christians regards every day as a Sabbath, instead of passing one day in rest or absolute idleness.

"With respect to the strictness with which the first day of the week was observed during the first three centuries, the following facts are important to notice: Between the death of the apostles and the edict of Milan, the Lord's Day was sanctified by a Church unrecognized by the State and exposed to opposition and sometimes to bitter persecution. The motive for its observance was, therefore, purely moral and religious. The social position of the early Church, drawing its members for the most part from the poorer artisans, traders, and slaves, forbade the strict and general keeping of the Lord's Day, much more of both the Sabbath and Sunday. Thus the universal hallowing of the day of the resurrection was impossible" (Bennett, Christian Archaeology, pp. 444 ff.).

In the midst of the corrupt influence of heathenism and the growing indifference of the church, it was thought necessary to bring some stress of authority upon the Christian conscience to hold it to the faithful observance of the first day, as the Jews had known the power of a positive enactment in keeping them steadfast in the hallowing of their Sabbath. "The constant temptation of the Christians to attend upon the heathen spectacles and festivities could, in the case of such whose piety was low, no longer, as at first, be broken by considerations of the high privileges of Christian worship and of the commemoration of the resurrection of Christ, but the restraints coming from a quasi legal enactment were found to be more and more necessary" (Bennett, Christian Archaeology, p.450).

"The obligation to observe the day does not come from the fourth commandment, but from the apostolic institution of the Lord's Day. Nevertheless, from the time of the attempts of the emperors to adjust the civil conditions to the recognition of Sunday as the chief religious holiday, the sense of obligation to keep sacred the first day of the week, coming from legal enactment, more and more supplanted the consideration of the high and holy privilege which had animated the Christian Church during the first years of its activity. From the last part of the 6 th century the strict legalistic view becomes more and more prominent, and the rulers in State and Church incline to strengthen the civil and conciliatory enactments respecting the Lord's Day by divine authority, as contained in the fourth commandment" (Bennett, Christian Archaeology, p.451).

FOR FURTHER REFERENCE:- P. K. Jewett, The Lord's Day (1971); D. A. Carson, ed., From Sabbath to Lord's Day (1982). (from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)



Popular Posts