I get asked questions about the Sabbath quite often. It is a major issue for everyone from 7th Day Adventists to 'Messianic' Christians, to those with Roman Catholic backgrounds and many others. So let's examine scripture, history, what Jesus said, and what is taught in the New Testament letters, and apply all that to our lives.
The first thing to understand is the word 'sabbath' means 'to rest' or 'to cease from doing something, to quit'. It is from creation when on the 7th day God 'quit' (not rested as we use the term), or God ceased from His work.
Because there are so many religious attachments associated with the word Sabbath, I will mostly use 'rest', or 'quit' which is what the word means.
The Sabbath command: Exodus 20:8-11
"Remember the rest day by keeping it holy. You work 6 days, but on the 7th you will rest unto the Lord your God. You will not do any work on that day, and neither will your sons or daughters, foreigners in the land, or even your animals. For in 6 days the Lord made the heavens and earth, the sea and all that is in them, and He quit on the 7th day. Therefore He set aside the rest day and made it holy."
The day of rest was a family day, as seen in Leviticus 23:3 where the day of rest was called in the King James Version, 'a holy convocation'. The gathering of the family for a day together was holy. There is no command to make that day a day of worship. It is merely the weekly day off for the family to fellowship together, and is to be considered holy as we emulate our God who quit working on the 7th.
We see that the day of rest was first and foremost a day for the family to spend together, and God called it holy. This carries over to the New Testament celebration of the gathering of the family of God. In Acts 2:42 we are told they kept their gatherings rather simple: "And they were in the apostles teaching, fellowship, food and prayer."
Fellowship in New Testament realities, is holy, for it is fellowship first with one's blood family, and second with family linked by Jesus' blood. That gatherings themselves are a rest, a sabbath gathering of family. The gathering of the household of God is restful, a celebration of the family and of our Lord whose example we are following.
In the auditorium thinking 'fellowship' is treated as an afterthought, not as being equal with teaching, food, and prayer. In the auditorium thinking 'fellowship' has been relegated to something you do with coffee or tea after a main event: "After the meeting today we'll have a time of fellowship with refreshments in the fellowship hall."
In kingdom culture hospitality and the fellowship associated with it, are part of the fiber of the kingdom. We are also called into the fellowship of the Lord Jesus. (I Corinthians 1:9). 'Koinonia' is tossed around like it is a program or something to achieve, when in fact it's just part of who we are - we seek out blood relatives. Food, fellowship, prayer, teaching and sharing - it's what family does.
In NT thinking fellowship with family is holy and can be traced directly back to the command to keep a day of rest with family, from Exodus 20:8-11 and Leviticus 23:3 for examples. In both places God calls the family day of rest a 'holy gathering'. Let us elevate our gathering together to the same level of value as the Lord does.
Back to the main point...where did worship on Saturday begin?
There is nothing in the Old Testament saying God commanded the rest day to be a day of worship. It is a family day, that is all. That weekly gathering of the family was and is considered holy. It requires discipline to keep. No work on that day, the whole family spends it together doing something other than work.
God only commanded Israel to come to temple 3x a year, as seen in Deuteronomy 16:16 and Exodus 23:17: "Three times a year will all your males appear before the Lord your God in the place He will choose; Unleavened bread, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. And they will not come empty handed."
I've stated the history many times, but briefly: Around the time of the Maccabee's, in the 200-160BC time frame, a holiness movement arose in Israel to educate the Jewish people. They were being heavily influenced by Greek culture which brought things like sporting events, theater, arts, literature and such into Jewish society.
But because Jewish people only went to temple in Jerusalem 3x a year and they were spread through the land, they were ignorant of God's Word and ways. A group calling themselves the 'separated ones' arose to solve the problem. They would start 'gatherings' on each rest day comprised of 10 males and families (a boy 13 and older was counted as a man) and make copies of scripture. These separated ones traveled to these 'gatherings' and when not able to, the families took turns reading scripture and sharing - as we see Jesus doing in Nazareth in Luke 4:17-20.
The word 'separated one' is the word Pharisee, and the word 'gathering' is synagogue. That is how rest day (Sabbath) day worship began - as a holiness movement in the 100's BC, roughly 200 years before Jesus's ministry. Thus when Pentecost happened, these new believers merely continued meeting in homes as they had, only now they recognized the apostles as their authority, not the Pharisees. This caused great persecution and 'synagogue splits'. The persecution against those splitting the synagogues was so severe, Acts 8:1-2 tells us every disciple except the apostles moved out of Jerusalem to the surrounding areas of Judea and Samaria.
So we can set aside....
...the error that God commands worship on the rest day, for He does not, and never did. All He said was to take the day to rest following His pattern of creation when He quit working. We are to do the same. It's that simple. The intellectually honest person will adjust what they believe to fit God's Word, the rest will say 'Don't confuse me with facts, my mind is already made up', lol. There is nothing wrong with worshiping any day or night as long as we don't say God ordained that day for the saints to gather.
Others hold onto Saturday worship because they love it - that's no problem - as long as they don't teach the error that God commands Saturday worship.
And we will pick it up there next week, showing how Paul dealt with people who insisted one day or another was the day to worship on. Until then, blessings,
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