Monday, May 26, 2008

Equal Opportunity Criticism

Lest anyone should think upon stumbling into this blog that I am a Catholic basher; I would like to take this opportunity to take a critical look at the teachings of the Southern Baptist Convention regarding the issue of the Sabbath and "The Lord's Day". The following is from the 2000 edition of the Baptist Faith and Message.
VIII. The Lord's Day
The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Exodus 20:8-11; Matthew 12:1-12; 28:1ff.; Mark 2:27-28; 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-3,33-36; John 4:21-24; 20:1,19-28; Acts 20:7; Romans 14:5-10; I Corinthians 16:1-2; Colossians 2:16; 3:16; Revelation 1:10.

I am going to take the passages one by one. First let me point out that the use of the term the Lord's Day is taken from the passage in Revelation 1:10 and may not be the best way to translate the phrase. It is the only time it is used in Scripture in this manner. Since this one by itself is not conclusive, let's put it on the table to consider with the other support verses.
Exodus 20:8-11 is an odd choice here since it specifically is the command to keep God's Sabbath(specifically the Seventh Day or Saturday for those of us on the Gregorian calendar). These verses actually oppose the viewpoint of Sunday as a special day.
Matthew 12:1-12 is a similar issue. Here Jesus is talking about the Sabbath again and more specifically, He was condemning the Pharisees efforts to add to or outright change what God had commanded regarding the Sabbath.
Matthew 28:1ff does in fact tell us that Jesus was raised from the dead on the first day of the week, but it contains no injunction to celebrate that day for that reason. It's only purpose here can be to confirm that Jesus' resurrection was in fact on Sunday.
Mark 2:27-28 is another point of view for Matthew 12 and the same comments apply.
Mark 16:1-7 is similarly in line with Matthew 28 and those comments apply to it.
Luke 24:1-3;33-36 also establishes the fact that Messiah rose on the day after the Sabbath, but again contains no injunction or command to venerate that day of the week.
John 4:21-24 is a strange passage to include in this discussion. It is Yeshua speaking of the fact that true worship is done spiritually, not bound by location. Date or day of the week doesn't enter the discussion in this passage.
John 20:1,19-28 does not mention the "Lord's Day" but does confirm that the resurrection occured on the first day of the week. Verses 19-28 speak of Jesus appearing to the disciples in the evening of that first day(which in Jewish tradition is actually the next day, but who is nitpicking :P) and again a week later presumably meaning on the first day of the week again. There is no command here to meet on this day instead of any other day.
Acts 20:7 is a good one, since it is quite possible that this actually refers to the evening of the Sabbath. Remember that a Jewish day starts at sundown, so this is likely referring to Saturday night. This actually contradicts the notion that the early church only met on Sunday.
Romans 14:5-10 is a great addition to the discussion since Paul here tells us that no one day is necessarily better than another. If we celebrate any day we should do so unto the Lord. This is an important point to make. There is nothing here so far that would suggest the conversion of Sabbath ideas to Sunday as the RCC church had suggested and there is nothing here to support the first day either. In fact, this is a good time to point out that the good folks who wrote this conveniently left out Acts 2:42-47 which talks of the early church meeting daily(as in every day). This certainly deflates the idea of promoting a "set day" as the "Lord's Day".
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 uses the same phrase that was used in Acts 20:7. We know that the event in Acts was at nighttime and remember that Jewish days began at sundown the day before. This could again refer to Saturday night and there is good reason to think so.
Colossians 2:16 and 3:16. I have dealt with Colossians 2:16 in my previous post. Paul is highlighting the fact that the Jewish celebrations that were instituted by God were a shadow(a picture if you will) of the working of His plan and the things to come. 3:16 deals with worship again, and doesn't apply to the discussion of the day of the week.
In conclusion I would like to quote some wise words that I found in the Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern:
While the New Testament does not abrogate Shabbat as the holy day of rest for the Jews stipulated in the Fourth Commandment, it also contains no command concerning a proper day for Messianic worship. At the founding of the Messianic Community[Church] the believers met together every day(Ac 2:46). In conclusion, what makes sense to me is that a Messianic Jewish congregation can choose any day (or days) of the week for Messianic worship, bu worship elements specific to Shabbat should be included only on Shabbat(Friday sundown to Saturday sundown).

To this end I wish to add a word of clarification. The Church as a whole body should strive to follow the words of Paul in Romans 14 that we covered earlier. Whatever day you choose to worship on, worship unto the Lord. And do not be judgemental of your brother or sister who sees things differently. It has not been my aim in these posts to pass judgment on any group or denomination or person, but rather my desire has been to ask some tough questions of ourselves and our faith. After all, if we can be so easily confused over a small thing like the time we choose to worship corporately and can elevate it to a major issue; what other blind spots or hurdles may we have to overcome?

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