A “Rest Day” is for the Rich & Hebrew

A subject that should not divide Christians, but sadly does anyway, is the matter of what day to hold collective worship. 4 pertinent passages, which bear on this subject are Romans 14; Galatians 1-3; Colossians 2; 1 Corinthians 13, and this blog has addressed those passages in similar posts before (see HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE). But, today’s post sheds another perspective on the matter. It is a perspective that comes straight from the context of a first century Gentile’s life—slavery in Ancient Rome. The perspective admittedly rips heavily upon the rich and traditional European/North American “Churchianity.”

History

Early Christians continued to pray and rest on the seventh day.[10] By the 2nd century AD some Christians also observed Sunday, the day of the week on which Jesus had risen from the dead and on which the Holy Spirit had come to the apostles.[10] Paul and the Christians of Troas, for example, gathered on Sunday “to break bread,” [11] Soon some Christians were observing only Sunday and not the Sabbath.[10] Patristic writings attest that by the second century, it had become commonplace to celebrate the Eucharist in a corporate day of worship on the first day.[12] A Church Father, Eusebius, stated that for Christians, “the sabbath had been transferred to Sunday”.[13]

In his noteworthy[14] book From Sabbath to Sunday, Adventist theologian Samuele Bacchiocchi contended that the transition from the Saturday Sabbath to Sunday in the early Christian church was due to pagan and political factors, and the decline of standards for the Sabbath day.[15]

(Wikipedia: Sabbath in Christianity)

Context

Even though Adventists, Messianic Congregations and others try to assert paganism perverted the earliest forms of Christian worship regarding holy days, it is truly the context of the Good News going out into the Gentile life of the first century that created the shift from Saturday to other days of the week, not necessarily particularly Sundays. And, as is shown in the above quote from sources cited in Wikipedia, even the Bible records the Apostles met and worshipped on the 1st day of the week.

However, again, the context of 1st C Gentile life determined when a non-Hebrew believer could worship. The large percentage of persons living in the 1 Century, Middle Eastern world—wherein Christianity was birthed—were slaves of the Roman Empire. A life of slavery meant a life with strict constraints to the will of one’s master. The Hebrew culture, with its Sabbath day could not be put as a burden upon non-Hebrews. Any free day, let alone a free day weekly, on a specific day, was only for the free, the rich, or one who was both a citizen of Rome and a Hebrew (ex. Paul of Tarsus). Accordingly, James writes:

Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. (Acts 15:19-20)

When one considers this context, then Paul’s words in the above (bolded) references scream with clarity. Do read a couple of them again:

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2:16-19)

And

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; (Romans 14:1-10)

Application

The current-day application of these passages, based on the context and made relevant for today, is shocking to the traditional, rich and privileged. One could safely say:

If someone does not or cannot worship on the particular day you think is proper, do NOT judge them as less than you or as not in harmony with the Lord! There are many reasons, which have to do with status and systematic religious abuses or socio-economic oppression that cause people an inability, or even an inner wariness, of worshipping on Saturday or Sunday, or the particular day(s) you falsely require.

Similarly, if one cannot make it to a mid-week Bible study or prayer service, NONE should say they are less spiritually mature or devout than those who can attend.

Conclusion

Our Lord says,

The Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27-28)

and by this we understand that God wishes all of us to be able to have a time and space where we can rest, along with other believers, to reflect upon Him and offer our thankful worship (whenever and wherever and however long that may or may not be). He wants us to know we are seen; we are heard, and we are known and cared for by Him, among a family of Faith!


OTHER RESOURCES:

See the above linked articles in the opening paragraph of this post.

Observe the Sabbath | Wasilla Bible Church, Larry Kroon

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