I opened my email this morning to find a message indicating that some birthday gifts I had ordered from Amazon would be delivered tomorrow. No big deal – get those all the time. Next, I receive a message from my Internet provider indicating that a serviceman would be calling between 3 p.m. and 5 PM tomorrow. Again, no big deal. They are finally responding to a problem that I discussed with them a few days ago. Next, I go to my online banking and wish to make a payment on my credit card. Since one prearranged payment was already in the system for the same amount, I was prompted to choose another date; I chose tomorrow.
Then, suddenly, I realized tomorrow is Sunday. I have made it is long practice to avoid unnecessary business transaction on Sundays. Once, when we lived in Australia, our realtor was furious with me because I declined to open our home for viewing on Sunday. He could not understand why I was so adamant (he termed it stubbornness – even stupidity). I told him that it was the Lord’s day and that I don’t transact unnecessary business on Sundays. He replied that we would never sell the house. It turned out, however, that we sold it relatively quickly, for more than the asking price. There were even 3 people interested who “auctioned” the higher price. Praise the Lord.
That was then and this is now. It seems that for the last several months, maybe a year, it is becoming more and more evident that we reside in a post-Christian culture. A couple of decades ago we learned that “weekends are made for having fun.” Things are now moving away from Christian practices more rapidly. Only a small percentage of our population attends church; most have no real Christian background or biblical understanding. Besides, although we Christians don’t like to admit that we have lost our convictions, it is really more convenient to “go with the flow.” By doing so, we relinquish opportunities to glorify the Lord our God.
Resisting the cultural pressure by observing a day of rest and worship provides opportunities for interaction and positive Christian witness. This is because when we forgo favorable or beneficial opportunities on the Lord’s day, the question naturally arises: why? So, there it is staring us in the face – an excellent opportunity to give a reason for our faith.
Wait a minute, you say. Many Christians – in fact, most I know – do not hold such a narrow viewpoint. After all, you know, things are changing; we live in a different world than we did 20 years ago. This is not a big deal for Christians today.
Let me respond by giving a few good reasons.
- God created the world with a rhythm and a pattern. One day in 7 was to be “holy to the Lord” and given over for rest and reflection on his good work. (Read Genesis 2.1 – 3.) God’s creation was designed to rest for one day a week. This is the reason Jesus said, “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2.27). Reminder: Sabbath means “seventh” in Hebrew
- This “Sabbath” principle of one day’s rest in 7 was both modeled by God and commanded by God; further, it has been observed since the beginning of time. (Genesis 2.2,3)
- “Keep the Sabbath holy…” is the 4th of the 10 Commandments and receives the longest divine explanation of any of the commandments. Exodus 20 links into God’s creative activity, while Deuteronomy 6 connects it to redemptive activity.
- The Lord Jesus Christ together with his Apostles properly observed the Sabbath. It is true that Jesus was accused of profaning the Sabbath, but he was in fact teaching and demonstrating proper Sabbath observance. In a nutshell, he taught that, in addition to rest and worship, it is proper to do works of and mercy, necessity, and service.
There may be more and perhaps better reasons, but these are the ones that seem best to me. Further, what God commands, even once, is binding. Above, I’ve shown you at least four. That should suffice.
In the history of both the Old and New Testaments, folks have tended to focus on the prohibitions rather than positive aspects of this commandment. So, take a moment and reflect on benefits of this commandment.
More than once in my lifetime I have been troubled because I was unable to accomplish all that I wished. Although it is tempting to violate this principle, I have learned that God knows best. So, if I think it ought to mow the lawn and wash the car, etc. on Sunday afternoon, I tell myself: God does not want me to do that today. Relax. Reflect on him. There will be time for that.
There is one more very important consideration which needs to be mentioned. As I said, serious Christians often focus on the negative, not positive. The Scriptures teach that the Sabbath is to be a delightful, even joyful day. Isaiah 58.13 – 14 provides an excellent paradigm for our observance of Lord’s day.
Isaiah 58:13–14 (ESV)
13 “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Notice some quick observations and applications:
- Recognize that the Sabbath is the Lord’s Day.
- Do not think of yourself first; honor God on his holy day.
- So, don’t do whatever you want.
- Honor and delight yourself in God.
- The LORD promises his favor to those who honor and obey him.
Someone might object that Isaiah is speaking of the Sabbath day as opposed to Sunday. What license do I have to apply the teaching regarding the 7th day of the week to the 1st day of the week?
Good question! Notice what the Lord said in verse 13 regarding the Sabbath. He calls it “my holy day.” So, we agree! The Sabbath is the Lord’s holy day.
After the crucifixion of Jesus and his resurrection, the Lord Jesus appeared to his followers. On the evening of that 1st day of the week and from then on, the followers of Jesus have met for worship on the 1st day of the week rather than the seventh, in honor of his death and resurrection. The Book of Acts reflects that the apostles of Jesus taught the importance of worshipping and meeting together on the 1st day of the week, as they did with Jesus.
Although no command was specifically given, the New Testament example of the apostles and the early church and the book of Acts has been followed by Christians ever since. The rationale seems to be that from the creation of the world until the death of Christ, the Sabbath, which is the last day of the week, was observed in recognition of God’s creative work, reflecting the teaching of Exodus 5 and its link to creation.
Following the resurrection of Christ until his return, the principle of one day in 7 remains intact, but the day is changed from the last day of the week to the 1st day, to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. This mirrors the rationale of Deuteronomy 6, which focuses on redemption.
This understanding agrees with that of the apostle John. Revelation 1.10 reports that he had a vision while he was meditating “on the Lord’s day…” This was the 1st day of the week when Christians met for worship, in other words, the day we referred to as Sunday. (1 Corinthians 16.2; Acts 20.7)
Times may change, but God doesn’t. Neither do his commands or Word.
The LORD delights in those who delight in him. The Lord promises his favor to those who honor and obey him.