Unscriptural Holy Days: Sabbath

By Ron Halbrook

According to the Bible, Christians must (1) gather each first day of the week for worship, (2) give financially on the first day for the Lord’s work, as ability permits, and (3) share the Lord’s Supper on the first day. If Christians substitute the old Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) for the Lord’s Day, they become debtors “to do the whole law” (feast days at Jerusalem, laws on ceremonial cleanness, tabernacle or temple service, etc.). Also, Paul said, “ye are fallen from grace” by harking back to the Old Law. Christ “took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Gal. 5:1-4; Col. 2:14ff). All those old ordinances being removed, “let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon or of the Sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Col. 2:16-17).

In Acts 15:12, Paul appealed to the divine authority of approved apostolic example. With signs, God confirmed Paul’s work among the Gentiles (thus showing divine approval of such work). Paul was urging saints to imitate his example of preaching among the Gentiles. Whatever inspired men did religiously with God’s approval, we have authority to do. Where there is no law, there is no sin. If divine approval has not authorized a day for worship, including the collection and the Lord’s Supper, then any day will do. If these acts of worship are authorized, but no day divinely approved or appointed, then we , have no indication of God’s will as to the day of worship. It will be wholly a matter of liberty and expediency. For all we could know, in that case, one occasion of worship in a lifetime would be sufficient!

But, God has indicated His will. We know the early Christians under the direction of inspired apostles, (1) met “steadfastly” or regularly for worship and study, (2) came together “into one place” —“the whole church be come together into one place,” (3) and were warned against “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 11:20; 14:23; Heb. 10:25). By both direct statement and apostolic examples, we know it is. God’s will that we gather for worship. It is not purely private, but a gathering. It was not just once in a lifetime or occasionally at the discretion of each person, but was a practice adhered to steadfastly.

God’s will is not different for each church. The Corinthian church was to give for the Lord’s work in the same fashion as “the churches of Galatia”: “upon the first day of the week” (1 Cor. 16:1-2). This carries the force of “Sunday by Sunday” or “every first day” (Lenski, Interpretation of First and Second Corinthians, p. 759; Vincent, Word Studies, p. 807). Likewise, in the region of Mysia at Troas, Paul joined in worship “upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7). This regular breaking of bread was neither a private nor social meal, but was a religious appointment associated with apostolic teaching, the gathering of saints, spiritual fellowship, and prayers (cf. Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 11:17-34).

The majority of so-called Christendom recognizes the first day for worship and takes a collection on that day. There is apostolic precept and example for this. The same divine authority stands behind the Lord’s Supper on the first day. It is sinful to set aside that authority, to add to it, take from it, alter it, or make any substitution (2 Jn. 9). Let us return to the New Testament pattern “that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15).

Seventh Day Adventists Charge “Cover-Up”

Members of the Seventh Day Adventists denomination charge that the observance of, the first day of the week instead of the Sabbath Day is totally without divine authority. Indeed, they charge that a cover-up has occurred with reference to the day of worship of the church. No religious cover-up should be tolerated. “The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord” (Prov. 5:21). A cover-up is conduct which hides or conceals a thing from examination. When a doctrine is taught, and the teacher refuses the opportunity for his hearers to witness a public examination, that is a coverup. Through publicly distributed tracts, mass mail magazines, and crusade meetings, the Seventh Day Adventists continue to bind the Sabbath dav. In addition, they are charging all over this country-and in other countries-that those who worship on the first day of the week are perpetrating “the greatest cover-up in the history of the Christian Church.” Lawton Lowe of Canada, worldwide traveler and speaker, is conducting crusade meetings all over America and is carrying his message into foreign nations as well. He calls worship on Sunday a man-made tradition, a non-Biblical teaching, and a religious blunder.

Bible Examination of Cover-Up Charge

1. Those who charge cover-up say that the Sabbath was appointed when God created man and that it was given “for all mankind.” Moses wrote the Pentateuch some time after the Law was given at Sinai. In Genesis 2, he said God “rested on the seventh day” from His work of creation. God “blessed” and “sanctified” this day, or pronounced it the object of , His special favor. He blessed it as the day of His own rest, and declared the holiness of this heavenly Sabbath or rest. When he later appointed by law a day for His people to rest, this earlier event was the basis for the selection of a particular day for that rest. But, when did He make such an appointment-not of heavenly Sabbath for Himself-of earthly rest? The first intimation of it came to the Jews as they approached Mt. Sinai, coming from Egyptian bondage, in a restriction on gathering manna. But the law itself with reference to a rest from all labor, was first declared as part of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 16; 20). “Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai. . . and madest known unto them thy holy Sabbath. . .by the hand of Moses” (Neh. 9:13-14). Having been selected on the basis of the heavenly rest, the Sabbath law was a memorial of the Jews’ rest from Egyptian slavery (Deut. 5:15). It was given to the Jews, memoralizing Jewish history, not to all mankind.

2. Those who charge cover-up claim that “Christ still intended it (Sabbath) should be followed even after the resurrection.” Christ promised to reveal the fulness of his will to the Apostles in the first century. He told them that the Holy Spirit “will guide you into all truth,” and “whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven” (Jn. 16:13; Matt. 16:19-NASB). Jesus kept the Sabbath because He lived while the Law of Moses was still binding (Gal. 4:4). His own covenant went into force after His death: “For a testament is of force after men are dead. . .it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (Heb. 9:17). Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses, died, then arose and ascended to heaven; He sat at the Father’s right hand and the fulness of His will was proclaimed into all the world (Matt. 5:17; Acts 2:33-36). Thus, He took the Old Law “out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” the apostles published the New Law of the gospel in its fulness (Col. 2:14; Mk. 16:1920). Christ did not announce the Sabbath as part of this new law; If He did, where is the book, chapter, and verse that says He did?

3. Those who charge cover-up claim that the apostles kept the Sabbath. The apostles did not appoint the Sabbath as “the Lord’s day;” no apostolic authority exists for taking the Lord’s Supper on Saturday (Rev. 1:10). At times, Paul went to “the synagogue every sabbath,” but not for Christian worship with the Lord’s Supper. Rather “he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God” (Acts 18:4; 9:20), thus to convert Jews from their error of hanging on to the Old Law. To claim he went to keep the Lord’s Supper is certainly a cover-up!

4. Those who charge cover-up challenge us to find where “God has changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.” The Sabbath was a divinely-appointed rest requiring cessation of labor for the whole day (Ex. 20:910). No such requirement is revealed in the New Law on any day. Ours is a heavenly rest if we continue “faithful unto death” (Heb. 4:11; Rev. 2:10; 14:13).

5. Those who charge cover-up read “different mainline denominational sources that testify Sunday keeping to be only a man-made tradition.” Using such sources, one could prove nearly anything. These sources testify we are justified by “faith only” while the Bible says “not by faith only” (Ja. 2:24). What saith the scriptures (Ram. 4:3)? Let us “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11).

What The Law of Christ Authorizes

The Law of Christ is declared in the New Covenant, not in the Old (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2; Ja. 1:25). To obey His will, we must give book, chapter, and verse for all we do in religion (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Jude 3; Rev. 22:18-19). That will is revealed in the New Testament by direct statement or command (Acts 15:13ff), approved apostolic practice or example (v. 12), and necessary implication or conclusion (vv. 7-11). The New Testament is the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice in the gospel age.

Apostolic approval and authority exists for worship services on “the first day of the week.” “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them. . .” (Acts 20:7). “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him. . .” (1 Cor. 16:2). This is our rule of faith and practice today. Any other day for observing the Lord’s Supper is without divine approval and authority!

Paul went often into the Jew’s synogogues “and confounded the Jews. . ., proving that this is very Christ” (Acts 9:22). He took the Bible, taught the truth, refuted error, and converted many. Religious teachers today who charge “the greatest cover-up in the history of the Christian church” (omitting Sabbath observance and requiring Sunday worship), are not very anxious to expose the “cover-up”. Seventh Day Adventists will hardly respond on paper and they certainly fear the kind of oral exchange, examination, and debate which Paul engaged in publicly. We commend written or oral discussion, and wonder why such discussion is refused. Could it be that those charging “cover-up” will not follow Paul’s example because they lack his confidence and courage in truth-because they fear their own cover-up of truth will be exposed?

Arrangements can be mace for a Seventh Day Adventist to come to any number of churches of Christ with an open Bible to show that the New Testament authorizes Sabbath keeping, if arrangements can be made at their Adventist Chruches to debate whether the New Testament authorizes observance of the Lord’s Supper on Sunday. In a good spirit, let two-sided discussion take place at both locations. Lest he appear bold in print but weak in personal presentation, Paul said he would, remove ail doubt by appearing in person to defend the truth (2 Cor. 10:10-11). Sadly, we predict that no Seventh Day Adventist in the country has the conviction, confidence, and courage required to back up their charges in person. No, not one.

Being “bold” (?) only in print or in their own protected pulpits, the Seventh Day Adventists talk about whether the Sabbath “was ever changed” from Saturday to Sunday. They say Saturday not Sunday is the “weekly day of rest.” This misses the issue entirely. Under the New Law, there is no day appointed by God as a required rest from all labor. Under Christ’s Law, the appointment of the Lord’s Supper was kept “upon the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7). Not Saturday, Sunday, or any other day was appointed as a 24 hour rest unto God.

So the Sabbath has not been changed from one day to another. The Sabbath was part and parcel of the Old Testament which is fulfilled and done away by the completed work of Christ. Consider this scripture:

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross. . .Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body Is Christ (Col. 2:14-17).

Christ did not attack the Old Law as something evil, but he “fulfilled” it as “the end of the law” (i.e. the final completion of its purpose and use; Matt. 5:17-18; Rom. 10:4). He inaugurated “a new covenant” and “made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. . .He taketh away the first that he may establish the second” (Heb. 8:13; 10:9).

In attempting to escape the force of this, Seventh Day Adventists argue that Jesus only more or less modified the Old Law but did not remove it as a system; He only removed a “ceremonial” element in the Old Law. By “ceremonial,” they mean tabernacle, sacrifices, and priesthood. But the Bible says any such change of particulars requires a change of the whole system or law: “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (Heb. 7:12).

Paul uses a different type illustration of the change when he says the death of a husband makes a wife “free from that law” of the husband. The Old Law-Sabbath, priesthood, and all- has died, having lived out its purpose: “. . .ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to” Christ (Rom. 7:4). The Old Law in its entirety is fulfilled, changed, dead, removed by Christ. One who tries to keep any part of it “is a debtor to do the whole law” and is “fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:3-4).

The Adventists quibble on Col. 2:14-17 by saying “the sabbath days” being plural refers only to certain “ceremonial” sabbaths and not to “the sabbath” as such. But the plural encompasses all the Sabbath observances appointed, as can be seen from Exodus 31:12-18 (“sabbaths” and “the sabbath” used interchangeably). The discussion by Jesus in Matt. 12:1-8, a proof text used by Sabbatarians, uses both the plural and singular forms (cf. w. 10-13). Jesus was Lord of David, Lord of Moses, and certainly “Lord even of the sabbath day.” Being born “under the law,” He kept it perfectly (Gal. 4:4); then He “took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”

Quoting passages to show Jesus and His disciples kept the Sabbath before He had finished His work on earth does not tell us the appointments of the New Law. His Law was proclaimed in fulness after His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. The New Law could not go into force until after “the death of the testator” (Heb. 9:16-17). Adventists falsely claim that Jesus had to reveal everything “in His will before his death.” Jesus said He had “many things” to reveal to His Apostles; they could not yet “bear them” but after His ascension He would send “the Spirit of truth” to “guide you into all truth” (Jn. 16:12-16). The will of Christ was already set and determined “in heaven”; His Apostles would be inspired by God to proclaim it “on earth” when the church was established (Matt. 16:18-19; 18:18).

So we are under Christ’s law now, not Moses’ law; we must fulfill “the law of Christ,” not the law of Moses (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2). Our faith and love toward Christ is shown by obedience to His will (Jn. 14:15; Gal. 5:6). Grabbing for straws, Sabbatarians point to Acts 17:2; 13:42-44; 18:4, because preaching and the Sabbath are mentioned; but this was in Jewish synagogues-where Paul went to those in error and false worship to convert them (an example Sabbatarians today refuse to follow). Their last straw is Heb. 4:1-11, where a rest or sabbath remains “to the people of God”; but this is future, not present and, in heaven, not on earth, for we labor by faith “to enter into that rest.”

Sabbatarians sometimes admit Paul “met with some believers and had the Communion Service with them” on Sunday in Acts 20:7. But this did not make Sunday the Sabbath Day or holy day of rest, they add. True. Note, too, this is a gathering “with some believers” and not with unconverted Jews and Greeks and, in an upper room obtained for this purpose, not in the Jewish synagogue! Acts 20:7 does not give us the Jewish Sabbath, but does give us apostolic approval for worship on “the first day of the week.” Sabbatarians know apostolic practice equals divine authority; that is why they try to use Acts 17:2; 13:42-44; and 18:4. But those passages give authority not for the worship-gathering of saints but for face-to-face public teaching of those in error (something Sabbatarians fear). Only Acts 20:7 shows when saints gathered with apostolic approval for worship in taking the Lord’s Supper: “upon the first day of the week.”

Supreme Love of Truth vs. Sanctuary of Silence

For the truth’s sake, we must love Christ who is the truth and who has all truth (Jn. 14:6; 16:13; 2 Jn. 9). Loyalty and love for Christ include the closest attention to His word of truth, by which we will be judged (Jn. 12:48). There is one fold, one door, one shepherd, and one voice of the shepherd: “the sheep follow him, ‘for they know his voice” (Jn. 10:1-18). He sent His Apostles “into all the world” to “preach the gospel to every creature.” The Good News was preached “for obedience to the faith among all nations” (Mk. 16:15; Rom. 1:5). If we love Christ, we must love the word of truth supremely: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15). We must preach and spread the truth everywhere, and defend it without fear. “Preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). “Contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3).

Some folks think it impolite, mean, and degrading to call anyone a false teacher. The Holy Spirit said, “There shall be false teachers among you” (2 Pet. 2:1). People think that to expose false doctrine is a waste of time, but the Holy Spirit commands us to do it and commends us when we do (1 Jn. 4:1-6; Rev. 2:2). Ridicule, threat, and compromise are used by false teachers to hinder “the word of the truth of the gospel;” therefore, we must be “set for the defense of the gospel” (Col. 1:5; Phil. 1:17).

The Testimony of Silence

False teachers are sometimes bold to make challenges, as though they cannot be answered. When they are answered, such teachers become silent, pretend to be mistreated, and refuse open debate. They excuse themselves by saying they have too much “love” or “spirit of Christ” to debate. The true causes are fear, lack of love for truth, and absence of the spirit of Christ. In Matt. 22, Jesus was challenged with a question; He gave a Bible answer, and said, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures.” “He had put the Sadducees to silence.” He answered the questions of the Pharisees in the same way, with the same result: “And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions” (w. 23.46). Such silence is loud testimony to the absence of truth!

Those who hinder the progress and spread of the truth in Christ are “enemies” of the gospel and “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Rom. 11:28; Phil. 3:18). Honest and open investigation are friends to the gospel. The life, work, and teaching of Jesus were “not done in a corner.” Jesus Himself taught publicly “in the temple,” and Paul encouraged doubters to .investigate the claims of the gospel (Acts 26:26; Matt. 26:55; 1 Cor. 15:6). Denominational systems of error have little choice but to hinder open investigation of the truth. Such investigation frees people from sin and error; denominations which have learned this from long and hard experience have lost their taste for public debate and exposure. Christ said, of men who seek and obey the truth, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. . .If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8:31-36). Denominational systems fear public examination, but truth does not.

The $500 Text

For instance, Seventh Day Adventists prefer to make their claims, challenges, and charges from behind the safety of a wall of silence rather than upon the platform of public examination. (1) One reason may be the case of D.N. Canright, who debated E.V. Zollars in 1886 at Springfield, Illinois. For worshipping on the first day of the week, others were charged by Adventists with “keeping the Pope’s Sabbath and having the ‘mark of the beast.'” Zollars took up the challenge of defending his faith. When Canright spoke, he said, “I will give $500 to anyone who will show me in the Bible where the Sabbath was ever changed from the seventh to the first day of the week.” Zollars countered, “I am a poor man, but I will give $500 to anyone who will show me in the Bible where anyone but a Jew was ever commanded to keep the Sabbath Day.” Canright folded his tents and left town the next day. He later also debated D.R. Dungan, was so shaken that he left the Adventists in 1887 for the Baptists, and in 1889 published SeventhDay Adventism Renounced After an Experience of Twenty Eight Years by a Prominent Minister and Writer of That Faith.

(2) Another, one-day debate occurred in 1925 at Riverside, Califronia between C.A. Hansen (a SeventhDay Baptist) and E.C. Fuqua. Brother Fuqua requested the debate be repeated in Los Angeles so that more people could benefit, but Hansen was silent.

(3) W.T. Boaz and Seventh-Day Adventist, W.R. Foulston (both of Toronto, Ontario, Canada) exchanged letters in the summer of 1945, published in booklet form by brother Boaz so that others could see the material. After only two letters Foulston was silent. “Your long silence since my last letter reached you stands as evidence that you are not quite so sure of your position,” Boaz pointed out.

(4) A full length public debate was held in six sessions between Dec. 29, 1946 and Jan. 2, 1947, in Des Moines, Iowa, with Eugene S. Smith meeting Seventh-Day Adventist, J.L. Shuler. Three propositions concerned whether “Sunday, is the Lord’s day, and should be observed by Christians of today”; whether “the Ten Commandments are binding. . .upon Christians today”; and whether Saturday “should be observed by Christians of today.” Adventists have learned to avoid such public discussions at all costs.

The $200 Text

(5) Seventh-Day Adventist, David R. Smith, put an ad in the Dec. 14, 1949 Las Vegas Review-Journal offering $200 to anyone who could give “one Bible text” to show “the first day of the week should be observed by Christians.” Gene Frost not only gave Scripture, he offered to let Smith earn back his $200 by giving the Scriptures that (a) name the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and (b) command Christians to keep the Sabbath: Frost proposed a written discussion on the Sabbath to be published, with each writer giving four articles. Although Smith signed the agreement and wrote some of his part, he never would finish it. Frost finally told him, “What you are doing has been repeated often. Adventists are taught to issue challenges where they think they will be ignored, but when a challenge is answered, it must retreat-you retreat into your sanctuary of silence.”

(6) A few other discussions include the W. Curtis Porter-A.N. Dugger (Seventh Day Church of God) debates in the 1940’s, one oral and one written. Dugger claimed the Lord’s Supper was kept in New Testament days only once each year, on the 14th day of the first month. Porter responded, “Let us have one verse of Scripture that says so. There is only one passage in all the New Testament that gives the time they observed it, and that is Acts 20:7, which says, ‘on the first day of the week.’ I challenge him to produce a passage anywhere that says they did it on the 14th day of the first month.” In the early 1950’s, Porter debated a man of the same group, at Athens, Alabama. Impressions for good from that discussion linger still in North Alabama. On Feb. 14-15, 1972, three members of the church of Christ met two members of the Seventh Day Baptist Church and two from the Seventh Day Adventist Church in a panel discussion held in Birmingham, Alabama. Cross questioning was conducted by panel members, and audience questions on the Sabbath were considered for 30 minutes. This discussion and the Porter Dugger Debate are still in print.

Seek Safety In Silence

Such open discussions are few and far between. They are avoided at all costs by the very Sabbatarians who charge “mark of the beast” and challenge for Bible evidence on Sunday worship. Some of those who think they are ready for a public discussion find their own hierarchy prohibits it! A local Sabbatarian preacher called about meeting to make some arrangements, but never showed up. After local charges in public print about Sunday worship being a hoax, fraud,, and “coverup,” Seventh Day Adventists have retreated into their sanctuary of silence.

We plead for all men to obey the gospel of Christ by faith, repentance, confession of Christ, and baptism. Forsaking sin, denominationalism, human tradition, and all man-made religion, rise to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Loving Christ, love his word supremely. Do not be afraid to teach and defend it openly.

Truth Magazine XXII: 1, pp. 21-25
January 5, 1978