Dr. Henry B. Waiters: The Sabbath – which day?
God instituted the Sabbath when the heavens, earth and the host them were finished: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” (Gen. 2:1-3).
Three distinct acts when the Sabbath was made: God rested on it, He blessed it, He sanctified it. Sanctify: to make sacred of holy, to set apart to a holy or religious use.
A question often asked: Did Christ have anything to do with creation and the making of the Sabbath?
“All things were made by him (Christ), and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3).
“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:9).
“For by him (Christ) were all things created” (Col. 1:16).
“God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds (Heb. 1:2).
Christ, being the active agent in creation, must have rested on the seventh day with the Father. It is therefore His rest day as well as the Father’s.
Jesus said unto them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath; therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, 28).
The Sabbath was not made for the Jews alone. The Jews derive their name from Judah, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, from whom they are descended. The Sabbath was made more than 2,000 years before there was a Jew.
The Sabbath was made for the human race, and required the race to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates” (Exodus 20:8-10).
The Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it, making it the memorial of creation, and the sign of God’s creative power. Through the keeping of it, God designed that man should forever remember Him as the true and living God, the creator of all things. If there were no other passages than that of Gen. 2:3, there would be no difficulty in deducing from it a precept for the universal observance of a Sabbath, or seventh day, to be devoted to God as holy time, by all of the human race for whom the earth and its nature were specially prepared.
God also says He gave the Sabbath to His people to be a sign, or reminder: “Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctified them” (Ezk. 20:12). Sanctification is a work of redemption of making sinful or unholy beings holy. Like the work of creation itself, this requires creative power. See Psa. 51:10; John 3:3,6; Eph. 2:10.
And as the Sabbath is the appropriate sign or memorial of the creative power of God wherever displayed, whether in creation, deliverance from human bondage or deliverance from the slavery of sin, it is to be kept as a sign of the work of sanctification. This will be one great reason for the saints’ keeping it throughout eternity. It will remind them not only of their own creation and the creation of the universe, but also of their redemption.
The Sabbath, which is the memorial of God’s creative power, will never cease to exist. When this sinful state of things shall give way to the sinless new earth, the fact upon which the Sabbath institution is based will still remain; and those who shall be permitted to live in the new earth will still commemorate the creative power of God (Rev. 15:3; 22:1,2).
The Sabbath is also intended as a day for public worship: “Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation” (Lev.23:3). A convocation is an assembly of people, a calling together, and is always used in the Bible with reference to meetings of a religious character.
Christ set an example in Sabbath observance: And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read (Luke 4:16). And it was the Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes (John 9:14). A large share of Christ’s ministry consisted of miracles and acts of mercy performed for the relief of suffering humanity; and not a few of these were done on the Sabbath. On this day, as on other days, He went about doing good. He said, “Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days” (Matt. 12:12).
Christ’s earthly ministry was devoted to uplifting the Sabbath, and showing the beneficient character of the Sabbath institution. It was not meant to be a day of sorrow, austerity, or gloom. Disinterested works of love and mercy toward man or beast are always in place on the Sabbath. Lawful means, “according to law”.
In order to keep the Sabbath day holy, it must be remembered all through the week; and on the sixth day, or the day just before the Sabbath, special preparation should be made to be ready to welcome and observe the day when it comes. The Sabbath should not be a day of either ordinary labor, idleness, or amusement, but one of rest, reflection, holy joy, worship, and helpfulness. It should be the happiest, brightest, and the best of all the week. Such it should be made for young and old. Very early the children can be taught the stories of creation and redemption, and taken out amid the handiworks of God and taught to see Him and commune with Him through nature.
Whoever, then, keeps the Sabbath alright, may expect that there will be brought into their life God’s rest, blessing, and sanctification. Keeping the Sabbath alright is according to the commandment. “But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God” (Exo. 20:10).
“Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day” (Acts 15:21).
“Paul and Barnabas came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogues on the Sabbath day to preach” (Acts 13:14).
“And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them (Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica), and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures”.
Sabbath Day Changed
The Sabbath commandment (fourth) is part of the Law of God. Isaiah described what was to be Christ’s attitude toward the law: “The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness sake; He will magnify the law, and make it honorable”. In Christ’s first recorded discourse He said; “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). Jesus also said: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19).
From this it is evident that the entire code of ten commandments is binding in the Christian dispensation, and that Christ had no thought of changing any of them. One of these commands the observance of the seventh day as the Sabbath. But the practice of most Christians is different; they keep the first day of the week instead, many of them believing that Christ changed the Sabbath. But, from His own words, we see that He came for no such purpose. The responsibility for this change must therefore be looked for elsewhere.
The Apostle Paul said: “For that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped” (2 Thess. 2:3,4).
There is only one way by which any power could exalt itself above God, and that is by assuming to change the law of God, and to require obedience to its own law instead of God’s law.
The power that claims authority for changing the law of God, the fourth commandment, is the Papacy. They allege the Sabbath changed into Sunday, the Lord’s day, contrary to the decalogue, as it appears; neither is there any example more boasted of than the changing of the Sabbath day. Great, say they, is the power and authority of the church, since it dispensed with one of the ten commandments—-Augsburg Confession, Art. XXVIII.
It (The Roman Catholic Church) has reversed the fourth commandment, doing away with the Sabbath of God’s word, and instituting Sunday as a holy day—-N. Summerbell, in “History of the Christians”, page 418.
As the Sabbath was given that man might keep God in mind as creator, it can be readily seen that a power endeavoring to exalt itself above God would first try to cover up or remove that which calls man’s special attention to his creator. This could be done in no other way so effectually as by setting aside God’s memorial, the seventh day Sabbath.
The Papacy acknowledges that it has changed the Sbbath, and was asked: How prove you that the church hath power to command feast and holy days? The answer: “By the very act of changing the Sabbath into Sunday, which Protestants allow of; and therefore they fondly contradict themselves by keeping Sunday strictly, and breaking most other days commanded by the same church.”—-Abridgement of Christian Doctrine, by Rev. Henry Tuberville, D.D. of Doudy College, France (1649) page 58.
Another question: Does the church have any other way of proving that the church has power to institute festivals of precepts?? Answer: “Had she not had such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her, she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday, the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday, the seventh day, a change for which there is no scriptural authority.”—-A Doctrinal Catechism, by Rev. Stephen Keenan, page 174.
“The Catholic Church of its own infallible authority created Sunday a holy day to take the place of the Sabbath of the old law”—–Kansas City Catholic, Feb. 9, 1893.
“The Catholic Church by virtue of her divine mission, changed the day from saturday to Sunday.”—–Catholic Mirror, official organ of Cardinal Gibbons, Sept. 23, 1893.
Question: Which is the Sabbath day?
Answer: Saturday is the Sabbath day.
Question: Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?
Answer: We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, in the Council of Laodicea (AD 336), transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday”—–The Converts Catechism of
Catholic Doctrine, by Rev. Peter Geiermann, C.SS. R., page 50, third edition, 1913, a work which received the Apostolic blessing of Pope Pius X, Jan. 25, 1910.
The Catholic authorities acknowledge that there is no command in the Bible for the sanctification of Sunday.
“Sunday is a Catholic institution, and its claims to observance can be defended only on Catholic principles. From beginning to end of Scripture there is not a sigle passage that warrants the transfer of weekly public worship from the last day of the week to the first”.—-The Catholic Press (Sidney Australia) Aug. 25, 1900.
Observe the lack of agreement in the reasons assigned for Sunday-Keeping.
One says the Sabbath has been changed from the seventh to the first day of the week.
Another says that the Sabbath commandment requires only one day of rest after six of labor, and hence there has been no change.
Some reason that all ought to keep Sunday, because although, as they affirm, God did not appoint a particular day, yet agreement is necessary; and to have any or every day a Sabbath would be equal to no Sabbath at all.
Others, to avoid the claims of God’s law, assert that the Sabbath precept is one of those ordinances which was against us, contrary to us, blotted out, and nailed to the cross. Still they admit that a day of rest and convocation is necessary, and therefore the day of Christ’s resurrection, they say, has been chosen.
Another class say they believe it is impossible to know which is the seventh day, although they have no difficulty in ascertaining which is the first.
Some are bold enough to declare that Sunday is the original seventh day.
Other, with equal certainty, say that those who keep the seventh day are endeavoring to be justified by the law, and are fallen from grace.
Another class, with more liberal views, say they believe that everyone should be fully persuaded in their own mind, whether to keep this day, or that, or none at all.
Still again, as if having found the great desideratum or missing link in the argument, men credited with even more than ordinary intelligence, will sometime declare that it is impossible to keep the seventh day on a round and rolling earth; and yet, strange to say, they find no difficulty in keeping Sunday anywhere, and believe that this day should be observed the world over.
Lastly, and more terrible and presumptuous than all the rest, some, like Herod of old in slaying all the children of Bethlehem in order to make sure of killing Christ, have gone so far as to teach that all ten commandments have been abolished, in order to avoid the duty enjoined in the fourth. But as in the case of Herod, God’s Anointed escaped the murderous blow of the wicked king, so, int the judgement such will have to meet God over His broken law, and will find that the Sabbath precept stands there unchanged with the rest.
The Sabbath of Jehovah is not now, by the majority even of professed Christians, called holy and honorable. By many it is stigmatized as “Jewish”. The Lord forsaw how this would be in this age, and inspired the prophet isaiah to write as he did, if though turn away thy foot from the Sabbath.” (Isa. 58:13, 14). This is a strong expression, indicting that many would be trampling upon God’s day, and doing their own pleasure upon it, instead of seeking God, and honoring Him by keeping His Sabbath day holy.
It seems that the Seventh Day Baptists, a sect originated in England in 1617 and established in Newport, RI in 1671, as well as the Seventh Day Adventists organized in 1863 at Battlecreek, Mich., believed that the substitution of man’s will for God’s Will would be unacceptable now and unprofitable in the judgement.
Dr. Henry B. Waiters can be reached at 704-636-3369.