The Apple Of God's Eye

May 26, 2009

The Truth About Sunday Observance

Why do most observe Sunday as their day of rest? Not because they can prove that they should from the Bible!

“You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday.”

That’s a quote which came from Catholic James Cardinal Gibbons in The Faith of Our Fathers (1917 ed.).

A Catholic study course states: “If we followed the Bible only, we would keep holy the Saturday … Well, did Christ change the day? … We have no record that He did … The Church … transferred the obligation from Saturday to Sunday” (Father Smith Instructs Jackson).

The Catholic church makes no secret that it is responsible for replacing Sabbath keeping with Sunday observance.

And the Protestants? At the time of the Reformation they protested against many teachings of the Catholic church. But few protested against Sunday observance. One of those who did was named Carlstadt. So striking were his writings on the subject that Martin Luther admitted in his book Against the Celestial Prophets: “Indeed, if Carlstadt were to write further about the Sabbath, Sunday would have to give way, and the Sabbath — that is to say, Saturday — must be kept holy.”

But Luther did not want to go to that extent in rocking the ecclesiastical boat of his time. His reasoning, as found in his Larger Catechism, was that “to avoid the unnecessary disturbance which an innovation would occasion, it [the day of worship] should continue to be Sunday” (Shaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, article “Sunday”).

Martin Luther did not take issue with Sunday observance. The Protestant reformers as a whole accepted the Catholic position on Sunday. This is the real reason Protestants observe Sunday today!

When was Sunday substituted?

It didn’t happen all at once. It was gradual. “For some time it [Sunday] was observed conjointly with the Sabbath, verbal and ritual relics of such observance still remaining in our liturgical books and customs. But as Jewish habits [an admission that the early true Church kept some of the same customs as the Jews] became disused [On whose authority? God’s? No, man’s!] by the gentile [pagan-influenced] churches, this practice [Sabbath keeping] was generally, though slowly, discontinued” (Blunt’s Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology, article “Sunday”).

Even while the original apostles were alive it was necessary to warn of “certain men … crept in unnoticed” (Jude 4) who were trying to introduce pagan ideas into the Church. Worshiping on the day of the sun was but one of those ideas. Multitudes in the world were being deceived by an expanding counterfeit “Christianity” based on the ancient Babylonian mystery religion.

In the early years of the Church many fraudulent epistles were circulated, masquerading as apostolic letters. Notice how a letter written to gentiles shortly after the turn of the century and attributed to one Ignatius reveals that they, gentiles, were keeping the Sabbath:

“Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner … But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body [a deliberate attempt to water down God’s Sabbath law] … And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day [Sunday] as a festival … the queen and chief of all the days of the week.”

Both days were being kept, but observance of Sunday was being emphasized by Ignatius.

Not all early Catholics, however, favored Sunday observance. Around 230, Catholic Origen wrote to fellow Catholics of the gentile churches in Egypt:

“But what is the feast of the Sabbath except that of which the apostle speaks, ‘There remaineth therefore a Sabbatism’ [Hebrews 4:9], that is, the observance of the Sabbath by the people of God? [Notice how this man understood his native Greek tongue!] Leaving the Jewish observances of the Sabbath, let us see how the Sabbath ought to be observed by a Christian. On the Sabbath day all worldly labors ought to be abstained from. If, therefore, you cease from all secular works, and execute nothing worldly, but give yourselves up to spiritual exercises, repairing to church, attending to sacred reading and instruction … this is the observance of the Christian Sabbath” (Origen’s Opera, Book 2, p. 358).

Council of Laodicea prohibited Sabbath keeping

In 321 the Roman government issued an edict making Sunday a civil day of rest. The paganized, counterfeit “Christian” religion, which was becoming the empire’s dominant religion, supported the edict.

Sabbath keepers were forced to flee the confines of the western Roman Empire. Only in the east did Sabbath keepers remain. Eventually, however, Sabbath keeping was to be stamped out of the eastern Roman Empire as well.

About 365 the Council of Laodicea was called to settle, among other matters, the Sabbath question! One of its most famous canons was the 29th: “Christians must not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honoring the Lord’s Day, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found Judaizing, let them be anathema from Christ” (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. XIV, p. 148).

The force of the Roman state had already been utilized in 325, after the Council of Nicaea, to confiscate the property and to destroy the lives of any who obeyed God’s command to keep the Passover. So the heavy hand of the state fell upon any who would be faithful in resting on the Sabbath and worshiping God as commanded in the Bible.

Why give such a command if there were no true Christians observing the Sabbath at that time?

Although Sabbath keeping was absolutely prohibited by this council, yet the whole Greek world still continued to attend church services on the Sabbath and work the remainder of the day! Saturday then was observed much as Sunday is observed now!

Public worship on the Sabbath was far from expelled in the churches of the east even four centuries after Christ.

Gregory, Bishop of Nyassa, a representative of the eastern churches, about 10 years after the Council at Laodicea, dared to tell the world: “With what eyes can you behold the Lord’s day, when you despise the Sabbath? Do you not perceive that they are sisters, and that in slighting the one, you affront the other?”

Sunday finally made a rest day

Observance of Sunday as a day of total rest was not strictly enforced for almost two centuries more. We even find Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate Bible, working after the Sunday services several years following the enactments at Laodicea.

But Augustine, around 400, declared: “The holy doctors of the church [not the Bible, but men] have decreed that all the glory of the Jewish Sabbath is transferred to it [Sunday]. Let us therefore keep the Lord’s day as the ancients were commanded to do the Sabbath” (Sabbath Laws, p. 284).

It was the Roman church that sanctioned the Roman Sunday as a rest day, and not merely a secular holiday. It was that church that transferred the law of the Sabbath to Sunday. Another 600 years passed before the last recorded semblance of public worship on the Sabbath was completely extirpated from the eastern churches.

Meanwhile Pope Gregory of Rome, who reigned from 590 to 604, anathematized “those who taught that it was not lawful to do work on the day of the Sabbath” (History of the Popes, vol. II, p. 378).

That stamped the Sabbath out of the churches of the British Isles and the Continent where, according to Webster’s Rest Days, “The Celts kept Saturday as a day of rest, with special religious services on Sunday” (A. Bellesheim, History of the Catholic Church in Scotland, Edinburgh, 1887-1890, i, 86).

That’s the record of history!

Source: The Good News, August 1983

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