The Sabbath, and the First Day of the Week – David Lipscomb

David Lipscomb

Question: “Was the sabbath changed to the first day of the week? I would be glad if David Lipscomb would write an article in the Gospel Advocate stating who changed the sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week, and by what authority it was changed. Give scripture authority, book and verse.”

The Sabbath never was changed from the seventh to the first day of the week. The seventh day was the only Sabbath. The Sabbath law and the scripture on the first day of the week do not have any connection with each other, so far as we know. We might argue that as the Lord set apart one day for rest in the Jewish dispensation, it is an indication that it is for man’s good that one day in the week shall be taken from all secular business and consecrated to the service of God. Yet the Sabbath day was not originally made a day of worship, but one simply of rest and quiet. We have no account of its being commanded or observed, save among the Jewish people after the days of Moses. It was first announced in the wilderness a few days before the giving of the law on Sinai. God tells Moses that the Sabbath should be observed. It was then written on tables of stone as one of the Ten Commandments. The law as explained by Moses was: “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work therein shall be put to death. Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Sabbath day.” No manna could be gathered, no food cooked. The man who gathered sticks to kindle a fire to prepare a meal on the Sabbath was stricken dead.

The only authority found in the Book of God for the Sabbath is the law given by Moses written on the tables of stone. There is no account of its having been given to any other people than the Jewish people.

When the Savior came, He spoke concerning the Sabbath. Every record made concerning it shows that he was asserting his superiority to the Sabbath. In Mark 2:21-22 He tells you cannot put new wine in old bottles, or a patch on an old garment, then has His disciples to pass through the fields and gather corn and eat on the Sabbath. He justifies them. The Sabbath was for man. The Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath, claiming his power to control or abrogate the Sabbath law. He healed the afflicted on the Sabbath and justified the taking of the ox or ass out of the pit.

Sometimes persons say Jesus only corrected the abuses of the Sabbath by rescuing it from the extreme interpretation placed on it by the scribes and Pharisees. This is not true, as any one can see by examining the law. The law forbids gathering the manna, cooking the food, building a fire. Christ justified going into the cornfields, gathering, rubbing out, and eating the corn, or wheat. He was asserting His power over the Sabbath and His right to annul it.

Jesus came to fulfill the law and, in fulfilling it, to take it out of the way. He rested in the grave on the Sabbath and arose on the first day of the week. He met with His disciples on the first day. He passed over seven intervening days until the next first day, when He met with them again. The Holy Spirit descended on the first day of the week on Pentecost, and the disciples met on the first day of the week to break bread.

The Holy Spirit, in all the epistles of Paul to the churches, draws the distinction between the Old and New Testaments, the law and the Gospel, the law written on the tables of stone and the law of the Spirit written in fleshly tables of the heart. All show that the Old Testament, based on fleshly relations, was done away, taken out of the way; and the new, ministered by the Spirit of God, was ordained to remain in perpetual force.

Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious;… which glory was to be done away: how shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? (2 Cor. 3:6-8).

In Galatians he compares the two covenants to Sarah and Hagar, and says: “Cast out the bondwoman and her son.” This is repeated under various forms in all the epistles to the churches. Now, if the law written on tables of stone is the only law requiring this Sabbath observance and it has been taken out of the way, on what ground can it be claimed to be in force? The apostles went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, just as they went to the market place or other places where they could find people, to teach them. But no example can be found of their meeting for worship on the Sabbath.

Our brother may have had in his mind the foolish claim made by some that Constantine ordained the first day as the day of worship. The man that will make such a statement is either remarkably ignorant or recklessly dishonest. Constantine ordained the first day of the week as the day of rest and religious observance, exactly as the State of Tennessee does it. A great number of his subjects were Christians. He became favorable to the Christian religion. He found them observing the first day of the week as their day of worship and rest from secular labor, and because they were observing this day he decreed that his subjects should all observe that as the day of rest from secular business. The act of Constantine is clear evidence that the Christians observed the first day before his time, as he aimed to make the laws of his kingdom conform to their practice. It seems to me that this is satisfactory.

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