1. Which Day - First or Seventh?
What Everyone is Agreed On
Everyone is agreed, from theologians to lay scriptorians, that the Israelites under the Mosaic Old Covenant observed the seventh day of the biblical week as the Sabbath. The big question which divides orthodox Christianity from Messianism and other Sabbatarianism is whether, in the New Covenant, either Christ Himself or His apostles changed the Sabbath from the seventh day of the biblical week to the first (as Catholics, Mormons and some others claim) or simply abolished it altogether and created a non-sabbath 'Lord's Day' (as Protestants claim).
Four Key Questions to Ask
To resolve this problem we need to ask ourselves at least four key questions:
You may be surprised by some of the answers.
- 1. Which day did Christ observe?
- 2. Which day did the first apostles observe?
- 3. Which day did Paul teach the Gentiles to observe?
- 4. How did the day become changed from the seventh to the first day in the week?
Our Own Experience
We have, for the most part, been brought up in a Sunday-observing world which claims that not only is this the first day of the biblical week but that the first believers transferred their observance from the seventh-day Sabbath to this purposed first-day 'Lord's Day'. Even Messianic Evangelicals, who have been guided for years by revelation, once took Sunday worship for granted and did not even bother to ask Yahweh about it because we assumed that believers had always been taught the truth over 2,000 years. Though revelations commanded us to observe the Sabbath (NC&C 42:21; 229:22-25; 205; 211:8-10) we never dreamed that we were observing it on the wrong day and so never thought to further ask our Heavenly Father on the matter. Yahweh was patient with us until friends in the Body of Christ confronted us with the issue, forced us to do some serious scriptural and historical research, and to finally ask for a Word from Yahweh.
A Long Period of Time Does Not Turn Error into Truth
And yet Christendom has been oberving a false Sabbath day for nearly 1,900 years. That shere length of time alone may cause eyebrows to rise: that anyone should claim that billions of Christians have been wrong for so long might understandably elicit such responses as "fanatical" or "absurd". Yet so often, as we know, the majority is not necessarily right, and time does not turn falsehood into truth. Yah'shua (Jesus) warned that many false prophets would appear after His departure, bringing with them false doctrines and practices. We need to take His word on that.
The Truth is Liberating
The issues that face us in the Sabbath question have not, moreover, anything to do with sincerity. We can be sincerely wrong, as we ourselves were for so many years, and have to face up to the truth. Mercifully, facing the truth was not a painful experience for us - indeed, repenting of our error and making the two-stage change first to Saturday sabbatarianism and then to biblical sabbatarianism was pure joy for us for we soon saw the benefits of being alligned to Yahweh's will and seeing the promises made by Him realised in our lives. The truth is liberating. The problem is that many, if not most, people are afraid of change. We mustn't be, for the movement of Yahweh is always towards change - ever upwards to greater truth, purity, holiness, right understanding, and acceptable behaviour.
Are You Willing to Become Accountable?
We will all be judged by the choices we make in this life, more so in the religious sphere, where hypocrisy is not looked kindly upon by our Creator. Once we claim the Name of Christ we automatically become accountable to the Christian's Manual of the Law - the Holy Bible. A day is coming when Yahweh will ask each of us face-to-face: "It is written....were you obedient?" "Did you follow the injunction I gave through Paul to 'test all things'(1 Thess.5:21)?" "Did you accept at face value My declaration that 'all scripture is given by inspiration of Elohim (God), and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction' (2 Tim.3:16)?"
Truth-Seeking and Factionalism
My experience in the ministry has taught me that if there is one thing fallen human nature hates it is to be reproved and corrected. How many Churches do you know that have changed direction when the Word of Yahweh has shown them to be wrong? Has tradition or God's Word been the deciding factor? Christians often disapprove when the churches divide into new denominations and groups, and whilst such is certainly sad, which is the better course - to remain with a lie or break out in order to obey Yahweh in the truth if the church as a whole won't repent? Indeed, this is one of the weaknesses of the whole church set-up.
A Willingness to Be Corrected
As individual believers and as a messianic community we must be willing to be corrected if shown to be wrong. We must be very careful not to be tossed to and fro - especially in our day of mushrooming counterfeit Christianity - to be blown about "with every wind of doctrine" (Eph.4:14). Life is not a theological seminary for speculation - we must be quite sure what Yahweh wants and be sure to act upon it.
A Hornets' Nest
We have nothing to fear from the truth because honest investigation will utimately confirm it. On many occasions Messianic Evangelicals have received revelation that other Christians have refused to accept and who have cried "false doctrine!" or "heresy!" But time has proven us right, because Yahweh's Word does not return to Him void. There are many areas of the faith where Christians are seemingly happy to disgree on but there are some which are veritable hornets' nests. The Sabbath conroversy seems to be one of these.
By Gradual Study and Instant Revelation
Messianic Evangelicals are, admittedly, a little different from most other Christians. Take the group of 17th century English Baptists (who have traditionally always observed Sunday as the 'Lord's Day') who, after considerable study, prayer and spiritual struggle, decided they had to leave the main body of Baptists to observe what they believed was the true Jewish Sabbath. Theirs was undoubtedly a long process. And whilst Messianic Evangelicals often arrive at truth in this fashion too, more often than not we receive a direct revelation from Yahweh instructing us on some doctrinal point that requires much study afterwards to confirm its validity. Many of our revelations have been around a long time. It has taken upwards to two decades to dig deep into Yahweh's Word to discover that what the revelation told us was there in the first place. But we were blinded to it by tradition, poor Bible translations, and defective exegetical methods.
It would be true to say, therefore, that we came to a realisation of the Sabbath question partly by study (thanks to the challenge of sabbatarian friends from two different schools of thought) and partly by revelation. To our surprise none of the earlier revelations was contradicted. Yahweh has His ways.
This study on the Sabbath issue will, of necessity be brief. There are some wonderful scholarly books and articles by others which we shall not attempt here to dublicate and to which we shall refer you on the Main Sabbath Page. We thoroughly recommend you read them in order to leave no stone unturned.
Two Undeniable Facts
We shall begin our study by stating two undeniable facts which anyone can check up without being a scholar:
Further Questions to Ask
- 1. Yah'shua (Jesus) faithfully kept the Sabbath (Luke 4:16). It was His weekly custom. The Sabbath He kept was the same day of the week the Jews of the time observed (as opposed to what they necessarily oberve today), for the minister and the congregation were all in the synagogue (v.20), and the Pharisees continually rebuked Yah'shua (Jesus) for healing on the sabbath day; and
- 2. The Sabbath Yah'shua (Jesus) kept was the seventh day of the biblical week. On the third day following His crucifixion, this Sabbath still was the day before the first day of the week (Matt.28:1). Therefore it was not just any day of the week. (See also Luke 23:56; 24:1).
So the question we must ask ourselves is this: Was the day changed by Christ or the apostles after these events to the first day of the week so that this is now the New Testament Christian Sabbath? Is there any place in the New Testament which tells us that the first day of the biblical week is the true 'Lord's Day' and that we are to observe it?
We shall now see...
First Edition, 6 August 1999
Second Edition, 21 January 2013