SABBATH SERIES #1
3. The True New Testament Lord's Day
Having established clearly what the New Testament "Sabbath" or "Lord's Day" were not, we must now precisely establish what they actually were. And in particular, let is see which day the apostle Paul taught the Gentiles (non-Hebrews) to observe.
We will immediately note which day Paul and Barnabas used for preaching to the Gentiles:
So Paul stood up, and spoke, preaching Christ to them.
- 1. ACTS 13:14-15, 42-44: "...they passed on from Perga and came to Antioch of Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, 'Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.'" (RSV)
Now since Paul was preaching "the grace of Elohim (God)" (v.43), here was his opportunity to straighten out these Gentiles, and explain that the Sabbath was done away. Why would he wait a whole week, in order to preach to the Gentiles, in order to preach to the Gentiles on the next Sabbath? If the day had now been changed to the first day of the week, why did not Paul tell them they would not have to wait a week, but the very next day was the proper day for this service? But notice what Paul did.
"And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath" (KJV).
Here Paul waited a whole week, passing up a first day of the week, in order to preach to the Gentiles on the Sabbath Day.
"The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered together to hear the word of Yahweh" (v.44, RSV).
Gentiles Met on Sabbath
Study this whole passage carefully. Certain men had come down from Judaea to Antioch, teaching that the Gentile converts there must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses to be saved. Quite a dissention arose between them and Paul and Barnabas. So it was decided Paul and Barnabas should go to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about the question.
2. ACTS 15:1-2,14-21: "And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.' Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question...Simon has declared how Elohim (God) at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:
"Known to Elohim (God) from eternity are all His works. Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to Elohim (God), but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath." (NKJV).
'After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; so that the rest of mankind may seek Yahweh, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says Yahweh who does all these things.'
At the conference at Jerusalem, James, the Presiding Apostle (or Presiding Patriarch) gave the decision:
He did not say they should not keep the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments were not in question - but only the ritual law of circumcision, which was an altogether different law. He merely mentioned four prohibitions, and otherwise they did not need at this early stage in their discipleship to observe the rest of the law of Moses.
"Therefore my judgment is", he pronounced (v.19-20), "...that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to Yahweh, but should write to them to abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity (fornication), and from what is strangled and from blood" (RSV).
But why write this sentence to them? Bite it! "For from early generations Moses has had in every city those who preach him, for he is read EVERY SABBATH in the synagogues" (v.21, RSV).
Do you see it? The law of Moses - the first five books of the Bible - was being taught in the synagogues every Sabbath. The apostles were writing only these decrees, because the Gentile converts were going to assembly (church) on the Sabbath Day. They had heard Yahweh's Law read and expounded every Sabbath in the synagogues and did not need further instructions. It shows that the Gentile converts had started keeping the Sabbath Day, and went to Assemblies on that day! And the apostles' letter did not reprove them for this Sabbath-keeping.
This is very significant, since Gentiles had never kept the Sabbath. All they had ever known was the Roman eight-day Julian Calendar week with seven days of work followed by the eighth day as a special Market Day. Saturday was the first day of the week in this eight day-long week. The Romans did not have a regular seven day week until much later. Therefore this is something these Gentiles had started doing after they were converted under the teaching of Paul and Barnabas!
A Sabbath in Philippi
Here again Paul and his companions waited until the Sabbath, and then went to a place of worship, and preached, and this woman, probably a Gentile, was converted. The passage indicates it was the custom to meet there on the Sabbath, and that it was custom for Paul and his companions to go to a place of prayer and worship when the Sabbath day came.
- 3. ACTS 16:12-15: Here we find Paul and Silas at Philippi. "We remained in this city some days; and on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshipper of Yahweh. Yahweh opened her heart...and...she was baptised" (RSV).
Paul Worked Weekdays and Kept the Sabbath
- 4. ACTS 18:1-11: "After this he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila...with his wife Priscilla...and stayed with them; and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them, and they worked, for by trade they were tentmakers. And he argued in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded Jews and Greeks" (RSV).
If we could find one text in the New Testament giving as strong authority for Sunday observance as this one does for Sabbath-keeping, we should certainly have Bible authority for it! Here Paul worked weekdays, but went to assembly (church) and taught Gentiles as well as Jews every Sabbath.
He preached Christ and the Gospel of the Kingdom. And when the Jews became offended and blasphemed, he turned away from the Jews altogether, and from then on preached to Gentiles only (v.6), and he continued there a year and six months (v.11) - working weekdays - preaching to Gentiles only - every Sabbath!
What more conclusive proof could we desire? What stronger Bible evidence than this, as to the true Sabbath of the New Testament? For a year and a half Paul continued working weekdays - six days - including the first day of the week - and preaching to Gentiles exclusively every Sabbath (seventh day of the week)! Certainly it was his custom and manner! Certainly he could not have done this had the Sabbath been done away with, or changed.
First Edition, 6 August 1999
Second Edition, 21 January 2013