The Sabbath Day
April 24th, 1974 @ 7:30 PM
THE SABBATH DAY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-24-74 7:30 p.m.
Well, we are coming to a most interesting discussion tonight. In fact, I do not know of a more interesting one. And before we begin, I have a letter here that I would like to make a comment on from a sweet somebody who comes to the class. They ask that when the time comes to discuss the Lord’s Day, “Would you please comment on calculation of the time that Jesus was supposed to have been entombed and was raised from the dead?” [Matthew 27:57-28:6].
Now I have a word about that that will surprise you. It really will surprise you. First of all, I am inclined to think—now all of these are just words from the pastor. By that I mean I am not speaking ex cathedra, nor am I speaking as the last word in scholarship, concerning the interminable discussion that has raced around and continues to occupy so much of the thought and time of teachers of the Bible, concerning when Jesus was crucified [Matthew 27:32-50], and how long He lay in the tomb [Matthew 27:57-28:6].
I am inclined to believe that the Lord was crucified at the time of the offering of the paschal lamb, which would be Thursday afternoon, and that He was crucified that day [1 Corinthians 5:7], and lay in the tomb Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, and was raised just before the beginning of the fourth day [Luke 24:1]: that He lay in the tomb three days and three nights [Matthew 12:40]. But I do not ever say that. This is the first time I have ever mentioned it. I do not ever say that because I think some things create more problems than they are spiritually meaningful, and this is a good illustration of it.
The church historically has always looked upon Friday as the day of the crucifixion of the Lord. So they say, who would believe that, that when the Lord was crucified on Friday, that the little bit of time that He stayed in the tomb on Friday, and then Saturday, and then what time that He spent in tomb on Sunday would be the three days and the three nights.
Actually when you figure that up, you’re talking about twenty-four hours on Saturday and however many hours you would wait until Sunday—let’s say, just talking out-loud, ten—that would be thirty-four hours, and then on Friday night—let’s say twelve, there. Thirty-four and twelve would be forty-six hours. And then from the time, whenever they entombed Him on Friday afternoon until sunset; let’s say, three hours for that, so you are actually talking about something like forty-nine hours. Well, it would be very difficult to get forty-nine hours to mean three days and three nights. It’s just—you just have to look upon the three days and three nights as being metaphorical, kind of symbolic, but not actual.
Now there’s another thing that you have to do in order to have the Lord crucified on Friday. You have to put in the week a silent day. There’s no intimation that there was a silent day in that Passion Week, not even a hint. Yet, in order to get the Lord crucified on Friday, you have to assume a silent day, a day in which nothing happened—not anything occurred—that in the full discussion of that, and all four of those evangelists—all four of those Gospel writers write in it extensively—you’ve got to assume that with all of the detail that they’re putting in that last week of our Lord, that they omitted one full day and never even referred to it. Well, that’s very hard to believe. It is exceedingly hard to believe.
Well, why don’t I preach then that the Lord was crucified on Thursday, and that He was in the tomb those how many hours would three days and three nights, seventy-two hours, that He is in the tomb that length of time? Well, it just isn’t worth it. The whole church history, historical, traditional attitude has been that He was crucified on Friday.
Now let’s take, for example, and this is just one out of a jillion, jillion instances—let’s take our Easter services for example. Now I just have the hardest time in the world in preaching through those Palace Theatre services that we did for forty-nine years—down there in the Palace—that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then Thursday we preached on the death of our Lord. Well, you would immediately sense that the preacher sure does have a quirk in him. He just doesn’t follow along.
Then you would be, the rest of your life, defending your position. It just isn’t worth it. It just isn’t worth it. The best thing to do is just to go along and let’s say that it was Thursday. Let’s say that it was Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—make those three days—and just leave it like that. And then if anybody wants to discuss it at length, why, we can all gather around in a little circle somewhere and just have a good time looking at it.
I wonder, did you see in the paper—was it a week ago or two weeks ago—by a computer, they calculated the exact year and the exact date that the Lord was crucified—did you see that in the newspaper? It was published everywhere. I saw it in several newspapers. Well, that’s correct. Usually, what they put out is so extraneous that you just don’t know what to think.
You know that fellow that figured that there was a lost day in—when Joshua commanded the sun, the moon, and the stars and the heavens to stand still while he fought the enemy [Joshua 10:12-13]—do you remember the advertisement that went out, the story that went out—about they’d found that lost day by computer and all that? No, that’s an inanity. There’s not a syllable of truth in that.
So, so much of that stuff that you read is like that. But this article is absolutely correct, and he did it by a very simple thing. The Passover is set by the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The reason for that was so the pilgrims would have light to journey on the way to Jerusalem. So it was always set by the full of the moon.
Well, by the computer, he went back and found when it was, the full of the moon according to the age of our Lord. And there’s just one day that fits it, and there’s one year that fits it. That’s 30 AD. And that’s exactly the year in which the Lord was crucified—30 AD, and it was Thursday. The Passover fell on Thursday, and He was crucified on Thursday. Now I think that article that that man wrote by the computer, that could go back to all those full moons, clear back from 1000 BC to 1000 AD—I think that article was correct and good. And by that article, by that computation, the Lord was crucified on Thursday in AD 30. He was crucified at the time the Pascal lamb was offered [1 Corinthians 5:7]. But as I say, you’re not going to hear me say anything about it. I’m not saying anything about it now. I’m just up here loving you, that’s all.
Now there is one other thing in the letter that I want to point out to you. It just always seemed logical to me that Jesus would have been raised from the dead on the Sabbath, rather than the first day of the week. Now when Jesus came out of that tomb—it may be open for discussion, but it very distinctly will say, and I’m going to read it to you now: “And when the Sabbath was past, very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun” [Mark 16:2].
Now you can discuss when Jesus came out of that tomb. But the presentation of it, the first that was known to us about it, the announcement to us about it is at the rising of the sun, on the first day of the week; not the sunset—dawning, moving toward the first day of the week on Saturday—but the rising of the sun on Sunday.
Well, God bless us now as we begin talking about the Lord’s Day. We worship on Sunday. Sunday is our Christian day of worship. Why do we not worship on the Sabbath? We’re going to look at the Jewish Sabbath and at the Christian Lord’s Day.
Number one: the Sabbath is a one hundred percent Jewish institution, absolutely! There are three national distinctives the Jews held in highest importance: one, the temple and its services. If you see a Jew today he will reverence the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall. Why? Because that’s the closest he can get to the spot where the Holy of Holies, the sanctuary, was built. Why doesn’t he worship, wail, pray, at the southern wall, or the northern wall, or the eastern wall? He uses the Western Wall because it is the nearest he can get to that holy, holy place.
So the great national distinctives of the Jews; first, the temple and its services. And as you hear me say many times, God’s Book says that temple is going to be rebuilt, and I believe God’s Word. The second great national distinctive of the Jew is the Sabbath, and the third great national distinctive of a Jew is the ceremonial distinction between clean and unclean, kosher and what’s not kosher. Now those are the three great distinctives of the nation of Israel.
So we’re going to look at that Sabbath. There is no more poignant, observable, constant, distinctive of the Jew than his observance of the Sabbath day. There are many theories regarding the origin of the Sabbath in Babylonian, in Chaldean, and Assyrian, and Egyptian mythologies and practices, but those are theories. They are not based in fact. The Sabbath as a day of religious significance is peculiar to Israel. It is an Israelites institution. Now the Sabbath is the most noticeable indication of Judaism. Wherever he went anywhere in the world, Sabbath observance was the most visible badge of Jewish nationality. Now you look at this: circumcision. There’s not an Arab, there’s not an Arab in the world that’s not circumcised. Circumcision is not a Jewish institution. All the Semites practice circumcision.
Circumcision, sacrifices—every ancient religion in the world had sacrifices. Temples—they all had temples. Ablutions—they all had a thousand washings. Religious rites—they had them world without end. All of these things, these accouterments of religion, are found in other countries, in other nations, in other religions. But the Sabbath was the Jewish national emblem. Nobody had a Sabbath but the Jew!
And you can imagine, wherever he was in the world, wherever he was in the world, the observance of the seventh day—when he didn’t work, when he went to church, when all those things that they did on Saturday, on the Sabbath day—it was very noticeable. For example, when you study Josephus and the Maccabean revolt, Mattathias, the father of those Maccabee boys, Judas Maccabaeus—they got their name from Judas—his son, Judas—they would not fight on the Sabbath day. The Jew would not fight on the Sabbath day.
So when Antiochus Epiphanes observed that, why, he would just slaughter them on the Sabbath day. He would attack them on the Sabbath day. And that was when the Maccabees changed the rules, saying that on the Sabbath we can and will defend ourselves, but we will not launch an attack on the Sabbath day.
Yom Kippur is another high, holy day of the Jews, and the Arabs were smart enough to know that on Yom Kippur, why, they would be in their synagogues, and they’d be fasting, and they’d be observing the day. So Egypt and Syria—bang! Just like that, they launched that last attack, as you know, on Yom Kippur. Well, that’s exactly what Antiochus Epiphanes did against the Jews. They slaughtered them on the Sabbath day.
Now because of their observance of the Sabbath, the Jews were exempt from military service in the Roman Empire. You couldn’t have a marching army, and on the seventh day—when somebody was about to attack you—why, he’d put down his arms. He wouldn’t fight. He wouldn’t march. He wouldn’t move. He wouldn’t go but a Sabbath day’s journey. So there was no way in the world that the Roman could use the Jew as a soldier. So there wasn’t anything to do but to exempt them. Now I’m using all these things to point out to you how distinctive the Sabbath was to the Jew. It set him apart from the whole world!
Now the Sabbath has a great meaning for the Jew, and there are three memorials that are included in God’s revelation about the Sabbath. First, the Sabbath—Saturday—the Sabbath is a memorial of the rest of God after His act of creation. This is in Genesis 2:1-3. In that story, man is not mentioned. The Sabbath is never referred to between the creation and Moses. It was never observed in those centuries and centuries and centuries.
When you read about Abraham, when you read about Israel, Jacob, you’ll read about circumcision. You will read about tithes. You will read about sacrifices. You will read about offerings. You will read about the marriage covenant, on, and on, and on, and on. But you’ll never read about a Sabbath, which shows you that the Sabbath was not observed back before Moses.
So in this story in Genesis, Genesis 2:1-3, the Sabbath is first a memorial of God’s rest; that is, the cessation of creation after God had made all these things in six days:
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and 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.
So God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made.
So first of all, the Sabbath day is a memorial of the rest of God after His act of creation [Genesis 1:1-31], but it has nothing to do with man. It wasn’t observed or commanded—had nothing to do with the race that God created in Adam and Eve.
All right, number two: not only is it a memorial of the rest of God, the cessation of God from His creation [Genesis 2:1-3], but it is a memorial of Israel’s deliverance from bondage. In Deuteronomy 5—in Deuteronomy, chapter 5, verses 12 to 15, we’re going to read: “Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it” [Deuteronomy 5:12]. Now this is in the Ten Commandments.
Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee—
this is Deuteronomy 5:12 and following—
Six days thou shalt labor, and do all thy work:
But the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord: in it thou
shalt not do any work…
And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of
Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence
through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm:
therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep
the Sabbath day.
[Deuteronomy 5:12-13, 15]
Second then, the Sabbath is a memorial of the deliverance of Israel from the bondage in Egypt [Deuteronomy 5:15].
All right number three: the Sabbath is not only a memorial of the cessation of God, of the rest of God in creation [Genesis 2:1-3]; it is not only a memorial of Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt [Deuteronomy 5:12-13, 15], but third: the Sabbath is a sign—a memorial of the covenant of God with Israel—of the choice of the children of Jacob as God’s people. This is expressly said and set forth in Exodus 31, in Exodus 31:12-17:
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily My Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations: that ye may know that I am the Lord
that doth sanctify you.
Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore; it is a sign between Me and you throughout your Jewish generations.
And He reiterates that in verses 16 and 17:
Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to
observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever.
So the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant of God between Him and the children of Jacob. Now you’ll find that mentioned again in Ezekiel, chapter 20, verses 12, and repeated again in verse 20—in Ezekiel, chapter 20, verse 12:
Moreover also I gave them—
the children of Israel—
My Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them—
a sign between God and Israel.
Now in the twentieth chapter, here it is in the twentieth verse of this twentieth chapter of Ezekiel:
And hallow My Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between
Me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.
So the sign of the Sabbath was a sign of God’s covenant relationship with Israel, just like a ring on a girl’s finger. It is a sign of a covenant, an exchange of vows between the man and his bride. That’s what the ring signifies. So the Sabbath is a sign, God says, of the covenant between Him and the children of Jacob [Ezekiel 20:12, 20].
The vital importance of the institution in Jewish law can be seen in the penalty for its infringement—which was death! For example, in Numbers 15—and we’re going to have to hurry; I don’t have time to read the passages—in Numbers 15:32-36, there was a man who was picking up sticks on the Sabbath day to start a fire. They never had a Sabbath day. That came with the Law. There was no Sabbath day in Abraham, no Sabbath day in Isaac, no Sabbath day in Jacob and Israel. The Sabbath day came with Moses [Exodus 31:12].
So when this man was found picking up sticks on the Sabbath day, they didn’t know what to do. The Sabbath was a new institution. It came from God and was given as a sign between Israel and God [Exodus 31:12]; and was a memorial of their deliverance from bondage [Deuteronomy 5:15]. They didn’t know what to do with it, so they took it to the Lord. And what did God say to do with that man who had violated the Sabbath day by picking up sticks? They stoned him to death! The penalty was death [Numbers 15:35-36]. In Exodus 35:3, you couldn’t light a fire on the Sabbath day. The Lord really put a lot of importance on that sign, and thus they lived.
Now we’re going to come to Jesus and the Jewish Sabbath. So bitter was the altercation between Jesus and the Jewish leaders regarding the Sabbath, that time and again—and I have listed here three instances—when the Lord broke their tradition regarding the Sabbath day, they went out to plot His murder, His destruction. That’s in Matthew 12:14. It’s in John 5:16, and it’s in Mark 3:6— that when the Lord healed on the Sabbath day, or when the Lord did something good on the Sabbath day, or, as they were walking along through a wheat field, being hungry they took some of the heads and rolled it in their hands and ate it [Matthew 12:1]—and they plotted to kill the Lord because of His violation of the tradition on the Sabbath day. It was a bitter thing! [Matthew 12:14; John 5:16; Mark 3:6].
Now the rapid growth of Jewish legalism after the days of Ezra was a phenomenal thing to behold! Two entire tractates of the Mishna set forth the details of Sabbath observance, and these sections are second to none in importance. And in the two Talmuds, the Babylonian Talmud and the Palestinian Talmud—a Talmud is a Mishna which is a tractate on whatever and we’re talking about the tractates, there are two of them on the Sabbath—the Talmud is the Mishna which talks about all these traditions and laws, the Mishna with a Gemara, a comment on that comment. The Babylonian Talmud is the Mishna with a Babylonian comment, Gemara. And the Palestinian Talmud is the Mishna with the comment made in Palestine, a Gemara on the Mishna.
Now in those two Talmud’s the observance of the Sabbath day is spelled out in amazing detail, and I have copied some of them. How far can you walk on the Sabbath day? Well, the Sabbath day’s journey was just about from Jerusalem up to the top of the Mount of Olives; let’s say two thousand feet or something like that.
It was permissible—what it?—to eat an egg laid on the Sabbath day? No! It was prohibited on the Sabbath day for a woman to look in a mirror because she might be tempted to pull out a gray hair, and that would be work. If an object was intended to be worn in front and had slipped behind, no guilt is involved, but if you were wearing an object that was intended to be worn behind and it slipped forward, you are guilty of sin.
Again, if an object is thrown into the air and is caught with the hand, this is sin. But if the object is thrown into the air and caught with the mouth, no sin is involved. Again, if a man carries rainwater caught from the sky, no sin is committed. But if the rainwater was caught as it ran down a drain or a well, that is sin. Again, if on the Sabbath a flea or an insect gets on man, it must not be removed, for that is the same as hunting on the Sabbath. Nor may the clothes be examined on the Sabbath, lest the examiner be tempted to kill the little animals, and to kill a flea on the Sabbath is like killing a camel. Rabbi Saul conceded however, that one might gently squeeze the flea.
A person may not go about with false teeth on the Sabbath. They might fall out, and the wearer might then lift and carry them, which would be sinful work on the Sabbath day. If a hen laid the greater part of an egg on the Sabbath day before the second star was visible in the sky, the egg is forbidden. You couldn’t eat it. To eat it is sin. If however, the hen had been kept up not for laying eggs but for fattening, the egg can then be eaten as forming a part of the hen that had fallen off; and thus page after page, page after page, volume after volume on the Sabbath day.
The minute refinement of what could be done and what could not be done, what was allowed and what disallowed was unbelievable. The observance of these minute laws was life and salvation in itself. Consequently, when the Lord appeared, and He broke the tradition of all of those inanities in observing the Sabbath day, He violated the very heart of Judaism. And the confrontation was bitter, and fierce, and from the beginning, they plotted how they might destroy Him [Matthew 12:14; John 5:16; Mark 3:6]. The great first attack on the Lord Jesus concerned His disregard of these inane traditions concerning the Sabbath day.
Now let’s look then in just a moment, let’s look at the way and spirit of Jesus regarding the Sabbath. Our Lord said, by word and deed, to make religion a burden and a yoke of unnecessary trivia was to Him a travesty. Now that is a great principle, I think, in religion. To make it a burden, to Jesus, was the very antithesis of the purpose of the faith. In Mark 2:23-27, the Lord says, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” The purpose of it was to be a blessing to us, not a burden to us.
For example, Peter, in Acts 15:10 refers to a “yoke upon the neck which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear.” What was he talking about? The altercation, the discussion in Jerusalem in Acts 15 was, what about these Gentiles? Can they be saved without observing all these Jewish laws?
And Peter says, “Yes” [Acts 15:7-12]. And James says, “Yes” [Acts 15:13-19]. And the Holy Spirit guided that first Jerusalem conference to say yes [Acts 15:8-9]. A Gentile can be saved out of his heathenism, out of his idolatry, out of his paganism, right into the kingdom of God by trusting Jesus alone! And Peter referred to all this minutia as a yoke upon the neck, “which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” [Acts 15:10]. Now he was but reflecting the spirit of the Lord. The Lord said to make religion a burden and a yoke with unnecessary trivia and inanity is impossible and unthinkable! [Mark 2:23-27].
All right another attitude of Jesus about the Sabbath; Jesus owns the Sabbath. It belongs to Him. He is the Lord of the Sabbath, Matthew 12:8. For example, in that discussion in Matthew 12:11, “What man of you will have a sheep, if it fall into the pit—into the ditch—you do not reach down and lift it up, even though it is a violation of the Sabbath day.” And the Lord says that.
Now you look what: Jesus did not say, “What man of you shall see a sheep”—or Luke 14:5 says an ox—“What man of you shall see an ox or see a sheep fall into a pit and you do not lift him out?” He does not say that. What He says is, “But what man of you shall have a sheep—shall have an ox—and it fall into the pit and you do not try to lift it out?” [Matthew 12:11].
What He is saying there is the owner acts in proper relationship to his sheep or his ox. So Jesus acts in proper relationship to His Sabbath. He is not violating the law of God in what Jesus is doing. Thus in Matthew 12:12, when He said to that man with the withered hand on the Sabbath day, “Will you extend it and you be healed?” [Matthew 12:12-13], what the Lord is saying there, to do kalos, translated, “well, beautifully good,” to do kalos, “good, well,” is to act properly, to act fittingly, to act becomingly on the Sabbath day. It belongs to Him [Matthew 12:8], and what Jesus is doing, He is doing fittingly, becomingly, beautifully. He is doing well.
All right, Jesus went through all of the debris and the accumulation and the barnacles of tradition to make and to use the Sabbath for the good and the blessing of man. That is the way the Lord lived. And that is what He did on the Sabbath day. “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” [Psalm 118:24].
Now hastily, for we must conclude or we’d just stay here all night. We will discuss the Christian and the Jewish Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath is never to be confused with the first day of the week, the Christian Sunday. The nomenclature of a Christian Sabbath is like saying, “burning water,” or “heaven’s hell,” or “the dark light.” They are opposites.
The Jewish Sabbath is one thing. The Christian day of worship is altogether a different thing. The Jewish Sabbath is never to be confused with the first day of the week, the Christian Sunday. There is no transference of the idea of the Jewish Sabbath to the first day of the week. There is no such thing as a Christian Sabbath. They are two different things. The Sabbath is one thing, and the Christian day of worship is another thing.
The Sabbath is a Jewish institution. It was born in the Mosaic legislation [Exodus 20:8]. It is a sign between God and children of Israel [Exodus 31:12-13]. If you are a Jew, you ought to observe the Sabbath! You’re under commandment to observe it [Exodus 20:8-11]. If you are not a Jew—now, listen to the next avowal—the Christian is positively interdicted from observing Sabbath days. You are not to do it!
If you would like to turn to Colossians, chapter 2, you will read an interdiction there. Colossians chapter 2, verses 16 and 17, and I think if I were you, I would circle that in your Bible: Colossians chapter 2, verses 16 and 17: “Let no man therefore judge you—condemn you, call you in question—let no man therefore condemn you in meat. . .”—if you want to eat pork, that’s up to you. If you want to eat a snail, that’s up to you. If you want to eat candied octopus eyes, that’s up to you—“Let no man condemn you regarding meat, or in drink. . .” [Colossians 2:16].
“Preacher, why is it that you don’t believe in a Christian drinking liquor?” Not because there’s anything unclean about it—clean or unclean—not at all. I don’t think a jigger of whiskey would send any man’s soul to hell. I don’t think a glass of cocktail wine would send anybody to hell. I don’t even think of it like that, and I don’t think a man is going to damnation because he’s drinking a bottle of beer. I don’t even think of it—I haven’t thought of it like that since I came to have any sense.
“Well, why is that you don’t believe in drinking liquor?” Because of the Christian principle, if eating meat causes my brother to offend, to stumble, if it hurts him, I will eat no meat as long as the world lasts [1 Corinthians 8:13]. If my drinking liquor would cause a boy to stumble, I’m not going to drink any liquor—not because there’s anything in itself unclean about drinking liquor. Paul, himself, said, “Timothy, take a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine oft infirmities” [1 Timothy 5:23]—not anything unclean about it. But they tell me that about one out of ten who drink become problem drinkers. And I’m not going to do something that would cause one boy out of ten to become a problem drinker. And that’s all. That’s absolutely all.
Now, there are a whole lot of things that come from it that we can discuss that I think are terrible. Most of the accidents that you find on the highway—when people are slaughtered, when they’re killed—liquor has something to do with it. I think liquor is a drug. I think it is liquid pot. There are a whole lot of things like that. So put all that together. Put it all together, and I’m not going to drink liquor because it hurts, it destroys, it’s bad! But that’s the reason, not because it’s unclean in itself.
“Now, let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath” [Colossians 2:16]. You are not to give your life to the observance of those seasons, and times and ceremonial clean and unclean, and the observance of a Sabbath day, “which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” [Colossians 2:17]. Now you have a like discussion of that in Galatians 4:9-11. The fear of Paul for the Galatian churches was that they had departed from grace and gone back to the observance of the law.
Well, what about our day of worship? Our day is called the Lord’s Day, Revelation 1:10. “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.” The Lord’s Day is a great, golden day. It is God’s day. It is resurrection day. Every Sunday, every first day of the week is an Easter Day. There are no tractates concerning it. There’s no Mishna about it. There’s no Gemara about it. Out of the fullness of the heart, we observe it, and that’s all. Its meaning—its morning opens with a vision of angels, of the empty tomb, of the risen and resurrected Lord [John 20:11-18]. The heart sees widening heavens and hears supernal music. The Christians day is not a burden, but a joy. In Matthew 12:3-4, the Lord cites David: “He was hungry, and he ate the showbread which was not lawful for anyone but the priests to eat.” But necessity always overrides the ceremonial.
In Matthew 12:5 the priest, walking in the temple, doing work, violated the Sabbath day, but they had the right motive and spirit which will always ensue in right action. So it was right for the priest to work in the temple on the Sabbath day. For the Christian, any day is a good day to worship Jesus—to do good. We can meet any day. In Israel, the Christian church—in Israel, Jerusalem, over there now, they meet on Saturday. They meet on the Sabbath. They meet on Saturday. Could you worship God on Saturday? Could you preach Jesus on Saturday? Could you go to church on Saturday? Why, certainly! Could you have a revival meeting and meet every day in the week? Certainly! Could you have a revival meeting and meet every night in the week? Certainly! Could we go to church on Wednesday night? Lector si monumentum requires circumspice, “Reader, if you want to see, just look around you.” Here we are in church on Wednesday. We can go to church anytime. We can love God any day. They are all alike to us.
Well, why then the first day of the week? Is there a commandment concerning it? No! Is there a law about it? No! Is there a mandate from heaven that was handed down? No! There is no tractate; no anything on the first day of the week.
Well, what happened then? The early Christians were eager to give the first day of the week to Christ—in love to Him, personally—and in commemoration of His resurrection. Because in John 20, verses 1, 19, and 26, Jesus appeared to the apostles on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week [John 19:1, 19, 26]. He met with them that first week—the resurrection day [John 20:19-25]—and the Sunday of the next week, He met with them [John 20:26-29]. Acts 2:1, Pentecost was on the Sunday—the fiftieth day after the seven-times-seven—the seven weeks after the Passover, which was on Saturday [Leviticus 23:15].
In Acts 20:7, the Lord’s Supper was observed on Sunday. In [1 Corinthians 16:2], tithes and offerings were on Sunday. In Revelation 1:10, John is, “in the Spirit on Sunday on the Lord’s Day.” Out of love to Christ, the disciples gave the day to Him, not by coercion but out of love! And if there’s no love in it and no meaning in it, it has no significance whatsoever.
I can illustrate that well. Mother’s Day; here is Mother’s Day. Do you know any law about Mother’s Day? Do you know anything about Mother’s Day that comes from God in heaven? Well, why would you observe Mother’s Day? All right, if you observe it because you’ve got to and you bring a present to your mother because you have to, you ruin its meaning. You ruin its significance. It has no meaning at all. Mother’s Day comes out of our hearts, out of the love of our souls. And if you give a gift to your mother on Mother’s Day, it’s something that’s in your heart you want to do. That is exactly with the first day of the week. There is no commandment to observe the first day of the week. You do it out the love for Jesus. That is the day He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:1-7]. That is the day that the disciples gathered out of glory to God—that feeling of inexpressible gratitude to heaven for what Jesus had done and meant to them—so they met on the first day of the week [Acts 20:7].
In no sense does it approach a Sabbath day! That is a sign of the Jew! [Exodus 31:13]. And if you are a Jew, observe it; if you are not a Jew, you are commanded not to observe it [Exodus 20:8-11]. You are not to observe a Sabbath day [Romans 14:5; Colossians 2:16-17]. On Sunday, we gather together out of gratitude and love to Jesus, celebrating His glorious resurrection [Luke 24:1].
We voluntarily therefore out of our hearts of love give to our Savior a day. It is His. We ought not to secularize it. We ought not to defame it. We ought not to deface it. We ought not to desecrate it. It is made for man and not for man to destroy. It is a day that comes out of our hearts. It is a sanctuary for us. It is a resting place for us in the journey of life. It is a head and a prototype of heaven. A week without its day of worship is like a world without light, flowers, trees, music, joy, and gladness.
I want to illustrate that. Upon a time, I was in India for some space of time. You know what I missed most in India? I missed Sunday. Every day was alike in India. There is no difference. Monday is like Friday. Wednesday is like Sunday. Sunday is like Thursday. All seven of those days are exactly alike, and through the life of all of India, those seven days are alike. I cannot tell you how much I missed Sunday. The whole world was wrong to me. I mean it was out of kilter. There was no break, no observance, no pausing to thank God—no anything. I missed Sunday more than anything. It was the most impressive of all the things that I missed in those many days that I spent in India.
For us to have one day out of seven is what God did [Genesis 2:3]. For us to have one day out of seven is what God commanded Moses [Exodus 20:8-11]. The difference is this. For us who are Christians, there is no commandment, no mandate, no threat, no judgment, no tractate, no stoning to death if you were to pick up sticks and light a fire on the Lord’s Day. There’s nothing of that. What is here, out of the fullness of our souls and out of love of God, we keep the day precious for Jesus.
When I was growing up—and to a great extent, still—I have Sunday clothes. I have shoes that I wear just on Sunday. And because of this affluent life in which we’re all introduced now—or at least, I am—I’ve got a whole lot of clothes and I don’t especially set them apart as I once did, but I tell you, for years, and years, and years, and years, I had Sunday clothes; clothes I wore just on Sunday. I like that. I love to see people dress up the best they can and come to church. It may not be anything but a gingham dress, but it’s clean. It’s washed and it is ironed, and it’s the best that that somebody could have and come to church. I love to see kids that are scrubbed behind their ears, and their hair is combed for the first time in a week, and they’re clean, and they come to church. That’s a wonderful thing; because you have to? No sir, you don’t have to. We’re not under commandment, not under law; just doing it out of the love of our hearts.
So somebody might say, “Pastor, don’t you think that without commandment, the thing will just go to pieces?” No sir, I think if you could lead people to do what they do out of the love of God, they will be infinitely enriched. If I give, it’s because I want to give. If I go to church, I want to go. If I pray, I want to pray. I’ve got it in my soul. It’s in me, loving Jesus, giving Him that day.
So Lord, bless us as we study together, as we sit at Thy feet, as we learn in Thy school. Oh, may we grow in grace, and in God’s goodness and likeness and image. Oh! To be like Thee, less and less and less of us, more and more and more of Thee, until someday, blessed Savior, it could be none of us, and all of Thee. In Thy dear, holy, precious, wonderful name, amen.