The Christian Day of Worship
February 13th, 1983 @ 8:15 AM
THE CHRISTIAN DAY OF WORSHIP
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-13-83 8:15 a.m.
And we are grateful for the uncounted multitudes of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message. Could I say, first of all, I was in Iran and my heart goes out to that bleeding nation. Some of the finest men we have in the merchandising world of Dallas are Iranians. And some of them came to see me this last week and wanted to know if it is all right, if after the services today, out on the street, they could place in our hands this little brochure that they have published: "Outrage and Bloodshed in Iran." And I said it would be perfectly in order. It’s a gruesome thing because it shows pictures of the violence and the hanging and the execution of those wonderful people who are being taken out of the earth by the regime of those fanatical Muslims. So when you go out, why, there will be Iranians who stand at the door giving you [that brochure], and receive it graciously and maybe with a prayer in your heart for that tragic and unhappy nation.
The sermon today will be the last in the series on our Christian life. Next Sunday we begin a series on prayer; I call it "Proseuchology." The Greek name for "prayer" is proseuchomai, and out of that I coined the word "Proseuchology,” a study of prayer. In the announcement of the long series on The Great Doctrines of the Bible, the immediate section following this one is Stewardship, but because of our spring revival meeting and our emphasis on soul winning, I thought I would return to that section some time later. And just now, we’ll give ourselves to a doctrinal study on prayer. Tuesday night, with Bailey Smith, we’ll have a tremendous evangelistic hour here at seven o’clock. And then of course, John Bisagno will be here from Sunday to Sunday leading us in our spring appeal for God’s intervention in the lives of those who are lost.
Now this message on The Christian Day of Worship: Paul wrote in Romans chapter 14, verses 5 and 6:
One man esteemeth one day above another: another man esteemeth every day alike.
Let each one be fully persuaded in his own mind.
He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord;
and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.
That’s a far cry from the commandment of the Lord God that "he that desecrates the Lord’s holy Sabbath day shall be put to death." You move into another world when you move from Judaism into the Christian faith. And in the days of Peter and Paul and James – the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, the Lord’s brother – and the disciples of those first New Testament churches, in those days there was a fierce controversy raging concerning the relationship between Judaism and Christianity; between those who were following Christ and the Jewish religion.
For example, the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts is a detailed description of the conference in Jerusalem where the elders and leaders and apostles of the church met to settle this question as to whether or not one could be saved and not be a Jew. What the Judaizers said was, "Faith in Christ alone is not sufficient: you must also be circumcised, and you must keep the Law of Moses." Well, in the tenth verse of the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, when Simon Peter spoke at that conference, one of his sentences was, "Why tempt ye God, for to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" He refers to Judaism and all of its laws, and institutions, and ceremonies, and rites, and rituals, and offerings; he refers to the entire tradition as being a yoke, and a heavy one, "that neither our fathers nor we were able to bear."
Now in that discussion of Judaism – and whether the Christian was obligated to follow all of the rites, and rituals, and customs, and traditions, and ordinances, and ceremonies of the Jewish faith – there naturally arose a discussion concerning a Sabbath day. What about the Christian and the Sabbath day? Now the apostle Paul writes in Galatians 4, verses 9 to 11, writing to the churches of Galatia that are being almost coerced into keeping those Jewish traditions, he says:
Now, after that ye have known God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years – Sabbaths –
I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.
And then again he wrote, the text of last Sunday’s message, Colossians 2:16 and 17:
Let no man there judge you, impose upon you an opinion in meat, or in drink,
or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days:
Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
This is just a small reflection concerning the controversy that raged in those first days of the Christian faith as to whether or not the Christian was under obligation to observe all of the rites and rituals and ceremonies of the Jewish religion, one of which was the keeping of a Sabbath day.
Now the Holy Scriptures expressly say, and repeat it, that the Sabbath – Saturday, Saturday, the seventh day of the week – is a sign between Jehovah God and Israel, expressly stated in Exodus 31 and repeated in Ezekiel 20. I’m reading from Exodus 31: "The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Verily My Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations. And he that defileth it shall surely be put to death" [Exodus 31:12-14]. And He repeats that: "Whosoever doeth any work on the Sabbath day shall surely be put to death. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever" [Exodus 31:15]. And in Numbers chapter 15:32 to 35 is the story of the execution, Jewish-fashion stoning, of a man who gathered sticks to light a fire on the Sabbath day.
Now, the Sabbath day became a bondage to the people in their attempt to observe it. That is, Peter said so. Peter said, "It is a yoke and a burden that neither we nor our fathers were able to bear." And our Lord said – and by the way, He was rejected by the nation and crucified because He didn’t observe Sabbath laws – our Lord said, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: Therefore the Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath" [Mark 2:27-28]. Well, what kind of a burden do you refer to when you speak of the Sabbath day? Now, last Sunday I reminded us that in the Mishnah and the Gemara that comments on the Mishnah, there are two large tractates concerning the Sabbath. Out of all of the laws and the traditions of Judaism, none was more important than the tractates on the Sabbath. Well, what does Peter mean when he says that "it is a bondage, it is a yoke that neither we nor our fathers were able to bear"? Now I have copied out of the Mishnah and the Jerusalem Gemara, the Palestinian Gemara which make up the Palestinian Talmud, I’ve copied out some of the things. I don’t have time to read them all, but just some of the things concerning the casuistry of the rabbis as they discuss the keeping of a Sabbath day, and what is work, and what is wrong, and what is sin on the Sabbath day. So let’s listen to some of them:
If an object is thrown into the air and caught with the same hand, that is sin;
if the object thrown into the air is caught with the mouth, that does not involve sin.
– all right, another one –
If a man carries rainwater which he caught as it fell from the sky, there is no sin;
but if the rainwater was caught as it ran down a wall, to carry that is sin.
If a person were in one place, and his hand, filled with fruit, stretched into another, and the Sabbath overtook him in this stance, he must drop the fruit, since if he withdrew his full hand from one locality to another he would be carrying a burden on the Sabbath day.
– again –
If on the Sabbath a flea of any kind gets on a man, it must not be removed: for that is the same as hunting on the Sabbath day.
Unless a lamplight is extinguished for fear of Gentiles, robbers, or evil spirits, it may not be blown out on the Sabbath day.
This is the Talmud; this is the Jewish tradition. This is the laws that they lived by:
Women are forbidden to look in a mirror on the Sabbath day because they might discover a gray hair and attempt to pull it out, which would be a grievous sin.
A person may go about on the Sabbath day with wadding in his ear,
– they had a whole lot of doctoring things, Dr. Tandy –
A person may go about on the Sabbath day with wadding in his ear, but he cannot go about with false teeth or with a gold filling.
Regarding false teeth, they might fall out and the wearer might then lift them up and carry them, which would be sinful on the Sabbath day.
If a hen lays an egg on the Sabbath, the egg is forbidden; you can’t eat it if it’s laid on the Sabbath day. If however the hen had been kept not for laying, but for fattening, the egg can be eaten as forming a part of the hen that has fallen off.
Now good doctor, are you listening?
No wound may be dressed, nor any medical application be made on the Sabbath day. The throat may not be gargled, bones may not be set, nor any medical or surgical operation performed on the Sabbath day.
If a wall falls on a person, and it is ascertained that he is dead, the ruins and rubbish of the wall cannot be removed to extricate the body on the Sabbath day.
The eyes of the dying and the dead cannot be closed on the Sabbath day.
And it goes on and on, page after page after page. I’m just trying to illustrate to you what Simon Peter referred to when he said that, "These laws and traditions are burdens and yokes that even we and our fathers were not able to bear." And why the Lord said, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." Judaism became an unbearable yoke to these Christians.
Now what is amazing to me and to anyone who will study it is why there are denominations, Christian denominations, who will insist upon the observance of a Sabbath day on Saturday in the week, when, when you read the Bible, read the Old Testament law, there were many Sabbaths. Wasn’t that plural? Look at it: in Colossians 2, when Paul says, "Let no man force upon you an opinion concerning meat, drink, holyday, new moon, or Sabbath days," plural, "days Shabbat, days". So, there were many Sabbaths in the Jewish law. Let me point out some to you. In Leviticus 23, verse 24, the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, "Speak unto the children of Israel, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall be a Sabbath, a memorial of the blowing of trumpets, and a holy convocation. Ye shall do no work: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord." Now in the thirty-ninth verse of this same twenty-third chapter of Leviticus: "In the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: the first day shall be a Sabbath, and the eighth day shall be a Sabbath." The first day of the seventh month was a Sabbath. The seventh day of the first month was a Sabbath. The eighth day of the seventh month was a Sabbath. And the fifteenth day of the seventh month was a Sabbath. Now not only that, but, I turn the page and in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Leviticus, "The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Six years shalt thou sow the field: but the seventh year shall be a Sabbath, a Sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow, nor prune." There was a Sabbath every seventh year, and that whole year was a Sabbath. They were not to work, they were not to toil, they were not to plow. Not only that, but the fiftieth year, seven times seven:
And thou shalt number seven Sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven Sabbaths, and the space of the seven Sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine. And the fiftieth year, after seven times seven, shall be a Sabbath year
Now what I can’t understand about men who expound the Word of God is why do you pick out that Sabbath, Saturday, and say, "We are under obligation to observe that," but all of the other Sabbaths, you’re under no obligation at all? It’s the same Lord God that spoke to Israel, saying, "A sign between Me and you is the Sabbath!" And one Sabbath is one Saturday out of the week. Another Sabbath is the first day of the seventh month. Another Sabbath is the eighth day of the seventh month. Another Sabbath is the fifteenth day of the seventh month. And every seven years is to be a Sabbath. And every seven times seven years, every fiftieth year, is to be a Sabbath. Now why pick out just one out of all of the commandments of the Lord and ignore all the rest? It doesn’t make sense. And to any fair-minded and intelligent expositor of the Word of God, it would be most plain. You can’t pick out this one, and we’re going to ignore that one. James the pastor of the church, said, "If you break one commandment you’re guilty of all of them" [James 2:10]. You either keep it all, or you don’t; one or the other.
Well, as we approach this question of the Sabbath day, a question that I said raged in the controversies of those first Christian lives, what is our attitude toward it? Well, there is no commandment for us as Christians to keep any day. My dear people, we can have as fine a service Tuesday night at seven o’clock, with Bailey Smith, as we can have next Sunday night just as fine. We can have as noble a prayer service Wednesday night as we could on any Sabbath day. What the Christians did is very apparent in the Bible: out of love and honor, out of worship and adoration to the risen and resurrected Lord, who triumphed over death and the grave on Sunday, the first day of the week, we gather together out of the fullness of our hearts, out of the deepening gratitude of our souls and lives, to praise God and to thank Him for His wonderful victory He won for us when He conquered sin and death, the grave, and rose from the dead. We do that out of love for our Lord. As a sunflower will follow the sun from the east in the morning and face it all the way through the day, and will be facing it when the sun sinks in the west, just as the sunflowers will follow their Lord, always facing the Lord, so the Christian assembly gathers out of love and adoration and praise and prayer for our wonderful Savior, the Son of God. That’s why we meet on Sunday. That’s why the apostles met on Sunday. Jesus was raised from the dead on Sunday, the first day of the week. He appeared to His apostles on Sunday, the first day of the week. He appeared to the devout women on Sunday, the first day of the week. The disciples, according to the twentieth chapter of the Book of Acts, met together on Sunday to observe the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. And Paul preached to them on Sunday until midnight – God bless him. And the wonderful and holy and divine and heavenly emissary of Jesus, the sainted apostle John, though he was by himself, an exile on Patmos, he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, on Sunday.
There are three memorials that Christ has given us, the New Testament has given us. One is the ordinance of baptism that we saw just now. That’s His burial and His resurrection. According to the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans, "We are buried with our Lord to remember His death, and we are raised with our Lord in the likeness of His glorious resurrection." A memorial; when you see that, the ordinance of baptism, that’s our Lord’s burial and resurrection, and our burial with Him, and our resurrection to a new life in Him. The second memorial is the memorial of the Lord’s Supper: "This do in remembrance of Me." And the third memorial of the Christian dedicated to our living Lord is when we gather together on the first day of the week, on Sunday.
Now, you could ask, "Pastor, is there anything in the law of God, in the Old Testament, concerning that first day of the week? Are there any types that prefigured the day when God’s people would gather – the Gentiles, the church – when we gather on Sunday, the first day of the week?" There is! Beautifully, beautifully, typically, figuratively presented in this twenty-third chapter of the Book of Leviticus, it says that on the morrow after the Sabbath, the priest is to wave a sheaf of the firstfruits unto the Lord. And on the morrow after the Passover on Saturday, a sheaf of firstfruits, the first gathering of the barley harvest, was to be presented before the Lord and waved before the Lord. It was a type and a figure of the whole harvest that was yet to come. The firstfruits waved before the Lord, a beautiful picture – I can just see those people gathering by the thousands in that festival and the priest waving that sheaf, the first sheaf, waving it before the Lord.
Now Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 15, verse 23, that that sheaf presented to the Lord on the morrow after the Sabbath, on the first day of the week, on Sunday, he says that is a figure of the firstfruits, Jesus raised from the dead. And all of us will be harvested, ingathered unto the Lord in our time. Jesus the firstfruits, raised from the dead on Sunday, the first day of the week, a harbinger of the entire gathering, ingathering, harvesting of God’s people to Himself in glory. The beautiful figure, God’s figure, He did it, He thought it up. Not only that, but seven times seven after Passover, seven weeks, on the fiftieth day – pentekosta, in Greek – the fiftieth day, Sunday, seven sevens, seven Sabbaths, seven sevens, on Pentecost, on the fiftieth day, there was another harvest festival. God had given bread to His children and God had blessed the land, and now there is a festival of ingathering and they called it Pentecost. And on that day, the Holy Spirit gathered a great harbinger, an earnest, of the vast numbers that Jesus would bring into the fold through the convicting power and saving grace and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of God. That’s one of the types and one of the figures, and a beautiful one. Jesus sanctified and hallowed the first day of the week by His resurrection from the dead. And the Holy Spirit sanctified and hallowed the first day of the week when He descended on the disciples at Pentecost and gathered the first great ingathering harvest that gave life and thrust to the Christian church. It’s a beautiful figure, it’s a beautiful type, and one in which we rejoice to this present day.
Now, I must close. I cannot though, without one other word: we need this Lord’s Day. That one day out of seven is prefigured in our great omnipotent Creator. He is still in His day of rest. And all of us need that day of rest. And all of us need the assembly of God’s people together. We are fed bread from heaven: just like food on the table gives strength to our physical bodies, the exposition of the Word of God feeds our souls. We grow strong in the faith and in the Lord when we come together. And we feed on angels’ food, manna from heaven. And we sing the praises of Jesus, and we bow in prayer, and we give appeal for our Lord. We need that provision God has made for our spiritual nature.
Benjamin Disraeli, who was a Jewish Christian – the great prime minister of England under Queen Victoria, the first Earl of Beaconsfield – Benjamin Disraeli said, listen to him, "Of all divine institutions, I maintain the most divine is that which secures a day of rest for man. I hold Sunday to be the most valuable blessing conceded to man. It is the cornerstone of all civilization." The Encyclopedia Britannica says, "Next to the Bible and the church, the Lord’s Day is the chief pillar of Christian society." The great legal authority, Blackstone, wrote, "A corruption of morals usually follows a profanation of the Lord’s Day." In 1776, General George Washington issued the following order: "That the troops may have an opportunity of attending public worship, the general excuses them from fatigue duty on Sundays. We can have little hope of the blessings of heaven on our armies if we insult it by our impiety and folly." And Lincoln said, quote, "The president, who is commander in chief of the army and navy, desires and enjoins the orderly observance of Sunday, the Lord’s Day."
First among all of the books of the world is God’s Book, the Bible. First among all mankind is Jesus, our Lord. First among all the institutions of humanity is the church, the body of Christ. First among all dollars we could ever earn is the tithe dedicated to the Lord. And first among all the days of the week is Sunday, the first day of the week. And when we love God and make our way up to the house of the Lord on Sunday, not by commandment, but by the overflowing gratitude of our souls for what Jesus has done for us, He meets with us, the Holy Spirit comes down upon us, and He saves our souls, and He adds to His family, and we are blessed, loving Him and one another. It’s a great thing, a beautiful thing that God has done for us.
We’re going to stand in a moment and sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family, a couple, just you, having made that decision and consecration in your heart, come and stand by me. In the balcony round, there’s time and to spare. On this lower floor, into an aisle and down to the front – greatest decision and commitment you’ll ever make is the one you’ll make now to our dear Lord. A thousand times welcome. Come, while we stand and while we sing. While we stand, and while we sing. "This is God’s time for me, and I’m coming. I’m coming this day, God’s day."