It is a common custom for us to memorialize those days that are important to us. Birthdays and wedding anniversaries illustrate this. Nationally, we celebrate Christmas to honor the supposed birth of Christ and Easter to honor His Resurrection. And, of course, there is an abundance of other national holidays: George Washington’s and Martin Luther King’s birthday anniversaries, Columbus Day, Armistice Day, Thanksgiving Day. Each of these days represents something deeply significant to the nation. However, none of them are rooted in Bible requirement. There is simply no command in either the Old Testament or the New that we set aside a day to commemorate any of the above listed events.
There are, however, three events that we are commanded to memorialize. So meaningful are these events that the God of heaven does not want us to forget them. He, therefore, prescribed the ritual by which they must be celebrated.
The first event is Christ’s Crucifixion. “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). It was at the cross that Christ opened the door that made possible salvation to all mankind. He bore our shame that we might share His glory. Someone had to pay for the sin of man. Rightfully, man should have died for his own transgressions. But the love of God was so deep and strong that Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, placed Himself at the bar of justice in man’s stead. This significant event we must never forget.
Our Lord directed, “This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” This commandment was given after “he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it” (Luke 22:19). Later He took the cup and offered it for drink. This was the Communion Service. “Do this in remembrance of me,” Christ said. The Lord’s Supper is, therefore, a memorial of the death of Jesus Christ at Calvary for our sins.
The second event, baptism, memorializes His Resurrection. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3, 4). Christ wants His Resurrection to be remembered. Thus by the significant act of immersion we commemorate His burial, and when we lift the candidate out of the water, we signify His Resurrection. Therefore, the Christian is to “walk in newness of life.”
The third act of God that requires a memorial is the Creation of the world. The God of heaven, in His wisdom, knew that the day would come when man would challenge this Biblical story. He, therefore, set in motion a weekly memorial of this creative act so that men would never forget their Creator. And, therefore, to counteract the evolutionary trends that would engulf the earth in the latter days, our Lord commanded,
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, . . . for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20: 8-11 ) .
Thus the Great Creator carved for Himself a temple in time, of twenty-four hours. It was the last day of the week—the seventh day. Every time it rolls around, the seventh day repeats the message, “God made heaven and earth.”
The Biblical description of this day is very interesting. It is called “the sabbath of the Lord” (Exodus 20:10) and “my holy day” (Isaiah 58:13). Christ designates Himself as “Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:28). Therefore, when we read, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10), it can refer to no other day than the Sabbath Day, the seventh day of the week, commonly called Saturday.
This day alone enjoys the distinction of being labeled in the Scriptures “the Lord’s day.” Matthew 28:1 indicates that it is the day just before the first day of the week—Saturday, the last day, is the day before Sunday, the first day. Mark 15:42 tells us that the Sabbath follows the day of the preparation. Friday is preparation day.
After all these years since Creation, God has not let His holy day get lost. There are still seven days in the week. The seventh day is the last day of the week, and that day is named Saturday. God calls it His Sabbath and commands all men everywhere to remember it and keep it holy. The logic of this is almost inescapable. Is it not true that we rest after we have worked? That is one good reason for the Sabbath to come at the end of the week.
“Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God.” Some raise the rather logical question that since man named the days and man indeed invented the calendar, is it not possible that he got the days scrambled somehow in history? The Bible gives the answer: “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: that men should fear before him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:14, 15).
From this text the conclusion is evident. Man does not have the power to do away with anything God has created. But others raise the question Did not Jesus Himself, by coming forth from the tomb on Sunday, do away with the Sabbath, thus nailing it to the cross? The answer comes from the lips of Christ Himself: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).
In this passage Christ emphatically states that as long as the heavens are above and the earth is beneath, nothing will pass from the law. Thank God the heavens are still above us and the earth beneath us! It is clear then from the lips of Christ Himself that the seventh-day Sabbath is still His holy day, as He made it.
It was He who blessed and sanctified the Sabbath. It was He, Jesus Christ, who created the worlds. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3). Christ made the Sabbath by blessing it and sanctifying it (Genesis 2:2, 3). Ecclesiastes 3:14 says that “whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever.” But how did the custom of Sunday observance begin? Why is it that so few people keep the Biblical Lord’s Day and so many worship God on the first day of the week? The answer is rooted deeply in history. Early in the second century, Sunday was observed in honor of the Resurrection of the Lord. This annual observance was called Easter. It is still with us today. It was celebrated then once a year as it is now. About A.D. 200, a man named Victor proposed that penalties be assessed to anyone who refused to respect the annual festival of the Resurrection. The celebration of the Resurrection became so popular that it was changed from an annual observance to a weekly one. Emperor Constantine, in the fourth century, proclaimed to all civil servants that they were to cease from their work on Sunday and work on Saturday. He enlarged his 8 THE MESSAGE MAGAZINE—November-December, 1973 law in March, A.D. 321, to cover the whole Roman empire. Thus Sunday-keeping became civil law and was enforced by the power of the state. The religious law kept pace with civil law and in c. A.D. 336 the church adopted the law of the state at the Council of Laodicea. On January 18, 1562, at the Council of Trent, the church reaffirmed her decision after a speech by Caspar del Fusso, archbishop of Rheggio. Thus Sunday was propagated on a round world by the church and enforced by the state. Right here in America, in early New England, men were literally put in jails, flogged, and put in the stocks for working on Sunday. But the Bible still says, “The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God.” Thus God’s Word has remained unchanged and His will for man unaltered. “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips” (Psalm 89:34). “I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). This probably explains why all the disciples, the early founders of the Christian church, were strict observers of the Bible Sabbath. “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. . . . And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:42-44). “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Acts 18:4). In conclusion, it should be understood that in all of this we are simply following the example of our Lord. Sacred Scripture states clearly that “he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read” (Luke 4:16); “and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days” (Luke 4:31). Christ attended the Temple on the Sabbath Day. A good question is, Where does the Sabbath of the Bible find you? May I state here that I am well aware that there are thousands of Christ-loving disciples worshiping on the wrong day. This message is an appeal to the conscience of the born-again Christian. To the sinner I would say, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). To sinful man the invitation from Christ is, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28, 29). Yes, to the sinner I would say, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And I would appeal to you to accept Christ as your Saviour, embrace Him as your Lord, and acknowledge Him as your King. If you will allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in your hearts by faith, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in you, then you will not walk after the flesh but after the Spirit. Once this happens, you are born again and you are, indeed, in the family of God. It is then that I would say to you in the language of Jesus, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And the Sabbath of the Lord, known as the Lord’s Day, is at the very heart of His law of love. Saved people live disciplined lives, and the Ten Commandment law is a verbal description of the new life-style. Will you not order your life now by the grace of God to be in harmony with the revealed will of God?
Originally published in a 1973 Edition of Message Magazine