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That Fourth Command

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

One of the perks of being a preacher is free books. Some of them are good, some of them are bad. Several years ago a received an unsolicited volume in the mail entitled A Geocentricity Primer. I didn’t waste my time reading it, but I could see that it claimed the Bible teaches that our solar system revolves around the earth, hence “geocentricity.” The idea that the sun is the center of the solar system was stamped “science falsely so called.” It occurred to me that when a person resorts to sending his books out in the mail free of charge, he is having trouble selling them.

The other day I received a little paperback entitled Ten Commandments Twice Removed. Immediately recognizing that it was a product of the Seventh Day Adventists, I turned to the chapter called “The Lord’s Day” and read,

Did you know there is no Bible reference to the first day of the week as being the Lord’s Day? Not one single Scripture makes that connection. In this chapter, we’ll examine each Bible verse that speaks of “the first day of the week.” Don’t worry, it won’t be cumbersome–there are only eight (five of which refer to the same event).

This hasty generalization may work on unsuspecting readers unfamiliar with the New Testament, but Christians who study their Bibles know that…

  • The church was established on the day of Pentecost, which fell fifty days after the Passover. This meant the first worship service of the church was on a Sunday, as the Pentecost was always observed on Sunday (Acts 2).
  • Paul waited in the city of Troas seven days, despite the fact that he was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost, so that he could worship with the brethren there on the first day of the week. Luke tells us that “on the first day of the week” the Christians in Troas “were gathered together to break bread” (Acts 20:7, 16). This is a purpose statement related to the Lord’s Supper, a memorial act of worship.
  • Paul rebuked the Corinthians because, when they “came together,” it was not the Lord’s Supper that they ate (1 Cor. 11:20). He went on to instruct them concerning their worship. When did they “come together” for worship in Corinth? The answer is in 1 Corinthians 16:2: “on the first day of every week.” Corinth is nothing less than a church established by an apostle and addressed by an apostle in an inspired letter that met for worship on Sunday.

It doesn’t matter that none of these passages uses the phrase “the Lord’s Day.” The worship assembly is clearly indicated in each one. Furthermore, the fact that I can only name three examples shouldn’t matter. How many times does God have to say something in order for it to be true? Study how many times God called Jesus his “only begotten son.” Is infrequency cause for doubt?

Later the authors of Ten Commandments Twice Removed say, “Sunday-keeping is a tradition of man. Most Bible scholars readily admit that.” The truth is, most Catholic scholars call “Sunday-keeping” a tradition of the church, because they regard these traditions to be as authoritative as the Bible. Protestant scholars do not reach this conclusion. If they did, how do we explain why all of Christendom, except for the Seventh Day Adventists, worship on the first day of the week?

Those who want to bind Moses’ Sabbath day ordinance on Christians claim the Ten Commandments were a “moral law” that is still in effect, while the rest of the Law of Moses was “ceremonial” and was nailed to the cross at Jesus’ death (Col. 2:14). There is no justification for this distinction. Look at Romans 7:6, where Paul says, “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” If the apostle stopped there, Sabbath-keepers could argue that he wasn’t including the Decalogue in “the law.” But read on: “What shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet'” (Rom. 7:7). Paul doesn’t want his readers to dishonor Moses’ law because it was fulfilled in Christ, so he elaborates giving an example illustrating its ability to expose sin. The example? The tenth commandment! After reading this, who can deny the Ten Commandments were a part of the Law of Moses?

Of course, we have warnings against covetousness in the New Testament, along with laws condemning idolatry, taking God’s name in vain, murder, adultery, theft, and lying. We are commanded to honor fathers and mothers. But the Sabbath is not ordained in the New Testament. It was a part of the foreshadowings of the Old Covenant that Christ fulfilled when he died on the cross (Heb. 8:5).

It will be argued that the seventh-day ordinance was in effect before the law was given to Moses on Sinai. But before repeating the Ten Commandments to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 5, Moses said, “Not with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today” (verse 3).

Why do people work so hard to revive one portion of a system that did nothing but conclude that every one of us was dead in sin? (Gal. 3:22). Peter called it a “yoke…that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10). Thank God for the “new and living way”! (Heb. 10:20).