The Sabbath Day

The Sabbath Day
Rex D. Deckard

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in America were hosts to revival, growth, and change in religious institutions. Various groups migrated to the New World in large numbers, each bringing its own unique religious heritage.

In many instances this importation brought about sincere searching for Bible truths that led to great revivals in both New England and on the frontier. Unfortunately there were also aberrations of doctrinal truth, in some instances quite bizarre, that resulted from this blending of religion. The modern roots of Mormonism, Adventism, the Churches of Christ, Christian Science, Methodism, and the Holiness movement can largely be found in this period of less than two centuries.

One of the doctrines that was perpetuated first among some Baptists, then Adventists, and much later among Pentecostal groups was the seventh-day or Sabbath teaching. Some mildly promoted it, while others radically demanded a keeping of the Old Testament Jewish Sabbath. They appealed to the following points: (1) Jesus and the early church honored the Sabbath, and (2) there was never any scriptural admonition to change the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. Their theory spread quickly, particularly among the zealous Adventists, who felt that the coming of the Lord was imminent.

Historically, it is important to keep in mind that society at that time had many traditions and laws concerning Sunday as the “Sabbath.” Even in lax communities people frowned upon anyone working or engaging in recreational activities on Sunday. In more strict areas, there were laws that proscribed severe penalties, including excommunication and even death, for those who worked or played on Sunday. It was from this perspective that the seventh-day groups evolved. To them it seemed only natural to go one step further and practice this theology on Saturday instead of Sunday.

An honest look at the Scriptures will lead us to several conclusions concerning this matter. To begin with, there is nothing wrong with worshiping God on Saturday! In fact, there is nothing wrong with worshiping God on Tuesday morning or Friday night either! It is preposterous to think that the only time the apostles ministered was on Saturday or Sunday. They ministered every day. In a church I used to pastor, we had both a Saturday night and a Sunday service. Furthermore we had a Wednesday night service. God blessed in the same measure in all of these services. There is nothing wrong with worshiping God on Saturday, or any day. But to promote a doctrine that insists on the keeping of a Sabbath is an error.

Furthermore, according to the teaching of Moses in the law, there were to be no activities on the Sabbath. Although the Jews in the time of Jesus met on the Sabbath (Acts 17:2), these Jews were corrupt in many of their practices conconcerning the law. The fact that the apostles met with hem on the Sabbath day does not necessarily imply that they were promoting the Sabbath day. They were simply taking advantage of the opportunity to minister to the Jewish community at the times that they gathered together publicly. In fact, Paul reprimanded the Galatian churches for “observing days, and months, and times, and years” (Galatians 4:10).

The basic misunderstanding of the seventh-day followers is that they do not properly interpret the fulfillment of the ceremonial laws of Moses in the church age. Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). The Old Testament ceremonial laws were “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Galatians 3:24). Hebrews 8, 9, and 10 gives us a beautiful portrayal of how the coming of Christ fulfilled the law. The blood of lambs is a type of Christ’s blood. The candlesticks are a type of the church, the light of the world. The showbread is a type of the Bible. The altar of incense is a type of our prayers, ascending to God. In the same way, the Sabbath is a type of something better to come. Let us notice Colossians 2:16-17: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or drink, or in respect of an 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.”

The Sabbath of the Old Testament is a type of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Let us notice a few comparisons. God said, in reference to the Sabbath, “It is a sign between me and the children of grief-not to mention the possible loss of confidence of a neighboring pastor.

Proselyting must be avoided. Beyond that, it is ethical to help those who are disturbed with some situation in their own church to become reconciled, if at all possible. To simply allow people to come into your flock from another congregation can give birth to charges of proselyting on your part. This not only hurts you among your ministerial brethren, but eventually it will also mar your image with your people and even with those you take in indiscriminately.

Yet there are situations in which it is proper to accept people who have had problems adjusting in another congregation. It is wrong to assume that any change in church membership is the result of a bad spirit or sinful behavior. It is right to approach each situation with an open mind and tender heart, realizing that you are dealing with eternal souls. And it is possible that you may be able to help a troubled soul become stabilized and fruitful. Wisdom dictates and directs our steps in such matters.

Do not accept invitations to conduct funerals or officiate at weddings of another pastor’s flock without discreetly contacting him. Such action is a violation of ministerial ethics. Even in cases where those who call upon you are members of a congregation where you once pastored, this rule must not be violated.

Do not speak ill of another pastor to anyone, especially to members of his or your flock. To the degree you destroy the image of one minister, you can inflict damage on all ministers. If his behavior is of such a nature that it requires any action, follow the biblical pattern of going to him in private. Then, if he does not hear you, take the matter to the proper parties.

Let us go back to the fundamental principle of ethics: the freedom of an individual to direct his own conduct. It is here that the relationship between pastors has its basic foundation. The ability to do unto others as you would have them do unto you is applicable here as in few other relationships. You can do this because of what you are: first, a Christian and second, a pastor dealing with a pastor. As a Christian you have the power, the ability. As a pastor you have an understanding that only a pastor can have of a fellow shepherd. Furthermore, you have the ethical obligation to deal on the highest plane of behavior possible.

Therefore, without making a list of dos and don’ts, you can and must deal with your fellow pastor in an ethical way. Always give him any benefit of the doubt. Assume he is acting from proper motives. Attribute to him all the credit due him. You cannot err in this.

Practical applications of this principle are of extreme importance when the other pastor is your predecessor. It is equally important to follow this principle in any reference to the work or the character of your successor. Differences of opinion or of pastoral methods should be minimized. Virtues and abilities should be maximized.

Avoid a competitive stance in relation to your fellow ministers in
order to secure some post or place of honor. Rather, serve their interests with courtesy and respect. Never embarrass a fellow minister by speaking disparagingly of his work or his manner. Say all the good you can and speak no ill of your fellow pastor.

Develop a relationship of mutual trust and respect. Should a fellow pastor share a confidential matter with you, never break that trust of confidentiality. Strengthen his hands by showing genuine confidence in his walk with God. Be slow in offering advice or outlining specific steps for him to take. Rather, allow him to verbalize whatever seems to be troubling him. Often the greatest need a fellow pastor can have is for a friend who listens and understands. Confidentiality is paramount.

If you borrow spoken or written material from another person, always give credit publicly. Never plagiarize. To quote another is a high form of commendation. You can pay a person no higher compliment. But to take from others and fail to credit the source is a form of theft.

Retired ministers are worthy of honor and respect. However, complimentary statements repeated too often can cause the minister to feel ill at ease. When respect and love is in your heart, it will find expressions in nonverbal ways. In the absence of love and respect, however, no amount of verbiage will conceal the fact.

The above material was published by FORWARD, January-March, 1993. This material may be copyrighted and should be used for study and research purposes only.