By charles clever
Why, God, did Paul write that?, I thought to myself after reading the notice posted on a church bulletin board: "LET US ALL MEET NEXT SUNDAY LIKE PAUL TOLD THE CORINTHIAN CHURCH, TO PAY THEIR TITHES ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK (1 Corinthians 16:1,2)." For years I have read the Bible from cover to cover and knew the pastor of this country church was not quoting Paul's writings exactly, but the problem was compounded by Paul using the term "first-day" [Sunday], and that opened the door for speculation. Why, God, did Paul write "first-day?"
Perhaps you have noticed that every denomination blows a different tune from the Gospel trumpet. They each may have a few common stanzas here or there, but their music is discordant--it is not sweet harmony. That reality should lead you to mistrust human wisdom and form a pact with God that He will be your principal teacher, and that everything must be proven from His Word. Those who "believed not the truth", and "who love and make a lie", may loose eternal life (2 Thessalonians 2:12; Revelation 22:15). "I will never twist scripture to support a church doctrine", should be your prayer before each reading of the Bible-- "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5). God's indwelling Spirit is fully capable to lead us to greater truths, and many thinking people have humbly offered that same prayer. They frequently discover that Sunday observance is not supported in scripture, yet have undoubtedly read Paul's "Sunday" directive to the Corinthians and wondered, Why, God, did Paul write "first-day?"
Approximately 32 years of church history (from Christ's ascension to Paul's first trial in Rome) is recorded in "Acts of the Apostles" where Luke only mentions two Sunday events. If one understands that Bible characters did not observe week days from midnight like we now do, but after sunset, then it is easy to conclude that the other "first-day" meeting (Acts 20:7-14) really occurs after sundown Saturday evening because "there were many lights in the upper chamber where they were gathered together." This account required the disciples to perform work during that meeting by hoisting the anchor, rowing to deep water, and sailing some 60 miles (96 km) around the peninsula from Troas to Assos. That Sunday morning Paul hiked roughly 20 miles (32 km) across the isthmus to meet the disciples at Assos. So that text does not support a Sunday rest-day Sabbath, but the "Corinthian" problem still remains: Why did Paul write "first day" (Sunday) for the Saints to gather their gifts for the needy?
Paul's instructions literally translate: "Every one [e.g.: Sunday] of a week each of you by himself [not in church] let him put, storing up whatever he is prospered, that not when I come then collections there be" (Interlinear Greek-English New Testament). The most important thing you should notice is the instruction is not a church service because they were required to put up in storage "by himself"--it is not a holy convocation. Paul is actually telling each church member to perform this work alone by gathering an offering on Sundays. One might wonder, Exactly why did Paul specify Sunday work when Friday was reserved for Sabbath preparation? The Gentile Christian, Luke, called Friday "preparation day" (Luke 23:54) because Friday was used to finish work before the Sabbath, so this adds to our dilemma, "Why, God?"
Inspiration tells us "the path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18). We are approaching that "perfect day"--and neither God's Word or Paul's instructions err--the time was just not right for me to understand. If you have discovered that someone tampered with God's law, then as long as those responsible for changing God's Sabbath commandment from Saturday to Sunday admitted this change, then you should realize that greater truth was not necessary. This presumptuous change is emphasized in documents like The Saint Catherine Catholic Church Newsletter published from Algonac, Michigan, U.S.A. It boldly declares:
The [Roman Catholic] Church has always had a strong sense of its own authority. 'Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven", Jesus said. Perhaps the boldest thing, the most revolutionary change the Church ever did, happened in the first century [Actually, it was at the Council of Nicaea, 325 AD]. The holy day, the Sabbath, was changed from Saturday to Sunday. "The Day of the Lord" (dies Dominica) was chosen, not from any directions noted in the Scriptures, but from the Church's sense of its own power. The day of resurrection, the day of Pentecost, fifty days later, came on the first day of the week. So this [we say] would be the new Sabbath. People who think that the Scriptures should be the sole authority, should logically become 7th Day Adventists and keep Saturday holy. Ibid., May 21, 1995These audacious statements claiming Church power rather than "any directions noted in the Scriptures" were made because Catholic seminary students were previously educated that their change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday was a major topic during the 16th century's famous 18-year-long Council of Trent. This council concluded that church tradition superseded Bible authority, but something different happened in May of 1998 when Pope John Paul II issued his Apostolic Letter Dies Domini. This directive falsely states that the New Testament church observed Sunday, and it avoided mentioning that the Catholic Church's historical claim of authority to change the Sabbath to Sunday was done without a scriptural precedent. This letter declared Paul's instructions to "prepare an offering on Sunday", as well as other Sunday events like Jesus rising from the tomb and the Pentecost experience, for authority to make Sunday the "new Sabbath" and a "weekly Easter celebration." The time has now come, as you will soon see, for God to vindicate His Sabbath commandment, and the answer is found in the Bible.
The reason for Paul's Sunday mandate to "by himself let him put up" is easy to understand by studying the eighteenth chapter of Acts. Luke's writings record how Paul initially established the Corinthian church and "continued there a year and six months" (verse 11) and he "reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks [Gentiles] (verse 4). Analyze Acts carefully and you should notice that Paul made tents during the week, and church services were not held on Sundays because the Corinthians had been meeting every Saturday. Now Paul is planning to visit the Corinth church and sends a letter ahead. Keep this thought in your mind: Paul was fully aware that his epistle to the Corinthians would be read during church service as they met on Saturday--once more, not Sunday. Paul also knew that work by preparing an offering was different than presenting it during church service, and therefore issued, one might say, a new commandment. Let me paraphrase to reflect Paul's intent: "Please keep the Sabbath holy as God's law commands and wait until after sundown Sabbath to perform work--Sunday is to be used to go to your granary, storage shed, the market place, or bank, to prepare an offering for presentation in the future when I come" (1 Corinthians 16:1,2). Instead of changing God's Sabbath commandment to Sunday, Paul is actually taking safeguards to ensure that the Sabbath is not desecrated, but the story does not end here--the Old Testament is also relatively silent on Sunday events, but it does demonstrate that "atypical Sunday" would meet fulfillment and was abolished at Calvary.
The term for Sunday, "The first day of the week", is mentioned only once in the entire Old Testament. That is found in the Genesis account of creation: "And the evening and the morning were the first day" (Ibid. 1:5). Sunday is also called "the day after the Sabbath" for three events: Nehemiah observed people working and bringing merchandise into Jerusalem on God's holy Sabbath so ordered that the gates remain closed "until after the Sabbath [Sunday]" (Nehemiah 13:19). But there are two more events held on "the day after the Sabbath", that is, Sunday events in the Old Testament and, as you will see, they were symbolic observances predicting Christ's resurrection and the Pentecost experience. These atypical events were "nailed to the cross", as "shadows of things to come", that is, New Testament Sunday occurrences meeting fulfillment, and Sunday need not be celebrated by Christians today, or in heaven (Colossians 2: 14,15).
Jesus was called "Christ the Firstfruits" because
he rose from the grave on the annual Firstfruits festival (Leviticus 23:10,11;
1 Corinthians 15:2). And Pentecost was to follow "seven weeks from the
time you begin to put the sickle to the grain [begin harvest]" (Deuteronomy
16:9; Acts 2:1). The Sabbath was never used to begin harvest,
so, the common working day of "begin-harvest-Sunday", "the day after the
Sabbath", would literally meet fulfillment on Firstfruits and Pentecost
Sundays after Jesus' crucifixion (Leviticus 23:10-21; Acts 2:1).
According to the Dead Sea scrolls scholar, Geza Vermes, the pre Christian
era Essenes observed "the Feast of Weeks... [Pentecost] always
on Sunday" ( Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English,
Penguin. p. 79).
Most Orthodox Jews do not celebrate Firstfruits and Pentecost on Sunday, "the day after the Sabbath, as required, but on various week days each year according to their interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and calendar. Their tradition is not important to us because these events literally met fulfillment exactly as God planned on the common harvest day of Sunday--"the day after the Sabbath."* This means that those two annual festivals were symbolic, Sunday should never be celebrated as a "weekly Easter" or "Pentecost memorial", and throughout the endless days of eternity atypical Sunday will never be kept sacred (Colossians 2:14, 15).
Therefore, God did not want anyone to change His Sabbath commandment (Exodus 20:8-11), especially to Sunday, because these events were already kept in type. That is why Paul sent the Corinthians instructions to work by gathering their offering "on the first day of the week."
Any pastor who holds a graduate degree in theology should understand the simple truths I have stated here, and truthfully present it to his congregation. An honest analysis of scripture reveals no Sunday sacredness; it instead teaches a "blessed" and "sanctified" Sabbath (Genesis 2:3). You might state the apostle Paul's thoughts this way: "Don't begin work after church Saturday, but wait until sundown because Sunday is a common working day." For these reasons the Sabbath must continue as the Biblical "Lord's day" throughout eternity (Isaiah 58:13; 66:23, Mark 2:28 ).
As you encounter sincere people who nail "jots and tittles" of what they consider the least of God's commandments to the cross (Matthew 5:17; Colossians 2:14-17), always remember that God's Word will never fail. We should inquire of God and faithfully believe that He "came down also upon mount Sinai, and spoke with them from heaven, and gave them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments" (Nehemiah 9:13). God has made every provision for our salvation, and His greatest desire is for us to "be with Me where I am..." throughout the endless ages of eternity (John 17:24). The Holy Scriptures are complete, and we must avail ourselves to the "great salvation" He offers (Hebrews 2:2,3). And if there is anything in His Word we do not understand, we may safely trust our heavenly Father for guidance and inquire, "Why God?"
Cutting barley with a sickle or placing food in a container was considered harvesting a neighbor's field, and Ruth's gleaning of "abandoned" grain was not (Deuteronomy 23:24,25; Ruth 2:16). Jesus never sinned, and picking just enough fresh produce to satisfy hunger on the Sabbath was not considered harvesting; however, laying in storage would have violated God's commandment ( Mark 2:23; Exodus 20:8-11).