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The Missing Text, Pt. 2

Scripture: John 14:6, John 17:17, Luke 4:16
Countless millions have taken it for granted that their religious customs were in perfect harmony with the teachings of historic Christianity. But, friends, they’ve assumed that on the basis of tradition rather than on personal Bible study.
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Today we continue the fascinating search for a missing text of the Bible. Countless millions have taken it for granted that their religious customs were in perfect harmony with the teachings of historic Christianity. But, friends, they’ve assumed that on the basis of tradition rather than on personal Bible study. History reveals that the majority have generally been wrong in this matter of religious practice. There’s really only one sure criteria of truth and that’s the revealed Word of God-the Bible. No Christian should be without personal conviction based upon personal study of that great textbook of truth.

In our last broadcast, we suggested that few people really understand why they observe Sunday as a religious or holy day. The average Christian has accepted the authority of Sunday purely on the basis of majority practice. Yet, the Bible commands that we search the Scriptures and be able to give a reason for the hope within us. Every person should know why he is what he is-religiously speaking. This idea of blind adherence or unthinking submission to a creed which affects our entire life is just not reasonable, friends, and neither is it biblical. We want to be sure that our doctrine is based on absolute truth.

Now what is the truth anyway? Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Again, in John 17:17 we read, “Thy word is truth.” Here the example of Jesus is set forth as a perfect pattern for us to follow. The Word of God is also presented as an infallible standard of truth. So the great question is raised, “What day did Jesus keep as a holy day?” And then, “What day is upheld consistently throughout the Bible as the day for Christians to observe?” If we can find the answers to these questions, friends, we’ll know what we ought to be doing about the Sabbath today.

First of all, let’s read about Jesus’ custom in weekly worship. We read this in Luke 4:16, “And he came to Nazareth, where he has been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read.” Now there it is, plain and clear. There’s the way, the truth, and the life on the subject, friends, because Jesus as a regular practice observed the Sabbath day. Without exception, the Sabbath day of the Scriptures is the seventh day of the week, or Saturday, as we understand it and know it today.

That’s the way it is on our modern calendars. But somebody says, “Well, maybe that custom was changed after Jesus died.” In order to settle this question, we stated an investigation yesterday of every single text in the New Testament which mentions the first day of the week. Actually there are only eight of these texts and we completed seven of them in our previous study.

Not one single example was found of Sunday observance. In fact, those first seven instances actually confirmed that Sunday was the day of the resurrection of Jesus and was used just like any of the other ordinary days of the week-as a work day instead of some holy day. Now today we’ll examine that final text, the eighth one, in the New Testament which mentions the first day of the week. It is the only text which records a religious meeting on Sunday. Now friends, if there’s any authority at all for observing this day, we’ll certainly find it as we look at this final reference. So let’s read in Acts 20:7, 8.

“And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.” All right, let’s pause there for just a moment. Here, as I mentioned a moment ago, we have the only record of a religious meeting being held on the first day of the week. Now if there’s any authority for Sunday-keeping we’re going to have to find it right here in this text. So let’s look at it carefully and let’s look at it honestly.

First of all, it says that they broke bread on that day. Now does the breaking of bread mean that the day was holy and that they were observing it as some Sabbath or sacred occasion? No. In fact, we read in Acts 2:46 that those early disciples broke bread daily. That fact does not imply that it was a holy day at all. If it was, then every day was holy because they surly broke bread daily in the early church. In this instance under consideration, Paul was having a special farewell meeting before going on up to Jerusalem. The people realized that they would never see Paul again alive.

In Acts 20:25 he told them that he had the witness of the spirit, that he would see their faces no more. So this was a very, very special occasion for him to be with his people, the people whom he had brought to Christ, for the last time. This explains why Paul preached to them all night long. Certainly that is not a procedure that marked the regular worship services of that day. But, anyway, he preached right on up to midnight. Then the young man was killed, and he continued preaching afterward until the very break of day.

Now let’s ask this question at this point. When did this meeting take place according to our method of reckoning time? As most of you realize, the Bible method of measuring the day is from sunset to sun-set and not midnight to midnight. Our way is a pagan method which came in after the days of Jesus. The evening and the morning were the original elements of a day, as you’ll find in Genesis, chapter 1. Please refer to Leviticus 23:32 and you’ll read there that the Sabbath is to be observed from even unto even, or from evening to evening. When does the evening begin? If we can find that, we’ll know exactly when we should begin keeping the Sabbath. The answer is found in Mark 1:32.

“And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased.” Now there it is. The evening is at sundown. And if you’d like to have further evidence on this point, just read Nehemiah 13:19, Joshua 10:26 and 2 Chronicles 18:34. In other words, that day, the Sabbath began at sunset and ended at sunset. And the first day of the week began at sunset and ended at sunset. The first day begins at the time we call Saturday evening, at the going down of the sun on Saturday evening, and it continues until the going down of the sun on Sunday evening. That constitutes the first day of the week.

Notice that the text says there were many lights in the meeting place where they were gathered. This means that the service was held in the dark portion of that first day which is what we would call Saturday night. Paul kept right on preaching until midnight and , at that time, you remember a young fellow fell down from the loft-he was sitting in the window, apparently listening to Paul preach-and was killed. After he went down and brought the boy back to life, it says that he kept on talking for “a while, even till break of day.” And then what did Paul do friends early Sunday morning after that all-night meeting with the church?

Acts 21:1 makes it clear that Paul walked about 25 miles across the peninsula to meet the ship at Assos, for there he was to be taken in and go on with them up to Jerusalem. So here we have clear evidence that Paul was not holing a regular service at all and neither did he keep that day holy. This was not a weekly meeting. It was a special service in which Paul was preaching to them.

He would never see them again. He had the witness of the spirit that he was to be put to death, so he simply stayed with them as long as he could and that took him right in through the night even till the breaking of day. I suppose one of the main reasons we have this story in the Bible is because of the mighty miracle when Paul raised that young fellow from the dead and brought him up alive again at midnight.

Well, there it is, friends. We’ve read and considered every single text which mentions the first day of the week in the New Testament. Nowhere have we found any evidence either in command or example that we should sanctify Sunday as a day of rest or worship. On the other hand, teachings and example of Christ and His disciples present irrefutable proof that the Sabbath was to be kept then, and it is also to be kept now-no change has ever been made in it. You’ll not find any text in all the Bible that says there was any change made in the day that was appointed by God for men to use for worship.

Now what about Paul, that great apostle of the Gentiles? He came much later, of course. He came after Jesus died and after He was resurrected and ascended back to heaven. Did he observe the same Sabbath as Jesus did and that all the other disciples did before Him? Let him bear witness to that in Acts 17:2. “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures.” Now there it is. That was Paul’s manner or custom. Just as we read a moment ago that it was Jesus’ custom to go in on the Sabbath to preach and worship, so Paul went regularly to do the same thing.

Now friends, he didn’t go into the synagogue just to please the Jews or to preach to the Jews. In Acts 13:42-44 we find that he also preached to the Gentiles on that day. Let’s read it. “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.”

Here’s a wonderful place for Paul to put those Gentile Christians straight if he wanted them to keep any other day except the seventh day. After he had been preaching to the Jews on the Sabbath, the Gentiles came to hem and said “Now we want you to preach to us.” If there had been some change in that early church as far as the day of worship was concerned, Paul would have said to those Gentile Christians, “Listen, I’ll preach to you tomorrow morning. That will be the first day of the week and I’ll meet with you on that day for worship.”

But Paul didn’t say anything of the kind. In fact, he just said to them, “I’ll meet with you next Sabbath and preach to you then” and the whole city came together, the Bible says, and heard him preach the next Sabbath day. He was preaching to the Gentiles, Acts 18:4, 11 tells us of 78 Sabbaths that Paul kept in succession in one certain city. “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.” And “he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” So for a year and a half he made tents during the week, and went in to teach them on the Sabbath. And he taught the Gentiles as well as the Jews.

Well, somebody brings up the question, “How can I do what is right?” Now, friends, in order to keep the Sabbath-in order to keep any of the commandments of God, we’ve got to get the Lord of the Sabbath into our hearts first. If we have Him abiding within, we’ll have no trouble keeping those commandments. They’ll not be a burden.

They’ll not be some hard, laborious thing to do if we love Him and He’s abiding in our hearts. We’ll be able to do it out of love. I hope that’s the way you’re doing it today. And after making this study, why don’t you make your decision right now that by the grace of God, you’re going to follow Him in keeping the Sabbath holy.

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