Friday, December 16, 2005

No Lord's (Birth) Day this Year

Do you find it interesting that those churches that are opting not to hold worship services on Sunday, Christmas Day, are churches who tend not to have a theology of the Lord's Day? I could be wrong, but the churches that I have heard who are not holding services on Christmas Day are churches in which you would be hard pressed to hear articulated a message of Sabbath Celebration. This should not lead us to believe that churches who do opt to have services on Christmas do so because they have a theology of Sabbath Celebration. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a connection between the biblical and historical understanding of the Lord's Day and the decision to worship or not to worship on Christmas Day Sunday. Canceling services for Sunday and opting instead to have one or two services on Saturday is the prerogative of each church. However, developing a theology of the Lord's Day and articulating it in Word and deed is the responsibility of each Christian and church. Think about it, this year we have the awesome privilege of not only worshipping on the Lord's Day, but to celebrate the Lord's birthday on His day. Why would any church not want to take advantage of the opportunity to make the statement that Christ is Lord, not only on the Lord's Day but even more on the commercialized day that is His birthday? Apparently, Jesus is the reason for the season, but He is not reason enough to gather for worship on Christmas Morning.

15 comments:

jazztheo said...

my ecclesiology lead me to a different conclusion. When Christ looks at a city I believe he sees one church (a cursory reading of Rev. 2-3 shows us this). The Body of Christ is not a local church but Paul was writing to the church in a city meeting in multiple locations in Corinth.

So if one part of the church holds 7 services on Christmas eve and another part holds services on Christmas day, the body of Christ was gathered on all those days from Christ perspective.

The church of which I am a part encouarges people to attend other gatherings of the Body all the time because we are one church.

Matthew Wireman said...

Although it is true that we are one church, universally, isn't it true that there are local expressions of that universal? Put another way, Christ loves his church and bought her with his blood. He wants to sanctify her. This sanctification happens through stirring one another up towards loves and good deeds. When Paul sent his letters to different congregations, that means there was an existing local expression that he could send it to - not that it was a general letter to every Christian in the city of Corinth. In fact, there was an organized body that would gather regularly to break bread and listen to the Apostles' teaching.

It is a great thing that you visit other congregations in celebration of the uninversal church. However, deep relationships and commitment to a local expression not only deepens, but extends the Kingdom of God further than dis-organized, ambiguous unity. Does that make sense?

RBA Founder Xavier Pickett said...

Tony, I believe you are right. There seems to be a connection between church closing and Sabbath/Lord's day theology (or lack thereof).

As I have said in my blog, "Churches Closing for Christmas huh?" and elsewhere: The irony in all of this is that churches are closing on Christmas, which is supposed to be a 'religious' holiday, at least in its origins as some believe. Who would have guess that a religious holiday, a Christian religious holiday at that would lead to the closing of Christian churches? Even the Roman Catholic parishes will be open and expecting large crowds. I guess now if some unbelievers wanted to go to a church that would be 'sensitive' to them, they would have to hang out with Rome for a day. I think what is really disheartening is that Christmas, a 'Christian religious' holiday, would be the death of the Christian church, if these churches had any say so over the ultimate survival of Christ’s church.

jazztheo said...

Matthew,
I'll double check my facts but I believe that the letters of Paul and the words of Christ in Revelation were written to the church in the city which was meeting in various locations.

Galatia, Philipi, Colossae etc. were not the names of local congregations but the names of cities.

My question is one of perspective. From Christ's perspective, when he looks at his body, are we canceling services on Christmas?

I'll double check my history...

curtlove said...

Churches closing on Sunday no matter what the "holiday", is a tradgedy. For 2 reasons
First: God has set the Sabbath has a Holy day of rest. A day for his people to gather and in one voice express their adoration to Him. God has declared the Sabbath a special day a day different then the other six. As a matter of fact the other six are to be utilized by beleivers as a means of preparation for this Holy day, not a substitution. Exodus 16 God instructed the people to gather bread during the six day period and on the Seventh they were to rest. He also told Moses that He was going to do this to test the people to see if they would obey Him. We must understand that if then it is Gods perspective that the Sabbath is a Holy day set apart for his people to worship, then it is and "Has" to be Christ's perspective as well. Whether it is local manifestations of the Body of Christ or universal.
Secondly: This ought to make us(beleivers) reevaluate our loyalty to this Holy Day that God has established, becasue every Sabbath that is missed or skipped due to work,entertainment,being out of town etc... is in a sense the same thing, and just as detesable before God.

Alando Franklin said...

I would have to differ from the second post in that we are sanctified through the washing of His word. The Gospel is what spurs us on in our sanctification.

Secondly, perhaps we need to rethink our view of Sabbath Day and what that entails. From my understanding we have our Sabbath Days rest in Christ, who is the fulfillment of that requirement, which is why Paul can say in Colossian's "let no man judge as it relates to Sabbath day's" and elsewhere in Romans 14 I believe.

At our local church, we will gather this coming Sunday for worship as usual, simply beacause that's when we have always gathered, however, for worship to to be mandated for Sunday rather than Saturday is going beyond Scripture into our own preferences.

Matthew Wireman said...

You are right, jazztheo, they are the names of cities. That was not my point (i.e. there is only one congregation per city). My point had to do with the fact that these groups congregated regularly so the letters could be read to the various congregations. This means they were in groups pushing each other towards godliness.

Otherwise, the letters would be read in the open square. How else would these letters be readily usable if they were not together at a certain time in a certain place?

The questions swirling around the closings are numerous. It is not a matter of whether Jesus sees us as closing services on "Christmas". Rather, why is there such a desire to close services on the Lord's Day? That is what does not make sense to me. I was commenting on your statements that seemed to imply that committed local congregations were a superfluous design, rather than a God-ordained means of sanctification.

You're right, one local congregation closing its doors does not mean the Church has closed on Christmas (or any day of the week for that matter!). My concern lies in the fact that churches are closing on a day that it has (as a committed groups of members) said they would gather together. We might be missing each other, but I hope this clarifies what I was trying to point out earlier - the necessity of committed local congregations.

curtlove said...

15th century, A.D. 1409. "He that playeth at unlawful games on
Sundays...shall be six days imprisoned." Statute of Henry IV of England.
Critical History of Sunday Legislation, page 90.

14th century, A.D. 1359. "It is provided by sanctions of law and canon
that all Lord's Days be venerably observed." Archbishop of Canterbury.
Critical History of Sunday Legislation, page 82.

13th century, A.D. 1281. "The obligation to observe the legal Sabbath
according to the form of the Old Testament is at an end...to which in the New
Testament hath succeeded the custom of spending the Lord's Day...in the
worship of God." Archbishop of Canterbury. Critical History of Sunday
Legislation, page 81.

12th century, A.D. 1174. "We do ordain that these days following be
exempt from labor:...All Sundays in the year," etc. Emperor of Constantinople.
History of Sabbath and Sunday, page 191.

11th century, A.D. 1025. "Sunday marketing we also strictly forbid."
Laws of Denmark. Critical History of Sunday Legislation, page 77.

10th century, A.D. 975. "Sunday is very solemnly to be reverenced."
Saxon Laws. Critical History of Sunday Legislation, page 75.

9th century, A.D. 813. "All Lord's Days shall be observed with all due
veneration and all servile work shall be abstained from." Council of Mayence.

8th century. In the year 747, an English council said: "It is ordered
that the Lord's Day be celebrated with due veneration, and wholly devoted to
the worship of God." Andrew's History of the Sabbath, page 377.

7th century, A.D. 695. "If a slave work on Sunday by his lord's
command, let him be free." Saxon Laws. Critical History of Sunday
Legislation, page 71.

Since my point yesterday was to prove that there is a specific day that God desires his people to worship Him, this was seen since the old Testament and Now inthe New has been renewed in Christ, who by his death nailed to the cross all of the Jewish customs and new moons and all that. Col 2:14-16 is not saying you can choose what day either Sunday or Saturday, but he was telling the Gentile beleivers do not let people judge you for NOT adhereing to those jewish days, new moons and all the other Jewish Holy day. Sunday is the day! Praise God for His Mercy

Matthew Wireman said...

Have you read DACarson's book, From Sabbath to Lord's Day? Lincoln's two essays were particularly good.

As for the prescribed day, how shall we understand the phrase: Col 2.17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ? It seems that when Christ healed on the Sabbath, he was re-defining the Sabbath. Thus, there is not a 1:1 correlation between OT Sabbath and NT Lord's Day in the strict sense. That is, it is not a mandatory command to gather together on Sunday. Rather, as a result of pragmatism, the first day of the week was the best time to celebrate Christ's resurrection.

I wonder if the advent of Anabaptist understanding of liberty of conscience - viz, there not being a State Church - could help our discussion of Lord's Day. Especially in light of what Curtis has quoted from 15th century and before. Could there have been a continuation of Constantinian understanding in the theocratic sense. Thus, causing a tight relationship between Israel's Sabbath and the Christian Lord's Day?

Alando Franklin said...

As D.A. Carson has noted also, this issue “demands close study of numerous passages in both Testaments of the canon.” Unfortunately, the scope of this post will only permit a cursory glance at a few of the passages in question. In any event, let’s attempt to trace this issue the way in which it has been received, in the order of the canon.

There are three main areas of importance in regard to the Sabbath/Lord’s Day Issue in the New Testament. First, Jesus attitude toward the Sabbath is of the utmost importance in constructing a theology of the Sabbath. Second, the writings of Paul make up approximately half of the New Testament. His instruction concerning the Sabbath is crucial since the Epistles give instruction to the New Testament Church. Finally, the attitude of the Early Church toward the Lord’s Day is important in determining if it is now the day of worship for believers.

Jesus and the Sabbath.
It seems clear from the gospels that Jesus kept the Sabbath, however, as D. A. Carson has observed, “One dare not conclude on this basis that Sabbath observance is still mandatory. The same argument would require that we continue to sacrifice in the temple, yet, no one believes that Christians are still obligated to sacrifice and worship at the Jerusalem Temple. Jesus performed many miracles on the Sabbath and the statement from His mouth, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” is found in all three synopptic gospels. As New Testament scholar Douglas J. Moo has noted concerning Jesus, “While he does not clearly teach the abrogation of the Sabbath command, he redirects attention from the law to himself, the Lord of the Sabbath, and thereby sets in place the principle on which the latter church would justify its departure from Sabbath observance.”

Paul and the Sabbath.
One key text in the Pauline epistles regarding the Sabbath is Colossians 2:16-17 which reads as follows, “therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day; things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ”. In this passage, Paul clearly sees the Sabbath as no longer morally binding upon believers. As D. R. de Lacey comments, “An individual may keep the Sabbath or not.” The Romans passage conveying this same sentiment is found in 14:5 which states, “one man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind”. From these texts it is obvious that Paul doesn’t see the observance of the Sabbath as a morally binding precept for believers.


Early Church and the Sabbath.
Actually, various positions have been held on the Sabbath/Lord’s Day issue in the history of the church, however, although there was no official recognition of Sunday as the day of worship for believers, the history of the early church finds Sunday to be “the regular and universal” day of worship, although not binding. Notice the observation that John MacArthur made concerning the early church’s history:

The early church fathers, from Ignatius to Augustine, taught that the Old Testament Sabbath had been abolished and that the first day of the week (Sunday) was the day when Christians should meet for worship (contrary to the claim of many seventh-day sabbatarians who claim that Sunday worship was not instituted until the fourth century).

SW

Matthew Wireman said...

I just realized that alando franklin was disagreeing with my assertion that the Church is sanctified by the interaction of those within the Church. He said that it is done by the washing of the word. True. But we mustn't take that to be separate from love in action.

In fact, Paul is telling husbands to love their wives as Christ does the Church. How does it happen if not through action. That is to say, the washing of the word is applied by congregational body life, not something nebulous and transcendent. It happens when we APPLY the Word of God in our lives and others lives. Sactification happens by the applying of water to the body...the calling out sin in the lives of members and the Holy Spirit pressing it upon our consciences.

Does that make sense? I hope that we are not in disagreement on this, alando.

Alando Franklin said...

Not totally, although, I do maintain that while the local Church is a God ordained means to help instruct, exhort, admonish, encourage us in our growth, it is the Word of God itself that is the main and principle means whereby we are sanctified in my humble opinion.

Jesus seems to take this one on personally, "I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH" I'm not so sure His Words are simply nebulous and/or transcendent in this aspect, They are the POWER of God unto salvation(Rom. 1), they are LIVING(Heb 4), they are PROFITABLE for instruction in righteousness( 2 Tim 3), they WORK EFFECTUALLY(1 Thes. 2).

I understand your assertion, however, the Word in and of itself has the ability to accomplish that which is was sent forth to do, oh don't think that it is lying dormant, it is incumbent, by immersing ourselves in the Word and through the proper preaching/hearing of the Word(Law and Gospel)we will gain the mind of Christ. Isn't that what sanctification is about?

"I preached the Word, I taught the Word, I wrote the Word, otherwise it is the WORD that did it all.
-Martin Luther

In Humility,
Alando

curtlove said...

Both Alando and Matthew are correct to the extent that if you take their arguments and put them together then you have a better understanding of our Sanctification it would look like this.
The word of God being the revelation of God about himself to man, is the primary source to our understanding of God and the duty of man. In it are the truths that transform and grow the hearts and minds of Gods people. However the scripture is not understood or interpreted in isolation. See Ephesians and 2Peter so then it is necessary for us to be in church among the beleivers, and fellowship and primarily the preaching of the Word of God. Also fellow beleivers have the ability to admonish and exhort and encourage each other in this hope that we have been called too.

Hope this makes sense.
CL

Matthew Wireman said...

Thank you Alando and Curt ~

This has been helpful clarifying issues. I am most thinking of Talkative in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. He is content with quoting Scripture, but when put to it, his life looks no different than the pagan. It is the application of truth that he is missing. He has the fuel, but he lacks the engine which uses the fuel. This is my contention and hope - that we seek to apply the Word. It is the sanctifying agent, but the means is the local church (albeit, individuals in the Church).

Alando Franklin said...

Matthew,

At first glance, I was befuddled at why Talkative would enter into the context of our discourse and then it dawned on me. Unfortunately, there is a misunderstanding, I remember Paul having to address this same misunderstanding in Rom 6. See, once a person is connected to the true vine, the good works you were speaking of (life looking different from pagan) happens automatically if there is a continuous feeding on the proper understanding of the Word. The fruit comes naturally just as having to go to the bathroom. That’s the effect of the living Word of God. It WILL produce righteous fruit!

I hope and pray that in "modern evangelicalism" whatever that means anymore, we would have more faith in the living Word of God.

In the end we will all cast down our crowns, because it will be abundantly clear that it was not what WE did or did not do(other than receive the promise)rather it was what CHRIST did for us, in perfectly keeping the law that we could not keep, living a sinless life for us, dying a perfect death for us, rising from the grave for us, therefore fully satisfying the just wrath of God and making us pleasing to Him, therefore it was CHRIST all the time. I know it’s hard to accept that CHRIST is the reason that GOD is pleased with us now and always, due to the fact that so much preaching today is about the Christian(what WE do) and not the CHRIST(what HE HAS done).

Martin Luther accurately defined sin as man turning in on himself. A theology of glory continues to turn us to ourselves as we measure our growth in holiness against a plethora of spiritual experiences and other people, whereas a theology of the Cross turns us away from ourselves. As a result of the conviction of the Law (where we should rightly be measuring ourselves), we will forsake our own good works and spiritual experiences and cling to the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ.

I appreciate your insight(s). I will give some more thought to the idea of CHRIST, THE LIVING WORD being ineffective until we do something.