Another question I have been asked about the modern observance of the Sabbath is, “If we are to follow the example of Christ then what of Luke 4:16?” The point of the question is that if Jesus kept the Sabbath (Luke 4:16), and we are to follow the example of Christ (1 John 2:6), then shouldn’t we be keeping the Sabbath? The answer, of course, is NO!
Following Jesus’ example means following His example of lifestyle and being characterized by His character. It does not mean doing all of the same things He did. His actions showed His character. That is what we are to follow or emulate – His character. That is what it means to be righteous, holy and godly (1 John 1:7; 1 Peter 1:15, 16; Titus 2:12).
Jesus not only kept the Sabbath day observance of the Law of Moses, He also kept the Feast Days of Judaism (Matthew 26:17; Luke 22:7; John 4:45; et al). So, if His example of keeping the Sabbath means that we are required to keep the Sabbath then wouldn’t that also mean that we must follow His example of keeping the Feast Days of Judaism?
For those who believe that the scriptural day of assembly for Christians is Saturday – because Jesus went to worship on Saturday (the Sabbath) – do they also go to Jerusalem three times a year to observe the same Feast Days that Jesus observed? No, they do not!
Why would His example of going to Synagogue every Saturday require us to assemble on Saturday, but His example of keeping the Feast Days in Jerusalem would not also require us to keep those same Feast Days in Jerusalem? Neither of those examples are what is required by following Christ’s example!
It is His example of obedience to God that is for us to follow (Philippians 2:5-8). Luke 4:16 says that He went to the Synagogue on Saturday to keep the Sabbath because it was His custom to do so. That means He had the habit of being at worship when He was supposed to be at worship.
If we apply that example of Christ for Christians today it isn’t that we should be at Synagogue on Saturday, it is that we should have the habit of being at church on Sunday. We should have His same habit of being at church when we’re supposed to be at church! Well, when are we supposed to be at church?
It is absolutely, indisputably, clear that the day of Christian assembly for the worship of the church is Sunday, the first day of the week, NOT Saturday, the last day of the week. Christ arose on Sunday (Mark 16:9), the church was established on Sunday (Acts 2:1, the day of Pentecost was always on Sunday), the church assembled for the Lord’s Supper on Sunday (Acts 20:7), the collection was taken up on Sunday (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2).
There is no reference anywhere in the New Testament of the church assembling on Saturday for the worship assembly.
Even the earliest Christian writings after the apostolic period (i.e. after the apostles were dead) describe the church assembling on Sunday, not Saturday.
For example, Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) wrote about the church assembling “on the day called Sunday” to read the apostles’ writings (i.e. the New Testament), pray, and take the Lord’s Supper. He specifically says, “But Sunday is the day on which we all [i.e. Christians] hold our common assembly” (Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1885). The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Vol. 1. Pg. 186). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company).
So, apparently, neither the 1st century saints – as recorded in the New Testament – nor 2nd century saints – as recorded in early church history – believed that they were supposed to follow Christ’s example of attending Synagogue on Saturday. No, they all assembled on Sunday to worship God in the Christian assembly – the first day of the week.
Let us all follow the example of humble obedience to God that our Lord exemplified for us. When He was supposed to be at worship He was at worship!
It was His habit to be in the worship assembly on the proscribed day under the Law that He lived (cf. Galatians 4:4). We should do likewise and make it our habit to be in the worship assembly of the Saints when the Law of Christ (cf. Galatians 6:2) says we are supposed to assemble for worship – that day is Sunday!
Norm Fields is the minister for the Church of Christ Northside meeting at 1101 Hogansville Road in LaGrange. He may be reached at 706-812-9950 or [email protected]