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Should Christians Regard One Day of the Week as a Special Day?

By Max Aplin

Professing Christians vary in their views on whether believers should regard one day of the week as a special day. Broadly speaking, we can think of four positions:

(1) A small minority argue that Christians should observe the seventh day of the week — our Saturday — as a special day, in line with the Jewish Sabbath.

(2) Many claim that Christians should treat the first day of the week — our Sunday — as a special day.

(3) A common view is that Christians are under no obligation to observe any day as a special day, but that they are free to observe a day if they so choose.

(4) A few argue that it is wrong for Christians to regard any day of the week as special.

In trying to determine which of these views is the correct one, we need to be careful to base what we believe on Scripture rather than tradition. Even in evangelicalism, with its emphasis on the Bible alone as the source of authority for the church, traditions can develop and dig in that are actually contrary to Scripture. It is therefore of the utmost importance when examining this issue that we do our best not to be influenced by church traditions.

So, which, if any, of these four views is correct? What does the Bible have to say?

Importantly, there are several passages in the New Testament which quite strongly suggest that Christians are under no obligation to regard any day of the week as a special day:

In Acts 15:1-29 we read of early Christian leaders, including Paul, Barnabas, Peter, and James the brother of Jesus, meeting to discuss whether Gentile converts to Christianity need to obey the regulations contained in the Law of Moses (see v. 5). After deliberation, they decide on the following list of requirements: Gentile Christians must abstain from things contaminated by idols, from sexual immorality, and from eating blood and animals that have been strangled.

It is striking how brief this list of requirements is. It is noteworthy too that there is no mention of any need to observe the Sabbath or to regard any day of the week as a special day.

In Galatians 4:10 Paul criticises the Galatians for observing ‘days and months and seasons and years’. Given the context of Galatians, in which Paul is arguing against the need for Gentiles to obey the regulations of the Mosaic Law, the reference to ‘days’ surely has the Jewish Sabbath in view (and probably also other Jewish holy days). However, even though Paul’s focus is Jewish special days, the words he uses fit very badly too with the idea that Christians are under obligation to regard Sunday as a special day.

In Col 2:16-17 Paul tells the Colossians not to let anyone judge them about Sabbaths (and other things). He says that Sabbaths (and other things) are a shadow of what is to come. These words point against the view that Christians are duty bound to observe Saturday as a special day, and, although there is no specific reference to Sundays, this text also fits poorly with the view that Christians are obliged to regard Sunday as a special day.

In Rom 14:5-6 Paul refers to some Christians who regard ‘one day above another’ and others who regard ‘every day alike’. The wording he uses suggests that he is thinking about the seven days of the week. If he were talking about Jewish feast days or such like, we would expect him to have worded things differently and to have spoken of some Christians who celebrated feast days and others who didn’t. He apparently has in mind exactly what we are discussing here: some early Christians regarded one day of the week as special (surely Saturday or Sunday), while others did not. Paul is clear that this is not something that Christians should fall out over. This passage suggests, then, that Christians are not under obligation to consider any day of the week as special.

The reason why Paul is so critical of the Galatians observing days, while he is much more relaxed on this issue in Romans (Colossians perhaps being somewhere in between) is probably because the Galatians had been deceived into believing that such deeds as keeping the Sabbath were necessary for salvation, whereas the Romans were not in danger of being deceived in this way.

In Mark’s Gospel we find Jesus making the statement, ‘The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27), and we might wonder whether ‘for people’ (literally ‘for the person’) implies that the Sabbath is an ordinance that is for all people, not just Jews under the Old/Mosaic Covenant. The words can easily be interpreted differently, however. In this passage Jesus is speaking to Jews at a time when the Mosaic Covenant is still in operation, and it is easy to understand Him to be saying, ‘The Sabbath was made for (Jewish) people (under the Mosaic Covenant), not (Jewish) people (under the Mosaic Covenant) for the Sabbath’, without any wider implication. This passage therefore hardly constitutes strong evidence that Christians are under obligation to observe Saturday (or Sunday) as a special day.

In Matt 24:20, Jesus instructs His disciples — and by implication some later disciples too — to pray that their flight from certain dangers will not be on a Sabbath, implying that flight will be more difficult if it is on a Sabbath. It may be that the envisaged difficulties with fleeing on a Sabbath have to do simply with how non-Christian Jewish customs could cause problems for fleeing Christians. However, even if Jesus’ command does fit with a scenario in which the Sabbath is observed by some Christians, in the light of the passages we have looked at above, this verse can hardly be seen as compelling evidence that Christians are under obligation to observe Saturday (or Sunday, for that matter) as a special day.

From the passages we have looked at, then, there are good reasons for believing that Christians are not under obligation to regard any day of the week as a special day. However, as long as they don’t overemphasise the importance of special days, the New Testament does not forbid Christians to consider certain days of the week as special if they feel that it is right for them to do so personally. We have already seen that Rom 14:5-6 teaches in this vein. Moreover, there are other passages which seem to imply that some Christian groups in the first century treated the first day of the week, i.e., our Sunday, as a special day in some sense. ‘The Lord’s Day’ in Rev 1:10 is probably a designation for the first day of the week, viewed as a special day; in Acts 20:7 Christians are found meeting together on Sunday; and 1 Cor 16:2 might also be relevant.

To go back to our original question, then, the evidence quite strongly suggests that position (3) is the correct one: Christians are under no obligation to treat Saturday or Sunday or any other day of the week as a special day, but they are free to do so if they believe it is right for them personally.

It is therefore wrong for Christians who regard one day of the week as special to demand that others follow suit. On the other hand, those who choose not to regard a day as special should be sensitive to the views of those who choose to.

Christians who treat a day as special need to watch that their dedication to following Jesus as Lord is not any less on the other six days of the week. As Christians our lives are to be living sacrifices to God (Rom 12:1), twenty four seven. Prayer, praise and studying Scripture should be major parts of our lives throughout the week, along with whatever else counts as love for God and for people.

Those who regard one day of the week as special also need to beware that they don’t get into a position where they are pressed down by rules of what they will and will not do on that day. Being a Christian is not about being subject to lots of rules, and in the Gospels Jesus can be found on a number of occasions speaking out against religion in this form.

For their part, Christians who do not regard a day of the week as special need to consider carefully what the consequences of taking this attitude might be. For example, at present in Western countries most people do not have to work on a Sunday, and this means that at a church’s main Sunday worship service a large majority of the members are able to be present. If the trend towards working on Sundays continues, however, and Christians do and say nothing about that, it may become increasingly difficult for us to arrange service times when so many people can be present. Potential difficulties like this need to be taken fully into account.

I have been a Christian for over 25 years. I have a Ph.D. in New Testament Language, Literature and Theology from the University of Edinburgh. I am a UK national and I currently live in the south of Scotland.

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.comCHRISTIAN WRITERMAKE A WEBSITE

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