Etikettarkiv | obey

Abraham showed his faith by obedience and was therefore righteous

(An excerpt from Jesse Morell’s upcoming book, ”The Vicarious Atonement of Christ.”

abrahamThere was a problem in Israel of thinking that righteousness consisted in external works of the law, which notion Paul needed to confront. There were Israelites who thought that they were righteous before God as long as they obeyed the Torah, even while sinning in their hearts. Jesus said our righteousness needed to exceed that of the Pharisees who obeyed the outward requirements of the Torah but were sinful inwardly. In context Jesus expounded upon the sins of the heart and not mere outward action, in regards to our righteousness exceeding that of the Pharisees.

Paul argued for a circumcision of the heart by faith in order to be righteous. Paul argued that Abraham was righteous and justified before the Torah was given through Moses, so that the external works of the law that the Torah demanded cannot possibly be what true righteousness consisted of. It could not be the means through which we are made righteous or justified in character. Paul argued that by faith in God Abraham was righteous and consequently justified, and so that is how Gentile believers are made righteous and are justified too.

In his heart Abraham trusted God so that in his life Abraham obeyed God. Faith of the heart was the seed to real obedience of life, so God imputed (reckoned or considered) Abraham’s faith as righteousness, as that was what it really was. A heart of faith is a righteous heart. Faith, which results in obedience, is what real righteousness is. Righteousness is not merely being circumcised or keeping the dietary requirements of the Torah. It is what comes out of the mouth that defiles a man, not what goes into it. It is not by obeying the external requirements of the Torah and having outward works, even with selfish motives to be praised by men, which makes a man righteous before God.Real righteousness is not a work of the law at all, but is faith in God.

However, there is a problem in the church today just like there was in Israel. That is a problem of thinking that righteousness consists in works of the law or obedience to the Torah. Like the Pharisees who thought that they were righteous on a technicality, by observing the outward requirements of the Torah while still sinning in their hearts, the Theologians of today are teaching that you can be righteous before God on the same technicality as well. They teach that Christ obeyed the Torah or the law for us on our behalf as our substitute, so that His works of the law are imputed to us. In light of Christ’s works of the Torah being imputed to our account, they say, we are made righteous in the eyes of God and are consequently justified even though we are still sinful in heart and character. This is identical to the problem Paul had to confront when he argued that we are not righteous or justified by the works of the law but by a faith in Christ that purifies the heart. Paul was confronting this Pharisaical notion of being technically righteous before God by outward obedience to the Torah while still sinning inwardly in your heart.

The Pharisees and reformed theologians are both wrong in assuming that righteousness does not consist in works of the law, either performed by the individual or performed by a substitute on their behalf and imputed to them. There is no righteousness by works while still sinning in heart. It is a faith in Christ, a trusting of the heart that results in obedience of life, that is real righteousness in the eyes of God. When a man is sinning in his heart, he is not trusting God in his heart. But when a man is trusting God in his heart, he will not be sinning in his heart or life, and so God will impute or consider his faith as righteousness. It is by faith that our heart is purified so it is by faith that we are made righteousness.

Annonser

Are you stiff-necked and resist the Holy Ghost against the will of God? – Acts 7:51

stiff-necked

Acts 7:51 Ye STIFFNECKED and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always RESIST THE HOLY GHOST: as your fathers did, so do ye.

sklérotrachélos (Greek): stiff-necked, stubborn, obstinate (Strong’s 4644)

oreph (Hebrew): back of the neck, neck (Strong’s 6203)

It’s apparent that we can resist the Holy Ghost by being stiff-necked and walking our own way, and if we take this route it’s obviously against God’s will. Still, there are some of our reformed friends who feel the need to stick to the notion that ”nothing that comes to pass happens against the will of God” so they are reluctant to accept the clear meaning of Acts 7:51 and prefer to believe that God has either predestined people to be stiff-necked and/or suggest they are born stiff-necked and will continue to be so until God perhaps decides to open their eyes to bring them out of this spell. If the idea is that nothing happens against God’s will, then people who are born stiff-necked are born that way according to God’s will, but then we are no longer talking about the God of the Bible. 

Stephen (who is talking in Acts 7) is making a reference to the fathers of the pharisees and claimed they too were stiff-necked and resisted the Holy Ghost, and we can see in the verses below how painfully true this statement has proven to be. The Bible is a book that describes how people throughout all of our history have turned their backs on God. Not every single individual of course, because there are also examples of some very righteous and just people who have lived in obedience to God, like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Lot and Job.

Most cases in the Bible where ”stiff-necked” people are mentioned can be seen below.

Examples of stiff-necked people during the Exodus

People even made a golden calf to worship and this provoked God to anger, naturally because it was against his will. Israel didn’t get the promised land because they were particularly good people, but rather because the inhabitants were very evil, and because of the promise that God had given to Abraham before them.

Ex. 32:They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation

Ex. 33:1 And the Lord said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it:Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way.For the Lord had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee.

Ex. 34:And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray thee, go among us; for it is a stiffnecked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.

Deuteronomy 9:Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.Understand therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people.Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the Lord thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the Lord.Also in Horeb ye provoked the Lord to wrath, so that the Lord was angry with you to have destroyed you.

2 Kings 17:12 For they served idols, whereof the Lord had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing.13 Yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.14 Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the Lord their God.15 And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them, that they should not do like them.16 And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.17 And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger.

Neh. 15 And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them.16 But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments,17 And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.18 Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations

Jer. 7:22 For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices:23 But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.24 But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.25 Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them:26 Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers.27 Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee.28 But thou shalt say unto them, This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.

Being stiff-necked is something negative, and God tells his people to cease being stiff-neckedstiff-necked2

Clearly God wouldn’t want his people (or anyone) to rebel against him, refuse to hearken to him, turn their backs on him, transgress his laws, do evil, become corrupted, provoke him to anger, worship idols, harden their hearts, neglect to receive corrections, etc, but this is exactly what his people often did due to their stubborn and evil hearts. God’s will does not always happen and that is because he has given us free will – resulting in that we are responsible for our own actions and will be judged accordingly.

Deuteronomy 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.

Deut. 31:27 For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death?28 Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them.29 For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.

Isaiah. 48:I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I shewed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass.4 Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass;I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I shewed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them.

2 Chronicles 29:And said unto them, Hear me, ye Levites, sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place.For our fathers have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord our God, and have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord, and turned their backs.—.Wherefore the wrath of the Lord was upon Judah and Jerusalem, and he hath delivered them to trouble, to astonishment, and to hissing, as ye see with your eyes.

2 Chronicles 30:8 Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever: and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you.

2 Chronicles 36:11 Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem.12 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the Lord.13 And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the Lord God of Israel.14 Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which he had hallowed in Jerusalem.

Neh. 9:28 But after they had rest, they did evil again before thee: therefore leftest thou them in the land of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto thee, thou heardest them from heaven; and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies;29 And testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear.30 Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.31 Nevertheless for thy great mercies’ sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.

Jer. 2:26 As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests, and their prophets.27 Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us.28 But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah.29 Wherefore will ye plead with me? ye all have transgressed against me, saith the Lord.30 In vain have I smitten your children; they received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.

Jer. 17:22 Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.23 But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.24 And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the Lord, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein

Jer. 19:15 Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.

Jer. 32:31 For this city hath been to me as a provocation of mine anger and of my fury from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before my face,32 Because of all the evil of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.33 And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction.34 But they set their abominations in the house, which is called by my name, to defile it.35 And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

Proverbs. 29:1 He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

Read, Isaiah 5:1-7, Isaiah 63:10, Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34, Romans 13:2 and Ephesians 4:30, for further examples of people who are stiff-necked and act against the will of God. 

Psalm 119 about undefiled believers who obeyed the law of God

law of GodWhen you read the below psalm 119 (also called Alfa-Beta), do you get the impression that the writer feels that he cannot completely obey the law of  God and that he has been unsuccessful in seeking God with all his heart? I get the exact opposite picture; that he is confident of that he has obeyed every single commandment that God has given him. Maybe he doesn’t claim to have done this his entire life but at least for a very long time, and he also appears rather confident of that he can continue to be faithful to God for the rest of his life.  The secret is to be near God (through prayers, songs, Bible reading and testimonies) and to let his law be in our hearts.

This psalm is believed to have been written by King David (starts with Aleph which is the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet), and it’s actually the longest chapter in the whole Bible with 176 verses. The torah is referred to throughout the chapter and also some synonyms for the torah (such as dabar for ”word, promise” and mishpatim for ”rulings”). Those are blessed who are undefiled and who walk in the law of God, and they are not non-existent since the writer speaks about them as a reality.

Psalm 119Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.Blessed are they that keep His testimonies and that seek Him with the whole heart.They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways.Thou hast COMMANDED us to keep Thy precepts diligently;.I will keep Thy statutes; O forsake me not utterly!How shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word.10 With my whole heart have I sought Thee; O let me not wander from Thy commandments!11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.—21 Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, that err from Thy commandments.22 Remove from me reproach and contempt, for I have kept Thy testimonies.—.30 I have chosen the way of truth; Thy judgments have I laid before me.32 I will run in the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart.33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes, and I shall keep it unto the end.34 Give me understanding and I shall keep Thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.35 Make me to go in the path of Thy commandments, for therein do I delight.36 Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies, and not to covetousness;.44 So shall I keep Thy law continually, for ever and ever.45 And I will walk in liberty, for I seek Thy precepts.—.51 The proud have held me greatly in derision, yet have I not departed from Thy law.53 Horror hath taken hold upon me, because of the wicked that forsake Thy law.54 Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.55 I have remembered Thy name, O Lord, in the night and have kept Thy law.56 This I had, because I kept Thy precepts.57 Thou art my portion, O Lord; I have said that I would keep Thy words.58 I entreated Thy favor with my whole heart; be merciful unto me according to Thy word.59 I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto Thy testimonies.60 I made haste, and delayed not to keep Thy commandments.63 I am a companion of all them that fear Thee, and of them that keep Thy precepts.67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept Thy word.68 Thou art good, and doest good; teach me Thy statutes.69 The proud have forged a lie against me, but I will keep Thy precepts with my whole heart.73 Thy hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding, that I may learn Thy commandments.—101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep Thy word.—112 I have inclined mine heart to perform Thy statutes alway, even unto the end.—115 Depart from me, ye evildoers, for I will keep the commandments of my God.—

Also God seems to believe that we can be successful in obeying his commandments.

Deut. 30:10 IF thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and IF thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. 11For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. —14But the word is VERY NIGH unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, THAT THOU MAYEST DO IT. 15See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; 16In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and TO KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it. 17But IF thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; 18I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. 19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: 

Make yourself a new heart, for why will ye die? (Ez. 18:31)

love3God can clean us up and give us a new heart, but in order for him to do this we must choose to repent, come to him and place him as No 1 in our lives. WE are actually asked to cleanse, purify and circumcise our own hearts (which we can if we cast away our sins). 

Ezekiel 18:31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Psalm 119:9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.

Isaiah 1:16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;

Jeremiah 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

Jeremiah 4:14 O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?

Amos 4:6 And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.

Ezekiel 24:13 In thy filthiness is lewdness: because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee.

Deutoronomy 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.

Acts 7:51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

Matt. 23:26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

James 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

2 Timothy 2:21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

To be regenerated is to be cleansed. We are not clean before we come to Jesus and repent for our sins, and we can’t get the Holy Spirit unless we are born again and have purged hearts. We must choose to come to Jesus to be born again and leave our old man behind. John the Baptist preached about repentance for the remission of sins, and Jesus picked up after him and did the same – by preaching about repentance and faith in him as the promised Messiah and son of God. Jesus work was to call sinners to repentance so that they could get life and he taught his disciples – and all of us – to continue preaching this gospel throughout the whole world. The path that you should walk is 1) come to Jesus and believe in him and his work on the cross 2) confess your sins and repent 3) you’re now cleansed, purged, regenerated and born again 4) you’re given the Holy Spirit as a Helper. A person can never be considered clean as long as his sins are not washed away, and the Bible doesn’t teach ”once cleansed, always cleansed”. We must endure to the end to be saved.

Mark 1:4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

Mark 1:14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Matthew 9:13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Luke 15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Luke 24:46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.48 And ye are witnesses of these things.49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.

Matt. 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.

Thanks to Jesse Morell for the below concerning regeneration after faithheart3

Regeneration requires consent and cooperation. A man’s free will must be synergistically involved in his regeneration. God cannot change a man’s character without the cooperation of the man himself. That is why God said, “I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged” (Eze. 24:13). This is because unless a man is willing to have his moral character changed, it will and cannot be changed. It is impossible for Omnipotence to change a man’s moral character without the consent of his will because this would involve an intrinsic contradiction. Therefore, God and man both have an active role in regeneration. This is why the Bible says that God gives us a new heart (Eze. 11:19; 36:26), while also saying that men should make for themselves a new heart (Eze. 18:31). When a sinner’s will is changed from being disobedient to obedient, both God and the sinner have an active role in bringing about that change. God’s role is His gracious influence upon our will. Man’s role is the yielding of and obedience of his will.

Jesus said, “Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matt. 23:26). For Jesus to tell men to clean themselves on the inside (change their intention), takes for granted that it is their choice and that they can do this. Jesus was actually filled “with anger, being grieved, for the hardness of their hearts” (Mk. 3:5). This indicates that the state of man’s heart is man’s own fault, that the state of his heart is something which he causes and which he has control over.

The Bible even commands men to make unto themselves a new heart. God said, “make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die…” (Ezekiel 18:31). “Wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved” (Jeremiah 4:14). “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:8).

What does it mean to change your heart? To change your heart is to change your intention. It is to change the motives for all your actions. It means that you are no longer living for yourself or have a selfish motive but are now living for God and the well-being of His universe, thus having benevolent motives.

Men are even commanded to circumcise their own hearts (Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4). Since they are commanded to do so, this means that it is their own responsibility and choice. To circumcise your heart means to repent or put off your sins (Col. 2:11). Therefore, to circumcise your heart means to repent of your sins but to have an uncircumcised heart is to have an impenitent heart.

When Stephen was open air preaching, he said to the crowd “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:51). Stephen was rebuking them for disobeying a specific commandment, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked” (Deut. 10:16).

Why would Stephen rebuke them for being uncircumcised in their heart unless they were capable of circumcising their hearts? Why rebuke them for breaking a commandment unless they were capable of obeying the commandment? Why rebuke them for having uncircumcised hearts unless having such hearts was their own free choice? Why would he rebuke them for resisting the Holy Spirit unless they were capable of yielding to the Holy Spirit? Unless they were capable of doing these things, why rebuke them for not doing these things?

Stephen seemed to take for granted or assume the ability of his audience. He blamed them for their impenitent which must mean that their impenitent was their own free choice. You cannot rebuke a man for something which is not his choice. A man cannot be blamed for that which is beyond his control or for what he cannot help.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20)

woe

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20

Something in this world that is considered evil must surely be SIN, and sins are committed by individuals. SINS are related to darkness, and darkness is the opposite of light. If we try to teach others that sinners are still considered righteous in the eyes of God – as long as they are born again believers – because he can only see the blood of Jesus and not their sins, then the woe above is actually addressed to us. Then we are in fact saying that sin is not evil enough to make us lose our salvation over it and that we are still labeled righteous (because ”Jesus paid for our sins and we are already forgiven” or ”once saved always saved” – or some other unbiblical terms).

The best example of someone calling evil ”good” is when Satan managed to fool Eve into believing that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would be a GOOD and wise thing to do even though GOD had declared that it was BAD to eat of this tree and against his commandment.  Satan suggested that Eve could be as GOD if she ate of this tree and Eve decided to give it a try thanks to the assurance from Satan that she would NOT DIE if she DISOBEYED GOD! So what God declared wrong – and therefore EVIL – Satan declared GOOD. God prohibited Adam and Eve from eating of this tree and this means that acting to the contrary of his command would be a SIN. God assured Adam and Eve that they would DIE if they ate from it and Satan said the exact opposite. Isn’t it rather common today that pastors and evangelists repeat Satan’s lie and teach others that sins will NOT separate us from God (as long as we are christians)? Satan’s lie can be presented in many forms so be on your guard!

Genesis 2:17 [God says] But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof THOU SHALT SURELY DIE.

Genesis 3:4 [Satan says] —YE SHALL NOT SURELY DIE: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

It was of course not the fruit in itself that was bad. The reason why eating of this fruit was bad was because God forbade it, likely because this rule would actually force Adam and Eve to make a stance on whether or not trust and obey God each time they passed this tree – just like a simple test which wasn’t difficult to obey at all. This means that the sin they ended up being guilty of was that they DISOBEYED GOD and by doing so REBELLED against him. So it was DISOBEDIENCE that was the SIN, and God said that SIN leads to DEATH. In Adam and Eve’s case it was both a physical death (no longer access to the tree of life) as well as a spiritual death, and we will all die spiritually if we sin. Teaching the opposite (for instance trying to exempt christians from this rule) is to repeat Satan’s lie.

Perhaps you have been in a church where the pastor in a similar way assures you that you shall NOT DIE if you SIN because you are eternally and unconditionally secure in your salvation once you’ve become a child of God (+ if you sin ”habitually” it shows that you’re ”not saved to begin with”). Have you ever heard someone declaring to you that ”sinning will only make a true christian lose his RELATIONSHIP with God but will never risk his soul” and ”God will not see a true christian’s sins but only the blood of Jesus”? Then this pastor is deceived and at risk for being a person who calls evil ”good”. Malachi 2:17 tells us that we can dissatisfy our Lord by suggesting that a person who sins is still GOOD in the sight of God and that God still delights in him and that he will not judge him for his sins. The opposite is true:

Malachi 2:17 Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?

It’s actually rather common for pastors to declare that a christian is fine and off the hook (from the risk of being judged and punished) as long as he is a born again christian. There is of course FORGIVENESS to get for a person with a truly repentant heart – because our Lord is mighty and always ready to take us back into his arms – but it’s dangerous for the soul to be told that sins will not separate us from God. Instead we should encourage each other to not give into temptations, and to not stray from the road to Heaven by sinning. Temptations can be hard enough as they are and we don’t need anyone patting us on our backs, assuring us that everything is well with our soul despite our sins:

James 5:20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way SHALL SAVE A SOUL FROM DEATH, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

I’m aware of that pastors could have been fooled about this (major) issue just like Eve was, and just because a pastor is wrong about this he could still be right in many other areas and even lead many people to God (praise God for that), BUT the fact remains that this pastor needs to be taught about the true ways of God so that he can repent from his false teachings and be an even more useful tool to spread the gospel. Many of us (like myself) have incorrectly believed all kinds of false teachings and even taught them to others, but we have also chosen to stay corrected by scripture and amended our ways. Unfortunately, there are pastors who are not willing to listen and learn but they prefer to close their ears and continue to deceive people into believing that we can have our sins and our salvation too, because this is what people out there would like to hear.

Example of a person who teaches that evil is good

If someone claims that what Satan did to Eve (fooling her to sin by assuring her that she would not die) was actually something GOOD and even predestined by God, then this person is definitely a person who calls evil ”good”. To claim that an activity that God calls wrong and evil for something ”good” is simply dangerous. John Calvin taught that Adam and Eve were predestined BY GOD to fall and that means that in order to be consistent with his own teaching he must call EVIL for ”GOOD” since God’s own actions couldn’t be evil. I’m sorry if you dislike that I bring him up, but we are told to expose false teachers now when souls are at stake.

“God NOT ONLY foresaw the FALL of the first man, and in him the RUIN of his posterity; but also at his own pleasure ARRANGED it” .(John Calvin (Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, XXIII)

“The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 8)

“Creatures are so governed by the secret counsel of God, that nothing happens but what he has knowingly and willingly DECREED” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 16, Paragraph 3)

“We hold that God is the disposer and ruler of all things, –that from the remotest eternity, according to his own wisdom, He decreed what he was to do, and now by his power executes what he decreed. Hence we maintain, that by His providence, not heaven and earth and inanimate creatures only, but also THE COUNSELS AND WILLS OF MEN are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 16, Paragraph 8)

thieves and murderers, and other evildoers, are instruments of divine providence, being employed by the Lord himself to execute judgments which HE has resolved to inflict.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 17, Paragraph 5)

The devil, and the whole train of the ungodly, are in all directions, held in by the hand of God as with a bridle, so that they can neither conceive any mischief, nor plan what they have conceived, nor how muchsoever they may have planned, move a single finger to perpetrate, unless in so far as he permits, nay unless in so far as HE COMMANDS, that they are not only bound by his fetters but are even forced to do him service (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 17, Paragraph 11)

“But since he foresees future events only by reason of the fact that he decreed that they take place, they vainly raise a quarrel over foreknowledge, then it is clear that all things take place rather by his determination and bidding.“ (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 6)

King David says:

Psalm 38:18 For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.19 But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.20 They also that render evil for GOOD are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that good is. 

Who will be greatest in heaven?

Those who say that it’s impossible to obey the ten commandments and that we have no option but to sin once in a while until we die? Those who say that a person can only be righteous if God declares him righteous in the midst of his unrighteousness? Those who claim that too much obedience to Jesus is legalism, pharisaism and salvation by deeds and something to flee from? Those who teach that we are saved by faith ALONE? Those who teach that we should not expose false doctrines but compromise with the scriptures in order to not cause division? No, those who DO (obey) the commandments and who also teach others to do the same will be called GREAT in the kingdom of heaven.

Matt. 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Those who do the opposite – teach men that it’s hard or impossible to obey God’s commandments – will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Note that Jesus doesn’t teach here that sinners will at least GET IN to God’s kingdom despite their sins. He continues to say that our righteousness must EXCEED the righteousness of the scribes and the pharisees in order to get into the kingdom of heaven. So why does it appear as though we can enter the kingdom of heaven in v. 19 (albeit being called LEAST) despite acting in the wrong way? There might be evangelists who are deceived and who teach the wrong doctrines once in a while without being aware of it, and they might NOT live as they teach. A deceived pastor might for instance teach that we are born with a sinful nature and ”once saved always saved” without being a filthy sinner himself, and he might do a lot of good deeds for the kingdom of God through evangelism and hard work. The question is how interested he will be to change his doctrines once being shown from the Bible that he is in error? Will he be open for correction or will he close his ears and continue to spread errors? God can see our hearts and our intentions. Just pray that God will show you the truth and that you live your life so that you won’t risk to be called LEAST in the kingdom of God, or even worse; that you won’t enter the kingdom at all due to sin.

I can add that it’s just as bad (or worse) to know the right doctrines and still be very lazy when it comes to sharing the gospel to others and rather sit at home and complain about the failures of other christians.

Born not of blood but OF GOD, and not unconditionally (John 1:13)

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John. 1:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but OF GOD

This emphasizes God’s role in our spiritual rebirth and it does not say that God unconditionally makes a person born again without this person’s consent and neither does it show man’s inability to seek and find God. We can only speculate what those things mean that we are NOT born of. ”Blood” could mean human ancestry (such as being jews) or it could refer to the blood atonement of animals that became history due to the advent of Christ. ”The will of the flesh and the will of man” could mean that it’s not in human physical power, nor by enough works effort, nor by man’s desirous intent, nor by wishful thinking that we are able to be born of God and end up as his children – and eventually inherit his kingdom. If we remove what man is not ”born of” according to this verse, what is left? We remove ”blood””the will of the flesh” and ”the will of man”, and then we have ”which were born OF GOD”. The Bible says elsewhere that we must be born again (which can only happen thanks to God) in order to have life:

John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God

MAN cannot make his past sins go away and be cleansed and born again by himself, but GOD can accomplish this  – but under certain conditions.  How do we get born again? Example in short:

  • We seek God and come to him to get life
  • We acknowledge that we deserve death due to our sins, and that we are completely lost without Jesus
  • We confess our known sins
  • We repent from our old sinful life style
  • We make a decision to from now on walk in obedience with Christ, with the AIM to be faithful
  • THEN we are cleansed from our old sins by the mercy of God!
  • We are now righteous, justified and born again and completely new persons!
  • We acknowledge that God does not promise us ”once cleansed always cleansed”

So WE cannot make ourselves become born again and new persons – no matter our will – because we simply don’t have the power to cleanse ourselves and be free from our old sin debt. Only GOD can help us with this, so we must come to him to make this happen. Even if we would live the rest of our lives without sin, we could still not arrange so that our past sins were removed. Thanks to the blood of Jesus that he shed for us the cross, we can be made righteous! Peter says that in obeying the truth we have purified our souls and, as previously mentioned, we can only do this by coming to God to be cleansed. This is how we get eternal life!

1 Peter 1:22 Seeing YE have purified your souls in OBEYING the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

In the immediate context prior to John 1:13, we can read that those who had the right to become the children of God were selected on the basis of who ”received” and ”believed” Christ. Is God forcing man or is man accepting in this verse?

John. 1:11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name 

We can also read about Jesus 9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

Everyone has been given enough light to be able to believe in Jesus

Finally, we can read in another place in the NT where it’s actually possible to be born ”after the flesh”, and this concerns the bondmaid Hagar who got a planned child together with Abraham (Ishmael). The birth of Isaac (Abraham’s and Sara’s child) is in contrast to the previous birth and is stated to be ”by promise”.

Gal. 4:22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.

SABBATH DAY on Saturday or Sunday doesn’t matter

The Sabbath Day was part of the Israeli Covenant, but we are now living under the New Testament, and it’s faith and baptism that are the major signs for a follower of Jesus.

I think the best explanation for the need of a day of rest is found in Exodus 22. God created the heavens and the earth in six days for a reason, and that’s because he wanted to make it as a foundation for us – as a life pattern when it comes to work and rest. We should take the original creation week as an example to follow in our every day lives. If we didn’t have this work-6-days-and-rest-1-day-pattern, there is a risk we would work and struggle all days alike, especially if we would notice that ”everyone else does it so why should I be any different? I don’t want to come across as lazy”.

Exodus 22:Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

The Sabbath was to be a sign between God and the children of Israel in the old testament, and it was very serious to break the law of the Sabbath. The death penalty applied! This might sound harsh for us today, but we must remember that the Israelites were supposed to mirror God’s light also unto the gentiles so if God would look between his fingers when it came to breaking his law all other people would get the message that it’s not a big deal whether to obey the God of Israel or not.

Exodus 12:Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.

Exodus 31:13 Speak thou also UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. 14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.17 IT IS A SIGN BETWEEN ME AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL FOR EVER: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

The Jewish custom was, and still is today, to observe the Sabbath day on Saturday. There are also many references in the book of Acts about the early Christian church meeting together on a Saturday to pray and study the Scriptures, like in Acts 13:13-14, 16:13 and 17:2. Every mention of the Sabbath in the book of Acts are always in connection with Jewish worship on that day. Paul constantly went to the temple to preach (sometimes he was accepted and sometimes he was thrown out) and it was his strategy to try to reach the Jews in their own community where they were to be found. Peter said:

Acts 15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

It’s possible that the first christians continued meeting on Saturdays (the Sabbath) the first few years since this is what they did as jews, but some believe the early church began meeting on Sundays soon after Christ rose from the dead in honor of the Lord’s resurrection – which took place on a Sunday (or the first day of the week). Many other divine events also happened on a Sunday. After Jesus’ resurrection whenever he met with his disciples and where the day is identified, it is never on the Sabbath but always the first day of the week!Others see the change to meet up on Sundays as a gradual progression over the course of history. Christian groups that adhere to a Sunday worship feel that the Lord’s command was not specifically for the seventh day but rather one day out of the seven week days (which would also make it the 7th day after six days of work). By focusing on worship on Sunday (what many refer to as ”the Lord’s Day”) instead of Saturday, could symbolically represent the acceptance of Christ as Messiah and his broadening blessing and redemption from the Jews to the entire world. That’s not really a sinful reason to highlight Sunday instead of Saturday.

In Russian the word for Sunday is Воскресенье (Voskreseniye) which means”Resurrection”. In other Slavic languages the word means ”no work”, for example Polish: Niedziela, Belorussian: Нядзеля, Croatian: Nedjelja, Serbian and Slovenian: Nedelja, Czech: Neděle,Bulgarian: Неделя. The Modern Greek word for Sunday, Κυριακή, derives from Κύριος (Lord) also, due to its liturgical significance as the day commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, i.e.The Lord’s Day. (Wikipedia)

Acts 2:46 tells us that from the start, the church in Jerusalem met every day in the temple (that’s also where the jews were) and gathered to break bread together in private homes:

Acts. 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Paul instructs the churches to meet together on the first day of the week (Sunday) to give offerings. Traditionally Sunday has always been considered as the first day of the week. If they met up to make such collections, why not take the chance to worship during the same occasion since they were all gathered together? If Saturday was considered THE day of worship, wouldn’t it make more sense for Paul to make a collection during this day since the christians were already gathered?:

1 Cor. 16: 1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

When Paul met with believers in Troas to worship, preach to them and break bread with them, they gathered on the first day of the week:

Acts 20: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

Jesus explains that the Sabbath is made for man and not man for the sabbath. This could mean that the disciples shouldn’t view the Sabbath day as an obstacle for them but rather arrange their lives in such a way so that they could honor it without having to feel it makes things difficult for them and is a burden in their lives. Today we should approach the day of rest wisely and avoid falling into any ditch. The Apostle John refers to the Lord’s Day (”kuriake hemera”) in Rev. 1:10. ”Kuriake”, meaning ”Lord’s,” later became the Greek word for Sunday.  Jesus claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath, and that day fell on the seventh day. The majority of Christians observe Sunday as the Lord’s day:

Mark 2:23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?25 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

We are not bound by a certain day

Jesus is the fulfilling of the Old Sabbath and our rest is in Him. We now commit to that rest as we continue in the faith.

Romans 14 shows that there is personal freedom regarding the observance of holy days. Some might suggest that this passage is only about FOOD, but I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Paul starts off warning about ”doubtful disputations” and that seems to be the core of his argument. He provides the subject of food as his first example of where disputations might occur, and his point is that we should not judge each concerning minor issues such as meat or fasting but let God be the judge. Paul says in Rom. 14:3 that those who eat meat are not better or worse than those who do not eat meat (so judging is out-of-place), but in 1 Cor 8 he has a slightly different point because there he explains that our conduct can affect other people’s spiritual safety. So we should still think about our behavior so we won’t cause others to fall:

1 Cor. 8:8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

In Rom. 5 Paul proceeds with his second example when it comes to ”doubtful disputations” and brings up the way we regard ”days”:

Rom. 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

His point is still that we should not judge each other concerning minor issues:

Rom. 14:For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

Also in Col. 2 Christians are instructed not to judge each other regarding the Sabbath days. This might suggest the early christians had already been judged for their different observances of Sabbath and festivals.

Col. 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

This covers:

• days (weekly Sabbaths, corresponding to ”Sabbath days”)
• months (new moons, corresponding to ”a new moon”)
• seasons (the 7 feasts, corresponding to ”festivals”)
• and years (the sabbatical year and the 50th year of Jubilee)

In Galatians 4, Paul is concerned about Christians who are turning back like slaves to legalistic observances of special days:

Gal. 4:But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

We should be ”fully convinced” that whichever day we choose is the right day for us to set aside as a day of worship, and we should not judge or allow anyone to judge us regarding our choice.

How important is Sabbath TODAY?

A person who is born today (2012) will notice when he grows up that SUNDAY is the day when christians normally meet for worship. That’s the case in Scandinavia, the rest of Europe and throughout the whole world – with a few exceptions. So the vast majority of christians. Can we really require that this person must study church history (to find out that we are supposed to celebrate Sabbath on a Saturday) in order to get essential knowledge about Jesus Christ?! This person might not even like to read books, and particularly not about church history and about how jews and christians celebrated the Sabbath 2,000 years ago. One would think that Jesus would have offered us some light in the matter if it was so important to get the days straight, but the main memory we have about Jesus in relation to the Sabbath day is that he broke it. We DO know that it’s important to assemble together with other christians and to live holy! Is it EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that we try to make the christian world start worshiping on Saturdays instead of Sundays, and why? Who is the one getting annoyed when we listen to the exact same sermon on a Sunday instead of Saturday? Paul helped us in his letters by providing us instructions for how to behave in church, but he didn’t mention that there is a particular day that we must meet on.

There are many countries and cities where christians are scarce and that means that there are not that many churches to choose between for worship and fellowship. We can only select among the best churches available. If you insist on that Saturday is THE day to celebrate a Sabbath, then you can of course try to contact the pastor in a church and ask him if he would consider persuading the elders to have church services on Saturdays instead of Sundays. I doubt you will succeed though! And if you have not succeeded, and if there are no other churches available, will you stay home alone? And how Biblical is THAT (to stay away from meetings with other christians)?

When we try to find the best church available in our area, is the question of the Sabbath really that important? Isn’t it more important to investigate what the pastors teach in the church (whenever they do teach), and if the pastors highlight repentance, salvation in Jesus Christ, the blood on the cross, the importance to make other disciples, the spiritual gifts, righteousness, etc? It’s also important to avoid churches which don’t have the Bible as their solid foundation but base their teachings on a person. Of course pastors are bound to color Bible texts with their own understanding (this is what preaching entails), but if they use other scriptures or texts apart from the Bible then we must be on our guard. I’m of course not saying it’s wrong to bring up wise words (or entire sermons) from other christians who have gone before them as long as they are Biblical, but I’m only warning about false prophets who bring in heresy into church and possibly also division.

Society looks completely different today than it did 2,000 years ago. Today it’s common for a family to have both parents working full-time and at a good stretch from home, and that means they might very well be away from home about 11 hours/day (including lunch hour and time for commuting). On top of this they might have to pick up their kids from the daycare center before hurrying home to fix dinner (using groceries that perhaps someone else in the family had time to buy after his/her work or school). For most people they have no option to get an alternative life style since the job that are offered are full-time or no time, and they do need to get a salary to get food on the table and to pay taxes. Needless to say, that when Saturday finally arrives they are very tired and prefer to sleep in late, clean the house, wash clothes, visit parents/relatives and spend some time with the kids. Some also take the chance to go shopping on Saturday, believing Sunday is the day of rest and a day which should not be used for shopping. This mean that they are better prepared in all sorts of way for a worship together with other christians on Sunday, and they might even feel like bringing friends home after the church service because the house is in order after a week’s mess. Had the day of special worship been on a Saturday it could tempt weak christians to stay home from church altogether. Again, Sabbath is made for man and not the other way around. If a village that is blessed to have a church (meaning they have a group of christians in this village), and the church has an arrangement that works very well among them and which isn’t against the Bible in any way, then why not keep it that way?

Can we blame Constantine for that we worship on Sundays?

Constantine is oft blamed for various things, such as the idea that we believe in the trinity due to him, but the change of day was not instituted by him or the pope centuries after the apostles nor was it made to replace the Sabbath day. Some Sabbatarians particularly have the council of Laodicea in mind, held in 364 A.D.  There is much historical evidence to show Sunday worship was a universal practice of all the churches outside the land of Israel by the beginning of the 2nd century. What did take place at that Council was an anti-semitic move to make it illegal for christians to worship on Saturday. There were thousands of christians already worshiping on Sundays. 

”Anti-Judaism played its part in second-century Christian polemic against Jewish Sabbath observance, but it does not follow that it motivated the introduction of Christian Sunday worship. For we have already argued that Sunday worship dates back to the first century, while few second-century writers compare and contrast the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Sunday. Derogatory discussions of the Jewish Sabbath do not usually refer to the Christian Sunday. If Sunday were a recent substitute for the Jewish Sabbath, we should expect far more discussion of the superiority of Sunday to the Sabbath.” R. J. Bauckham, From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, p. 271, edited by D.A. Carson.

The old church fathers also promoted worship on a Sunday

Philip Schaff (a noted historian) writes in the Schaff- Herzog Encyclopedia of religious knowledge 1891 Ed., vol.4 Article on Sunday.

”Sunday… was adopted by the early Christians as a day of worship.. . Sunday was emphatically the weekly feast of the resurrection of Christ, as the Jewish Sabbath was the feast of creation. It was called the Lords day, and upon it the primitive church assembled to break bread. No regulations for its observance are laid down in the new testament nor, indeed, is its observance even enjoined. Yet Christian feeling led to the universal adoption of the day, in imitation of the apostolic precedence. In the second century its observance was universal.

In other words these meetings were not to replace the Sabbath but held as a whole new day. There is a view that the Sabbath commemorated a finished creation with rest and the first day commemorates a finished redemption and a new work. The Sabbath is then a day of rest and quiet and the first day is a day of worship and praise. Sabbath means rest, not Saturday.The New Testament Church saw Sunday not as the substitute and replacement for the Jewish Sabbath.  Sunday was not seen as a modification or as a new Sabbath, but as a day that stood on its own merits having its own meaning.

The epistle of Ignatius, AD 107

”Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish Law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace….If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and By His death.”

Barnabas, 120 AD

”Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day, also, on which Jesus rose again from the dead”

The writings of Justin Martyr, AD 145-150 Justin’s ‘Apology’ was written at Rome about the year 140, only 44 years after the apostle John received the vision of The Revelation at Patmos. The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge says this about Justin’s works:

”In these works Justin professes to present the system of doctrine held by all Christians and seeks to be orthodox on all points. The only difference he knows of as existing between Christians concerned the millennium. Thus Justin is an incontrovertible witness for the unity of the faith in the Church of his day, and the fact that the Gentile type of Christianity prevailed.” Quoted by Canright in The Compete Testimony of the Early Fathers, Fleming H. Revell, 1916, pp. 24-25.

NOTE: At this early date, AD 140, the only major difference among Christians was concerning the millennium. At that time they had no disagreement in keeping Sunday, and as you will see, Justin says that was the day on which all Christians worshipped.

In chapter 67 of his first Apology, entitled, ”Weekly Worship of the Christians” writing to the pagan emperor, Justin states:

”…we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought…But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought the change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.”The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, pp. 185-186 (emphasis added).

Didache, AD 80-90

”And on the day of our lords resurrection, which is the Lord’s day meet more diligently.”

Irenaeus, AD 155-202

”The Mystery of the Lord’s Resurrection may not be celebrated on any other day than the Lord’s Day, and on this alone should we observe the breaking off of the Paschal Feast.”

APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: Church life in the 2nd Century:

”On the day of the resurrection of the Lord–that is, the Lord’s Day–assemble yourself together without fail, giving thanks to God and praising Him for those mercies God has bestowed upon you through Christ.”

Dionysius, AD 170 Dionysius was Bishop of Corinth, the Church which Paul raised up and to which he gave the command about Sunday collections, in I Corinthians 16:1-2:

We passed this holy Lord’s Day, in which we read your letter, from the constant reading of which we shall be able to draw admonition.Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 4, Chapt. 23 

Clement of Alexandria, AD 194

”He, in fulfillment of the precept, keeps the Lord’s day when he abandons an evil disposition, and assumes that of the Gnostic, glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself” Book 7, Chapter 12

Ignatius, the third bishop of Antioch, AD 108:

”If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him…Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; for ”he that does not work, let him not eat.”…let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week]” ”Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, pp. 62-63

Tertullian of Africa, AD 200: In his Apology, Chapter 16:

”We solemnize the day after Saturday in contradistinction to those who call this day their Sabbath, and devote it to ease and eating, deviating from the old Jewish customs, which they are now very ignorant of.”

Others, with greater regard to good manners, it must be confessed, suppose that the sun is the god of the Christian, because it is a well- known fact that we pray towards the east, or because we make Sunday a day of festivity” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, p. 123).

NOTE: The early church explained why they prayed toward the east. It was because, ”as the lightning which lighteneth from the east and is seen even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of man be:” that by this we might know and understand that He will appear from the east suddenly” Ancient Syriac Documents, The Ante- Nicene Fathers, vol. 8, p. 668.

Pliny’s letter, AD 107 Pliny was governor of Bithynia, in Asia Minor, from AD 106-108. He wrote in AD 107 to Trajan, the emperor, concerning the Christians:

”They were wont to meet together, on a stated day before it was light, and sing among themselves alternately a hymn to Christ as God….When these things were performed, it was their custom to separate and then to come together again to a meal which they ate in common without any disorder.”

All these quotes prove the Church held Sunday as a significant day long before any edict in the 300’s.

Does the Bible really teach that we should worship on Saturdays?

The day of the week to assemble should be the church’s choice, and many churches today have Saturday services as well as Sunday. The NT has no legislation for which day we are to assemble and history shows the early church chose Sunday because of its significance and not because they hated the Sabbath.

We can find 9 of the commandments from Ex.20:3-4 repeated in the New Testament but the 4thone is not. Maybe there is a reason for this. The Bible offers no command that we must assemble on the Sabbath (Saturday) for worship and there was absolutely no warning against Sunday worship.

At the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, dealing with how the Gentiles are to practice their Christianity, it does not mention the Sabbath. Paul states ”for I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he isa debtor to the whole law. (Gal.5:3) This can be substituted with any part of the Mosaic law; diet, clothing or the Sabbath.  James and Hebrews were written to the dispersed Israel, but they never refer to continue keeping the Sabbath day because even Jewish believers were not obligated. Peter exhorts the leadership of the Church not to place the Gentiles under the Law:

Acts 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they

What some have done is use fear and devious manipulation to prove one is under the wrath of God by simply worshipping on a day apart from the Covenant given to Moses!

Acts 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

Note that the Holy Spirit told them NOT to lay upon the Gentiles any greater burden than those essentials. It seems like the Holy Spirit didn’t think Sabbath keeping was essential thing any more. If we are to believe that we need to keep the Sabbath  on Saturdays – just like they did in the OT – then the question is why we should pick and choose among the rules related to this special day, and why we should not also keep these instructions in mind:

-It was to be kept from sunset to sunset (Lev. 23:32)
-No burden was to be carried (Jer. 17:21)
-No fire kindled (Ex. 35:3)
-No Cooking done (Ex. 16:23)
-The penalty for doing any of these things during the Sabbath was DEATH (Numbers 15).

In the New Testament we are provided with lists of SINS that separate us from God and prevent us from entering his kingdom. These lists are often repeated. Nowhere is breaking the Sabbath listed as a sin that causes spiritual death.

If the Sabbath keeping is so important for a disciple of Christ, why didn’t Jesus or his apostles command Sabbath keeping?

We are often asked to find one verse in the Bible that shows the day of worship has been changed from Saturday to Sunday, but this is a moot point because it doesn’t matter what day you worship on.