The Day of a Risen Christ

An explanation by Keith L. Brooks of "Why We Worship on the Lord's Day Instead of On the Day When Christ Lay Dead in the Tomb"

Some kind of friend has been regularly furnishing us with Sev­enth-day Adventist literature devoted to discussion of the question, “Was the Sabbath ever changed from Saturday to Sunday?” At great length the writers relate the acts of Christ on the Jewish Sabbath and His approval of that day of worship. They point out that Jesus never gave instructions for the change and that not until the day of Constantine was the Lord’s Day kept as the worship day of the Christian church.

But why all these words? No intel­ligent Bible student contends that the Sabbath was ever changed to Sunday or that Christ did not approve of the Jew­ish day of worship.

There is not the slightest warrant for changing the Sabbath from one day to another. Such a thing was never done. From that glorious first day of the week when Christ came forth victor over the grave, Hades, and Satan, two days were observed side by side—one by those who stood for a dead Christ, and one by those who gloried in a risen and exalted Christ. While the Jews continued to observe the day of a dead Christ (a day appointed to commemorate a finished creation), the Christians began to ob­serve the day of a risen Christ (commemorating a finished redemption). The Jews continued to worship beginning at sundown of Friday and finishing at sun­down Saturday, and they kept the day in every particular way in strict accordance with the commands of the Israelitish Law (something our Adventist friends, strange to say, do not do).

No one denies that Christ, who was born under the Law and who came to fulfill the Law, kept the Jewish Sab­bath, even though He shocked His own people by not keeping it according to their ideas. He went into the synagogues and taught on the Jewish Sabbath, and how better could He reach those He came to reach as the Messenger of Jeho­vah? But is it not rather peculiar, in view of the Adventist argument, that there is nowhere found among His com­mandments any word as to the obser­vance of the seventh-day Sabbath nor anything that implies the wish that the church should observe the Jewish Sab­bath? Nor did any of the apostles com­mand or teach his people to observe it. We may safely conclude that if the keeping of the Sabbath, or any other part of the Jewish system, was among the “necessary things” (Acts 15:28-29) for Gentile believers, it would surely have been emphasized in Christ's messages to the churches (see Colossians 2:12-16). Jesus hallowed the new day by meeting with the saints in His resur­rection body, and never did He hint that they were out of order in observing that day instead of the Jewish Sabbath. On the contrary, there is in the New Testa­ment the most positive teaching as to the relation of the body of Christ to the whole Law given to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. As to this teaching our Adventist friends plunge us into the strangest confusion, for they attempt to bind the church with some few of the Levitical laws while totally ignoring the balance.

As to the charge that it was Constantine who caused the change of order, someone has recently done a great service to the church by compiling from patristic sources the testimony of seven church fathers (outside of the New Tes­tament record), all but one of whom antedate the reign of Constantine. These testimonies show that the early church universally observed the first day of the week while the Jews still held to the seventh day. They follow:

Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of John who survived him only a few years, wrote, in A. D. 101: “Those who were con­cerned with old things have come to newness of confidence, no longer keeping Sabbaths but living according to the Lord’s Day, on which our life as risen again through Him depends. Let us no more Sabbathize.”

Barnabas, in a letter dated at the beginning of the second century, wrote: “We keep the eighth day with joy on which day Jesus also arose from the dead.”

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons who had associated with the apostles, wrote in A. D. 167: “On the Lord’s Day every one of us Christians keeps the Sabbath.”

Clement of Alexandria wrote in A. D. 194: “The old Sev­enth Day has become nothing more than a working day.”

Tertullian wrote in A. D. 200: “The Lord’s Day is the holy day of the Christian Church. We have nothing to do with the Sabbath.”

Origen in A. D. 225 wrote: “To keep the Lord’s Day is one of the marks of the perfect Christian.”

Augustine declared that “the Lord’s Day was established by Christ. The Lord’s Day was by the Resurrection declared to Christians and from that very time it began to be celebrated as the Christian festival.”

— By Keith L. Brooks. Reproduced from the April 1920 issue of The King’s Business