|One of the czars of Russia, walking in his park one day, came upon a sentry standing before a patch of weeds. The czar asked him what he was doing there. The sentry did not know. All he could say was that he had been ordered to his post of duty by the captain of the guard. The czar then sent his aid to ask the captain of the guard. But the captain could only say that the regulations had called for a sentry at that particular spot. His curiosity had been aroused. The czar ordered an investigation. But no living man at the court could remember the time when there had not been a sentry at that post, and none could say why he was there, or what he was guarding.
Finally, the archives were opened and after a long search the mystery was solved. The records showed that Catherine the Great had once planted a rose bush in that plot of ground and a sentry had been put there to see that no one trampled upon it. The rose bush died, but no one thought to cancel the order, and so for many years the spot where the rose bush had once been was watched by men who did not know what they were watching. It became a tradition. They really did not know why they were there. They were just there.
Do you know that we have many religious teachers today standing guard over doctrines and practices, the origin of which they do not know, and they are certainly not rooted in the Scriptures. Simply a tradition. They think they are guarding some sacred plant of truth, when in reality they are standing guard over some weed of error.
This brings us to our first text today, found in Matthew the 15th chapter, verse 13: “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.” That is to say, every religious doctrine and practice which is not rooted in the Holy Scriptures will in the end be destroyed. And if you want to stand among the victorious ones in the end of time then anchor your faith in the doctrines and practices that God Himself has planted.
How can we know truth? There is only one way, and that is to study carefully this book that God has given to us. When it comes to something so important to salvation certainly no Christian should depend upon the sayings of another man. He will not follow tradition but will search diligently what God has to say to him through the Bible.
Today we present the Bible text man has forgotten—the text God said to remember. In Exodus 20 we find the ten divine precepts of our Creator. These Ten Commandments govern man’s relationship to his God and to his fellow men. We seem to have little difficulty in interpreting the first commandment which says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me;” or the second or the third that reminds us not to take the name of the Lord our God in vain; or the fifth that tells us to honor our father and mother; the sixth, that reminds us not to kill; the seventh, not to commit adultery; the eighth, not to steal; the ninth, not to bear false witness; or the tenth, not to covet. All Christians everywhere testify to the necessity of abiding by the principles of these divine commands of God. All are of equal importance. In James 2:10-12 we read: ‘’For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.’’
So all of these Ten Commandments are of equal importance. Let us be mindful that these Ten Commandments are unchangeable, unalterable. In Malachi 3:6 we are told: “For I am the Lord, I change not.” And in Psalms 89:34 we read: “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” Surely if the Lord Himself testifies that His law is unchangeable, that He Himself would not alter it, then we as mere men dare not tamper with this divine constitution of the government of God. In fact, the Lord commands us in Deuteronomy 4:2 “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”
Among the Ten Commandments we find the forgotten Bible text, the very one God asked us to remember. Notice again, if you will, Exodus 20, read verses 8 through 11: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 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: 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.’’
Notice that this commandment is prefaced with the word “remember”—”don’t forget this one.’’ Could it be the Lord knew that of all His ten divine precepts this would be the one most forgotten by all? And so He said, “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.” Here the Lord makes crystal clear the day which He made holy as the Sabbath day. Notice verses 10 and 11 where He says: “But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God...rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” And so as we remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, we must remember also which day the Lord set apart as His holy day. That was the seventh day of the week, or Saturday, as we know it today.
Notice that this Sabbath commandment, along with the rest of the commandments was given through Moses in written form 2,000 years after creation. But the Sabbath itself goes back to creation itself. In Genesis 2:1-3 we read: ‘’Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it.’’ There are some who think that the teaching of a seventh-day Sabbath is something new, but in actuality it is the oldest institution known to man, for it dates back to creation week itself, just as does the institution of marriage. It is interesting to note, too, that the seventh day Sabbath is not a Jewish day, for it was given 2,000 years before there was a Jew. Indeed, Jesus said in Mark 2:27, “the sabbath was made for man”—not for the Jew only, but for man.
Now, what was the purpose of the Sabbath? Why was it given in the very beginning of time? “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.” Exodus 31:17. Here we recognize that the Sabbath, if kept by Christians, is a sign that they believe it was God who created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. In Exodus 20:11 the same reason for the Sabbath was given—”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, then, becomes a memorial of creation, a sign or a symbol of the great creative power of God. The Stars and Stripes, the red, white and blue flag, stands today as a symbol of the great nation of America. It is indeed a privilege for every red-blooded American to salute and pledge allegiance to the flag. None of us would stand by idly and see the Stars and Stripes dragged in the mud. Dare we, then, fellow Christians, see the symbol of God’s eternal government torn away from its moorings and dragged in the mud of tradition?
Jesus is surely our example in all things. We will follow Him then in this matter of Sabbath observance, for Jesus was a Sabbathkeeper. “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.” Luke 4:16. Yes, it was the custom, the practice, of Jesus to observe the sacred, holy Sabbath day. In John 15:10 Jesus testified: ‘’I have kept my Father’s commandments.” In Matthew 15:9 He says: “In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” The seventh day Sabbath stands today as a commandment of God. The first day of the week, or Sunday-keeping, stands today only upon the traditions of men.
Multitudes of Christians today believe that there must be some good reason why Sunday-keeping has replaced Sabbathkeeping; some reason why the first day of the week is kept today instead of the Old Testament Sabbath. But the Bible is silent upon such a change.
Did the apostles keep the Sabbath? The followers of Jesus, after beholding the body of Christ in the sepulcher, “returned and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.” Luke 23:56. There is no record anywhere in the New Testament indicating that the disciples or followers of Jesus honored any other day as the sacred Sabbath of the Lord.
In the book of Acts we find repeated references to the Sabbath long after the resurrection of Jesus. In Acts 13:14 we read: “But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.” In verse 42: “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.” And in verse 44: “And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.’’ As Paul continued his missionary journeys, he continued to honor the seventh day Sabbath. In Acts 16:13 we read: “And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.” Also in Acts 17:2: “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures.”
Yes, it was the custom of Paul, as it was of Christ, to observe the Sabbath commandment. “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (in the city of Corinth, Greece), Acts 18:4. He continued there for a year and six months (verse 11). and every Sabbath he was found in the church with the people.
The Apostle Paul, as he himself testified in Acts 24:14, that he, “believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets” kept this commandment. It was he who taught that the keeping of the law which was holy, just and good was not a means of salvation, but a result of salvation, an evidence that the love of Christ had entered one’s heart. As one who loved His Lord, Paul, like all the apostles, continued to follow in the footsteps of Jesus in obedience to the commandments of God. There is absolutely no text in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation indicating that a new Sabbath should be substituted for the old. In fact, there are only eight texts in the New Testament which mention the first day of the week. Surely if there was to be a change from the seventh to the first day, it would have to be mentioned in one of these eight verses.
Why, then, do many keep Sunday, you ask? Well, because they were taught to; because their mothers and fathers did, and their grandfathers, perhaps, before them; because they had thought it must be in the Bible; because you thought there must be some good reason for it. But as we put the first day, Sunday, to the test of Bible truth, we find it must fall, with all the other traditional teachings of mankind which came into the church during the Dark Ages. But in these last days, in fulfillment of Bible prophecy, the true Sabbath is again to be revealed as part of the great reformatory movement to take place before Jesus returns.
In Isaiah 58:12, 13 we are told of the great reformation which specifies the revival of the true Sabbath. ‘’And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words.’’ To those who accept this last-day revival of the true Sabbath, the promise is given in verse 14: “Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.” What a day of delight it becomes when the true Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, is again accepted and honored as the Holy of the Lord.
The Bible also teaches that the Sabbath will be kept in heaven. “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.’’ Isaiah 66:22, 23. What a privilege it will be to gather around the great white throne in the kingdom of glory each seventh-day Sabbath to worship our Maker and our Saviour!
- Sunday Tradition, Joe Crews Radio Sermons