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Right Idea, Wrong Day

Right Idea, Wrong Day

A recent weekly column in the Daily Reporter (“Nobody covers Hancock County like the Daily Reporter”), regularly “written by local clergy members,” began with a quote from the book of Genesis: “On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation—Genesis 2:2–3.”

Its author, Ethan Maple, is the pastor of the Mount Comfort Methodist Church in Greenfield, Indiana. If that’s surprising to you, you’re not the only one. The title alone—“Hope for Living: Sabbath command is invitation to rest and joy”—indicates that this isn’t a typical push from a church that regularly worships on Sunday.

At first, the theology starts off, really, quite solid. Maple quotes those verses in Genesis with the understanding that God made the seventh day a special day and Himself declared it “holy.”

Next, he gives a fine exposition on our need for rest, stating that “rest has been built into the design of creation, implanted into the DNA of humanity.” That’s a good point. He then muses over the sad fact of getting caught up in a society that, he eloquently writes, “invites us to adorn exhaustion and production like a badge of honor.”

He even delves into the Sabbath as part of the Ten Commandments: “These Ten Commandments are not some buffet of rules where we are invited to take what we want and leave what we don’t, and yet often that’s exactly what we do. Or worse yet, we assume some are more important than others and our spirits default to some sinful ranking system.”

Correct, again: The Ten Commandments are God’s moral law, and “the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12). It “is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7). Keeping the Sabbath is just as important as not murdering, not stealing, and putting God above all else.

So well does the pastor catch the essence of the Sabbath that, if you didn’t know differently—that is, if you didn’t know who wrote it—you might have thought that the column had been written by the famous (and now deceased) Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, whose book The Sabbath has been hailed by both Jews and Christians as a classic work on spirituality and faith.

The Sabbath Command

But this is also where Maple’s theology gets incomprehensible. If Maple views the Ten Commandments as just what they are, divine commandments, then why is he—as evidenced by his church’s website—keeping Sunday as God’s holy day instead of the seventh day as the Bible dictates? If he lives his life by the Word of God, then wouldn’t he also realize that nowhere in God’s Word does it state that the Sabbath is the first day of the week or that it at any point was changed to the first day of the week?

Unfortunately, his article doesn’t give insight into these questions. Without attempting to show why Sunday is the Sabbath, Maple simply assumes that it is and then applies the theology of the seventh-day Sabbath to the first day of the week.

And then there’s this statement: “At times we get this image of the Sabbath being 24 hours of praying, worshiping and reading the Bible. The truth is, while the Sabbath may involve those things, it doesn’t have to.”

That seems contradictory when compared to his earlier explanation: “God’s command to his people was to keep the Sabbath day holy, sacred, and set apart as an offering to our Creator.” What is praying to Him, worshiping Him, and reading His Word but offerings to our Creator? Prayer is how we talk with God; worship is how we show our love for God; and the study of His Word is how we get to know who He is. Are we to take or leave those things on the Sabbath, as the article suggests? By participating in those activities, we are carving out the time and space for God and God alone.

The Seventh Day

A person can have a lot of facts right about the Sabbath, but at the end of the day, error mixed in with truth still produces error; “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). Sunday is not the Sabbath.

Today, many Christians cry “legalism” when the day of the week is brought up. Of course, we will never be able to work for our salvation. It is a gift from God. That’s not the question. The question is: Will you “[live] by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3)? It was the Lord who “blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:3). It was God who illuminated the seventh day, not man. Ironically, this is the same verse with which Maple kicks off his article.

“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2), said the Lord. And the word which God commanded is: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. … The seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:8, 10). God has not made one modification since.

If you’d like to learn about who did change God’s Word, check out our free, online article “Where’s the evidence that the Sabbath was changed?” And take assurance in the fact that no matter what man does, God’s Word lasts forever. 

This article contributed by Clifford Goldstein
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