|Many ministers teach that the observance of Sabbath completely left the Church after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that some how it was all together replaced by Sunday. But that is not true. History testifies that the Sabbath continued to be kept strictly by the Jewish believers for centuries after the resurrection, and that the Sabbath along with Sunday was observed as days of assembly and worship by the Gentile Churches. And we shall see this plainly in the following study.
Many Bible Scholars point to the day of Pentecost as the birthplace of the Christian Church. Pentecost of course is a Jewish feast day that occurs about fifty days after Passover. Christ had ascended to heaven ten days earlier, after promising the Apostles that he would send them the Holy Spirit, thus empowering them to witness to all over the world. There were one hundred and twenty disciples of Christ in the upper room that day. They were all Jewish believers and they were all Sabbath keepers.
When the Holy Ghost fell upon them and they began to speak in new tongues and prophesy there were three thousand men added to the Church of God on that day two-thousand years ago. What kind of men were these?
Acts 2:5 ¶ And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
They all were Jews, in fact for the first ten years after Christ’s ascension, the church was made up of nothing but Sabbath keeping Jews. The Apostles didn’t even know that gentiles could be saved, until Jesus sent Peter to Cornelius’ house about ten years after this Pentecost.
How did the converted Jews (Messianic Jew) feel about the Ten Commandments? And the ordinances of the law?
Acts 21:20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:
The Jewish believers, which included the Apostles themselves, were zealous over the law of GOD. Not only the Ten Commandments, but they also continued in the ordinances of Moses. You can read the whole history of the Apostles’ work after Christ’s ascension and not once were they ever accused of breaking the Sabbath. The Lord had taught the Apostles to do only that which was lawful on the Seventh Day. And it is clear that they respected and kept the Sabbath for the whole of their life.
These men who accepted Christ on that day of Pentecost, soon returned to their homes in all of these foreign countries, there they shared Christ with their loved ones, and home churches were formed. What kind of home churches? Sabbath keeping home churches. At this time followers of Christ were not called Christians but Nazarenes [Acts 11:26].
The Jewish Christians [who were called Nazarenes - Acts 24:5] continued to keep Sabbath and to be zealous over the law of Moses even down to the fifth century. As seen in the following article from the Encyclopedia.
“The earliest Christians were sometimes referred to as Nazarenes, particularly by their Jewish contemporaries. In later church history, the term was [still] applied to a sect of Jewish Christians of the 4th century who observed Jewish ritual, including circumcision, the Sabbath, and the dietary laws. They also believed in the divinity of Christ and the apostleship of St. Paul. The Nazarenes differed from another group of Jewish Christians, the Ebionites, in both their beliefs and in their refusal to require that Gentile Christians observe the Jewish rituals.” – Encarta Encylopedia.
Saint Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin, in 404 AD wrote of these believers saying:
“In our own day there exists a sect among the Jews throughout all the synagogues of the East... The adherents to this sect are known commonly as Nazarenes; they believe in Christ the Son of God, ‘born of, the Virgin Mary; and they say that He who suffered under Pontius Pilate and rose again, [and] is the same as the one in whom we believe.” AD 404 Letter 75 of Jerome’s answer to Letters XXVIII., XL, and LXXI.
*Please notice the Nazarenes taught that the Jewish Rituals were not binding on Gentiles. This is the doctrine laid down at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.
THE ETHIOPIAN CHURCH
In Acts 8:26-29 Philip was commanded to go and join himself to the Chariot of an Eunuch from Ethiopia, who was the treasurer under Candace the Queen. The Eunuch was a Jew who had risen to authority under the Queen of Ethiopia. We know that he was a Jew because he was converted before Cornelius. As all Jews he was a Sabbath keeper, and looked forward to the promises that was made to him by the Lord.
Isaiah 56:4-5 For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
After his conversion he returned to Ethiopia and shared the good news of Christ. Some credit his evangelism to the formation of the Coptic Church of that nation, others credit it to the gospel writer Mark. But the Coptic Church remains today, and its history can be traced back to the first century. The Coptic Church has always been a Sabbath keeping Church.
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia states the following about the Ethiopian Coptic Church:
“Deprived of religious instruction, the Ethiopian people mingle with their Christianity many practices which are often opposed to the teaching of the gospel; some of these seem to have Jewish origin, such, for instance, as the keeping of the Sabbath [and] the distinction of animals as clean and unclean....”
HISTORIC QUOTES CONCERNING THE CONTINUING OBSERVANCE OF SABBATH
"The primitive Christians had a great veneration for the Sabbath, and spent the day in devotion and sermons. And it is not to be doubted but they derived this practice from the Apostles themselves, as appears by several scriptures to the purpose." – Dialogues on the Lord's Day, p. 189. London: 1701, By Dr. T.H. Morer (A Church of England divine).
"The Gentile Christians observed also the Sabbath," Gieseler's "Church History," Vol.1, ch. 2, par. 30, 93.
"The primitive Christians did keep the Sabbath of the Jews;...therefore the Christians, for a long time together, did keep their conventions upon the Sabbath, in which some portions of the law were read: and this continued till the time of the Laodicean council." "The Whole Works" of Jeremy Taylor, Vol. IX,p. 416 (R. Heber's Edition, Vol XII, p. 416).
"It is certain that the ancient Sabbath did remain and was observed by the Christians of the East Church, above three hundred years after our Saviour's death." "A Learned Treatise of the Sabbath," p. 77
"The seventh-day Sabbath was...solemnized by Christ, the Apostles, and primitive Christians, till the Laodicean Council (364 AD) did in manner quite abolish the observations of it." Dissertation on the Lord's Day, pp. 33, 34
"From the apostles' time until the council of Laodicea, which was about the year 364, the holy observance of the Jews' Sabbath continued, as may be proved out of many authors: yea, notwithstanding the decree of the council against it." "Sunday a Sabbath." John Ley, p.163.
"Down even to the fifth century the observance of the Jewish Sabbath was continued in the Christian church." -- Ancient Christianity Exemplified, Lyman Coleman, ch. 26, sec. 2, p. 527.
ACTUAL QUOTES FROM THE CHURCH FATHERS
The observations of these historians are seen to be correct by the following quotes from those who actually lived during these early days of the Church.
Ignatius [107 AD] – "Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them." Ignatius - To the Magnesians chapter 9 (about 107 AD)
Clement of Alexandra [153 AD]– " Thus the Lord did not hinder from doing good while keeping the Sabbath; but allowed us to communicate of those divine mysteries, and of that holy light, to those who are able to receive them." Clement of Alexandria - Stromata, Bk 1, Chap. 1
Oxyrhynchus Papyri [225 AD] – "Except ye make the sabbath a real sabbath ye shall not see the Father." The oxyrhynchus Papyri, pt,1, p.3, Logion 2, verso 4-11 (London Offices of the Egypt Exploration Fund, 1898).
Constitutions of the Holy Apostles [250AD] – "Thou shalt observe the Sabbath, on account of Him who ceased from His work of creation, but ceased not from His work of providence: it is a rest for meditation of the law, not for idleness of the hands." "The Anti-Nicene Fathers," Vol 7,p. 413. From "Constitutions of the Holy Apostles," a document of the 3rd and 4th Centuries.
Archaleus [277AD] – “Again, as to the assertion that the Sabbath has been abolished, we deny that He has abolished it plainly; for He was Himself also Lord of the Sabbath.”Archaleus Acts of Disputation
"it is fitting for whoever is righteous among the saints to keep also the festival of the Sabbath. There remaineth therefore a sabbatismus, that is, a keeping of the Sabbath, to the people of God (Hebrews 4:9)." "Homily on Numbers 23," par.4, in Migne, "Patrologia Graeca," Vol. 12,cols. 749, 750.
Athanasius [circa 290AD] – "On the Sabbath day we gathered together, not being infected with Judaism, for we do not lay hold of false sabbaths, but we come on the Sabbath to worship Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath," Athanasius, Homilia de Semente, Sec. 1, in MPG, Vol. 28 Col. 144, Greek.
Socrates [439 AD] --: "For although almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries on the Sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, have ceased to do this. The Egyptians in the neighborhood of Alexandria, and the inhabitants of Thebais, hold their religious assemblies on the Sabbath, but do not participate of the mysteries in the manner usual among Christians in general: for after having eaten and satisfied themselves with food of all kinds, in the evening making their offerings they partake of the mysteries." (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Second Series, Vol. 2, p. 132.)
Sozomen [460 A.D.] – "The people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria. There are several cities and villages in Egypt where, contrary to the usage established elsewhere, the people meet together on Sabbath evenings, and, although they have dined previously, partake of the mysteries." (Ecc. History, Book 7, chap. 19. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Second Series, Vol. 2, p. 390.)
*NOTE: The testimonies of Socrates and Sozomen are very important because these men lived in the fifth century, and had access to all the existing material, and yet they bear testimony to the fact that it was the almost universal custom of the church at that time to assemble on the Sabbath.
| "Come out of her my People" -- Jesus Christ
THE SABBATH AND THE EARLY CHURCH