The Church and the Sabbath
Lesson 27

The book of Acts provides us with an inspired history of the early Christian church. During the period of time covered by this record, the apostles and those who were closely associated with them, were the driving force within the new church. Under their direction, the churches were largely preserved in purity of doctrine. The early Christian church of this time is, therefore, set forth as an example for all time to come. But, when we leave the apostolic period, we find a great change came over the church. Gibbon describes this change very well. He pointed out that the task of the theologian to describe religion, as it was in its original purity, was a rather pleasant one, compared to the duty that fell to the historian. The historian had the unpleasant task of describing the corruption and error that had entered the church over the long years since its beginning, as the result of its being among a weak and degenerate race of beings. See The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chap. 15

1. Of what did Paul warn the leaders in the church at Ephesus?

Acts 20:29–30
Acts 20:29–30

Note: These grievous wolves were to enter the church of God from among them—the leaders of the Christian church. These men were to arise teaching perverse things. It follows from this testimony that we are not safe in accepting the teaching of those men who followed the apostles on the stage of action as teachers and leaders, except as they acted according to the teachings of the apostles.

2. Who did Paul warn would appear before Christ’s return?

2 Thessalonians 2:2–3
2 Thessalonians 2:2–3

3. To whom would this person, or power, reign in opposition?

2 Thessalonians 2:4
2 Thessalonians 2:4

Note: Notice that this anti-christ power would not threaten the church from without, but that it was in the temple, or church, that he would sit.

4. In the future, how would those within the church relate to truth?

2 Timothy 3:2–4
2 Timothy 4:2–4

Note: In this text a great apostasy in the church is explicitly foretold. The apostle not only pointed to this condition as a future event, but stated in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, it had even then already begun its baleful work within the church.

5. By what must we test all things?

Isaiah 8:20
Isaiah 8:20

Note: Much of what purports to be Christianity today, claims for its point of origin, apostolic times. In view of the words of Paul, that the claim cannot be denied, does not in and of itself, mark the practice with apostolic approval. Everything is, at its beginning, either right or wrong. If it can be shown to be in harmony with God’s revealed will as set forth in the inspired testimony of Scriptures, then we are safe in accepting it as right. If, on the other hand, it does not show the divine credentials, it matters not that it can trace its origin to the days of the apostles. An early point of entry lends no credence to a doctrine or teaching; if wrong at its origin, it can never cease to be such.

6. Which two of His disciples did Jesus have to rebuke because of a wrong spirit?

Luke 9:51–56
Luke 9:51–56

Note: Just because one had the privilege of associating with the apostles, or even with Christ Himself, is no assurance that there is not to be found error in his conduct.

7. Who did the apostle Paul later rebuke because he acted unwisely?

Galatians 2:11–14
Galatians 2:11–14

Note: We do not point to these faults for the purpose of disparaging these men who were divinely appointed to do a great work for Christ. In spite of these weaknesses and faults, their devotion was as great as any that men can have. Each of them showed a willingness to hazard their lives for the sake of Christ and for the gospel, and we honor them for this dedication, as well as for the work they did. It was necessary that the preaching of the gospel should be committed to men, but we are safe in following these men only as they point us to the great Example.

8. Who only are we safe in following as an example?

1 Peter 2:21
1 Peter 2:21

Note: Though we were to take for our example the most righteous of men, even they would fall far short of the perfect example of Christ. In looking to them, we would be in danger of making grave errors, and thereby fall below the standard of pure and undefiled religion.

9. Whom did the apostle John have to contend with?

3 John 9–10
3 John 9–10

Note: This leader refused to receive instruction from the apostle, and had cast out those from the church who were willing to receive it. Not content with this, he railed against the inspired servant of the Lord. Only as the inspired testimony of the Scriptures holds up the early church as an inspired model can it be maintained that we are safe in looking to it as a model, and for direction.

Many claim that the early church “Fathers” must be competent guides, as they lived so near the days of Christ and the apostles. In this assertion, there is the tacit admission that the gospel preached by Christ and the apostles is the true standard. This testimony is recorded in the New Testament that we might not be in the position of having to depend on the testimony of others to determine what true doctrine is. Instead of accepting the testimony of others, we are to go directly to the fountainhead of truth, and draw from there the gospel in its pure and unadulterated form. The cases of Demas, of Hymenaeus and Philetus, of Diotrephes, and others, makes very evident the truth that it is possible for the light to shine in darkness, and the darkness fail to comprehend it. See John 1:5.

10. What was Christ’s custom on the Sabbath?

Luke 4:16
Luke 4:16

11. At Antioch, what day did Paul and Barnabas go to the synagogue?

Acts 13:14
Acts 13:14

12. After Paul’s sermon, and the Jews had left the synagogue, what did the Gentiles request of the Apostles?

Acts 13:42
Acts 13:42

Note: This was at least 15 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Jews had all left the meeting, and as Paul was called of the Lord especially to be the minister to the Gentiles, there was nothing to keep him from announcing a meeting for them on the following day, which would have been Sunday. If Sunday were to have been the Christian Sabbath, it would have been logical to do so, but he did not do this.

13. What day in a peculiar sense, belongs to Jesus?

Mark 2:27–28
Mark 2:27–28

Note: The argument for Sunday sacredness rests on the argument that the term “Lord’s day,” as a name for Sunday, can be traced back to the disciples of John, and that it is the name by which it was familiarly known in John’s time. See Revelation 1:10. When in the year 96, John says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day,” clearly, he was speaking of the day which the Lord has set apart for Himself, which He claimed as His. This was true of the seventh day, but could not in any respect be claimed for Sunday. If the Spirit of God designed at this point to create a new institution and to call a certain day the Lord’s, which until this time He had never claimed, it was necessary that He should specify this as being the case. He did not, however, define the term, which all clearly proves that He was not giving a sacred name to some new institution. Instead he was speaking of a well-known, divinely-appointed day.

John refers to the first day of the week twice in his Gospel, which he wrote after his return from that island, but in neither instance is it called by any other name than “first day.”

14. Did Jesus change the law in any way?

Matthew 5:17–18
Matthew 5:17–18

15. How long did Jesus say the law of God would last?

Matthew 5:18
Matthew 5:18

16. What did Jesus say regarding those who failed to keep the law, and who taught others to think lightly of its requirements?

Matthew 5:19
Matthew 5:19

The law of God is the expression of His character. God possesses absolute, invariable, and immutable independence, and His law is without variableness, unalterable, eternal, because it is the transcript of His character. No event can take place that will in any sense make it necessary to declare a law of contrary nature. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” Psalm 19:7. Any change in the law would mar its perfection. The slightest variance in its precepts would give reason to the hosts of heaven and to unfallen worlds to think that God’s counsels and declarations are not to be relied upon, but need to be remodeled, because they are of a faulty character. Should any change be made in the law of God, Satan would gain that for which he had instituted controversy.

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