|Turbo Charge Your Church||by R. David Pogge|
Accepting the Greek death myth was not the only concession the medieval church made to paganism. The Church also united with pagans against a common enemy—the Jews. Why do people hate Jews? Who knows? Probably it is jealousy. God specially blessed the Jews. Many of them are wealthy. Regardless of the real reason, the official reason is, “Jews killed Christ.” That, in the minds of some people, justifies persecution of the Jews.
We sometimes talk about the New Testament Church—but the apostles were actually members of the Jew Testament Church. Jesus was a respected Jewish Rabbi. We know this from John’s Gospel.
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” [John 3:1-2, NIV]
Jesus was a rabbi who did not violate Jewish laws, nor did He teach his followers to violate them. When Jesus was brought before the kangaroo court the night before he was murdered, FALSE witnesses claimed that Jesus had committed crimes against Judaism. If Jesus really had done anything against Jewish law, such as stealing, committing adultery, eating unclean meats, dishonoring his parents, disrespecting God, or violating the Sabbath, there would have been no need for false witnesses. False witnesses twisted His words, saying that Jesus was planning to tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days because they could not find any Jewish law that Jesus had ever violated.
Here’s how the apostle John describes what happened.
Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.
“I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”
When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.
“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. [John 18:19-24, NIV]
Jesus was teaching in the synagogues and temple because He was a rabbi. Furthermore, He didn’t say anything that contradicted anything in the Old Testament in front of all those witnesses. If He had, there would have been no need for false witnesses to condemn Him.
Matthew tells us what happened when Jesus was taken to Caiaphas.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.
Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”
Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent.
The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
“He is worthy of death,” they answered. [Matthew 27:59-66, NIV]
The so-called blasphemy He committed was that He admitted He is the Jewish Messiah.
There is no question that Jesus was a Jew. What about His disciples? In Acts, chapter 21, Luke tells about what happened when he and Paul went to Jerusalem. This passage contains four important points.
Here is Luke’s testimony:
When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”
The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them. [Acts 21:17-26, NIV]
If Paul really had been telling Jews to turn away from Moses, he would have refused to take the elders’ suggestion. Paul would have argued with the elders, trying to convince them that Jews really should turn away from Moses. Instead, Paul performed the purification rite so that everyone would know there is no truth in those reports because he himself was living in obedience to the law.
Notice that the elders told Paul that they had written to Gentile believers and told them to observe the Jewish dietary restrictions and remain sexually pure. This is a reference back to the council meeting described in Acts 15. Here’s what Luke wrote about that meeting:
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
The apostles and elders met to consider this question. [Acts 15:1-6, NIV]
The question at that meeting was not, “Can Jews be saved?” The question was, “Can non-Jews be saved, or does a man have to be circumcised and become a Jew before a man can become a Christian?”
Did you happen to notice Luke used the phrase, “some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees”? The early Christian church contained Pharisees! Apparently, there were enough of them that their concerns about circumcision had to be addressed. For the first few years, the Christian church was made up almost entirely of Jews. The trouble started later when Gentiles started joining the church in larger numbers. So, after some discussion, James makes the decision recorded in Acts 15:19 and following verses.
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” [Acts 15:19-21, NIV]
Notice, James said Christians were still meeting on Sabbath (not Sunday), they were still eating a kosher diet, and preaching the law of Moses more than 20 years after Jesus’ resurrection. James also ruled that the Gentiles don’t have to first become Jews by being circumcised, and don’t have to keep Jewish festivals; but they do have to follow a Kosher diet, and must not participate in the sinful sexual practices generally accepted by secular society.
The fact that the council told them that they should not commit adultery, but didn’t tell them not to steal or kill, does not imply that the commandments against stealing and killing were nailed to the cross, but the adultery commandment remained in effect. There was no question about stealing or killing, so it went without saying that those commandments are still binding. They just reaffirmed the dietary restrictions and sexual prohibitions because those were the sins the Gentiles were committing and needed to stop. Nothing has changed since then.
Ironically, James said, “We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” If he were speaking today, no doubt he would say, “We should not make it difficult for the Jews who are turning to Jesus.” But we do make it difficult for Jews because we require them to worship on Sunday instead of Sabbath.
Speaking of Sabbath, we know that Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday, and that Sunday is first day of the week, from the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection.
And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea … came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. And Pilate … gave the body to Joseph. [Mark 15: 42 – 45, KJV]
Jesus was placed in the tomb just before sunset on Friday. Mark calls Friday, “the day before the Sabbath.” (Notice that the King James Version does not capitalize “Sabbath.” Why do you think that is?) The women did not anoint his body on Saturday because it was the Sabbath, the seventh day. The first day of the week began at sunset Saturday night; but the women didn’t want to go anoint His body, in the dark, in a cemetery, so they waited until the first light on the first day of the week, Sunday morning, to do it.
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. [Mark 16:1-2, KJV]
There is absolutely no question that Jesus rose on Sunday morning, the day the Bible calls, “the first day of the week,” and that “the Sabbath was passed” on Sunday morning. There is no question that Jesus died on the cross on Friday afternoon, just before sunset, just before the Sabbath began. There is no denying that the Bible says the Sabbath begins at sunset Friday and ends at sunset Saturday. Furthermore, there have been no changes to the calendar that affect the days of the week because Jews still keep Sabbath on Saturday, and Catholics celebrate the resurrection on Sunday.
Some Christians believe that Jesus changed the Sabbath. If so, then Christians should certainly worship on Sunday. Some say that the apostles changed the Sabbath. If so, then we need to determine if the apostles were acting under the direction of the Holy Spirit; or if they made a mistake when they changed it. So, was the Sabbath changed during the lifetime of the apostles? And if so, was that change divinely authorized?
There is no Biblical text that specifically says that the apostles substituted Sunday worship for Sabbath worship, so we need to look for a text that implies a change. Let’s begin by looking at Acts 20, verses 7 through 11. The Reese Chronological Bible says this event happened about 28 years after the crucifixion. If the Sabbath day had been changed by Jesus or the apostles, it should have happened by then.
And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. [Acts 20:7-11, KJV]
This passage says they came together to eat and break bread on “the first day of the week,” and Paul preached until midnight. As we have already seen from the passage about the crucifixion, the Bible says the first day of the week begins at sunset Saturday night. Paul preached a Saturday night sermon that was still going on at midnight, when the sermon was interrupted by a fatal accident. But Paul raised the young man back to life, they celebrated by breaking bread, and Paul continued his sermon, preaching until dawn, Sunday morning, at which time he left town.
If Christians had, at some time in the 28 years between the crucifixion and this event, begun worshipping on Sunday morning in honor of the resurrection, why would Paul start his journey on Sunday morning just before church?
From a Jewish perspective it makes perfect sense because Jews don’t travel on Sabbath. A good Jew would wait to start a journey until Sunday morning. Paul kept the Saturday Sabbath, and started his journey on Sunday because Sunday is the first day of the work week.
There is another relevant story, starting in Acts 13, beginning at verse 13.
From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem. From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak.” Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! [Acts 13:13-16, NIV]
The text continues by giving a synopsis of the sermon Paul preached to a mixed audience of Jews and Gentiles. Basically, Paul reviewed Jewish history and prophecy, with an emphasis on how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies in the scriptures. It is a great model sermon, but let’s not let that distract us from the issue at hand.
Paul and Barnabas went to the synagogue and preached on the Sabbath, that is, Saturday. Paul preached in that synagogue on Sabbath because that’s when the audience was there. That, alone, doesn’t prove anything one way or the other. It is what happened after the sermon that is significant. So, let’s pick up the story at verse 42.
As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.
Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. [Acts 13:42-46, NIV]
When “the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath,” why didn’t Paul and Barnabas invite them to their Sunday morning Christian worship service? Why wait until next Saturday to preach? They had the crowd all excited and eager to hear more. Why wait a whole week, taking the risk that by then people would have forgotten about what a great sermon it was and not come back? They should have invited those people to their Sunday morning worship service to hear more. Why didn’t they?
The answer is simple. There wasn’t any Sunday morning worship service to invite them to. Paul and Barnabas were Saturday Sabbath-keepers. Sunday worship had not been instituted yet.
Jesus appeared to the disciples several times after His resurrection, before His ascension into heaven. It is possible that on one or more of those occasions Jesus told the disciples to worship on Sunday rather than Saturday. If He did, don’t you think at least one of the New Testament writers would have reported that instruction to the church? Wouldn’t the change of the Fourth Commandment have been important enough to mention at least once? If Jesus did instruct the church to change the day of worship, why was Paul still keeping Sabbath nearly 30 years later?
It is clear from sacred history that Jesus didn’t change the Sabbath, and that the disciples continued to worship on the seventh day. The custom of worshipping on the first day of the week must have come into the church some time later. History tells us when it did.
In Section 2.1 we saw that the early Christian church started out as a Jewish sect that recognized Jesus had fulfilled all the Messianic prophecies, and accepted Him as their savior. Later, Gentile converts were rather grudgingly accepted into the fold. There was no anti-Jewish discrimination in the early church—it was just the opposite! In fact, deacons were established to make sure Greek (that is, Gentile) widows (who were being neglected) received the same support from the church that Jewish widows did. 1
Clearly, something changed. We need to discover when it changed, and why. Michael L. Brown explains the plight of Jews who accepted Jesus after the third century A.D.
The Gentile church no longer understood them, having lost sight of their Jewish roots (just as Paul had warned!) and basically saying to them: “If you want to be part of us, you have to give up your Jewishness.” … The rest of the Jewish community basically told them, “If you want to be part of us, you have to give up Jesus.” …
But that’s only part of the story. By this time (meaning the fourth century), the church had become so detached from its Jewish roots that it had turned Peter … into the first pope, banned Christians from observing the seventh-day Sabbath (changing it to Sunday), and celebrating Easter in place of Passover (rather than celebrating the Messiah’s death and resurrection during the Passover season, as the first believers did). 2
… by the Middle Ages, Jews converting to Catholicism often had to promise on oath that they would break all association with their people, that they would no longer observe Sabbath or any festivals or holy days, that they would not circumcise their sons, and they would even force themselves to take a liking to pork. 3
That explains why ham is the traditional Easter dinner. It was intended to drive a wedge between Jewish converts and their Jewish friends and relatives. What other reason could there be for celebrating Jesus’ resurrection by eating something Jesus would not have been caught dead eating?
Emperor Constantine’s First Sunday Law was passed in 321 A.D.
"On the Venerable Day of the Sun ["venerabili die Solis"--the sacred day of the Sun] let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain-sowing or for vine-planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost--Given the 7th day of March, [A.D. 321], Crispus and Constantine being consuls each of them for the second time." The First Sunday Law of Constantine 1, in "Codex Justinianus," lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; trans. in Phillip Schaff "History of the Christian Church," Vol. 3, p. 380 4
This passage doesn’t specifically say WHY Constantine made this law. It does say that the change was to honor the sun, not the Son, and does not mention the resurrection at all. Clearly, Constantine did not make the law to honor Christ and His resurrection.
Five years later, Constantine wrote a summary of his joint decision with the church Council of Nicaea in June of 326 A.D. These excerpts make Constantine’s motivation crystal clear.
Constantine Augustus, to the churches.
At the council we also considered the issue of our holiest day, Easter, and it was determined by common consent that … it seemed very unworthy for us to keep this most sacred feast following the custom of the Jews, a people who have soiled their hands in a most terrible outrage, and have thus polluted their souls, and are now deservedly blind. Since we have cast aside their way of calculating the date of the festival, we can ensure that future generations can celebrate this observance at the more accurate time which we have kept from the first day of the passion until the present time. Therefore have nothing in common with that most hostile people, the Jews. Let us, most honored brothers, withdraw ourselves from that detestable association. It is truly most absurd for them to boast that we are incapable of rightly observing these things without their instruction. On what subject are they competent to form a correct judgment, who, after that murder of their Lord lost their senses, and are led not by any rational motive, but by an uncontrollable impulsiveness to wherever their innate fury may drive them? … [Y]ou should still be careful, both by diligence and prayer, that your pure souls should have nothing in common, or even seem to do so, with the customs of men so utterly depraved. 5
Emperor Constantine clearly hated Jews. His hatred was shared by other members of the Council of Nicaea, and the general population in medieval times.
Forty-one years later, in 367 AD, the Council of Laodicea published 60 canons. (A canon is a regulation or dogma decreed by a church council.) Of particular interest is Canon 29, reaffirming the action of the Council of Nicaea.
CHRISTIANS must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord's Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ. 6
The council’s motivation is clear from the term, “Judaize.” The Council of Laodicea didn’t want to have any association with the Jews. Furthermore, if the apostles had changed the day of worship soon after the resurrection, there would have been no need to forbid Christians from keeping Sabbath more than 360 years later.
Today, honest, sincere Christian believers innocently eat ham on Easter, and worship on Sunday, totally ignorant of the hateful, anti-Jewish origins behind these traditions. These traditions came into the Catholic Church in the 4th century. They should have been purged from the Church during the reformation, but they weren’t. Let’s see why.
It may come as a shock to you that Martin Luther was anti-Semitic, but I’m sorry to say he really was. In chapter 1 of The Real Kosher Jesus, Dr. Brown begins a section titled, “The Luther-Hitler Connection” with these words:
During the post-World War II Nuremburg trials for war criminals, Julius Streicher, one of Hitler’s top henchmen and publisher of the anti-Semitic Der Sturmer, was asked if there were any other publications in German that treated the Jewish question in an anti-Semitic way. Streicher put it well:
“Dr. Martin Luther would very probably sit in my place in the defendants’ dock today, if this book had been taken into consideration by the Prosecution. In the book, [On] The Jews and Their Lies, Dr. Martin Luther writes that the Jews are a serpent’s brood and one should burn down their synagogues and destroy them … 7
Actually, Luther wrote many worse things about the Jews and what to do to them than is quoted above. You can easily find the complete text of On the Jews and their Lies on-line 8 and read them for yourself. The Lutheran Church has officially renounced Luther’s anti-Semitic views, and modern Lutherans are not, generally speaking, anti-Semitic; but one can’t ignore the historical fact that Hitler did use Luther’s writings to justify the holocaust.
In Article XXVIII of the Augsburg Confession of Faith, the Protestant Reformers recognized that the Council of Laodicea had no Biblical basis to change Sabbath to Sunday. Here’s what they wrote:
Moreover, it is disputed whether bishops or pastors have the right to introduce ceremonies in the Church, and to make laws concerning meats, holy-days and grades, that is, orders of ministers, etc. … They refer to the Sabbath-day as having been changed into the Lord's Day, contrary to the Decalog, as it seems. Neither is there any example whereof they make more than concerning the changing of the Sabbath-day. Great, say they, is the power of the Church, since it has dispensed with one of the Ten Commandments!
But concerning this question it is taught on our part (as has been shown above) that bishops have no power to decree anything against the Gospel. 9
Did you ever wonder why the Reformers, after recognizing that bishops had no power to change the Sabbath, didn’t obey God rather than man? The answer is in, On the Jews and their Lies. The Protestants of that day hated the Jews so much that they didn’t want to worship on the same day as the Jews. It’s sad—but it’s an undeniable historical fact.
It breaks my heart to say that about Luther because he was, in other respects, such a great man. He risked his life to reform the Church. He began a great work. The Protestant church is greatly indebted to him. But he was a product of his prejudiced times, and was not infallible. May God forgive him for his anti-Semitic writings.
Does it matter if your church keeps Sabbath or Sunday? Perhaps it would be better to rephrase the question this way: “Does it matter if your church obeys God or man? Should your church keep the Fourth Commandment as Jesus and his disciples did? Or should your congregation worship on a day intentionally chosen to offend the Jews (of which Jesus is one)?”
This is one of the more difficult reforms. It takes real commitment to keep Sabbath. Keeping Sabbath could mean telling your boss you won’t work overtime on Friday evening or Saturday. You could lose your job for that.
Satan wants your church to display publicly your disregard for God’s laws by ignoring Sabbath and worshipping on Sunday every week. If you are totally committed to Jesus, if He is your Lord and Master, you will do whatever He says. He says to “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.”
What is preventing your congregation from keeping the Sabbath? Seriously. What is stopping you? Why do you think you have to have your worship services on Sunday morning? Write down your reasons on paper. Then pray about them. Ask God what He thinks about your reasons. I doubt He will be impressed by your rationalizations; but don’t take my word for it. Ask God in prayer. Then listen to His answer.
You can’t love Jesus and hate Jews because Jesus is a Jew. You may not feel anti-Semitic, or say anything anti-Semitic; but that doesn’t matter if you act anti-Semitic. Sunday worship is rooted in anti-Semitism. Sunday worship is an anti-Semitic practice. The Holy Spirit is not going to empower a church that places an anti-Semitic custom above the Fourth Commandment.
God will forgive your weekly transgressions of the Fourth Commandment in the past—but only if you confess your transgressions and repent. Your repentance must be shown by keeping the Sabbath day holy in the future.
God commands you to keep the Sabbath day (not Sunday) holy. What justification is there for intentional weekly disobedience? Sunday worship is a public exhibition of disregard for God’s laws. You must show respect for God and His laws by keeping the Sabbath day holy if you want Him to bless your congregation.
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2 Michael L. Brown, The Real Kosher Jesus, pages 10 - 11
3 ibid. page 9
5 Wisconsin Lutheran College website, http://www.fourthcentury.com/index.php/urkunde-26
7 Michael L. Brown, The Real Kosher Jesus, page 2