Is proclaiming the gospel on Sunday all right too?
The writer and his wife, Joyce, are hosts of the Arroyo Grande Global Church of God video group. Dr. Thiel has written many technical and theological papers. Some of the latter are on his Web site.
By Robert J. Thiel
ARROYO GRANDE, Calif.This article is intended as a brief, biblically based analysis of an article in the July 22 issue of The Worldwide News titled "Preaching the Gospel on Sunday, Too."
According to the author, Joseph Tkach Jr., the article was written because "some members are troubled that a few Worldwide Church of God congregations now meet for worship services on Sunday. Let me address a few of the concerns."
After reading the article, my concerns increased. The article's first point, "The primary goal of the church is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ," is true after a fashion (it is only true after a fashion because God's plan for mankind includes salvation through Jesus Christ, but it includes more than preaching about the person of Jesus), but it is not relevant to why congregations meet on Sunday.
The next related point, "Obviously, the Bible makes no restriction as to what day the gospel may be preached," though a true statement is also not relevant as to why churches meet on Sunday.
Pleasing the crowd
The next point, that "in some cultures the best day to draw a crowd is Friday. In others, it is Saturday, and in some it is Sunday," can be biblically considered true for preaching (Acts 17:17) but is not biblically accurate for weekly services (Acts 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4), since in the Bible they were always on the seventh day.
The apostle Paul's Sabbath services included not only Jews who would be most available on Saturday, but Greeks (Acts 18:4; 17:17) for whom Sunday may have been "the best day to draw a crowd."
The Church of God throughout its history (Acts 17:17), including the 20th century (The World Tomorrow was on every day of the week, as is The World Ahead), has been willing to proclaim the gospel any day of the week, yet meet each Sabbath for worship services.
The article's next main point, "The gospel is proclaimed in our weekly worship services," could be true if the full gospel were actually being preached, but what day does the New Testament support for weekly worship services? Why, the Sabbath, of course (Acts 17:2; 18:4; Luke 4:16; Hebrews 4:4-9).
The article suggests that meeting on the seventh day-Friday night and the daylight part of Saturday-is fine if "it does not prevent effective evangelism."
As the previous scriptures clearly show, although Paul would preach throughout the week, he always preached on the Sabbath irrespective of cultural considerations.
Mr. Tkach states, "Even under the old covenant, God did not require his people to attend worship services on the Sabbath."
Is that what the Bible teaches? Leviticus 23:3: "Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings."
The definition of the Hebrew word translated as "convocation" in Strong's means public meeting or assembly. Thus the Sabbath includes a requirement for weekly "holy convocations" (see also Exodus 12:16).
The article then states, "There was a special assembly at the temple, but only a fraction of Israelites lived close enough to attend this assembly [and] attendance was not required."
Although it is true that only a small percentage could fit in the temple, most attended services at various synagogues (see Acts 6:9).
Christians are actually warned not to forsake "the assembling of ourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25).
The WN article also states, "The new covenant does not require a specific day of the week . . . It would be legalistic to require a specific day . . ."
The Bible suggests that God may feel otherwise, since "He designates a certain day" (Hebrews 4:7).
Verses 4-9 clearly show the seventh-day rest "remains for the people of God." It should be noted that the term legalistic is not in the Bible (KJV).
Actually, since the New Testament says that God is the law giver (James 4:12) and Jesus told His disciples to go "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20), one wonders if the author considers God to be to legalistic.
Interestingly, the New Testament warns against one who "speaks evil of the law" (James 4:11-12).
Although the article frequently implies or states that the Bible teaches something, only one scripture is cited, but not quoted, in the entire article. It is Acts 2:46, which shows that after conversion believers met daily in the temple for a while. But other scriptures in Acts and Hebrews (previously cited) clearly show Christians consistently keeping the weekly Sabbath.
The WN article states: "Some independent churches have asked to join our fellowship. We do not need to turn them away simply because they meet on Sunday, and we have no biblical reason to force them to disrupt their already established schedule just to become part of our fellowship."
"Their already established schedule" does not sound biblical; it sounds like a tradition of men. Jesus said, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?" (Matthew 15:3).
It is biblically correct to tell people that if they want to be part of the Church of God they should obey the commands of God (Matthew 15:3; 28:20; Revelation 12:17; 22:14), including the Sabbath (Hebrews 4:9).
All holy time is no holy time
Another interesting statement in the article is "Holy time for a new covenant Christian is 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
No scriptural proof is cited. Doesn't it take God to make something holy? The only "time" the Bible shows that God hallowed was the Sabbath (Exodus 20:11), the "holy convocations" related to it and the feast days (Leviticus 23:1-4; Exodus 12:16).
God tells His people to "hallow the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers (Jeremiah 17:22). Remember that the Sabbath command includes requirements that work be done on the other days (Exodus 20:9; Leviticus 23:3). Is it not interesting that Paul seemed to find some who believed that they needn't work (2 Thessalonians 3:11; perhaps they considered all time as holy), for he wrote, "For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat"? (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
The article concludes with this sentence, "No matter how spiritually profitable we find this for ourselves [assembling each week], however, the Bible does not give us authority to impose this kind of piety on other believers."
The Bible gives the church authority to tell believers to obey commands (Matthew 28:20; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; Hebrews 4:9). If others are truly "believers," are they not to believe what the Bible says?
This article has cited scriptures that show the Bible says to "hallow the Sabbath" (Jeremiah 17:22), that God "hallowed the Sabbath" (Exodus 20:11) and that the Sabbath is a time for a "holy convocation" (Leviticus 23:3; Exodus 12:16).
In the New Testament this article has cited scriptures that show that a Sabbath rest remains "for the people of God" (Hebrews 4:9), Christians are expected to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10), to forsake not "the assembling of ourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25) and that Paul and the New Testament church met together on the Sabbath (Acts 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4; etc.).
Is it okay to preach the gospel on Sunday too?
Yes, but it is not biblically correct to state that any congregation is to preach the gospel only on Sunday.
Nor is it biblically correct to state that Christians are not to observe the seventh-day Sabbath. The New Testament shows that Sabbath observance of rest, worship and assembly is applicable for those "who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:17).