What Sunday is made for
Keeping the Sabbath holy? Well of course, and the divine service is part of it. But what exactly was the reason for the Sabbath again? The Chief Apostle gave more than handful of good reasons during his recent visit to Italy.
Members from all over southern Italy had gathered for the divine service with Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider in Salerno on 4 June 2023. The sermon was based on Exodus 20: 8: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
God gave the commandments to protect the people from harmful influences and to be able to bless them, the Chief Apostle said. The commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy is best implemented by coming together for divine service, if possible . There are several aspects to keeping the Sabbath day holy, and the Chief Apostle went on to explain them.
Praising and worshipping God
The awareness that God the Almighty created the world out of nothing and that Jesus Christ triumphed over death and sin leads to great gratitude, the Chief Apostle said. This gratitude is expressed in our worship and praise of God, he continued. “We worship the almighty God who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing. We thank Him for the care with which He watches over His creation.”
Focusing on fellowship with God
The purpose of following Christ is to enter into perfect fellowship with God. While this relates to the new creation, the day of rest is an opportunity to profess and to enhance awareness of it.
God rested on the seventh day, but not to regain His strength, the Chief Apostle said. “The fact that He rested underlined the perfection of His work: there was nothing to add or correct.” The first humans lived in perfect fellowship with God. “By hallowing the day of rest, we express our fervent desire to enter into perfect fellowship with God and our fellow human beings.”
Commemorating our own deliverance
On the Sabbath day, the Israelites were to remember that God had freed them from the yoke of slavery. Christians then chose to hallow the Sunday as the day of rest because, according to the Bible, Jesus Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday. The resurrection is deliverance from death and sin: “Christ has delivered us. We are no longer slaves to the earthly.” The Chief Apostle explained that the hallowing of the day of rest is a sign that our own relationship with God has the highest priority. “Let people laugh, let them mock me. I am free and I follow Christ.”
Exercising our freedom
The Chief Apostle said that keeping the Sabbath holy is also a sign of freedom. What matters in this respect is not only our own work and efforts, but also God’s grace and blessing. The Chief Apostle referred to the story of how God provided the people of Israel with manna. He gave them enough manna on the sixth day because they were to rest on the seventh day: “God wanted to show them that He gives them in six days what they need in seven. We have to work, but we cannot get by without the blessing and grace of God.”
Our need for fellowship
“We keep the Sabbath day holy, we are one people and belong together. I often point out that loners will not enter the kingdom of heaven. God will bring His people home as one people, not as a number of individuals,” Chief Apostle Schneider said. Thus, Sunday is also a day of fellowship and offers the opportunity to cultivate fellowship with one another and with Jesus Christ.
Serving your neighbour and doing good
As a final aspect, the Chief Apostle mentioned that Jesus Christ referred to the fact that He is Lord even of the Sabbath: “Several times Jesus had made a point of healing people on the Sabbath. He wanted to show the disciples that the Sabbath is also given to serve one’s neighbour and do good.”
To sanctify the Sabbath day, we must serve like Jesus Himself did on that day, namely by contributing to the divine service: “Even if I am of the opinion that I don’t need the divine service now, I still come to take part and contribute by singing, praying, and just being there so that my neighbour can benefit from the divine service. This also belongs to hallowing the day of rest.”
Chief Apostle Schneider explained that each of us serves their neighbour simply by being present in the divine service: “Alone through my presence, through my handshake, a few words, I can do a lot of good for my neighbour. These are sacred thoughts on the theme of the Third Commandment.”