Since the days of Martin Luther, the professed foundation for belief and practice of the great Protestant world has been, "The Bible, and the Bible only." But how strikingly is the deviation from this professed foundation marked in the practice of the various Protestant bodies in regard to the observance of the first day of the week as a day of rest and worship. The following quotation by E. G. Hoff in the Gospel Messenger, official organ of the Church of the Brethren, taken from the first of a series of three articles entitled, "The Christian Lord's Day," clearly illustrates the departure from the great Protestant platform.
"The Lord's day has been generally observed among Christians over the earth throughout Christian history. People have ceased weekly from their regular labors and taken time to rest and recuperate from the wear of everyday toil. Many have used the leisure thus afforded for meditation, Bible reading, and cultural pursuits both as individuals and in family groups. Christians have assembled for common worship and instruction, building the program of the church largely around the Lord's day.
"There seems now to be a change and breakdown in some areas in regard to Sunday observance. What are the values in the day? Our seventh-day friends tell us we are observing the wrong day. What are the grounds for Sunday observance? Is the Lord's day to be regarded as an obligation or a privilege—or both ? What principles should guide us in our attitude toward the day? To answer such questions we must look into the Bible and into the past as well as into the nature of the Lord's day.
"We look in vain for a 'Thus saith the Lord' on Sunday observance. There is no direct and clear statement about it in the Bible. The Old Testament contains much about the Sabbath, but the Jewish Sabbath was on the seventh day of the week. Sunday is the first day of the week, and the observance of Sunday is a practice of Christians, not of Jews. We should therefore expect to find instructions for it in the New Testament. There are, indeed, several indications in the New Testament of its observance, but they are strikingly few."--Jan. 3, 1942. (Italics mine.)
The writer, after acknowledging that there is no direct and clear Bible teaching for Sunday observance, refers to Justin Martyr, Ignatius, and the Didache, or, Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, as it claims to be, and from these he claims to find evidence for Sunday observance. He also acknowledges that Jesus taught nothing against the observance of the seventh day, and did nothing "directly to prepare His followers for a change in the day," as this quotation from the second article in the January so issue of the Gospel Messenger shows:
"Jesus used the Sabbath opportunities and said nothing against proper observance of the seventh day. There is no indication that He did anything directly to prepare His followers for a change in day. He did plant in them the seeds that grew into a new order. He gave them a world outlook which in due time found Judaism too small and confining. (Matt. 28 :18-20.)"
Note the text he cites in support of the idea of "new order" and "world outlook." In this text Jesus tells exactly what to teach the people of "all nations" "to observe" when they are to be "His disciples," as the Revised Version and the marginal reading of the King James Version of the text indicate. Is it the teaching of Justin Martyr, Ignatius, and the Didache? No, indeed ! It is "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Matt. 28: 20, A. R. V.
With this, we must remember that Jesus was with His disciples forty days after His resurrection, as recorded in Acts I :1-3, and during that time He was talking regarding "the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." If, as the writer of the articles suggests, the observance of the first day of the week was so important and needed by Christians, surely Christ would have revealed this great change to His followers who were to "go . . . teach all nations."
Again let us be reminded that Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, warned the people of his day that "grievous wolves" would enter among them, "not sparing the flock," and that men of their own number would "arise, speaking perverse things" (things contrary to that which had been taught them) "to draw away disciples after them." Therefore it is to be expected, according to the Bible, that we would find men early in the history of the church teaching such things as the writer refers to from Justin Martyr, Ignatius, and others.
While the trend in the Protestant world is to deviate from the great fundamental principle of "the Bible, and the Bible only," as a basis of belief and practice for Christians, may God grant that we, as followers of the Lord Jesus, shall stand firm and steadfast on His Word as our only foundation. God's word is true. It is sure. It stands as the truth forever. Read Matthew 7:24-29.