|9. The Sabbath in Acts
Some hold that since Paul preached in synagogues on the Sabbath this proves that the early Christian Church as a whole kept the Sabbath. But is this indicated in Acts? An examination of Acts 13 can shed some light on this matter. Verses 13-14 shows Paul and Barnabas arriving in Antioch and entering the synagogue on the Sabbath day. After the reading of the law and the prophets in verse 15, Paul was invited to address the congregation. In verses 16-41 Paul preached the Gospel of Jesus to the Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism. In verses 42-43, the people invited Paul and Barnabas to come back the following Sabbath to speak to them more about the Gospel, and many of the Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism followed them. They were urged by Paul and Barnabas to hold fast to the grace of God. Verses 44-52 shows Paul and Barnabas returning the following Sabbath to preach the Gospel to nearly all the inhabitants of Antioch, who were eager to hear their message. But they met with stiff opposition from other Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism of the city when they became very jealous of their success with the people, so they expelled Paul and Barnabas from the area. It is evident in Acts 13 that it was not the law that was being preached, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Acts contains a few more examples of Paul preaching the Gospel in synagogues on the Sabbath.
Acts 18:4 "And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks."
Paul also preached at other times and places. One example is his sermon on the Areopagus (or Mars' Hill) in Acts 17:16-34. He seemed to go to the places he knew his intended audience would be to share the Gospel. For Jews and converts to Judaism, the most logical place to meet them would be in the synagogue on the Sabbath. For others, anywhere they might happen to meet. So the fact that Paul preached in synagogues on the Sabbath seems not to prove that the Sabbath was binding on Christians, especially since his audiences in these cases were not Christians. Consider this passage in 1 Corinthians 9 which gives an insight into Paul's method of bringing the Gospel to people.
Gentile converts to Christianity were not required by the early Church to keep the Sabbath. There was a Church council meeting in Jerusalem for the purpose of settling the issue of what was to be required of Gentile converts. The story can be found in Acts 15.
It is interesting to note in this letter that the keeping of the weekly Sabbath, or the observance of any sacred day, was not mentioned among the essential things required for the fellowship of Jewish and Gentile Christians. It is also of interest that there is no command regarding clean and unclean foods, just a command to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, food containing blood, and food resulting from animal strangulation. This letter to the Gentile Christians was written by Jewish Christian leaders who headed the Church in Jerusalem and, as verse 28 indicates, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
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