A Sabbath Day’s Journey

Bible Scripture TruthThe Mosaic Law stated that Israelites were forbidden to travel on the Sabbath in Exodus 16:29 “ Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” This law was given as they were traveling in the wilderness and indicated that there was to be no movement or ‘traveling’ on the Sabbath day. (i.e. they were not to ‘go out’ and search for manna, as there would be none given on the Sabbath) . It was not intended to forbid any movement as people still had to go to the tabernacle to worship, or go outside the camp to use the bathroom. The idea was to stay right in the city or encampment and do only what traveling was necessary for worshipping God and for life.

Over time, the Jewish leaders tried to find something that would let them ‘expand’ the distance they could travel and still be ‘right with God’. In early times, they fixed the distance at 2000 cubits. This arbitrary distance was justified by using Joshua 3:4, where the scripture says: “Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.” This was the distance that the people were told to stay away from the Ark of the Covenant as it was carried by the priests. This is about 3000 feet (the length of 10 football fields) or about .58 miles.

At first this distance was applied within the city boundaries, but as time went on, the rabbis interpreted the verse in Exodus to mean that one could travel that far from the boundaries of the city, and set up ‘Sabbath stones’, some of which have recently been unearthed to define the limits of their ‘rule’. This was approximately the distance from the walls of Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives outside the city (See Acts 1:12). The Pharisees doubled this distance by inserting a rule that if one had ‘food preparations’ at another location, then that place became his ‘place’ and he could travel 2000 cubits from the city and then another 2000 cubits to his ‘place’ of abode.

In later New Testament times, the Pharisees again expanded the limit by saying that if a person could travel 4000 cubits on the Sabbath, that he would also need to return and thus could legitimately travel 8000 cubits on the Sabbath. We see allusions to the limits of travel imposed by the Jewish leaders in the New Testament. Places like Matthew 24:20 – “ Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.”

Jesus taught that these man-made rules were not what God intended at all. That the “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” and he rebuked the Pharisees for putting ‘heavy burdens’ on the people that they themselves were not willing to keep.

Scripture given by Arlington Church of Christ, Cincinnati, OH http://www.arlingtoncoc.com

Bible Scripture Truth

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A Little Compromise

Church of Christ ScripturesOne key difference between the Church of Christ and the Christian church is the use of instrumental music in the worship. The following are two true stories from J.W. McGarvey about his experiences in this matter.

In the 1870’s, J.W. McGarvey was one of the elders of the Lexington Church, and he with the other elders approved a small instrument to be placed in the church building basement for the young people to use to help improve their singing. No one, especially McGarvey, would ever have thought of moving it upstairs to be used in the worship service. They had used only acapella singing as the Bible instructed and had no intention of violating the scriptures.

Years went by and the youngsters grew up and took their places in the worship upstairs. Then in November 1902, a move was made to introduce instrumental music into the worship service. A vote was taken and the result was 370 for, 202 against. What was unthinkable a few years before was now voted in by men, and McGarvey’s conscience would not allow him to remain with that church and he went elsewhere.

While one may admire McGarvey’s stand on principle in 1902, the elders small compromise in allowing that small instrument to be put in the basement in the first place led to the introduction of the organ into the worship service by those who were likely trained by its use in that basement.

In January 1903, at the Pearl and Bryan Street Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas, brother McGarvey was asked to speak and was sitting on the front row next to brother Jesse P. Sewell. He leaned over and said to brother Sewell, “You are on the right road, and whatever you do, do not let anyone persuade you that you can successfully combat error by fellowshipping it and going along with it.

I have tried, I believed at the start that was the only way to do it. I have never held membership in a congregation that used instrumental music. I have, however, accepted the invitation to preach without distinction between churches that use it and those that do not. I have gone along with their papers and magazines and things of the sort. During those years, I taught the truth as the New Testament teaches it to every young preacher who has passed through the College of the Bible. Yet I do not know of more than six of those men who are preaching the truth today. Compromise, even a little, will not work.”

You see, what may seem to be a harmless compromise can lead to things that we never envisioned would occur. We must remain true to the word of God and never compromise in large or small ways. Our actions as Christians will influence others toward the truth or put things in their way that will make likely to stray from the word of God. May we make up our minds never to compromise.

Arlington church of Christ in Cincinnati, Ohio

church of Christ scripture

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