From the dawn of its existence, the religion of our Lord has been in a titanic struggle for
its very life, seeking to crush all opposition and to rise triumphant at last. The struggle
continues with nothing abated. The devil has, from the start, sought to thwart the will of God
by infiltrating heretical and noxious theories into the very bosom of Christianity.
His agents have always been men. They have been those upon whom the burden has rested of intertwining, infiltrating, and seeking to strangle the very life of the church through false teaching. Paul warned the Ephesian elders, "I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:29-30 ASV). There were false teachers in Paul's day who were taking a bit of the truth and destroying it by mixing the doctrines of men with it (cf. Matt. 15:9).
The following recently came into my hands: "Eighty-four occasions are recorded in the New Testament in which Paul conducted meetings on the Sabbath. 'They came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day... And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God... On the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither... Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures... And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks... And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God' (Acts 13:14, 42-44; 16:12-13; 17:1-2; 18:1-4, 11)."
It must be realized that Christianity stemmed from Judaism. The Saviour Himself was a Jew. All of the apostles were Jews, and the prejudices of the Jewish race were at the very door of the beginning of Christianity. John wrote, "He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:11-12).
For more than 1,000 years, the Jews had been God's chosen people. They had built up about themselves a high wall of exclusiveness. They looked with disdain upon all other races of people and considered them as mere "dogs." Even our Saviour acknowledged this prejudice when He said to the Syrophoenician woman, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to the dogs." But she said, "Yea, Lord; even the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs" (Mark 7:27-28 ASV). She also admitted this prejudice on the part of the Jews and that they considered other people inferior to themselves.
During the first commission, the Saviour forbade the apostles to go into the way of the Gentiles or to preach to the Samaritans. He said for them to "go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 10:5-6). We must also bear in mind that the Jerusalem church was made up exclusively of Jews or Jewish proselytes and that there were no Gentiles converted to Christ until Cornelius in Acts 10. Even the apostle Peter who preached the first sermon on Pentecost had to have a special revelation from the Lord in the vision of the sheet that was let down from heaven with all kinds of animals in it before he would preach to the Gentiles (Acts 9).
When we consider the struggle that the Lord had with the apostles and other outstanding leaders in the apostolic age to bring them to accept the Gentiles, we can understand how Christianity stemmed from Judaism.
This struggle continued all through the apostolic age. The council at Jerusalem (Acts 15) that was held many years after Christianity started was convened for the purpose of considering the problem of Gentile converts' relationship to the Mosaic Law. This was done because there was a clamor among the Jewish teachers in the early church to force the rituals and practices of the Law of Moses upon Gentile converts.
When the apostles were sent out to preach in all the world, they had to, first of all, seek an audience with the Jews. Paul, as the great apostle to the Gentiles, went into far places and, quite naturally, as a Jew from a Jewish background, preached to Jews wherever he went. He went into Jewish synagogues to preach the gospel and did so on the sabbath day because that was the day when they gathered there. While the Lord had abolished the Law of Moses — which included the sabbath law — in His death on the cross, its observance by unbelieving Jews scattered over the world had not been discontinued. There was no authority from God any more for the worship on the sabbath day, but by custom and zeal it was still practiced by these Jews. Therefore, because the Jews were assembled in the synagogues across the world, Paul simply took advantage of his blood tie with them in order to preach the gospel to them.
The truth of the business is that Paul said the gospel should be preached first to the Jew and then to the Gentile (Rom. 1:16-17). Therefore, he always preached to the Jews first if there were any of them in the cities he visited. There can be found no exception to this rule, but that does not mean Paul was an observer of the Jews' religion or that he was keeping the sabbath day. It simply meant he knew the Jews and their practices. He was a Jew by birth and, therefore, took advantage of all these features to bring to them the gospel of Christ whenever possible.
Our Adventist friends simply err in their view of scripture when they seek to connect the historic fact of Paul's going into the synagogues with the idea that he was observing the sabbath. He did no such thing. The whole struggle of the Christian religion in the apostolic age was to outgrow and distance itself from Judaism from which it stemmed. One cannot understand such a masterful treatise as those to the Galatians or to the Hebrews without approaching their study from the historic background out of which they grew.
The Jew reluctantly admitted Gentiles into the claim of the gospel. Then it was the conviction of the Jews that Gentile converts should be circumcised in keeping with the law. The council at Jerusalem was held and decided on this question. The apostles gave out the decision that the Gentiles should keep themselves from fornication, from idols, from things strangled, and from blood, from which if they kept themselves they did well (Acts 15:28-29). This decree was sent out from the apostles to Gentile churches across the world. It is strange that sectarians and those who keep the Law of Moses in some measure today cannot see that the apostles' decree forever did away with all obligations upon Gentile converts to the Law of Moses.
One who does not study the New Testament with the view that, on one side, Christianity is repelling the advance of Judaism, and on the other refusing the corruptions of heathenism can never understand the New Testament. No apostle ever observed the sabbath day after the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ, even if some of them did preach in Jewish synagogues on the sabbath day.
Paul also preached the gospel on Mars' Hill in the city of Athens. One could as rightly charge that he was observing the rites of heathenism in the worship of the many gods on Mars' Hill, because he was preaching there, as he could that Paul observed the sabbath day because he preached in Jewish synagogues on that day. But no one has ever charged this because no one has needed to sustain such a doctrine. It is only the person who attempts to sustain the doctrine of the sabbath today who makes such an illogical and unscriptural use of the apostle's preaching on the sabbath following the beginning of the church.
While some stump their toes on this line of reasoning, others are equally fallacious in their reasoning on other scripture texts. This is the root of difficulty with every sectarian thought that there is in the world. Fairness of Bible interpretation against its historic background would eliminate sectarianism from the world.
In spite of the fact that Adventists have been making this unreasonable and incorrect argument for many years, and in spite of the fact that it has been answered many times, no doubt they will continue to make it right along, for it maintains their unscriptural position; and were they to relinquish this line of reasoning, they would give up one of their main arguments. Out of their prejudice they are unable to be fair with the word of God. 'tis a pity, 'tis a pity!