How Are We to Keep the Sabbath? (Part 5)


In the first four installments of this series, we addressed questions related to God’s command not to do “work” on the Sabbath; not to pursue our own “pleasure”; not to engage in “business”; whether it is permissible to eat out in a restaurant on the Sabbath; and attendance of and proper appearance in our Church worship services. In this final installment, we will address proper conduct during our Church services.

We need to understand that God has given His Church the responsibility to teach His law, including proper conduct during Sabbath services. In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul tells Timothy: “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground (or foundation) of the truth.” We are not to “despise the church of God” through improper conduct (compare 1 Corinthians 11:22).

God expects of members and attendees to KNOW how to conduct themselves in Church services, which are sacred convocations or assemblies, and to realize that God is to be “greatly feared,” respected, hallowed and “to be held in reverence” “in the assembly of the saints” (Psalm 89:7).

It should go without saying that we are not to come to services “drunk” (compare 1 Corinthians 11:21); nor should we even think of taking a break during services “for a cigarette.” But although we may not get drunk or smoke just before or during Sabbath services, if we have done so the night before, this will become obvious to the entire congregation (the smell of smoky garments cannot be hidden, nor the face of a person recovering from drunkenness). Even apart from Church services, getting drunk or smoking is sinful behavior and must be overcome. This means, we must work on getting rid of sin in our lives. Even if we appear properly dressed in Sabbath services, God will still not accept us if we show Him throughout the week that we are not serious about overcoming our sins and living His Way of Life (compare Isaiah 1:12, 16).

Paul had to deal with a terrible situation in the Corinthian Church, when he chided the members as follows: “I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you…” (1 Corinthians 11:17-18). It is critical that Church members, who assemble on the Sabbath, do not have any unresolved problems between them.

In a Q&A on proper appearance and conduct in our worship services, we stated the following:

“It is critically important to understand that we appear in front of God during the entirety of our worship service; and this means that every aspect of the service is to reflect our worship of God. This is true whether we are attending together with our brethren in a Church hall, or whether we are, due to necessity, listening in to live Church services from our homes. This means we stand up respectfully and humbly when participating in the opening or closing prayer, and we stand up and participate joyfully in the singing of the congregational hymns [in the Church hall AND at home].

“We concentrate on and listen carefully to the messages (including the announcements, as well as the sermonette and sermon). It is understood, of course, that parents will have to take care of their babies and young children, which might even require at times to take them out of the Church hall, when they get too loud and disturb others. But apart from these sometimes inevitable distractions, there is no excuse for not paying close and undivided attention to services. It would be highly inappropriate to engage in jokes or unnecessary conversation during services (except for unavoidable situations, such as when our technical staff may at times have to communicate with each other to make sure that the services are being properly broadcast, etc.). It would also be offensive to God if someone were to get up during services (whether in a Church hall or at home) [to engage in unnecessary conduct]…

“In services, most of us do not have many opportunities to audibly participate, except for saying ‘Amen’ to the opening and closing prayers, after having listened carefully and attentively to every word of the prayers, and for singing joyfully during the song service. We cannot overemphasize the importance of participation in the song service with all of our heart, concentrating on each word which we are singing, and agreeing with it completely, knowing that we are not doing so to impress others, but because we are worshipping God when we sing out loud [compare Psalm 26:12; 149:1].

“Church services ARE FORMAL WORSHIP services, in dedication to God and in fellowship with His holy people, and all of us must always keep this in mind throughout the entirety of the service…”

As mentioned, these statements also apply when we are participating in live services over the Internet. Even though we might be in the privacy of our homes, we should not think that we can therefore dishonor the sacred nature of services by “doing our own thing.” While no other human being might see us, God does, and He evaluates us as to how sincere and committed we are to Him and the holiness of His Sabbath days. In fact, when we attend Sabbath services, either in person or via the Internet, we are appearing before God and His heavenly throne and majestic surroundings, as we read in Hebrews 12:18-24. The New International Version renders verse 23: “You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly.” The Living Bible speaks of “the gathering of countless happy angels”; the New American Bible refers to the angels “in festal gathering”; and the New Jerusalem Bible states that angels “have gathered for the festival.”

1 Peter 1:10-12 states that angels “desire to look into” the things which are revealed to the Church of God; and Ephesians 3:8-10 adds that God reveals the truth to His Church, which proclaims it, including in Sabbath services, to angels and humans. God and His angels observe whether we eagerly and regularly attend Church services; whether we listen diligently and attentively to the messages and the prayers; and whether we participate whole-heartedly in the song service (perhaps even conducting at times special music).

These principles apply to our children and teens as well. When they are old enough, they should listen to the messages, and their parents should also teach them at home about God’s Way of Life (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; 32:46). Jesus was 12 years old when He was in the Temple, “listening to [the teachers] and asking them questions,” so that all “were astonished at His understanding and answers” (Luke 2:46-47). Our children and teens should be willing to listen and to learn (Proverbs 4:1-4; 5:7-14). They should rise up for (and, if possible, participate in) the song service and they should stand and listen to the opening and closing prayers (unless for little children who might be sleeping during services).

Our children and teens should not be doing school work or reading books or comics during Sabbath services, nor should they entertain themselves with video games during services. If they are old enough to read books, then they are also old enough to listen to the messages (they might even be old enough to read the Scriptures in their own Bibles together with the ministers who might read them from the pulpit).

Parents ought to supervise their children before, during and after services. Generally, our children should be sitting together with their parents. If, on occasion, they may want to sit together with another child, then at least one parent should be sitting with them; children should not be sitting together by themselves. They should also be responsible enough, if they have to go to the restroom during services, to immediately return to services; otherwise, a parent should accompany the child to and from the restroom. When the Church meets in a hotel, it is very important that children are not left to themselves before and after services (compare Proverbs 29:15), as disturbing or loud conduct and running in the hall ways of the hotel could even cause the Church to lose the opportunity of renting at the facility; in any event, it would not give a good impression to others when our children were to behave improperly.

At the same time, we must not forget that the Sabbath and the annual Holy Days are FEAST Days, as we explain in our free booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days.” We point out that Paul essentially told the members in Colossians 2:16-17: “Let no one judge you for keeping the Sabbath or the Holy Days with eating and drinking, rather than fasting, but let the Church determine or resolve this.”

Paul made clear that the Church is to resolve, settle or decide in what way we are to observe the Sabbath, which would also include our conduct during Sabbath services. Church members should not listen to those outside the Church or to attendees with different and strange ideas; nor should they devise their own concepts as to how to keep the Sabbath and how to observe Church services. Rather, they should listen to the Church leadership for the explanation and resolution of these questions, including administrative decisions in “gray” areas which may need clarification.

In conclusion, it is very important to God THAT and HOW we appear before Him in Sabbath services (that is, with clean garments AND clean hearts); and HOW we behave in God’s sacred assemblies—understanding how to conduct ourselves in the house of God.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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