QUESTION: "Just how should a Christian's love be expressed toward his enemies? Are we to ask God's terrible justice and vengeance upon them, as David did in some of the Psalms? Are not these contrary to Christ's prayers for God's mercy on those who crucified Him? In short, what form should our prayers for our enemies take?"
ANSWER: Christ Himself is the foremost example of love for one's enemies. He was beaten and crucified, yet He prayed for His tormentors: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). The martyr Stephen showed the same forgiveness (Acts 7:60) before he was stoned to death.
The book of Hebrews tells us to "Consider him [Christ] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or faint-hearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood" (Heb. 12:3-4).
When we pray for our enemies, then, it should be in an attitude of forgiveness, asking that God's will for them be carried out with the same mercy we would want for ourselves if we were in their shoes (Matt. 7:12). Sometimes God's mercy might include punishment or death such as David asked for his enemies. Such people will be resurrected into a utopian world full of the knowledge of God and grow into His salvation free from the influence of Satan the devil.
True godly love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). We receive God's Spirit through repentance, baptism and the laying on of hands (Acts 2:38; Heb. 6:2). Once a person has gone through the process of being forgiven by God, he is better equipped to forgive others and feel Christian love even for his enemies.
Q: "The scriptures seem to indicate that the apostles observed 'the first day of the week' (namely the eve of Sunday) as the 'Lord's Day,' the regular day of worship. I don't have the historical background to know for sure if the above was a fact or not."
New Haven, Connecticut
A: Historical records concur that the "early church" kept the Sabbath (Saturday), and that even well past the fourth century some kept both the Sabbath and Sunday side by side. A Critical History of the Sabbath and the Sunday in the Christian Church by A. H. Lewis, D.O. (The American Sabbath Tract Society, Alfred Center, New York, 1886) presents a very good picture of what occurred regarding the Sabbath and how it was replaced by Sunday when Constantine converted to "Christianity."
The more modern Catholic Encyclopedia states on page 336 that "The obligation of rest from work on Sunday remained somewhat indefinite for several centuries." The New Catholic Encyclopedia adds that "There is nothing to indicate that the practice of coming together on Sunday... was regarded as obligatory... during the first three centuries of the Christian Era" (p. 800).
Sunday observance came to be added to Sabbath observance in the professing Christian world (and later superseded it) due to the belief that Christ was resurrected on Sunday. (For more on this, read our free booklet, The Resurrection Was Not On Sunday.)
Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics states: "Although Jewish Christianity disappeared from the West before the end of the 2nd century, there is plenty of evidence that some of its traditions persisted in the Eastern Church for two hundred years more. The Apostolic Constitutions (vii 23, 26) recognized a parallel observance of the Sabbath and Sunday. [During the second, third and fourth centuries, many documents appeared purporting to be written by the apostles. Among these were the spurious 'Apostolic Constitutions.' They were circulated to create the impression that manmade tradition had apostolic blessing. Although deliberate frauds, these documents nonetheless express some of the religious teachings during the centuries after the death of the apostles.] And the Council of Laodicea [about 365 A.D.], while condemning a Judaizing observance of the Sabbath, marked it as a festival and a day of worship" (vol. 12, pp. 104-105).
The twenty-ninth canon of the Council of Laodicea reads as follows: "Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather, honoring the Lord's day, and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ" (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. XIV, p. 148).
So the Sabbath was still observed on Saturday centuries after the original apostles died. For more information, read our free booklets Which Day Is The Christian Sabbath? and Which Day Is The Sabbath Of The New Testament?