The Church’s views on Easter were first formalized by Bishops Melito of Sardis in a defense addressed to Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161–180 AD). By addressing this defense to the Emperor, rather than the Church of God, the Church had entered a new era.
The Church was no longer united by the commandments of Christ, but by man’s authority and the traditions of men.
In 193 AD, the Bishop of Rome wrote letters of excommunication to the churches of Asia because they disagreed on these new “doctrines.”
Church history records that all spiritual gifts ceased in the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. The evidence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, was taken from the Church.
Many believe that they can worship God according to their own will. And there are many who believe that as long as they “love” God with fervency, that He will be happy with their worship. And of course, we know that many people in other religions feel the same way.
In Matthew 15, Jesus talked about the religious people of His day who tried to worship God according to their own will, and their own traditions:
Many are very fervent in their worship of Jesus. They may give a lot of money to the Church. And they may even claim to be led by “a spirit” in what they do, and may even perform miracles in Jesus’ name. But in fact, they are only worshipping Jesus according to their own will. And God sees their worship as “lawlessness.”
No longer having the Holy Spirit, Church leaders continued the adultery of the gospel. In 321 AD, Emperor Constantine made Sunday, “the venerable day of the sun,” the day of rest for the Roman Empire. In spite of this, all churches, except in Rome and Alexandria, continued their practice of rest on the Sabbath (Saturday). But soon, churches began to prohibit even rest on the Sabbath day, the very day set aside by God. In 364 AD, a council at Laodicea issued the following edict: “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day they shall especially honour, and, as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ.”1
“The Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:7),” and not for the Jewish people alone. It was established as a day for all men to share rest. God is love, and His commandments are about the sharing of love with all men. The commandment requires rest for “the stranger within your gates” (Exodus 20:10) whether Jew or Gentile.
In negating the commandment of God, the Church made it impossible for men to keep the commandments of God and receive the salvation of God, through the gospel of Christ.
So Jesus told us, “In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
Today, God is calling us to repentance.
But in restoring the truth of the Sabbath day, we must be careful that we truly understand God’s will. In the beginning, before the Law, God blessed this day and sanctified it: meaning He set this day apart from the other six days, as a day for man, for rest. The day itself is being “set apart.” It is not the people who become holy on the Sabbath day. But most certainly, God knows who His people are, by their obedience to His will. And therefore, it is your obedience to His will that makes you holy, and not the day.
- Charles J. Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church, translation by Henry N. Oxenham (Edinburgh, 1896) Vol. II, p. 316. ↩