Philippines Makes Sabbath Exemption!

Mount Apo in Mindanao, Philippines


While the Western world seems to be becoming less tolerant of the religious rights of Sabbath-keepers, the Philippines moved to make a great decision for Sabbath-keeping youth:

Philippines Education Department specifies right to Sabbath observance
ANN – Nov 8, 2010

The Philippines Department of Education recently solidified its support of freedom of religious expression for students wishing to be exempt from Saturday school classes and activities.

A department order released last month is already allowing Seventh-day Adventist students to successfully petition teachers for exemption from Saturday classes and exams. The order is a follow-up to a January memo granting exemption for Adventist members working as Education Department personnel from attending professional development and exams held on Saturdays.

This is fantastic news.  I am unaware of any other Asian country doing this in recent times (though there have long been Sabbath-keepers in Asia, see the articles below).

As it turns out the Living Church of God lists that it has 33 congregations in the Philippines.

As a parent, school issues associated with the biblical holy days and school have long been issues.  And while Sabbath attendance is not part of the normal education for most schools in the USA, even I personally had to deal with it (and my professor essentially screamed at me that I would not miss two Sabbaths back in the 1990s–but I did anyway).

John’s and His Followers’ Practices in Asia Minor–They Kept the Sabbath

The 17th century historian William Cave reported that the early Christians, both Jews and those in Asia Minor (the other end of Asia, far from the Philippines), kept the Sabbath. Notice his report:

…the Sabbath or Saturday (for so the word sabbatum is constantly used in the writings of the fathers, when speaking of it as it relates to Christians) was held by them in great veneration, and especially in the Eastern parts honoured with all the public solemnities of religion. For which we are to know, that the gospel in those parts mainly prevailing amongst the Jews, they being generally the first converts to the Christian faith, they still retained a mighty reverence for the Mosaic institutions, and especially for the sabbath, as that which had been appointed by God himself, (as the memorial of his rest from the week of creation,) settled by their great master Moses, and celebrated by their ancestors for so many ages, as the solemn day of their public worship, and were therefore very loth that it should be wholly antiquated and laid aside. For this reason it seemed good to the prudence of those times, (as in others of the Jewish rites, so in this,) to indulge the humour of that people, and to keep the sabbath as a day for religious offices. Hence they usually had most parts of the divine service performed upon that day; they met together for public prayers, for reading the scriptures, celebration of the sacraments, and such like duties. This is plain, not only from some passages in Ignatius and Clemens’s Constitutions, but from writers of more unquestionable credit and authority. Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, tells us, that they assembled on Saturdays, not that they were infected with Judaism, but only to worship Jesus Christ, the Lord of the sabbath (Cave William, D.D. Primitive Christianity: or the Religion of the Ancient Christians in the First Ages of the Gospel. 1840 edition revised by H. Cary. Oxford, London, pp. 84-85).

While I disagree that Jewish converts were allowed to keep the Sabbath to “humour” them as Dr. Cave wrote (since nearly all the original Christians were Jews, all the original Christians did keep the Sabbath–Sunday was a later development), he at least does realize that early Jewish converts and those in Asia Minor (“Eastern parts”) kept the Saturday Sabbath.

Of course, the New Testament shows that Paul kept the Sabbath in Asia Minor:

Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down … So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath (Acts 13:13-14, 42).

Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed (Acts 14:1).

It should be pointed out that Antioch in Pisidia is in the middle of Asia Minor and that Iconium is also in Asia Minor. Hence Gentiles were keeping the Sabbath in Asia Minor from an early time.

The Apostle John ended up being the leader of the Church in Asia Minor, specifically, Ephesus. John, and a claimed follower of his named Polycarp, kept the Saturday Sabbath. There is no direct, nor indirect, historical evidence that John and other true Christians ever observed Sunday.

According to an old, but probably modified in the 4th century document, Polycarp kept the Sabbath:

I will give the narration in order, thus coming down to the history of the blessed Polycarp…

And on the sabbath, when prayer had been made long time on bended knee, he, as was his custom, got up to read; and every eye was fixed upon him…

And on the following sabbath he said; ‘Hear ye my exhortation, beloved children of God. I adjured you when the bishops were present, and now again I exhort you all to walk decorously and worthily in the way of the Lord, knowing that, when I was in the ministry of the presbyters, I applied so great diligence according to my power, and shall do this the more now when the greatest peril awaits me if I am negligent. For after the fear of the judgment, it were shameful to abate and relax anything having regard to men, and not rather to build up higher the zeal which has reached thus far. It pertaineth to you therefore to hold back from all unruliness, both men and women; and let no one imagine that I exact punishment from offenders not from conscientiousness but from human pride. For it has happened that some of those who were put into offices, when they ought all the more, as one might say, to strain every nerve in the race, just then relax their efforts, forgetting that, the greater honour a man appeareth to receive, the greater the loyalty which he ought to pay towards the Master, and to remember the words of the Lord how He himself said, On whom I conferred the more, from him let them demand the more abundantly in return; and the parable of those who had the talents committed to them, and the blessing pronounced upon the servant that watches, and the reproof of those who refused to come to the marriage feast, and the condemnation of him whose garment was not befitting the marriage festivity, and the entering in of the wise virgins, the saying Watch ye, and again Be ye ready, Let not your hearts be weighed down, the new commandment concerning love one towards another, His advent suddenly manifest as of rapid lightning, the great judgment by fire, the eternal life, His immortal kingdom. And all things whatsoever being taught of God ye know, when ye search the inspired Scriptures, engrave with the pen of the Holy Spirit on your hearts, that the commandments may abide in you indelible.’

Thus speaking in this way from time to time, and being persistent in his teaching, he edified and saved both himself and his hearers. (Pionius, Life of Polycarp (1889) from J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, pp.488-506)

Thus, Polycarp regularly kept the Sabbath and preached on it.

And those who follow the practices of Jesus and the Apostles John and Paul and their early faithful followers still do today.  And it was nice that an agency in the Philippines has decided to make that a little easier for students there.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

Islands and Bible Prophecy What’s ahead for islands? What’s ahead for the Philippines?  What does the Bible prophesy about islands?
The Sabbath in the Early Church and Abroad Was the seventh-day (Saturday) Sabbath observed by the apostolic and post-apostolic Church?
The Dramatic Story of Chinese Sabbathkeepers This reformatted Good News article from 1955 discusses Sabbath-keeping in China in the 1800s.
Is God Unreasonable? Some have suggested that if God requires Sabbath-keeping He is unreasonable. Is that true?
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by the Tkach WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
Persecutions by Church and State This article documents some that have occurred against those associated with the COGs and some prophesied to occur. Will those with the cross be the persecutors or the persecuted–this article has the shocking answer.

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