Should Christians honor the Sabbath?

Posted: August 1, 2011 in Christian

This is a subject that I never considered until about a year ago until I heard Chuck Missler’s audio on The Seventh Day, which really challenged me to think. I grew up with the ten commandments in plain sight for all to see. Then, as now, the fourth commandment was there stating remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Almost every teacher in every class in every church I attended that mentioned the ten commandments glossed over the fourth commandment about the Sabbath or reminded us that Sunday was our Sabbath. I guess I considered this commandment about as important as the tenth commandment about coveting your neighbor’s possessions; the Sabbath just meant go to church and covetousness was this quaint way of saying jealousy. Right? Not exactly…

I regained an interest in the scriptures a couple of years ago, after a thirty year hiatus, and started going through them via Chuck Missler’s audio commentaries while traveling or working and reading when sitting still, and because it had been thirty-something years since I had taken it seriously, it was like discovering this really cool, new manual on life. One of the major breakthroughs I have made during my study of this awesome book was the realization that to understand the New Testament, we are required to understand the Old Testament and to comprehend and accept that we are not dealing with two separate books but one single, cohesive message system that links the past, present and future of the existence of our reality within one package.

What does this have to do with the Sabbath? The Sabbath is mentioned all through the scriptures in some different contexts, depending on who the author was talking to, or about. For instance, Exodus chapter sixteen links the importance of the Sabbath to the creation rest while Exodus chapter twenty sets it up as a law to be adhered to by the Jews and Ezekiel and Colossians prophesy the Sabbath will regain ceremonial importance in the millennium.

Exodus 20:8 & 118 Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it. (ESV)

The word remember in Hebrew (זכר zakar)basically means the same thing as it means to us*1which tells me this is something they already knew about and the scripture supports that directly in Exodus chapter sixteen.

Exodus 16:22-26And so it was, on the sixth day, [that] they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23Then he said to them, “This [is what] the LORD has said: ‘Tomorrow [is] a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake [today], and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.’ ” 24So they laid it up till morning, as Moses commanded; and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it. 25Then Moses said, “Eat that today, for today [is] a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. 26“Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.”(NKJV)

The ceremonial law for Israel wasn’t established yet in chapter sixteen so that means that God’s chosen people had knowledge of the Sabbath already before Moses came down with the tablets of law and they knew it was established to honor the creation as chapter twenty later states, instead of as a rule for the Jews, which is laid out later by Moses, which was the common view point I grew up with. Whatever rules and regulations that were attached to the observance of the Sabbath later in Exodus chapter twenty and also in Deuteronomy chapter five were specific rules and regulations designed for the Jews to follow.

To me, an example of a parallel thought is to use an example of theft. In most countries, theft is against moral values and therefore it is taught it is wrong to steal as the eighth commandment states. However the punishment for breaking this commandment varies from government to government. What’s the parallel? The Lord wants us to commemorate the creator and remember the creation in his fourth commandment but The Lord then went on to establish punishments for His chosen people under the ceremonial law set down by Moses because He had delivered them from their oppressors and used the Sabbath ceremonial laws as one way to make sure they didn’t forget it and the restrictions and punishments He established through the law for the Jews was specific to them as was written down by Moses in Exodus and Deuteronomy. That is a point that Christ and the apostle Paul were making to the Jewish leadership and the Gentile brethren in the New Testament gospels and the letters to the churches.

OK, I think I have shown the Sabbath was not created as a Jewish institution, but it is something The Lord established in Genesis with his demonstration to us when he rested on the seventh day according to Genesis two. Was The Lord tired? No, I don’t think so. I believe, as any great parent should do, The Lord was leading by example. I think The Lord was demonstrating to us, His creations, what he expects from us, and so what does He expect? He expects us to honor His creation and The Creator by resting on the seventh day from labor. I know of no other religion, not based on Our Lord, that wants you to rest one out of every seven days, regardless of wealth or position in society.

To us this may not be that big of a deal, but for most of the history of our planet, slavery and servitude have been a way of life and to be a slave with the ability to rest one out of every seven days, it is a huge blessing. This is what The Lord was stressing in Deuteronomy chapter five when he reminded his people just who it was that rescued them from the back-breaking slavery conditions they were under in Egypt, where there was no day of rest for them, but every day was comprised of grueling labor under challenging conditions.

Deuteronomy 5:15And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (NKJV)

What about us as Christians, how does the Sabbath apply to us? Galatians chapters four and five hammer away at the fact that the Jews were slaves to the law and that Christ releases us from the constraints of the law. That means we aren’t subjected to the rules and regulations and punishments set forth by Moses after he came down from the mount which is good, because I don’t relish the thought of being stoned for lighting a fire on the Sabbath*2.

It appears that Christ seemed to chose the Sabbath on several occasions to heal. I think the fact that His healing the afflicted on the Sabbath more than other days of the week was recorded in the gospels because of several reason. I believe one reason that Christ chose the Sabbath to heal was that in the villages of Israel, many of the people of the villages and towns would be gathered at the Synagogs for the reading of the law by the Rabbis, therefore, more people would be on hand for his displays of healing than any other day of the week. I think that this would work in conjunction with a couple of other points I believe He was making. I think Christ chose to heal on the Sabbath to not only help those in need, but to also make a public point to the Pharisees that the strict adherence to the letter of the law that they hammered away at was being replaced by the grace and mercy of Him, The Lord of the Sabbath, and that the original purpose of the Sabbath was taking center stage. In Matthew and Mark and also in Luke is a record of an incident of one of the confrontations with the Pharisees in which Our Lord states a couple of great facts about the Sabbath.

Mark 2:27-28And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 “Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” (NKJV)

First, Christ is telling us that the Sabbath was established as a blessing from our day to day labors. When is the first example of a day of rest from labors mentioned? It was mentioned in Genesis chapter two when The Lord gave us an example of the rest from His labors of creation of the universe. Should we bother honoring the creation. Romans chapter one*3 is clear and direct on the punishment that The Lord levies on a society that doesn’t even acknowledge it, much less honor it.

Secondly, in verse 28 of Mark 2, The Lord establishes himself Lord over the Sabbath. If He were going to teach that the Sabbath day was a thing of the past and it’s importance was no longer valid, this would have been the perfect time to do it, in my opinion. He had already ticked the Pharisees off, why not go for the gold? He didn’t discount it’s original underlying importance, the importance of the purpose that had been established in Genesis. Instead, by His words and actions He is overriding the strict adherence to the Mosaic law that was established for the Jews to the Sabbath and Paul in his letters to the Galatians, the Corinthians and the Colossians will put what Christ is only implying here into plain language. Why didn’t Christ abolish the Sabbath? Why would He abolish something He had made? John 1:3 and Hebrews chapter 1:10 both clearly state that Christ is the author of the creation. That means if we honor the Sabbath as it was established as a day of rest from labors and as a memorial to the creator, we are directly honoring Christ, for it was Christ, the Creator, that labored for six days and then rested on the seventh day as an example for us to follow.

John 1:3All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (NKJV)

Hebrews 1:10And: “You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. (NKJV)

What about Sunday replacing Saturday as the Sabbath? Someone would have to show me the explicit verses in the holy scriptures and not just alogizations and assumptions. The commands regarding the Sabbath are clear and repeated in several places in the scripture, therefore the basis for Sunday replacing the Sabbath would need follow the same pattern…and it doesn’t.

In my opinion, the Sabbath was established for humans to reflect and remember the creation and The Creator. That is what God prefers us to do. Fortunately, we as Christians fall under the grace of Our Lord as Paul wrote to the Romans in chapter six, so when we don’t do as he prefers, we aren’t instantly condemned as the Jews were with their boot-camp like restrictive rules and regulation that The Lord had them follow.

Romans 6:14For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (NKJV)

I have heard speakers say on several occasions that what The Lord allows and what He prefers, are two separate things. Through habits and traditions established over the centuries by well meaning, but error prone church leaders, we view Sunday as our Sabbath even though there is no scriptural basis for the substitution. To honor Christ and His resurrection and our redemption on Sunday, I think, is great and scripturally sound but it is not required for salvation. We read in Romans 14 and also in Colossians 2 the anticipated argument about which day should be reserved to honor The Lord.

Romans 14:5-6One person esteems [one] day above another; another esteems every day [alike]. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who observes the day, observes [it] to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe [it]. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.(NKJV)

Colossians 2:16-17So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.(NKJV)

What is my conclusion about the Sabbath? It seems that we have the freedom to honor The Lord on whatever day that has been worked out between us and The Lord through our communications media we share called the bible and prayer. The Sabbath is first mentioned in relation to the creation and the Creator. After Israel had settled into their homeland, the importance of the Sabbath to the Jews really kicked into high gear, for the Holy of Holies in the Temple is where The Lord rules from according to Exodus 25:22. In the New Testament, even though during the Christian dispensation we aren’t required to follow the law, the Sabbath retains an important place in the scriptures. Colossians chapter two indicates that the Sabbath will regain ceremonial importance in this prophetic verse about the millennium. So, maybe we aren’t specifically required to worship on the Sabbath, even though I feel ignoring it takes courage, but think of it this way. Our Lord established the Sabbath in Genesis, he reiterates it throughout the scriptures and Isaiah and Ezekiel let us know it will be reestablished in the millennium. In my way of thinking, if the processes of worship in Heaven follows similar patterns that The Lord has established all though the scriptures and it follows the pattern of being ‘made in His image’ and since we will all be his “chosen people’ in heaven, I think many Christians might be surprised if they find the Sabbath remains important as a prominent day of worship in Glory Land, if the pattern He has established here on earth remains in place. After all, we all need to remember that we worship a Jewish Lord.

God Bless, Jim

6-18-11

for Koinonia Institute

*1http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H2142&t=ESV

*2Exodus 31:15‘Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh [is] the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does [any] work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. (NKJV)

*3Romans 1:18-3218For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (ESV)

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