The Sabbath

First of all, the Sabbath never referred to a day of worship in the Bible. Sacrifices were made daily in the Jewish temples. The early Christian church also met daily (Acts 3:2). The claim by some people that a mandate by Constantine in A.D. 321 “changed” the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday is not true. Scripture never mentions any Sabbath (Saturday) gatherings by believers for fellowship or worship. However, there are clear passages that mention Sunday, the first day of the week, but it is never referred to as a Sabbath day. For example, Acts 20:7 states that “on the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” In 1 Corinthians 16:2 Paul urges the Corinthian believers “on the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income.” Since Paul designates this offering as “service” in 2 Corinthians 9:12, this collection must have been linked with the Sunday worship service of the Christian assembly. Historically Sunday, not Saturday, was the normal meeting day for Christians in the church, and its practice dates back to the first century.

So what is the Sabbath? It is clear from the Old Testament (Exodus 20:8-11, Exodus 31:16–17) that the Sabbath was the seventh day of the week (Saturday) and one Israel was to rest on, initially in remembrance that God created the universe in six days and then “rested” on the seventh day. Because of this, God blessed the day and made it holy.

However, In Deuteronomy 5, Moses restates the Ten Commandments, forty years later, in his farewell address to the next generation of Israelites who are about to enter Canaan under Joshua. Here, after commanding Sabbath observance in verses 12–14, Moses gives another reason the Sabbath was given to the nation Israel: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15). The last line implies it's a reason God gave this command.

An examination of the New Testament makes two interesting points:

1) Whenever Christ appears in His resurrected form and the day is mentioned, it is always the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1, 9, 10; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:1, 13, 15; John 20:19, 26).

2) The only time the Sabbath is mentioned from Acts through Revelation (with one exception), it is for evangelistic purposes to the Jews and the setting is usually in a synagogue (Acts chapters 13–18). Paul wrote, “to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews” (1 Corinthians 9:20). Paul did not go to the synagogue to fellowship with and edify the saints, but to convict and save the lost.

The exception is found in Colossians 2:16 and states “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16–17). The Jewish Sabbath was abolished at the cross where Christ “canceled the written code, with its regulations” (Colossians 2:14). This idea is repeated more than once in the New Testament:

“One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord” (Romans 14:5–6a).

“But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years” (Galatians 4:9–10).

So the Sabbath was given to Israel, not the church. The Sabbath was also Saturday, not Sunday. The Sabbath is part of the Old Testament Law, and Christians are free from the bondage of the Law (Galatians 4:1-26; Romans 6:14). Sabbath keeping is not required of the Christian — be it Saturday or Sunday. The first day of the week, Sunday, the Lord's Day (Revelation 1:10) celebrates the New Creation, with Christ as our resurrected Head. We are not obligated to follow the Mosaic Sabbath—resting, but are now free in following the resurrected Christ. He is the fulfillment of the Law.

Now it is important to note that the Apostle Paul said that each individual Christian should decide whether to observe a Sabbath rest, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). You are welcome, and I would even encourage you, to have a Sabbath day, no matter which day, on which you rest. It is a well-known fact that people need to rest from work and even the earth needs to rest from planting. However, we are to worship God every day.

© Todd Tyszka
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