The Sabbath Day
Why don't Believers today observe it?
by Wayne D. Turner
The Sabbath day has always been on the seventh day (Saturday) and always will be. There are many who incorrectly refer to Sunday as the "Christian Sabbath." That is quite an inaccurate description of Sunday according to the scripture. The objective of this article is to demonstrate that sabbath observance is clearly a critical part of the Ten Commandments, God's top ten laws; it cannot be singled out as one that believers may choose to ignore its observance. If a believer proclaims that he is not liable to keep number four, then perhaps he should carefully consider whether or not he may legitimately use the remaining nine as a standard of righteousness. Complete the reading of this article, and I think you will agree that the Ten Commandments do not serve as "standards of righteousness" for believers today.
The Sabbath day was established by God before the giving of the Law of Moses all the way back to creation, as we see in Genesis 2:2-3, "And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." Notice that this day was "sanctified" i.e. set apart as a day of complete rest.
Even before the giving of the Law of Moses, we see the Hebrews observing the sabbath day as in the gathering of manna (Exodus 16) on the sixth day of the week preceding the seventh-day sabbath. Notice God's instructions:
Exodus 16:26 Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.
Exodus 16:27 And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none.
Exodus 16:29 See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.
Exodus 16:30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
Then, of course, we find sabbath-day observance clearly stated in the Law of Moses. In the numbering system of the commandments, we know this as the fourth commandment. Exodus 20 was given by God to Moses at the beginning of their forty-year stay on the Sinai Peninsula. You will notice that the commandment forbids anyone from sabbath work including non Hebrews in their midst.
Exodus 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Exodus 20:9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
Exodus 20:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
Exodus 20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
If you love God and don't keep the sabbath day, your reasoning for not doing so cannot scripturally be that you are not a Jew; verse 10 above includes non-Jews in the commandment and is again restated in Deuteronomy 5:14.
Just prior to entering Canaan, the Law of Moses is restated to the new generation of adults who will cross over Jordan. There is a particular reminder to accentuate the contrast in verse 15 to these who never experienced the cruel servitude of Egyptian bondage; there was no day of rest in Egyptian captivity.
Deuteronomy 5:12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.
Deuteronomy 5:13 Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work:
Deuteronomy 5:14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.
Deuteronomy 5:15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.
We find the emphasis again in Exodus chapters 23 and 31, but chapter 31 adds the penalty clause to the violation of the special weekly observance - death. And when will the keeping of the sabbath day no longer be necessary? Pay particular attention to Exodus 31:17.
Exodus 23:12 Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.
Exodus 31:14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
Exodus 31:15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
Exodus 31:16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
Exodus 31:17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
Keeping the Sabbath day was a very important component of keeping the Law of Moses. In verse 13 God says of Sabbath keeping, "...it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations..." And then here's the "cut off from" phrase again in verse 14 for the violators.
Interestingly enough, we do see that "cut off from" with regard to keeping the Sabbath did mean death in Number 15:35. For those people who are convinced that New Testament believers are required to keep the law, they really need to consider these verses and then decide what they intend to do about the sabbath.
Numbers 15:32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.
Numbers 15:33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.
Numbers 15:34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.
Numbers 15:35 And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.
Numbers 15:36 And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.
Incidentally, this law is universal in application for the Jews. Wherever they dwell, it was a law to be kept. Notice Leviticus 23:3, "Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings."
It's no secret that the Jewish leadership in Jesus' day had lost sight of the purpose of the sabbath day observance. It was designed to make it illegal for anyone to require anyone else to work on that one day of the week. Nobody could say, "My boss makes me work on the sabbath." That was illegal to do. It was not designed to be an inconvenience to man, but rather a time of refreshing. Jesus makes that point to the Pharisees in Mark 2 when the disciples of Jesus plucked some corn to eat. Notice the words of Jesus:
Mark 2:27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
Mark 2:28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
However, Jesus specifically addressed, not only sabbath keeping, but the entire law in Matthew 5:17-18 when he said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." This is important to understand. When Jesus died on the cross, he fulfilled the requirements of the law by offering himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind. The Law was fulfilled the moment Jesus died on the cross. Paul said it like this in II Corinthians 3:
II Corinthians 3:7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
II Corinthians 3:8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
II Corinthians 3:9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
II Corinthians 3:10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.
II Corinthians 3:11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.
Paul very clearly says in verses 7 and 11 in this passage that the Law of Moses has been "done away." Notice how Paul phrases it in Colossians 2:14, "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;" Then he goes on to elaborate in verses 16-17, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."
In dealing with Gentile believers, Paul taught that keeping the law and particularly sabbath keeping was a Jewish requirement under the old covenant of the law. No such laws, including sabbath keeping, applied to Gentile believers living in their own environment. Notice what Paul says in Romans 14 with regard to this controversy over sabbath keeping:
Romans 14:5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
Romans 14:6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
Paul deals with special days of observance; probably the Sabbath day is in view here. There was likely a minority of Jewish Believers in the church in Rome who, I'm certain, still observed the Sabbath day (sundown Friday to nightfall Saturday) as a matter of Christian practice. Naturally you would have had people on both sides of the fence. The Gentile Believers probably proclaimed, "You don't have to do that anymore!" Many of the Jewish Believer's probably proclaimed, "You can't be a good Christian without observing the Sabbath!" Paul indicates that it's a matter of Christian liberty. Whether you choose to observe the Sabbath or not is not a test of spirituality.
Paul's position on this became an issue at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15:1-29. A challenge was made by the "Pharisees which believed" (verse 5) regarding these new Gentile Believers. It was their contention that these Gentile Believers would need to become good Jews as well as Christians. At the conclusion of the council it was determined that Gentiles were not responsible for keeping the Jewish laws. As a matter of fact, the minimum requirements found in verses 28-29 did not even include the Ten Commandments. As you can see from this passage, the early church did not require Gentiles to observe Jewish Law, not even the Ten Commandments.
In summary, the Old Testament Law of Moses was the national instrument given to Israel to serve as the law of their land; it was never intended to be used as a standard of righteousness for New Testament Believers. However, people like lists, and the Ten Commandments fit nicely as a good list to them. Many Christians proudly proclaim, "I keep the Ten Commandments." Yet, in reality, they've almost certainly never bothered to "observe the Sabbath" as God instructed. Immediately these Christians are in major violation of number four. Paul told us in Romans 8:2, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." Our law (as believers) comes from within by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, the next time someone tells you that Christians are liable to the Ten Commandments, show them these Old Testament scriptures and challenge them to show you how they are keeping number four - Sabbath observance.