When it comes to the Ten Commandments, eight begin with the phrase “you must not.” There are two, however, that don’t begin that way. They tell us what to do rather than what not to do. The first of those two commandments speaks of the Sabbath day. And if we’re being honest, it is the one commandment that tends to get overlooked.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” – Exodus 20:8-11 (NASB)
This commandment regarding the Sabbath confused me for many years. Most Christians have no problem with the other nine commandments, but this one has stirred up quite the controversy… and everyone seems to have their own opinion on the matter.
Are we required to keep the Sabbath day under the New Covenant?
– Jesus not only honored the Sabbath throughout His life and ministry, but some denominations teach that He, in fact, rested on the Sabbath day when He was in the tomb. (He rose again on Sunday, the third day, after resting on Saturday.)
– Many in the early church honored Saturday as the Sabbath. The disciples regularly spoke in synagogues on the Sabbath day. And the fact that Paul still calls it “the Sabbath” in his letters shows that he still honored the day as such. History tells us that the early believers would honor the Sabbath as well as hold celebratory meetings early on Sunday mornings. (Mind you Sunday was the first day of their work week so their services were probably held in the wee hours of the morning. How’s that for an “early service”?!)
– The Sabbath pre-dates the Law of Moses. The Sabbath was instituted at Creation – not the Law. Even the commandment in Exodus states that we are to honor it because God rested on the seventh day of Creation. He blessed it and made it holy long before a single Jewish person roamed the earth. So to say that we don’t have to honor the Sabbath because we are no longer “under the Law” is sort of an irrelevant argument.
– The New Testament has very little to say about the Sabbath. I actually find that somewhat interesting considering that several other essential Jewish laws are in fact mentioned. For example, circumcision was a hot topic throughout Paul’s letters. If the Sabbath was no longer seen as “required” like circumcision, wouldn’t that have been a topic for debate as well?
– Colossians 2:16-17 tells us not to let anyone condemn us for the days (or Sabbaths) we choose to honor or celebrate.
– Nowhere in the New Testament does it tell us that we need to honor Saturday as the Sabbath. Like I stated earlier, the New Testament is rather silent on the issue one way or another. The early believers still called it the Sabbath day, but we really don’t know whether or not they honored it in the same way they once did as Jews.
– The Sabbath was indeed a major part of the Law of Moses, and the Law was fulfilled (and made obsolete) by the cross. The other nine commandments are all addressed throughout the New Testament, but the Sabbath day is not. This is why many believers today believe that we are no longer called to observe it.
– While some believers teach that we are no longer required to honor the Sabbath day, some denominations believe that we simply honor it in other ways. We honor the Sabbath by taking time to spend with the Lord or we honor it by going to church on Sundays. They believe that it doesn’t matter when we choose to honor the Sabbath (many of us even have jobs that require us to work on weekends), but rather it’s more important that we make the time to rest in the Lord.
Regardless of your viewpoint on the Sabbath Day, there is no doubt that it is important to God. The real question is how it applies to us today.
God has been working in my heart lately regarding the purpose behind the Sabbath rest and what it means for believers under the New Covenant we have in Christ Jesus. I truly believe God had much more in mind than simply a rule to follow.
Click here to read part 2 of this series… 4 Reasons for God’s Sabbath Rest in the Old Testament
*Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations taken from the NASB.
I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on the Sabbath day. Feel free to comment below!
(And please remember that we are all part of the body of Christ. We are here to learn and grow as believers, not tear each other down. Thanks!)