Made for Man
Appropriating Your Sabbath blessings
by David Kidd
Table of Contents
2. Laws on the Heart – Which Laws?
3. The Poor Cousin
4. Commonly Raised Objections to 7th Day Sabbath Observance
plus Two Tough Texts by Calvin Burrell
5. Keeping the Law of God in its Proper Context
6. How to Observe the Sabbath by Richard Wiedenheft
Appendix - What About the Other Bible Holy Days?
*** This book goes hand in hand with the Bible. To get the most out of it you are encouraged to study the Bible references. If you do not have a Bible you are urged to make the effort to purchase one. It is God’s word. There is nothing more important to obtain and read.www.christlion.com can help, but if you love God, no matter what your circumstances, you will give priority to obtaining a copy of God’s Word.
Scripture from King James Version or New King James Version (Copyright 1982 Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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I give glory to God for giving me ears to hear and a heart and mind to understand the wonderful gospel message.
I thank my wife and also my pastor for their constant love and support over the years.
2012 Published by David B. Kidd
Broadview, South Australia 5083
“And He (Jesus) said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.”
The issue of the Sabbath is a highly controversial one in Christian circles. Not being brought up as a Christian, I had no weight of tradition urging me toward any particular viewpoint on this subject. However, the subject surfaced in my life in my teen years, and ever since I have had to grapple with it. More of that in a moment.
The blessing of the Sabbath is first drawn to our attention by God in Genesis 2:2-3 where it says:
And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it [i.e. making it holy], because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
The day was formally codified as one of the Ten Commandments thousands of years later in Exodus 20:8-11. We know it was still enjoyed by Jesus in the first century, as Luke 4:16 tells us it was Jesus’ custom to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. We also know Jesus was a Jew by birth, and that the Jews have always kept Saturday as their holy day.
This caused me an immediate problem. The whole idea of Saturday Sabbath observance was certainly not compatible with my lifestyle. My number one passion in life was playing competitive tennis with the aim of becoming a professional tennis player, and my Saturdays were critical to this in every way, as most competitions involved Saturday play. Not yet being convicted to make a life commitment to Christ though, I didn’t get too hung up on the Sabbath issue and continued to enjoy my sport.
Thanks be to God, the day finally came in my early twenties when I wanted to make a total commitment to Him through Christ. My conscience however told me that if I wanted to become a Christian I should give up playing tennis on Saturdays. Whilst it was reasonably clear to me by then that I was not going to make it as a professional tennis player, competitive Saturday tennis was still the number one love of my life, indeed my idol. Given my understanding of the Sabbath, as basic as it was then, I therefore had to make a very tough decision. Much to the disappointment of my family and friends I fully committed to God through baptism and quit my competitive Saturday sport. Further down the track as a Christian I could also see that I had a spiritual need to tone down greatly my approach to competitive sport, irrespective of Sabbath considerations. God wanted to be number one in my life and indeed Jesus urges us all to put the kingdom of God ahead of all things.
My convictions about the Sabbath are shared by many seventh day denominations including the Adventists, various Churches of God (of which I am a member of one), and Seventh Day Baptists. Most of my Christian brothers and sisters in other denominations though do not hold the same conviction. I do not mean to judge them by writing this because I fully appreciate what a complex issue this is scripturally and how sincere believers can come to different conclusions on this issue. What I do hope to do though is to cause Christian readers to look carefully at this issue perhaps for the first time, or to re-evaluate the issue in the hope that convictions on the issue may be changed so that they can experience more fully the wonderful blessings associated with biblical Sabbath rest.
Laws in the Heart – Which Laws?
Law in the law books - that’s normal. Law in the statutes - that’s normal too. But law written in the heart – now that’s a strange concept for many today who think it’s okay to break the law as long as you don’t get caught.
Hebrews 8:6-13 and 10:12-22 show that from Christ’s death there is a new covenant between God and man in which God writes His laws on believers’ hearts. Hebrews 8:10 & 13 say:
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts … In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old.
The question though which this chapter will begin to address is ‘which laws’ does God write on the heart, and would the Sabbath be included? Several contenders are considered below.
Law of Moses (Torah)
We know the Torah includes both the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God and the laws of Moses written in a book – over 600 laws. We also know that the Sinai covenant has been replaced by the covenant written and sealed in Jesus’ blood (Hebrews 8:13, 9:10, 10:9). Should we therefore conclude that the whole Torah is now irrelevant? Not so fast. Doesn’t the Apostle Paul write in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all scripture is profitable for us, and in 1 Timothy 1:8 that ‘the law is good if one uses it lawfully’? Further, there are many Mosaic laws I’m sure we’d all still agree with (which we’ll see in a moment). Perhaps then we shouldn’t be so fast to conclude that the Torah is irrelevant to our lives. That’s an extreme position we would be unwise to adopt.
On the other extreme, however, some will conclude from Matthew 5:17-19 that the whole Torah still applies. Jesus said:
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil. For assuredly … till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Matt. 5:17-18
We know though that Jesus offered Himself as the sacrificial lamb and that this fulfilled the sacrificial component of the Torah. Not even regulations concerning one of the most sacred aspects of Old Testament sacrificial law - Passover, apply anymore because Christ is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7). Clearly then, Jesus’ words above must have a different interpretation to that of some extremists who condemn others if they fail to keep Passover and all manner of Old Testament laws.
Also, to argue that the entire Torah should be on our hearts ignores how sections of it clearly don’t apply anymore. Clearly laws pertaining to the priesthood, tabernacle, or capital punishment do not apply. Nor do the laws “concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:10). There were also various discriminatory laws which God imposed to distinguish his holy nation from the gentiles (laws of separation). See Leviticus 22:10-11 and Deuteronomy 14:21, 15:3, 23:3-6 & 20 for examples of these laws.
We can therefore safely conclude that the entire package of Old Testament law will not be written on our hearts today. Nevertheless, there is much in the Torah that defined sin and which most of us would agree still defines sin. This leads us nicely into the next candidate for the law which is to be on our hearts.
Moral laws of God
The moral laws of God are those laws which define righteous and unrighteous conduct. Torah contains many such laws. Christians would generally agree that the sexual morality laws of Leviticus 18 prohibiting sexual conduct with kin, members of the same sex and animal kind (conduct described by God as abominable) remain relevant. Similarly we would agree with the moral laws in Leviticus 19:13-18 about swiftly paying our employees, not cursing the deaf and loving our neighbours as ourselves. Further, most Christians would affirm the moral nature of the Ten Commandments. Whilst some would question whether the Sabbath is a ‘moral’ law, I believe morality and Sabbath rest are intimately connected. Overworking employees is immoral. It disturbs their relationship with God, brethren, family, friends, and the needy (whom there is little time for). Working ourselves too hard does the same.
Certainly, each of ‘The Ten Commandments’ existed even before the old Mosaic covenant began. Therefore, if there was any part of the Old Testament law which would endure, we would expect these commandments would.
Further, I think we could all agree that God’s morals do not change. He is the “same, yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). What was once an abomination to Him surely still is. Hence, God’s moral laws would definitely constitute part of this law on our hearts.
Law of love
Others would like to add ‘love’ to our heart law, or indeed reduce the whole law to ‘love’ on the strength of Paul’s writings such as:
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Galatians 5:14)
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, You shall not commit adultery … You shall not steal … and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in the saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilment of the law. Romans 13:8-10
The point of these verses is that if we are guided by God’s love we will fulfil God’s law. Love is a great guide. It’s the more excellent way. An attitude of true love toward God and our neighbour will lead us to behave appropriately towards them. Notice however from these verses that love is not the law God writes on our hearts. Rather love is what helps us to fulfil God’s law. Love is not the law – love is love.
The scripture above also says the law is summed up by love. Of course a summary does not replace what it summarizes. However, walking in love will see us go far in keeping God’s law.
Let’s also be mindful that simplifying everything down to ‘love’ brings a certain danger. Some who do this fall into the error of thinking they don’t need the Bible, and after a while their concept of love becomes very much their own concept of love. We should never forget Jesus’ words in John 14:15 – “If you love Me keep My commandments, or John’s words in 1 John 5:3 – “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.”
There will be times when our concept of love brings us into sharp conflict with God’s concept. For example, the Bible says to expel a heretic from the church. We may love them, and our love may counsel more tolerance, but there comes a time when God’s love says ‘no’! Or, the Bible prohibits certain love relationships, but our love may say ‘well, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone it’s okay’. Hence, we need to be careful with subjective notions of love.
The law of Christ
Some will say it’s only the laws of Christ that God writes on our hearts. There are only two direct Bible references to ‘the law of Christ.’
Firstly, Paul wanted to become all things to all men so he became “ to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that [he] might win [them] ” (1 Corinthians 9:21). Paul talks here of not being without law toward God whilst at the same time being under law toward Christ. This sounds a little confusing. How can Paul be both? When one recognises that the Father and Son are on the same page concerning what they consider to be right and wrong it makes more sense. Revelation 14:12 shows this by defining the Saints as “those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” God and Jesus do not have different laws. Christ’s laws will be on our hearts, just as God’s moral laws are, since there is no difference between them.
The only other direct reference to the ‘law of Christ is“[b]ear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Certainly Jesus commanded this. We must help our brethren with their burdens. Jesus commanded us to do many things. Of course these laws must be on our hearts too because we respect Christ. But are Jesus’ New Testament commands the only laws God writes on our hearts? Perhaps the reader now sees that the answer to the question of ‘which laws’ is - ‘it’s a combination of laws.’
The Law of the conscience
Our individual consciences add to this combination. James writes that ‘to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin’ (4:17). Any time we act against what our conscience tells us to do or to refrain from doing, we sin. Paul writes in Romans 2:13-16:
… For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another …
The Holy Spirit guides us to respect the spirit of the law and hence the law on our hearts becomes much broader than the written laws of the Bible.
God writes His law
Since we are clearly told that God is the heart writer, and since God is not the author of confusion, then one may be excused for querying, ‘why all Christians don’t have the same laws on their hearts?’ Satan, false teaching, entrenched tradition, and our own slackness in studying God’s word have a lot to do with this. However, let us not make too much of the differences, because in reality sincere Christians only debate over a small percentage of God’s laws and have most of the same laws written on their hearts.
The greater issue
Perhaps then, the greater issue is not so much which laws are written, but rather the condition of our hearts towards the laws we know apply. Do we have a passionate heart for at least the law we know represents God’s will? Do we pay due regard to the spiritual intent of the law? Do our hearts break when we know we have sinned? Do we yearn for God’s righteous ways as King David showed he did in Psalms 119 where he wrote:
I will delight myself in thy commandments … (v47) … The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver (72) … O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day (v97).
Let’s yearn for God’s righteousness in our lives as King David did! May this yearning dispel any legalistic attitude in us which attempts to restrict the application of God’s law to our lives by concentrating on the letter of the law only and not the spirit-broadening implications of the law. May this yearning also help us not to treat the law of God with distain, but rather to delight in and uphold the law according to its rightful usages as the Apostle Paul said he did (Romans 3:31, 7:12, 22, 25 & 1 Timothy 1:8).
Finally, the Apostle Paul gives us great insight in Romans 8:4-9 about how the righteous requirement of the law can be fulfilled in us. He urges us all to walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh, or in other words to set our minds on the things of the Spirit, and not carnal things. This is marvelous in God’s sight:
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
The Poor Cousin
Have you ever had a relative who for some reason was not the family favorite? They were not treated the same as Uncle Bill or affable Auntie May. The family preferred to exclude them from family functions as they only caused them embarrassment. We colloquially call them ‘the poor cousin.’ The Sabbath, in a way, has become like that. In fact, we might say it has become the poor cousin of all of God’s or Christ’scommands. This should not be so! Some examples of how this is the case, are given below.
The Sabbath is the only commandment that some Christians say Jesus broke. This is a serious allegation for those who have said this, since Jesus lived under the old covenant with all of its laws. The law defined sin (Romans 7:7). Therefore Jesus had to keep the law, or He was a sinner. If He sinned He could not be the unblemished Lamb of God who redeemed us from our sins. We would still be in our sins!
Those who say Jesus broke the Sabbath look to the situations in the New Testament where the priests objected to Him performing healings on the Sabbath day. However, Jesus corrected them by showing them that they had the intent of the Sabbath all wrong. He demonstrated that it is right to do good on the Sabbath. Jesus certainly questioned the way people were observing the Sabbath, but never questioned the continued benefit and validity of the Sabbath.
Another way the Sabbath has become the poor cousin, especially of the Ten Commandments, is evidenced by the way the church usually handles those who neglect the Sabbath as compared to the way it disciplines members for other sins. If a church member is overtly a thief or an adulterer they will most likely be disciplined, but such discipline for Christians who neglect the Sabbath is indeed rare by comparison.
Further, consider which of the Ten Commandments Christians are most prepared to compromise just a little, or for a little while, when under some kind of tempting pressure, such as financial pressure, or indeed, when under no real pressure at all. On the one hand try to imagine a Christian deciding to murder or steal just a little or for a little while whilst under some kind of pressure. On the other hand, try to imagine a Christian who decides to work occasionally or even regularly on the Sabbath. The latter is far easier to imagine isn’t it? Again the Sabbath resembles the poor cousin who is ill-treated with partiality.
Ironically, the Sabbath is also the only command of the ten that it seems okay to ask others to break for our benefit. This is particularly ironic because it is the only command that specifically tells us not to do this. It says “in it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant … nor your stranger who is within your gates” (Exodus 20:8-11). Christians, however, will often ask others to work on their behalf on the Sabbath when there is no need or pressing emergency to do so. (Note though that Jesus modeled a Sabbath that was not neglectful of the needs of others: see Mark 2:23-28, 3:1-6 & Luke 14:1-6).
The Sabbath cousin seems all the poorer when we recognize that it is the only one of the Ten Commandments (apart from the command in Exodus 20:4-5 about idols which Catholics and Lutherans surprisingly delete) that has been widely modified, spiritualized, or abandoned. The original commandment in Exodus 20 specifies the ‘seventh day,’ yet many instead choose to honor the first day (Sunday). Other churches say any day or time will do. Yet others say that because Christians are ‘not under the law’ (which is true) we need not keep the Sabbath anymore, or we keep it in a spiritual sense by resting in Christ. Hang on a moment though. Can I murder, steal, dishonor my parents, or blaspheme God etc because I am ‘not under the law’? I think not. Are any of the other commandments spiritualized so as to ignore their literal meaning, and nullify their intended purpose? Again, I think not! At the same time, however, it should be stressed that adherents to the Sabbath teaching should be careful not to let man-made rules and regulations detract from the intended blessing of the Sabbath.
Enjoying our Sabbath blessings
It is also rather strange that Christians would treat the Sabbath like the shunned poor relation when it, along with the fifth commandment about honoring one’s parents, is the only one we are encouraged to keep because of the great blessings associated with it. According to Genesis 2:1-3, God blessed the Sabbath day and sanctified it from the beginning. Getting much needed rest, finding special time to worship our God and learn more of Him and His ways, and being together with our brethren and families are very important blessings we share on the Sabbath. Indeed it is likely that Adam, the busy caretaker of the garden of Eden, enjoyed such blessings too, as why would God on the seventh day of earth’s history bless the day for man’s benefit (Mark 2:27), set it apart for holy purposes, and then wait thousands of years until the time of Moses before sharing the blessing of the Sabbath day rest with anyone? I am sure that from the beginning Adam enjoyed his day of rest with God too.
Enhancing our relationship with God
I encourage you not to think of this subject in terms of ‘rules, rules, rules,’ such as, ‘how can I sin and break this Sabbath rule?’ Let’s give paramount importance to thinking about the Sabbath in terms of relationship – e.g. ‘how can I neglect my relationship with God by ignoring the blessing of sharing the Sabbath day with Him?’ This kind of attitude endeared Joseph to God. Again it is highly ironic that Christianity in general rightly gives utmost importance to one’s ‘relationship, relationship, relationship’ with God above giving emphasis to keeping God’s ‘rules, rules, rules.’ The reason why this is so ironic is because when we contemplate which of the Ten Commandments is most relevant to the cultivation or growth of our relationship with God we will observe, that of the ten, only the Sabbath commandment is specifically designed to be useful in strengthening our relationship with God. That it has become the poor cousin is therefore very odd indeed.
Not a lesser command
The Sabbath was never treated by God as a lesser command. In fact, in Israel’s penal system it attracted the penalty of death (Exodus 31:15), just as murder, idolatry, and blasphemy did. Of the ten it seems that only stealing and coveting did not attract the death penalty. Lying did for the perjuring witness in trials for crimes that attracted a death penalty for the accused. The Apostle James also accepted that the Sabbath was not a lesser command when he wrote in James 2:10-11 that if a Christian breaks one command, he or she is guilty of all.
All Christians of all denominations fail to perfectly understand or obey God. It’s not my place, or anyone’s place, to point the finger at Christians in denominations who disregard or reinterpret the Sabbath day. Firstly, I am not their judge - God is. Secondly, they may be honoring other commands of God that I have neglected, so who am I to point the finger at them? If I judge them, the measure that I use on them will be used on me (Matthew 7:2). Thirdly, many in Sabbath churches (including myself, if I am honest) fall short from time to time and do treat the Sabbath command like a poor cousin in some unacceptable way.
To focus on our relationship with God ahead of rules is the key, for it is only in having a close relationship with God that we will be strengthened to obey Him and be desirous of doing so. How then can we continue to treat the Sabbath like a poor relative and neglect our relationship with God in this way?
Commonly Raised Objections to 7th Day Sabbath Observance
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. Exodus 20:7-11.
A person showing interest in the seventh day Sabbath will be confronted with many reasons why they should not appropriate its blessings and why Sunday, or any day they choose, should remain their main day of rest, fellowship and/or worship. Many also advocate that we do not need a Sabbath day anymore because Jesus is our Sabbath-rest every day. Below is a sample of the many objections I have heard, many of which are given by pastors of Sunday churches today. I have known people who have actually been convicted to observe Sabbath in light of the questionable nature of many of these Sabbath objections. Perhaps you will be similarly convicted, or strengthened in your current conviction to observe Sabbath.
The Bible does not specifically say ‘seventh day’
A pastor may not give this reason, but I have heard others say this in an attempt to justify Sunday. Refer to Exodus 20:7-11 above in as many Bible translations as you want. Certainly you will see that the Bible is specific as to the day being the seventh day.
Sunday is the seventh day
This is plainly false as well. Below are some definitions from reputable dictionaries:
Oxford English Dictionary: Saturday – the seventh day of the week. Sunday – the first day of the week observed by Christians as a day of rest and worship in commemoration of Christ’s resurrection.
Macquarie Dictionary: Saturday – the seventh day of the week following Friday. Sunday – the first day of the week, the day of worship for most Christian denominations observed in commemoration of the resurrection of Christ.
Even without relying on dictionary definitions one can see that Sunday is regarded as the first day of the week in the Bible by looking at Matthew 28:1-6 which says that:
After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone … and sat on it … And the guards shook for fear of him … But the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen as He said. Come and see the place where the Lord lay.’
From this passage we see that the Bible recognizes that the first day, when the tomb of Jesus was found to be empty (commonly acknowledged to be Sunday), follows the Sabbath. Clearly then, Sunday cannot be the Sabbath.
We do not know which is the seventh day anymore
Some argue that due to calendar changes over the centuries it is no longer possible to determine which day is the seventh, so it doesn’t really matter which day we rest and worship on. Several arguments are raised about the lack of continuity of the weekly cycle from creation to Christ. However, Luke 4:16 says that it was Jesus’ custom to observe the Sabbath. He was obedient to His Father’s commandments. Therefore it’s hard to believe that Jesus did not know the correct day.
From Christ until now it is recognized that in 1582 the Julian calendar was replaced by the Gregorian calendar. Ten days of October 1582 were dropped to make the calendar coincide with the solar year. History shows however that the weekly cycle was not interrupted. The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910 Vol. 3 p740) states:
It is to be noted that in the Christian period, the order of the days in the week has never been interrupted. Thus when Gregory XIII reformed the calendar in 1582, Thursday 4 October, was followed by Friday, 15 October. So in England Wednesday, 2 September, was followed by Thursday, 14 September.” (please contact me for a free booklet ‘The Weekly Cycle’ which gives more detailed information on this topic).
Further, it is not logical to assume that a people as devoted to the Sabbath as the Jews were, would somehow mistakenly get their days muddled up, or would indeed even accept a man-made change if one was ever made. The clear conclusion is that time has not been lost or changed – we therefore know that our sunset Friday to sunset Saturday is still the Sabbath day.
The Sabbath is for Jews/Israelites, not mankind in general
Genesis 2:1-3 gives the account of God resting on the 7th day, blessing it, and sanctifying it. This was a very long time before the Jews or Israelites came on the scene so how could it be just for them? Notice also that Jesus is quoted in Mark 2:27 as saying “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” It was therefore supposed to be a blessing for all mankind, not just Israel.
Indeed, if we pause to reflect for a moment, Adam must have kept the Sabbath. It would seem incredible if he didn’t. Would God not allow him the blessing of resting from all his labors and worshipping Him on this day in the garden after having made it for man, sanctifying it (setting it apart as a holy day), putting a blessing in it, and giving His own example of resting Himself? Wouldn’t it strike you as very odd if God did all this with respect to the Sabbath day and then kept the Sabbath ‘on ice’ (so to speak) for thousands of years until Moses and the Israelites came into the wilderness? In the perfect state of Eden, before the fall into sin, surely a Sabbath rest was enjoyed by Adam and Eve. The Sabbath is not exclusively a ‘Jewish’ thing.
One day in seven is okay – God wouldn’t mind; He’s not that particular
The big problem with this objection is that we have a very strong example of God showing that strict obedience does matter to Him. Obedience to His Sabbath command was so important to God that He even prescribed the punishment of death in the Law of Moses for breaking it (Exodus 31:15). It is in God’s nature to be concerned about people seeking to obey exactly what he says. Remember also how Moses did not enter the promised land because he struck the rock instead of speaking to it as he had been commanded.
The law is a ‘nailed to the cross’ shadow; let no one judge you over Sabbaths (Colossians 2:11-17)
See Calvin Burrell’s article ‘Two Tough Texts’ at the foot of this chapter which considers the objections raised on the basis of Romans 14 and Colossians 2:11-17. In considering these texts, something that is crucial, but usually forgotten, is the fact that history shows that the change from Sabbath to Sunday (or any day) had not occurred in the first century when Paul wrote these epistles. The Christians were still keeping Sabbath, not according to the strictness of the Pharisees, but in the way Christ demonstrated throughout His life. This gives extra weight to the explanation below given by Calvin Burrell, because it confirms his conclusion that Romans 14 and Colossians 2 were providing instruction on controversial, doubtful, and heretical things, not well established principles such as the kind of Sabbath observance of the 4th commandment which Jesus beautifully illustrated in His life.
Please contact [email protected] if you want to receive booklets entitled ‘The change from Sabbath to Sunday’ and ‘The first day of the week in the Bible.’ These document the fact that it was not until the second century that the day of worship was questionably changed from Sabbath to Sunday in the Christian church. The latter also highlights the problems with the arguments people make about the first day having gained importance in New Testament writings. One New Testament passage of note is Acts 13:42-44 in which gentiles enjoyed hearing the word of God preached on a Sabbath so much that they begged to hear more the following Sabbath rather than the next day – Sunday.
Jesus broke it
This is a serious allegation for those Pastors and others who use this objection as it would make Jesus out to be a sinner given that there is no dispute that the Ten Commandments applied during His life time. This has already been dealt with more fully in the previous chapter.
We don’t have to keep Sabbath now because Jesus rose on Sunday
This is a tradition of man. You will not find, no matter how hard you search, any command in the Bible to keep Sunday as the Sabbath, or as a holy day. The Bible does not hint at Sunday being holy by reason of the resurrection. No such connections are made and why would there be? Do you think for one moment that the disciples would have thought they can make Sunday their own holy day because they were so happy about what happened on that day? Could Christians ever change a law of God for any reason? Given their strong attachment to Sabbath observance, by reason of their Jewish/Israelite heritage, don’t you think the first Christians would need something more than a vague philosophical thought to change their practice? Some people philosophize that Sunday is the eighth day and therefore holy, but that is all it is – man’s philosophy.
The suggested link between a Sunday holy day and the resurrection of Christ comes well after the books of the Bible. Against Sunday becoming the new ‘Sabbath’ in place of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, are also the many scriptures affirming the Ten Commandments for believers as a right standard for living. (For example consider Matthew 19:16-20, John 14:23-24, Romans 6:1-2 &15 7:7,12,14 & 22, Hebrews 10:15-21, James 2:8-13, 1 John 5:3 & Revelation 12:17 & 14:12).
Keeping Sabbath is to seek to earn salvation by the works of the law which can’t be done
Sabbath observers fully accept the truth that salvation is a free gift from God that can never be earned. Salvation is by grace through faith so no one can boast. It is not achieved by works, obedience, or through just being a good person. It is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). This objection therefore makes no sense because Sabbath keepers are not trying to earn salvation by works. Further, why isn’t this same objection used to stop Christians trying to obey any of the other commandments of God. It is inconsistent to treat the Sabbath command differently to the others.
Every day is the Sabbath, or Christ is our Sabbath rest
The obvious flaw with this objection is that it forgets that the Sabbath day was not only for our spiritual welfare, but also for our physical welfare. Our need to take physical rest will remain as long as we have this fleshly body to take care of.
The Sabbath is not an eternal moral precept of God, but rather a ceremonial law fulfilled in Christ
When we stop and just contemplate for a moment the many moral benefits of Sabbath observance this objection quickly fades away. Many people are prone to, or forced to, work too much. Many people are so busy that they do not get sufficient rest. People who do not get enough rest often get run down and suffer illness. Over-tired people are also more prone to make dangerous mistakes while driving or working, endangering themselves and others.
Further, given that many of us are so busy, often we fail to find the time to visit, encourage or help others as we should. The Sabbath provides many Christians with the opportunity to do more of these essential things. Of course we should be doing these things more than once a week, but the reality is that sometimes we lack the time or fail to make the time. Having available the guaranteed 24 hour time period of the Sabbath every week is certainly a great advantage. It provides us with a great opportunity each week to share with others and show them our love. The Sabbath surely is a moral command.
Also having a set day for rest, worship, moral/Christian teaching and fellowship is great morally for the family and the family of God. I think it would be a great strategy for Satan if he convinced us that we could all choose our own holy day, or that no day should be set aside for God, and that if he could get us all having our days off at different times. This would make it very difficult for families and believers to get together regularly. In fact this is what has happened and the many moral benefits of togetherness and strength in unity have been greatly diminished. Every Christian has talents, gifts and love to share with the body of Christ. A set day for all provides a wonderful additional opportunity for this sharing and hence for the spiritual growth of all.
The moral benefits of Sabbath observance are indeed enormous. In the beginning God made the Sabbath day for man. He strongly revealed its moral nature by even ceasing from His own work. He also put a blessing in it (Genesis 2:3). If someone has side-tracked you from the blessings of the Sabbath, perhaps by one of the flawed objections above, or in any way, perhaps it is time to reconsider having your blessed Sabbath day’s rest.
Two Tough Texts
By Calvin Burrell
A large majority of Christians give no serious thought to the claims we make for the seventh-day Sabbath of Scripture. For many, the weight of religious custom is great enough to prevent them from giving careful and critical consideration to the evidence. Others, however, have been persuaded against the Sabbath by two verses that appear at first reading to give a message opposite that of creation,commandments, and Christ. These two texts are Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16.
Paul the apostle wrote both these verses. When teaching on Christian duty rather than on the means to salvation, he also wrote that God's ‘law-is holy, and just, and good’ (Romans 7:12) and that ‘keeping the commandments of God’ was what mattered, not circumcision (1 Corinthians 7:19).
The entire fourteenth chapter of Romans was written about doubtful things, not about things that the Decalogue or other scriptures make abundantly clear. This passage refers primarily to fast days, the choice of whether to eat meat offered to idols, and eating vegetables only versus eating flesh. Considering the debate Paul encountered over circumcision, it is hardly possible that he could have dismissed the entire Sabbath in Romans 14 without even mentioning the day itself, and without mentioning somewhere his certain confrontation with the Jews over his teaching on the subject.
Many believers affirm that all time is sacred based on verse 5 of this chapter, and that no day is more important than another. Although Scripture never hallows any day of the week except the Sabbath, we may grant that all time is sacred for discussion's sake because God is the Creator of time generally. To conclude from such reasoning however, that God left regular moments for worship, fellowship, and restunattached and undistinguished in time, is not sound. We are not apt to regard seriously all or any time as holy unless God sets some of it apart as uniquely so. If all days are equally holy, none are likely to be truly so. And eventually, all time will become equally unholy. We seldom do anything regularly without a regular time for doing it. That God would leave it up to every individual to dedicate time as holy as it pleased him is not in the character of God's usual dealing with man: "You are not to do as we do here today, everyone as he sees fit" (Deuteronomy 12:8, NTV).
Because we keep one day especially holy, God's presence and purposes are more easily retained for every day of our lives. The Sabbath serves as a guardian upon all our time. Keeping it holy in a biblical senseincreases the likelihood that every day will be lived in the will of God. It is the blest day of God that leads us to the house of God with the people of God to believe the Son of God, receive the Spirit of God, and do the will of God according to His Word.
When Paul says, "One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind" (Romans 15:4), we may logically ask, “Convinced by what?" By the "declarations of men that all time is equally holy? Or by the declaration of God that He made the seventh day of the week holy for man?
Bible scholars agree that a doubtful portion of Scripture should not be used to oppose a clear one. Paul would be surprised to learn that one statement of his letters was isolated to abolish any part of the God-spoken and God-written Decalogue.
The Colossians 2 text is more complex than Romans 14. It, too, must be read in context. The second chapter of Colossians contains a series of warnings against a heresy threatening the congregation in Colosse. Verses 8, 16, and 18 all begin similarly: Let no one cheat/ judge/spoil you . . . The items that follow these cautions are philosophy and man's traditions (v.8); eating, drinking, observing Jewish holy days (v.16); and false humility and angel worship (v.18).
Scholars now recognize that all these were early elements of a syncretistic brand of religion coming into existence when Paul wrote. Later called Gnosticism, this belief blended astrological, angelic,philosophical, and ascetic elements, along with Christian and Judaistic influences. Paul objected to this perverted mixture of self-made religion, particularly as it was elevated in importance above Christ.
Note the emphasis Paul places on Christ throughout this passage:
• in Him are hidden all treasures (v. 3);
• in Him all the fullness of God lives (v. 9);
• we are complete in Christ (v. 10);
• He is the true circumciser (v. 11) and the true baptizer (v. 12);
• He has raised us (v.13), forgiven us (v. 14) and defeated our enemies (v.15);
• He is our head (v. 19).
Paul's primary burden in Colossians 2 is clearly to uphold the essential nature of faith in Christ, when compared with any other form of religious expression.
Not that all other religious expressions are wrong. Many of the elements to which Paul refers in Colossians 2 have their place in the life of faith: good philosophy, Christian baptism, wholesome eating and drinking, the fruit of self-control, and proper respect for the role of angels. It is not the use of philosophy, of meat and drink, or of self-discipline that Paul deplores in this chapter, but their misuse. How, then, can we employ the text to abolish the joyful observance of a weekly Sabbath kept in honor to Christ? The answer is clear: We must not force the text in that manner!
The message of Colossians is that none of these elements individually can substitute for Christ, nor can all of them, even when enticingly packaged with human philosophy, Paul is no more against the Sabbath in this text than he is against eating and drinking. He is against anything that effectively dislodges Christ from the pre-eminent position in our faith. (See Colossians 1:13-19; 2:2, 3, 9, 10, 17; 3:1, 11).
Paul is consistent in his support of the moral law of God as a standard for human conduct, but not as a method for personal salvation. In Colossians itself, he alludes to nine of Ten Commandments, and perhaps all ten if 4:16 is a admitted as a meeting on the weekly Sabbath.
When Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16 are understood in this way, they correlate perfectly with the many other references in Scripture. The endorsement of the Bible is unanimous: the Sabbath is God's gift for our benefit, designed for ceasing routine labor (employment) and practicing the presence and priority of God and His kingdom. Enjoy the gift!
This article is from the Bible Advocate Magazine, September 1995. Written by Calvin Burrell. Scripture quotations were taken from the King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
Keeping the Law of God in its Rightful Context
Zeal for any of the laws of God, including the Sabbath and other holy days, can lead Christians astray today. We all must be careful here. Paul in 1 Timothy 1:8 writes that the law is good if one used it lawfully. Clearly, the implication is that an unlawful use of the law is not good. The Apostle Paul's letter to the Galatians was a serious warning against this type of false teaching. It needs to be properly understood because similar false teaching circulates in Christianity today.
O Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?
The Galatians were mainly Gentiles converted from paganism (consider Galatians 4:8, 5;2 & 6:12). The Apostle Paul was used by God in their conversion (consider Galatians 1:8-9,4:13 & 19). Paul's tone with them was very serious (see Galatians 1:6-9 & 4:20). He had grave doubts about them. He marveled at how they were so soon turning from the grace of Christ to another perverted gospel.
We learn from Galatians 4:17 & 6:12-13 what the false teachers who were troubling the Galatians were like. They were ambitious for the Galatians to be zealous for them; they wanted to bring them into bondage (2:4) so they could boast, and they desired to make a good showing in the flesh. They wished to avoid persecution for the cross of Christ, and did not practice what they preached (6:13). They were therefore hypocrites and boasters.
Their false message is revealed very plainly when one considers Paul's warning to the Galatians. Paul says to the Galatians in chapter 5:2-4 that if they become circumcised Christ will profit them nothing, they will have to keep the whole law, and they will be estranged from Christ because of their attempts to be justified by the law. The false teachers therefore were compelling the Galatians to be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses and hence were pushing the same line as the Acts 15:5 "sect of the Pharisees who believed ... [and preached that] 'it [was] necessary to circumcise them (Gentile converts), and to command them to keep the law of Moses’” (my emphasis). The Jerusalem Council certainly ruled it was not necessary to so command them.
A modern twist
Some teachers today of the view that the annual holy days (from the law of Moses including the feasts of unleavened bread, tabernacles etc) be observed by Christians today misguidedly go to great lengths to reconcile the book of Galatians with their viewpoint. They argue that Paul is not talking to the Galatians about the God-inspired Law of Moses. Instead they say that he's referring to man-made Jewish tradition spelt out in Rabbinical enactments such as the Mishna and Gemara of Judaism (referred to below as the 'traditional law'). Alternatively, some say Paul in Galatians was not referring to all the law of Moses, but only to certain segments of it, especially the sacrificial and administrative aspects added at Mount Sinai (referred to below as ‘added’ law). They refer to the troublers of the Galatians as the 'Circumcision party,' and focus on the circumcision element of their teaching. This tends to hide and nullify the significant fact that the troublers also insisted that the Galatians must keep the whole law of Moses - God's law.
Here's where I believe an obvious error occurs. The distinction they have made in the context of Galatians between God's law (law of Moses) on the one hand, and the traditional law and the added law on the other, is unsustainable from a reading of Galatians, let alone Acts 15, where the law being talked about was specifically identified - the 'Law of Moses' (v5). The problem with both the 'traditional law' distinction and the ‘added law’ distinction some have applied to Galatians I believe can be exposed by taking a walk through Galatians' references to 'law' and () substituting the 'traditional law or added law' wherever the word 'law' is used. This will show that Paul in Galatians was indeed referring to the law of God generally.
I will start this approach from Galatians 3:10 which says: "For as many as are of the works of the [traditional and/or added] law are under the curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them'." Just stopping there we notice an immediate problem. Paul quotes directly from the law of God, refers to the curse of that law, and he identifies the 'book of the law,' which most readers well know is the 'law of God' and not some other law. The further implication is that the Galatians were seeking to be justified by that same law - the law of God.
Verse 13 continues "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the [traditional and/or added] law, having become a curse for us." Again it is obvious that the adding of the words 'traditional and/or added' here would be wrong. Paul is still talking about the law of God. The Galatians were being taught by the false teachers to seek justification in keeping the law of God, and because the Galatians (despite their sincere efforts) were not keeping all of that law, they were in danger of the curse of the law of God falling upon them. Undeniably Jesus redeemed us from our sins against any part of the law of God, not just a portion of it and He certainly did not have to redeem us from the breaking of man-made religious laws.
Verse 17 continues "And this I say, that the [traditional and/or added] law, which was four hundred and thirty years later (after the promise to Abraham), cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect." Again, anyone with some biblical knowledge would know that putting the words 'traditional and/or added ' here would be absurd, as obviously the law being referred to that came 430 years later is the law of Moses, including the 10 commandments.
Continuing in verse 19-24 : "What purpose then does the [traditional and/or added] law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made ... Is the [traditional and/or added] law against the promises of God? Certainly not. For if there had been a [traditional and/or added] law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the [traditional and/or added] law ... But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the [traditional and/or added] law, kept for the faith which would be revealed. Therefore the [traditional and/or added] law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith."
The reader by now should see that any attempts to argue that Paul in Galatians is referring to the Mishna - traditional law, or alternatively just the added sacrificial and administrative aspects of God’s law do not fit at all well with the context of Galatians or indeed Acts 15:5. It is an unnecessary and misguided twist to so argue. In no way for example could it be said that the Mishna was the tutor to lead the Galatians to Christ. In no way could just the added law be so either. God's Old Testament law in its entirety is in full view in Galatians and is even specifically identified in the chapter where a common mistake is made by Christians who are overzealous for the observance of the annual holy days. I will get to that in a moment, but first we must be clear what effect the false teachers were having on the Galatians.
Well, we now know what the false teachers were teaching the Galatians. They were teaching a heresy that mixed elements of Judaism and Christianity. They were not teaching the formerly pagan Galatians to go back to pagan superstition. They were insisting that the gentile Galatians had to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses to be saved. I think we can all agree that the false teachers in Galatia would have been disgusted if the Galatians had gone back to pagan practices or worshipping various God's, because in their religion the fact of there being only one God and having no idols was of fundamental importance. And indeed they were successful in what they taught. They were so successful that Paul had doubts about whether the Galatians were still in the grace of God.
Now the common mistake made by overzealous feast day adherents in relation to Galatians 4, which I adverted to above, occurs in relation to verses 8-11. Verses 8-11 say: “But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to bondage. You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain."
"Aha! say some. See, it says in verse 9 that they are to the weak and beggarly elements. Therefore the days and months etc mentioned in verse 10 can't include the annual holy days, as the Galatians were pagans and had never observed them. Therefore verse 10 must be referring to the Galatians literally returning to pagan practices and pagan days and ritualistic ways of worship."
If one emphasizes the words 'turning again' and isolates these verses from the surrounding verses, the rest of the chapter, and the entire book of Galatians there seems to be good logic in this point. However, in context this interpretation is seriously flawed. To see this, just ask the questions again which have already been answered - what were the false teachers teaching the Galatians and were they effective in teaching them this? They were teaching them to be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses (for the purposes of their justification), and they were effective in having some of the Galatians attempt to do this. They were not teaching them to return to pagan days! That's about the last thing they would have ever taught them!
Even if the reader for some reason still thinks that Paul was not referring to the law of Moses in Galatians and thinks that the false teachers were teaching the Galatians to keep the 'traditional law' you would have to admit that this would not include the keeping of superstitious pagan days, given the 'Circumcision Party's’ abhorrence of idolatry. The suggestion that the Galatians in verses 9-10 were literally returning to their pagan observances must therefore be flawed.
What does it mean then when it says they were 'turning again' to the weak and beggarly elements. Quite simply it means that just as how in paganism they relied upon ritualistic ways to worship God and to have justification, they were now doing the same in Christianity. Even the ritualistic/ceremonial elements of the Law of Moses were now so to speak 'weak and beggarly' as a way of justification as compared to the salvation and unparalleled light ushered in by Christ. Indeed, as Peter himself, and Paul show in 1 Peter 1:10-13 and 1 Corinthians 2:7-10 respectively, compared with the light brought through Christ, alllight previous to this, including the light of the Old Covenant, was very, very dim.
To further confirm that Paul was talking about the Law of Moses (God's law), one need only carefully read the rest of the chapter. In it, the law Paul is talking about that we should not attempt to be justified by is clearly identified – the whole law codified at Sinai. In verse 24 he likens the Sinai covenant, of which Moses was the mediator (commonly referred to as the Old Covenant and including the law), to the bondage of Hagar. He then instructs the Galatians (and us) to cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
In recognizing just how deceptive and successful the false teachers were it is also interesting to note that even the Apostle Peter and Barnabas were caught up in the same false way as the Galatians when they had encountered similar teachers. In Galatians chapter 2, Paul mentions how he also had to rebuke them. Paul said to Peter in v14-16 "If you being a Jew live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews ... knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith." The italicized portion is interesting to note. Apart from this brief moment of hypocrisy of Peter, for which he was rebuked, Peter the Jew had changed. He lived in the ‘manner of the Gentiles.’ This hardly sounds like someone who wanted to hold onto the way of the Old Covenant, and all of its rituals and laws, let alone someone who compelled others to do so, or queried others' standing in Christ or future position/reward in the kingdom because they did not teach others to observe the whole law.
Paul’s writings in Galatians do not provide a knock-out blow for anyone attempting to argue that the Bible is against the observance of Sabbath, annual holy days, or any of God’s commandments. Paul in Galatians is rather teaching us that reliance on any law for justification is heresy. This is not a ‘lawful use of the law.’ He also teaches that Christians are no longer under the Old Covenant system. Nevertheless, just as he does in Romans 3:31, 6:1-2, and 7:25 – 8:4, Paul expects Christians to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law by walking after the Spirit and not according to the flesh (Galatians 2:16-21, 5:18-26). We must not build again the sinful things in our lives that we renounced when we accepted Christ.
I believe that the false Jewish teachers in Galatia would have been less offensive to Paul if they had simply followed their own convictions about observing days etc (Rom. 14:5-6), if they had not done so for justification, and if they had not tried to compel others to do what they themselves could never do, namely observe the entire law of Moses to be justified before God (Gal 6:13).
When any of us attempt to keep any laws of God as a means of justification before God, or to be made right with God, we have taken the law out of its rightful context.
A dear and learned brother in Christ (Calvin Burrell) came across similar arguments to those examined above. He wrote:
“I remember discussing Galatians with a good friend and fellow pastor who taught the obligation of the annual Hebrew holy days. His argument was exactly the one that you are exposing in this article. I could never understand where he got the idea that Paul was warning the Galatians about going back to pagan observances. Evidently you have run into the same argument more than once.
Having fully renounced the Old Covenant law as a method to righteousness before God (Romans 3-5 teaches the same truth), I want to try to make a distinction that many Bible students, particularly dispensationalists, seem unable to grasp or admit. Although Galatians dispenses with the law of Moses for a certain purpose, other writings of Paul help us to see that he did not broaden that into a total abrogation of Old Testament law for every purpose. Romans 6-8, 1 Timothy l:8ff, and other texts approve the use of the law for good and proper purposes, even under the New Covenant.
I would argue that the constitutional (moral) elements of the Old Covenant find their way into the New Covenant, not as a method to right standing with God, but as a standard (or principle) of life practiced and taught by Jesus Christ the mediator of the New Covenant.
The best summary of the constitutional/moral part of the Old Covenant is found in the Ten Commandments. In the Old Covenant, the Decalogue (written in stone) has a few small elements that are uniquely Hebrew. In the New Covenant, the same principles (written on the heart) have been perfectly magnified by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. To these standards we aspire, as we follow Christ and are justified only by faith in his death and resurrection for us.”
How to Observe the Sabbath
by Richard A. Wiedenheft.
Observing the Sabbath is one of the greatest blessings and privileges of being a Christian. It is a day of commanded reprieve from the mundane cares of life, a day of freedom — freedom from labor; freedom to fellowship with God; freedom to fellowship with family, friends, and brethren; freedom to join in worship with others who are also free on that day. It is freedom to rest, to be rejuvenated — physically, spiritually, and mentally.
But how should a Christian go about keeping this day of freedom?
Basic Command Is to Rest
The fourth commandment is the starting point for learning how to keep the Sabbath:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your -work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor yourson or daughter, your manservant nor maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Ex. 20:8-11).
Unlike any of the other commandments, the fourth was instituted at creation by God himself. He chose to cease from His work of creation as an example for us, even though He doesn't get tired and He doesn't need to rest (Is. 40:28; Ex. 31:17). His example and the commandment itself show that the Sabbath is fundamentally a day of ceasing from the labor of the six working days. It is a day of rest, a different kind of day!
Of course, many questions could be asked about the fourth commandment: What is work? What is rest? How do we keep the day holy in the 21st century? The Bible provides answers to these and many other questions. But there is something else that is far more important!
God's Law Must Be Written In Our Hearts
There is little point in discussing how we should observe the Sabbath until we recognize that God wants obedience from the heart! We must want to keep the Sabbath; we must want to cease from our labor on this day made holy by God. Once we have this desire to obey, we can study the Bible to learn how God wants us to observe the Sabbath. And what we find is not a list of do's and don'ts; that's what the Pharisees of Jesus' day were concerned about. Rather, we find examples and general principles that can teach us how God wants us to keep His day of rest.
A Day of Delight
Contrary to what many people think about the Sabbath, it was intended by God to be a day of freedom, a day of delight, the highlight of the week. Notice Isaiah 58:13-14:
If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land.
The Sabbath is not a day for seeking our own selfish, carnal pleasures; it is a day for seeking God's pleasure. We should consider it a delight, a special day at the end of each week — 24 hours of freedom from the pressure of this physical life. Anyone who thinks of the Sabbath as a day of can'ts and don'ts is either misguided as to how the Sabbath should be kept or does not yet delight in obedience to God. People of Amos' day had this problem. They couldn't wait for the Sabbath to end so they could return to "getting things done":
When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat? — skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales (Amos 8:5).
To them, the Sabbath was a burdensome interruption in their commercial quest for wealth and pleasure. It was certainly not written in their hearts. Anyone who finds himself anxious for the sun to go down on Saturday, so he can get on to other things, is missing the point. It is to be a day of rejoicing, a day for celebrating God, His creation, His redemption — a true delight physically and spiritually.
A Day for Worship
While the fourth commandment itself does not mention worship on the Sabbath, examples from both Old and New Testament show that the Sabbath was used regularly for that purpose. According to Leviticus 23:3, the Sabbath was a day of sacred assembly for the Israelites. It was Jesus' custom to worship in the synagogues on the Sabbath (Luke 4:14-16). The apostles also worshipped on the Sabbath, both in synagogues and at other places (Acts 13:14, 42, 44; 14:1; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4).
The writer of Hebrews exhorted Christians, Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Heb. 10:28).Certainly Christians can assemble and worship on any day, but during the week so many activities and responsibilities interfere with congregational worship and group Bible study. However, on the Sabbath, God's children are free from physical duties and obligations. Indeed, they are commanded by God to be free on that day. Hence, while every day is suitable for group worship, it is especially appropriate on theSabbath day. Throughout Bible history, God's people have used it for that purpose.
Jesus' Example of Sabbath Keeping
Our Messiah was continually running afoul of the religious leaders of His day regarding the Sabbath. Many times they accused Him of doing things on the Sabbath that, according to their traditions, were unlawful. In His responses to them, we can learn a great deal about how the Sabbath should be kept.
Lawful to Do Good
On one occasion, the Pharisees, looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, asked Him if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath (it wasn't according to their traditions). He responded very pointedly: If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Matt 12:11, 12).
We can and should do good every day, but on the Sabbath we are especially free to reach out to others, to visit the widow, the sick, the orphan (James 1:26,27), and to do good in many other ways. Of course, one could spend his entire Sabbath doing good for people and completely neglect to rest, to worship, or to fellowship. This is not what Jesus intended. Note that He did not say that doing good was the primarypurpose of the Sabbath. Rather, He simply stated that it was lawful. He did not spend His entire Sabbath looking for people to heal. But when they came to Him, he did not turn them away.
Taking Care of Emergencies
Jesus made it very plain that it is right to handle emergencies — even those that involve labor — on the Sabbath. He gave the example of pulling an ox out of the ditch (Luke 14:5). Modern examples might be fixing a flat tire, jump starting a stalled car, putting out a fire, repairing a broken water pipe.
In Matthew 24:20 Jesus spoke of fleeing on the Sabbath: Pray ye that your flight be not in winter, neither on the Sabbath Day. Fleeing would certainly be an emergency — something one would not want to do any day, but especially not on the Sabbath. Yet, though not desirable, it was permissible. Some emergencies (like fleeing) might involve many hours of labor on the Sabbath, but they would be an exception.
Jesus Was Out with People
Jesus did not cloister Himself away fasting, praying, and studying all day on the Sabbath. Rather, He was out with people, at least much of the time. He was teaching, preaching, healing, talking, walking. This does not mean it is wrong to pray, fast and study, or to spend time alone on the Sabbath. Indeed, on that day, we are free to pray and study, and we should definitely take advantage of that opportunity. But Jesus' example, and that of the apostles, was not one of seclusion on the Sabbath.
Learning Not to Judge
Sabbathkeepers are a very diverse group of Christians living in a world that virtually ignores the fourth commandment. We are students, office workers, factory workers, laborers, homemakers. And because we spend our six working days so differently, our needs for rest and rejuvenation on the seventh day will vary to some extent. A student, who spends six days grinding away at the books, will hardly be much refreshed by a Sabbath of mostly study. Yet a busy salesman may relish the opportunity to spend long hours reading the Bible on the Sabbath. A man who does heavy construction all week will look forward to the Sabbath differently than a woman who has been cooped up at home with small children all week. What is a thoroughly rejuvenating and spiritually uplifting experience for one person may not be for another.
The Bible gives principles regarding how the Sabbath should be kept. They will be applied in different ways by different people. Just as other people may honor their parents differently than we do, others may keep the Sabbath a little differently than we do. Perhaps we can learn from them, and they from us. In all, we should be careful not to judge one another. (Rom. 14:4-10). Yet we should all approach the Sabbathwith positive anticipation and learn to delight in what God wants on that day, rather than what We want.
We live at a very fast pace. There are so many things to do — work, school, shopping, appointments to keep, meetings to go to. There's never enough time. It's so easy to let all these activities and pressures spill over to the Sabbath. This should not be. When the sun sets on Friday, a different kind of time should begin. A time of calm, of refreshment, of ceasing. Some things will just have to wait until the next week. Some opportunities will just have to be sacrificed in order to obey God.
One of the keys to a restful, rejuvenating Sabbath is preparation. In Exodus 16, when God gave the Israelites manna, He specifically instructed them to prepare their food the day before. Doing things beforehand is a very important key to enjoying the Sabbath to the full. So many routine things, such as feeding animals, taking out garbage, putting gas in the car, and cooking can be done ahead of time. Themore effective one is in preparing, the more free he will be on the Sabbath — free to worship, to rest, to do good, to study, to fellowship.
Children's Special Needs
One of the most important considerations for those who have children is to recognize that their needs on the Sabbath are different from those of adults. To be sure, they need a day of ceasing, a day of rest and rejuvenation. But their idea of getting it may be entirely different from an adult's idea. Sitting long hours in church getting "spiritual food" may be a worse burden to them than doing chores around the house. Don't misunderstand. I'm not suggesting they stay home from church to do chores on the Sabbath. I am saying to look at it from their perspective. If you give them a long list of don'ts (no TV, no ball playing, no bike riding, no computer games, no friends over), and a short list of do's (pray, study Bible, go to church, sit quietly), you may make the Sabbath a real burden for them. Instead, do everything you can to make the Sabbath a day they look forward to. Use your freedom from weekday responsibilities to spend time with your children, doing things that will make the Sabbath a joy and a delight for them!
Enhance Your Relationship with God
There are so many things that could be said about keeping the Sabbath. It would be easy to give a set of rules. We would all feel so secure and comfortable with everyone keeping the Sabbath according to the same set of rules. But this is not God's way. He is not interested in cookbook obedience to a set of regulations. Rather, He wants an intimate, personal relationship. He wants children who are learning andgrowing and developing, not automatons who merely follow a code of rules.
Of course, any individual or group can develop a set of guidelines based on their understanding of the Bible. And we can all learn from discussion with one another about keeping the Sabbath. But we should learn a giant lesson from the Pharisees of Jesus' day. They had a stringent code of conduct regarding the Sabbath. But one rule always begat another one — to the point that they completely forgot the original purpose of the Sabbath. Jesus denounced their approach: The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).
The important thing is for the law to be written in each heart — in your heart and my heart. You, personally, must want to search the Scriptures for yourself. You must learn and apply the principles and lessons you find there so you can grow in your own relationship with your heavenly Father.
The Sabbath is a special day that should be fundamentally different from the six working days of your week — a day of physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional rest — a day to enhance your relationship with God. The Sabbath was made for man; it was made for you as God's gift. It is a day of commanded freedom. Use it to the full as a glory to God and a blessing for yourself!
Written by Richard A. Wiedenheft. Article taken from the Bible Advocate Magazine, March 1992 with permission. Scripture quotations were taken from the New International Version.
The Sabbath was really a great blessing to the Israelites when they first came out of their slavery in Egypt where they were ruthlessly worked into the ground every day of their lives. Many Christians leading very hectic lifestyles have certainly experienced a rare and delightful peace when they first stepped into the freedom of Sabbath rest. I know I did. In this busy world full of overworked, stressed, and tired people it’s not too hard to understand the wisdom of God setting aside a holy day for all His people to rest and worship. Even if we still find it difficult to accept that the seventh day Sabbath applies today, we can at least understand and appreciate the blessing associated with giving God our undivided attention on the Sabbath and giving our physical bodies the rest they need. Jesus certainly loved to bring people out of bondage on the Sabbath day by healing them from diseases they had been bound by all their lives. The misguided religious leaders hated this, but the multitudes rejoiced greatly.
A case for Sabbath observance has been presented here. Some will see it clearly. Others will not be convinced because of grey areas. Admittedly, the issue is a complex one. Perhaps it’s not only the grey areas though that may cause us doubt or skepticism. Maybe it’s a heart thing that makes the issue even cloudier for us. Perhaps tradition and fear also fog up our windscreens a little.
When I made my heart wrenching decision to give my life fully to Christ and to give up the sporting idol in my life for the peace and rest of the Sabbath I had far less reason to do so than is presented here. God was moving my heart in His direction more and more. Perhaps God is now stirring your heart to give up an idol in your life. Maybe it’s your religious pride or fear of losing the respect of your friends, family or colleagues that hinders you from following what your conscience is telling you. Perhaps you are a Pastor or Elder with a family to support and you fear the consequences of taking a path that is not in the mainstream. Or maybe you know that you would lose your job if you decided not to work on Sabbath? Indeed the Sabbath issue is an emotive, divisive, and challenging issue. What ever you decide on this issue, just make sure you follow your conscience as the scripture says “to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
What About the Other Bible Holy Days?
The weekly Sabbath is not the only holy day of the Bible. The Israelites enjoyed several other holy convocations throughout the year, including Passover and the related Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Pentecost, the Day of Atonement, and an holy convocation involving the blowing of trumpets (see Leviticus 23, Exodus 23:14-16, and Deuteronomy 16:1-18).
None of these other holy convocations originated at Creation. None of these were written by the finger of God on stone. Instructions for them were not placed in the Ark of the Covenant, as the Ten Commandments (and therefore the Sabbath) were (Hebrews 9:3-4). Each came with specific instructions involving physical things that had to be done, including animal sacrifices, offerings and various rituals. The pilgrimage feasts of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and Tabernacles required Israelite men to go to the place God had appointed for their celebration (Exodus 23:14-19, Deuteronomy 16:5-7, 13-17). Several aspects of the feasts were also quite agrarian in nature. Certain aspects of these feasts would therefore be difficult to perform at the appointed time if one were in the Southern Hemisphere with its different seasons.
After Jesus’ unleavened/sinless life, His atoning sacrifice on the cross, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (which had become the appointed place for the pilgrimage feasts – note Luke 2:41-43, John 7:2,6,8,10,14; John 11:55-56, 12:12) continuing the feasts was clearly problematical. The One whom they foreshadowed, or were types of, had arrived, and the appointed place was no longer viable.
In many respects the feasts were shadows of the Christ. For example, the Passover lamb pictured salvation through the blood of Christ, and the day of atonement pointed forward to Christ’s once for all atoning sacrifice. The New Testament book of Hebrews emphasizes the insufficiency of the sacrifices and rituals of the Old Covenant compared with the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice and the justification obtained through it. Once the appointed place of the Jerusalem temple was desecrated in A.D. 70 by the Romans, it finally became clear to Jew and Christian alike that there was little if any point in continuing with the feasts. Besides, this would require a lot of creativity or human discretion as to the manner of keeping them since many of the instructions (especially the sacrificial instructions) could no longer be adequately fulfilled. This is a major problem in light of the fact that God throughout scripture has shown Himself to be very particular in having us follow His instructions precisely. He has always frowned on us ‘tweaking’ what He has commanded us to do.
If one were to make a long list of all the things that the people were required to do in these holy convocations, and then ask those who say we should still observe them today to check off the things on the list that they actually observe, it would become patently clear that they leave undone a large percentage of the required things. For example, how many perform the various offerings and sacrifices? How many celebrate the feasts at the place God chooses? How many make sure they are ritually clean before participating. How many perform the Passover instructions in Exodus 12, including taking a lamb on the 10thday of the first month to be killed by the whole congregation on the 14th day at twilight, sprinkling the lamb’s blood on the doorposts and lintels of the houses where they eat, and eating it with a belt on their waist and sandals on their feet. All of these instructions and more are set down in verse 24 as everlasting ordinances. How many according to other feasts in Leviticus 23 bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of their harvest to the priest (v10), bring two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah (v17), sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering (v19), have a memorial of blowing trumpets (v24). Again, these rituals are stated to be everlasting ordinances.
Some genuine Christians I know do however still find meaning and purpose in carrying out certain aspects of the feasts with a New Testament slant, without doing all the previously required things. Personally, I have no problem with this, unless sacrifices and offerings are involved, or if it is done for their justification. Nevertheless, if someone were to suggest that it was a sin to fail to attempt to keep the feasts, I would have a huge problem with this, due in part to the various reasons outlined above.