The Sabbath, Saturday or Sunday?

Are we to observe the Sabbath under the New Covenant? Is the Sabbath still the seventh day of the week, or is it now Sunday? Letís read what is written.

In the Beginning

From the very beginning, God made the seventh day holy.

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done (Genesis 2:1-3).

Before the Law

Before God issued the Law, He established a holy Sabbath.

This is what the LORD commanded: 'Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to Yahweh. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.'" So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, .... "Eat it today," Moses said, "because today is a Sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any." Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. Then the LORD said to Moses, "How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath (Exodus 16:23-29)

The Ten Commandments

When God established the Law, Exodus 20:3-17, the Sabbath was the fourth commandment.

1.   You shall have no other gods before me.

2.  You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

3.  You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

4.  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 your son or daughter, nor your manservant or 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.

5.   Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

6.   You shall not murder.

7.   You shall not commit adultery.

8.   You shall not steal.

9.  You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

10.You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

A lasting covenant - Forever

The Sabbath is an eternal covenant and a sign between God and His people.

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign [owth] between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. "'Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign [owth] between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.'" When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God  (Exodus 31:12-18).

The Hebrew word owth means; a mark, ensign, sign, token.

A covenant with Godís people, Jew and Gentile.

Isaiah prophesies about the coming of Christ (my righteousness) and the assurance of salvation for the Gentiles (foreigners.) They too will be gathered into His salvation and righteousness, all who keep the Sabbath and hold fast to His covenant.

This is what the LORD says: "Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil." Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, "The LORD will surely exclude me from his people." Ö For this is what the LORD says: "To Ö foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant-- these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations." The Sovereign LORD declares-- he who gathers the exiles of Israel: "I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered" (Isaiah 56:1-8)

During the 1,000 Year Reign

The Holy Feasts and Sabbaths will be Holy during the coming Kingdom Age.

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The LORD will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the Lord's house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them (Zechariah 14:16-19).

"As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me," declares the LORD, "so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me," says the LORD. "And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind" (Isaiah 66:22-24).

Jesus taught and practiced about the Sabbath

Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:12).

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach (Mark 1:21).

When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed (Mark 6:2).

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom (Luke 4:16).

Then Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath" (Luke 6:5).

The Apostles taught and practiced about the Sabbath

Jesusí followers continued to observe the Sabbath even after His death and resurrection.

Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment (Luke 23:52-56).

As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath (Acts 13:42).

As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead (Acts 17:2-3).

Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks (Acts 18:4).

Why Sunday?

In 321 AD, the Roman Emperor Constantine, a Pagan sun-worshiper, declared that Sunday was to be a day of rest throughout the Roman Empire:

"On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits because it often happens that another day is not suitable for gain-sowing or vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost."

About 364 AD, The Church Council of Laodicea ordered that religious observances were to be conducted on Sunday, not Saturday. Sunday became the new Sabbath, even though some Christians ignored the new order

"Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, but shall work on that day."

Those, who support a Sunday Sabbath.

They claim these passages indicate that the disciples observed Sunday as a day of rest.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you! (John 20:19)

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight (Acts 20:7).

Certainly, it is true that the disciples met on the first day of the week, Sunday. Actually they were known to get together on other days as well. Read what is written.

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer--at three in the afternoon (Acts 2:46-3:1).

We can see that at times they met together every day, daily people were coming to Christ. From these passages itís hard to imagine that Sunday became the day of rest or Sabbath for the New Testament Church.

What about the Law?

Itís true that Jesus fulfilled the Law and salvation does not come by observing the Law. After all, if we are lead by the Spirit of God we are not under the Law.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law (Galatians 5:18).

Itís also true that the Sabbath is part of the Law and if we are not under the Law then we donít need to observe the Sabbath. Sure, treat the Sabbath just like you would treat the other nine commandments of the Law. Read the Law below, Exodus 20:3-17.

1.   You shall have no other gods before me.

2.  You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

3.  You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

4.   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 your son or daughter, nor your manservant or 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.

5.  Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

6.   You shall not murder.

7.   You shall not commit adultery.

8.   You shall not steal.

9.  You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

10.You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Jesus once summed up the Law. Letís read what is written.

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:36-40).

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:28-31).

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live" (Luke 10:25-28).

His statement sums up the Ten Commandments extremely well. Which one have we decided no longer needs to be obeyed? Just because we are not under the Law, does that mean we are free to break the Law?

For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (Romans 6:14-15).

If we are lead by the Spirit of God, this we will do, ďLove the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.Ē And ďLove your neighbor as yourself.Ē

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).

This is love for God: to obey his commands (1 John 5:3).

Richard H Perry