We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Are Christians Required to Keep the Sabbath?

I thought about this post because I have fairly recently been engaged in this discussion with a Seventh-day Adventist, then later with my brother, and then this past week I saw a comment posted on another blog, charging Christians with not keeping the Sabbath. So this is my analysis of the issue.

Before the Law of Moses there was no Sabbath. When God made the seventh day holy in Genesis, that's all we know about it - He made it holy. God doesn't say what the day was going to be for, just that it was made holy, meaning "set apart." Set apart for what? We aren't told. The very first time the word Sabbath is mentioned is Exodus 16:23-30 when God gives it to Israel as a day of rest - not as a day of worship, since they were to worship God daily.

Okay, now with that prelude, let me digress to the connection between the Ten Commandments and the Sabbath.

Let me first point out that the Law of Moses (hereafter referred to as the “Law”) was only for Israel and no other nation. The Gentiles did not have the Law, nor were they ever to be given it or mandated to follow it. (For biblical references see: Deut. 4:7-8; Lev. 27:34; Ps.147:19-20; Neh. 9:14; Mal. 4:4; Acts 15: 5, 24; Rom. 2:14; 2 Cor. 3:7-8, 11, 14; Gal. 3:25; Heb. 7:12, 18.)

So then, does that mean the Gentiles had no moral law? Of course not. Romans 2:14-15 says the moral law is written on the hearts of all people.

Now, as to the Ten Commandments, which are part of the Law and not given to anyone but Israel - notice how they do indeed sum up the moral law which is on everyone's heart, with the exception of the command about the Sabbath, because there is no moral issue there. Using the Ten Commandment list, here is what the moral law sums up as, and why:

1. No other God: Implicit because God is the only true God and He is the creator. To worship any other is fraudulent worship. Adam & Eve would have known this.

2. Do not misuse the name of God. Again, implicit - if He is your creator, you don't abuse Him in any way. Again, Adam & Eve would have known this.

3. Sabbath day. Did not come into play until God gave it to Israel under Moses as a sign of a covenant between God and Israel.  It is not a moral law.

4. Honor your father & mother: This is implied because they are the ones who brought you into the world, who nourished you until you were able to function on your own, and provided you with training to go into the world. You are also the result of God's command to the parents to be fruitful and multiply.

5. Do not murder. Originally implicit because Cain knew he did wrong by killing Abel. When Noah stepped off the Ark he was told capital punishment would be the consequences for murder (Genesis 9:6). Noah was the federal head of all civilization to follow.

6. Do not commit adultery. Implicit in the institution of marriage where God said the TWO shall be one, which means anyone coming between them violates that oneness.

7. Do not steal. This is certainly a moral code that God would plant in everyone. In no other way could there be peace and love between people.

8. Do not bear false witness against your neighbor. If Adam and Eve didn't have this one planted in them, they quickly learned the consequences when the serpent (Satan) was punished for bearing false witness against God.

9 and 10 are disputed as to how they split, but they both deal with coveting something that is not yours to have. Again, if this was not implanted in Adam's and Eve's hearts, then they immediately recognized the penalty for coveting when they coveted and ate of the fruit which was not theirs to have.

Notice how all but one of these commands were either implicit, or given before Abraham, meaning they were given to the entire world, which is why these are the ones continually mentioned in the New Testament as being in force for all mankind. But the Sabbath wasn't before Moses and was not for anyone but Israel, which is why Paul, in Col. 2:16-17, said to let no one judge you in regards to a Sabbath. It may also tell us why Jesus made a point to say that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man (Mark. 2:27). Notice also how commands 1 & 2 are about our relationship with God, while 4-10 are about our relationship with each other. Number 3, the Sabbath, is not about either one; it is about a sign of a covenant between Israel and God.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the Sabbath. As pointed out above, the very first time the word Sabbath is mentioned is Exodus 16:23-30 when God gives it to Israel as a day of rest. The next time Sabbath is mentioned is in the Ten Commandments; it is here that God explains why He chose the 7th day as a Sabbath for Israel; because God rested from His creative work on the 7th day. (This use of the 7th day of creation is given as the reason for the choice of that day, not to say that a Sabbath day existed prior to the Mosaic Law.)

So then, just what is the Sabbath? It is called a sign of the covenant between God and Israel in Exod. 31:12-17 You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy....The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever. In Deut. 5:15 we are given the reason for this covenant: Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.  No one else was brought out of Egypt so this cannot refer to anyone but Israel. Nehemiah 9:14 says, You made known to them [Israel] your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. Who did Nehemiah say God gave the Sabbath and laws to? ISRAEL!  Ezekiel 20:12 says, Also I gave them [Israel] my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the LORD made them holy. Go 8 verses farther and He says, Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us.

Scripture makes it very clear that the Sabbath is a sign of a covenant between God and Israel. No one else has that covenant that God has with Israel, His chosen people whose job it was to tell the world about the one true God (Exod. 15; Is.42:6; Acts 13:47; Rom. 2:17-20, 3:2).

What about the Sabbath for the Christian? Since it was not known before the Law, and since it is part of the Law, and since the Law was given only to Israel, this would mean the Christian, or any Gentile, was never under command to keep the Sabbath. And since it is a sign between God and the nation of Israel, and Christians are not Israel, Christians are not part of the covenant which the Sabbath signifies. (An analogy would be my wedding ring being a sign of a covenant between me and my wife - no other woman could wear my wife’s ring because another woman would not be a part of our covenant.)

Is Sunday the Christian “Sabbath”? Absolutely not. The Christian has no Sabbath except the Sabbath rest in Jesus (Heb. 4). Sunday was set aside by the first Church as a day of worship and remembering Jesus’ resurrection on the first day of the week (which began sundown Saturday, which is most likely when Jesus rose - Saturday evening, not Sunday morning, since He was already gone when the disciples arrived at the tomb that morning). The Bible never said this day of fellowship, breaking the bread and worship, was a Christian “Sabbath.”

The meeting on the 1st day of the week was also Saturday evening originally as shown by Acts 20:7-12. Tradition led to meetings on Sunday morning (most likely during the early 4th century under Constantine), but Scripture does not designate any specific day to meet. Heb. 10:24-25 just says not to forsake the meeting, it never says how often to meet or what days to meet. Although tradition has set Sunday for the most part, any day of the week is fine by Scripture. It is a Romans 14 issue.

Jesus came to perfectly fulfill the requirements of the Mosaic Law and, by doing so, He made them inoperative/not in effect (Rom. 7:1-6). In fact, Romans and Galatians both go into discussions about the Mosaic Law being null and void. Being part of the Law, this voids the Ten Commandments, per se, which would include the command to remember the Sabbath. This does not render the law written on our hearts (what could be called a moral law) ineffective because all the moral laws - not the Sabbath law - outlined in the Decalogue are reiterated in the New Testament teachings. (And remember, Paul specifically states that no one is to be judged in regards to a Sabbath Day.)

The Sabbath was to be kept as a day of remembrance by doing no work on it. It was not a day of worship, which is where so many Sabbath-followers make their biggest mistake. There has never been any command by God to choose any day for worship because we are to worship him every day. God said to ISRAEL to remember the Sabbath because it was a sign of the covenant which showed they were set apart for His service - made holy - because He brought them out of Egypt.

One final note for those who claim we must keep the Sabbath: if you demand this, then keep it from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday and obey all the laws laid down for the Jew in relation to the Sabbath. If you claim Sunday is the new Sabbath, then you still need to obey the laws of the Sabbath. Since there are no denominations who do all the requirements of the Sabbath, then anyone demanding Sabbath-keeping who doesn’t keep the letter of the Law, is being hypocritical from the “git-go.”

Christians have their Sabbath in Christ (as do the Jews, but they don’t know it).

18 comments:

Drew said...

Your point about the sabbath not being a day of worship is an interesting one.

The symbolism behind the sabbath as a sign of the covenant was that the sabbath took place at the end of the week and required a cessation from work. At the end of the age, by parallel, a Savior would come and put an end to WORKS of the law. So honoring the sabbath meant remembering the coming Savior. Obviously, that meaning became lost over time, as with pretty much all symbolism from the old covenant.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Drew,

I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you. You may see that as an analogy, but the Bible does not mention any parallel, nor did the Jew honoring the Sabbath have anything to do with "remembering the coming Savior" so there was no meaning to be "lost over time." There is no Scriptural justification for this claim. As I said, you can make an analogy but the Bible never taught this.

Drew said...

Huh? You already alluded to my point in your own post when you stated that there is "no sabbath but the sabbath rest in Jesus." So it doesn't make much sense for you to disagree with me now. But anyway, here are the verses you seek:

These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:17)

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. . . . There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:1, 4:9-10)

"I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Matthew 5:18)

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)

Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people....(Hebrews 9:27-28)


But if you have a better explanation for the symbolism then I'm all ears.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Drew,

I think we may be talking past each other. Here’s what I objected to:

“The symbolism behind the sabbath as a sign of the covenant was that the sabbath took place at the end of the week and required a cessation from work. At the end of the age, by parallel, a Savior would come and put an end to WORKS of the law.”

Paul teaches that the Sabbath was part of the “shadow” pointing to Christ, and therefore symbolic. But your “end of the week” to “end of the age” analogy is something added.

The other part I objected to was this:
“So honoring the sabbath meant remembering the coming Savior.”

There is no intimation, no implication, etc that the Jews were remembering the coming savior. There was no understanding of that. What they were remembering, as stated by Scripture, was that God brought them out of Egypt, and that they were set apart as holy to Him. No mention whatsoever of a coming savior, so how could they be remembering something not even mentioned?

Yes, Jesus is now the Sabbath rest, but the Jews were not remembering the Sabbath for that reason. Paul’s explanation that Jesus was the reality that the Sabbath, etc, pointed to, was not understood by the Jews prior to that.

Does that make sense?

Drew said...

Well I don't agree that the Jews always misunderstood the symbolism behind their rituals. David and Isaiah definitely seemed to understand what Jesus was going to do. I think the better explanation is that the Jews lost the meaning behind many symbols, possibly including the symbolism of the Sabbath. Their religion became one of ritualism, without any faith in the meaning behind the rituals. Obviously there's no way to tell for sure which teachings about the Messiah were originally understood and ultimately lost, but it stands to reason that the Sabbath may have been among those lost teachings.

The Jews knew that a Savior was coming. That was the whole point of the "covenant" of which the Sabbath was a symbol (See, e.g., Genesis 22:18; Genesis 49:10). So even though a Savior isn't explicitly mentioned in the OT verses talking about the Sabbath, I think it's implied by mention of the covenant itself.

Regarding my terminology about the "end of the age," the disciples routinely identified themselves as living in the last days. But if you don't like my terminology, you can think of it instead as the end of the dispensation, or something. The point is that the Sabbath is the end of work, and that there will not be any point in the future when Jesus's sacrifice ceases to be effective.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Drew,

Here’s the thing. Sure, the Jews knew a Messiah was in their future, but for them the Sabbath covenant had nothing to do with it. There was no “remembering the coming savior” - God tells us the reason he chose the 7th day and it wasn’t for thinking about anything in connection with the Messiah, so they would not have put the two together as the Christians later did by seeing Christ as the Sabbath rest. There was no symbolism about the Messiah in the Sabbath as given to them, so there was nothing for them to forget.

Scripture gives us the reason God chose the 7th day as the Sabbath (because he rested on the 7th day of Creation week) and why he gave the Sabbath to the Jews - as a sign of a covenant between Him and them as His holy nation he brought out of Egypt. Those are the only symbols told to the Jews and understood by the Jews as reported in the O.T.

And it isn’t your terminology about “end of week” vs “end of age” - it’s just that it is only your analogy and not something even hinted at in Scripture. And that was my only point there. Whether they understood they were in the end times isn’t the point - you are wanting a biblical argument for you analogy, but we have nothing in Scripture to say that is how they saw it. I’m not saying it isn’t a good analogy - just that it isn’t something in Scripture.

We need to stick to only what is said or implied in the text. We can make our own analogies and that’s okay, as long as we don’t say they are in the Bible. Same with symbolism - unless the Scripture specifically says something symbolizes something else - or implies such - then we can’t add to the text our own beliefs.

Steve Bricker said...

Hi Glenn,

I am just getting to this (busy week). One points in particular caught my eye: God did not establish a sabbath on day 7 of creation. You build a solid case separating the rest from the sabbath command.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Steve,

Another interesting point I forgot to make is that, unlike the weekly Sabbath to give them rest from their labors, God didn't need a rest break - he rested as a demonstration that his work was completed!

Anonymous said...

Interesting, but Genesis 2:3 shows that God did sanctify the Sabbath and made it holy, before the giving of the law, so that it was to be holy for all men, not just Israel.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous 6/4

Read the 2nd paragraph of my article. God called it holy, but didn't call it a Sabbath. And he didn't say it was holy for anyone but Him. "Holy" means "set apart" God set the day apart, but did not tell us why except that was the day he rested from his creative work. He did not say it was set apart for any other reason or for man.

Anonymous said...

To the author of the blog...Are you catholic?because not only do u qoute the wrong set of commandments,but you qoute the very catholic theology false argument propagating sunday.Il be honést with you.You are 95percent wrong and Im a former catholic..and now part of a protestant church...and from both sides of the argument,Sunday worship actualy has nothing to do with Gods instruction to his people.Biblicaly-you dont know whò ISRAEL realy is,You qoute the wrong Catholic 10Commandments,you have no idea what the bible means by the moral law,You have not understood what Jesus meant by ...sabbath made for Man...and Acts 20:7 and ALL the óther new testement verses protestants use to justify SUNDAY...show their total misunderstanding of scripture.... Look,all im saying is this.Go back and earnestly study exactly what the bible is realy about.Ask the lord to open ur understanding on the truth of the holy word.the bible never said man must make for himself their own day to GOD...also i urge you to start learning what christmas,easter and other pagan festivals are realy about...

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hello Anonymous 7/19/10

No, I am not Catholic, and if you read much in my blog you would know that because I expose the Roman Catholic Church for the false religious system that it is.

Please show me where my theology is Catholic. There is nothing wrong with worshiping on Sunday, or any day of the week for that matter. We are to worship God EVERY day! It doesn’t matter what day we choose for corporate worship either. Show me differently from Scripture.

The 10 Commandments I used are straight from the Bible - do you have another set? I certainly do understand Jesus’ teaching about the Sabbath, but apparently you do not. And I am quite familiar with all the festivals and their origins.
What church do you profess?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonguy,

I decided not to post your many comments because they rambled so and were lengthy. My intent in this blog is not to give a forum for other’s weird theological teachings.

Firstly, you claim to have “diligently” studied the Sabbath issue for two years, yet your claims demonstrate your studies were very lacking. You get into a quibble as to which commandment is divided where - it really doesn’t matter because they are still commandments whether you call one of them the 9th or 10th, etc. And you continue harping on Roman Catholicism, which has nothing to do with my post.

I fully understand the issue of the weekly and other Sabbaths. You obviously haven’t read this post too closely. I have stated that the Christians have their Sabbath in Christ and that the Sabbath was NEVER meant for anyone other than Jews. I demonstrated this conclusively from Scripture. You bring in all sorts of other stuff about various other celebrations and none of this is germane to the topic. Your dismissal of Sunday worship demonstrates your lack of understanding that it doesn’t matter what day on which we celebrate corporate worship - the Bible just says we are not to forsake gathering. Much of your arguments appear to be based in Seventh-day Adventism, which is why I am not going to post all your stuff.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonguy, you have commented again, but I am not posting it.

You are deceived by the teaching of Sabbatarianism, rather than look at Scripture. I proved that the Sabbath was only for Israel, and that it was a sign of a covenant between them and God.

You may cease trying to push your Sabbatarianism. I will in the near future address the false teachings of the Seventh-day Adventists, which appears to be the denomination you are in.

Anonymous said...

All this introspective delving into what the word says is waaay over my head. I am glad there are those who have the intelligence to understand all the ins and outs of what the scripture says and who it says it to....in my case I am more like the little kid, who when he heard the preacher say "we are but dust" he asked his mother--- " Mom, what is butt dust?"

Now that I get!

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous,

For most people, you are correct. However, the abuse of scripture is what directs many people to false teaching and they get ensnared into cults and other false systems which lead them into spiritual bondage.

This type of teaching needs to be refuted to protect the sheep from the wolves.

Anonymous said...

The Sabbath was “MADE” for man (Mark 2:27; Gen 2:3; Ex.20:11); and Sabbath was later “GIVEN" or “made known” to the Jews (Exodus 16:29; Nehemiah 9:13-14). Notice that Sabbath was MADE, "And he said unto them, The sabbath was MADE for man, and not man for the sabbath" (Mk. 2:27). Jesus ought to know what He is talking about, since of Him it is written:

All things were MADE by him; and without him was not any thing MADE that was made (Jn. 1:3).

More than this, the Greek of Mark 2:27 says that "the Sabbath was made for the man, not the man for the Sabbath."

Since Jesus said that He made the Sabbath for "the man," He must have meant that He made it both for Adam and all his descendents, since that is precisely what "the man" means. To say that the Sabbath is Jewish is essentially to say that Christ, the Son of God, didn't know what He was talking about when He said that the Sabbath was made for the man.

Paul uses similar language when talking about the woman:

Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. (1 Cor. 11:9)

If the Sabbath that was made for the man is really Jewish, then the woman that was made for the man is really Jewish as well. Essentially, that would mean that marriage is only for the Jew, not for the Gentile.

Interestingly, Adam took but two things out of the garden with him: the Sabbath and marriage. Both are under attack today.

Anyone can say they are resting in Christ; anyone can say they are saved by grace. But the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath is a visible expression of that rest, a living parable of what it means to be covered by His grace. Our weekly rest from our secular, worldly works stands as a symbol of our rest in the completed work of Jesus for us. "For those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his." Our obedience to this commandment is a way of saying: "Hey, we’re so sure of our salvation in Jesus, we’re so firm and secure in what Christ has done for us, we can—in a special way—rest from any of our works because we know what Christ has accomplished for humanity through His death and resurrection."

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous 5/7

It doesn't appear that you even read the article, rather you just attacked the idea that the Sabbath is not for the Christian.

The Sabbath was made for man, yes, BUT, it was not made for all man - as thoroughly demonstrated from Scripture vs your opinion, the Sabbath did NOT exist with Adam so he couldn't have left the Garden with it, nor was it for anyone other than the JEW because it was a sign of a covenant between God and Israel. Why do you think Paul says to not let anyone judge you in regards to a Sabbath? Because it isn't for the world to begin with!

Woman was made for man at the creation - the Sabbath is not even mentioned until Exodus and then it is demonstrated to be a sign of a covenant. Nothing more, nothing less.

You have accepted tradition rather than what the Bible actually says. There is only one Sabbath for the Christian, and that is the Sabbath rest in Christ.

So, do you celebrate the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday with absolutely no work of any kind as identified in the O.T.? Not even preparing meals? Leave you legalism behind and be free in Christ.