The Disciples Plucking Corn on the Sabbath, Gustave Dore (1832-1883) Source: Dore Bible Gallery Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D
There are those who teach that Christians should keep the Sabbath. Some go as far as to insist that Christians should observe the Sabbath on a Saturday, thereby condemning Sunday worship in the process.
This issue has been around since New Testament times; Paul constantly rebuked the Judaisers who sought to mingle Mosaic Law with the Gospel of Grace, consequently bringing believers into bondage.
Today Christians are being encouraged by Christian Television (I use the term loosely) to share in the weekly Sabbath, the Jewish Feasts, and even to purchase Jewish prayer shawls!
Col 2:16-17 KJV Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
A Quote from the People’s New Testament
Colossians 2:16-19 ‘Let no man therefore judge you. As the law was nailed to the cross (Col_2:14), let no man compel you to keep its ordinances. In meat, or in drink. By requiring you to eat only what the Jewish law prescribes (Lev. 7:10-27). See Rom_14:17; 1Co_8:8; Heb_9:10. Compare 1Ti_4:3.
Or in respect of a holy day. Such as the Passover, Pentecost, etc.
Or of the new moon. The monthly observances (Num_28:11).
Or of the Sabbath day. The Jewish Sabbath had passed away with the law.
Which are a shadow of things to come. The body, or substance, which casts the shadow is Christ. We are to pay no attention to the shadows since Christ has come, but to observe what we find in him and the gospel…’
I will endeavour to explain why I believe ‘born again’ believers are not required to observe the Sabbath.
The 4th Commandment to Remember the Sabbath Was to Old Covenant Israel, not the Gentiles.
The leading question asked by those promulgating the Sabbath doctrine is:
Do you keep the 10 Commandments, yes or no?
If the Christian answers yes, but does not keep the Sabbath, the debate begins as to the reason for breaking the 4th commandment.
If the Christian answers no, this leads to the accusation of disobedience to Jesus’ commandment. ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’… John 14:15
The Book of Acts and the Law of Moses
Act 15:5-10 KJV But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
The Apostles and Elders concluded it was not necessary for gentile believers to keep the Mosaic Law, which included the Sabbath. If the Sabbath was an exception, why was it not discussed at the gathering?
Act 21:25 KJV As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.
The Apostles upheld the decision approximately eight years later in Acts 21. Once again, the Sabbath was not an exception.
Romans and the Law of Moses
Rom 7:6 KJV But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
Romans 7:6 ‘But now we have been delivered from the law. By death. Having died in Christ (Rom_6:2-4), we are released from the dominion of the law. See Rom_7:1. So that we should serve in the newness of the spirit. This service of Christ is the new service of those living new lives. It is a spiritual service: “God must be worshiped in spirit and truth.” God’s law under the new covenant is “written in the hearts” (Heb_8:10); hence it is not a bondage, but a free, willing service.’ — The People’s New Testament
Galatians and the Law of Moses
Gal 3:1-3 KJV O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Gal 4:9-11 KJV But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? 10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. 11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
Paul challenged the Galatians as to why they desired to return to the bondage they once knew under the Law.
James and the Law of Moses
Jas 2:10 KJV For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
Should the Christian observe the Law? Can you name the 613 commands? If we cannot name all the commands, how could we hope to keep them?
James said if the Law observer failed in one point then that person was guilty of all.
Believers are in danger of taking their eyes of the Lord by mixing Law and Grace. The incorporation of Jewish traditions into the Church would result in a watered down gospel, the emphasis would shift from faith to works.
Man Was not Commanded to Observe the Sabbath since Creation
Sabbath observers also insist that because God ‘rested’ on the seventh day, consequently, observance of the Sabbath was demanded of mankind since creation. However, there is no such commandment found in Genesis, neither is there any evidence of the Patriarchs having kept the Sabbath.
Exo 16:23 KJV And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.
A Quote from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
‘The statement that God set apart the 7th day for holy purposes in honor of His own rest after six days of creative activity is boldly challenged by many modern scholars as merely the pious figment of a priestly imagination of the exile. There are so few hints of a weekly Sabbath before Moses, who is comparatively a modern character, that argumentation is almost excluded, and each student will approach the question with the bias of his whole intellectual and spiritual history. There is no distinct mention of the Sabbath in Gen, though a 7-day period is referred to several times (Gen_7:4, Gen_7:10; Gen_8:10, Gen_8:12; Gen_29:27 f). The first express mention of the Sabbath is found in Exo_16:21-30, in connection with the giving of the manna……. If we cannot point to any observance of the weekly Sabbath prior to Moses, we can at least be sure that this was one of the institutions which he gave to Israel. From the days of Moses until now the holy Sabbath has been kept by devout Israelites.’
There is no mention of Sabbath observance in the Scriptures prior to Exodus 16.
The Greek words ‘katapausis’ and ‘katapauo meaning ‘rest’ were used constantly in Hebrews 4. On one occasion however, in Hebrews 4:9 the Greek word ‘sabbatismos’ was used instead, thereby differentiating between the Law and the believer’s Sabbath Rest found in Jesus.
Jesus Is the Believer’s Sabbath Rest
Luk 24:44 KJV And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
Jesus fulfilled all the Law and the Prophets and we ‘rest’ from our works by grace through faith in Him.
Hebrews and the Believer’s Sabbath Rest
The answer to those who would bring bondage to the Christian by raising a straw man argument with regard to Sabbath keeping is in Hebrews 4.
Heb 4:7 GW So God set another day. That day is today. Many years after your ancestors failed to enter that place of rest God spoke about it through David in the passage already quoted: “If you hear God speak today, don’t be stubborn.”
The writer to the Hebrews alluded to Psalm 95:8-11. He reminded Jewish believers of their ancestors demise during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness; due to their unbelief, they failed to enter into God’s rest.
A Quote from the Summarized Bible
Hebrews 4:1-16 ‘…The privileges by Christ under the Gospel are far greater than those enjoyed under the Mosaic law. The seventh day rest commemorating a finished creation, was but a type of heart-rest which is to be had by covenant relation with Jesus Christ, and which is offered to those who will renounce their own works as a means of salvation and put their entire trust in the finished work of the Great High Priest who has passed into the heavens.’
The Judaisers who undermined the teachings of Paul, were subverting the 1st century Church by persuading believers to observe the Law. By adhering to these erroneous teachings, they were in danger of missing the even greater ‘sabbatic rest’ through faith in Christ.
Jesus or Joshua?
Heb 4:8 KJV For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
Heb 4:8 YLT for if Joshua had given them rest, He would not concerning another day have spoken after these things;
Many Bible Translations including the KJV translated ‘Jesus’ instead of ‘Joshua’ (the son of Nun) in Hebrews 4:8 and by so doing jeopardised the context of the passage.
A Quote from Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 4:8 ‘For if Jesus had given them rest – It is truly surprising that our translators should have rendered the Ιησους of the text Jesus, and not Joshua, who is most clearly intended……. The apostle shows that, although Joshua did bring the children of Israel into the promised land, yet this could not be the intended rest, because long after this time the Holy Spirit, by David, speaks of this rest;…’
Heb 4:9 YLT there doth remain, then, a sabbatic rest to the people of God,
The Greek words ‘katapausis’ and ‘katapauo’ meaning ‘rest’ were used constantly in Hebrews 4. On one occasion, however, in Hebrews 4:9 the Greek word ‘sabbatismos’ was used instead, thereby differentiating between physical rest and the believer’s Sabbath rest found in Jesus.
A Quote from Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 4:9 ‘There, remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God – It was not, 1. The rest of the Sabbath; it was not, 2. The rest in the promised land, for the psalmist wrote long after the days of Joshua; therefore there is another rest, a state of blessedness, for the people of God; and this is the Gospel, the blessings it procures and communicates, and the eternal glory which it prepares for, and has promised to, genuine believers…’
Heb 4:10-11 YLT for he who did enter into his rest, he also rested from his works, as God from His own. 11 May we be diligent, then, to enter into that rest, that no one in the same example of the unbelief may fall,
The Mosaic Covenant Ended in AD 70
A Quote from Halley’s Bible Handbook
‘Hebrews, One of the objects of this Epistle was, we think, to prepare Jewish Christians for the approaching Fall of Jerusalem. After accepting Jesus as their Messiah, they continued to be zealous for the Temple Rites and Sacrifices, thinking, we suppose, that their Beloved City, under their Messiah’s reign, was about to become Capital of the World. Instead, they were to receive the shock of their lives. By one stroke of the Roman Army the Holy City was to be wiped out, and the Temple Rites cease.’
Forty years after the crucifixion the destruction of the temple ended the Old Covenant Age with its Law and Offerings, the Judaisers fell in the judgement that took place in AD 70.
The 1st century believers who had rested from their works through faith in Christ entered into the New Covenant Age.
Has this Hub challenged you to search the Scriptures?
Eze 20:12 KJV Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.
The Children of Israel received the Sabbath as a sign of the Old Covenant.
Col 2:16 KJV Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Colossians 2:16 ‘Therefore – Seeing these things are so. Let none judge you – That is, regard none who judge you. In meat or drink – For not observing the ceremonial law in these or any other particulars. Or in respect of a yearly feast, the new moon, or the weekly Jewish sabbaths.’ — John Wesley, Explanatory Notes
Prior to the time of Moses there was no reference to Sabbath observance in the Old Testament.
The ‘sabbatismos’ rest promised in Hebrews 4 is redemptive life in Jesus Christ; the believer is to cease from his works and rest in the finished work of Christ.
From the physical aspect, it does make sense to have one day of rest in the week, but it is folly to allow the traditions of men to distract us from the reality of true ‘Sabbatic Rest’.
What do you think?