Should We Keep the Sabbath?
Rest is now found in a Person not in a Day.
We are going to examine the relationship between the believer in Christ and the necessity of keeping the Sabbath. Believe it or not, this issue comes up quite frequently and it came up in a conversation I was having with a young man. This young man has been taught many things that simply aren’t true and seemingly contradictory. He is trying to discover truth, but on his own terms.
One of the tidbits of teaching that this young man is holding onto is the necessity of keeping the Sabbath as a Christian. He lives in fear of breaking the Sabbath. Does this young man have it right? The answer lies (of course) in the Word of God.
But before we delve into the Bible, let’s think of the most likely conclusions one could reach pertaining to the necessity of the Christian keeping the Sabbath.
- First: one could conclude that the Christian must keep the seventh day Sabbath.
- Second: one could conclude that the Christian must keep the Sabbath (as described in the Law), but that the Sabbath is now the first day rather than the seventh.
- Third: one could conclude that the Christian is not obligated to keep the Sabbath in any way, shape or form.
Clearly there are other conclusions that one could reach, but these three seem to be the most likely.
What the Old Testament law says
How would one conclude that we are still supposed to keep the Sabbath? Easily! The Law makes it very clear. The fourth commandment reads “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” It goes on to say that there is to be NO work done on the Sabbath day, either by oneself or by his servants or his beasts. It is supposed to be a day of complete REST.
The laws pertaining to keeping this day are repeated in various places in the Old Testament. The Law is very strict, very exacting, and absolute. The penalty for gathering sticks on the Sabbath Day is death by stoning (Numbers 15). The Old Testament makes it very clear how the Lord’s people, Israel, are to keep this commandment. We are not able to alter the Law are we? NO! We must keep it or pay the consequences. That’s how some have concluded that we must still keep the seventh-day Sabbath. A conclusion that this author rejects and will provide substantiation for later.
Some have concluded that the Sabbath Day is still for the believer today, but it has changed from Saturday to Sunday. To be honest, I can’t find any shred of biblical evidence that would support the idea of the Sabbath changing from the seventh day to the first day. One could search the scriptures night and day in an attempt to justify this position, yet no matter where one finds the term Sabbath it always refers to the seventh day of the week.
There is NO authority for changing the day or the means of keeping the Sabbath.
Law is law and if we are going to be under it, then we need to abide by it completely. The only way that someone could conclude that the Sabbath day is now the first day rather than the seventh is by thoroughly confusing the Lord’s Day with the Sabbath.
The only viable option
So, why am I so certain that conclusion 3 is the right one? Let’s look at Colossians 2:16-17 – “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in question of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”
First we see that NO ONE is to pass judgment on us about keeping holidays or holy days, including the Sabbath. Before Christ, if you didn’t keep a holy day or a Sabbath, you were judged! Now, we are not supposed to be judged – in fact – judging is forbidden.
So, how can one possibly be obligated to keep the Sabbath when one can’t be judged for not keeping it. That’s like saying “you must pay your taxes” and at the same time the government saying “no one can penalize you or declare you guilty if you don’t pay your taxes.” If someone advocates that you must keep the Sabbath, he is a false teacher, because he is teaching false things, things that are directly contrary to the Word of God.
The substance is Christ
Secondly, why would you want to keep the Sabbath when the verses remind us that the Sabbath, the holy days, the festivals, etc. were all shadows of something that was to come. And, as we know, that something is Jesus Christ our Lord! He is the substance to all those things’ shadows. He is the true to their type. In Him, these items have been completed, fulfilled perfected (read Hebrews!!!!).
So, why occupy yourself with the shadow when you have the Substance? Why try to find rest on the Sabbath when rest is now found in a Person – Jesus Christ. I encourage you to read Heb 4 and Heb 10 and take note that the REST promised by God was never intended to be permanently a day of the week, or a plot of land, but rather a Person.
And, as this calendar year closes, we remember that this Person, the One in Whom we find rest, was born a Baby. I am still in awe that the eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent, infinite, divine, glorious, Son of God condescended and took on humanity so that He could die as our substitute on Calvary’s Cross. Immanuel, God with us in the flesh, and because of that, there is a Man in Heaven today – Jesus Christ.
Editorial note: This article was first posted in 2 parts on Digital Sojourner and is used with permission of the author.