Sabbath Day: Is it for Christians?

The sabbath day command is found in the 10 Commandments.

Since the days of the Bible begin at sundown, the sabbath day lasts from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. While some think that days of the week have somehow become lost, practically everyone agrees with the sundown Friday to sundown Saturday as the sabbath day.

God spoke about the sabbath day from atop Mount Sinai after he led Israel out of bondage in Egypt. God spoke the 10 commandments to all of Israel. Later, God used his own finger to write these commands on tablets of stone.

Here is the sabbath day command:

Exodus 20:8-11

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Many Christians have a wall hanging with the 10 Commandment in their home. On it is usually a shortened version of the Sabbath day command.

While most Christians say that the Sabbath day was changed to Sunday, others say that man cannot change God's law. Their reasoning is that if man cannot change God's commandments, then the Sabbath day command is required to be kept by Christians.

Sabbath keeping Christians also note that the commandment begins with the word "Remember." That is, the Sabbath day was given prior to the commandments. Thus, everyone should obey it.

The sabbath is called "the sabbath of the Lord" (Exodus 20:10). So it is not simply the sabbath of the Jews (or Israel). Therefore, they claim all Christians must keep the sabbath day holy.

These reasons to keep the sabbath day holy sound pretty convincing.

Yet, several weeks before giving the commandments God required Israel to rest (Exodus 16:23) This is the very first time God required anyone to rest on a certain day.

But, no, it was not before Moses. It was during the exodus, not prior to Moses. And, it was for Israel alone.

And, God clearly indicated he had given the sabbath to Israel in Exodus 16:29, "See, because the Lord has given you the Sabbath, he gives you on the sixth day bread enough for two days; let every man keep where he is; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day."

This is why the commandment in Exodus 20 indicates that Israel should "remember" the sabbath.

Here is why the law (including the sabbath) is temporary.

The Law is a Shadow

In Collisions 2:16-17 Paul indicates that the law was a shadow of Jesus that indicated that Jesus was approaching. Once Jesus is here, we have no more need of the shadow. Note that Paul specifically mentions the Sabbath as one aspect of the shadow of the approaching Jesus: "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: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."

The Law Was Added Because of Sinfulness

The law was given because of the sinfulness of man. It was given until the seed (Jesus) should appear.

Paul made it very clear when he asks in Galatians 3:19 "What then is the law? It was an addition made because of sin, till the coming of the seed to whom the undertaking had been given; and it was ordered through angels by the hand of a go-between."

The law Was a Temporary Servant

In Galatians 3:24-25 Paul makes it plain that the laws were temporary. He indicates , "So the law has been a servant to take us to Christ, so that we might have righteousness by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a servant."

So, here are three examples of the temporary nature of the law:
1) Shadow of the approaching Jesus
2) An addition until Jesus should appear
3) A servant to take us to Christ.

Now that Christ has come, we no longer need the shadow, addition, or servant that is the old law.

If you will read my testimony you will see that I was a member of the Worldwide Church of God during the time it taught that the sabbath day must be kept by Christians. Around 1986 new leadership assumed control and began to re-think many of the teachings of the church.

The teaching about the requirements for keeping the sabbath day and other Jewish holy days was eventually rejected by the church. But, I still wondered about the sabbath. It was, after all, part of the 10 commandments.

I began reading Jewish writings about the "oral law" as recorded in the Talmud. It was clear that they taught that God established laws for all people. Seven laws were given by God to Noah and his descendants. These seven laws are called the Noachian laws.

These Noachian Laws are binding on all mankind. From Adam on down to today.

We don’t necessarily have to agree with the Rabbis. But, we need to understand that The Noachian Laws were well understood by the Rabbis in Jesus’ day—and for that matter, by the disciples of Jesus.

The laws God gave to the children of Israel on Mount Sinai did not annul or modify the Noachian Laws for the rest of mankind.

These Noachian Laws can be stated as:
1) Not worship idols
2) Not to blaspheme the name of God
3) Establish courts of justice
4) Not to kill
5) Not to commit adultery
6) Not to Rob

After the flood, God allowed mankind to eat the flesh of animals, just as before the flood they ate only fruit and vegetables.

The seventh law regarded the use of animals in false worship. Culturally, it was initially stated as:

7) Not to eat the flesh that had been cut from a living animal.

These are the laws God required of all mankind, even of Gentiles during the time of the Old Covenant.

Notice that there was absolutely no “religion” in these laws. There were no holy days. There were no religious rituals. There was no "religion" other than to honor the true God.

Well, I learned all this, but something still wasn't clear. The 10 commandments still had the sabbath commandment. If we, as Christians, had to keep the 10 commandments, then we needed to keep the sabbath holy.

Still confused, I called a Synagogue to talk with a rabbi. I though if anyone could clear things up, someone who completely understood the laws of God should help.

I had a couple of questions that really seemed perplexing.

  1. If the sabbath was given to mankind at the time of Adam and Eve, why couldn't I find it in the scriptures before Israel reached the area of Mount Sinai?
  2. If the 10 commandments are to be kept by Christians, how could my church be changing its view of the sabbath?

Well, frankly I already knew the answers to these questions. But, the years of sabbath teaching were so ingrained in my mind that I couldn't really accept the answers as true.

I had, however, sufficient respect for the rabbi to give more weight to his answers than the indoctrination I received from less learned men.

His answers to the two questions completely resolved the confusion in my mind.

His answers were simple and to the point:

  1. The reason you cannot find commands relating to the sabbath before Mount Sinai is because God did not give any commands regarding the sabbath before they reached the area of Mount Sinai.
  2. Do you know about the seven Noachian commandments? (Yes, I did.) They are the ones for you (and all Gentiles). The 10 commandments are part of the 613 commandments given only to Israel. The 10 commandments are for Israel alone.

Well, that made it absolutely clear. Neither the sabbath day nor the 10 commandments are for Christians (or any Gentiles). I was finally free from keeping the sabbath day and all the other holy days.

Well, you may still be asking about why the sabbath day command says to "Remember" the sabbath day.

It's simply, really. A few weeks before giving the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai, God withheld the manna from Israel on every seventh day. This was their introduction to keeping one day in every seven in a special way. The commandment simply told them to continue this practice--to remember it.

And, of course the sabbath is the "sabbath of the Lord". But, God was not addressing all mankind when he gave the commandment. Note who he was addressing:

Exodus 20:2

I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

He was addressing only those he brought out of Egypt from their bondage. He was addressing those who agreed to his (old) covenant.

The Old Covenant was an agreement between God and Israel. If basically held that if the people would obey God, then they would be a special nation to him. Here is a statement of that agreement.

Exodus 19:4-6

You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I took you, as on eagles’ wings, guiding you to myself.

If now you will truly give ear to my voice and keep my agreement, you will be my special property out of all the peoples: for all the earth is mine: And you will be a kingdom of priests to me, and a holy nation. These are the words which you are to say to the children of Israel.

God spoke the offer to Moses. Moses, as God's agent, presented this proposition to the elders of the people. They agreed to it. Moses brought notice of their acceptance to God. That sealed the deal.

The 10 commandments were the first of many commandments of God. God spoke the first 10 to the people. Because the people were so frightened of God's booming voice and the fire and lightning, they told Moses to ask God not to speak to them like that again.

God agreed to speak the rest of his commandments, statutes and laws to Moses. Then Moses would teach them to the people. In all, the Jews count 613 commandments.

Deuteronomy 5:30-31

Go and say to them, "Return to your tents."

But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you the whole commandment and the statutes and the rules that you shall teach them, that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.’

All the commandments are commandments of the Lord. But, they were for Israel alone.

While many of the commandments are good and sound, many are intended as religious laws for Israel, not for Gentiles. That includes the sabbath day command.

The first Jewish Christians continued to keep the Sabbath. They viewed their belief in Jesus as an addition to their Jewish religion. Many modern Jewish Christians also keep the Sabbath in keeping with their tradition.

While it is not wrong for Christians to worship on the Sabbath day, doing so may detract from the freedom we have in Christ. And, if you begin to judge other Christians for not keeping the Sabbath, then your strict religious adherence to the Sabbath becomes wrong.

In any case, the law of Moses was only temporary. Now that Jesus has come, the law is no longer required. It was never for Gentiles. And, now, it is no longer for Jews, either.

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