Should Christians observe the Sabbath?

Bible Issues

God in the OT set aside the Sabbath as the day His people should worship. God rested on the 7th day and commanded men to do likewise. The Jews observed the Sabbath from Friday 6 pm to Saturday 6 pm. Nothing in the NT explicitly teaches that any change was to occur. Why then do most Christians worship on Sundays? Is this right or wrong? Does it really make a difference which day we choose? Considering that the Sabbath is part of the 10 Commandments, should we not observe it?

Seven Day Adventists (SDAs) are among the most vociferous of Sabbath keepers. Some even believe that Sunday worship will be part of the future mark of the beast. This, however, is not even worthy of comment. This article addresses the relevant scriptures addressing the question of worshiping on Sunday vs. Saturday.

The 10 Commandments

Adventists believe that the Sabbath was instituted in the Garden of Eden and practiced ever since, but was only made official under the Law. My Adventist friend once told me that God used to walk with Adam in the cool of the day ... wait for it ... every Sabbath day. Now God did rest on the 7th day, but there is no evidence that anyone observed it as a rest day until Moses. They appeal to the word “remember” found in Ex. 20:8, claiming that God was trying to refresh the Israelites’ memory of when the Sabbath was first initiated and practiced. According to them, God is saying to them "Remember how I implemented the Sabbath in the Garden of Eden. Remember it, don't forget. Now make sure you keep it holy."

Observe that Deut. 5:12 which provides a parallel account of the 10 commandments, does not use the word "remember", which kinda blows the SDA interpretation out of the water. God was not reminding them of what happened in the Garden of Eden, but rather appealing to them to remember to observe the Sabbath every time Saturday arrived. It is no different from saying "Remember to swipe your time card at work". This is not a reminder of a time when the first time card was swiped, but rather a reminder that every time you get to work, to swipe the card. It's no different from saying "Swipe your time card". Thank God for parallel scriptures.

Adventists also distinguish between the moral law and the ceremonial law. Although nowhere in the Bible is such a dichotomy made, it is easily recognized that certain laws are moral in nature while others are ceremonial. However they claim that the 10 Commandments represent the moral law, and the rest of the Pentateuch, the ceremonial. The ceremonial law was temporary and no longer applicable, whereas the moral law is forever binding. This view does not explain why Jesus cited Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18 (ceremonial laws as far as SDAs are concerned) when asked what the greatest commandment was. Why didn't Jesus quote one of the 10 commandments?

Adventists place too high an emphasis on the 10 commandments. According to them this was God’s law whereas the rest were Moses’ law. 2 Tim. 3:16 makes no distinction between God’s Word spoken or written directly by God, and God’s Word spoken or written via human means. They are equally inspired. The Bible never makes a distinction between the moral and ceremonial laws. The first 5 books of the Bible are collectively called the Law, and the terms Law of God, Law of Moses and their equivalents are used interchangeably in the Bible. According to the NT, the entire Law collectively has “passed away”, since Jesus fulfilled it (Matt. 5:17.18). This includes the 10 Commandments. 2 Cor. 3:3 makes reference to laws given on tablets of stone – an obvious reference to the 10 Commandments - calling it the administration of death. This verse teaches that NT believers do not live by such commandments but rather by the Spirit of God. In Romans 7, Paul discussed the inadequacy of one of the 10 commandments to help him to live holy.

This does not mean that the 10 Commandments are irrelevant, but they are not the means of godly living. When we live by the Holy Spirit we will fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law which is God’s holiness. The commandments are a good gauge to test if we are truly living in the Spirit. It is important to note that all 10 Commandments are quoted in the NT epistles with the exception of the 4th one pertaining to the Sabbath. Why would the writers of the Bible do such a thing?

Let's look at some other scriptures.

Col. 2:13-17 states that we are not to be bound by the observance of any day including the Sabbath day. Because the KJV uses the plural “days”, Adventists claim it was not referring to the weekly Sabbath, but the other Jewish feast days. Of course if that were really the case, Paul missed a really good opportunity to teach us to keep the Sabbath. Even if it were plural, its meaning could not be limited, but must include all Sabbaths. The Sabbath Day was abolished by Christ’s death on the cross - plain and simple.

Apostolic Tradition

There are a number of scriptures which suggest that the early church met on the 1st day of the week.

Historically the Lord’s Day is understood to be Sunday, the first day of the week, the day in which Jesus rose from the dead, and also the day on which the Holy Spirit came. Sunday was a day the Romans used to worship their sun god and later on, Caesar. As a result the Adventists accuse Evangelicals of sun worship when they choose to observe Sunday. However worshiping on a Sunday was a Christian tradition that dated back to the apostles. The Romans called it Caesar’s day, since they honored him on that day. In protest the Christians called it the Lord’s Day – the day in which they worshiped their risen Lord. Who cares what the Romans did? I certainly don’t worship any idols on a Sunday.

Adventists use Mark 2:28 to argue that the Lord's day is in fact Saturday. They interpret that verse to mean that Jesus owned the Sabbath, therefore the Sabbath was His day or the Lord's day. "Huh?" you wonder. In the context what Jesus was really saying was that, as Lord, He could do as He pleased on the Sabbath. Also in Rev. 1:10 the possessive genitive is not used in the Greek i.e. the day was not the possession of the Lord, but a day set aside to worship Him. I think most reasonable students of scripture can easily spot the scripture twisting when they see it.

From the inception of the church, the disciples gathered on Sundays. This was apostolic tradition. In 1 Cor. 16:2, Paul urged the believers to bring their offerings which would be collected on the first day of the week - implying that people gathered on Sunday. Seeking to explain away this passage, Adventists use the KJV translation to claim that Paul wanted no gathering of people on Sunday.

Paul, who had appealed to the Corinthians time and time again concerning their relief offering, was just about tired of their procrastination. He planned to come to them and on his visit he would pick up the money they would have already collected. What Paul did not want was a gathering or collection of money to take place when he got there. He wanted that taken care of in advance. The gathering which was to take place on the first day of the week was indeed a gathering of people, not a gathering of money. Simple. This is not a sleight of hand argument I'm using, it's simple English.

In Acts 20:7 we see Paul preaching and the disciples gathering on the first day of the week. Surely the Adventists can't explain away this verse. This is how they interpret it.

Since the Jewish day ran from sunset to sunset, they claim that Paul started preaching on Saturday afternoon (still the Sabbath), but due to the length of his sermon, continued after 6 pm (the first day of the week) onto midnight. That would seem an adequate explanation if one really believed Paul preached for over 6 hours, and if one were unaware of the Greek and Roman definitions of the day.

The Greek day ran from sunrise to sunrise, whereas the Roman day, just like ours, ran from midnight to midnight. So which system was used in the NT? In Matt. 20:1-16, Jesus gave a parable where an employer hired people to work from the 1st to the 12th hour. This only makes sense if Jesus used the Greek system. “This is just a parable”, they counter. Well look at Luke 23, depicting events during Jesus crucifixion.

According to Luke 23:44, 45, an unusual astronomical event took place on the day of Jesus crucifixion. At the 6th hour, the sun became black dark. There is nothing unusual about the sun being darkened on the 6th hour of the Jewish day since at midnight the sun only shines on the other half of the world. Luke was clearly using the Greek system. Also in Acts 2:15, if Peter was using the Jewish system, what he said in effect was, “How could these men possibly be drunk? It is only 9 pm. People don’t get drunk at 9 pm.” Obviously Peter used the Greek system. The latter 2 passages were both recorded by Luke as was Acts 20:7. Thus Paul actually started preaching on Sunday night and continued till after midnight (all in the first day, sorry my Adventist friends).

To their credit the Adventists appeal to Acts 17:2, where Paul went into the synagogue on the Sabbath as was his custom. But Evangelicals have a better explanation of this verse than SDAs have of the previous verses mentioned. The synagogue was not open on Sundays, so Paul had to go whenever people were there. What was Paul’s custom? Observing the Sabbath or becoming all things to all men (including the Jews) that he might win them (1 Cor. 9:20)? This is a rhetorical question.

Christian Liberty

Rom. 14:4-6 give us liberty to choose our day of worship. The NT demands none. The Sabbath laws have passed away and Christian tradition has been to gather on Sundays. However we are free to worship whenever we desire. What we ought not to do is condemn others over differences in this regard.

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Romans 14:4-6 has absolutely nothing to do with the Sabbath. In fact the word Sabbath is not even mentioned in the entire book of Romans.
Romans 14:5-6
5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

© 2001 Denver Cheddie

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