The Sabbath Dilemma Solved

By Edwin Christiaan

One time, as my wife and I were visiting some Christian friends in California, there was a Christian lady present who suddenly started claiming very strongly, and arguing insistently that we as true believers of Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament of the Bible, must keep the Sabbath tradition – meaning that on Saturday’s, the seventh day of the week, we must rest and attend church/ worship services. In a condemning way, she went on to tell me that I would be sinning against God if I didn’t observe the Sabbath day. I recognized her religious spirit immediately – the spirit that likes to enslave Christians with rules and regulations.

The problem with her argument is that the Bible nowhere commands that the Sabbath – which is from sundown Friday night until sundown Saturday – must be the day of worship. Over the past years, we have seen a rise in pastors and ministers teaching that we as born-again Christians are supposed to observe and keep the Jewish traditions of the Sabbath and other annual Jewish festivals in order to receive God’s blessings, as they at the same time tell you to sow financial seeds that pertain to those days into their ministry. Unfortunately, there are so many believers who are unable to understand Scripture that are listening to these false teachers who lead them from grace back into the bondage of the Law. The Bible strongly warns us against going back under the Law by insisting on observing by requirement the special days given to the Jews and Israel.

So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world? You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. Galatians 4:9-10 NLT

It’s time to do some biblical research on this issue of the Sabbath.

First of all, the Sabbath or Shabbat, which means to “cease work,” was given to the people of Israel, the nation of Jews, as a sealing of the covenant of the law as we can read in the Old Testament of the Bible, and not to us Christians who are living in the New Covenant of Freedom!

You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day dedicated to the Lord. Anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death. The people of Israel must keep the Sabbath day by observing it from generation to generation. This is a covenant obligation for all time. It is a permanent sign of my covenant with the people of Israel. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day he stopped working and was refreshed. Exodus 31:15-17 NLT

“You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working, even during the seasons of plowing and harvest. You must celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the first crop of the wheat harvest, and celebrate the Festival of the Final Harvest at the end of the harvest season.” Exodus 34:21-22 NLT

As you can see in the above scriptures, the Sabbath was made by God for man as a day of rest and not worship. In the book of Genesis, it is mentioned that God Himself rested from the creation on the seventh day.

On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. Genesis 2:2-3 NLT

This seventh day is actually an illustration of the rest God gives us believers, His church, through His Son Jesus Christ!

For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said, “In my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest,'” even though this rest has been ready since he made the world. We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: “On the seventh day God rested from all his work.” But in the other passage God said, “They will never enter my place of rest.”

So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:

“Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.”

Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest.
Hebrews 4:2-11 NLT

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Ephesians 2:14-15 NLT

That is why the Jewish believers of the first century church never was commanded to teach the gentiles to obey the Old Testament Sabbath day law. In the New King James translation of the book of James, chapter 2, verse 10, it clearly states:

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10 NKJV

But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit. Romans 7:6 NLT

In other words, we are no longer under the Law, but under God’s Grace! The apostle Paul also puts it this way:

He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life. 2. Corinthians 3:6 NLT

So now we can fully understand what the Jewish believers in Jesus Christ taught the gentiles:

“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements: You must abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. If you do this, you will do well. Farewell.” Acts 15:28-29 NLT

There is no law in the New Testament or command to the Church to keep the Sabbath, or even Sunday as the rightful church day. Sunday is not a day that replaced the Sabbath, or the only day we are required to assemble and worship. The New Testament records Jews and converts to Judaism meeting in the synagogues on the Sabbath, and Jesus often went to teach, heal the sick, and confront the religious leaders there.

One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God!

But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. “There are six days of the week for working,” he said to the crowd. “Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath.” But the Lord replied, “You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?”
Luke 13:10-16 NLT

Once the New Covenant was established by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Bible nowhere describes Christians setting aside the Sabbath day as the day of worship. There is no evidence in the New Testament that the Apostles or the early Christians in any way observed the Sabbath day as the prescribed day of worship. As a matter of fact, they were meeting every day!

They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47 NLT

The only Scriptures that describe Christians in any sense meeting on the Sabbath are in fact pointing to evangelistic efforts at the Jewish synagogues, who traditionally met on the Sabbath day.

So Barnabas and Saul were sent out by the Holy Spirit. They went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus. There, in the town of Salamis, they went to the Jewish synagogues and preached the word of God. John Mark went with them as their assistant. Acts 13:4-5 NLT

As was Paul’s custom, he went to the synagogue service, and for three Sabbaths in a row he used the Scriptures to reason with the people. Acts 17:2 NLT

Each Sabbath found Paul at the synagogue, trying to convince the Jews and Greeks alike. And after Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul spent all his time preaching the word. He testified to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah. Acts 18:4-5 NLT

Final Compelling Scripture Proof
As if all the above is not clear enough, there is one particular scripture passage in the Bible that makes it indisputably clear that we are absolutely not required to keep the Sabbath, festivities, or any other day. Here it is:

So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.

You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.
Colossians 2:16-23 NLT

God’s desire is that we worship and serve Him continually, every day, not just on Saturday or Sunday. That is why there is no explicit biblical command that either Saturday or Sunday must be the day of worship!

In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Romans 14:5-6 NLT

Copyright©2011 Edwin & Sophia Christiaan