ARE WE TO KEEP THE SABBATH TODAY?

Mike Johnson

Should Christians observe the Sabbath today?  Many people feel that those who worship on Sunday instead of the Sabbath violate God’s Word. To them, assembling on the first day of the week instead of the seventh is a man-made practice. There are more than 150 Biblical references to the Sabbath.  There is a lot we can learn from God’s Word about this subject.

It is essential to determine which day of the week, the Sabbath day is.  The Bible answers this question.  Consider two passages.  Exodus 20:10 says, “but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. . . .”  Another passage that helps us with this question is Matthew 28:1.  This passage is speaking of the resurrection of Christ and says it occurred, “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week. . . .”  Thus, after the Sabbath, comes the first day of the week.  From these two passages, it is clear that the seventh day of the week, or Saturday, is the Sabbath day.

Some people say that in our age, Sunday is the “Christian Sabbath.”  It is essential to understand that Sunday is never called the “Sabbath” in God’s Word.  To speak of the “Christian Sabbath” would be about like speaking of “Christian Animal Sacrifices.”

What was involved in keeping the Sabbath under the old law?  According to Numbers 28:9-10, burnt offerings were required on the Sabbath.  Further, people could not work on the Sabbath (Ex. 20:10, 31:13-17), and they were, in fact, not even allowed to build a fire (Ex. 35:3).  On one occasion, a man was put to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Num. 15:32-36).  Also, people were not allowed to travel on the seventh day any further than what was called a “Sabbath days journey,” which was less than a mile.  There were other restrictions and requirements as well. Indeed, if people are going to keep the Sabbath today, they would have to keep it as the Bible says.

Another factor to keep in mind is that the death penalty was to be administered to those who did not keep the Sabbath (Num. 15:32-36).  As we saw earlier, one person was put to death for picking up sticks.  People who claim to keep the Sabbath today are not keeping it at all.

Consider now the original question.  Are we to keep the Sabbath today?  The answer is NO.  Sabbath-keeping was a part of the Old Law, and is taken away (note Col. 2:14-17, Rom. 7:1-6, Gal. 3:24-27).  The fact that it is no longer in effect is the reason we do not offer animal sacrifices, burn incense in worship, have Levitical priests, and keep the Sabbath day.  Today, we are under the law of Christ.  Christians are to worship God on Sunday, the first day of the week (note Acts 20:7, I Cor.16:1-2).

Sometimes those who claim to keep the Sabbath tell us that only the ceremonial law (which they refer to as the Law of Moses” and is inclusive of animal sacrifices, etc.) has been done away with, but the moral law (which they call the “law of God” and which they say is the ten commandments) has not been done away with.  The Bible, however, does not make such a distinction.  On the contrary, it uses the terms interchangeably in such passages as Nehemiah 8:1-3, 8.  (See also and Luke 2:21-24.)

Colossians 2:14 states that the old law was nailed to the cross and is taken out of the way.  Note the conclusion drawn in verse 16, which is  “let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days .”  These observances listed are various parts of the old law, and people should not be judged concerning them.  Why?  We are not under the law of Moses, to which these things pertained.

Today, we are under the law of Christ.  Sabbath-keeping, a part of the law of Moses, is certainly not to be practiced today by Christians.  We are to worship God on Sunday, the first day of the week.