ARE CHRISTIANS 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, are in violation of 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.  Clearly, there is a lot that we can learn from God’s Word about this subject.

It is important to determine which day of the week the Sabbath day is.  The Bible clearly answers this question.  Consider two passages.  Exodus 20:10 says, “but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. . . .”  Another passage which helps us with this question is Matthew 28:1.  This passage is speaking of the resurrection of Christ and says that 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 important 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.  Certainly, if a person is going to keep the Sabbath today, he would have to actually keep it as the Bible says that it is to be kept.

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.  Actually, people who claim to keep the Sabbath today are not really 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 which has been taken away (note Col. 2:14-17, Rom. 7:1-6, Gal. 3:24-27).  This is the reason that 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 was taken out of the way.  Note the conclusion drawn in verse 16.  This says, “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 man should not be judged with respect to them.  Why?  Man is not under the Law of Moses which they pertained to.

Today, man is 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.