Many Christian churches today observe Sunday as Sabbath day and call it the Lord’s Day. However, our church, as well as a few other churches, observe the Sabbath day on Saturday. The question is – should we observe the Sabbath on Saturday or should we celebrate the Lord’s Day on Sunday?
To Keep Sabbath Day or the Lord’s Day
(adapted from a sermon by Pr Chin Aun Quek)
Initially, most Christians thought that there was no need to argue about whether or not Sabbath day should be kept on Saturday or the Lord’s Day on Sunday, because in the words of Paul, any day would be suitable for the Lord.
According to Romans 14: 5- 6, one person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.
By saying that one person esteems one day above another and that the other esteems every day alike, it is assumed that Paul was clearing the air about how the decision over the keeping of the Lord’s Day or Sabbath day should not cause so much unhappiness. After all, there should not be any problem if both parties carry on doing things their respective ways, without hindering each other.
Why is there a need to argue over such matters and strain relationships?
Romans 14: 5- 6 did not refer to the argument about the Lord’s Day or the Sabbath day. These two verses were referring to the special days and festivals observed by the Jews in the Old Testament. In addition, in this chapter of the book of Romans, Paul also touched on the customs and regulations that were still applicable in those times. He went on to explain that the observance of the special days and festivals, including the customs and regulations, does not apply to the people of today, because we are living in the period of grace in the New Testament.
Nowadays, people claim to be following Paul’s principles, and do not feel the need to quarrel over the issue of the true Sabbath day. Maintaining peaceable relationships may be a good thing, but what if it is God’s will that not every day is equal? What if He instituted one special day?
God hallowed the seventh day as the Holy Sabbath Day
Genesis 2:3 – Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
Indeed, God blessed the seventh day and made it Holy, and therefore, special. The other six days were made equal. God called the seventh day, Sabbath Day, and made it a day for man to enjoy and to rest from their labour.
Nevertheless, some people disagree, and argue that the Sabbath mentioned here is not for the purpose of man, but only put aside for God Himself to rest. In the book of Genesis, there is no evidence that God instructed Adam to keep the seventh day as a Holy day. Furthermore, the Bible did not state that Adam, Noah, or their descendents kept the Sabbath day. It was only during the exodus, that God established the Ten Commandments on Mt Sinai, including the keeping of the Sabbath as one of the commandments man should observe.
If the Sabbath was meant solely for God and not for man, we would need to ask ourselves, “Why? Does God really need rest on the Sabbath day?”
God does not need to institute a day specifically as the Holy day. He does not need special rest on the seventh day either. Genesis 2: 3 states that on the seventh day, the Lord rested from all His work. This does not necessarily mean that He needs rest on the seventh day. It just means that He has completed His work of creation and decided to put the seventh day aside as the Holy day for man remember His great love, especially having created the universe and human beings in the first six days.
The same verse goes on to state that our Lord blessed the seventh day. If the Sabbath day was a special day only for God to keep, it may appear strange for God to be blessing Himself. In fact, God does not need to bless Himself; He is the God of all blessings. On the other hand, man needs blessings from God. God created Heaven, earth and all of mankind, and then made the seventh day holy for man, so man can remember and keep the Sabbath day. It is on this special day that God will specially bless us.
The Sabbath day is a day of grace.
Our Lord said very clearly in Mark 2:27 that “The Sabbath day is made for man,” for man to remember the wonderful grace of God. Most importantly the Sabbath was made for man to worship God on that day and receive His blessings. All we need to do is remember and observe this special day of grace.
Nonetheless, some people persist in claiming that God gave only the Israelites the commandment to keep the Sabbath day. They cite Exodus 31:12-14, 16 as the passage which clearly states that Sabbath was instituted for the Israelites only. Keeping Sabbath was evidence of the lasting covenant between God and the Israelites. It is a sign that He is their God and they are His people. Any Israelite who refused to keep Sabbath day holy was to be put to death, cut off from his people, and no longer deemed as a person of God. It was a serious law that had to be kept.
Some other people then argue that as people of the New Testament, we are the spiritual descendants of Abraham. Instead of the old covenant, we should follow the new covenant that Jesus made with us in the New Testament, the covenant of baptism, since both covenants are completely different from each other. Hence, present day believers do not need to observe the Sabbath Law of the Old Testament times because as believers of the New Testament, the covenant we have with God is the covenant of baptism, not that of Sabbath under God’s law.
Consequently, many Christians argue that there is no need to keep the Sabbath under law, since the law is relevant only to the Israelites.
Sabbath under the law is different from Sabbath of grace.
God instituted the Sabbath day and sanctified it. He blessed that day, and commanded man to remember and observe it. Although we no longer need to observe the Sabbath under the strict laws given to the Israelites, what we currently observe is the Sabbath of grace described in Genesis 2.
Many Christian churches insist on keeping the Lord’s Day, rather than Sabbath of grace, primarily because the Lord’s Day is the day Jesus Christ resurrected. He resurrected on the day after the seventh day, a Sunday. Hence gathering on Sunday to commemorate the Lord’s Day is deemed more meaningful than keeping the Sabbath day because if Jesus had not resurrected, there would be no Christianity. For what hope or faith would we have if Jesus were not resurrected?
Although this argument is sound, it is something man decided, not what God instituted. If God had commanded Christians in the New Testament to keep the Lord’s Day on Sunday, we ought to keep that day. However, it is clear that this was not part of God’s plan. There are no records in the Bible of God or Jesus telling us to keep the Lord’s Day and stop observing the Sabbath day. Jesus emphasized that the Sabbath day is made for man, even until the day of His coming. He made this very clear to the Jews, but that the same time, he did not limit the Sabbath day to the Jews only. He said that the Sabbath day is made for all man and was referring to the Sabbath that was instituted from the very beginning of creation, the Sabbath under grace.
We may have good intentions, but there is no need to change or put away such an important day that God had instituted. This is why the True Jesus Church continues to abide by this commandment of God in keeping the Sabbath Day.
Sabbath Day is on Saturday
Father Kenneth Ryan once wrote a book on Catholic Questions and Catholic Answers. One of the questions raised was, “Which day was the Sabbath day?” To which the answer was, “Sabbath day is on Saturday.” Another question raised was, “Why do we not observe the Sabbath Day on Saturday, but observe it on Sunday?” The answer given to this question was, “Because in AD364, a decision was made by the Catholics in the Council of Laodicea to change the Saturday worship to Sunday. This is why people nowadays observe the Sabbath day on Sunday and no longer on Saturday.”
It is evident from the records of the Catholic faith that prior to AD364, all churches kept the Sabbath on Saturday. This was later changed to Sunday, making it clear that Sunday observance was introduced by man.
To justify this change, some people refer to Colossians 2: 14- 16, arguing that the Old Testament festivals and regulations with regard to food and drink, including the Sabbath Day, can be put away. In other words, there is no longer a need to continue observing the Sabbath day. They argue that the Sabbath day is already over and in its place is the Lord’s day.
These passages from the bible tell us that back in Old Testament times, God appointed two days as Sabbath days, and did not allow any work to be done on both days. These are the Sabbath feasts. They are different from the weekly Sabbath observed on the seventh day of the week, Saturday. Leviticus 23: 33- 35 further proves the point: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it.’”
The Feast of Tabernacles fell on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. This feast lasted seven days, but the first day was observed as a Sabbath, which may not necessarily have been on a Saturday. Evidently, the Sabbaths that were observed during these feasts and festivals referred to the shadow of things to come, of matters and laws that were long over and done with. These Sabbaths are by no means required to be observed again in this present day and age.
By making a clear distinction between the two kinds of Sabbaths commanded by God, Colossians 2: 14-16 does not suffice as evidence against keeping the Sabbath today. In fact, evidence that we ought to keep the Sabbath on Saturday can be found in the New Testament, where Jesus and His disciples are seen doing so.
For example, Luke 4:16 describes how Jesus entered the synagogue on Sabbath day as was His custom. Jesus continued to keep the Sabbath day in New Testament times and did not abolish it. There are some who claim that New Testament only began after Jesus’ resurrection and the Holy Spirit had been poured down. Hence, they argue that Luke 4:16 ought not to be used as evidence that the Sabbath day be kept in New Testament times since they consider as part of Old Testament.
The fact is, Jesus Himself stated exactly when the New Testament began; it began the moment He came forth and started preaching the gospel to mankind.
Mark 1: 14- 15- Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The message of God no longer came from the mouth of John the Baptist, who was imprisoned; it was Jesus’ turn to preach the gospel. The time from which Jesus continued what John the Baptist was no longer able to do, marked the beginning of the New Testament. He made it clear that the laws and prophets ended after John for the time has come and the kingdom of God is at hand. We no longer live by the laws of the Old Testament, but by the gospel preached by our Lord Jesus Christ.
That Jesus would continue His custom of keeping the Sabbath day in this New Testament, spoke of a prophecy that the Sabbath day would continue to be kept until the end of time.
In AD 70, the disciples of Jesus were still faithful in keeping the Sabbath day. Christians of the New Testament do not need to keep the Sabbath day by law, but that of the Sabbath day under grace, just like the disciples and believers of Jesus Christ after AD 70. No one kept the Lord’s Day, but the churches and believers continued to keep Sabbath Day. For example, Acts 17: 2 described how Paul went in to the synagogues as was his custom, and for three Sabbaths, reasoned with the Jews from the Scriptures. Undeniably, Paul kept the Sabbath, not the Lord’s Day.
Perhaps you may insist that Paul had already started keeping the Lord’s Day, and had no choice but to keep the Sabbath day with the Jews, who still kept the Sabbath day in the synagogues, in order to reason with them from the scriptures. Indeed it may be that one of Paul’s objectives for going to the synagogues on a Sabbath day was to do so. However, going to worship God on the Sabbath was described as Paul’s custom. It is clear that even after accepting the Christian faith, he still continued his custom of observing the Sabbath day.
From such records found in the bible, we can see that Jesus and His apostles did not change from Sabbath Day worship to the Lord’s Day; this was something implemented much later by man. Which day would you observe – a day altered by man or a day instituted by God?
In the beginning, God made the seventh day a Holy day, a day He will bless, a day for all man to come and remember His grace, a day to worship the True God, and find sanctification in God. Let’s keep the Sabbath Day Holy.