What is Sabbath? Should Christians keep the Sabbath Day or the Lord’s Day?
Even though the large majority of Christians now have their main worship on the Sunday, there are still Christians who insists that Christians should keep the Sabbath as it was mentioned in the Bible.
What about you? What do you think?
The following is a sermon transcription that will hopefully help you to understand from the Bible what is it that God requires of us.
To Keep the Sabbath Day or The Lord’s Day
(adapted from a sermon by Pr Chin Aun Quek)
Many Christian churches today worship on Sunday. They call this the keeping of the Lord’s Day. As for our church and a minority of the Christian churches, we worship on Saturday. That is the keeping of the Sabbath Day.
The question is: Should we keep the Sabbath Day or The Lord’s Day? Obviously, those who keep the Sabbath Day will keep the Sabbath Day and those who keep the Lord’s Day will have their reasons in keeping the Lord’s Day. In the Christian world, an argument arises with regards to this matter. Churches continue to keep their respective views to worship God the day they deem right. A fact remains in that those who observe the Sabbath Day will insist on worshipping on Saturdays. Some who used to observe the Lord’s Day on Sundays will convert to worshipping on Saturdays, ie. Sabbath Day after they understand the truth from the Scripture.
What is Sabbath?
From the bible, we will know we ought to keep the Sabbath Day. There are some views reckoning it worthless to argue over this matter. They maintained it as best not to argue as it is good to observe it on either day. They supported their saying with scriptural evidence. Romans 14:5-6 say everyday is alike, whether we observe this day or that day as long as “one is fully convinced in his own mind”, he can either observe the Lord’s Day or the Sabbath Day. Seems like the best compromise as we will not hurt anyone’s feelings. However, God is very clear about it – the Sabbath Day is different from other days.
Did Paul make a mistake? Of course he did not. The day mentioned in Romans 14 refer to the feast in the Old Testament. There were converted Jews who felt that they still had to observe the Festivals of Feasts as in their continual belief in circumcision. Since they were born as Jews, they continued to observe old traditions though they had come to believe in Jesus. Even some Jewish Christians insisted in the Gentile Christians in keeping the festivals like them. The fact is, we need not keep the Old Testament laws or the various the Festivals of Feasts including circumcision. Paul did state the futility in arguing over the matter. But he was not referring the matter to Sabbath Day. Sabbath Day is different from other days. Why and how?
In Gen 2:3, God blessed the 7th day and sanctify it. The 7th day is our Sabbath Day on Saturday. It is the day God has blessed. Man should observe it and remember this day of God’s creation. It is different from other days and is known as the Holy Sabbath. Some people contradicted this point. They claim that this Holy Sabbath is God’s Holy Sabbath and not for man. The bible recorded God rested and not man rested. It also did not record God’s command to Adam and Eve to observe the Sabbath Day. Obviously then, it is not man’s rest day but that of God’s. When God chose Abraham, He did not instruct Abraham to keep the Sabbath Day.
When did God command man to keep the Sabbath Day? On Mount Sinai, God commanded the Israelites to keep the Sabbath Day. Therefore, God’s commandment to man in keeping the Sabbath Day commenced on Mount Sinai. The Sabbath here belonged to God. It recorded God rested from all His works and He did not instruct Adam to observe the Sabbath. When there is no record, it does not mean there is no instructions to do so. Similarly, there might be instruction to do so but was not recorded. We cannot simply conclude that God did not instruct the keeping of Sabbath Day. As such, we can lay this argument to rest..
Reflecting on another record – God blessed the 7th day and sanctify it. Now, did God institute this day for Himself to observe? Or He instituted it for man to observe and to remember His divine creation? Does God need to rest or does He need to rest on every 7th day of the week? No! God does not need to rest. He rested from all His works because He had completed the work of creation in 6 days and so He rested from all the work on the 7th day. Again, God did not sanctify the day for Himself to rest. It recorded God blessed the 7th day. Does God need to bless the day for Himself if it was meant for His own rest? There is no necessity for God to bless Himself. God blessed man whom He has created. Therefore, we call this day the Sabbath Day of grace. He wanted man to rest and to remember His divine creation and to bless man on this day.
In Marks 2:27, God tells us that the Sabbath was made for man which is why God had sanctified and blessed it so that man in observing it will receive the blessings. Hence, man ought to obey God in keeping the 7th day of the week, ie. Sabbath Day. Unfortunately, most Christian churches maintain that the Sabbath Day instruction was given only on Mount Sinai.
In Ex. 31:12-14 & 16, it is clear here that all generations of the Israelites shall keep the Sabbath Day forever as a covenant. Sabbath Day is a covenant between God and the Israelites. Verse 13 is evident of it. They shall not transgress against it. Anyone who does not keep the Sabbath Day shall be put to death because he transgresses against the covenant and the Law. The Israelites in the Old Testament under no circumstances would fail to keep the Sabbath.
However, do Christians in the New Testament need not observe the Sabbath Day since God did not use the Sabbath Day to make a covenant with us? This is only half correct. We indeed need not keep the Sabbath Day the way the Israelites used to keep. It belonged to the Law putting to death anyone who transgressed against it. That Sabbath Day under the Law is not binding to us. The Sabbath Day we need to keep is the Sabbath Day under grace (as mentioned earlier on in the sermon about the 7th day being sanctified by God as a rest day and a day He blessed for man). There were no Israelites or any law at that time. Nevertheless, God had already sanctified and blessed the day for man to enjoy. Christians in the New Testament likewise have to remember the Sabbath Day of grace.
Why do most Christians today keep the Lord’s Day rather than the Sabbath Day? They reckon that Sunday is the day of Jesus’ resurrection. Everyone knows that Jesus resurrected on the 1st day of the week, ie. Sunday. Hence Christians should worship God and remember His resurrection on Sunday. They even call this day the Lord’s Day, the day of His resurrection. Their intent is good but it is not according to the will of God. God’s will is for man to keep the Sabbath Day on the 7th day of the week. Jesus too observed the Sabbath Day. Why then His disciples took their initiative to deem it better to keep the Lord’s Day rather than keeping the Sabbath Day? Even though their intent is good, should it change God’s intent? No! We ought to understand God’s will and not to walk in our own will.
Keeping the Sabbath Day is the instruction of God while keeping the Lord’s Day is the instruction of man. A Catholic priest wrote a Q&A book on the doctrines on the Catholic faith. He admitted in the book that the Catholics had changed the Sabbath Day to the Lord’s Day. On page 50 in the book, he questioned which day is the Sabbath day. The answer is: Saturday. He also questioned why do Catholics not keep the Sabbath Day but the Lord’s Day. The answer is in 364 AC, the Laodician Council had changed the Sabbath Day to the Lord’s Day. Therefore, we need not keep the Sabbath Day now. Does this not explain the keeping of the Lord’s Day is an instruction from man and not from God? Do we listen to God or to man? Let us consider which is more reasonable.
There are others who consider Col 2:12-14 as the evidence that the Sabbath Day has been abolished. Not only the Catholics had changed it, the bible also stated so. They claim they have not transgressed against God’s instruction.
What is Sabbath in Col 2:14-16?
In Col 2:14-16 , we know that in the Old Testament, the Feasts, the Festivals and circumcision have been done away with. Well, there is no contention in the Christian world on this. However, they also claim that the Sabbath Day has been done away with. Why are we still holding on in keeping it? It would seem that they have biblical support to their claim. We have only noted the Feasts, the Festivals, etc but neglected the Sabbath.
Perhaps we really have missed out the Sabbath in verse 16.
Of course not! The sabbath in this verse does not refer to the weekly 7th day Sabbath. It merely refers to the Sabbath Feasts. The Sabbath Feasts does not necessarily fall on Saturdays. God had instituted a particular feast as a day of rest. The Feast of Sabbath is different from the Sabbath Day that we keep weekly. Lev 23:23-36 recorded the different types of Sabbaths they had to observe for each feast.
Example in verse 24, on the 1st day of the 7th month, they had a Sabbath rest which was a memorial of the blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation and they did no work on that day. It was called a Feast of the Trumpet. In verse 27, on the 10th day of the 7th month was the Day of Atonement, another holy convocation in which no work was done. Hence, the Day of Atonement was observed as a Sabbath rest. Both 1st and the 10th day might not be Saturdays. Assuming the 1st day being a Saturday, the 10th day could not have been a Saturday! Yet, God instructed them to observe them as a Sabbath rest and not do any work (v 32). Similarly, 15th day of the 7th month was the Feast of Tabernacle (v 35) and also a day of holy convocation with no work done. Paul reference to those Sabbaths in Colossians as days of Sabbath rests during the feasts. Naturally, if we need not observe the Feasts and Festivals, we need not observe its Sabbath rests.
Contrarily, the weekly Sabbath Day rest which we ought to observe is not abolished.
What is the Sabbath like in Jesus’ days?
Jesus kept the Sabbath Day routinely. In Luke 4:16, when Jesus started the work of preaching, the New Testament era began as Jesus said the days have been fulfilled and the kingdom of God has drawn near. The Law was taught up till the time of John the Baptist. The New Testament era did not begin only when Jesus ascended to heaven but began when He came forth and started His ministry. The down pouring of the Holy Spirit marked the start of the church.
In the beginning of the New Testament era, Jesus led His disciples to keep the Sabbath Dy and the Sabbath Day was not abolished. This went on even till up to 70 AD as Christians continued to observe the Sabbath Day. How do we know? It is based on the prophesy of Jesus in Mat 24:20. The Lord talked about what would happen in the 70 AC when Jerusalem was destroyed. Jesus even reminded them to pray “that your flight may not be in the winter on the Sabbath”. Why not in winter and on Sabbath? Escaping to anywhere in winter would add to the danger and difficulties. The escape not being in winter would increase the chances of survival. Not on Sabbath would not be hindered by the stipulated rule in the distance one could travel on Sabbath days. There was a rule dictating how far one could travel on Sabbath Day. In exceeding it would be transgressing against the law of Sabbath Day.
At that time, though some Jews had believed in Jesus and had understood the grace in observing the Sabbath Day and the doing away with circumcision, they still held on to old customs. All the more, non-Christian Jews were expected to do the same. Mat 24:20 was targeted at both non-Christian Jews and Christian Jews. According to the Lord’s prophesy, we know the non-Christian Jews believe in keeping the Sabbath including the Christian Jews. It clearly demonstrated that the Sabbath Day is not abolished. On what basis can we say that the New Testament Christians need not keep the Sabbath Day or that it is abolished.
What is Sabbath like for the Apostles and Paul?
The testimony of the Apostles testified to this. In Acts 15:21, James made these statements in the New Testament era. They continued to gather to read the Scriptures on every Sabbath Day. They included the Christian Jews and non-Christian Jews. Both kept the Sabbath Day.
Paul did the same as recorded in Acts 17:2. Paul though having believed in Jesus, kept the routine in observing the Sabbath Day. Some said he was not observing the Sabbath but was just there to debate on the truth with others. Debating the truth was naturally one reason being there. If the latter portion of the statement: “as his custom was…” does not refer to the custom of keeping the Sabbath Day, then Paul ought not have chosen Saturdays so as not to mislead others into thinking his intent was to keep the Sabbath Day. If Sabbath Day is abolished, he should have demonstrated the stand clearly and chose other days to debate the truth. All these tell us that the Apostles had kept the Sabbath Day in the New Testament.
Still, some others claim that (Acts 20:7) the New Testament Christians kept the Lord’s Day instead of Sabbath Day. This verse does not talk about the last day of the week but the 1st day of the week when the disciples gathered to break bread. The claimers use it to support their worshipping God on the Lord’s Day. It is indeed true they gathered on Sunday to break bread. However, can this be the evidence to the changing of Sabbath Day to the Lord’s Day?
We cannot see the proof in such a conclusion. Rather, we saw this gathering as a special service for Paul’s departure on the next day. Moreover, the gathering was conducted at night. You may say we too conduct services at night. But note that our times are different now. Those days would not have the convenience of electricity supply as now. Our way of living also differed. Naturally, normal services would have been held in the day time. The focus on verse 7 is on Paul’s departure the next day. Therefore, they had to gather the night before and Paul even had to speak through mid night. This verse cannot form the basis in concluding the change of keeping the Sabbath Day to the Lord’s Day in the New Testament.
Even to our point, 1 Cor 16:2 does not mean the gathering on the 1st day of the week have to do with the abolishing of Sabbath day. It is just that Paul reminded them to get their offerings ready for the service to avoid a last minute rush upon his arrival. It should not be mistaken for a usual gathering to offer to the Lord on the 1st day of the week.
All the above discussions pointed to the Apostles and Christians observing the Sabbath Day in the New Testament. This is the commandment of God. Contrary, keeping the Lord’s Day on Sundays by most Christians today is the commandment of man. Should we then listen to God or to man?
We choose to listen to God in keeping the Sabbath Day. God instituted the 7th day as a holy day and blessed it. We hope that you would also keep the Sabbath Day and receive His blessings.
We hope that this sermon gives you an answer as to ‘What is Sabbath’?