Keeping the Sabbath

Should Christians keep the Sabbath?

Sabbath keepers and non-Sabbath keepers regularly spit fire back and forth.

The Jesus of the Bible calls for unity among believers. Whether you keep the Sabbath or not, avoid judging those who believe differently.

5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
Romans 14:5,6 (ESV)

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.
Colossians 2:16 (ESV)

Check out what the Bible says to us about keeping the Sabbath. Read the following article and keep your Bible in hand . . .

Should Christians Keep the Sabbath?

4 thoughts on “Keeping the Sabbath”

  1. Tim & Site Admin, While I value your opinions and believe that you make some good points on the topic of the Sabbath, I must respectfully disagree with your final viewpoint that the Sabbath should not be kept on Saturday. I would like to commend you on your statement that these kinds of matters are between the individual and God. I believe that this is at the heart of the Christian faith. Individuals much search their hearts and minds(consciences) to see if what they believe is in line with what the scriptures say. When an individual is convicted by the scriptures that they should behave in a certain way but go against their conscience, they create a separation between themselves and God. This is referenced in 1 Timothy 4:2. I believe that there will be many in heaven who have kept Sunday and Saturday as the Sabbath. However, this topic should still be an important topic of discussion in all Christian churches. The two texts that you put here are not referring to the Sabbath day, but to the different feasts that were kept by the Jews at that time. Therefore, I think you are taking these passages out of context when you apply them to the weekly observance of the Sabbath. When I read the ten commandments, it is clear to me that there have been changes made to the commandments by some churches. For some, the third commandment is the one that deals with the Sabbath. For others, it is the fourth commandment. Only one can claim to be handed down from God on Mt. Sinai. In both interpretations, however, it is clear that we should not do any work or make anyone else work on the Sabbath. The big piece which is left out in the alternate interpretation is the reference to the creation of the earth. This clearly shows the connection between creation and the Sabbath and shows the importance of it. It was established before the Jewish nation existed. One final point that I would like to make is that many Christians used to rest on the Sabbath. Regardless of which day is observed it is clear that we should cease from our weekly activities and allow others to do the same. I enjoy discussing these issues, and I would like a chance to respond more thoroughly on a point by point basis to your article if time permits me to. Thank you for a place that these issues can be discussed in a constructive way.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts. I understand that the passages in Romans 14 and Colossians 2 can be read to deal only with feasts and not the Sabbath, although I do not think that the passages themselves drive one to that conclusion. We all bring our own background into these texts, and God knows this.

    I agree that in the law keeping the Sabbath was linked to the creation account. It does not necessarily follow that Adam and Eve kept the Sabbath (I know you are not saying this, but I also think that before the law it is hard to establish from Scripture that people kept the Sabbath.) The Sabbath is introduced to us with the deliverance of Israel from Egypt in Exodus 16 and is said to be the sign of the Mosaic Covenant between God and Israel in Exodus 31. As God said in Exodus 31:17, the Sabbath is the sign between God and Israel forever.

    It is clear from church history that the earliest church did not observe the Sabbath. Ignatius, who knew the apostles personally, taught that we are not to keep the Sabbath, but we keep the Lord’s Day. (As you know, I am not among those who think that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath. The Sabbath is and always has been Saturday. Sunday is the resurrection day.) I think the reason was that they saw the teachings of the Jerusalem Council, Paul’s epistles, and Hebrews as providing a foundation for being under a new covenant, and not under the law. The Gentiles who came to Christ were not used to keeping the Sabbath and it does not appear that by becoming Christians they were brought under the law and required to keep the Sabbath.

    If we are to keep the Sabbath, then I agree with you that a big part of the observance is rest (a cessation of work). I think it would be wrong (except for the purpose of saving life or assisting others in need) to carry out work on the Sabbath. I note that some things still are necessary, such as milking your lifestock, etc.

    Thanks for your comments. I have appreciated the commitment to Christ of many who differ from my viewpoint on this subject.

  3. Tim,

    It is clear that we will disagree on some things regarding the interpretation of the texts. Your immediate knowledge of these things is better than mine, so I must do a little more reading and studying than you to understand exactly what each text is saying, while you already know many of the Greek and Hebrew words by heart. I’m not so sure that I believe the earliest church did not observe the Sabbath. Even at that time, there were definitely some who observed the Sabbath and some who didn’t. My feeling is that with many texts we often make the mistake of applying them to say more than what the writer’s intent was. Some comments that you made in your articles confuses me a little.

    Here is your first comment from the article posted here:

    “I think they were right, according to Scripture, and stand firmly in their tradition.”

    Here is another comment from the article that was linked:

    “Of course, Ellen White’s statements are not inspired and must be examined in the light of truth.

    Nevertheless, her statement that Scriptural evidence is lacking for making Sunday the Christian Sabbath is completely true. Scripture says nothing about changing the Sabbath day from Saturday to Sunday.”

    You seem to be saying that we should follow tradition instead of scripture. As you might already know, there are several people who consider themselves SDA and would agree with you that Ellen White was not inspired and that she should be disregarded. I believe otherwise, but this is a discussion for another time. It seems to me from your comments that you contradict yourself. First, you say that they were right to worship on Sunday, according to the scripture and “tradition”. Then, in the other article, you state that scripture says nothing about changing the day. Which one is it? I think we are in agreement on the idea that the scripture should be the final say on any matter. I would like to repeat that I believe it is very beneficial for me to have these kinds of discussions because it helps me to explore my own beliefs and to re-examine them. It is always a pleasure for me to discuss with someone who is willing to speak from their heart on the issues without any malice. I look forward to many more discussions on various topics, many of which I think we can agree on. Like you stated so clearly, I believe that God does not wish for us to judge each other, and I think it is possible to discuss these issues without “spitting fire”. I too appreciate my Brothers and Sisters in Christ who may not share my views but are committed to his soon return as I am. Let us all be watching and waiting, that day is coming sooner than we think. Happy New Year and may God bless you in your ministry.

  4. Thanks for the dialogue. I stand fully with you that Scripture is the authority. My reference to the early tradition of the church was solely that the earliest church, when it spoke on the subject, followed the same reading of the Scriptures that I follow. My reference to the early church is not to appeal to another source of authority, but rather as an early confirmation of the way I read Scripture. If the teaching of the church disagreed with Scripture, than I would give little credence to what the church said. However, I also note that God did not wait until the nineteenth century to give the Holy Spirit to the church. God has illuminated Christians down through the centuries on the meaning of Scripture. Accordingly, I look to church history to provide me some indication that my reading of Scripture is in accordance with what the Holy Spirit has taught others from the Scriptures. If I come up with something new from my reading of Scripture that no godly person in the church has ever seen, I suspect I am in error. I like to use history as a check against heresy in my reading of Scripture.

    And, for me, the earliest church writings are the best check. I think the later church began developing more systematic theologies that sometimes were based more on prior opinions than on Scripture itself. And I have difficulty giving much credance to the writings of those who seem not to display the fruit of the Spirit in their lives or in their writings. There are some good examples. Though the church long has followed sprinkling as a mode for baptism, the earliest church taught and practiced immersion. I read Scripture as teaching baptism by immersion and find that reading confirmed by the early church. Again, while the later church developed an amillennial eschatological position, the earliest church believed in the literal return of Christ to the earth to set up a physical kingdom here. I again find the position of the earliest church to be consistent with my reading of Scripture. I believe that those who knew the apostles personally, and those who followed closely behind those early church fathers had access to the apostles’ teachings that we do not have. Also, there would have been others in the church who would have known the early teachings and helped keep the church consistent with the teachings of the Apostles. Given the fact that their letters are so rich in Scriptural teachings and holy living, coupled with the fact that they died as the great martyrs of the church, I tend not to discount their instruction, as long as it is consistent with Scripture.

    Included among these are Ignatius, the third bishop of Antioch, a personal acquaintance of the apostles, a fried of Polycarp, and one of the great martyrs of the earliest church. Given his position as the leader the church that sent Paul out on his missionary journeys, I do not easily discount his views on these subjects. He stated within 20 years of the death of John and approximately 50 years after the death of the Apostles Paul and Peter that Jewish Christians no longer keep the Sabbath, but celebrate the Lord’s day. He is only the first of a long list of early church leaders who stated the same thing.

    But I would never say that we should follow tradition instead of Scripture. In fact, I think Christ made it clear that Scripture should be followed even if faced with a contrary tradition. This is one of the reasons I have not been happy with some of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, as I think they have at times elevated tradition to a par with Scripture, something that has led to the elevation of Mary contrary to the teachings of Scripture.

    If I thought Scripture made the argument that Christians should keep the Sabbath, I would keep the Sabbath no matter what others in the church have said. But I also want to ensure that my reading of Scripture is consistent with the reading the saints of old have felt the Holy Spirit gave to them.

    However, I want to be sure not to be misunderstood. I am not saying that Christians should not observe the Sabbath. While I do not believe that Christians are under the law, under the command of circumcision (something that preceded the law), or under the Sabbath (the sign of the law), I do not believe that it is wrong for Christians to keep the Sabbath. I commend those who keep it to the Lord and believe that their testimony for Christ in this matter is an important part of the church. I also believe that those who do not keep the Sabbath but observe the resurrection day have a testimony for Christ that is an important part of the church. And, I believe that those Christians that do not observe any one day as special but devote each day to Christ are an important part of the church. I see this is what Romans 14 teaches.

    Because I do not find compelling an argument that Gentile Christians were ever brought under the law of the Sabbath, and because I think one can make a strong argument that even Jewish people, when they come to Christ, are no longer under the Sabbath law (from Romans 7; Galatians 3; 1 Timothy 1, Hebrews 8:7-13; 10:28-29), I do not personally believe that keeping the Sabbath is a matter of obedience to Christ. But like the Rechabites of old who would not drink because of the law of their father (see Jeremiah 35), those who keep the Sabbath for conscience sake, out of conviction from their reading of Scripture, or out of tradition, and do so to Christ, will be rewarded by their Judge. At least this is how I read Scripture.

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