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Fulton County Gospel News

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What about the Sabbath Day

By Barry O’Dell

I have seen bumper stickers that read, “Keep the Sabbath Day” and “Keep the Ten Commandments.” There seem to be many people in our society who are sincerely interested in doing what God commands in His word. While sincerity should be a part of one’s service to God, it must not be the ultimate, determining factor when it comes to pleasing Him. So, what about the Sabbath Day? Must one observe this commandment today in order to be pleasing to God? Is this command a part of the New Covenant of Jesus Christ?

If God mentions something one time it is important! The terms “Sabbath” and “Sabbaths” appear 171 times in the Bible. They appear 111 times in the Old Testament and 60 times in the New Testament. Clearly this is a topic that must be studied and understood! Here are some questions that must be answered in understanding the Sabbath Day.

When was the command to observe the Sabbath Day given by God? The first mention of the Sabbath is found in Exodus 16:22-30. According to the Biblical record, Israel had been delivered from Egyptian captivity two and a half months prior and was on her way to Mount Sinai (Exo. 16:1). God commanded them to gather manna for six days and, on the sixth day, gather twice as much because, “…on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, in it there shall be none” (Exo. 16:26). Exodus 16:30 then states, “So the people rested on the seventh day.” The first time that God commanded man to observe the Sabbath day was during the wilderness wandering.

To whom was the command to observe the Sabbath Day given? Is this a command that stands for all people, for all time? Again, God’s word must be consulted to find the answer. Exodus 31:12-17 provides the answer. Notice the following statements: “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations….Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath….It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever” (Exo. 31:13, 16-17). Also, consider Deuteronomy 5:1-3, “And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them. The Lord God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not the covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.”

Does the New Testament command God’s people today to observe the Sabbath Day? It is rather evident that observation of the Sabbath was an integral part of the Law of Moses. It is a fact that, God Himself, during the time of the Old Covenant stated that a New Covenant would be established. Jeremiah 31:31-32 states, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt…” Under that New Testament there is never a command for Christians to observe the Sabbath Day. There are several mentions in the New Testament of the Sabbath Day. Throughout the gospel accounts of the life of Christ the writers recorded Jesus preaching and performing miracles on the Sabbath. The book of Acts mentions the Sabbath Day 9 times (1:12; 13:14, 27, 42, 44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4). The term “Sabbath” is found only once after the book of Acts and that is in Colossians 2:16. In all 60 references found in the New Testament there is not one command given to God’s people today to, “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy” (Exo. 20:8).

What day should God’s people observe today? The Lord’s church was established in the city of Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:1, 47). Leviticus 23:15-16 reveals that the feast of Pentecost was held on the first day of the week. It was observed on the day after seven Sabbaths were complete, which would be the first day of the week. The New Testament also reveals that the disciples gathered on the first day of the week to break bread (i.e., partake of the Lord’s Supper – Acts 20:7). Also, the church of the Bible used the first day of the week to contribute financially (1 Cor. 16:1-2). Revelation 1:10 reads, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…” What day could rightfully be referred to as the Lord’s day? Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1-2, Luke 24:1-3, and John 20:1-9 all reveal that Jesus was raised from the dead on the first day of the week. This was the event that Jesus told His disciples about on several occasions (Matt. 16:21; 20:19; Mk. 8:31; 9:31). The first day of the week is the day on which Christians all around the world assemble in order to commemorate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

The command to keep the Sabbath Day was a part of the Law of Moses. Jesus stated early on in His work that He was going to fulfill the law and the prophets (Matt. 5:17-18). The Law was nailed to the cross (Eph. 2:14-16) and Jesus fulfilled the prophecies written down by men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah. Today, God’s people assemble to worship Him upon the first day of every week, the Lord’s Day. Matthew 28:18 records that Jesus possesses all authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus, in His New Covenant, never authorized or commanded His apostles or us today to observe the Sabbath Day. 

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