Ask Donnell: Does The Church Need To Keep The Sabbath?

Ask Donnell: Does The Church Need To Keep The Sabbath?

We received the following question from Wendell;

"I need some clarity on The Sabbath. The Bible says, "Remember The Sabbath.. keep it holy." How does a believer interpret this and apply it to their lives? Some people say it's Saturday while Sunday is the norm for others. How does God interpret this and will we be judged for not acknowledging the correct Sabbath?"

Wendell, this is a great question. The modern relevance of The Sabbath to The Church continues to baffle many people. Does it still exist? Do we need to keep it? Is it supposed to be on Saturday? Was it changed to Sunday? Are the Seventh Day Adventists the only ones who got it right? Will the rest of us go to hell for doing stuff on Saturday? If nobody worked on Saturday, our civilization will shut down.

Think about it. Even if you stay home you can't do any household chores nor run errands. If you ever need something on Saturday you would be on your own because no business would be open. No police. No hospitals. No firefighters. No water or wastewater treatment plant workers. No electrical plant workers. No gas stations. Everything everywhere would grind to a halt.

How it all started...

Genesis 2:1-3(NLT) - So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.

The story of The Sabbath goes all the way back to Creation. God was the first to take a Sabbath. The scripture clearly states that God rested on the seventh day once He completed the work of Creation. He also placed a special blessing on The Sabbath and declared it holy. So why did God take a Sabbath in the first place? Did He need to rest after working hard for six days? Was He so tired after all the work of Creation that He needed a day off? Let's see what the scriptures have to say.

Psalms 121:3-4(NKJV) - He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

Isaiah 40:28(NKJV) - Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.

There's the answer. Did God need a rest? No! He doesn't slumber, sleep, faint or ever grow weary. He is God! When the scripture says in Genesis 2 that God rested from all His work what does it mean? He was finished so He didn't work on it anymore. His job was complete. Therefore, the phrase "he rested from all his work" in this context means that the Creation process was finite. It had a beginning and an ending. At the end of Creation God stopped working on it which is the same as saying He rested from working on it. Creation was over so to commemorate the completion of all His work over six days God made the seventh day holy.

Since God didn't need a Sabbath to catch His breath He must have instituted it for us because we're the ones who need the rest. Jesus confirmed this in Mark 2:27(KJV) - "And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:"

The first time people observed the Sabbath...

Exodus 16:22-31(NKJV) - And so it was, on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. Then he said to them, "This is what the Lord has said: 'Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.'" So they laid it up till morning, as Moses commanded; and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it. Then Moses said, "Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none." Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. And the Lord said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." So the people rested on the seventh day. And the house of Israel called its name Manna. And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

The word "rest" used in this passage is the same word used to describe the rest that God took on the seventh day of Creation. This word "rest" is from the Hebrew word "Shabath" which literally means "to desist from exertion". The Sabbath is a day for us to stop exerting ourselves. It is a day for us to focus on God and be set apart unto Him alone. God is holy so everyday is holy to Him already. He doesn't need a special day to be set aside for Himself but we do.

When The Children of Israel were in the wilderness God provided manna for them to eat. He wanted them to set aside the seventh day to focus only on Him so He doubled their daily portion on the sixth day. This shows the extent to which God would go to ensure that His people took one day off to rest and reflect on Him. The main point that gets lost sometimes in our interpretation of The Sabbath is the fact that it's more than just a day of arbitrary rest. What's more important is that it's a day that is holy and set apart unto God. If we only rest and don't focus on The Lord it's not a true Sabbath as it was originally intended by God.

How The Sabbath became a commandment...

Exodus 20:8-11(NKJV) - "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

When God gave The Ten Commandments to the Children of Israel He included a detailed explanation of His expectations for The Sabbath. He outlined that nobody should work on the seventh day of each week because He rested after six days of Creation. The day was set apart or made holy unto Him. That's how The Sabbath became a commandment. God did it and He made it clear that He wanted people to do the same. However, something changed when Jesus showed up on the earth.

How Jesus changed everything...

Matthew 12:1-14(NKJV) - At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!" But He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" — that they might accuse Him. Then He said to them, "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.

Jesus is God. He created The Sabbath. He wrote the commandments. He is The Lord of The Sabbath. Why is that so important? He knows why He created every commandment and how He expects them all to be interpreted. If you read the original commandment to keep The Sabbath holy as it was first written, you will see that God only said no to work. He never said you couldn't pick something to eat or demonstrate God's love by healing someone.

It was the Jewish religious leaders who enhanced The Ten Commandments to create documents like The Talmud which included detailed rules and laws that God did not utter from His mouth. The man-made rules added to God's commandment of The Sabbath made it impossible to keep. In fact, Jesus called them out the religious zealots in Matthew 12 as hypocrites because if their sheep had fallen in a ditch on The Sabbath they would have conveniently broken The Sabbath to lift it out. They didn't really care about The Sabbath itself, they just wanted to use it to control people.

John 5:8-18(NKJV) - Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath. The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’” Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

Jesus healed a man who was crippled for 38 years and the only thing the Jews had to say to the man was that he broke The Sabbath by taking up his bed and walking. They didn't care about the man's healing. They just cared about their elaborate laws. That selfishness and insensitivity defeated the purpose of God's commandments. It was from this perspective that the Pharisees determined that Jesus broke The Sabbath. It was also from this perspective that Jesus responded to their accusations. He had little regard for the man-made laws designed by the religious elite to restrict God's people instead of liberate them.

He understood The Sabbath better than any of them because He created it. It was a day set aside by God for Himself. People were supposed to set aside a day of rest and worship to God in commemoration of His day of rest after completing Creation in six days. That's it! You can heal someone if you need to heal someone on The Sabbath. You can pick something to eat if you are hungry on The Sabbath. You can do good on The Sabbath. It was more important to God for His love to be shown to people than any rules or regulations.

Ask Donnell: Does The Church Need To Keep The Sabbath?

How Jesus approached the law...

Matthew 5:17-19(NKJV) - “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Have you ever read Matthew 5? Take a look at it. It's basically the start of The Sermon on The Mount. It starts with The Beatitudes, then Jesus gives His perspective on the law. He starts by saying He came to fulfill the law after which he says that the law will not pass away until it's fulfilled. If you read that statement carefully you'll see something interesting. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law which means that once He showed up the law was fulfilled so He was free to start making changes. However, all He really changed was how we should look at it. He did not advocate breaking any law or teaching people to do so but He did teach us how to interpret it in a brand new way.

He then proceeded to reinterpret one law after another. He started in Matthew 5:17-20 by giving a reinterpretation of, "Thou shalt not murder." Then in Matthew 5:27-28, He reinterpreted, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Then in Matthew 5:31-32 He set new ground rules for divorce. Then in Matthew 5:33-37, He gave a new approach to "You shall not swear falsely." Then in Matthew 5:38-42, He addressed "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Then in Matthew 5:43-48 He changed the approach to; "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy."

2 Corinthians 3:11-18(NKJV) - For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious. Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

If we do not see The Old Testament through the lens of Jesus Christ we cannot interpret it correctly. That's why it looked like Jesus ransacked the laws when He showed up. He never threw any laws away. He just gave a more accurate interpretation so that we could live by them in freedom and not in bondage. In fact, He chose to take it a step further by just summarizing all the laws into two so that they would be simple to follow.

Matthew 22:35-40(NKJV) - Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

God gave us the commandments because He wanted two things out of us. He wanted us to love Him and love others. Every rule, every commandment, ever law was to accomplish one of these two. The religious "experts" turned these laws into bondage and used them to control people. That was never God's intent. He was not trying to be malicious. He just wanted us to walk with Him like Adam did before he sinned.

However, once our nature became a sin-nature we needed the law to keep us in line with His desires and not the desires of our flesh. God is love and He wants us to reflect Him. Therefore, if you read how Jesus reinterpreted the laws in Matthew 5 you will see that all He did was raise the standard of love in the interpretation of each of them. He didn't get rid of the law but He instituted a higher law called "The Law of Love" which simply took the old law to another level.

How Apostle Paul taught the church to interpret the law...

Galatians 3:19-25(NLT) - Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when he gave his promise to Abraham. Is there a conflict, then, between God’s law and God’s promises? Absolutely not! If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ. Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.

When Jesus showed up everything changed. The law was written to keep us in check because of our sin-nature. Once Jesus died on the cross and rose again we were given the opportunity to be born-again into a new nature; one of righteousness through faith. In other words, Jesus came to earth to change our nature so that we no longer needed the law to constrain our sinful flesh.

Jesus has now become our righteousness which means that we don't obey the law to become righteous by works but we just believe in Jesus to be made righteous by faith. Therefore, by our faith in Him and the power of The Holy Spirit within we just have to focus our lives on loving God and loving people. In fact, here's how The Apostle Paul specifically deals with our approach to The Sabbath.

Colossians 2:16-17(NLT) - So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.

So, here's the point. If you want to keep The Sabbath. Keep it. If you want to keep it on Saturday. Keep it on Saturday. If you prefer to keep it on Sunday. Keep it on Sunday. God instituted it because of man's sinful nature. If He didn't force sinful man to put aside a day to rest and focus on Him we would never have done it. Now that we're in Christ, our nature has been changed. We are no longer born into sin we have been born-again into righteousness.

We just have to live like it. If you love God you will put aside time for Him on a daily basis. You will also put aside a day to focus on Him because that's His heart's desire. He's not going to force you to do it because He wants it done out of love. That's the law that overrides every other law. Do you love God? Then keep His commandments. If He has your heart He has your life. Christianity is based on a love that's shown from the inside out. Judaism was built around laws.

John 14:15(KJV) - If ye love me, keep my commandments.

God wants you to love Him. Don't do anything out of compulsion. Do it out of love. I like to put aside my Saturdays for rest. Nobody is forcing me to do it but I do it. I also go to church on Sundays. That's my day to be in the presence of The Lord with other members of The Body of Christ. Nobody is forcing me to do it but I do it. I love God. Do you?

Philippians 2:12(KJV) - Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Click to share thisClick to share this