The Sabbath Day

God has set aside the seventh day of each week for us to rest; He calls it the Sabbath, tells us to remember it and not do any work on it. (Ex 20:8-10) To walk with God here we must get the day right: He was very specific about the seventh day. So, which day is that?

The Jews, to whom God originally gave the commandments, have been keeping Sabbath on Saturday since before the time of Christ. Christ and the Apostles, who were also Jewish, kept Sabbath the same way; they’ve never been confused about it. If they had it wrong, Christ wouldn’t have agreed with them on it; but He did. (Jn 7:23)

And if we accept Sunday as the first day of the week, the day Christ rose from the dead, then the day before Sunday, Saturday, must be the seventh day. If Saturday isn’t Sabbath, then Jesus didn’t rise from the dead on Sunday.

Since scripture never mentions God changing the Sabbath, why do so many think it’s Sunday? A quick study reveals long-winded arguments based on two irrelevant facts. On Sunday: [1] Christ rose from the dead (Mk 16:9), and [2] the early Christians often met together. (Ac 20:7) It doesn’t take a Ph.D in theology to see this doesn’t imply any change in the Sabbath.

People believe in a Sunday Sabbath because that’s what they’re taught; it’s what the Church has claimed for as long as anyone can remember. It’s in her catechisms and liturgies, woven into the fabric of Christianity for nearly two millennia. We might presume the early Church fathers had a good reason for teaching this. Not so.

This started way back in the 1st century with the Fiscus Judaicus: anyone acting like a Jew had to pay a hefty annual Roman tax. It wasn’t long before the early Church began distancing herself from anything and everything that looked Jewish: the Sabbath and biblical feasts, eating clean, circumcision, it all had to go … or pay the tax. Eventually, she rejected her foundation in Torah and invented an entirely new religion.

Persecution: that’s how the Church lost Sabbath. Now, I can’t say I’d have done any better back then, but from the safety of religious liberty, it’s clear we took a wrong turn. The good news is that now, after all this time, we get to re-discover Sabbath, and what a treasure it is!

Yet some might argue that this isn’t so important, which day we actually rest, that as long as we rest one day a week we’re keeping the spirit of the command, but God doesn’t say this. Thinking Christ isn’t at all concerned about this is to invent another Jesus; Christ was clear about His concern that we keep all of God’s commands. (Mt 5:19)

The sabbath day, the Lord’s Day, is Saturday, not Sunday. Deliberately and stubbornly picking a different day really is to disobey the command entirely. If you and I don’t have the right to change the day (and we don’t), then who does? Nobody. Whoever did this initially was wrong, and those who follow this longstanding tradition are also wrong. Once we know better, yet persist in breaking Sabbath, we’re in rebellion. It’s so simple; there really isn’t any excuse: every mouth will be stopped. (Ro 3:19)

God made Sabbath for us (Mk 2:27), and it’s a blessing to be able to keep it. God Himself rested on the first one (Ge 2:2), reminding us of His creative power (Ex 20:11), and I’ve no reason to think He isn’t still keeping it, rhythmically inviting us to rest with Him and in Him every Shabbat, reminding us of the gospel, that He’s our eternal rest(He 4:10)

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5 thoughts on “The Sabbath Day”

  1. A common struggle we have with Sabbath is what God means by work. He doesn’t rigorously define it, but in His wisdom He gives us some examples.

    The first formal example we have in this context is a man gathering sticks in the wilderness (Nu 15:32), one of the few tasks required of Israelites during this period since manna was provided daily for them; all they needed to do was gather it. Prior to this, in Nu 11, they were explicitly told not to gather manna on Sabbath. In this context, work is being defined by example as the routine tasks which must be done in caring for yourself and others which cannot be reasonably omitted to enable a day of rest (e.g. breathing, eating and drinking, talking, moving about, getting dressed and making yourself presentable, etc.)

    As a balance, Yeshua points out that loosing beasts of burden from their stalls and leading them to water (Lk 13:15), or rescuing an animal from a pit (Lk 14:5), which could be physically strenuous, should not be considered work. In providing these kinds of examples, He rebuked Israel for creating burdensome, impractical definitions of work. (Mk 2:23-28)

    So, from what I can see, the spirit of Sabbath is ceasing from our regular pattern of work during the week, whatever that happens to look like for each person. Make the day special, separate, as pleasant and unhurried and unburdened as possible. Refresh, recharge, relax, recover … give yourself a break mentally, spiritually and physically. Don’t burden yourself with unnecessary constraints which make the day stressful, burdensome, laborious, etc.

    Sabbath is listed as both a feast and a “holy convocation,” (Le 23:2-3) so spend some time with the saints, put on a spread, and enjoy their company in fellowship and a meal.

  2. That the Sabbath starts on Friday night can be derived from three facts.

    In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Ge 1:1-2)

    [1] Ge 1:1-2 states that God created heaven and earth prior to creating light (thus, in darkness); this includes the globe of the earth, with all of the rocks and dirt and sand, the waters of the seas and oceans, and the expanse surrounding all of them.

    And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. (Ge 1:5)

    [2] Ge 1:5 states that God calls the light Day and the darkness Night, and the transitions between them morning and evening. God also defines Day as the combination of two events: morning and evening, naming the recurring 24-hour cycle by the lighted portion of it.

    For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Ex 20:11)

    [3] Ex 20:11 states that heaven and earth were created within the six 24-hour days of Creation; so God created them both on Day 1, within the first 24-hour day, during a period of darkness which began Day 1.

    Together, these three facts imply:
    [1] Night occurs prior to Day within the daily cycle.
    [2] Evening, being part of Day N, defines the transition between days N and N+1.

    From what I’ve seen, all claims that the (24-hour) day starts at some other time either ignore these basic foundational facts, or plainly deny and contradict them; no other theory rationally explains them.

  3. Some claim from De 5:15 (“And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.”) that God only told the Jews to keep the sabbath, so it is not required of the rest of us.

    Indeed, God commanded Israel as a nation to keep His laws and His statutes and His commandments; He has not directly commanded any other nation in this way, making a covenant with that nation that He would bless them if they would keep His laws and walk in His ways, and curse them severely otherwise. He Personally delivered Israel from Egypt and made a specific covenant with them to keep all of His laws, and He tells them often to remember this.

    This doesn’t mean God doesn’t intend for us all from every nation to keep His laws; His commands have not been formally imposed yet on any other nation as a nation in the context of a covenant relationship. He will eventually command all nations to keep all of His laws, when He comes to reign in Person, and He will enforce His laws among us all. (Ps 2)

  4. It is helpful to note that Christians are not actually keeping the sabbath at all. Consider this chat with Open AI.

    What day of the week is the sabbath day?
    The Sabbath day is typically observed on Saturday in Judaism and on Sunday in Christianity. In Judaism, the Sabbath starts at Friday sunset and ends at Saturday sunset. It’s a day of rest, reflection, and worship. In Christianity, many denominations observe Sunday as the Sabbath, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, some Christian denominations, like the Seventh-day Adventists, observe the Sabbath on Saturday, following the Jewish tradition.

    What day of the week is the seventh day?
    The seventh day of the week is Saturday. In many cultures and religious traditions, it is observed as a day of rest and worship. In the Jewish tradition, the seventh day of the week is the Sabbath, which begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday. In the Christian tradition, some denominations observe Sunday as the day of rest and worship, considering it as the Lord’s Day to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Different cultures and religious groups may have varying interpretations of which day constitutes the seventh day, but traditionally, Saturday is widely recognized as the seventh day of the week.

    What day of the week does the Bible say is the sabbath?
    In the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, the Sabbath is described as the seventh day of the week, which is Saturday. The concept of the Sabbath originates from the creation story in the Book of Genesis, where it is stated that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3). This seventh day, the day of rest, is referred to as the Sabbath.

    The importance of observing the Sabbath and keeping it holy is emphasized in the Ten Commandments, which are found in the Book of Exodus. The Fourth Commandment specifically states:

    “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11, NIV)

    The Jewish tradition follows this commandment and observes the Sabbath from Friday evening to Saturday evening, while some Christian denominations observe the Sabbath on Sunday to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Does the Roman Catholic Church teach that the Lord’s Day, Sunday, replaces the sabbath day, which is Saturday, as a day for rest and worship?
    Yes, within the Roman Catholic Church, it is indeed a teaching that the Lord’s Day, which is Sunday, has replaced the Sabbath day (Saturday) as the primary day for rest and communal worship. This teaching is based on interpretations of the New Testament and early Christian traditions.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 2175:

    “Sunday is expressly distinguished from the Sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the Sabbath. In Christ’s Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish Sabbath and announces man’s eternal rest in God.”

    This understanding is rooted in the belief that Sunday is the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and therefore holds a special significance for Christians. It is seen as a day to commemorate and celebrate the resurrection, gather for communal worship, and rest from ordinary work.

    While the Catholic Church emphasizes the importance of Sunday as the Lord’s Day and encourages its observance, it is important to note that the Sabbath is still recognized and respected, particularly in understanding its historical and religious significance in Judaism.

    So, are you saying Christians, particularly Roman Catholics, don’t actually observe sabbath on Sunday, but are celebrating a different day, the Lord’s Day, on Sunday instead of keeping the Sabbath?
    In traditional Christian doctrine, particularly within Roman Catholicism and many other Christian denominations, Sunday (the Lord’s Day) is considered a distinct day from the Sabbath (Saturday) and is viewed as the day to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    While both the Sabbath (Saturday) and the Lord’s Day (Sunday) are days of rest and worship, they have different theological and historical significances. The Sabbath is rooted in the Jewish tradition of observing the seventh day of the week, as commanded in the Old Testament. However, with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christians began to gather for communal worship on the first day of the week, Sunday, in commemoration of Jesus rising from the dead.

    The Catholic Church and many other Christian denominations believe that Sunday is the day on which Jesus rose from the dead, signifying a new creation and a new covenant. Therefore, they observe Sunday as the Lord’s Day and consider it a day of rest, worship, and celebration of the resurrection.

    So, to clarify, Roman Catholics and many other Christians observe Sunday (the Lord’s Day) as a day of rest and worship, distinct from the Sabbath (Saturday), in honor of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. While the observance of the Sabbath is significant, the Christian tradition shifted the primary day of communal worship and rest to Sunday to commemorate the central event of the Christian faith—the resurrection.

    You said earlier, “In Christianity, many denominations observe Sunday as the Sabbath.” Based on our subsequent discussion, this seems incorrect. You seem to be saying that what Christians are actually doing is not keeping the sabbath, but are keeping the Lord’s Day, Sunday, as a day of rest and worship instead. Is my understanding correct?
    Yes, you are correct, and I appreciate the opportunity to clarify. In Christianity, many denominations, including Roman Catholicism, observe Sunday as the Lord’s Day, not as a strict observance of the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday). While both the Sabbath (Saturday) and the Lord’s Day (Sunday) are days of rest and worship, they are distinct in theological and historical significance.

    The traditional Christian belief is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ occurred on Sunday, the first day of the week. This event is central to Christian faith and marks a new covenant and a new creation. As a result, Christians have historically gathered for communal worship, rest, and celebration of the resurrection on Sundays.

    So, to clarify further, Christians, including Roman Catholics, do not observe Sunday as a direct replacement of the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday). Instead, they observe Sunday as the Lord’s Day, honoring and commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is a central tenet of the Christian faith. The Sabbath (Saturday) and the Lord’s Day (Sunday) have different theological foundations and purposes within the Christian tradition.

  5. In a similar vein, protestant Christian denominations such as the Presbyterian, affirm that God has actually changed the Sabbath day from Saturday to Sunday (“the Lord’s Day”). Note the following Open AI discussion, particularly that none of the referenced NT passages have anything to do with Sabbath or with God changing it.

    Does the Westminster catechism teach that Sunday is the sabbath day? or that The Lord’s Day has replaced the biblical sabbath?

    Yes, the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which are important doctrinal standards in Presbyterian and Reformed theology, affirm the belief that the Lord’s Day (Sunday) has replaced the biblical Sabbath (Saturday) as a day of rest and worship. This understanding is based on their interpretation of New Testament teachings and early Christian practices.

    In the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 21, Section 7, it states:

    “As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, He has particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which in Scripture is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath.”

    This passage affirms that the Christian Sabbath, the Lord’s Day (Sunday), has replaced the original Sabbath (Saturday), and it is to be observed and kept holy as a day of worship and rest.

    In the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 59 asks, “Which day of the seven has God appointed to be the weekly Sabbath?” The answer is: “From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly Sabbath; and the first day of the week, ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian Sabbath.”

    Both the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Shorter Catechism align with the understanding that the Lord’s Day (Sunday) is the Christian Sabbath and has replaced the original seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) based on the resurrection of Christ.

    You stated earlier that “This understanding is based on their interpretation of New Testament teachings.” Can you elaborate on which particular New Testament passages Presbyterians are interpreting to come to this conclusion?

    The belief that the Lord’s Day (Sunday) has replaced the biblical Sabbath (Saturday) as a day of rest and worship is based on the interpretation of several New Testament passages and early Christian practices. Here are some key passages that are often cited and interpreted to support this belief:

    The Resurrection on the First Day of the Week:

    Christians commemorate the resurrection of Jesus, which occurred on the first day of the week (Sunday). This significant event is central to the Christian faith and is often cited as a reason for observing the Lord’s Day on Sunday (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18).

    Early Christian Worship on the First Day of the Week:

    In the New Testament, there are references to early Christians gathering for worship and breaking bread on the first day of the week (Sunday), likely to commemorate the resurrection (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).
    The Day of Pentecost:

    The Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the apostles, occurred on the first day of the week (Sunday), further emphasizing its significance (Acts 2:1).
    Paul’s Teaching on Freedom in Observing Days:

    The apostle Paul taught that Christians are no longer bound to the observance of particular days, indicating a shift in the understanding of the Sabbath (Colossians 2:16-17; Romans 14:5-6).

    These passages, along with early Christian traditions and the writings of the Church Fathers, have been influential in shaping the understanding that the Lord’s Day (Sunday) has replaced the Sabbath (Saturday) as a day of rest and worship within many Christian traditions, including Presbyterianism as reflected in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechism.

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