The Sabbath Day

How many times have you heard someone speak of today as “The Christian Sabbath?” That has become a very common designation of Sunday, the first day of the week -- but Sunday is far from being the Sabbath Day mentioned in the Bible. In fact, it is wrong to refer to Sunday, the first day of the week, as “the Christian Sabbath.”

The word Sabbath in the Bible refers to the seventh day of the week, which is Saturday. The word literally means, “cessation from activity.” It was never used to designate Sunday, or the first day of the week. Some people today are confused over the matter of observing the Sabbath day. They think it is still binding on people who want to worship God Almighty. However, the Sabbath Day belonged exclusively to the Mosaic dispensation of time and was removed when Jesus died on the cross.

In the New Testament the first day of the week is mentioned as a day when Christians assembled to worship God. This is the obvious meaning of the apostle John who wrote, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet” (Rev. 1:10). The early church met on the first day of the week to observe the sacred memorial feast, the Lord’s Supper. Luke wrote, “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7). The Corinthians were commanded to contribute of their individual earnings on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1-2).

The Sabbath day was exclusively Jewish and not Christian. When God selected the Jewish nation to be His own special people He gave them a special day on which to worship as they offered the prescribed animal sacrifices and service. The Law restricted the activities of the Israelites on the Sabbath day. Through Moses, God commanded, “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings” (Lev. 23:3). Through Moses, Aaron was instructed in his duties to be performed at this “holy convocation.” He was to officiate at the gathering. “Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant” (Leviticus 24:8).

Orthodox Jewish people still worship God on Saturday because they do not accept the New Testament. They reject Jesus of Nazareth as their Christ, the Messiah. It is to their Torah and not the New Testament they look for guidance and revelation from on high. Others, who claim to follow Christ, convene for worship on Saturday rather than Sunday because they continue to pick and choose parts of the Mosaic law as binding on all men today. The Seventh-Day Adventists, and a few of their splinter groups, keep only certain portions of the Old Testament law regarding the Sabbath.

During the personal ministry and life of Jesus on earth the Sabbath laws were still in force. After the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ from death there is no evidence at all that Christians ever met on Saturday as a day of worship. Jewish people continued to observe it, but not Christians. There are occasions mentioned where Paul found it convenient to meet with Jews in their synagogues on the Sabbath day. His purpose was not to worship God but to preach Christ. He did not observe their rituals of worship, nor did he continue offering sacrifices according to the Mosaic law. Today, true Christians meet on the first day of the week  and not the seventh day.

There is a fundamental reason why true Christians cannot observe the Sabbath Day or any laws associated with it. The law that established the Sabbath, Saturday, in the Old Testament was in force from the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai until Christ died on the cross. Before the giving of the Law no one knew about the Sabbath as a day of worship. From Adam to Moses Sabbath observance was not practiced. The observance the Sabbath, does not precede the Law of Moses.

Study the history of the the Jewish nation, the children of Israel. Genesis 15:13 records God’s promise to Abram. “Then He said to Abram: ‘Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years’.” Moses recorded the following after the fact. Exodus 12:40 reads: “Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And in the New Testament Acts 7:6 tells us, “But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years.” All Israel was taken captive by the Egyptian ruler, Pharoah.

Ultimately the Israelites were released from their slavery and the most marvelous migration in history began. Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt toward the land of promise. After some two and a half months in the desert, the people complained about their rations. Some of them shouted, “Take us back to Egypt -- the flesh pots there at least filled out stomachs.” Moses and Aaron took the case to Jehovah and God provided them with bread from heaven. The Bible calls is “Manna.” They were told that they should gather a specific quota per person for six days. All surplus would rot and stink. However on the sixth day they were told to gather a double quota. Moses explained why: “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’” (Exo. 16:23).

From this reading comes the plain truth that no one had any inkling of any kind of special “Sabbath Day Rest.” They were all completely ignorant of any such thing as “a holy Sabbath unto the Lord.” Not only did they know nothing of the Sabbath Day, they had no idea what they should do on that day. Some of the rulers of the congregation reported to Moses that manna was being gathered in a double portion on the sixth day. Moses then explained that there would be no manna on the seventh day. He gave God’s order for them to rest on the seventh day. Ask yourself the question. If the Sabbath had been observed from the dawn of creation, why is it that the only people who recognized Jehovah as the one true and living God knew nothing at all of it? Who would have been observing it? The fact is that the Sabbath Day is inseparably united with the Mosaic dispensation of time and limited to it.

Proof that the Sabbath Day was not enjoined on anyone from the beginning of time is found in another important fact. The Sabbath was to be a “sign” between God and His special people, the Jews. Read from the prophet Ezekiel. “Therefore I made them go out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them My statutes and showed them My judgments, which, a man does, he shall live by them. Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them” (Ezek. 0:10-12). This passage conclusively shows that the Sabbath of the Mosaic dispensation was a “national badge” of Israel, and  Israel alone. To no other nation of people was the Sabbath given and none other were required to observe it. One wonders why non-Jewish people today, in the name of religion, seek to borrow what was given exclusively to the Jews under the Old law.

Another question regarding the Sabbath is, “When did God actually reveal it to the Jewish people?” We have a divine answer. The Scripture records a time when the leaders of the Jewish people undertook a great restoration, going back to the law with the commitment to fully comply with it. As they were intensely reading the law, the record says, “Then Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood on the stairs of the Levites and cried out with a loud voice to the LORD their God” (Neh. 9:4). In verses 13 and 14 they led the people in the praise of God and said, “You came down also on Mount Sinai, And spoke with them from heaven, And gave them just ordinances and true laws, Good statutes and commandments. You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, And commanded them precepts, statutes and laws, By the hand of Moses Your servant.” Question: When did God “give” the ordinances and true laws? Answer: On Mount Sinai. What was given on Mount Sinai? Answer: The Law of Moses. Question: When did God “make known to” the Jews His “holy Sabbath?” Answer: On Mount Sinai -- at the giving of the law.

The Sabbath Day law was given on Mount Sinai only to the Jewish nation. It was made known then. If it was made known then, it was not known until then. How can someone make something known that is already known? Is it not a bit silly to affirm that the Sabbath was known from the dawn of creation in the face of this very clear passage? The Sabbath was made known by Moses at Mount Sinai when the law of Moses was given and not before. This is why true Christians can never return to any part of the Mosaic Law and please God.

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