Within the body of Christ are many differing doctrines and practices that separate and divide. One of these is the practice of worshipping on Saturday. Many of those who keep the Sabbath as their day of worship go so far as to tell the rest of us that we are in danger of losing our salvation if we do not also “keep the Sabbath.” How do we answer them?
First of all, our own opinions will not satisfy their arguments. We must limit our comments to Scripture. Basically, the Bible teaches us quite clearly that Sabbath observance was a part of the legal requirements of the Law. It also teaches us that failure in one point of the law was as good as failure in all points. This leaves us in a tough place since no human that has ever lived ever kept all of the law except Jesus Christ.
Scripture teaches us that Jesus came to fulfill the law, thus freeing us from its requirements. (Matthew 5:17-18)
Keeping the Sabbath was a sign between God and Israel. (Exodus 31:16-17) In Romans 10:16 and Romans 11:11 we see that the
Church is not Israel and Israel is not the Church.
Finally, all of the Epistles of the Apostle Paul make clear that our righteousness is accomplished through our union with Jesus Christ and is based solely on grace towards us: not on our performance. (Titus 3:5)
God’s Sabbath Rest
The controversy over the Sabbath has divided Christians for centuries. Some believe that followers of Jesus Christ are still obligated to keep the Sabbath and others believe that Jesus fulfilled all of the law and, therefore, that obligation is no longer valid. It behooves us to look honestly at this schism in the body of Christ and do our best to understand the purpose of the Sabbath and its place in the church today.
The Hebrew word shabath appears first in Genesis 2:3-4 and means to repose, desist from exertion, leave, put away, (make to) rest. God has finished His grand and glorious creation, culminating with a man and woman who, together, were in His likeness. “And on the seventh day God ended His work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it He had rested from all His work which god created and made.” Obviously, the Lord did not need to rest physically since He never sleeps nor slumbers. God sanctified and blessed the seventh day long before Moses came on the scene and received the commandments engraved on stone by the finger of God. Keeping the Sabbath was in place from the very beginning of creation. It was in place before the seduction and sin of the first pair.
In the Old Testament from Exodus, chapter 16, to Amos, chapter 8, we find one hundred and ten references to keeping the Sabbath. In the New Testament we find sixty references to the Sabbath. It is obvious that the Sabbath had a purpose and meaning beyond physical rest. When we look at the Ten Commandments, we see the Sabbath set apart from the other nine. The first three commandments deal with our relationship with God and the last four commandments deal with our relationship with each other.
What is the fourth commandment really picturing for us?
The words used in scripture to describe the Sabbath are “hallowed, blessed, and sanctified.” Hallowed means holy, pure…clean. When God blessed the Sabbath day, all the goodness of God was resting upon it. He sanctified the Sabbath, setting it apart from all else.
Let’s bring some of this background into focus. We know that the central theme of all scripture is Jesus Christ. Two obvious types or pictures of Jesus in the Old Testament occur when Moses directed the children of Israel to slay a lamb, saving the first born from death in Egypt; also the serpent of gold that Moses lifted up on a pole, so that everyone that looked upon it would be saved. Knowing the obvious use of types and shadows that represent Jesus Christ in the scriptures may help our understanding when we take a close look at the importance God place on “keeping the Sabbath.”
We read in Colossians 2:13-23 that all the ordinances that were too hard and too heavy to bear were nailed to the cross in the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are admonished to turn a deaf ear, so to speak, to anyone who criticizes us for not observing Jewish holidays, or feasts or new moon ceremonies or the Sabbath. The Apostle Paul goes on to say that these things are just shadows of the real thing, which is Christ Himself. Yes, even the Sabbath rest is but a shadow and type of the real rest that we have in Jesus Christ. Before the first pair ever sinned, that Sabbath rest was already in place, seeing that “Christ was crucified from the foundation
of the world.” He is our Sabbath rest. This is further borne our by the writer of Hebrews in chapter 4:1-11.
The writer is very clear when he explains in verse 10 “For he that is entered into his (Christ’s) rest, he also has ceased from his own works, just as God did from His.” KJV
In the beginning, God gave us a picture of the rest we have in Jesus Christ; a rest that comes through faith alone. The observance of the Jewish Sabbath was that picture; showing us that we have to cease from our own works just as God did from His.
God’s revelation to the Apostle Paul made clear utter inability to save ourselves. It made clear that salvation comes through our identification with Christ in his death and resurrection. Through the awesome power of almighty God, He placed us in Christ…and in Christ we died…and in Christ we were raised to newness of life. Therefore, the ordinances and commandments that were intended to be just a school master to point us to Christ, no longer have a place in our lives. A dead man cannot respond to the law. However, the Spirit of Christ has given us new life and now rules in our mortal bodies. The Apostle Paul summed it up quite well when he said, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I…but Christ lives in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Everyday is the Sabbath for those who have given their lives to Jesus Christ. We rest in Him and the salvation He died to provide for us. We have ceased from our own works and no longer walk in a shadow. We have the real thing!