Observing the Sabbath
To come to a scriptural and intellectually unbiased conclusion on this subject, we must address these five questions:
- What does the Old Testament teach about keeping the Sabbath?
- What did Jesus Christ teach about keeping the Sabbath?
- How did the first century Church address the Sabbath?
- Where did Sunday worship originate?
- What should our attitude be about keeping Sabbath?
1. What does the Old Testament teach about keeping the Sabbath?
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:8-11
It is obvious that our Lord God took the Sabbath very serious. So important was it's observation that the violation thereof meant certain death.
Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Exodus 31:14
And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. Num 15:32,35
2. What did Jesus Christ teach about keeping the Sabbath?
And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. Mark 1:21
Notice that Jesus Himself kept the Sabbath. Also, He never condemned anyone for the act of keeping the Sabbath. And, He never announced the cessation of the Sabbath.
And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Mark 6:2
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. Luke 4:16
How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Matt 12:12
Again, Jesus doesn't condemn the Sabbath. Rather, He reinforces it by defining it's purpose: Sabbath was created to be a blessing to man; it;s a day of doing good and enjoying God's blessings.
And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Mark 2:27
3. How did the first century Church address the Sabbath?
But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. Acts 13:14
Where was St. Paul on the Sabbath? Whether in the synagog or by the river, He was "at church".
And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. Acts 13:44
And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, Acts 17:2
And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. Acts 16:13
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Col 2:16
This is the favorite verse of those who wish to justify their tradition of Sunday worship. However, instead of negating the Sabbath, Paul was condemning those who try to establish their righteousness through the religious observance of the Sabbath.
4. Where did Sunday worship originate?
We sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days. On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. Acts 20:6-7
These are the only verses in the New Testament which teach Sunday worship...or do they? Let's take a look at the first part of Acts 20:7 "On the first day of the week". The Greek text reads: kata mian sabbatou, which means literally "upon first of week". The phrase can be correctly translated as either upon the first of the week or upon the first Sabbath. But, that is not the point. The point is that in this passage of scripture, Paul is leaving the next day, so Saturday or Sunday, this was the last opportunity he would have to fellowship with his brothers and sisters at Troas.
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; I Cor 16:1-3
Now, let's look at the first part of I Cor 16:2 "On the first day of every week". The Greek text reads: En de ta mia ton sabbaton, which means literally "And on the first of the weeks (or Sabbaths)". This phrase can be correctly translated only as On the first Sabbath.
Let us read from several Roman Catholic publications for further insight...
Prove to me from the Bible alone that I am bound to keep Sunday holy. There is no such law in the Bible. It is a law of the holy Catholic Church alone. The Bible says 'Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.' The Catholic Church says, No. By my divine power I abolish the Sabbath day and command you to keep holy the first day of the week. And lo! The entire civilized world bows down in reverent obedience to the command of the Holy Catholic Church. - Thomas Enright, CSSR, President, Redemptorist College (Roman Catholic), Kansas City, MO., February 18, 1884.
From the preceeding passages, we see that Sunday worship is purely the invention of the Roman Catholic church, perpitrated in conscious rebellion against the express commands of Scripture.
The observance of Sunday by the Protestants in an homage they pay, in spite of themselves, to the authority of the (Catholic) church. - Monsignor Louis Segur, Plain Talk About the Protestantism of Today (1868), p. 213.
If Protestants would follow the Bible, they should worship God on the Sabbath Day (Saturday). In keeping the Sunday thay are following a law of the Catholic church. - Albert Smith, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, replying for the Cardinal in a letter of February 10, 1920.
The State, in passing laws for the due sanctification of Sunday, is unwittingly acknowledging the authority of the Catholic Church, and carrying out more or less faithfully its prescriptions. The Sunday, as a day of the week set apart for the obligatory public worship of Almighty God, to be sanctified by a suspension of all serville labor, trade, and worldly avocations and by exercises of devotion, is purely a creation of the Catholic Church. - The American Catholic Quarterly Review, January 1883, pp. 152, 139.
Protestants... accept Sunday rather than Saturday as the day for public worship after the Catholic Church made the change... But the Protestant mind does not seem to realize that... in observing the Sunday, they are accepting the authority of the spokeman for the church, the Pope. - Our Sunday Visitor, February 5, 1950.
It is well to remind the Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, and all other Christians, that the Bible does not support them anywhere in their observance of Sunday. Sunday is an institution of the Roman Catholic Church, and those who observe the day observe a commandment of the Catholic Church. - Priest Brady, in an address, reported in the Elizabeth, N.J. "News," March 18, 1903.
Of course the Catholic Church claims that the change (from Saturday to Sunday) was her act. And the act is a mark of her ecclesiastical power and authority in religious matters. - C.F. Thomas, Chancellor of Cardinal Gibbons.
Sunday is our mark of authority... The church is above the Bible, and this transference of Sabbath observance is proof of that fact. - Catholic Record, September 1, 1923 (Ontario).
5. What should our attitude be about keeping Sabbath?
If ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15
Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 1 Cor 4:2
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32
How to keep the Sabbath
A Practical Application
- Our fellowship meets every Friday evening at 7:30. (Yes, we are aware that Sabbath doesn't officially begin until sundown.)
We have a time of praise and worship, of sharing testimonies and of instruction from God's Word.
This is followed by a pot-luck dinner during which we celebrate the Lord's Supper.
- Our activities on Saturday are governed by two scriptural principles: Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27) and to do no labor (Exodus 20:9).
Saturdays are spent enjoying Gods' blessings, visiting, window shopping, pursueing our hobbies, etc.
"To do no labor" means that we don't do on the Sabbath the things we do to make our living during the week. However, emergencies do arise and Jesus told those who were farmers that it was acceptable to rescue an ox or an ass that had fallen into a pit on the Sabbath (Luke 14:5).
- Our Sundays are usually spent visiting other churches and fellowships, ministering among our Christian brethren whenever God gives the opportunity.
- We share our belief in observing the Sabbath but, we depend on the Holy Spirit to convict the hearts of our brothers and sisters concerning it's application.
There are too many churches that embrace particular passages of scripure and use them as points of contention. Instead of building walls of division, the Body of Christ should be uniting in power in these last days.