How Should Christians Regard the Sabbath?


Last week we published a post, “Are the Ten Commandments Binding Today?” In response one of our regular readers asked us to write about our position on the 4th commandment.

If you haven’t read last week’s post, click here to read it first.

The 4th commandment simply says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Ex 20:7).

First of all, it’s important to remember the regulations, restrictions as well as the basis of the Sabbath. The text provides some insight.

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. (Ex. 20:9-11)

Observance of the Sabbath has its roots in the Genesis account following creation. “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it” (Gen. 2:2-3)

Thus God instructed Moses that the Sabbath become a day of rest and worship. Even the animals rested. It was also a day for Israel to remember the Lord’s work when he delivered them from Egyptian bondage (Deut 5:15). Specified animal sacrifices were offered to the Lord on the Sabbath (Num. 28:9-10) Furthermore, the Sabbath served as a sign of God’s covenant with Israel (Ex. 31:12-17).

It’s also important to note that violating the Sabbath was a serious matter. The death penalty was inflicted on those who intentionally broke the Sabbath (Ex. 31:14-15). In fact, Israel’s disregard for the Sabbath was one of the reasons they were exiled into Babylonian captivity (Jer 17:21-27).

So, as we have briefly observed, the Sabbath was a uniquely Old Testament command. As we pointed out in our previous post, Paul affirmed that the “law of commandments” was abolished “through the cross” (Eph. 2:14ff). And the “bond written in ordinances” which included feast days, Sabbath worship and other Old covenant commands, was taken out of the way, having been nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14-16).

Dr. D. A. Carson was right when he wrote, “We believe the Old Testament regulations governing Sabbath observances…are no longer in force, but have passed away along with the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood, and all other aspects of Moses’ law that prefigured Christ.”

The post-apostolic patristic writers, including Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, uniformly agreed that Christians worshiped on Sunday, the 1st day of the week, not Saturday, the 7th day of the week. Eusebius (A.D. 324), known as the “father of church history,” stated that Sabbath observance does not “belong to Christians.” On the other hand, he asserted that Christians “celebrate the Lord’s day . . . in commemoration of his resurrection” (26,113).

The first day of the week, Sunday, is a uniquely God-ordained day under the New Covenant

◆Upon the first day of the week our Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead (Mk. 16:2).

◆Upon the first day of the week, when He arose, He appeared to Mary Magdalene (Jn 20:11).

◆Upon the first day of the week He met with His disciples ( Jn 20:19-24).

◆Upon the first day of the week He appeared to doubting Thomas causing Him to believe. (Jn. 20:27-29)

◆Upon the first day of the week the Holy Spirit made a powerful appearance. (Acts 2:1-4)

◆Upon the first day of the week Peter and the apostles preached the gospel for the very first time. (Ac 2:14-39)

◆Upon the first day of the week over 3,000 responded to the saving message of Jesus for the first time and were baptized for the remission of sins. (Ac 2:38-41)

◆Upon the first day of the week the church was born. (Ac 2:41-47)

◆Upon the first day of the week Christians met to take communion—to remember Jesus, celebrate his life, reflect on His death and anticipate His return. (Ac 20:7; 1Cor 11:17-34)
By the way, the expression “Christian Sabbath” is a misnomer. The Bible speaks of no such day. New Testament Christians are not bound to the Old Covenant, including the 10 commandments and Sabbath day restrictions.

Today, God’s sanctified day of worship is Sunday. Let us not selfishly minimize or marginalize it. But weekly worship and honor Jesus on His special day.

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Sunday, Worship

8 responses to “How Should Christians Regard the Sabbath?

  1. William Ray

    Hebrews 4:9 “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;”

  2. Stephen Segrest

    Then Mr. Cathy (who spoke at Florida College several times over the years), is following a “personal preference” and not a Biblical belief?

  3. Stephen Segrest

    Are there any instances in the NT where Gentiles worked for “commercial gain” (e.g., what they did for a living for 6 days) on the Sabbath and Christ said this is acceptable? Thx

    • Ken Weliever

      Stephen I don’t know of any.   Jesus did condemn the traditions of the Pharisees surrounding the Sabbath and their unreasonable prohibitions that were not a part of the law of Moses.

      • Stephen Segrest

        Dear Ken, the argument that I’ve repeatedly heard is: Christ specifically tells us to follow all Commandments, EXCEPT the 4th Commandment (where it is argued that there is silence on this). Thus, working on Sunday for commercial gain (like a Real Estate Agent selling houses on Sunday) is fine. Not trying to be difficult — just trying to understand. Thx, and remember, if I didn’t think you are a great teacher, I wouldn’t be asking questions like this.

      • Stephen, I think part of the confusion with this is in understanding that we are not following 9 of 10 commandments because they are the “10 commandments.” We are following them because they are stated in the New Testament. An example of this would be, before our U.S. Constitution, we were under The Articles of Confederation. We have many laws within our Constitution that were in the Articles, But we don’t follow them because they were first in the Articles, but because they’re in the Constitution. Working or not working on Sunday as nothing to do with the Sabbath restrictions under the Old Covenant. The New Covenant ordains Sunday as our day of worship, but nothing is said about it being a day of rest, although I’m sure many Christians try to refrain from work on Sunday to focus on their worship opportunities.

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