One of the 10 Commandments of the Bible teaches us that we should keep the Sabbath holy and remember God on this day. This is the fourth commandment. While most Christians don’t really seem to care about the Sabbath, other followers of Jesus are totally obsessed with the Sabbath. But only very few seem to understand what the Sabbath really is about and why God has given us this commandment in the first place. So what is the Sabbath about? And should Christians keep the Sabbath or not? What did Jesus teach us about the Sabbath and what do we find in the Bible?
The majority of Christians believe that the commandments of the Old Testament of the Bible aren’t binding anymore. Therefore, most of them also don’t care to much about the Sabbath, as they think it is not valid anymore. However, the Sabbath remains holy and important because God has commanded it. Nevertheless, the realization of the Sabbath changed with the coming of Jesus, because every one who is born of God is lord over the Sabbath and therefore usually keeps the Sabbath anyway. In the following article I will explain to you the meaning and importance of the Sabbath based on what the Bible teaches.
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For those of you who do not know what the Sabbath is: the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, better known as Saturday. However, most Christian Churches and communities celebrate this day on Sundays, because in 321 A.D. Constantine the Great moved the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday to clearly separate the Roman Church from the Jewish roots of Christianity. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabbath)
Jesus said that the Jewish scribes have falsified God’s Commandments
Surely, many people are aware that most of the scribes of the Jews (Pharisees) were against Jesus and his teachings. They tried to accuse him wherever they could to get him out of the way. Because Jesus has healed people several times on the Sabbath day, they blamed him for not keeping the Sabbath. In the Jewish tradition it was strictly forbidden to heal people on the Sabbath because it was considered as work. Therefore, many of the Jewish scribes believed that Jesus surely couldn’t have been sent from God.
And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him. (Mark 3:1-6)
But these scribes were mistaken. Jesus didn’t violate the Sabbath, but rather the commandments of men. He wanted them to keep the Commandments of God and not their own commandments. For the Jews had made up their own 613 commandments out of the law of God, which contradicted God’s Commandments in several ways. They kept many traditions that were made up by men and not by God.
According to the Bible Jesus taught the people to keep the real law of God and not to follow the traditions and commandments of men. He wanted them to honor God with their hearts and not solely with their lips:
He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. (Mark 7:6-13)
However, Jesus had only invalidated the commandments of men (e.g. that you are not allowed to carry a mat on Sabbath (cf. John 5:10-11)). But he always kept the Commandments of God, including the Sabbath commandment and taught us to do likewise. You can read more about why the law is still binding here: Did Jesus abolish the law?
Whoever follows the Word of God every day also keeps the Sabbath
Whoever is guided by the Spirit of God, follows God’s will every day, also on the Sabbath Day. To keep the Sabbath means to do what the Father does and to live in close communion with Him. This is exactly what Jesus did, for the fullness of God dwelled in him. He repeatedly testified that he does the will of the Father and that he does everything on His behalf. The Bible says:
Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. (John 5:19-20)
I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:30)
But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence. (John 14:31)
Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. (John 14:10)
If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. (John 10:37-38)
But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. (John 5:17)
God had instructed Jesus to heal people on the Sabbath. By obeying God, Jesus kept the Sabbath, because he did exactly what God wanted him to do.
“The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath”
Many Jews even went so far to think it was forbidden to lift a finger on the Sabbath Day. After Jesus had healed a sick man on the Sabbath, he told him to take his mat and leave. When the Pharisees saw that the man was carrying his mat, they told him that this was against the rules:
The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. (John 5:10-11)
By this example we should realize that God is not interested whether we carry a mat on the Sabbath or not. The only thing that God is really interested in is whether we love Him with all of our heart and follow His will.
And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. (Mark 2:25-28)
God has given us the Sabbath for our own sake. Jesus taught us that the Son of Man is Lord over the Sabbath. That means, that everyone who is born of God and follows His will is also Lord over the Sabbath. Jesus is the firstborn among the children of men and he is the example we should follow. God has not given us the Sabbath so that we must bow to this day. We should rather recognize the true meaning of this commandment to get a better relationship with God.
He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. (1 John 2:6)
And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. (Matthew 12:9-13)
God has commanded the Sabbath so that people would remember God at least once a week
God loves his children and therefore He wants to spend as much time as possible with them. Everyone who loves God with all his heart should be desiring the same. But since God knew that most people would not spend every day with Him, He commanded them to keep at least one day for Him. Therefore the Sabbath is only the minimum of that what you can do to honor God. The Bible says about the Sabbath:
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, 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 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. (Exodus 20:8-11)
If someone has truly been born of God, he will automatically want to spend every day with God. Such a person doesn’t have to limit himself to only one day in a week. It is not necessary to perform a certain ritual every Sabbath if you honor God every day anyway. For God’s children it is not possible to violate or even forget the Sabbath, because every day belongs to God. Nevertheless, it is a fact that the Sabbath is a very special and holy day because God has blessed it through His own Word and has commanded us to keep it holy. Therefore, the Sabbath is still valid and should be observed.
The Commandments of the Old Testament are only a reduced version of what a person would do who truly loves God
Jesus taught us that the most important commandments are the commandments of love:
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:35-40)
He said that the whole law depends on these two commandments. This means that all the commandments of God are contained in these two commandments. He who loves God and men with all of his heart keeps God’s commandments anyway. Such a person would even do more than what is written in the commandments. This is so because he who truly loves God will always obey his will and do everything to please Him. And he who loves his neighbor will treat every human being as well as he can. The Bible says:
And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question. (Mark 12:32-34)
The commandments in the Old Testament are only a light version of what a person would do if he really loves God and all people with all of his heart. Back then, God commanded the people only the least, in the hope that their hearts would turn to Him by observing these commandments. Whosoever loves God always does what pleases Him. He who doesn’t love God rather acts according to his own interests.
Conclusion – The Sabbath is still valid and therefore binding
Many Commandments of the Old Testament of the Bible are no longer fulfilled in the same way as before, but still remain valid. The difference is that God only demanded the minimum from the people in the Old Testament. But through Jesus he demands the full measure. There are no offerings because you sacrifice your whole life. There is no priesthood because all of your life is priesthood. There is no temple service, because you have to do your service everywhere and at any time. The Sabbath is still valid. However, we shouldn’t remember God solely on the Sabbath Day. For we encounter God constantly and in every second of our lives. Whoever forgets God on Tuesday has not kept the Sabbath. Being born of God is not a part-time job. You’re a child of God every second of your life.
There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:9-10)
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