Which day of the week is the Sabbath? Isn’t it Saturday or is the Lord’s Day observance on Sunday?
The Sabbath Command
During the giving of the Law, Moses brought down from Mount Sinai the Ten Commandments and one of the Ten Commandments was the command to observe or keep the Sabbath as it was written, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work” (Ex 20:9-10). Elsewhere, God told Moses “The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day” (Ex 16:29-30).
When God again spoke to Moses regarding the Sabbath, He said “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you” (Ex 31:13), therefore the Sabbath was given to Israel and was a sign between God and you (Israel) and “It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever” (Ex 31:17). This was a sign for other nations and people to see that Israel is set apart so that God can sanctify them. Something that is sanctified is “set apart for holy use” and that’s what God intended for Israel to do but they failed miserably.
Is the Sabbath Commanded?
When “some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1) this troubled Paul and Barnabas so they told how many of the Gentiles were saved (Acts 15:2-4) so “The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Acts 15:6-11). James, the leader of the church at Jerusalem concluded that the only things the Gentiles are only required to do is “to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:20). If the Sabbath were commanded of the Gentiles too, then this would have been the time to mention it but James and the other apostles never said one thing about the Gentile’s need to keep the Sabbath. They were only told to “to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.”
The New Testament Church
During the period of the early church it was “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7) which explains why Paul told the Corinthian church that “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come” (1st Cor 16:2). Paul added that “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord” (Rom 14:5-6) and askes, “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (14:10) so “let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Rom 14:13). The point is, if someone keeps the Sabbath on Saturday or on Sunday, don’t judge them over it because “each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom 14:12) as one might esteem Saturday but another Sunday. They will not be judged by you or by me but only by God.
Paul’s conclusion is also mine as he wrote to “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath” because “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col 2:16-17) so “take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1st Cor 8:9). Paul shows us from Scripture that “the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14) not love your neighbor as yourself plus keep the Sabbath.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.