What is Sabbath? Is it vital for us to know about the Sabbath in the Bible?
Many Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in setting aside one holy day a week. This practice is a vital part of their beliefs. But…
Which day is the actual holy day? For most Christians it is observed on Sunday. Jews and a minority of Christians keep Saturday, while Muslims rest and worship on Friday.
Are we all obligated to keep a holy day? Or is it only a man-made tradition?
The varying answers to these questions have given rise to the many factions found within Christianity. Different interpretations have divided a once united church. Many denominations sprouted, each one claiming to have the correct doctrine on the matter.
In this context we will discuss the original doctrine of the Sabbath, as found in the Bible, and answer the many issues that have stirred up differences on the subject.
What is Sabbath?
It is a sacred day set aside for worship and rest. Sabbath in the Bible is the seventh day of the week, starting from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. Its origin traces back to the account in Genesis, when God rested on the seventh day following six days of His creation work.
Jesus, the Son of God, kept the seventh-day Sabbath when He lived on this earth. Thus, the Sabbath is an integral part of Christianity. It is what separates God’s people from unbelievers.
Sabbath in the Bible
How should we observe Sabbath? Can we change the Sabbath day to another?
The concept of “Sabbath rest” is first mentioned in the book of Genesis. God created Sabbath on the seventh day to “rest” from all His work of the previous six days. The Hebrew word for “rest” mentioned in Genesis is “Shabbat” which means “to observe in full reverence”.
It is interesting to note that the Sabbath is always traced back to creation. By keeping this day holy, we acknowledge that God is our creator. The Sabbath reminds us that we were not created as a result of some random events, contrary to the existing scientific theories of unimaginable probability in defiance of God’s creation.
The Bible is crystal clear. It was on the seventh day that God deliberately established the Sabbath. It was not a mere afterthought! He even set an example by resting on the seventh day from all His work.
But we may ask, did a powerful God become tired and therefore need to create a day of rest?
God never gets tired. He never ceases His work or we should all cease to exist.
But God created the Sabbath for mankind—for humanity to enjoy the blessings of the rest day through relationship and spiritual growth. God made it holy and sanctified it so that man can enjoy harmony with Him through worship.
One of the most tragic experiences of God’s people was when they were taken into slavery in Egypt. Even worse, slavery had led them into feelings of complacency to the point that they were willing to die as slaves. Even the corrupt Egyptian pagan practices had infected their once God-centered culture.
God sent Moses as an instrument to deliver His people out of Egyptian bondage. The mighty power of God finally freed the Israelites.
God instructed Moses to tell the people to hallow the Sabbath day and observe it wholeheartedly as a reminder that they were now free from bondage.
In this context, we get a different view of the Sabbath aside from the “creation memorial” concept. Here we view Sabbath as a “memorial of deliverance”.
The Sabbath reminds us that we are also given freedom from the struggles of life. God delivers us from stress, guilt, addiction and a toxic character. This rest day is a golden opportunity to reset and recalibrate our lives and mindset.
Even Jesus Christ healed on this holy day. All the people He cured experienced deliverance on the Sabbath day!
The fantastic thing is, God is both our powerful creator and deliverer. He releases us from the bonds of sin, rescues us from temptation, delivers us from addiction and protects us from Satan’s control. By keeping the Sabbath day holy, we acknowledge the freedom He has given us to worship Him as the one true God.
Also known as the Decalogue, these moral laws are the complete impression of God’s character. By following them we are imitating His nature. Specifically, God describes Sabbath observance in the fourth commandment.
Many Bible scholars regard Sabbath as “standing out” from the ten. It is at the heart of the Decalogue. It wholly lays out the nature of God as Creator and His absolute authority!
It is most noteworthy that God begins the fourth commandment with the word “Remember”. The first time the command to keep Sabbath holy was made known to man through Adam and Eve, and was then passed down through all the generations.
Unfortunately, the principle reason behind the Sabbath became diluted over time. The heavy influence of the neighbouring pagan kingdoms had a significant impact on the behavior of the Israelites. By the time Jesus came to this earth the Jews had replaced the fourth commandment with hundreds of “ultra-legalistic” rules.
Sabbath observance is an essential part of the law of God. One cannot merely choose to keep only part of it. There are ten commands, not nine. Does this mean God is legalistic?
Jesus exemplified how the Sabbath should be observed without breaking the law. Here we can see that even God, who is “above the law”, still obeys it.
This alone should make us question ourselves regarding its observance. If not, then what is our excuse?
Seal of God’s People
The seal of God versus the mark of the beast is one of the hottest controversies in Christianity. Many conspiracy theories refute and rebut each one, in an attempt to prove a point.
The doctrine is even regarded as literal by many people who have become paranoid about microchips and monetary systems. They fear such devices as associating with the “beast”.
Foremost, the seal of God is the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, manifested in a perfect God-like character. It is important to note that it’s not something literally implanted inside us. It is the very nature of God’s character that we live up to through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling.
The way to determine God’s people is through the keeping of the Sabbath. Everyone can be kind, gentle, caring and loving. But, not everyone keeps the Sabbath in accordance with the fourth commandment, or as Jesus kept it when He lived on earth.
It is no coincidence that the fourth commandment regarding the Sabbath is the very seal of God. This commandment proclaims God as the creator and ruler of heaven and earth. Notice that the fundamentals of a seal are all found in the fourth commandment: name, title and jurisdiction/authority.
Now we can see the vital importance of keeping this day holy, how then should we observe the Sabbath?
How to Keep the Sabbath
By Jesus’ example in observing the Sabbath, the hypocrisy of the Pharisees was exposed. The church leaders of the time were blinded by their own “sadistic” approach to the sacred day. The Jews were too concerned with their self-imposed legalistic approach and neglected the essential principles behind it.
Even today, how to keep the Sabbath is a subject of debate among Christian denominations.
So how should the Sabbath be kept?
Observe the Whole Day
Sabbath in the Bible begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday. This observance is not only biblical, but it is the way in which the days were counted according to Jewish scholars and historians alike.
The most clear evidence can be found in the gospel accounts relating to the death of Jesus. This occurred some time between noon and sunset on the preparation day (Friday). The preparation day was the day on which the Jews made ready, prepared, for the following Sabbath day (Saturday). The timeline indicates that the Sabbath began just before sunset on Friday and ended at sunset on Saturday.
Keep it Holy
Moses had an encounter with God at a burning bush. God told him to remove his sandals because the ground was holy. On a similar note, we keep the Sabbath holy when we “take off” the secular things of the past six days and concentrate our thoughts on heavenly things.
When we “rest” on Sabbath, we don’t become idle and lie around all day doing nothing. Sabbath is a time for devotion to God. All matters relating to work, business or schooling are set aside and secular transactions ignored.
In doing so we free ourselves from any possible distractions during the Sabbath hours.
Spend Time in Worship
The Sabbath is an ideal time to meet with fellow believers. Church members sense the anticipation as the Sabbath day approaches. The day becomes more meaningful when the congregation participates in the various worship activities during the church service.
During the day members may take part in evangelistic activities within the community such as distributing religious reading material in the streets or other means of spreading the gospel. Some church services can be extended into the neighbourhood, inviting the public to become involved.
Christ’s Work of Love and Compassion
Christ clarified all the issues about Sabbath observance. He demonstrated this right before the eyes of the “legalist” Jews.
Jesus put love and compassion into observing the Sabbath. This is something the Jews of the day lacked. They were preoccupied with the “dos and don’ts” and the stiff punishments that would be meted out to anyone found breaking the Sabbath day. They were anxious to find fault with Jesus, never missing an opportunity to ensnare Him if they felt He had contravened the restrictions they had placed on the day.
Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, preached the gospel and saved lives all on the Sabbath day! The message is unmistakable. Love and compassion are fundamental tenets of the Sabbath. We shall be at one with Jesus when we are able to demonstrate how the fourth commandment should be kept.
Sabbath is a beautiful time to minister acts of love through visiting those in sorrow. Following the church service we can serve the community through acts of kindness, such as feeding the hungry or providing free health clinics.
The thing is, God did not make a comprehensive list of dos and don’ts for the Sabbath day. That would show Him to be as legalistic as the Jews were.
God laid out the principles of Sabbath keeping and gave us our free will to decide how to honour Him on this day. Our part is to accept God wholeheartedly and allow His love to be lived out through us to others.
The Sabbath day in Christianity
It is quite evident that there are two dominant groups that give much emphasis on the Sabbath day, the Jews and the Christians.
The Jews keep Saturday as the Sabbath while Christians are divided between Saturday and Sunday.
Roman Catholics and most Protestant religions comprise the group of Sunday keepers. One prominent remnant of the Saturday-keeping Christians are the Seventh-day Adventists.
But why are there two versions of the Sabbath day?
During the second century, sun-worshipping pagan Roman emperors and “theologians” held similar doctrines. Their “sun-worship” practices began to influence the Christian bishop of Rome. This included having a day of worship on the day of the “sun” which was adapted into the Catholic church.
Sunday became the official day of worship for the Catholic church when Constantine the Great was “Christianized”. He issued a decree making Sunday, the venerable day of the Sun, an official day of rest from all forms of labour. The decree solidified the power of the bishop of Rome and many pagan practices were incorporated into the church in order to ease the conversion of the heathen and keep the peace.
With the rise of Protestantism, Sunday remained the preferred day of worship. The doctrine of no longer being “under the law” is still followed and the chosen day of rest, and how it should be observed, is of their choosing.
Later, possibly for added justification, Sunday observance was also considered as a celebration of the day of the Lord’s resurrection.
The vast majority of Christians are Sunday worshippers despite there being no biblical basis for this departure from the day God ordained at creation.
The seventh-day Sabbath or Saturday has its reference in the Bible. Historians and scholars in many accounts attest to this.
From the time of the earth’s creation and even to the new heaven and earth to come, the true seventh-day Sabbath will stand as long as God exists.
Even with the rise of different theological theories and concepts, the principle remains. The Bible can defend its own integrity and there are many additional historical documents to support this.
Which Day is the True Sabbath?
The life-saving question now remains: what is the true Sabbath?
The question may seem trivial to some. But for those who desire a deep understanding of the Word of God, the answer matters. It could mean eternal life or death.
The Reformation fathers were coherent on their stand. They all agreed on the actual seventh-day Sabbath in the Bible, contrary to papal authority.
The Catholic church admits the Sabbath day was changed from Saturday to Sunday.
The issue of Sabbath is not only one of rest or worship. It is also one of faith in God and loyalty to Him versus human tradition and intimidation.
God could have rested at any time. Yet He intentionally set aside a specific day of rest for His people to enjoy harmony with Him.
The good news is, God has already provided the answer. Not only that but He exemplified how we should observe the Sabbath. It is for us to follow Him and enjoy its blessings.
The seventh-day Sabbath in the Bible was God’s specified day. He made it holy and sanctified it. The observance of Sabbath is never burdensome if our love for God is the driving force.
The time will come when we have to make a decision. At first glance, it may seem unimportant but the stakes couldn’t be higher. The choice will come down to everlasting life in heaven or permanent death. We cannot be fully confident in our decision if we lack an understanding of the Sabbath as it is in the Bible.
It is crucial to consider; we cannot pledge our loyalty to God with only our lips.
We have to practice keeping the Sabbath day now and follow Christ’s example. A quote about the Sabbath reads, “You are not a true Sabbath keeper if in six days you live outside Christian values.”
Are we sure we are keeping the Sabbath as it was meant in the Bible? Please share your thoughts about this critical matter. Send a message here (link to ‘contact me’).