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  • The Sabbath Day - Are We to Observe?

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    After doing a great deal of study into this topic, I found essentially two viewpoints which appear to fit the entirety of scripture. I believe the latter of the two viewpoints is the correct one. However, I will let you also decide, by including sort of a battle of ideas within the confines of this article. It is, indeed, not the simplest topics of study, as some may presume.

    "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

    The 4th of the 10 Commandments, found within Exodus, given by God to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. Does this commandment of God exist today or has it been fulfilled, within the death, burial and ressurection of Jesus Christ? With the early church fathers (100 - 340 AD), you find most stating that the Sabbath was temporary as a law and fullfilled in Christ. Yet, some Christians did observe both the Sabbath and the Lord's Day:

    "Keep the Sabbath and the Lord's Day festival. The first is the memorial of the creation; the latter, of the Resurrection. However, there is only one Sabbath to be observed by you during the whole year - that of our Lord's burial. on that day, men should keep a fast, but not a festival." - Apostolic Constitutions (compiled c. 390, E)

    "There was no need of circumcision before Abraham. nor was there need of the observance of Sabbaths, or of feasts and sacrifices, before Moses. Accordingly, there is no more need of them now." - Justin Martyr (c. 160, E)

    Let us look briefly at the Bible verse on which both of these viewpoints hang:

    "2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 2:15 [And] having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 2:16 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]: 2:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [is] of Christ. " - Colossians 2:14-17

    "4:8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. 4:9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? 4:10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. 4:11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. " - Galatians 4:8-11

    In Colossians 2:14-17 above, we see the pivot on which either viewpoint can be shown to be in error. The single word in which it all hinges, is "sabbath [days]"

    I cited also Galatians 4:8-11 , because many use this verse to declare that the Sabbath is gone, as it says that "observing days" is not of Christ and the Sabbath happens every seven days. However, I am not going to include this scripture in this argument, because in verse 8, we see Apostle Paul mentioning something about serving false gods. And false gods has nothing to do with the Sabbath, so this passage could actually be talking about other observances in other religions.

    What are the two viewpoints?

    1. The Sabbath is still a commandment for today and in effect -
      Essentially, in the verse above, when it says "sabbaths" it is refering to the ceremonial sabbaths (yearly, etc) and is not refering to the weekly sabbath (which would be on Friday sundown to Saturday sundown). And that the commandment was never done away with in the entirety of scripture, therefore it is still in effect and all Christians should obey. Further, Bishops at the Council of Laodicea said not to "Judaize" on Saturday, but rather rest on the Lord's Day in 363 AD. Yet, it appears there was a partially anti-semitic atmosphere, as even the Bishop of Rome, Sylvester I (314-337 A.D.) stated: "If every Sunday is to be observed joyfully by the Christians on account of the resurrection, then every Sabbath on account of the burial is to be execration [loathing or cursing] of the Jews." --quoted by S. R. E. Humbert, Adversus Graecorum calumnias 6, in Patrologie Cursus Completus, Series Latina, ed. J.P. Migne, 1844, p. 143. God's inspired scripture within the Primary Canon has preeminence over the Bishop of Rome or anyone else for that matter. Meaning, no man can change God's Law or Word to fit their desires or church teaching. Here, it appears Sylvester almost loathed the Sabbath, yet the Apostle Paul chose to so observe the Sabbath.

    2. The Sabbath was fulfilled in Christ as a command, but is still an institution -
      In this viewpoint, which I sort of developed based on a hybrid of the common "Christ fulfilled viewpoint" along with some alterations to make it more sound. First, the term "sabbath [days]" above refers to all sabbaths, so there is no penalty if you do not observe. Second, when God created the 10 Commandments, the 10th of the 10 Commands did not have a penalty attributed to it, making it more "God's Precept" than "God's Command" as understood today. In other words, the 10th Commandment (Thou shalt not covet) has no penalty anywhere in scripture, therefore it does not function the same as the other nine commandments. Considering this factor, could it be possible for Christ to fulfill a command and turn it into a Precept? So, when Christ fulfilled the Sabbath Command (the 4th Command) it turned it from a Command with a penalty to a Command without a penalty or "God's Precept". As it would default back to Genesis, where God "instituted" the principle of laboring six days and resting on the seventh. Which would allow a person to utilize this precept today, yet not be penalized for violating it. In other words, it is a form of wisdom to rest on the Sabbath day. You can violate, but there could be consequences (such as you being tired from not resting, etc). So, the ideal would be to follow the early Christian model of meeting both on the Sabbath (Saturday) and on the Lord's Day (Sunday), but it is optional, not a command (same also with meeting on Sunday, yet do not forsake the gathering of the saints).

    VIEWPOINT ONE: THE SABBATH IS STILL A COMMANDMENT FOR TODAY AND IN EFFECT

    Believe it or not, you can take the entirety of scripture (save maybe? Colossians 2:14-17) and make a very solid biblical argument for this viewpoint. With just this fact alone, it would seem unwise to say some Christian groups are cults, just because they practice and believe this viewpoint (such as the Seventh Day Adventists, Seventh Day Baptists or Church of God). Now, I have not studied these deonominations, so, I can not speak for or against them. However, I can tell you, it is unwise to state that they are cults merely because they believe the Sabbath day command is still in effect.

    "5:1 And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. 5:2 And Pharaoh said, Who [is] the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go. 5:3 And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the LORD our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword. 5:4 And the king of Egypt said unto them, Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works? get you unto your burdens. 5:5 And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now [are] many, and ye make them rest from their burdens. " - Exodus 5:1-5

    "5:15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and [that] the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. " - Deuteronomy 5:15

    It is clear, that God utilized this commandment in Egypt as a component in Israel's deliverance. Further, it is made clear in Deuteronomy 5:15, that it was indeed a command.

    "31:12 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 31:13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it [is] a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that [ye] may know that I [am] the LORD that doth sanctify you. 31:14 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. 31:15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh [is] the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth [any] work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 31:16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, [for] a perpetual covenant. 31:17 It [is] a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. 31:18 And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. " - Exodus 31:12-18

    Here we can see, it was established as a sin within Israel to violate the Sabbath day command from God, as violation came with penalty of death, and we know, that all sin requires blood for payment, whether it is your life or the life of a substitute.

    "2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. " - Genesis 2:1-3

    As we can see above, this principle was established before the fall of man (Gen. 3). So, it is indeed an everlasting principle, and perhaps an everlasting commandment.

    Jesus even taught that the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). So, we can see, Jesus is also discussing the Sabbath and never appears to change it via sermon or instruction. So, we can see, Jesus never counteracted the command and the only verse (Colossians 2:14-17) that appears to be saying that it was done away with uses the plural "sabbaths", which is a potential illusion to the "Yearly Sabbath" rather than the "Weekly Sabbath". This is the argument utilized by those who believe that the Sabbath is still a commandment for today.

    The fact is, if you look at Christians in Acts (13:14; 20:7 ; 13:42-44; ; 2:46 ; 18:4; ), they observe the Sabbath and also Sunday (Lord's Day). They observe both, not one or the other.

    Consider also, in Acts, the seventh day of the week is still the Sabbath Day. Which shows some in the Catholic church (and all those who believe the same) to be in error. Sunday is the "Lord's Day" or "Ressurection Sunday" not the Sabbath. Further, Gentiles and Jews called the seventh day of the week the Sabbath (Acts 13:42-44). There was no dispute on this topic during the 30 years after Christ left the Earth. It was only after 300+ years of time, did a question arise regarding which day of the week it was. Just click on a few of the verses in the previous paragraph and see for yourself.

    Further, there is historical documentation that backs up the claim that early Christians viewed the Sabbath as a commandment or precept which was observed on Saturday (see Sabbath History). This page I just cited paints early history as predominantly Saturday Sabbath with the Catholic church in 4th Century make commands against the observance of Saturday Sabbath and changing the day to Sunday.

    For More Information on This Viewpoint, See the Below Articles:

    1. Sabbath Facts
    2. Sabbath History
    3. Sabbath Objections
    4. Uncommon Sabbath Objections



    VIEWPOINT TWO: THE SABBATH WAS FULFILLED IN CHRIST AS A COMMAND, BUT IS STILL A INSTITUTION

    "2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 2:15 [And] having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 2:16 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]: 2:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [is] of Christ. " - Colossians 2:14-17

    With this viewpoint, the idea is Jesus Christ fulfilled the "Law" regarding the Sabbath when dying on the Cross. However, would that mean that the Sabbath is no longer? No. It would just mean it is not a commmandment anymore, but more so a precept (not with a penalty if you do not follow). As the institution was first set forth in Genesis 2:1-3.

    The question is basically, what does the term "sabbath [days]" mean? Does it mean "yearly sabbaths" or "weekly sabbaths" or "all sabbaths"?

    Also, look at 1 Chronicles 23:31 -

    "And to offer all burnt sacrifices unto the LORD in the sabbaths, in the new moons, and on the set feasts, by number, according to the order commanded unto them, continually before the LORD" - 1 Chronicles 23:31

    So, what does sabbath mean in these two passages? Obviously, they are connected, based on how they are both written.

    Lets look at this "sabbaths" in both 1 Chronicles 23:31 and "sabbath [days]" in Colossians 2:14-17, respectively:

    Word: ZAY

    Pronounce: shab-bawth'

    Strong: H7676

    Orig: intensive from 7673; intermission, i.e (specifically) the Sabbath:--(+ every) sabbath. H7673

    Use: TWOT-2323b Noun

    Grk Strong: G372 G1442 G4315 G4521

      1) Sabbath
      1a) sabbath
      1b) day of atonement
      1c) sabbath year
      1d) week
      1e) produce (in sabbath year)

    Word: sabbaton

    Pronounce: sab'-bat-on

    Strongs Number: G4521

    Orig: of Hebrew origin H7676 ; the Sabbath (i.e. Shabbath), or day of weekly repose from secular avocations (also the observance or institution itself); by extension, a se'nnight, i.e. the interval between two Sabbaths; likewise the plural in all the above applications:--sabbath (day), week. H7676

    Use: TDNT-7:1,989 Noun Neuter

    Heb Strong: H7676 H7677

      1) the seventh day of each week which was a sacred festival on which the Israelites were required to abstain from all work
      1a) the institution of the sabbath, the law for keeping holy every seventh day of the week
      1b) a single sabbath, sabbath day
      2) seven days, a week

    Seeing it means "Sabbath" in general, it appears to refer to weekly and yearly sabbaths, which would indicate, that the Commandment form of the Sabbath was fulfilled in the death, burial and ressurrection of Jesus Christ. However, the original institution of the Sabbath, would still be in effect, and can be utilized for everyone's benefit. As, Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." - Mark 2:27

    "2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. " - Colossians 2:14-17

    Further, most of the earliest of church fathers agreed with this idea of it being no longer a commandment and being fulfilled in Christ, being nailed to the cross. Here are just a few quotes:

    "I will make a beginning of the eighth day, that is, a beginning of another world. for that reason, also, we keep the eighth day (first day of week) with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead" - Barnabas (c. 70-130, E - Quoted in link)

    "Is there any other matter, my [Jewish] friends, in which we Christians are blamed, than this: that we do not live after the Law ... and do not observe Sabbaths, as you do?" - Justin Martyr (c. 160, E - Quoted in link)

    "The Sabbaths taught that we should continue day by day in God's service, ... abstaining from all avarice and not acquiring or possessing treasures upon earth ... However, man was not justified by these things. Rather, they were given as a sign to the people. This fact is evident, for Abraham himself - without circumcision and without observance of Sabbaths - "believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness." - Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W - Quoted in link)

    "Just as the abolition of fleshly circumcision and of the old Law is demonstrated as having been consummated at its specific times, so also the observance of the Sabbath is demonstrated to have been temporary." - Tertullian (c. 197, W)

    So what happens to the 4th of the Ten Commandments? Does it just disappear? No. In actuality, it takes on a similar form to the 10th Commandment, in that it is a Precept without a penalty. Meaning, God would desire you to rest on the Sabbath, but if you do not, you have not sinned. Just as is the case with "coveting" in the 10th Commandment. It is not a sin to lust, but rather a temptation that can easily lead to a sin. So it is wise not to covet other people's property, house, wife, etc. As once the desire has "conceived" you have sinned in your heart (and thereafter in deed). So, it is wise to rest on the Sabbath, so as to regain strength, seek God, cease from worldly duties, etc. Further, it would be God's desire for you to rest atleast one day of the week (on the day he designated as an institution). But, it is not a matter of duty, but rather for your benefit. Could this be what Jesus was illuding to in Mark 2:27 ?

    For Further Information on the Sabbath Changing and Sunday Worship, See the Below Article:

    1. Sabbath Changed - (Some good arguments, save the silly Sunday Sabbath designation)

    Which viewpoint is correct? For me, I believe the second one is correct, albeit, the first one is pretty solid as well. I will leave it up to you to decide and seek God's face for the answer.



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