Response to “Should Christians keep the Sabbath or Sunday?”

A friend shared this with me: Should Christians keep the Sabbath or Sunday? [13 min 19 sec].

Before I respond, I want to make sure I outline his basic premises.

He states:

  • God kept a Saturday-Sabbath in the first week of creation (Gen. 2:3).
  • God then told Israelites to “remember the Sabbath” in honor of God’s ordained Saturday-Sabbath (Exod. 16:29; 20:8-11; Lev. 23:3), which God took very seriously (Exod. 31:14-15).
  • Jesus said He didn’t come to break the Old Testament law, but on the contrary He came to fulfill it, and tells others to not break the least of the commands (Matt. 5:17-19)
  • Even Gentiles are to join the Jews in honoring the Saturday-Sabbath (Eph. 2:11-13, 19 and Isaiah 56:6-7).
  • THUS…any true Jesus follower would honor the Saturday-Sabbath (as outlined in the Old Testament)

My response:

Quite frankly, I’m sad and disappointed that this speaker is making such categorical statements when he does not seem to seriously engage the serious arguments that people (like me) would put forth for why Christians are not judged based on their observance of a Saturday (or even Sunday) Sabbath.

For instance, he states, “There’s not even a single verse in the Bible that tells us that Jesus replaced the Sabbath or became the Sabbath,” (see 8 min, 59 sec).

Yet we read things like, “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink…or a SABBATH DAY. These are a SHADOW…the reality, however, is FOUND IN CHRIST.” (Col. 2:16-17).

The point of Colossians 2 is that Jesus forgave our sins by His sacrificial death AND “canceled…our legal indebtedness” at the cross. That is, what we owed God based on the Old Testament Law has now been completely fulfilled in Christ. Earlier in Colossians 2 we see people insisting on physical circumcision (as the Law prescribed). But then Paul shows that our faith in Jesus’ death and our baptism into Him is how we fulfill circumcision. By doing this we are spiritually putting to death and cutting off our sinful self (called the flesh). That is the ultimate meaning of circumcision.

Even more, he starts Col. 2:16 by saying, “THEREFORE do not let anyone judge you…” And he goes on to list out all sorts of Old Testament rituals they were formerly judged by: eating and drinking…festivals…SABBATH DAY.

Just as Jesus is our spiritual circumcision, He is also, “the reality,” (v. 17) of all these things. He is our “Passover Lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7), helping us to keep the spiritual “Festival” of Unleavened Bread by our holy lifestyle (1 Cor. 5:8). He is our Firstfruits festival (1 Cor. 15:23). And He is every other festival.

Such things were “shadows,” but Jesus is the fulfillment. In this way, Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17)

And what is our work then? “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29).

In fact, Hebrews 3-4 compares this work of belief/trust in Christ’s finished work as our KEEPING THE SABBATH DAY!

From the beginning of creation, God worked, and then rested. Yet at the end of all his work, Adam and Eve were created. After God worked, they were now to rest. They rested in his finished work.

This rest was alluded to by Moses and Joshua in Israel going to the Promised Land. There, they were going to, “a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant” (Deut. 6:10-11). See the pattern? Israel didn’t work, but was going to live off of God’s labor in bringing them into something they did no work for.

But even after this, in Psalm 95 (which was written hundreds of years later), God still talks about a rest: “Today, if you hear his voice…” he offers you rest.

Hebrews 3-4 ties all of these things together:

  • The Sabbath rest of the creation week
  • The Promised Land rest
  • The rest promised in Psalm 95

And says this startling statement to Christians he is writing to: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” (Heb. 4:9-11).

The resting from our works comes through faith in Jesus alone: “Now we [Christians] who have believed enter that rest,” (Heb. 4:3). And even in the Old Testament: “they were not able to enter [the rest], because of their unbelief,” (Heb. 3:19).

This is startling. Hebrews 3-4 spells out in amazing details how our Sabbath is to believe in Jesus. We rest in His finished work. We have no more works to show our worthiness to God. But if we try to add work to this, then we are breaking the Sabbath.

Doesn’t that give such a richer context and sense of the Sabbath? It shows how sabbath really was a “shadow,” (Col. 2), while Jesus/the gospel is the “reality” or “substance” (Col. 2).

Even further, think of the context of the book of Hebrews.

This was written to Christians who were beginning to go backwards, and think they needed Jesus PLUS works of the Old Testament to satisfy God. So God comes along in Hebrews and shows how Jesus is the ULTIMATE substance of the whole Old Testament. He is better than the angels who gave the Old Testament (Heb. 1-2). He is better than Moses (Heb. 3). He is better than the weekly Sabbath (Heb. 3-4). Etc. So why are you “putzing around” trying to go back into Judaism – “let us move beyond…be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation…” (Heb. 6:1). The whole point is: don’t go back!

If you want to take 1 day (or a period of days) to rest like they did in the Old Testament Sabbath, do so. God writes: “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” (Rom. 14:5).

The problem is that this person in this video defies God’s word here. He is not giving people the freedom in their conscience to choose which is best for them. Instead, he is bringing people back into a “must” of Judaism that Jesus fulfilled (Matt. 5:17). And those who follow Him also fulfill and go beyond by repentance and faith (and being led by the Spirit, see Gal. 4-5, for instance).

Finally, small point:

In the video he says that there is no indication early Christians celebrated on Sunday (instead of Saturday), but that’s not the case. In addition to Acts 20 (which he brought up), we also see 1 Cor. 16:2. And we have evidence (from what I recall) that VERY early on they started celebrating Sunday as “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). Later councils of the church only ratified what was already practiced.

This doesn’t mean it’s the replacement Sabbath! See above 🙂

See also Further Thoughts on the Weekly Sabbath.

3 thoughts on “Response to “Should Christians keep the Sabbath or Sunday?”

  1. Once again you hit the nail on the head. Sabbath enforcers seem to always miss the point of Hebrews 3-4. And just replace circumcision with Sabbath rules. In this sense they are no better than the Judaizers who want to subjugate us under the law.
    This is a very typical human longing to be the “superior” Christian, but it fails in the most basic point of being a believer– faith in the finished work of Jesus. Which you’ve stated very well here.
    I also love the point you made about Christ being the fulfillment of all the law, the embodiment of all the Levitical feasts. Amen and amen!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s