Why don’t Christians observe the original Sabbath?

Thanks for asking!
This issue has been a sticking point between sabbatarians and the rest of the Body of Christ for some time…but it shouldn’t be. The Bible is very clear on this subject. Let’s forget for a moment about Constantine, or that the Sabbath was a sign between God and the Israelites of their covenant (and so completely out of date) and focus on God’s purpose for the Sabbath.
Let’s start in Genesis…
The word “sabbath” means “rest”. This isn’t the kind of rest we need after a good workout. The word literally means ‘the ending of activity’. God didn’t rest on the seventh day because He was tired. God had finished creating the world, and so He stopped. He didn’t pick up where He left off when the weekend was over…He was done.
Let’s move to Exodus…
God’s covenant with the children of Israel included a lot of religious activity, including the creation of a tabernacle, sacrifices of animals, and so on. This activity only stopped on the Sabbath. Now, remember: the Sabbath isn’t about being tired…it’s about being finished with your work. The priests couldn’t stop working the way that God did in Genesis. They took a day off and went right back to it the next day. Why? Because the work wasn’t finished. They did the same things day after day, year after year. They were even forbidden to have chairs in the tabernacle because sitting down would suggest that their work was done!
Let’s keep going to the New Testament…
The Exodus Sabbath was a symbol of God’s rest in Genesis. It told the children of Israel that they would someday be able to stop working…to stop sacrificing for their own sins. When Jesus died and rose again, that day had finally come. In Hebrews 10:11-12 we see the comparison between the Jewish priests and Jesus:
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
Jesus finished His work and rested, just as we see God doing in Genesis.
What about us?
How then should we view the Sabbath? God rested when His work was done, and Jesus rested when His work was done. The ancient Jews never enjoyed that rest, but it’s available to us today, as Hebrews 4:9-10 tell us:
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.
Let’s look at Colossians 2:16-17, which should erase any doubt about the nature of the Sabbath:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
From all of these verses we can see that the Sabbath clearly isn’t a day of the week. It’s neither Saturday nor Sunday! We enter into the Sabbath rest when we stop working, and that only happens when we accept that Jesus’ sacrifice was for each of us. His work is done, and He invites us to join Him.

19 Responses

  1. God rested on the 7th day and made it holy… He made THAT day holy…
    It doesn’t say he temporary made that day holy, but that day (Also translated as “sanctified it”).

    So if this is true, why would it suddenly not be holy now? Jesus was holy, he was always holy, no change. Same concept here.

    Jesus rested on the Sabbath (Saturday) when he died. He died on Friday, rested through Saturday, even his disciples that were preparing his body for burial quit preparing him all Saturday and rested on the Sabbath (not working). Jesus rested on Saturday and rose Sunday…

    The list goes on and on…

  2. Thanks for your question, Joe!

    Look in Exodus 20:8-11, to which you refer:

    Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God…For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

    To make something holy, as you point out, is to “sanctify” it. That literally means ‘to set it apart’. The implication, whether it’s a person or a tool or money, is that it’s set apart for a specific purpose. God did set apart the seventh day, of course.

    The command to remember the Sabbath day is directly tied to God’s rest in Genesis, right? God ‘set apart’ that day…but for what purpose? If you look in Colossians 2:16-17, you’ll see the nature of the sabbath:

    …do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

    See? The sabbath day was a SHADOW of things to come. God’s people no longer perform animal sacrifices because Jesus fulfilled them. They were done to point us to Him. The sabbath is exactly the same, Joe. The observance of sabbath in Judaism pointed to Jesus, who is the true and real sabbath.

    Is Jesus holy? Of course. Do we remember (observe) the sabbath? Christians should, of course…not a day, but what the day meant: Jesus finished our spiritual work for us, and we can rest in Him.

  3. Thank you for your response. I was taught that the bible reference you quoted talked about Jewish Sabbaths (holidays and Old Testament practices), not Saturday Sabbath.

    If we no longer need to keep the Sabbath, do we no longer need to keep any of the other 9 (of the 10) commandments either? “jesus came to fulfil the law not abolish it.”

  4. You’re making a big mistake ! You have to study the OT again ! Colossians 2:16 is talking about the ritual sabbaths not the sabbath holy day ! God has a sign between Him and His people. Jesus said that He is the Lord of Sabbath not from Sunday and I’ve a document from Vatican that proves that they changed it because (they say) that the church has the power to do that. Are you keeping just 9 commandments? Because the 10 commadments are still remaining in our days. See also Exodus 16:16-30
    And don’t say that it is not valid just because it is in the OT ! God is the same yesterday today and tomorrow. And just because it says Old doesn’t say that it is not to do! The bible never mention the sunday as the holy day. And by the way you will keep the sabbath in new earth as Isaiah says in the chapter 66. And the sabbath is a specific day ! God was not tired on the seventh day ! He was giving us the example! And we must do the same. Blessings to you

  5. Rui:

    I’m willing to listen to your argument. Please provide a reason – from Scripture – to believe that Colossians 2:16 is talking about “ritual sabbaths” and not the regular sabbath.

  6. Joe:

    In discussions like this one, it’s easy to use words that cause confusion. I don’t observe the sabbath as they did in the Old Testament. Why? Because Jesus fulfilled the Law! What is the sabbath for Christians? Look at Hebrews 4:9-10…

    There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.

    I don’t observe the sabbath on Saturday, or on Sunday. I observe the sabbath every single day, because I have entered into God’s rest. It’s a spiritual rest, just as the priests performed spiritual work in the Temple. I don’t have to perform religious ceremonies over and over, doing never-ending spiritual work to please God. Jesus has completed the work, and our rest is in His finished work.

    It’s sometimes difficult to say these things clearly. I don’t fail to observe the sabbath. I observe it all the time! I rest in Christ all day, every day…that is the true sabbath.

  7. Sure I can do that,
    The bible mention two kinds of sabbaths : Sabbath seventh day the comandment and the anual sabbaths. The anual sabbaths they are connected with the history of Israel. Col 2:16,17 says quoting from KJV : 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}: {in meat…: or, for eating and drinking} {respect: or, part}Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body {is} of Christ. Also Hebrews 10:1 connects the law of shadow with the animal sacrifice. Paul quoted Ez.45:17 in the same way as used in Col.2:16,17 e it is connecting to the cerimonial system Lev.23;3 presents the sabbath seventh day and Lev. 23:5-32 the cerimonial sabbaths. God bless you

  8. Rui:

    Let’s look closely at Colossians 2:16-17, okay?

    1. The word “sabbath” is SABBATON. Grammatically, it refers to any kind of sabbath. Because there’s no indication in the text that Paul is talking about only special sabbaths, or “high sabbaths”, you can’t draw the conclusion you’ve drawn from the text itself. Instead, you are inserting your preferred interpretation into the text, which is a mistake.

    2. Your use of Hebrews 10:1 to LIMIT ‘the law of shadow’ to animal sacrifices is simply not supported by the text. Paul explains that the law is insufficient for making us righteous, and then – pay close attention – tells the believers to not stop meeting together, as some had done. Why would they stop meeting together? Quite obviously, they recognized that the weekly sabbath (the reason they had been meeting) was no longer in effect. Paul wanted them to continue to meet regularly, to encourage one another. Had the sabbath still been in effect, Paul would have addressed not meeting together in a different way.

    Were you to speak with a Jew and ask them “what is the law?”, you would undoubtedly be told that it is the law given to Moses, and everything that comes from it. The distinction that you and others make between ‘ceremonial law’ and ‘spiritual law’ doesn’t come from the text, or from any serious study of the text. It’s an idea that’s been overlaid on Scripture, not one drawn from it.

    The New Testament is clear, and adamant about the law: we are no longer under law. Paul wrote about it all the time, encouraging believers to not use their freedom unwisely. Were we not free to ignore the law, we would not have these instructions.

  9. The Sabbath is the 7th day of the week.It was Paul’s custom to keep the Sabbath .Now if the Sabbath was done away with then Paul preaching on the Sabbath was vanity.We are still living in the new testament.Also scipture says lawlessness is sin.So besides Gods commandments what law are you keeping?

  10. Ya’kar:

    The Sabbath is, for the Jews, the 7th day of the week. Paul, being a Jew, grew up observing the Sabbath. This much is obvious.

    What’s less obvious is what you call “Paul preaching on the Sabbath”. Could you point to some specific Bible verses where Paul is preaching on the Sabbath, so we can look at them together? I’ve noted Colossians 2, where Paul tells us that the Sabbath day was a ‘shadow of things to come’, and that ‘the reality is found in Christ’. I’m not sure how he could be more clear, but I’m open to correction. Thanks, in advance, for posting the Bible verses that will help me see your point. You might start your research project with a few of Paul’s verses listed here: Should Christians Follow the Old Testament?.

    You asked, “besides Gods commandments what law are you keeping?”. That’s a good question. I’ve answered it, at least in part, here: Should Christians Live by the 10 Commandments?. Let me know what you think.

    Thanks!

  11. Matthew 5:17-19
    17- Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. (This verse alone proves that Jesus didnt’ destroy any law, or take away any law, when he died on the cross.)

    18- For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (This verse is saying not even one jot, smallest hebrew letter, or one tittle, smallest hebrew word, can pass from the law of God.) God says not even one jot can pass from the law, and your telling me that the sabbath, one of the laws, is no longer necessary and out of date? That’s a very dangerous thing to say since God has said nothing can pass from the law, especially one of the very commandments.

    19- Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

    So before you deny what I’m saying, take these verses into consideration. You can see God is very serious about his law. Anyone who changes it will have to have an answer to God.

  12. KCM:

    I have indeed taken these verses into consideration. Let’s look at it closely.

    Before we do, however, let’s admit something important. The “old covenant” was between God and the children of Israel. Right? This covenant didn’t include, for example, the Egyptians or the Persians or the Greeks. Those of us (like myself) who have no Hebrew heritage have no part in this covenant at all. We never have, and we never will. So Jesus’ words about the Law are only meaningful in the context of the Law, which was part of the covenant that God made with the Jews.

    Moving on. You say that Jesus didn’t destroy, or take away, any law when He died on the cross. You’re EXACTLY RIGHT. He did not. What He did instead is FULFILL the Law. How do we know this? From what Jesus’ earliest followers taught. Here’s a good verse (one of many) that shows us this is true:

    So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. (Galatians 3:24-25)

    How about this one?

    But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:6)

    Seems pretty clear to me. I can show you a bunch more, if you’d like. The plain and simple truth of the New Testament is that Jesus fulfilled the Law…in fact, the Old Testament is all about Jesus. Most of the regulations in the Mosaic Law pointed to Jesus. Where did I learn this? Among other places, in Colossians 2:

    Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)

    I hope that explains things a bit. You’re wise to use ALL of Scripture…I sincerely appreciate you bringing those verses to the conversation. Matthew 5 is as true as Romans 7 or Colossians 2, of course. They don’t contradict each other. In Matthew 5, Jesus is not explaining that the Law would never go away…only that it wouldn’t go away until it was fulfilled. Jesus fulfilled the Law, so we see this:

    Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. (Galatians 3:19)

    Let me know if there’s more I can do for you. Have a great day!

  13. – Yes Paul was a Jew. But he converted didn’t he? Aren’t Christians those who believe that Jesus Christ is their Savior and follow Christ? Is that not what Paul did? Paul was a convert and he still kept the Sabbath.

    -Yes, God made a covenant with the nation of Israel. But today we still keep those commandments. Do you not withhold from murdering, or worshiping other Gods, or stealing, or coveting other people’s things, or keeping statues or images of Jesus and God? If you do, why not keep the other commandment listed among these, which is keeping the Sabbath day? James 2:10

    – Jesus kept the Sabbath day. Except in those instances where he did not he was doing God’s work and healing people. But that is different than not keeping Sabbath all together, and engaging in activities such as watching TV, or cooking, or doing other worldly things.

    – Also, God made the Sabbath holy, and there are biblical examples of how the Sabbath can only be on THE Sabbath day, and not any day we choose. There is a bible passage that tells of how Moses told the people of Israel not to collect more grain than a day’s worth. However, some people disobeyed and collected twice as much so they would not have to return the next day, I believe. Then their food became rotten. But when they were picking their food on Friday, the day before Sabbath, Moses instructed them to pick twice as much so that they would not work on Sabbath. And the food did not rot, because it was for the Sabbath day. Sabbath is not about setting any other day of the week for God. It is doing it how God commanded it. We cannot do things our way, as God has shown with Cain and Abel. Abel brought the proper offering, while Cain chose to bring fruit. The fruit was the best, BUT it was not what God had asked for. God made the Sabbath day holy, and therefore we should keep.

    Another example of how disobeying God’s way of doing things is dangerous: Leviticus 10: 1-2. The sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu died because they presented to the Lord a strange fire that he did not command them to.

    Also, in the book of Revelations, it says that we should pray that we do not have to flee during winter time, or Sabbath day. Why does he keep mentioning it, if we are not commanded to keep it anymore?

    I do not say these things as if to judge. I myself am guilty of not keeping the Sabbath and I have to pray earnestly for forgiveness.

  14. From the text you pointed out in Colossians, I am guessing I can also practice any religious festival pertaining to any religion?

  15. Jessica:

    What a great response! I laughed when I read it. =)

    Context is important. If you can read Paul’s letter to the Colossians and conclude that, you have an amazing imagination. No, that’s not what I’m saying. From the text I pointed out in Colossians, “these” (the religious festivals that Paul refers to) were clearly Jewish religious festivals that pointed to Christ. They – specifically – were a shadow of the things to come. Now that Christ has come, we no longer need to observe the ceremonies that pointed to him. After all, the reality is better than the shadow it casts, right?

    If we’re going to take the Bible seriously, it’s important to actually take is seriously enough to read more than a few words at a time. Let me know if you have any further, or funnier, questions.

  16. ES:

    Yes, Paul was a convert. No, Paul did not keep the Sabbath. Sabbath-keeping involved much, much more than simply going to synagogue on Saturday. It involved a great number of restrictions, guidelines, and instructions. To suggest that Paul kept the Sabbath after becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is to ignore both Acts 15 and much of Paul’s own words…especially those words about the law.

    Yes, God made a covenant with Israel. No, we should not run around breaking the Ten Commandments. Putting the two together and suggesting that the Mosaic Law is binding on Christians is more than a stretch…it’s an error. The Law says that violating the Sabbath was punishable by death. Jesus violated the Sabbath (as outlined in the Mosaic Law) and yet was innocent. Why? Because He knew the REAL PURPOSE of the Sabbath. It was an ancient ceremony that pointed forward in time to His own life, death, and resurrection. As Paul pointed out: why observe the shadow when we have the reality?

    Yes, Jesus kept the Sabbath…but not in the way the Law was written or understood. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Let’s also not pretend that gentiles were EVER part of the covenant that God made with Israel. They were not. So gentiles (non-Jews) never had a Sabbath in the first place.

  17. The Sabbath was and is to rest from physical work so one can focus on become closer to God Spiritually.

  18. Danielle:

    Thanks for visiting GodWords! I appreciate hearing from you.

    Let me encourage you to think a bit more about this subject. You say that the Sabbath is for resting from physical work. That’s a common idea, but it doesn’t match what we read in Scripture. Here are some verses for your consideration:

    And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. Genesis 2:2

    Why did God rest? It certainly wasn’t because he was tired! The Hebrew word SHABATH is translated into English as “rest”, but it’s not the kind of rest we do when we’re out of energy. Think of it more like a musical rest…it more literally means simply “to stop”. God didn’t rest from His labor because He was tired, but because he was DONE.

    Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.'” Exodus 31:12-13

    The Sabbath wasn’t put in place because people need a day off. It was to be a SIGN to the Hebrews to remember God, who provides for us both physically and spiritually.

    God created very specific guidelines about how the Sabbath should be observed, to make sure they got the point.

    Fast-forward around 1500 years, and see what Paul wrote in Colossians 2. Remember that…
    1) this is as true as Genesis 2:2,
    2) Paul was a Pharisee and an expert in the Law, and
    3) Paul is providing information about the nature of the Sabbath:

    Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

    See it? The Sabbath is a shadow of things to come. It’s not the reality, but it points to the reality. The reality that the Sabbath points to is REST…not to physically recharge, but to rest like God rested. Before Jesus, spiritual work was required to be in good standing with God. There were all kinds of sacrifices and observances, and they were only in place temporarily. Now that Jesus has come, we find our SHABATH – rest from our spiritual labors – in Him.

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