Should Christians Observe the Sabbath

Introduction

Are Christians commanded to observe the Sabbath Day as were the Hebrews?  Which day is the Sabbath?  Some groups believe that Christians are obligated to obey the true Sabbath, which is Saturday, and some claim that the Sabbath was changed to Sunday by Constantine, and there are still others who believe that Christians are not commanded to observe the Sabbath Day at all.

In this study, we will analyze the Scriptures and determine the truth about the observance of the Sabbath Day for Christians. Should we or should we not observe the Sabbath and if so, on what day of the week?

Lesson

Exodus 20:10–11 (NKJV) — [10] but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. [11] For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

The observance of the Sabbath was commanded by God as part of the ten commandments to the Israelites.  We further see that the Sabbath observance was for the Israelites and their generations to come.  See Exodus 31:12-17.

Exodus 31:16 (NKJV) — [16] Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.

Moses gave the reason for the Sabbath observance to the Israelite people.

Deuteronomy 5:15 (NKJV) — [15] And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

So, Israelites were commanded to observe the seventh day of the week (Sabbath) to memorialize their deliverance from Egypt. It was a serious law and breaking it meant death (Exodus 31:15, Numbers 15:32-35).

The New Testament, however, does not reveal that Christians are to observe the Sabbath for any reason. Consider the Apostle Paul’s writings.

Colossians 2:16–17 (NKJV) — [16] So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, [17] which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

Galatians 4:9–10 (NKJV) — [9] But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? [10] You observe days and months and seasons and years.

Romans 14:5–6 (NKJV) — [5] One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. [6] He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

The New Sabbath?

Many people claim that Roman Emperor Constantine changed the day of worship for Christians from the seventh day of the week, i.e., the Sabbath (Saturday) to the first day of the week (Sunday) in A.D. 321 with the edict of Constantine, which is quoted below.

“On the venerable Day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits: because it often happens that another Day is not so suitable for grain sowing or vine planting: lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost.”

Note that Christians were observing Sunday as the day of worship since the first century A.D., long before Constantine’s edict (See Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2, and 2 Corinthians 9:12).

We note that though Constantine professed to be Christian, he most likely was still a still worshipper.  His edict had little to do with Christian observances or dedications, e.g., observance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but rather because it was the Sun day, i.e., a day for pagans to worship the sun god.  Therefore, the edict of Constantine was not for the benefit of Christians, but rather the establishment of a national pagan day of worshipping the sun god.

Other laws were added to this edict by emperors and Popes of the Roman Catholic Church in succeeding centuries.  In AD 364, the Council of Laodicea of the Roman Catholic Church further solidified the Sunday worship for Christians.

“Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday (Sabbath), but shall work on that Day: but the Lord’s Day, they shall especially honour; and as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ.”

Therefore, Constantine did not establish Sunday as the day of worship or the new Sabbath for Christians since Christians were already meeting and worshiping on Sunday. Constantine merely made Sunday worship a Roman observance.

Conclusion

The Sabbath day observance is still on the sixth day of the week, namely Saturday.  However, that is part of the Old Covenant between Israel and God not between New Testament Christians and God.  Christians are free from the bondage of the law in that Christ delivered us from it and fulfilled it (See Galatians 4, Romans 6:14).

Keeping the Sabbath is not a requirement for Christians whether you believe it is a Saturday or Sunday.  It is up to the individual to observe a Sabbath rest or not (Romans 14:5).  We should not get caught up in the observance of special days and the like.  Our focus should be on Jesus Christ and what he told us to do, namely make disciples of all nations.  Remember also that Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).

I would like to say that though we are not obligated to observe the Sabbath, I think it is a good idea and beneficial for us to rest sometimes.  We all need rest from our regular work so that we would contemplate, hear from God, pray, relax, etc.

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