This past Sunday we were just talking about Chick-fil-A’s founder, S. Truett Cathy before his passing away on Monday. We were still discussing the case to keep the Sabbath (See past post: Feast One – Sabbath) and of course, it led us to think of him. His bold, nationally-known practice to keep the Sabbath should and has been an inspiration for Christianity, especially within the workplace. Thankfully, we are still allowed to practice this religious freedom of Sabbath-keeping.
Why is it that some Christians do not believe they have to keep the Sabbath?
Myth #1: Jesus broke the Sabbath, so we no longer have to observe the Sabbath.
Scripture Says: “Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” Others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them.” John 9:16
It was actually the Pharisees that claimed Jesus broke the Sabbath. To make such a claim is to mar Jesus as a sinner, which He certainly was not! He is perfectly blameless. In fact, He kept His Heavenly Father’s command fulfilling it through active demonstrations of what the Sabbath should look like. He only broke what the Pharisees declared restricted Sabbath practices.
Myth #2: The Sabbath is an old testament law that Gentiles are not expected to observe.
Scripture Says: “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” Acts 15:19-20
Some reference this verse to excuse Gentiles from having to observe the Sabbath because they claim if it were really that important, it would have been included in this text. That is poor rational. Many of God’s commands were excluded from this letter to the Gentiles. How about do not murder, do not steal, do not lie? Those are also missing commands that surely are not irrelevant or permissible for a Gentile Christian. This passage was dealing with Jewish leaders who were afraid the pagan Gentiles would bring their pagan practices into their church and degrade the overall morality of God’s people. Therefore, they wanted the Gentiles to prove they were true Christian converts by being circumcised before having fellowship with the Jews. Because the new Gentile believers were unaware of God’s ways, Jewish law and customs would be burdensome and furthermore, were unnecessary for salvation. A compromise was needed so they could all feel comfortable being in fellowship with each other. The case was made that the Gentiles were being saved and circumcised by the Holy Spirit and in time may be convicted to a higher moral law not for salvation, but because of salvation. Therefore, the Gentiles were given commands only in regards to food and sex so that they would be welcomed into fellowship with the Jews and the ministry of Jesus Christ would continue without lawful restraint. The Gentiles, though pagan, most likely already knew it was wrong to murder, steal and lie. They may have been willingly abiding to those laws already which is why you don’t see the need to discuss such things in this text. Similarly, the Sabbath is not necessarily missing here to be presumably irrelevant in matter. In fact, the Gentiles coming to faith may have been wanting to observe the Sabbath by going to hear teaching in the synagogues leading to this need to set some ground rules for appropriate behavior in mixed ethnic, religious company in the synagogues.
Scripture Says: And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27
Again, Jesus was arguing with the Pharisees and declared that the Sabbath was made for man (mankind). Despite what we think should or shouldn’t happen on a Sabbath, the Sabbath is still to be observed because it was created specifically for us to observe. Note this was from the new testament.
Myth #3: You can choose to observe the Sabbath or choose to observe every day like a Sabbath.
Scripture Says: “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 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.” Romans 14:5-6a
If you read this passage and assume the “days” mentioned are referring to the Sabbath, then this verse can easily appear as if Christians are allowed to observe or not observe the Sabbath as long as they are convinced in their own mind. However, these days are referring to days of fasting. If you read the entire passage, it is talking about those who abstain from eating meat (convinced they are not allowed) and those who eat freely (convinced they are allowed). This was a debate between Christian Jews and Gentiles each with their own customs. They each had certain days they fasted for the Lord and what they felt they were or were not permitted to eat. Fasting is not associated with the Sabbath, so this passage is in no way implying that we rightly choose whether to observe or not observe the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made and declared by God, not one person or another in his own mind. However, a day of fasting is typically supposed to be a private matter between you and God (Matthew 6:16-18), which is why this scripture says to do as you are convinced, but privately without arguing as everyone was simply wanting to honor the Lord in their days of fasting.
Myth #4: You are not to judge people concerning the Sabbath.
Scripture Says: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” Colossians 2:16-17
Many have interpreted this verse to mean that you should not judge a Christian for whatever they choose to eat, drink and celebrate because as long as it’s centered around Christ it’s all okay. This very verse that is used to persuade some into thinking that there is no judgment for those who choose to observe the Sabbath or not, is the very verse that declares the important fulfillment of such things as the Sabbath. Keep in mind that this verse was written after Christ suffered the cross. The law no longer required sacrifices, but they were still encouraged to celebrate the Feasts of the Lord (some of which began at the new moon while others were considered High Sabbaths) without fear of judgment now because there was no more condemnation for those in Christ. The Christian Jews especially understood that these Feasts of the Lord were shadows of Christ’s first and second coming! Things to come…there are still things to come and as we celebrate the Feasts of the Lord (including the Sabbath) we are looking forward to His return!
Fact: The Sabbath is a God-given gift to believers who desire to seek obedience with a promise of physical and spiritual rest. When we observe a Sabbath rest, we are proclaiming our freedom in Christ and awaiting His eternal promise of rest! May we live our lives in bold declaration to others that God gives rest to His people…even if we don’t own a Chick-fil-A. 🙂
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
*Disclaimer* God defined the Sabbath as the 7th day. Many Jews count day one of creation to be Sunday, which makes Saturday the Sabbath and remains consistent with God’s appointed times throughout the Bible. Many Christians began to celebrate the Sabbath on Sundays in remembrance of Christ’s resurrection occurring on a Sunday. Because we (John and Jenn) are in ministry, which in it’s nature requires us to work Sundays and some Saturdays, we take our Sabbath rest on Fridays. We are not so legalistic to think God is displeased that we observe a Sabbath rest on a Friday, but we recognize that the original Sabbath is Saturday. However, calendars have not remained consistent throughout history and your guess is as good as ours in determining which day is the “true” Sabbath. We simply hold to the Biblical principle “work 6 days and rest on the 7th” in whichever way that lands for us and for you. In keeping with repentance, we ask the Lord to forgive us if we have not kept His Sabbath holy.
– John & Jenn