Tag Archive | Sabbath

Think You Observe The Sabbath?

This post by Tim Challies concerning the Law verses Grace is very interesting.  We’ve had lots of discussion at our church recently concerning the Law, the Ten Commandments and believers today.  The sermon on Wednesday night was a very good understanding of how believers today should relate to the Sabbath.  This sums up my best understanding of how the Sabbath relates to believers today.  I always get tickled when someone says they observe a Biblical Sabbath and yet it looks nothing like a Biblical Sabbath.  Church, nap and Church does not a Sabbath make.  Although it does make for a nice day.  😉

What the Law-Keeper Cries to the Gospel-Lover by Tim Challies

Jewish law forbids work on the Sabbath, but the question that has always plagued law-keepers is this: what actually constitutes work? Many modern interpretations of the law state that using an electrical button on the Sabbath constitutes work. Pressing a button closes an electrical switch and the closing of the switch is interpreted as “building” a circuit. Any kind of building on the Sabbath is strictly forbidden by the law. For that reason, many of the apartment buildings in this area use a feature in their elevators known as “Shabbat [Sabbath] service.” Sabbath service removes the need to press buttons. When the service is engaged, the elevator will either stop at every floor on both the way up and the way down, or it will rise to the top and then stop at every floor on the way down. In either case, the sanctity of the Sabbath is maintained. (Wikipedia’s article on Shabbat service is fascinating in its explanation of the variations of interpretation)

Be sure to read the whole article, very much worth it.

Some might say that well these Jews have taken the OT Sabbath and become legalistic about it.  But if you study what was said in the OT concerning the Law you would see that nope, they aren’t being legalistic.  Remember the passage in Numbers 15:32-36?  That was taking the Sabbath pretty seriously!

But then if you were to read everything in the NT concerning the law you might be surprised at what the Bible actually says about our relationship with it today.

The Law of Christ by Charles Leiter is one of the best explanations about the Law and believers.  I highly recommend reading the book. 🙂

Oh, be thankful for Grace!



Sabbath Quotes

Here are two interesting quotes concerning the Sabbath.

…It was not, however, without a reason that the early Christians substituted what we call the Lord’s day for the Sabbath. The resurrection of our Lord being the end and accomplishment of that true rest which the ancient Sabbath signified, this day, by which types were abolished, serves to warn Christians against adhering to a shadowy ceremony. I do not cling to the number seven as to bring the Church under bondage to it, nor do I condemn churches for holding their meetings on other solemn days, provided they guard against superstition.”


John Calvin

“If anywhere the day is made holy for the mere day’s sake—if anywhere anyone sets up its observance on a Jewish foundation, then I order you to work on it, to ride on it, to dance on it, to feast on it, to do anything that shall remove this encroachment on Christian liberty.”


Martin Luther


Are the Sabbath laws binding on Christians today? – MacArthur

Are the Sabbath laws binding on Christians today? – John MacArthur

We believe the Old Testament regulations governing Sabbath observances are ceremonial, not moral, aspects of the law. As such, they are no longer in force, but have passed away along with the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood, and all other aspects of Moses’ law that prefigured Christ. Here are the reasons we hold this view.

  1. In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul explicitly refers to the Sabbath as a shadow of Christ, which is no longer binding since the substance (Christ) has come. It is quite clear in those verses that the weekly Sabbath is in view. The phrase “a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” refers to the annual, monthly, and weekly holy days of the Jewish calendar (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11). If Paul were referring to special ceremonial dates of rest in that passage, why would he have used the word “Sabbath?” He had already mentioned the ceremonial dates when he spoke of festivals and new moons.
  2. The Sabbath was the sign to Israel of the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12; Nehemiah 9:14). Since we are now under the New Covenant (Hebrews 8), we are no longer required to observe the sign of the Mosaic Covenant.
  3. The New Testament never commands Christians to observe the Sabbath.

Continue reading …


Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

A few days ago I was reading through the book of Matthew to see what Jesus said or did about the Sabbath.  While I could simply search for the word Sabbath in my Bible program that isn’t quite the same as actually reading the text and getting the full context of the passages.

So I had read lots of chapters in Matthew and was beginning to wonder why I wasn’t coming across any real discussion of the Sabbath from Jesus nor even any accusations of breaking the Sabbath.  As many people know the book of Matthew was written with a Jewish audience in mind, so of the gospels the book of Matthew deals more with the Laws and customs of Jews.

It wasn’t until the beginning of the 12th chapter of Matthew that I ran across the Sabbath in a discussion.   As expected Jesus has appeared to break the Sabbath, his disciples have picked grain and then Jesus healed a man.  No surprise there, this is a regular occurance.

Matthew 12:1-14 (ESV)
1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.”
3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him:
4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?
6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.
7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue.
10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”— so that they might accuse him.
11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out?
12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other.
14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

But as always you should read the passages before and after a selection of verses in order to get the full context.  {Remember chapter breaks and verse numbers were added by man.  The Geneva Bible was the first English Bible to use chapter and verses.}

So what do I find just before the accusations of Sabbath breaking?


This isn’t talking about the seventh day rest either.  This is the real, true and everlasting rest that only Jesus can give us.   This isn’t the temporary rest of one day; this is the eternal rest of the soul.

Matthew 11:25-30 (ESV)
25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;
26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The weekly Sabbath rest of the Jews was a picture of the real, spiritual, eternal, Sabbath Rest provided by Jesus.


Sabbath – What Did It Mean To Israel?

Before we look at Jesus and the Sabbath we need to point out a few details about the Jewish Sabbath.

There are many verses in Exodus through Deuteronomy which explain and itemize what is acceptable of the Sabbath. Such as the following verse.  Notice also that the phrase becomes a “Sabbath of Rest” many times.

Exodus 35:2-3 (KJV)
2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.
3 Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.

Many of the verses that follow are using the term Sabbath to refer to a particular day of the week.

Then we start running into the phrases like “on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts” (2 Chronicles 2:4, Isaiah 1:13, 2 Kings 4:23, Hosea 2:11) which essentially are lumping all of Israel’s special day celebrations together.

But we need to remember that the weekly Sabbath was not a day of worship.  The Sabbath was a day of rest.  Most people would not have been close enough to walk the distance to the temple or even a synagogue for any worship.  The Sabbath was typically spent at home eating the foods prepared the day before.  No cooking, lighting of fires nor walking a distance was allowed.

Exodus 16:29 (ESV) See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.”  

A few more interesting details:

The Sabbath is not used in the Psalms of David.  However, Psalm 92 is written for the Sabbath.  Many Bibles note that Psalm 92 is “A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath day.”  But the Psalms themselves don’t say anything about the Sabbath. 

The Book of Proverbs never mentions the Sabbath.

Then we get to the books where the Israelites are breaking the Sabbath and being rebuked for it, such as Nehemiah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.  Rebuke after rebuke for breaking the Sabbath and not following the Lord’s commands.  The Israelites are punished and restored repeatedly for breaking the Sabbath and for not following the Sabbath commands.  Prophecy after prophecy of what will happen if the Israelites continue to break the commands.


Sabbath Observance Pre-Moses?

As we continue to look at the Sabbath we find something interesting, a noticeable lack of a mention of the Sabbath, or even rest, in many books of Scripture. 

One of the oldest books is the Book of Job.  Many Scholars feel that Job predates Abraham. Job whom the Lord actually brags about to Satan never mentions the Sabbath. 

Job 1:8 (ESV) And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

Job sacrifices offerings to the Lord, yet does not appear to celebrate a Sabbath.

Job 1:5 (ESV) And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.

Actually even, the only rest that Job talks about is looking forward to the rest of death or better yet in his mind the rest of having never lived.

Job 3:11-17 (ESV)
11 “Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?
12 Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?
13 For then I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept; then I would have been at rest,
14 with kings and counselors of the earth who rebuilt ruins for themselves,
15 or with princes who had gold, who filled their houses with silver.
16 Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light?
17 There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest

But this causes a problem because see if the verses in Genesis 2:1-3 mean that from that time men observed a Sabbath we have Adam through Abraham up to Moses with no record of observing a Sabbath rest.  We also have Job who does not observe a Sabbath rest.  But even more challenging is the fact that the Lord Himself calls Job “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” (Job 1:1)

We have Noah who was righteous and blameless yet he never observes a Sabbath. (Genesis 6:9)

We also have Abraham who “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (Galatians 3:6)

Scripture records these blameless men’s sacrifices and their sin, yet no mention of observing the Sabbath.  Those who say that man has always been supposed to observe the Sabbath are adding to Scripture something that is not there.  As we saw in looking at Genesis 2:1-3 the Lord observed the rest upon the seventh day after Creation, not man.

Genesis 2:1-3 (ESV)
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 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.
3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

We also run into another difficulty.  While we do not know the author of the book of Job, we do know that Moses wrote the first five books of “The Law”.  We do not have any record that even man knew that the Lord rested upon the seventh day.  That was not recorded in writing for us until the time of Moses.  The Lord did walk and talk with man more before Moses yet no record of any discussion about the Sabbath.

So what do we do when others claim that the Sabbath was an everlasting covenant?  Read the Scriptures closely.  See what everlasting means and whom each everlasting promise was made to.  Then look at the prophecy verses.  Ezekiel and Isaiah both have prophecies that mention a Sabbath but we cannot look at OT prophecies without first looking at the NT and seeing what it says.  Only then can we interpret the OT prophecies that may, or may not, deal with endtimes or that still remain in the future and whom these prophecies refer to.  We cannot understand the future without looking at what has already happened.  So what does Jesus say about the Sabbath?


Sabbath – 10 Commandments

Our next look at the Sabbath is when we have the Sabbath given in the 10 Commandments by the hand of the Lord upon the stone tablets.  Here the Lord points back to the creation wherein He rested from creating upon the seventh day.

Exodus 20:9-11 (KJV)
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 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:
11 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.

We have instructions about how long the Sabbath should last.

Exodus 31:16-17 (KJV)
16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
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.

Key phrases are “the children of Israel”, “throughout their generations” and “perpetual covenant”.

For an explanation of the “children of Israel” see Children of Israel verses Children of Abraham.

But “throughout their generations” means what?

That phrase is one word in the Hebrew l’dorotaam from the root word dowr.

dowr – properly, a revolution of time, i.e. an age or generation; also a dwelling:

KJV – age, evermore, generation, [n-] ever, posterity.

The word “perpetual” can have several meanings.

`owlam  – (properly, concealed, i.e. the vanishing point; generally, time out of mind (past or future), i.e. (practically) eternity; frequentatively, adverbial (especially with prepositional prefix) always:

KJV – alway (-s), ancient (time), any more, continuance, eternal, (for, [n-]) ever (-lasting, -more, of old), lasting, long (time), (of) old (time), perpetual, at any time, (beginning of the) world (+without end).

But that doesn’t really get us much further in understanding because those two phrases are used so much in the Scripture it would take a book to look at all the instances.

But notice that the Sabbath is a sign between the Lord and the “children of Israel” forever; “me and the children of Israel for ever” Exodus 31:17.


What is the Sabbath?

First mention of a Sabbath is in Genesis, right?

Genesis 2:1-3 (KJV)
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
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.
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.

But let us not assume anything, but look clearly at what the Scripture says.

First of all despite the fact that many Bibles have topic headings that say “Sabbath”, “First Sabbath”, or something similar, notice what word is missing from the text.  Sabbath.

However, this verse is referenced several times later in Scripture as the basis for the Sabbath given to the Israelites.

Also the root word for “rest” is a similar word to the word Sabbath.  “Shabath” meaning to celebrate,  put away, cease, or rest.  The word for the Sabbath is “shabbath” meaning intermission, translated as Sabbath in the KJV.

The first mention of the actual word “Sabbath” is in Exodus when the Lord is instructing the Israelites about the manna.

Exodus 16:23-29 (KJV)
23 And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.
24 And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein.
25 And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field.
26 Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.
27 And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none.
28 And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?
29 See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.

Exodus 16:23 is literally “shabat shabaatown” – Sabbath the rest of.

This is the first Sabbath for the Israelite slaves.  But they did not all obey.  Some still went out to gather manna on the Sabbath but found none.


Sabbath – Jewish Shabbat, Sunday, or What?

The fourth Commandment is the only commandment of the 10 Commandments that ever is really argued over by sound, Scriptural Believers.  Why?  Because while the OT is clear about the Sabbath for Jews, the NT Testament brings in much more that comes into play.  Especially in Hebrews where things like a “type and shadow”, “His Sabbath Rest”, “enter the rest” are used to refer to the Sabbath rest.  These verses have been interpreted differently by many believers.

Then we have several places where Paul is adamant that no one is to judge another for what days if any they set aside.  Each is accountable to their own Master.

Romans 14:4-6 (KJV)

4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

There are a multitude of ways that the Sabbath for Believers has been interpreted, all using various verses of Scripture. 

  • No difference, Sabbath is Jewish Shabbat from evening Friday to evening Saturday.

  • Observe Jewish Sabbath rest and Sunday worship as the “Lord’s Day”.

  • Observe Sunday as the New Sabbath Day, the “Lord’s Day”, with all the rules of the Sabbath.

  • Observe Sunday as a Believer’s day to worship due to the resurrection and apostle’s precedent showing change.

  • Observe no day for the Sabbath.

  • Observe everyday as the Sabbath and for worship.

  • Allow each Believer to do what seems best.

I’m sure there are more choices but I can’t think of any more right now.  Later we’ll look at the verses and the reasoning behind several of these choices.

Do you know why you worship on a particular day?  Scripture to back it up?

You just might be surprised at how few know why they worship on a particular day.