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 As such, they are no longer in force, but have passed away along with the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood, and all other aspects of Moses’ law that prefigured Christ.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.

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7 thoughts on “Are the Sabbath laws binding on Christians today? – MacArthur

  1. No, Sabbath is part of the moral law of 10 commandments (fourth commandment), not a ceremonial part of the Jewish law, and it is not binding for Christians because we are no longer under the moral law in the Jewish sort of way. If we have received the Holy Spirit, we know everything, we can tell good from evil and we no longer “keep” the law like Jews, because it is in our hearts and minds, it is part of us and not only in the primitive form of 10 commandments. Jesus showed in the Sermon on the Mount that anyone scolding his neighbor or having hatred in his soul is actually a murderer and transgressor of the sixth commandment. The Sabbath law is spiritual for Christians, which follows from Hebrews 4. Keeping the Sabbath law is entering the rest of Christ – the rest from any attempt to “keep” the law of God with our own strength.
    By our faith we follow Christ in the Holy of Holies and our “habitation is already in Heaven,” we have entered the rest of Jesus and he now transcends time. We have therefore entered eternity by our faith and we no longer need to observe “days, months, years, new moons etc,” because a spiritual person judges equally of any day. Any day for us is just another day with Jesus, be it Saturday, Sunday or Monday.

    Berean Wife Reply:

    Mr. Pospekhin,

    After studying this matter for several months last year I arrived at very similar conclusions that you have. That is quite different than what most churches here in the US teach but if you study the Bible it is hard to not arrive at the conclusion that Sabbath laws, 10 Commandments and Jewish Law are not binding on Christians today. We as believers are bound by two laws:

    Matthew 22 (ESV)
    37 … “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
    38 This is the great and first commandment.
    39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
    40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

    Berean Wife

    art miller Reply:

    I find this discussion very interesting. First thanks for not “coming out with guns blazing”. I learn from people I disagree with. But not when they act like lions!
    What happened in the last 50 to 100 years of so. There has been an earth shaking change in the “churches” stand about the Ten Commandments? They were the great moral standard by almost all the reformers. Today there are still a lot of people who say we need to post them in our schools and then turn around and change the 4th commandment to Sunday. But there are so many today who believe the 10 commandments are no longer binding upon Christians. The just heap all the approximate 650 NT law or rules and forget the 10 C.
    I read your post and I think you may have not looked carefully enough at the whole issue.
    The quotation from Matt. 22:37-40 is from Duet. 6:5 & Lev 19:18. The whole law hangs on these two principles. Love to God and love to man. This is for Christians today. Look at Rom. 8:7. It is the spiritual mind that is subject to the “law of God”. Christians love to keep God’s law because He has saved us.
    That was the plan for those in the OT but few followed it.


    Berean Wife Reply:

    Mr. Miller,

    This study on the Law and the 10 Commandments was one of the most interesting studies in the Bible I have ever undertaken. I posted maybe 60 plus posts concerning the Law and the 10 Commandments, even quotes from many pastors and teachers, as I was studying the Bible. What I learned was so different from what I’ve always been taught and I was able to answer questions that had always nagged at me and no one could answer.

    I don’t expect you to read all the posts about the Law, even I wouldn’t want to read the all right away. 🙂 However, this is essentially the summary of the conclusion I arrived at in my Bible study.

    Law of God, Law Of Moses & Law of Christ – Is There a Difference?

    Once I understood what I was looking at in the Law and answered the question of whether the “moral, civil and ceremonial” classification is a valid, Biblical concept then I found this:

    Law of God, Law of Moses, Law of Christ – A.W. Pink

    The Different Laws – AW Pink

    I got confused with your last paragraph but if I understand you correctly, you are saying NT believers are bound by two laws: Love to God and love to man. That is my understanding. While we are free and no longer bound to the OT Law, even the 10 Commandments, we yet are under the Law of Christ which demands much more.

    While the Law of God commanded love because of the Lord (Leviticus 19:18); the Law of Christ commands love as Christ has loved us (John 13:34, John 15:12).

    A much higher demand than the simple ceremony of the OT Law.

    Berean Wife

  2. Why did the Holy Spirit inspire the 4 gospel authors to include the sabbath commandment in their accounts more than any of the other 9 commandments?
    Why did Paul not dissuade a whole city of rookie gentiles from coming to a synogogue on the sabbath to hear his 2nd sermon in ACTS 13:44. He could have told them to listen any other day. He chewed out Peter for compelling gentiles to live as Jews Gal 2:14.

    Berean Wife Reply:


    I’m sorry but I don’t understand the point of your comment.

    The Gospel authors spend alot of time pointing out how Christ did not follow the Sabbath expectations of the Pharisees. That the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27) and that Christ is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). And then we see in Hebrews that Christ is our Sabbath.

    Hebrews 4:1-11 (ESV)
    1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.
    2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.
    3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,'” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.
    4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”
    5 And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.”
    6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience,
    7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
    8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.
    9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God,
    10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
    11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

    Why would any believer dissuade people from gathering to listen to the truth of Eternal Life? Why send your neighbor away and tell him to come back for the living bread another day?

    Galatians 2:14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

    Yep, we are not to live like a Jew. Thus we are not bound to observe a Sabbath.

    Berean Wife

  3. Dear brothers and sisters,
    Paul says in Romans 7:4: “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ that you should be married to another” – that is the risen Lord. OT was about the letter and the flesh, NT is about the spirit and our inner being, our heart wherefrom every evil thing comes from, according to Jesus. The Spirit of Christ transforms us unto his likeness and image if we keep in touch with him. The main mystery of the NT is Christ in us, the hope of glory. NT is as different from OT as Heaven is different from the Earth. Regarding the Sabbath, in OT this was just one day of rest in a week, but for NT Christians it’s a 24/7 rest, as we read in Hebrews 4:3, “For we which have believed do enter into rest”, God’ eternal rest which remains for the people of God, the rest from our attempts to be justified by law, from disbelief, the rest in holy assurance of salvation in Jesus through faith. That is the Sabbath of the New Testament. As for the law of 10 commandments and the Mosaic law in general, Paul says in Galatians that “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after the faith is come, WE ARE NO LONGER UNDER A SCHOOLMASTER (THE LAW). Actually he says that the law is the enemy of man because it induces a curse upon us: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse” (see Galatians 3 in its entirety). The law is no longer on the tables of stone for Christians, it is in our hearts and souls through the influence of the Holy Spirit who transformes every true believer into God’s image and likeness. “Ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same annointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” (1 John 2:27). Amen.

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