Remember the Sabbath Day: Saturday, Sunday or Everyday?
What DAY Is the Sabbath?
There is so much controversy out there about the fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy [sanctified; set apart]”. Some staunchly believe the seventh-day Sabbath was NEVER changed by God; others argue we have a new Sabbath Day, Sunday. Yet, many say it doesn’t matter whether one observes the Sabbath on Saturday, Sunday or everyday. If the Sabbath means we are to cease from our labor, how can one observe the Sabbath every day? We would never be able to work. Are answers given in the Bible as to what the Sabbath is, when it should be observed, its purpose and meaning? Let’s explore these questions as we journey through the Bible.
As we know the first Sabbath rest was when God rested on the seventh day of creation. Gen 2:2 states, “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”
However, we don’t see a command come from God for man to rest on the seventh day until His holy commandments were given to Moses on Mt.Sinai in approximately 1513 BC. Considering mankind had been on the earth for 2500 years, why were the Jews not already resting on the seventh day, if it had been ordained as a practice for mankind since the creation? One certain reason is that they were not allowed to rest on any day while enslaved in Egypt for 400 years.
Moses was the first type of ‘mediator’ between God and man, as he was chosen to give the first official written Law to Israel (Gal 3:19). This was AFTER they were set free from Egypt. Now, not everyone were Jews in those days. The tribes enslaved in Egypt were those of Jacob. Remember, it was Joseph, the firstborn son of Rachel to Jacob, that opened the doors of Egypt to his family. This included the families (or tribes) of the ten sons of Leah and the two sons (himself and his younger brother, Benjamin) of Rachel. Jesus explained in Mark 2:27 that "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” It was God’s gift to the Israelites as a day of rest, since they had no such gift while enslaved in Egypt.
A Shadow of the Real Sabbath to Come
Now, let’s first consider that the Law given to Moses was added because of transgressions and was to act as a tutor to lead them to Christ, their Messiah. Gal 3:24 states, “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” Truly, the father of faith is considered to be Abraham, one who never had the Law of Moses during his lifetime. The Law of Moses is also considered to be a shadow of things to come. Heb 10:1 states, “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.”
The Apostle Paul said to the Colossians, who were saved Gentiles, in 2:16-17, “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”
Why would Paul say such things? Keep in mind the very Jews that observed the seventh-day Sabbath religiously, even to the point of accusing Jesus and His disciples of breaking the laws of the Sabbath Day (Mat 12:10; 15:1-9; Mark 3:2; 7:1-13; Luke 6:2; John 5:17-18; 7:19 and more…), put Jesus on the cross. Obviously, they missed something very important. Some Jews today say that the only “law” to really keep on the seventh-day Sabbath is that one is not to work to earn money from Friday sundown until Saturday sundown. Well, think about it. Most of the world’s time-clocks cease from their labor at Friday sundown. Is the majority of the world keeping this Sabbath law? Are they justified by it? Absolutely not. This goes to show that keeping the Sabbath is a matter of the heart.
The point is, did keeping the seventh-day Sabbath keep those who observed it in God’s favor (grace)? Earlier we read that the Law was the tutor to lead us to Christ, so as to be justified by faith, not the Law. Paul tells us in Gal 2:19, “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” Galatia had a combination of Jews and saved Gentiles. This is where Paul withstood Peter to the face for getting pulled back into the Law of Moses (i.e. not to eat with Gentiles), when he was supposed to be sharing the gospel of salvation by grace through faith with them!
The Sabbath Revealed
So, what was the seventh-day Sabbath a shadow of? Why is it that those who kept the literal seventh-day Sabbath did not enter the true Sabbath rest of God? A Jew won’t understand the second question. The answer is found in Hebrews 4:1-10:
"Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just 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.
"For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: 'AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS'; and again in this passage, 'THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.' Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain day, 'Today,' saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, 'TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.' For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.
"So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His."
Why do so many Christians observe the ‘Sabbath’ on Sunday? All we have to do is look up the phrase, “first day of the week” in the Bible to see what significant things took place on Sundays.
Mat 28:1-2 “Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.” Read on to verses 6-7 “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you." Truly, the first gospel was preached on a Sunday! (Mark 16:2-7; Luke 24:1-9)
Mark 16:9 confirms: “Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.” (John 20:1-16)
If you read John 20:1-16 (referenced above), go on to verse 19: “So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." This is when Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon His disciples. Now, Thomas wasn’t there at the time. Verses 26-29 tell us that eight days later (the first day of the week), Jesus appeared again to the disciples, along with Thomas. Both times the doors to the room were locked, for fear of the Jews.
Speaking of the breathing of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples on the first day of the week, we should also observe the Day of Pentecost occurred on the first day of the week. For outstanding proof of this fact, I invite you to read the linked article here called, “Pentecost in Acts 2:1 was the first day of the Week (Sunday)”.
John 20 showed us the disciples and others met together at least twice on the first day of the week. Did this practice continue? Look at Acts 10:17: “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.”
We also see in 1 Cor 16:2 Paul telling the Church in Corinth, “Upon the first [day] of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as [God] hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”
Does observing the Sabbath Day on Saturday or Sunday really matter? Biblically, there are heart-felt reasons to observe either day. Or, does the Sabbath hold more meaning of spiritual rest in Christ than the day it is observed? The Apostle Paul addressed this in Rom 14:5: “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” The most important thing to remember is, if the Jews did not enter the Lord’s Sabbath rest by religiously keeping the seventh-day, is there an assurance of entering that rest by observing Sunday? Sounds a bit trivial, once you understand what it means to "enter His rest". Let His Sabbath rest reign in your hearts. The Sabbath was made for man. For this reason, Jesus is called “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mat 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5). Jesus said in Mat 11:28, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Rest in His completed works. Rest in His salvation and love.