When is the Sabbath Day
The Day of the Sabbath
The purpose of this article is not to debate the day the Sabbath falls on. Those debates have been done ad nauseum and we all know those arguments. To us, the Sabbath day has been conclusively decided. It is Saturday or the 7th day of the week.
We have read the different quotes by the church fathers and other early scholars who have said, that the since Jesus was raised from the dead and his accession took place on the 1st day, thus the Sabbath or day of worship was changed from the 7th day to the 1st day.
Throughout our studies, God has taught us that he is not a ‘do as I say not as I do God’, but a ‘do as I do God’. In other words, God made the rule about the Sabbath in the beginning with his 10 commandments and he followed his own rules throughout our history.
Scholars have long debated how the first day of the week—Sunday—came to be adopted by a majority of Christians as the day of rest and worship in place of the Biblically-prescribed, seventh-day Sabbath. (In Hebrew, the seventh day is called Shabbat from which the English word Sabbath is derived). (1978). BAR, 4(3).
God does not change. Jesus does not change and as you look their the Bible you will see that God does not change his rules because of certain events. The Mosaic law did not change because the people demanded a King instead of God to rule over them.
The people of Israel were still expected to fulfill and obey the law. We see evidence that they did not alter the law through the eligibility of those who could become priests in the temple. We also see that the laws of sacrifice were kept throughout Israel’s history even in the time of Joseph and Mary.
Recently, however, some scholars have argued that Sunday observance has a Biblical or apostolic origin. According to these scholars, from the inception of the Church, the Apostles themselves chose the first day of the week in place of the seventh day in order to commemorate the resurrection or Easter appearance of Jesus three days after his crucifixion.
My own assessment of the sources is that this thesis is wrong—on two counts. First, the change from Saturday to Sunday occurred sometime after 135 A.D. Second, the change originated in Rome, not Jerusalem. (1978). BAR, 4(3).
We tend to agree with the second paragraph in that quote. Our reasoning is simple. Once the original disciples and witnesses died out, it became easier to implement personal viewpoints into the established early church.
As long as the original disciples and witnesses were alive, such alterations could not take place. We also see nothing in scripture that indicates that God’s declaration of and Sabbath day was made null and void when Pentecost arrived.
The earliest explicit references to the observance of Sunday as the Christian Sabbath are by Barnabas (ca. 135 A.D.) and Justin (ca. 150 A.D.) (1978). BAR, 4(3).
For us the matter is settled, Saturday, not Sunday, is the Sabbath day and God’s rules still apply.
The Uniqueness of the Sabbath
Scholars have looked for the concept of a day-of-rest in Babylonian texts. But outside Israel there is no Sabbath in ancient near eastern cultures anywhere, neither in Mesopotamia nor in Egypt. (1992). Bible and Spade, 5(3), 85.
This is correct. No secular culture or civilization held to a Sabbath day or a day of rest. If you were unlucky enough to be born in those times and societies, it is possible that you would be expected to work every day of the week.
Even though God instituted the day of rest at creation, man’s desire for evil led them to ignore that command and example. We are not sure if Adam, Seth, Enoch and Noah observed the Sabbath day but their walk with God may give us a hint that they did.
In Babylonian the word sabbatu is found. But it has something to do with the moon and only occurs once a month, or at most, every 15 days. It has nothing whatever to do with the Old Testament concept of a day of rest. (1992). Bible and Spade, 5(3), 85.
It is very hard to say what ancient societies practiced outside of any generality that comes when exploring the past. Every ancient person had the same freedom to choose to live as they saw fit. Contrary to scholar’s and archaeologists’ opinions, there really was no blanket population wide everyone did the same thing practice.
The ancient people chose to follow what they wanted to. Some were criminals, some followed their culture’s religious beliefs, others probably were atheists and so on.
Because of the lack of ancient records, we do not get to see the totality of what everyone believed and practiced. Thus, it is safe to say that some people may have not worked 7 days a week and maybe a scant few actually followed God’s example prior to the Mosaic law.
The presence of Melchizedek tells us that God’s ways and examples were in existence in the ancient world prior to the establishment of the people of Israel and the Mosaic law. All of this tells us that the biblical Sabbath was unique and a true gift from God.
He gave us time to rest and renew our energy, etc., without penalizing us any pay or other comforts.
Why the Sabbath was Instituted
God tells us very clearly why he created the Sabbath and it was not for rest alone.
The Sabbath was instituted by Yahweh in the very beginning for His followers to keep as a sign of their belief that He is the Creator (1992). Bible and Spade, 5(3), 85.
Observing the Sabbath helps us to remain humble and obedient to God and his commands. When believers, churches and denominations start to ignore one command of God, it becomes easier to ignore others.
With the possibility that the Sabbath was changed by early bishops and church leaders, the barrier between obedience and disobedience was broken for NT believers. Questioning the instructions of God and replacing them with personal desires also became much easier.
We see evidence of that throughout church history as different denominations arose and implemented their own ideas about how the Christian faith should be lived. Most do not adhere to many of the commands and instructions of God as Jesus said, why do ye call me Lord when you do not do the things I say.
We can see how far different church groups have strayed without too much research being conducted.
Another reason that can be given for establishing the Sabbath can be seen in the following quote:
Moreover, keeping the day of rest holy also showed one’s love for God. The rationale for Sabbath observance is the imitation of the Creator, who worked for six days and then rested on the seventh (Gen. 1:1–2:3) (2010). Tabletalk Magazine, August 2010: The Tenth Century: Progress and Regress, 53.
If we love God, then we obey him and his commandments. We observe the Sabbath correctly and do not do what the pharisees and other early religious groups did before the time of Christ. Create and implement our own rules, then force them on others.
The Sabbath Instructions in the Bible
Here are some verses to give you the complete instructions God gave to us in the Bible concerning the observance of the Sabbath:
- Exodus 3:12-15
- Exodus 20:8-11
- Luke 13: 10- 16
- Mark 2: 23-28
- Psalm 92: 1-6
- Genesis 2: 1-3
There are more verses talking about the Sabbath and what is to be done during that day. Those can be found through doing a personal Bible study
When Do We Worship?
Are we to go back to the Saturday observance and change all of our worship services to Saturday? We are sure it will help the church get back on the right track to obedience; but Jesus said, there will come a time where my people will worship in spirit and in truth (done from memory).
In other words, the Sabbath is not the only day we can and should worship God. We can worship God one any day of the week. Remember that God inhabits the praise of his people.
Some Final Words
We are not legalists, nor do we promote legalism. We promote and preach obedience to God and his instructions. But we also need to be careful not to use Bible verses as excuses or permission to disobey God and his instructions. We also must be careful not to use the Bible to justify implementing our own desires.
When you worship is up to you, just do not change what God has not given us authority to change. The early Christian writers did not get everything correct and one should be careful about applying infallibility to them.
The Sabbath always has been and always will be the 7th day of the week or Saturday as we know it.
© 2018 David Thiessen