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Chapter 12: Sabbath Day
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Chapter 12: Sabbath Day

12.1 The Old Testament Sabbath was a shadow of the things to come. New Testament believers need not observe the Sabbath since Christ removed the law by nailing it to the cross (Col).

·         According to verse 14, it was the “handwriting of requirements that was against us” that God has wiped out and nailed to the cross. The written code was nailed to the cross because it was “contrary to us.” In other words, Christ’s death has freed us from the condemnation of the law. This passage is not about the doing away of food, drink, festival, new moon, or sabbaths, but the abolition of the written code and regulations concerning these things. For example, God did not wipe out food or drink (in that case, we should not eat or drink), but he removed the regulations about food and drink. Likewise, this passage says nothing about abolishing the Sabbath commandment.

·         The Sabbath, being one of the Ten Commandments, has not been abolished, but the strict regulations concerning the keeping of the Sabbath day were fulfilled by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

·         Christians today still need to keep the Ten Commandments (see question 12.7, point 4).

12.2 The Old Testament Sabbath Day was only a picture of the rest that a person enters when he places his faith in Christ and ceases from his own works (see Heb 4:9-11).1

·         The Sabbath rest does not only point to accepting of the gospel but also to the eternal rest. This promise still stands (v. 1); so we need to “be diligent to enter that rest” (v. 11). Sabbath observance today also foreshadows the eternal Sabbath rest.          

·         This passage cannot be the basis for abolishing the Sabbath because the promise of eternal rest still remains. It does not say that we need not keep the Sabbath after we have placed our faith in Christ. Observance of the Sabbath day, being one of the Ten Commandments, still must be kept today (see questions 12.6 to 12.9).   

·         The weekly Sabbath was part of God’s creation, for he “blessed the seventh day and sanctified it” (see Gen 2:2-3; Ex ). Since God’s creation has lasted to this very day, the Sabbath day instituted by God continues to be a blessed and holy day as it has always been since the creation week. The rest we have received in Christ Jesus does not and should not displace the rest on the seventh day or the observance of the Sabbath according to God’s commandment.

12.3 The Lord Jesus healed the blind on the Sabbath, thereby abolishing the Sabbath (Jn -16).

·         Jesus healed on the Sabbath not to abolish the Sabbath but to show that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Mt -13).

·         Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Mt -20). The Pharisees condemned Jesus of breaking the Sabbath; yet Jesus was actually demonstrating the correct way to keep the Sabbath.        

·         Jesus never said that it was not necessary to keep the Sabbath. In fact, he himself always kept the Sabbath (Lk ; ; Mk 6:2).

12.4 In Matthew 12:1-8, Jesus defended the disciples when they violated the Sabbath. He cited the example of priests desecrating the Sabbath in the temple and said, “in this place there is One greater than the temple,” meaning if the priests could break the Sabbath, he could do so all the more.

·         Jesus did not say that New Testament believers do not have to keep the Sabbath. He defended the disciples on the basis that “God desires mercy” (Mt 12:7). The issue here is not whether to keep the Sabbath but how to keep the Sabbath in the true spirit.

·         Jesus did not mean that he could violate the Sabbath all the more. Rather, he was saying that if the priests were not condemned for what they did in the temple, Jesus, being greater than the temple, had the authority to not condemn the disciples.2         

12.5 Christ resurrected on Sunday and appeared to his disciples and Mary Magdalene on Sundays, never on the seventh day of the week (Mt 28:1-10; Mk 16:9; Lk 24:13-15; Jn 20:19). Thus he established the first day of the week to be a day of worship.

·         Jesus appeared on the same day to Mary Magdalene (Jn -18), to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-15), and to the disciples in the house (Jn ) because he had risen before the dawn of that day (see Lk 24:1-3). The second time Jesus appeared to the disciples was on the second day of the week (Jn ). The day of his third appearance is unknown (Jn ). So Jesus did not specifically set aside the first day of the week and the day itself is not significant.

·         Nowhere in the Bible does it record that Jesus Christ replaced the seventh-day Sabbath with the first day of the week to be a day of worship. Nor did Jesus himself instruct the disciples to worship on the first day of the week instead of on the Sabbath.      

·         We must not interpret the Bible based on what we think a certain event signifies, especially when the interpretation contradicts with the commandment of God.     

12.6 Sabbath is a commandment exclusively given to the Israelites (Deut ). It is also a token of God’s covenant with Israel (Ex 31:13-17; Ezek -13). In the New Testament, God is dealing with the church, not the Israelite nation and he has set aside the covenant. As such Christians do not need to keep the Sabbath.

·         Sabbath was instituted since the beginning (Gen 2:1-3; Ex ) even before the Israelite nation existed. The Sabbath was made for man (Mk ); “man,” of course, does not only refer to the Jews.

·         That the Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites does not mean that they have nothing to do with Christians. The words of God were first entrusted to the chosen people of the Old Testament (Rom 3:1-2) and are passed on to the chosen people of God of the New Testament (see Acts 7:38).

·         Luke was not a circumcised advocate for the law (see Col-14; note v. 11) and being a co-worker with Paul (see Acts ; Phm 24; 2Tim ) he could not have preached the Mosaic law. However, he specially mentioned in his writings that Jesus, as his custom was, went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day (Lk 4:16), and that the women from Galilee rested on Sabbath in obedience to the commandment (Lk 23:55-56); he also recorded that Paul went into the synagogue on the Sabbath as his custom was to reason with the Jews from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2). This fact tells us that all Christians, whether Jew or gentile, must also keep the Sabbath according to God’s commandment.

·         Isaiah’s prophecy that foreigners will keep the Sabbath further confirms that Gentile believers in the New Testament will keep God’s Sabbath (Isa 56:6-7). So Sabbath observance is not only limited to the Israelite nation.

·         The Sabbath is a sign between God and Israel. But it is not ONLY an Old Testament token. It is also a commandment and it has a significance that applies to Christians (Heb 4:9-11).

·         We were once sinners and were under the bondage of sin and Satan (Jn ), but Christ has freed us from this bondage (Rom 8:2; see Acts 26:18). Just as the Israelites needed to keep the Sabbath to remember God’s deliverance from the land of Egypt, we also need to keep the Sabbath to remember God’s deliverance from the bondage of sin.

12.7 God did not command the patriarchs to observe the Sabbath day. Clearly, the command to keep the Sabbath was only meant for the Israelite nation.

·         The Bible also does not record that God gave the Ten Commandments to the patriarchs. Does this mean that the Ten Commandments were only meant for the Israelite nation?

·         God did not formally give his commandments to his people until the Israelites were led out of Egypt and entered the wilderness. Sabbath observance, being on one of God’s commandments, was thus not formally decreed before that.

·         The fact that we find no record that God commanded the patriarchs to observe the Sabbath does not necessarily mean that the patriarchs did not keep the Sabbath; nor does it deny God’s institution of the seventh day as the Sabbath day since the beginning.        

·         The Ten Commandments had never been abolished; they still need to be kept by Christians today (Lk -20; 1Cor ; 1Jn 5:2-3; ). God’s commandments were first given to the Israelites because Israel was God’s chosen nation, not because the commandments merely applied to the Jews.

12.8 Romans 10:4 states that Christ is the end of the law. It is a mistake to preach that Christians today should still observe the law by keeping the Sabbath.

·         Here Paul is talking about the Israelites trying to establish their own righteousness by observing the law rather than submitting to God’s righteousness (v. 3). He is not saying that Christ did away with the law. Even Christ himself stated that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Mt -20). The passage is not teaching that Christ had done away with God’s commandments, but that a person is justified by believing in Christ, not by keeping the law.

·         The purpose of keeping the Sabbath is not to gain our own righteousness; instead, we are fulfilling our duty by obeying God’s commandments under the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.      

12.9 Jesus and the apostles never teach that Christians should observe the Sabbath. In Acts 15:28-29, Sabbath observance is not included as a requirement. So Sabbath observance has been done away with in the New Testament.

·         It’s true that the New Testament never specifically instructs Christians to keep the Sabbath; however, it also never states that Christians need not keep the Sabbath. The Lord Jesus kept the Sabbath (Lk ; ; Mk 6:2). And so did the apostle Paul (Acts -14; ; 17:1-2; 18:4). Luke also confirmed Sabbath-keeping by Christians (see question 12.6, point 3).

·         Sabbath observance was not instructed because it had long been a custom ever since the Old Testament (Acts ).

·         Just because Sabbath observance is not included in the requirements prescribed by the apostles, this does not mean that it had been done away with. There are many other commandments which are not included (e.g. do not murder, do not steal). The believers were expected to learn the other commandments from the synagogues on every Sabbath (Acts -21).

12.10 The sum of all the commandments is love for God and man (Mt -40). As long as we have love for God and for others, it is not important whether we keep the Sabbath.

·         How can we love God and not keep his commandments? We show our love for God and for our brothers by obeying God’s commands (1Jn 5:2-3; Jn ).

·         In Mt 22:37-40, Jesus does not mean that love for God and for others replaces God’s commandments, but that the underlying spirit of God’s commandments is love.           

12.11 The disciples held a service on the first day of the week to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord (Jn ). We must do the same today.

·         The verse reads, “when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews” (Jn ). It does not say that they were having a service.

·         At this point the disciples still did not believe that the Lord had risen and were thus rebuked later by the Lord (Mk 16:9-14). Thomas, who was not present when Jesus appeared to them, was still unbelieving (Jn -25). If the disciples did not even believe in the Lord’s resurrection, how could they have been celebrating it?

12.12 In Troas, Paul and the believers worshiped on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Paul stayed in Troas seven days, yet the passage gives no mention of worship on the seventh day of the week. This proves that the Christians always worshiped and partook the Holy Communion on the first day of the week.

·         The breaking of bread here should refer to a love feast or fellowship meal, which was a common practice in the Apostolic period (Acts ; see Jude 12). The phrase “breaking of bread” does not necessarily mean the Lord’s Supper (see Lk vs. Lk 24:30; Acts 27:33-35).

·         Paul’s companions were sailing while Paul was speaking (v. 13). If the first day was the day of worship, Paul would not have arranged his companions to be sailing while he himself was worshipping.    

·         The passage does not mention the Sabbath because Sabbath observance was a custom and needed not to be mentioned. The first day of the week is mentioned instead because Paul was to leave the next day (v. 7) and would probably never see the members again (Acts -25). So this special occasion deserves mention.

·         In any case, we find no basis that Christians should worship on the first day of the week rather than on the Sabbath.          

12.13 In 1 Corinthians 16:2, Paul instructs the church to make offerings on the first day of the week. Offering is a part of worship (Heb 13:15-16; Deut 16:16; Phil 4:18). The Corinthians must have been worshipping on the first day of the week and this is why Paul specified that day to be a day of offering.

·         Here Paul is not telling the members to have worship services on the first day of the week and at the same time make offerings. Paul was suggesting that on the first day of the week each member should set aside (or “save” in NIV) some of the money earned (or things stored) the previous week so that “there be no collections when I come.” This instruction is only to facilitate the collection of offerings.          

·         Paul specifies the first day of the week rather than Saturday probably because Saturday is a day to rest from labor. It’s also quite possible that he wanted the believers to set aside the donation at the beginning of the week (Sunday) so that it would not be consumed during the rest of the week.

12.14 The majority of Bible commentators agree that “the Lord’s Day” in Revelation 1:10 is the day of Christ’s resurrection. Christians today should observe the Lord’s Day.

·         None of the writers of the New Testament, including the apostle John himself, ever stated that “the Lord’s Day” was the first day of the week. The conjectures by Bible commentators cannot be held as the truth.   

·         The Bible never teaches that we should worship on “the Lord’s Day” or on the first day of the week.          

·         The Lord’s Day should refer to the “day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6; ; 1Cor 1:8) or the “day of the LORD” (Isa 13:6,9; Joel 2:1; Zeph ).

12.15 I can observe the Sabbath any day of the week; I don’t necessarily have to observe the seventh day of the week. If I think the first day is the best day, I’d keep the Sabbath on that day (Rom 14:4-6; Gal -11).

·         The Bible never says, “Choose one day out of seven as a Sabbath day and observe it.”

·         The day (7th day) itself is a holy day and God especially blessed this day. God has set this day aside to be a day of rest (Gen 2:1-3).

·         God was very specific about exactly which day the Sabbath was. In Exodus 16:23, God said, “Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord” (italics added). And in verse 26 Moses explains that the seventh day (not any other day) is the Sabbath day. The same clarity and explicitness are also expressed in the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:9-11; Deut -14).

·         We must do what God has commanded us, not what we feel is the best choice (see 1Sam ).

·         Rom 14:4-6 and Gal 4:10-11 do not refer to the weekly Sabbath day but to the observance of special days. The context of Romans 14 shows that Paul was talking about Mosaic regulations on days and food (see v. 2: refrain from meat). Gal 4:10-11 is even clearer in that it refers to observance of special occasions prescribed in Old Testament regulations.

12.16 How can we be sure that the seventh day today is the original seventh day God set aside in the beginning? It might be possible that we lost track of time at certain points in the history of human race.

·         The Lord Jesus observed the Sabbath day (Lk ; ; Mk 6:2). So it should be beyond doubt that the day had not been lost up to Jesus’ time.

·         The apostles confirmed the Sabbath kept by the Jews (Acts ). Paul himself also kept the Sabbath (Acts -14; ; 17:1-2; 18:4).

·         During the same period, sun worshippers observed Sunday and Sunday worship was later brought into the church. Yet the Jews were still keeping the Sabbath (7th day). Both practices have been observed until today.           

·         Although the Jews have been dispersed to different parts of the world, they all have been keeping the Sabbath on the same day even until today.      

·         The seven-day week is found in many countries around the world since ancient times, and the days are the same from country to country.           

·         God, the creator of the Sabbath as well as the universe, would not have allowed His sacred day to be lost.  

12.17 When Joshua fought the Amalekites, “the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day” (Josh -13). So Sunday is actually the original seventh day (see diagram3).

·         God’s definition of a day is not a 24-hour period. Rather, a day is marked by evening and morning (see Gen 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31 cf. Lev ).

·         A correct diagram3 is shown below:


·         If a day had indeed been lost at Joshua’s time, the Lord Jesus would have been observing the wrong day (see Lk )—an impossibility, since Jesus himself is the creator and the Lord of the Sabbath (Mk -28).

12.18 At the time of Gregory XIII, 10 days were dropped from the Julian calendar in 1582. The British countries did not conform with the calendar change until 1752, when they dropped 11 days out of the calendar. So it is clear that the Sabbath cannot fall on today’s Saturday.

·         The dates were changed, yet the days of the week remained the same:


Sun      Mon     Tue      Wed     Thu      Fri        Sat

            1          2          3          4          15        16

17  18        19        20        21        22        23

24  25        26        27        28        29        30



Sun      Mon     Tue      Wed     Thu      Fri        Sat

                        1          2          14        15        16

17  18        19        20        21        22        23

24  25        26        27        28        29        30


·         The Julian calendar was put into effect 45 years before Christ and the change to the calendar had no effect on the days of the week. In other words, the Saturday today on which we keep the Sabbath is the same seventh day of the week as it had always been since Jesus’ time.

12.19 The world is divided up into time zones. Saturday in China, for example, comes earlier than it does in America. Which time zone should be the standard if we wish to be so precise about the day of the week to observe the Sabbath?

·         God knew long ago that the earth was a sphere and that there would be time differences. God would not give a commandment that is impossible to follow. We simply keep the Sabbath day from sunset to sunset (or the corresponding hours) at our own locale.         

·         If the objection’s misleading logic were to hold, it would also be impossible for Sunday worshippers to decide which time zone should be the standard to mark the first day of the week.


1.        Harold J. Berry, What They Believe: Seventh-Day Adventists (Lincoln: Back to the Bible, 1987) 23. (The quotation is an argument made by the author, a professor of GraceCollege of the Bible; it is not the belief held by Seventh-Day Adventists.)

2.        In fact, there is no biblical evidence that priests actually desecrated the Sabbath; they only performed their priestly duties on the Sabbath as they were commanded to do. Jesus was using the logic of the Pharisees to make a supposition (i.e. if the Pharisee’s standard holds, the priests would have been violating the Sabbath by doing work on that day).         

3.        This is a modified version of the diagram presented in Has Time Been Lost?, a publication of the World Wide Church of God.


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Publisher: True Jesus Church