is the Sabbath?
Sabbath is a day of rest (Isa 58:13) which falls on Saturday, the seventh day
of the week. It originated when God created the heavens and the earth in six
days and rested on the seventh day.
Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host
of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had
done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then
God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all
His work which God had created and made.
blessed the Sabbath and made it holy. His purpose in instituting it was to
benefit man, hence the words of Jesus: “The Sabbath was made for man...” (Mk
Q2 What significance does it have?
Sabbath has great significance for believers, for on this day, we are reminded
of a number of important teachings:
• God created the heavens and the earth. Many
people do not believe in God, but the Bible points out that they are without
excuse: the whole of creation testifies to His existence and His role as
Creator: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are
clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal
power and Godhead, so they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20). The Sabbath is the
day on which God desires us to remember His creation work (Ex 20:11). It is
also a sign that He is our God: “Hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign
between Me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God” (Ezek
• God has saved us. The Book of
Deuteronomy records God’s words to the Israelites: “And remember that you were
a slave in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord your God brought you out from
there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God
commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deut 5:15). As Christians, God has
similarly delivered us, saving us from the bondage of Satan and sin (Acts
26:18; Rom 6:17). For this reason, we must remember God’s saving grace each
• God grants us a special blessing. The
Book of Genesis records: “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it…”
(Gen 2:3). The prophet Isaiah explains that the blessing comes upon believers
when they keep the Sabbath:
If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the Lord honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding Your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,
Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the Lord has spoken.
blessing that is the “heritage of Jacob” is recorded in Genesis 28:4: “And give
you [i.e. Jacob] the blessing of Abraham, to you and your descendants with you,
that you may inherit the land in which you are a stranger, which God gave to
Abraham.” This promised land was Canaan, a place that God calls an “everlasting
possession” (Gen 17:8) and which symbolizes the heavenly kingdom. As
Christians, we are the spiritual seed of Abraham and heirs on account of Christ
(Gal 3:29). When we keep the Sabbath, we can expect to be blessed with this heritage.
This truth is reinforced by Jesus, who teaches us to keep the commandments of
God for eternal life (Mt 19:17).
• We should be holy. God says, “Moreover I
also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might
know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them” (Ezek 20:12). God has given the
Sabbath to everyone He has called—both Jews and Gentiles (Isa 56:6–7)—to remind
them of the need to be holy. Elder Peter says, “But as He who called you is
holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet 1:15); “But you are a
chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own
special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of
darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9).
• God gives us physical and spiritual rest. Genesis
2:2 records: “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and
He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” In this
verse, the Hebrew word for “rested” is sabat, meaning “to repose, i.e.
desist from exertion” and “to cease”.
We know that our everlasting God does not tire (Isa 40:28), yet He
rested from His work to show us to do likewise. This is why Jesus says, “The
Sabbath was made for man...” (Mk 2:27).
• We anticipate a future heavenly rest. The
writer of Hebrews says that the Sabbath prepares us for an eternal rest:
There remains therefore a rest for the people of
God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as
God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone
fall after the same example of disobedience.
the ultimate hope of all Christians. But the only way to secure this hope is
through faith and obedience to God’s commandments (Heb 4:1–13).
Q3 When was the Sabbath included in the Ten
included the Sabbath in the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, after the
Israelites had left Egypt.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six
days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath
of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your
daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your
stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens
and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.
Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
Q4 Did God’s people keep the Sabbath before then?
Bible records God instructing the Israelites to observe the Sabbath soon after
they departed from Egypt, before their arrival at Mount Sinai. He did this in
tandem with the bestowal of manna, guiding the people to gather manna for six
days and to rest on the seventh. Hence, Moses declared, “This is what the Lord
has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord…’ ” (Ex
16:23); “See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on
the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man
go out of his place on the seventh day” (Ex 16:29).
Q5 Was the Sabbath only meant for the Israelites?
belief that the Sabbath was solely for the Israelites is a misconception for a
number of reasons. Firstly, the Sabbath transcends race: the Bible records
clearly that it was established by God at the beginning of time, before the
Israelites even existed (Gen 2:3). Secondly, every person has a duty to remember
God’s creation, for we are all beneficiaries (Ex 20:11). Thirdly, even
though we may not be able to relate directly to God’s deliverance of the
Israelites from bondage in Egypt, we are mindful that we were once slaves to
sin (Rom 6:17) and had to be saved by God through the blood of Jesus Christ (1
Pet 1:18–19). Hence, just as He freed the Israelites from the oppression of
Pharaoh, so He has freed us from the power of Satan (Acts 26:18). Fourthly, we
note that when God delivered the Ten Commandments, He also instructed the
Israelites to ensure that the Gentiles in their midst could likewise enjoy the
Sabbath (Ex 20:10; Deut 5:14).
the Book of Isaiah speaks of a time when Gentiles will keep the Sabbath. God
will bring them to His holy mountain—His church—where they will worship Him
Also the sons of the foreigner
Who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him,
And to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants—
Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath,
And holds fast My covenant—
Even them I will bring to My holy mountain,
And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
Will be accepted on My altar;
For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.
are experiencing the fulfilment of this blessing and
are reminded of Paul’s teaching that God is also a God of the Gentiles (Rom
Q6 Has Jesus not abolished the law, including the
point to note is that the Sabbath predates the Mosaic Law, including the Ten
Commandments. It was established by God at creation (Gen 2:1–3), two and a half
thousand years before He delivered the law at Sinai. Moreover, God commanded
the Israelites to keep the Sabbath even before their arrival at Sinai (Ex
second point to note is that when Jesus came to the world, He did not abolish
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or
the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to
you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means
pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the
least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the
kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great
in the kingdom of heaven.
word for “fulfil” is pleroo in Greek. It has various
nuances of meaning, including to “make full”, “complete” and “make perfect”.  Jesus fulfilled the law by making it full,
complete and perfect: He made clear the spirit of God’s law and highlighted the
fact that God now requires us to keep His commandments from within our hearts
(see Matthew 5–7). In terms of the Sabbath, He taught and showed us through
personal example a number of important truths: the Sabbath was made for man,
and not man for the Sabbath (Mk 2:27); it is a day for doing good to others (Mt
12:12); God desires mercy over sacrifice (Mt 12:7); He is Lord of the Sabbath
Q7 How did Sunday observance come about?
indicates that Sunday observance came about gradually, after the passing of the
Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, taught Christians to observe the “Lord’s Day”
(Sunday) in addition to the Sabbath from about ad 100.
writing in the third century ad,
advocated the need for Christians to rest on Sunday.
the fourth century ad onwards,
church councils began enforcing Sunday worship—the first being the Council of
Elvira around ad 300.
• In ad 321, the Roman emperor Constantine
decreed Sunday to be a public holiday and outlawed work. Later emperors added
• Around ad 364, the Council of Laodicea (in
Phrygia Pacatiana) stipulated the following in its
Christians must not judaize by resting on the
Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring
the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall
be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from
Q8 What justification does the Catholic Church
give for Sunday observance?
justification for Sunday observance can be found in the literature of the
Catholic Church. The Convert’s Catechism
of Catholic Doctrine, for example, gives the
Q. What is the Third Commandment?
A. The Third Commandment is: Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day.
Q. Which is the Sabbath day?
A. Saturday is the Sabbath day.
Q. Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?
A. We observe Sunday because the Catholic Church transferred the solemnity from
Saturday to Sunday.
Q. Why did the Catholic Church substitute Sunday
A. The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday, because Christ rose from the
dead on a Sunday, and the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles on a Sunday.
Q. By what authority did the Church substitute
Sunday for Saturday?
A. The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday by the plenitude of that divine
power which Jesus Christ bestowed upon her.
Q. What does the Third Commandment command?
A. The Third Commandment commands us to sanctify Sunday as the Lord’s Day.
Q. What does the Third Commandment forbid?
A. The Third Commandment forbids (1) The omission of prayer and divine worship;
(2) All unnecessary servile work; (3) Whatever hinders the keeping of the
Lord’s Day holy.
Q. Is the desecration of the Lord’s Day a
A. The desecration of the Lord’s Day is a grievous matter in itself, though it
admits of light matter.
addition, the Catechism of the Catholic
Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for
Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath.
The sabbath, which represented the completion
of the first creation, has been replaced by Sunday which recalls the new
creation inaugurated by the Resurrection of Christ.
Q9 What were the religious associations of Sunday
before the Catholic Church adopted it as their day of worship?
name “Sunday” is indicative of its pagan
The Babylonians named each of the days after one
of the five planetary bodies known to them and after the Sun and the Moon, a
custom later adopted by the Romans. For a time the Romans used a period of
eight days in civil practice, but in ad
321 Emperor Constantine established the seven-day week in the Roman calendar
and designated Sunday as the first day of the week.
was dedicated to the worship of the sun in the time of the Roman Empire. However, in ad 321, Emperor Constantine decreed
that all judges, city people and craftsmen rest on “the venerable day of the
sun”. This move benefited
those Christians who had been observing the Lord’s Day (Sunday) as their day of
rest and worship, for their practice became more acceptable to the hostile
pagan world. They reinterpreted the pagan name “Sunday” to signify Christ, the
“Sun of Righteousness” (see Mal 4:2).
the apostles replace the Sabbath with Sunday worship?
did not. From the Bible, we see no evidence of the apostles substituting the
Sabbath with Sunday worship. On the contrary, after Jesus’ ascension, they
continued observing the Sabbath, worshipping and preaching in the synagogues.
Examples in the Book of Acts include:
• Paul and Barnabas in Antioch: “But when
they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch
in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the
Sabbath day and sat down” (Acts 13:14); “And the next Sabbath almost the whole
city came together to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:44).
• Paul and Silas in Philippi: “And on the
Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was
customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there” (Acts
• Paul and Silas in Thessalonica: “Now when
they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a
synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for
three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:1–2).
• Paul in Corinth: “And he reasoned in the
synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 18:4).
it is reasonable to expect that, if the apostles had abolished the Sabbath or
replaced it with Sunday worship, we would see evidence for it in the New
Testament Scriptures. This is because changes to traditional practice, such as
circumcision, provoked great feeling and debate in the early church (see Acts
15:2, 7). However, there is no indication that this happened with the Sabbath.
the Bible does mention church activity on the first day of the week, there is
no indication that the believers were observing Sunday in place of the Sabbath.
For example, Acts 20:7 records: “Now on the first day of the week, when the
disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day,
spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.” From the previous
verse, we understand that Paul had stayed in Troas for seven days. Finally, on
the first day of the week, the disciples gathered to break bread and to listen
to his message before his departure the next day. In short, this was a farewell
service. Another often quoted reference is 1 Corinthians 16:2: “On the first
day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may
prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” Here, Paul was simply
instructing the members in Corinth to put aside their donations for their
fellow brethren in Jerusalem on the first day of the week, so that there would
be no last minute rush when he next visited them. We note that he did not state
the need to do this in conjunction with a church service.
there any biblical basis for the argument that Christians should observe Sunday
in place of the Sabbath in order to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus?
is not. While the Bible records that Jesus resurrected on the first day of the
week (Mt 28:1–8; Lk 24:1–3), there is no reason to infer that Christians gained
a new teaching to observe Sunday in place of the Sabbath.
who argue the need for Sunday observance often cite Revelation 1:10 in an
attempt to prove the overriding significance of this day. However, there are
two problems with this argument: one is that there is no indication that the “Lord’s
Day” mentioned in this verse refers to Sunday; a second is that, even if the
“Lord’s Day” did refer to Sunday, we still cannot assume that we have a new
commandment to commemorate the Lord’s resurrection on this day, or that it
replaces the Sabbath. The Bible simply does not give us these teachings.
the argument that Jesus abolished the Sabbath, again, there is no biblical
basis for this. He neither abolished it, nor gave His disciples a new
commandment to observe Sunday. Instead, we learn that Jesus Himself observed
the Sabbath (Lk 4:16; 6:6), as did the apostles (Acts 13:14, 44; 16:13; 17:1–2;
18:4). What Jesus did do was to teach the people about the true significance of
the Sabbath—for example, that it is a day for doing good to others (Lk 6:9).
Moreover, when challenged for not complying with the rabbis’ legalistic
regulations, He declared, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath” (Lk
6:5). In other words, the Sabbath belongs to Jesus; indeed, He instituted it
because He was the one who made the heavens and the earth and rested on the
seventh day (Jn 1:1–3).
should Christians observe the Sabbath?
always intended the Sabbath to be a joyful day—a day for believers to rest and
receive His blessings. Jesus, who is Lord of the Sabbath, encourages us,
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy
laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke
is easy and My burden is light.
words, we understand that He would never give us a heavy burden to bear,
especially not on the day that He has gifted to us.
of how we ought to observe the Sabbath, the Bible gives us the following
• To rest from our secular work: “Remember
the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your
work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall
do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your
maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates” (Ex
• To keep it holy: “Blessed is the man who
does this, and the son of man who lays hold on it; who keeps from defiling the
Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil” (Isa 56:2; cf. 58:13–14).
• To gather with others to worship God: “Six
days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a
holy convocation…” (Lev 23:3); “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves
together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the
more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb 10:25).
• To read the Bible: “So He came to
Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the
synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read” (Lk 4:16); “For Moses has
had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read
in the synagogues every Sabbath” (Acts 15:21).
• To pray: “And on the Sabbath day we went
out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made…” (Acts
• To listen to the word of God: “And the
next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God” (Acts
• To preach God’s word: “Then they went into
Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught”
• To do good deeds: “…Therefore it is
lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Mt 12:12).
© 2012 True Jesus Church.