Remember the Sabbath

The Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not kill/murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness
  10. You shall not covet

The Fourth Commandment says:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 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 male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 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.” Exodus 20:8-11

moses-tenI started this series on the Ten Commandments some time ago. I sort of got “stuck” when I got to this one. I know what I believe, but, quite honestly, I have a difficult time backing up my beliefs on this issue with solid Biblical reasoning.

Unlike with the other 9 of the 10 Commandments, the New Testament is strangely silent on the necessity of keeping the Sabbath. With the exception of keeping the Sabbath, all of the commandments are retaught, and in most cases, expanded upon in the New Testament. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Here, Jesus not only confirms the Sixth Commandment, He expands it to include unjustified anger. The same is true throughout the New Testament with all of the Commandments – except the commandment to keep the Sabbath.

The New Testament records that Jesus kept the Sabbath, but not as the scribes and Pharisees said it should be kept. Jesus “worked” on the Sabbath – He picked grain and healed on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-12). Jesus attended synagogue on the Sabbath, as did His disciples. After the resurrection, Jewish followers, including Peter and Paul, continued to worship on the Sabbath. However, non-Jewish Christians apparently did not. I can find no place in the New Testament where worshipping on the Sabbath is either required or denounced. Historically, the practice of worshipping on the Sabbath (Saturday) was slowly replaced with worship on Sunday by most churches. Again, I can find no place in Scripture that either requires Sunday worship, or denounces it. While the New Testament repeatedly teaches that Christ’s followers are to meet regularly for worship, it appears to be silent regarding which day of the week Christians should set aside for the practice.

In light of the absence of New Testament teaching requiring worship on a specific day of the week, I believe it is entirely up to the discretion of the church and the individual Christian.

There is considerable disagreement within the church regarding the Fourth Commandment.

Some churches are adamant about only worshipping on the Sabbath, and while I disagree, that’s fine. Most churches worship on Sunday, and again, that’s fine, too. An increasing number of churches now offer worship services on other days of the week, allowing folks that are required to work on weekends the opportunity for corporate worship. Again, I think that’s fine.

I’ve read a number of arguments that the Sabbath is still to be followed by Christians, and that Sunday worship is a pagan heresy. However, I’ve yet to find any that can justify this belief with solid Biblical exegesis. Every argument I’ve seen commits exegetical mistakes, makes unsubstantiated historical claims, and/or contains other logical fallacies. The same can be said for those arguments I’ve seen positing Sunday-only worship.

The key, as I see it, is that all Christ-followers are to set aside time regularly for corporate worship with other believers. We are to regularly meet with others for the teaching of God’s Word. We are no longer under the letter of the Law; we are under a New Covenant. However, we are still to follow the spirit of the Law. The Fourth Commandment says to set aside one day out of every week for worship and rest. The New Testament is silent regarding which day should be set aside, so I believe it is up to each one of us to determine with God’s leading which day to set aside. As the writer of Hebrews states,

“… let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 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.” Hebrews 10:24-25.





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