Why keep the Sabbath Under the New Covenant?

Why keep the Sabbath Under the New Covenant?

The idea of sabbath keeping and doing the Torah has become more prominent in recent years. Many are questioning if believers in Jesus should be keeping the Sabbath. Many pastors say that believers should keep some type of sabbath. Saying the day is not important, as long as you are resting in some capacity on whatever day you choose. 

However, for most Christians, if the subject of sabbath keeping comes up, their immediate response is “We are not under the law!”. Is this a valid reason for not keeping the sabbath, when throughout the whole Bible, Elohim is admonishing us to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His ordinates?

The Blessings of Keeping the Lord’s Commandments

Throughout the Bible, God reminds us that doing His commandments are a blessing to us and that if we do them we are blessed. How can it be that once Jesus died and rose from the dead that the things that God said are a blessing are now a curse to us? Jesus said he did not come to do away with the Law but to fulfill it. He came to fix the part of the Torah that was broken – atonement for our sins through the continual offering of animal sacrifices. 

Verses in Leviticus and in Ezekiel are some of the many places in the Bible that details the many blessings of keeping the Sabbath day.

Wayyiqra (Leviticus) 26: 2 – 13

2 Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuaries: I am the Lord. 3 If ye will walk in my ordinances, and keep my commandments, and do them, 4 then will I give you the rain in its season, and the land shall produce its fruit, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 5 And your threshing time shall overtake the vintage, and your vintage shall overtake your seed time; and ye shall eat your bread to the full; and ye shall dwell safely upon your land, and war shall not go through your land. 6 And I will give peace in your land, and ye shall sleep, and none make you afraid; and I will destroy the evil beasts out of your land, 7 and ye shall pursue your enemies, and they shall fall before you with slaughter. 8 And five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase tens of thousands; and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. 9 And I will look upon you, and increase you, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you. 10 And ye shall eat that which is old and very old, and bring forth the old to make way for the new. 11 And I will set my tabernacle among you, and my soul shall not abhor you; 12 and I will walk among you, and be your God, and ye shall be my people. 13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, where ye were slaves; and I broke the band of your yoke, and brought you forth openly.”

Yehezqel (Ezekiel) 20: 19 – 20

19 I the Lord your God; walk in my commandments, and keep mine ordinances, and do them; 20 and hallow my sabbaths, and let them be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.”

Mattithyahu (Matthew) 5: 17 – 19

17 Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to complete. 18 For truly, I say to you, till the heaven and the earth pass away, one yod* or one tittle shall by no means pass from the Torah till all be done. 19 Whoever, then breaks one of the least of these commands, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the reign of the heavens; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the reign of the heavens.”

*Yod is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alephbet, and a tittle is the small dots and dashes that denote vowel sounds. 

When is the Sabbath day?

The fourth commandment says to keep and remember the Sabbath day. To keep it holy and to do no work on it. 

Shemoth (Exodus) 20: 11

“For in six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth, and the sea and all things in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it.”

Wayyiqra (Leviticus) 23: 3

“Six days shalt thou do works, but on the seventh day is the sabbath; a rest, a holy convocation to the Lord: thou shalt not do any work, it is a sabbath to the Lord in all your dwellings.”

Debarim (Deuteronomy) 5: 12 – 15

12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God commanded thee. 13 Six days thou shalt work, and thou shalt do all thy works; 14 but on the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the Lord thy God: thou shalt do in it no work, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, thine ox, and thine donkey, and all thy cattle, and the stranger that sojourns in the midst of thee; that thy man-servant may rest, and thy maid, and thine ox, as well as thou. 15 And thou shalt remember that thou wast a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God brought thee out thence with a mighty hand, and a high arm: therefore the Lord appointed thee to keep the sabbath day and to sanctify it.”

These verses show us that it is the seventh day – Saturday that is blessed by God. Any other day for sabbath rest is not acceptable. So then why are we taught to rest on Sunday instead?

Who Changed the Sabbath?

In the book, Ten Commandments Twice Removed by Danny Shelton and Shelley Quinn they show that the early Christians were willing to die for Sabbath worship. The Roman Catholic church during this time, under the authority of the Popes,  really tried to distance Christianity from its Hebrew roots, its biblical roots. Changing the day of Sabbath worship from Saturday to Sunday was one of the ways they did this. 

C.F. Thomas, Chancellor of Cardinal Gibbons

“It’s no secret! The Catholic Church claims to have transferred the sacredness of the seventh-day Saturday Sabbath to Sunday

“Of course the Catholic Church claims that the change was her act. And the act is a mark of her ecclesiastical power and authority in religious matters.” 

Faith of Our Fathers, p.14, The Ten Commandments Twice Removed pp 101

 Dr. E.T. Hiscox author of “Baptist Manual” 

“There was and is a command to keep holy the Sabbath day, but that Sabbath day was not Sunday. It will however be readily said, and with some show of triumph, that the Sabbath was transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week, with all its duties, privileges, and sanctions. 

“Earnestly desiring information on this subject, which I have studied for many years, I ask, where can the record of such a transaction be found? Not in the New Testament, absolutely not. There is no scriptural evidence of the change of the Sabbath institution from the seventh to the first day of the week.”

The Ten Commandments Twice Removed pp 101

Stephen Keenan

“Q. Have you any other way of proving that the Church has power to institute festivals of precepts?

A. Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her;she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday the seventh day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority. “

A Doctrinal Catechism 3rd ed., p. 174

D. L. Moody

“The Sabbath was binding in Eden, and it has been in force ever since. This fourth commandment begins with the word ‘remember,’ showing that the Sabbath already existed when God Wrote the law on the tables of stone at Sinai. How can men claim that this one commandment has been done away with when they will admit that the other nine are still binding?”

Weighed and Wanting (Fleming H. Revell Co.: New York), pp. 47, 48

T. C. Blake, D.D., Theology Condensed, pp.474, 475.

“The Sabbath is a part of the decalogue – the Ten Commandments. This alone forever settles the question as to the perpetuity of the institution . . . . Until, therefore, it can be shown that the whole moral law has been repealed, the Sabbath will stand . . . . The teaching of Christ confirms the perpetuity of the Sabbath.” 

(“Roman Catholic and Protestant confessions about Sunday” https://www.biblesabbath.org/confessions.html)

Why was the Sabbath day Changed?

Quote from Ignatius (50 AD – 108 AD) a bishop of Antioch and an early church father,  cautioning against “Judaizing” in his letter to the Magnesians – those of the church of Magnesia in Turkey.

“Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness. …But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them. And after the observance of the Sabbath, let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s [Day, Dominicam] as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabbath_in_Christianity#Day_of_rest, https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.v.iii.ix.html

“The Council of Laodicea, A.D. 364, passed a law (Canon XXIX) which decreed: “Christians shall not Judaize* and be idle on Saturday but shall work on that day; but the Lord’s day they shall especially honor, and as being Christians, shall, if possible, do no work on that day. If, however, they are found Judaizing, they shall be shut out from Christ ” 

(Charles J. Hefele, A History of the Christian Councils, Vol. 2, page 316).

“The issuance of this decree proves two things to me. First, Christians were still worshipping on the Sabbath over three hundred years after Christ’s ascension to heaven. That’s why the Roman Catholic Church had to take action against them. Second, the Roman Papacy was willing to stamp out those who followed God’s recorded instructions, rather than the methods devised by man.

“On the strength of this law, historians report that the penalty for worshipping on the Sabbath was death! Many were martyred. Many more acquiesced to save their lives. Will history repeat itself?”

The Ten Commandments Twice Removed pp 104

*Judaize: To adopt the customs, beliefs, or character of a Jew.

Here is a letter written to the Catholic Extension Magazine regarding the change of Saturday sabbath to Sunday.

May 22, 1954

Pope Pius XII, Rome, Italy

Dear Sir: 

Is the accusation true, that Protestants accuse you of? They say you changed the Seventh Day Sabbath to the, so-called Christian Sunday: Identical with the First Day of the week. If so, when did you make the change, and by what authority?

Yours very truly, J.L. Day

The Reply: 

The Catholic Extension Magazine 

(Under the Blessing of Pope Pius XII)

Dear sir:

Regarding the change from the observance of the Jewish Sabbath to the Christian Sunday, I wish to draw your attention to the facts:

1. That Protestants, who accept the Bible as the only rule of faith and religion, should by all means go back to the observance of the Sabbath. The fact that they do not, but on the contrary observe Sunday, stultifies them in the eyes of every thinking man.

2. We Catholics do not accept the Bible as the only rule of faith. Besides the Bible we have the living Church, as a rule to guide us. We say, this Church instituted by Christ, to teach and guide men through like, has the right to change the Ceremonial laws of the Old Testament and hence, we accept her change of the Sabbath to Sunday. We frankly say, “yes”, the Church made this change, made this law, as she made many other laws, for instance, the Friday Abstinence, the unmarried priesthood, the laws concerning mixed marriages, the regulations of Catholic marriages, and a thousand other laws.

3. We also say that of all Protestants, the Seventh Day Adventists are the only group that reason correctly and are consistent with their teachings. It is always somewhat laughable to see the Protestant Churches, in pulpit and legislature, demand the observance of Sundays of which there is nothing in the Bible.

With best wishes

Peter R. Tramer, Editor

Ten Commandments Twice Removed pp 105 – 106

From the letter of Ignatius, an excerpt from the Council of Laodicea and from the letter from the Catholic Extension Magazine, we see that the change of the Saturday Sabbath to Sunday was not scripturally based. But was done, however, in an effort to distance Christianity from its Hebrew roots. We see that the early Christians continued to observe the laws and the Sabbath days in accordance with the Bible but were forced in the 2nd and 3rd century AD to follow the practices of the Roman Catholic Church. 

Our Journey with the Sabbath

menorah for sabbath - byZipporah blog

My family and I started trying to keep Shabbat about seven years ago. We initially started keeping the sabbath because our pastor at the time had preached about keeping a rest day. He wasn’t telling the congregation to keep the sabbath, but to set aside any day of the week to be a rest day from our work. After doing some research, we realized we should be doing the sabbath.

Our Shabbat journey began in earnest about four years ago. Back then we didn’t really rest or understand how we should keep Shabbat, we just did the best we could with the information we had at that time. And I believe the Lord honored our willingness even if we are doing it completely wrong. But as we started to study the scriptures about the Sabbath and watch teachings about it from other Torah keepers, we slowly started to do better and to understand better how to keep Shabbat. 

At first when Shabbat came, I didn’t really like it.  I was annoyed that I had to stop working, and I didn’t know what to do. It just felt like a big inconvenience to my week. But as I started to pray about it and to do research, I started to enjoy Shabbat. I slowly began to watch sermons on Sabbath, to read extra scriptures, and to make sure I had food prepared. I started to work harder throughout the week so that I didn’t feel bad for taking a whole day off to rest. And slowly by slowly I began to not only enjoy Shabbat, but to look forward to my day of rest. 

On Saturday I am usually reading extra scriptures, resting, watching a video or a sermon, or doing a relaxing activity – painting, reading, going outside. It is a much loved day!

Sabbath preparation

The key to a great sabbath is preparation. Friday’s and sometimes Thursdays are spent doing general house cleaning and meal prepping. You don’t have to get excessive with the cleaning just enough so that you aren’t overwhelmed or tempted to straighten on Saturday. Same with the meal prepping, you can make something simple that can be reheated or just taken out of the refrigerator with no extra prep required. You could have soup, sandwiches, salad, bread, or just whatever is easy and delicious for you and your family. 

You could light candles on Friday night, this is optional, but I like to because it makes the day feel more special and different from the rest of the weekdays. Just make sure you light them before the sun goes down (Exodus 35: 3)!

I look forward to Shabbat every week. I love working hard all week – knowing that when Friday night comes I do not have any obligation to do any work until Saturday night. My mind, spirit, and body can just rest. Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for us (Mark 2: 27) and I love that Elohim gave us this day every week. 

Bereshith (Genesis) 2: 1 – 3

1 And the heavens and the earth were finished, and the whole world of them. 2 And God finished on the sixth day his works which he made, and he ceased on the seventh day from all his works which he made. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it he ceased from all his works which God began to do.”

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