Should Christians Keep the Sabbath?

by | Updated January 12th, 2020

The Sabbath was originally the day God rested from all His works of creation. “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” (Genesis 2:1-3).

After the fall of man in Genesis 3, God went back to work, working for man’s salvation. Jesus said, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17). God is even now working for the salvation of mankind, “Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

The Sabbath became the day of rest for man under the old covenant.

“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 ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you” (Deuteronomy 5:14).

The Sabbath was set apart by God for man to have a day where he could rest from his labors. Unfortunately, man religiously turned it into legalism which bound man up instead of the intended purpose of simply being a day of rest. That is why Jesus, refuting the binding legalism it had evolved into said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

All forms of legalism are to be rejected.

Any and all forms of legalism, including sabbath keeping, are to be rejected under the dispensation of grace. Paul said, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21). If we could be justified by works or keeping any aspect of the law Jesus’ death would have been in vain and of no purpose.

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh” (Galatians 3:1-3)?

Paul, went on to say, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). We are either saved by grace through faith or the law, one or the other. We can’t have it both ways. If we are saved by grace, then works of the law can have no part in our salvation. If we are saved by keeping any aspect of the law, then we are bound to keep the whole law and if we fall short in any aspect, we will be judged accordingly. He told the Romans, “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work” (Romans 11:6).

The Sabbath was a type or shadow of our rest in Christ (salvation apart from works).

Concerning days which were observed in the Old Testament Paul wrote, “Let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17). The Sabbath was never meant by God to be a form of legalism, it was but “a shadow of things to come.” The substance of the Sabbath is found in Christ. The Sabbath is a shadow of our salvation and rest in Christ apart from works.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

We have a promise of rest in Christ. “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Hebrews 4:1-2). Faith in the promise of God through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is the only thing that appropriates our salvation and rest in Christ, apart form works – our sabbath. “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7).

We must hear the gospel message, respond in faith and enter His rest, apart from any works of our own, relaying completely upon Jesus’ finished work on our behalf. “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:9-10). When we come to Christ, we cease from any works of our own as a means of obtaining favor with God. Our favor with God is found solely in Jesus’ blood and righteousness, in what He did for us. Praise the Lord!

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