My Problem With The Sabbath

Sunday, Saturday, whichever. These days probably mean something to Christians or Jews. Usually it’s the day we go to church. Some call one or the other the Sabbath too. Not long ago no store would ever be open in the United States on Sundays. And even today not many are open on Saturdays in Israel. Why? Because it’s in the ten commandments. So if it’s that simple, what’s my problem with the Sabbath?

But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years” – Galatians 4:9-10

Part of the Law, part of the Law’s Fulfillment

It’s easy to look at passages in the Old Testament that establish certain laws as everlasting:

The Israelites must keep the Sabbath; they must observe the Sabbath during all their generations. It is a lasting covenant. – Exodus 31:17

This surely shows that we as Christians today should follow the Sabbath, right?

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. – Romans 6:14

But if we’re not under the law anymore, then does that mean we can murder and steal and anything else mentioned in the ten commandments? No, because there is law that is written in our hearts, and there was law given as signs of the old covenant to Jews. Here’s an example of a law given as a sign:

This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. – Genesis 17:10-11

And here is where we find that it’s physically unnecessary with the new covenant:

Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? – Romans 2:25-26

And even more plainly:

Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. – 1 Corinthians 7:19

But aren’t the ten commandments part of the commandments of God? Abraham didn’t have the ten commandments. Adam and Eve didn’t have the ten commandments. In fact, nobody followed the Sabbath law until Moses, because it was specially given for Israel:

Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them. – Ezekiel 20:12

And even more specifically:

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. – Deuteronomy 5:15

So if it wasn’t a law given to anyone before Moses, and if it’s not a law for us today, so what?

Worship God

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. – Galatians 3:23-25

Why is it important to understand whether or not the Sabbath law should be followed today? What’s important is how it can be a stumbling block to yourself, and therefore how you could negatively impact other people. Jesus was constantly going against the Pharisees who misunderstood the Mosaic Sabbath law, and believed you shouldn’t do anything at all, even good things:

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” – John 5:8-10

Legalism is a stumbling block to us, and gets in the way of understanding what a law is really for. Legalism happens to everything, and we fall into the trap of judging others for things that simply don’t matter.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. – Romans 14:5-6

See how if you follow the Sabbath, or do not, all that matters is that you live for God? The passage goes on to mention stumbling blocks from legalism and judgement:

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. – Romans 14:13

The Point

All this is not to say it’s right or wrong to follow the old Sabbath law, but instead that we’re not condemned by it anymore. Just like how a previous passage says circumcision is now meaningless:

Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. – 1 Corinthians 7:19

What is important is loving God and keeping the law that’s written in our hearts. The Sabbath can be a tool to remember God, just like how it was originally used. But never forget that it was made for us to use and not the other way around, for Jesus said:

The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. – Mark 2:27

So in the end, my problem with the Sabbath is that it’s still used to this day as a tool to promote legalism and stumbling blocks for other Christians. It’s okay to follow it, and it’s okay to not follow it. Don’t judge others for whether they do or don’t follow the Sabbath. We’re not bound like slaves to the Mosaic laws, Jesus died so that we could be free from the law’s condemnation and consequence. Be free to worship God and do good every day of the week!

Furthermore, though you were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcised state of your flesh, God made you alive together with him. He kindly forgave us all our trespasses and erased the handwritten document that consisted of decrees and was in opposition to us. He has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. – Colossians 2:13-14

One last interesting verse

The land enjoyed its Sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah. – 2 Chronicles 36:21

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