Sabbath Day

The Sabbath is the seventh day, the day of rest. At the end of Creation, "On the seventh day, God ended His work. which He had made and He rested on the seventh day form all His work which He had made." That rest was the model for the Sabbath day. For the Hebrews, the shofa, or ceremonial ram's horn blew three sharp blasts to signal the start of the Sabbath. Heralded by the shofar, he would do so each Friday at sunset from atop the synagogue, and signal the end of the Sabbath in the same manner that next evening. As it represents a new beginning, the early Christian church met the day after the Sabbath on the eighth day, which was the first day of the week, to break bread, worship and laying-by of alms for the poor.

Paul wrote: "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holiday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days. Which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ." The Sabbath was intended as an opportunity for the people of God to rest and reflect on His goodness. The Jewish teachers however, through legalism and strict requirements, had lost sight of the purpose and it became more of a burden than a help.

While Sunday (the Lord's day) is the day of worship for the early church and most Christians today, neither is a requirement under the new covenant. Only those who deny the grace that Jesus has given us by dying on the cross would tell you that keeping the Sabbath Day is a requirement under the law. Under Christian freedom, we have been given the choice to worship on any day we wish. For any one to enforce the letter of the law concerning either day and judging others one way or the other will only bring judgment upon themselves. The worst view as to the Sabbath day are from those who would pervert the gospel of grace by thinking we must "keep" the sabbath in order to be saved. If you would honor the Sabbath as a legal requirement, you would have to observe the whole law, in all its severity to be justified, clearly in violation of the spirit and truth of the New Covenant.

The daily family prayer, the shemah, and the weekly Sabbath were the center of family life in the Old Covenant. The observance of the Sabbath was governed by many practices involving each member of the family. The whole family celebrated the opening of the Sabbath by a special meal together after sunset on Friday. The important goal of the Sabbath, as well as of all other religious laws, was to remember, by representing in the most vivid way possible - what God had done for them, His people.

In the four or five centuries before Jesus came, the Jewish religious teachers debated at length about what observances should be made as regards the Sabbath. Thirty nine articles were formulated prohibiting all kinds of agricultural, industrial and domestic work. A Jew must not carry on the Sabbath even so much as a pocket handkerchief, except within the walls of the city. If there are no walls it follows, that he must not carry it at all. Even the preservation of life was a breaking of the Sabbath. A man could not peel a fruit. A woman could not kneed her dough. A boy could not wash his dog. A girl could not plait her hair. An old man could not tie a knot in a string. No one could write or cross out what had been written. All was forbidden, except that a man could go to the help of a bogged cow or a trapped sheep. A Sabbath Day's journey was about seven-eighths of a mile. One could not light a fire, or put it out, forbidding even any fire to be kindled on the Sabbath, even for culinary purposes, but not probably the use for warmth.

Except for these stifling legislations, the Jewish Sabbath was a day of spirituality and joy. The Talmud itself prescribed that the best foods were to be reserved for this day, though prepared on the vigil, and it was a day too, for festive garments and ornaments. A good part of it was spent at religious services in the synagogue or at home, or in devotional meetings.

It is no wonder that Jesus tried to set these things into proper perspective. Jesus set Himself up wholly above the Sabbath as the Lord of the Sabbath. The first attack in Galilee arose from the circumstance that, in passing through the corn-fields on the Sabbath day, His disciples, who were suffering from hunger, plucked the ears of corn, rubbed them in the palms of their hands, blew away the chaff, and ate. Perhaps these spying Pharisees had followed Jesus on this Sabbath day to watch whether He would go more than the prescribed techum ha-Shabbeth, or Sabbath's day journey or 2000 cubits, but here they had been fortunate enough to light upon a far more heinous and flagrant scandal - an act of the disciples which, strictly and technically speaking, rendered them liable to death by stoning. Jesus indeed had not shared in the offense. To the legalistic religious leaders of the day, this was reaping and strictly forbidden. Jesus came to the defense of His disciples by using David as an example. When fleeing from Saul, David and his men had eaten bread that was forbidden under the Sabbath laws. The lesson was that human need came before strict observance to legalistic rules. Jesus told the Pharises, "The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath." Here, then, were two deadly charges ready at hand against this Prophet of Nazareth; He was breaker of the Sabbath and He was a blasphemer of their God. The first crime was sufficient cause for opposition and persecution and after Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, there went forth against him from the hearts of those priests and rabbis and Pharisees the inexorable irrevocable sentence of violent death.

The traditions of these men taught that any healing on the Sabbath was work except when there was an immediate threat to one's life, so, Jesus would heal on the Sabbath anyway. The answer lies in Jesus imitating God Himself. He continually does good work and heals the sick, every day, whether it is the Sabbath or not suggesting not doing good was evil. "My Father is at work, until now." But there were more serious things. This is no open offense against the scriptures themselves, but only against that misleading Sabbath reasoning developed in Judaism to the greatest degree of legalism. For the governing principle of his argument is "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." For this to come from the lips of an ordinary rabbi is quite without parallel.

In the early Christian church, at first both days were kept. But when Judaizing Christians wished to bring Christians under the bondage of the law, and the Jews became open antagonists of the Church, the observance of the Jewish Sabbath was tacitly laid aside, and the Lord's Day alone was kept. At the Council of Jerusalem, the Sabbath was not one of the exceptions that would still be binding on Gentile converts. There were and still are, the Judaizers that wish to keep us bound to the law but the spirit has led us to worship on the Lord's resurrection day. Jesus was not opposed to the honoring of the Sabbath, but He was opposed to a way of life in which strictness of observances conflicted with other and greater values. To Jesus, people were more important than rules. The observance of the Sabbath day remaining in those Christian groups that still live under Jewish legalism have the freedom to do so as long as it is not done in the sense of fulfilling the law. Saint Paul teaches that justification arising from legalism shows that they have fallen from grace.

The Sabbath day is not an issue except for those that live under the law. The Sabbath day was not given over to Sunday worship as law except in the minds of those that want to conform to the same dead letter as those who would insist that the Sabbath laws are still binding on the seventh day. It is not according to the spirit but to the letter and denies the grace that Jesus died to give to us. There should be no confusion in that if we truly understand what the New Testament teaches. Those in the early church greeted each other with grace and peace. The gospel we preach is the gospel of peace and that comes from the Holy Ghost which is righteousness in the Lord who gave us the grace to be able to live right. The division begins in having the pride of doing what is considered law based upon misinterpretation and fundamentalist tradition and looking down on others that do not think the way that they do. That is not love and it is in being in love that will break down the barriers of division in these last days because through dialogue in love, we will be able to identify what has divided us.

Those that teach that the Sabbath day must be kept in order to be saved are of the spirit of an anti-christ. To believe a dangerous doctrine such as this would only serve to separate them from the love and unity that is in the person of Jesus Christ. The reason why Sabbath keepers have separated themselves from the body is because it is a schismatic doctrine. They think that we are heretics outside of the family of God, in Babylonian confusion and lack the love necessary to accept us. By judging us, they have judged themselves. It is a deceptive and hateful doctrine that has no place in the Christian church, has no place in the restoration process in the last days and cannot be part of it. This kind of legalism is against the spirit of prophecy, apostolic mandate, New Testament concepts and can only lead to deception, schism, hatefulness and quenching of the spirit. The truth is that you may worship on any day you wish, but not condemn others for worshipping differently. Jesus requires mercy, not sacrifice. Those that reject us reject the One that has sent us.
[Genesis 2:2, Mark 2:27-28, Colossians 2: 16, 17; 309, 311, 318, 319, 324, 325, 332, 345, 377, BD,]

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