by Ken Weliever
via The Preacher’s Word
The fourth commandment simply says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:7).
First of all, it’s important to remember the regulations, restrictions as well as the basis of the Sabbath. The text provides some insight.
“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 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. 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 20:9-11).
Observance of the Sabbath has its roots in the Genesis account following creation. “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” (Genesis 2:2-3).
Thus God instructed Moses that the Sabbath become a day of rest and worship. Even the animals rested. It was also a day for Israel to remember the Lord’s work when he delivered them from Egyptian bondage (Deuteronomy 5:15). Specified animal sacrifices were offered to the Lord on the Sabbath (Numbers 28:9-10). Furthermore, the Sabbath served as a sign of God’s covenant with Israel (Exodus 31:12-17).
It’s also important to note that violating the Sabbath was a serious matter. The death penalty was inflicted on those who intentionally broke the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14-15). In fact, Israel’s disregard for the Sabbath was one of the reasons they were exiled into Babylonian captivity (Jeremiah 17:21-27).
So, as we have briefly observed, the Sabbath was a uniquely Old Testament command. As we pointed out in our previous post, Paul affirmed that the “law of commandments” was abolished “through the cross” (Ephesians 2:14ff). And the “bond written in ordinances” which included feast days, Sabbath worship and other Old covenant commands, was taken out of the way, having been nailed to the cross (Colosians 2:14-16).
Dr. D. A. Carson was right when he wrote, “We believe the Old Testament regulations governing Sabbath observances…are no longer in force, but have passed away along with the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood, and all other aspects of Moses’ law that prefigured Christ.”
The post-apostolic patristic writers, including Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, uniformly agreed that Christians worshiped on Sunday, the 1st day of the week, not Saturday, the 7th day of the week. Eusebius (A.D. 324), known as the “father of church history,” stated that Sabbath observance does not “belong to Christians.” On the other hand, he asserted that Christians “celebrate the Lord’s day . . . in commemoration of his resurrection” (26,113).
The first day of the week, Sunday, is a uniquely God-ordained day under the New Covenant:
- Upon the first day of the week, our Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead (Mark 16:2).
- Upon the first day of the week, when He arose, He appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:11).
- Upon the first day of the week, He met with His disciples (John 20:19-24).
- Upon the first day of the week, He appeared to doubting Thomas (John 20:27-29).
- Upon the first day of the week, the Holy Spirit made a powerful appearance. (Acts 2:1-4).
- Upon the first day of the week, Peter preached the gospel for the very first time. (Acts 2:14-39).
- Upon the first day of the week, over 3,000 responded to the saving message (Acts 2:38-41).
- Upon the first day of the week, the church was born (Acts 2:41-47).
- Upon the first day of the week, Christians met to take communion (Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 11:17-34).
By the way, the expression “Christian Sabbath” is a misnomer. The Bible speaks of no such day. New Testament Christians are not bound to the Old Covenant, including the Ten Commandments and Sabbath day restrictions.
Today, God’s sanctified day of worship is Sunday. Let us not selfishly minimize or marginalize it but weekly worship and honor Jesus on His special day.