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God's Sabbath Day

(How do we do it?)

 

 

          In Genesis chapters one and two the scriptures tell the story of creation.  An explanation of each day of God's creation is recorded.  It took six days for God to create, "heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is" (Ex. 20:11).  Then on the seventh day, God rested (Gen. 2:2).  What happens next is the first commandment God gave, the keeping of the Sabbath.  "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made" (Gen. 2:3).  The first commandment that God spoke of was the Sabbath Rest.  This day must be a special day.  Today the Sabbath is rarely considered as a commandment that should be kept.  Many espouse that God has abolished all of His Holydays, including the Sabbath.  It is not the intent of this article to argue this point, but you can read my article titled, "Holydays" which addresses this issue.  The intent of this article is to discuss how to practice the Sabbath day.

 

Which day is the Sabbath:

 

          The first thing that needs to be decided is which day the Sabbath is.  This is an easy question to answer for the scripture is very clear.  In Genesis 2:3 God used the words, "seventh day" to describe His day of rest.  Then when God gave the ten commandments to Moses He repeated this when He said, "But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God" (Ex. 20:10, Deut. 5:14).  God even repeated this again when He laid out His Holydays, "Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest" (Lev. 23:3).  The Sabbath day of rest is clearly the seventh day of the week.  The scriptures could not be any more clear.

          The question then might be asked, Why do so many practice the Sabbath on Sunday, the first day of the week?  Luckily, God answered this for us.  In Daniel 7:25, a prophecy is written regarding God's time keeping system.  The fourth beast of Daniel's vision had 10 horns (kings - Dan 7:24).  One of these kings will "change times and laws."  The question to ask is, who is this fourth beast and when did he "change times and laws?"  The Bible defines these beasts as kingdoms (Dan. 7:23) and history clearly identifies these kingdoms as; Babylon, Medo Persia, Greece, and finally Rome.  This fourth kingdom, called Rome, will "change times and laws," in fact, they already have.  Rome, and it's religion (Roman Catholic Church), have already changed God's times and laws.  Constantine did so in 325 AD at the Council of Nicaea.  Here are a few examples of how Rome has changed God's "times and laws."

  1. God's calendar starts in spring with the greening of the first crops, which is why the first month is called Abib ('âbı̂yb - to be tender green, that is a young ear of grain - Strong's Concordance H24).  In 325 AD at the Council of Nicaea, Rome changed God's calendar to the Julian calendar, which is the precursor to our current Gregorian calendar.  Now our calendar starts on January first.

  2. Changing to the Julian calendar removed Holydays such as Passover, Feast of Weeks and Tabernacles and instituted holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and New Years.

  3. Rome has also subverted God's Law the Ten Commandments (what we currently call the Common Law) in place of the current Roman Civil Law, which we simply call the Civil Law today.

  4. Rome changed the start of the day as well.  Today we start our days at midnight, but God clearly starts His days at the evening (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).

  5. Rome changed God's Sabbath from the seventh day of Saturday to the first day of Sunday (Council of Laodicea, A.D. 336).

  6. The Roman Catholic Church also changed God's Ten Commandments (see picture here).

          This might be hard to believe, but even the Catholic church does not argue the point, but rather embraces it.   Patrick Madrid, a conservative catholic scholar, stated, "[The] calendar that we follow . . . is not only a calendar that was devised by the Catholic Church, but also it is a calendar that’s based upon the solar year, not the lunar year.  And the Jewish calendar that was observed in the time of Christ . . . follows a lunar calendar, which is several days short of the solar year" (retrieved from www.worldslastchance.com, Patrick Madrid, comments on “Open Line,” EWTN, Global Catholic Radio Network, January 5, 2006).  There are many, many quotes from the catholic church boasting of their ability to change God's laws and Holydays.  The point is that it is clear that they admit doing so and continue in that tradition.  This begs the question, if Rome changed God's "times and laws," should we follow in that same direction?  Churches today seem to think so, but the Apostles and the early church clearly kept the seventh day as their Sabbath (Acts 13:14, Acts 15:21, Acts 16:13, Acts 17:1-2) and so should we still.

  

Are We to Keep the Sabbath Today?

 

          The Sabbath was kept by the Messiah (Mark 1:21, Mark 6:2, Luke 4:31, Luke 6:6).  He is our example that we ought to follow (1 Pet. 2:21).  The Messiah was actually accused of breaking the Sabbath, but this could not be true.  The Messiah was without sin, which means he never broke any of God's laws, including the Sabbath.  Why then did the Pharisees accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath?  The truth is, the Scribes and Pharisees had extra laws of their own regarding the Sabbath.  The Messiah healed on the Sabbath (Mark 3:4-5).  The Messiah picked grain on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1).  The Messiah said it would be lawful to help a stuck animal on the Sabbath (Luke 14:5).  It is important to remember that each one of these is not against the law of God, but against the tradition of the elders (Pharisees).  The Messiah never once broke the law of God, rather, He constantly battled against those who added to and took away from the law of God with their traditions (Matt. 15:2-6, Mark 7:5-8).  The point here is not that we no longer need to keep the Sabbath, but that we need to use the scriptures only to determine how to keep the Sabbath.

          The Apostles also kept the Sabbath (Acts 13:14, Acts 13:42-44, Acts 15:21, Acts 16:13, Acts 17:2, Acts 18:4).  Many say that this was only to preach the Gospel and not to keep the Sabbath.  People claim that they need somewhere in the New Testament where it says we are to keep the Sabbath.  Well, there is a place in the book of Hebrews where the writer clearly states we are to still keep the Sabbath.  The problem is the word for Sabbath was mistranslated.  In Hebrews 4:3-9, the Apostle argues for the "rest" of God.  The word translated as "rest" is katapauō, which means to, "to settle down ... rest" (Strong's Concordance - G2664).  This word is translated as "rest" in verse one, three, four, five and eight.  In verse nine the word "rest" is a different word.  This is the word, sabbatismos, which means "a sabbatism, the keeping of the Sabbath” (Strong's Concordance - G4520).  This word comes from sabbaton, which means "the Sabbath" (Strong's Concordance - G4521).  Sabbatismos is the verb form a sabbaton.  The correct translation of verse nine should be, "There remaineth therefore a [keeping of the Sabbath] to the people of God."  The purpose to Hebrews chapter four is that we are to enter into the "rest" of God by faith, not by works.  His conclusion is in verse nine when he says, "There remaineth therefore a rest [keeping of the Sabbath] to the people of God" (Heb. 4:9).  This verse, when properly understood and translated, straight forward says we are to still keep the Sabbath, which is probably why the Apostles did repeatedly throughout the book of Acts.

          The early church also kept the Sabbath.  Many of the early Christian writers understood Hebrews four to be speaking of the Sabbath.  Origen mentions so when he said, "But what is the feast of the Sabbath except that which the apostle speaks, 'There remaineth therefore a Sabbatism,' that is, the observance of the Sabbath, by the people of God...let us see how the Sabbath ought to be observed by a Christian.  On the Sabbath-day all worldly labors ought to be abstained from...give yourselves up to spiritual exercises, repairing to church, attending to sacred reading and instruction...this is the observance of the Christian Sabbath" (Translated from Origen's Opera 2, Paris, 1733, Andrews J.N. in History of the Sabbath, 3rd edition, 1887. Reprint Teach Services, Brushton (NY), 1998, pp. 324-325).  William Cave, a seventeenth century historian, stated that, "... the Sabbath or Saturday (for so the word sabbatum is constantly used in the writings of the fathers, when speaking of it as it relates to Christians) was held by them in great veneration, and especially in the Eastern parts honoured with all the public solemnities of religion."  (Cave William, D.D. Primitive Christianity: or the Religion of the Ancient Christians in the First Ages of the Gospel. 1840 edition revised by H. Cary. Oxford, London, pp. 84-85).  The truth of the matter is this, the early church kept the seventh day as it's Sabbath, not the first day.  Sunday worship came later as a pagan influence.

 

What To Do on the Sabbath:

 

          If you've concluded that we need to still keep the Sabbath, the logical next question is how?  It is important to learn from the Messiah and follow as the scriptures command, and not men like the Scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 15:2-6, Mark 7:5-8).  We need to do, and not do, exactly as the scriptures tell us.  Adding anything to, or taking anything away, is strictly forbidden (Deut. 12:32).  The Sabbath is commanded as a day of rest.  We are to cease from working, but more detail is provided throughout the scripture.  The following are eight things I found that are required on the Sabbath:

  1. We are not to buy on the Sabbath:  This is part of the work statute from Ex. 20:10, but more clarity is given throughout the scriptures.

In Nehemiah 10:31 God warned, "And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the Sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the Sabbath, or on the holy day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt."

  1. We are not to sell on the Sabbath:  This is part of the work statute from Ex. 20:10, but more clarity is given throughout the scriptures.

In Nehemiah 13:15-16 God warned, "In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals.  There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the Sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem."

  1. We are not to conduct business on the Sabbath:  This is part of the work statute from Ex. 20:10, but more clarity is given throughout the scriptures.

In Nehemiah 13:15 God warned, "In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals."

  1. We are not to trade on the Sabbath:  This is part of the work statute from Ex. 20:10, but more clarity is given throughout the scriptures.

In Amos 8:5 the people asked, "When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?  That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?"

  1. We are not to kindle a fire:

In Exodus 35:3 God commanded, "Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Sabbath day."  The Hebrew word translated, "kindle" is bâ‛ar, which means "to kindle, that is, consume by fire or by eating" (Strong's Dictionary - H1197).  This was understood to be in reference to fire made concerning work, such as cooking food.  In fact, the definition has both aspects with "consume by fire or by eating."  Fire for heat during the winter or light at night was acceptable.  This conclusion comes from the exception made during the Feast days.  During Feast days it was commanded that no "servile work" was to be done (Lev. 23:7).  This exception was made because this was a feast day and food had to be prepared.

  1. We are to observe a holy convocation:

In Leviticus 23:3 God commanded that, "Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest, an holy convocation."  We are not to, "forsak[e] the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is" (Heb. 10:25).  This is a day where we are to rest from our work and assemble together to learn the word of God.

  1. We are not to travel on the Sabbath:

In Exodus 16:29 God commanded, "See, for that the LORD hath given you the Sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day."  The exception to this is to attend the Sabbath assembly.  In Acts 1:12, a reference is made to a "Sabbath days journey."  This was originally understood be the distance within the city, but perhaps a better understanding might be the distance needed to travel to meet with the Sabbath assembly.

  1. We are not to do our own pleasure:

In Isaiah 58:13 Isaiah said, "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words."  This does not mean we cannot enjoy the Sabbath.  After all, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).  The Sabbath should be a joyous time of rest.  We are to learn the word of God.  What this is referring to is of doing our own pleasure at the cost of keeping the Sabbath.  For example, in America Friday night is commonly a party night.  Saturday is typically a play day for going to the beach or playing at the park.  This should never be done in place of the Sabbath requirements.  Each believer needs to examine himself to determine whether they are keeping the Sabbath as God commands, or whether they are using this day off of work to play.

 

 

          We always need to remember the words of the Messiah, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).  We should look forward to the Sabbath as a time of fellowship and rest from our work.  It is not a burden to bear, but a special day we are to celebrate in honor of our Lord.  Since 2008 my wife and I have started keeping the Sabbath.  We constantly mention to each other how much we look forward to the Sabbath as a time of rest and fellowship.  It is never a burden to us.  We should keep the Sabbath because God said to and because it is joy for us, not a burden.

  

By Steve Siefken
 

  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth

not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 KJV