How Christians Keep or Violate the Sabbath

As the new covenant people of God, Christians are to keep the Sabbath. The fourth commandment is no less timeless than the other nine, and so we must keep it entirely. Yet the difference between old and new covenant Sabbath keeping is radical. Jesus fulfilled and redefined Sabbath keeping, having done away with the types and shadows. He has granted to His people the fullness of rest in Him.

Breaking the Sabbath in New Ways

Unfortunately, we Christians violate the fourth commandment  by our efforts to adjust our standing with God by the keeping of regulations. Regarding the Lord’s Sabbath rest, we are violating His law as we attempt to make our way to Him by our keeping of that law – including our special behaviors and rituals on Sundays.

If on Sundays we pray extra long, don’t stop to pump gas, and make sure not to fuss too much in the kitchen because we are attempting to gain something from Him, we have missed the point of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and rest for us at the Father’s right hand.

Ten Commandments, not Nine

When the Sabbath regulation was given to Israel at Mount Sinai, it was attached to the seventh day of the week, and it was wrapped in the civil and ceremonial laws of the old covenant (Ex. 16:1-36; 20:8-11; 23:10-12; 31:12-17; 34:21; 35:1-3; Lev. 23:3; 24:5-9; Num. 28: 9-10; Deut. 5:12-15). The seventh-day Sabbath was important because God had sanctified it by resting on the seventh day of creation (Gen. 2:1-3). When He at Sinai prescribed the same day of rest for Israel, He was binding the people to Himself. Think of it as God preaching about Himself through Israel by the giving of the law in civil and ceremonial particulars. Since I rested on the seventh day, now you as my special covenant people shall rest in the same way.

And that fourth of the ten commandments has transferred beautifully to the new covenant.

Jesus kept Sabbath in the exact right way, every Saturday of His life, and He did it as “Lord of the Sabbath”(Matt. 12:8). What a humble Lord, submitted to His own law as a human being! When He rose from the dead and ascended to His victory rest at the right hand of the Father, He granted to His Church a Sabbath rest that is infinitely more glorious than the Sabbath given at Sinai.

The ceremonial and civil garb of the old covenant Sabbath has been replaced with the 7 days-per-week rest in Christ’s righteousness.

We rest from all our works when we rest in Jesus. We violate His Sabbath rest when we perform works that He has already completed for us – we cannot draw any nearer to the Father than what Jesus already is, resting at His right hand – and we are seated with Him in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3, 20).  Yet how often we are not sure if God really loves us the way Jesus said He does (John 15:9). That’s where our trouble comes from – we don’t trust Him. We don’t believe His Word. We attempt to reconcile ourselves with God through our works, and we break His Sabbath rest in Jesus.

Let me elaborate a bit.

Missing the High Mark

Ironically, the Reformed confessions aim too low in how they prescribe a Christian Sabbath. The Westminster Confession of Faith calls for Sabbath observance in the section dealing with worship:

[6.118]
7. As it is of the law of nature that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for
the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment,
binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a Sabbath,
to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of
Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into
the first day of the week, which in Scripture is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued
to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath.

Notice in the next section the particular legislative binding upon even thinking about your job on Sunday:

[6.119]
8. This Sabbath is to be kept holy unto the Lord when men, after a due preparing of
their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy
rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments
and recreations; but also are taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of
his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

With all due respect to the venerable Westminster divines, this kind of legalistic prescription for sanctification, indeed, binding of the conscience of Christians in what God expects from us, is ironically a violation of the Sabbath commandment. Let me defend that outrageous statement.

Take a Rest

What does God command of us? Nothing short of perfect obedience to His perfect Law. In discoursing on the Law, Jesus said

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:17-20 NKJV).

There is no loosening of the commandments of God, not in the slightest way. Yet there is in Christ Jesus a fulfilling of the Law – something that He did which re-ordered the cosmic interaction between humankind and God. In that same Matthew 5 sermon, Jesus closes out a section of His speech with

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect (5:48).

We are to be perfect. So how is it that in our sinful, rotten state before God we can be perfect? How do we keep His Law? How do we honor Him who is holy and perfect? Jesus is the key – His fulfillment of God’s Law was perfect, and His obedience to the Father was pure. In His perfect life of Law-keeping, He earned a place in God’s presence, as a man – and in His substitutionary death, He makes sure He will give His perfect life to each one of His people. He gives us His Sabbath-keeping life record, and we rest in Him as a response. We rest from our works in trusting Him (Heb. 3:16-4:10).

I should briefly say something to preempt a valid criticism. It is of course a wise and biblical principal to rest your body on a set-aside day each week. Sunday is a tremendous, obvious choice for Christians, for it is the Lord’s Day of Resurrection. We gather to worship the crucified, resurrected Son of God on Sunday, and it is eminently intelligent to create an atmosphere of family worship and relaxation! The only problem is if this keeping of Sunday is legislated to Christians as a means of obedience and sanctification. It can be a means of refreshment, of making worship more special, and of focusing on one’s family, but if the church enforces a Sunday rest, that church has broken the Sabbath rest of the new covenant.

And so what is His command? Repent of your sins, and believe the gospel. What does the obedience of that command look like? Trust Jesus, rest in Him, believe in Him, place your whole hope and confidence in Him.

Let’s let Jesus have the final word on this one:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30 NKJV).

Sola Gratia

Sola Fide

Solus Christus

Soli Deo Gloria

Thanks for reading,

Justin

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21 thoughts on “How Christians Keep or Violate the Sabbath

      • 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. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:5, 6 ESV)

        Whatever you find to be honoring to Christ, as long as you don’t observe a day, diet, ritual, or habit as a means of earning God’s favor, then you are free in Jesus.

      • When the Bible says to remember the day, to keep it holy, it is in Exodus – the Law of Moses. Just like circumcision for the old covenant, it is carried into the new in a fulfilled form: Christians are circumcised in heart, not in flesh, and we keep the Sabbath by resting our works in Jesus, not by observing Jewish ceremonial rites.

      • Of course my friend, and I am certainly not advocating a passing away of the law. What the Bible teaches is that in Jesus, the new covenant supersedes the old in Moses, and we are no longer under law, but under grace (Rom 6:14).

        I would encourage you to read Galatians very carefully. They were condemned by Paul for promoting circumcision as a part of Christian righteousness.

      • See here what Paul says:

        Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (Galatians 3:21-26 ESV)

        See, the law no longer functions the way it did before Christ. It still stands, but we relate to it through its fulfillment in Jesus… By the grace of God through faith in Christ alone, we are justified, and begin a life of walking with Christ, yet we are fulfillers of the law by faith in Jesus, not by our works of obedience.

  1. “the law no longer functions the way it did before Christ”. please explain that sentence. do we still follow the law or not? how are we fulfillers of the law if we are not to follow it? doesn’t a life of walking with Christ mean doing what the law says?

    • I think the quotation that I just replied with from Galatians 3 explains it pretty clearly. Did you read it? Paul tells us that the law was a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ, but since His coming we are no longer under it. I think if you read Galatians, it will really explain everything in this article and my comments 🙂

    • Like I said in the beginning of my article, we are to keep the law. It’s just that in the new covenant, law keeping is counted as fulfilled in Christ.

      When we trust in and put our hope and confidence in Him, repenting of our sins, we are counted as fulfilling the law. In the new covenant, we are to obey the commandments of God, but not in order to be justified – we obey because we are already justified.

      We obey because the Holy Spirit has written the law on our hearts, and in renewed obedience, we obey the example and commandments Jesus.

      Once again, I would have you read the Scriptures I commend to you above. Have a great evening.

  2. Christ gave us GRACE which is room for us to REPENT he never said that the law has changed.

    Eph 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

    Do you know what the ordinances are?

    That is the ceremonial and ritualistic laws of the Old Testament!

    Christ understood that people were sinning so much there was no bigger sacrifice for atonement then him self that is why he died for OUR SINS our transgression of THE LAW again let me explain how can you SIN IF THERE IS NO LAW!

    Heb 10:1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
    Heb 10:2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
    Heb 10:3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
    Heb 10:4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
    Heb 10:5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
    Heb 10:6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.

    What it means by a shadow of things to come is the shadow represents death because there is only more sin for people to commit!

    Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

    Joh 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

    (WHAT COMMANDMENTS WERE THESE?)

    Joh 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
    Joh 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

    (CHRIST SAID PEOPLE THAT LOVE HIM KEEP THE COMMANDENTS! HOW CAN YOU LOVE CHRIST IF YOU DO NOT KEEP THEM?)

    1Jn 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
    1Jn 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

    (IF YOU LOVE GOD YOU KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS AND IT FURTHER EXPLAINS IT IS NOT A BAD THING TO DO THIS)

    Let me ask you something if this shows you how to love god which is to keep his commandments then how would you go about hating him?

    Let me show you the contradiction in that which you speak!

    People say they no longer follow the laws of the old testament but yet they still keep the law of tithing?

    If there is no law then people can kill?, Steal?, commit adultery? worship false idols?, and nothing can happen to them because they are not to follow the law?

    I think you have this confused brother the law still STANDS!

    Rom 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

    Do we make the law void through the faith of Christ? GOD FORBID….. NO!

    The only thing Christ took away again let me explain was the sacrificial law.

    Lev 7:11 And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he shall offer unto the LORD.

    This whole chapter explains the law of sacrifice which was death of a person or animal! Which what scriptures explained as being a shadow of things to come.

    Eph 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

    Gal 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

    Col 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

    That was what christ took away not the LAW it self just the sacrificial part!

    Exo 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
    Exo 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
    Exo 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
    Exo 20:6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
    Exo 20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
    Exo 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
    Exo 20:9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
    Exo 20:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
    Exo 20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
    Exo 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
    Exo 20:13 Thou shalt not kill.
    Exo 20:14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
    Exo 20:15 Thou shalt not steal.
    Exo 20:16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
    Exo 20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

    How could following the 10 commandments be a bad thing?
    When it encourages us to live righteously amongst each other!

    Ecc 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
    Ecc 12:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

    Luk 16:16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
    Luk 16:17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

    As i said i still see a heaven and a earth and according to scripture god tells you that he does not change!

    Mal 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not;

    Neither did Christ!

    Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

    The only thing that changed were the commandments of Men!

    Mat 15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
    Mat 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

    Not to follow the law is not a gospel that Christ, nor the disciples nor Paul spoke of they all thoroughly KNEW the law.

    That is the sole reason that Christ selected Paul/Saul to carry out his work to the gentiles because he was raised a Pharisee so no one knew the law BETTER then him!

    Act 26:3 Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.
    Act 26:4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;
    Act 26:5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
    Act 26:6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers:
    Act 26:7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.

    So acknowledging all that some one please explain to me with the fact that Christ gave us grace instead of being punished by death by getting rid of the sacrificial law. How could keeping the commandments be a bad things?

    What doctrine contrary to what Christ taught are you teaching brother?

    Have a good day as well.

    • You’ve obviously misunderstood me, very badly. Either you were here at my blog simply to preach your particular interests, or you’ve just not read all of where I am coming from, but either way I will leave your comments up for all to see.

      I note that the rather lengthy reply you made appeared directly after my last reply to you – meaning you obviously had been planning to post it no matter what I said. You are probably a Seventh Day Adventist or some other heterodox denomination. There is little chance to misunderstand me quite as badly as you did, unless you were just attempting to set me up for your intense preaching that you just did.

      Well, I’ll leave it up to the rest of the readers to see what happened there and learn from it.

  3. Amen Thando. This blogger is confused. He speaks of the Sabbath day; inserts Sunday;spiiritualizes away the fourth command and apply it to Sun day again… sigh

    The gymnastics is amazing

    • Hello sir. You two go to the same Seventh Day Adventist church, right? If you want to actually interact with the Scriptures I suggested to your friend thando, I’d be interested to see your analysis. Otherwise, you are simply making your church look poor by not offering any reasonable exegesis of the Scriptures.

      Galatians. Hebrews 7-8. Matthew 11:28-12:15.

  4. Christ fulfills the whole law.
    No more blood sacrifices, not because they were abolished but because they were fulfilled in the cross of Christ. No more ceremonial priesthood, not because they were abolished but because they are fulfilled in Christ’s intercession. No more Ten Commandments, not because they were abolished, but because they are fulfilled in the law of Christ.
    Fulfillment is fulfillment – not abrogation, not abolition, not antinomian.
    We don’t merely obey the ninth commandment – not lying – we fulfill it by proclaiming the truth of the Gospel. It’s more than not lying.
    We don’t merely obey the fourth commandment – rest – we fulfill it by resting from dead works for justification. It’s more than a day off.
    Through union with Christ we participate in his fulfillment of the law, becoming more like him until we finally and fully enter into his eternal rest.
    Excellent post, brother.

    • Just re-reading your comment brought me fresh joy. I’m listening to Presbyterian scholars discuss Hebrews 3-4, interpreting out a day of law-keeping each Sunday, and I am saddened. And here for years I thought I was a Calvinist 🙂

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