Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Observing the Christian Sabbath {Part 1: Why}

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Several weeks ago I shared this article on my facebook page. It's all about honoring the Christian Sabbath as a command- setting aside each Sunday as a day for rest and worship. It generated a bit of buzz, and since several of you asked for more details I thought I'd write a few posts on the topic of the Lord's Day.

I've hesitated to write about being Sabbatarian for several years. Until 8 years ago it was an entirely foreign concept to me. Having convictions in this area has at times meant awkwardness with other believers- godly believers who just happen to have different convictions. I don't care to be the divisive person in a group... so I just haven't talked about it.

But after seeing several articles lately on the topic, and getting a few questions from readers, now seems as good a time as any to just go for it. Please know that I am no expert! This is just my understanding of the Scriptures; what I believe, and how that belief informs my life.

Today I'm covering the why behind observing the Christian Sabbath, and later this week I'll share posts including my testimony of switching to Sabbath observance, and a few suggestions for how you could start to observe the Day yourself.

So why should Christians observe a weekly Sabbath?


1. The Sabbath didn't begin with the Law of Moses. Most people associate the Sabbath with the book of Exodus, but you might be interested to know that long before there was Mosaic Law, there was Sabbath. Sabbath starts at Creation (Genesis 2:2-3).

When Sabbath is commanded later in the Pentateuch, it isn't new. Every time Moses covers it, he says "remember the Sabbath Day"- remember, because it has been around since creation. Remember what you already know is right.

2. Sabbath keeping sets the people of God apart. God's people are called to be light to unbelievers. One of the ways we can be different is by setting apart one day each week exclusively for worship. We show that the Lord is important to us by prioritizing time in His house with His people.

3. It's one of the Ten Commandments. As a reformed Christian, this is my position on Law: while the ceremonial and sacrificial laws of Israel have been done away with in the New Covenant, the moral law {otherwise known as the 10 commandments} is a reflection of the moral character of God and still applies to Christians today.

Even if you aren't reformed, chances are you would take seriously every single other one of the 10 commandments. No true Christian is fine with adultery, murder, stealing, lying, or idolatry. We all reference Moses' words when we tell our children to honor their parents. So why is the 4th command the only one we ignore?

4. Jesus didn't negate Sabbath observance. When Jesus condemns pharisees about the Sabbath, its important to note that He isn't condemning the Sabbath itself. Rather He condemns their abuse of it- not allowing for healing or meeting basic necessities. Instead of abandoning the observance of the Sabbath, Jesus faithfully keeps it and instructs us on the proper use of it.

5. God ordained it and observes it. Sabbath is God's idea. If He rested after the work of Creation as an example to us, how important is it for us to follow His example?!


6. God takes it extremely seriously. I encourage you to read the Old Testament passages on the Sabbath, and then ask yourself- if God was so serious about this commandment when the Scriptures were written, would He really just do away with it all together after the cross?

Granted, the consequences and the specific restrictions are not today what they were then. But Jesus came to fulfill the Law on our behalf, and paid the penalty for our Law breaking on the cross. Isn't failure to obey the 4th commandment one of the sins that Jesus had to die for?

7. It is a blessing and a gift, not a burden. How glorious is it to have one day free of worldly cares and work, set apart to enjoy God, fellowship with other believers, and rest?!? This is a precious gift from God to us. I'll be speaking more on this in the posts to come!

8. Our souls need worship and our bodies need rest. Humans have limitations and humans have needs. One of our greatest spiritual needs is worship, and one of our greatest physical needs is rest. God has provided for both of those needs by giving us the Sabbath.

9. Church history sets a strong precedent. Until very recently, Christians everywhere were strongly committed to not working on Sundays. Restaurants, shops, and most other business establishments were closed on Sundays- even the secular culture respected the Day!

Of course historical examples aren't strong enough reason on their own- everyone is fallible, after all. But if keeping the Christian Sabbath was the habit of Christians from the days of the early church through the next 1,900 years... do we really think that we are superior to be free of it? It's at least worth considering.


Why do Christians observe Sunday as "The Lord's Day," or, the Christian Sabbath?

Basically, because Jesus rose again on the first day of the week. Christians in the first century started meeting on Sundays to remember His resurrection. In Revelation 1:10, John says he was "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day." That's why we call Sunday the Lord's Day, and its what most Christians use as their Biblical basis for worshiping on that day.

This is just a brief explanation. For more detailed works on the topic, I highly recommend the following books: Celebrating the Sabbath by Bruce A. Ray, The Lord's Day by Joseph Pipa, and Call the Sabbath a Delight by Walter Chantry.

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