The Christian Sabbath

120 The Christian Sabbath

The Christian Sabbath is the life in Jesus Christ, in which every believer finds true rest. The weekly seventh-day Sabbath commanded to Israel in the Ten Commandments was a shadow that pointed to the true reality of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 4,3.8-10, Matthew 11,28-30, 2, Moses 20,8-11, Colossians 2,16-17)

Celebrate salvation in Christ

Worship is our response to the gracious acts that God has done for us. For the people of Israel, the Exodus, the experience of moving out of Egypt, was at the center of worship - what God had done for them. For Christians, the gospel is the focus of worship - which God has done for all believers. In Christian worship we celebrate and share in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the salvation and redemption of all human beings.

The form of worship given to Israel was specifically for them. God had given the Israelites an adoration pattern through Moses that enabled the people of Israel to celebrate and thank God for all that God had done for them when he led them out of Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land.

Christian worship does not require rules based on Israel's Old Testament experience of God, but rather responds to the gospel. Similarly, we can say that the "new wine" of the gospel must be filled in "new tubes" (Mt 9,17). The "old hose" of the Old Covenant was not fit to receive the new wine of the gospel (Hebr 12,18-24).

New forms

The Israelite service was destined for Israel. He lasted until the coming of Christ. Since then, God's people have expressed their worship in a new form, responding to the new content - the transcendent New that God has done in Jesus Christ. Christian worship is focused on the repetition and participation in the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The most important components are:

  • Celebration of the Lord's Supper, also called Eucharist (or thanksgiving) and communion, as commanded by Christ.
  • Scripture: We review and look at the accounts of God's love and His promises, especially the promise of the Redeemer Jesus Christ, which feeds us on the Word of God.
  • Prayers and songs: In faith we make our prayers to God, humbly repent of our sins and honor and praise Him in joyful, thankful worship.

Targeted to content

The Christian worship is primarily focused on content and meaning and not on formal or temporal criteria. Therefore, Christian worship is not bound to a specific day of the week or season. The Christians are not required to have a specific day or season. But Christians can choose special seasons to celebrate important stages in the life and work of Jesus.

Similarly, Christians "reserve" one day a week for their common worship: they gather as the body of Christ to honor God. Most Christians choose Sunday for their service, others Saturday, and again a few gather at other times - for example, on Wednesday evenings.

Typical of Seventh-day Adventist teaching is the view that Christians commit a sin by choosing Sunday as a regular gathering day for their worship. But there is no support for that in the Bible.

Important events took place on Sunday It may surprise many Seventh-day Adventists, but the Gospels expressly report important events that took place on Sunday. We will go into more detail on this: Christians are not required to attend their service on Sunday, but there is no reason not to choose Sunday for the worship meeting.

The Gospel of John reports that the disciples of Jesus came together on the first Sunday after Jesus' crucifixion and that Jesus appeared to them (John 20,1). All four Gospels all agree that Jesus' resurrection was discovered early in the morning by the dead (Mt 28,1, Mk 16,2, Lk 24,1, Joh 20,1).

All four evangelists considered it important to mention that these events took place at a certain time, namely on Sunday. They could have foregone such a detail, but they did not. The Gospels indicate that Jesus revealed Himself as the Risen Messiah on Sunday - first in the morning, then at noon, and last in the evening. The evangelists, in view of these Sunday apparitions of the risen Jesus, were by no means troubled or frightened; they wanted to make it clear that all this took place on the said [first] weekday.

The way to Emmaus

Anyone who doubts on which day the resurrection took place should read the unmistakable account of the two "Emmaus disciples" in Luke's Gospel. Jesus had predicted that he would rise from the dead "on the third day" (Lk 9,22, 18,33, 24,7).

Luke clearly states that that Sunday - the day when women discovered the empty grave of Jesus - was actually "the third day". He specifically points out that the women stated Jesus' resurrection on Sunday morning (Lk 24,1-6), that the disciples went to Emmaus "the same day" (Lk 24,13) and that it was "the third day" (Lk 24,21) was the day when Jesus was said to be resurrected (Lk 24,7).

Let us recall some important facts that the evangelists tell us about the first Sunday after the crucifixion of Jesus:

  • Jesus was raised from the dead (Lk 24,1-8, 13, 21).
  • Jesus was recognized when he "broke bread" (Lk 24,30-31, 34-35).
  • The disciples met and Jesus joined them (Lk 24,15, 36, Joh 20,1, 19). John reports that the disciples also came together on the second Sunday after the crucifixion and that Jesus was again "in the midst of them" (Joh 20,26).

In the early church

As Luke reports in Acts 20,7, Paul preached to the community members in Troas gathered on Sunday "to break the bread". In the 1. Corinthians 16,2 called on Paul's congregation in Corinth, as well as the churches in Galatia (16,1), to make a donation to the hungry congregation in Jerusalem every Sunday.

Paul does not say the church must gather on Sunday. But his request suggests that Sunday meetings were not uncommon. He cites the reason for the weekly donation, "so that the collection does not happen until I come" (1Kor 16,2). If the parishioners did not hand in their donations each week at a gathering, but put aside the money at home, there would still have been a need for a collection on the apostle Paul's arrival.

These passages are so natural that we realize that it was by no means uncommon for Christians to meet on Sunday, and it was also not uncommon for them to "break bread" together at their Sunday meetings (an expression Paul gave to the Lord's Supper) connects, see 1Kor 10,16-17).

Thus, we see that the inspired New Testament evangelists deliberately want us to know that Jesus rose on Sunday. They also had no qualms if at least some of the faithful gathered on Sunday to break bread. The Christians have not been explicitly told to come together for a Sunday worship service, but as these examples show, there is no reason to be scrupulous about this.

Possible pitfalls

As stated above, there are even good reasons for Christians to come together on Sunday as the Body of Christ to celebrate their fellowship with God. Therefore, do Christians have to choose Sunday as the day of assembly? No. The Christian faith is not based on certain days, but on the belief in God and his son Jesus Christ.

It would be wrong to just replace one group of prescribed holidays with another. The Christian faith and worship are not about prescribed days, but about recognizing and loving God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If we decide on which day we want to get together with other believers to worship, we should make our decision with the right reasoning. Jesus' request "Take, eat; that is my body "and" drink all of it "is not bound to a particular day. Nevertheless, it was a tradition for non-Jewish Christians to gather in the communion of Christ since Sunday, because Sunday was the day when Jesus revealed Himself as risen from the dead.

The Sabbath commandment and with it the entire Mosaic law ended with Jesus' death and resurrection. To cling to it or to try to reapply it in the form of a Sunday Sabbath means weakening God's revelation about Jesus Christ, which is the fulfillment of all his promises.

The idea that God requires Christians to observe the Sabbath, or oblige them to obey the law of Moses, means that we Christians do not fully experience the joy that God wants us to convey in Christ. God wants us to trust in His redemptive work and to find in Him alone our rest and comfort. Our salvation and our lives are at His mercy.


We occasionally receive a letter in which the writer expresses his or her dissatisfaction, calling into question the view that the weekly Sabbath is God's holy day for Christians. They declare that they will obey "God more than men," no matter what anyone tells them.

The effort to do what one considers God's will must be acknowledged; What is more misleading is what God really needs from us. The strong conviction of the Sabbatarians that obedience to God signifies the sanctification of the weekly Sabbath makes it clear what confusion and error the Sabbatharians have done among thoughtless Christians.

On the one hand, the Sabbatarian doctrine proclaims an unbiblical understanding of what it means to obey God, and on the other, it raises this understanding of obedience as a criterion for deciding the validity of Christian faithfulness. The consequence is that a confrontational mindset - "we against the others" - has developed, an understanding of God that causes divisions in the body of Christ, because one thinks that one has to obey a commandment which according to New Testament doctrine is out of force.

Faithful observance of the weekly Sabbath is not a question of obedience to God because God does not require Christians to sanctify the weekly Sabbath. God invites us to love him, and our love of God is not determined by the observance of the weekly Sabbath. It is determined by our faith in Jesus Christ and our love for our fellow human beings (1Joh 3,21-24; 4,19-21). There are, so the Bible says, a new covenant and a new law (Hebr 7,12; 8,13; 9,15).

It is wrong for Christian teachers to use the weekly Sabbath as a yardstick for the validity of Christian faith. The doctrine that the Sabbath commandment is binding upon Christians burdens the Christian conscience with destructive lawfulness, darkens the truth and power of the gospel, and causes divisions in the body of Christ.

Divine calm

The Bible says God expects people to believe and love the gospel (Joh 6,40; 1Joh 3,21-24; 4,21; 5,2). The greatest joy that people can experience is that they recognize and love their Lord (Joh 17,3), and that love is not defined or promoted by observance of a particular day of the week.

The Christian life is a life of security in the joy of the Redeemer, the divine tranquility, a life in which every part of life is dedicated to God and every activity is an act of surrender. Establishing the observance of the Sabbath as a defining element of "true" Christianity causes much of the joy and power of the truth to be missed, that Christ has come, and that God in him is one with all who believe the good news new covenant (Mt 26,28; Hebr
9,15), has erected (Rom 1,16; 1Joh 5,1).

The weekly Sabbath was a shadow - a hint - of the reality that was yet to come (Col 2,16-17). Keeping this indication as necessary for ever means denying the truth that this reality is already present and available. One deprives oneself of the ability to experience undivided joy over what is really important.

It's just like following his engagement ad and enjoying it after the wedding has long since taken place. Rather, it is high time to turn the priority attention to the partner and let the betrothal as a pleasant memory in the background.

Place and time are no longer the focus of worship for the people of God. True worship, Jesus said, happens in spirit and in truth (Joh 4,21-26). The heart belongs to the spirit. Jesus is the truth.

When Jesus was asked, "What shall we do that we work God's works?" He answered, "That is God's work, that you believe in Him whom He has sent" (Jn 6,28-29). This is why Christian worship is primarily about Jesus Christ - his identity as the eternal Son of God and his work as Lord, Savior and Teacher.

God more pleasing?

Those who believe that observance of the Sabbath commandment is the criterion that determines our redemption or condemnation at the Last Judgment misunderstand both sin and the grace of God. If Sabbath saints are the only people to be saved, then the Sabbath is the measure by which it is judged, not the Son of God, who died and rose from the dead for our salvation.

Sabbatarians think that God is more pleased with the one who sanctifies the Sabbath than with the one who does not sanctify him. But this argument does not come from the Bible. The Bible teaches that the Sabbath commandment as well as the entire law of Moses in Jesus Christ has been lifted and elevated to a higher level.

Therefore, it does not mean "greater pleasure for God" in keeping the Sabbath. The Sabbath was not given to Christians. The destructive element in Sabbatarian theology is its insistence that Sabbatarians are the only true and believing Christians, meaning that the blood of Jesus will not be enough for the salvation of man unless the Sabbath sanctification is added.

The Bible contradicts such erroneous doctrines in many meaningful passages: We are redeemed at the mercy of God, solely by believing in the blood of Christ and without works of any kind (Eph 2,8-10, 3,21-22, 4,4-8, 2T in 1,9 Tit 3,4-8). These clear statements, that Christ alone and not the Law is crucial to our salvation, clearly contradict the Sabbatarian doctrine that people who do not sanctify the Sabbath could not experience salvation.

God Wanted?

The average Sabbatarian is of the opinion that he is more godly than someone who does not keep the Sabbath. Let's look at the following statements from earlier WKG publications:

"But only those who continue to obey God's commandment to Sabbath observance will ultimately enter the glorious 'tranquility' of the Kingdom of God and receive the gift of eternal spiritual life." (Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, 27 Lesson 58, 1964, 1967) ,

"Those who do not keep the Sabbath will not bear the 'sign' of the divine Sabbath that marks the people of God, and therefore will NOT BE BORN BY GOD when Christ returns!" (Ibid, 12).

As these quotes indicate, Sabbathing was not only considered as God-given, but also believed that no one would be saved without the sanctification of the Sabbath.

The following quote from Seventh-day Adventist literature:
"In the context of this eschatological debate, the celebration of the liturgy on Sunday ultimately becomes a distinguishing feature, here a sign of the animal. Satan has made Sunday a sign of his power, while the Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty to God. This dispute will divide Christendom into two camps and determine the conflicting end times for the people of God "(Don Neufeld, Seventh Day Adventist Encyclopaedia, 2, Revision, Volume 3). The quote clarifies the idea of ​​Seventh-day Adventists that observance of the Sabbath is the deciding factor for who really believes in God and who does not, a concept that results from a fundamental misunderstanding of the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, a concept that promotes an attitude of spiritual superiority.


Sabbatarian theology is at odds with the grace of God in Jesus Christ and the clear message of the Bible. The Law of Moses, including the Sabbath commandment, was for the people of Israel and not for the Christian church. Although Christians should feel free to worship God every day of the week, we must not make the mistake of believing that there is any biblical reason to prefer Saturday as a gathering day to any other day.

We can summarize all this as follows:

  • It is contrary to the biblical teaching that the Sabbath on the seventh day is binding on Christians.
  • It is contrary to the biblical teaching to say that God has greater pleasure in people who sanctify the Sabbath than in those who do not, be it Seventh-day or Sunday-Sabbath.
  • It is contrary to the biblical teaching to assert that a given day, as a day of assembly, is more sacred to the church or more godly than another.
  • There is a central gospel event that happened on a Sunday, and that is the basis for the Christian tradition of gathering for worship on that day.
  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came as one of us to redeem us, is the foundation of our faith. Therefore, Sunday worship is a reflection of our faith in the gospel. However, communal worship on Sunday is not required, nor does worship on Sunday make Christians more holy or more loved by God than the congregation on any other day of the week.
  • The doctrine that the Sabbath is binding on Christians therefore causes spiritual harm because such teachings are contrary to Scripture and endanger the unity and love in the body of Christ.
  • It is spiritually harmful to believe and teach that Christians should gather on either Saturday or Sunday, because such a doctrine establishes the day of worship as a legal hurdle that must be skipped to be redeemed.

One last thought

As followers of Jesus, we should learn not to condemn each other in the decisions we make in harmony with our conscience before God. And we have to be honest with ourselves about the reasons behind our decisions. The Lord Jesus Christ has brought believers into his divine peace, in peace with him in the full grace of God. May all of us, as Jesus commanded, grow in love for one another.

Mike Feazell

pdfThe Christian Sabbath