Which Day is the Christian Sabbath?
by Peter Salemi
Which day should be held sacred for Christians? The majority in the Christian world say Sunday, the first day of the week. Others say Saturday, the seventh-day of the week, the day the Bible calls the Sabbath? What about the "Lord's Day"? Which day should be kept by Christians?
This debate about the Sabbath and Sunday has been raging on since the beginning of the first century after Christ. The Sabbath has been a sticking point for many in the Christian world. Why? Several reasons come up, but let's focus on the true day in which Christians ought to worship, and does it matter to God which day we should venerate him. We of course must go to one source and one source only to know exactly which day is the day sacred for Christians, and that book is the Bible!
The Sabbath in the Beginning
This is never preached out of the pulpit, but the Sabbath day was established long before Moses on Sinai. At the end of creation Almighty God saw that everything was "good," then, "And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
"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 2:2-3). In these two verses God: 1) Ended his work 2)Rested 3) Blessed 4) Sanctified, What day? The Seventh day of the weekly cycle which he had established in the beginning. This of course is called the Sabbath. Clarkes Commentary says, "שבת" shabath, he rested; hence Sabbath, the name of the seventh day, signifying a day of rest - rest to the body from labor and toil, and rest to the soul from all worldly care and anxieties." Of course God calls this the Sabbath in Exodus 20 as he hearkens back to creation and tells us to "Remember" it. Many commentaries will also confirm this fact. Clearly this day is the Sabbath day.
But this reveals something interesting. If the Sabbath was known since the beginning, and Adam had contact with God, then Adam and Eve kept the Sabbath. If God commanded the Israelites to "Remember" the Sabbath and keep it holy centuries later, then Adam would of done the same when it was instituted.
Noah was found "righteous" before God (Gen 7:1). God's righteousness is his law (Psalm 119:172). We find God's law all over the Old Testament in force before Moses.
Abraham "obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws." (Gen 26:5). The Hebrew words God uses here are especially important. As The Expositor's Bible Commentary explains regarding this verse: "The Lord then added a remarkable note: Abraham 'kept my requirements [ mismarti ], my commands [ miswotay ], my decrees [ huqqotay ] and my laws [ wetorotay ]' (v. 5).
"It is remarkable that this is precisely the way in which obedience to the Sinai Covenant is expressed in Deuteronomy 11:1: 'Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements [ mismarto ], his decrees [ huqqotayw ], his laws [ mispatayw ] and his commands [ miswotayw ]' . . .
"Thus Abraham is an example of one who shows the law written on his heart (Jeremiah 31:33). He is the writer's ultimate example of true obedience to the law, the one about whom the Lord could say, 'Abraham obeyed me' (v. 5). Thus, by showing Abraham to be an example of 'keeping the law,' the writer has shown the nature of the relationship between the law and faith. Abraham, a man who lived in faith, could be described as one who kept the law" (Vol. 2, 1990, pp. 186-187, emphasis added). Abraham, Adam, Jacob, Isaac, Joseph, the other Patriarchs all kept the law of God before Moses was even born. (The BICOG will created a booklet dedicated to the subject in the future).
Now at Sinai, God writes his laws on two tables of Stone, and God says, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
"Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
"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:
"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." (Exodus 20:8-11). Can this mean any other day than the day God established way back in Genesis 2?
Let's break this down:
1) God says, "Remember." "...implying it was already known, and recognized as a season of sacred rest." (JFB Commentary). The Sabbath was known and was kept before the giving of the Decalogue. Exodus 16, before Sinai, the Israelites went through the Sabbath Test, to see "whether they will walk in My law or not." (v.4). His test involved whether they would rest on the seventh-day Sabbath as He commanded in the Fourth Commandment of that law—with which they were at least partly familiar. Of course they failed and God said, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?" (Exodus 16: 28). God clearly speaks of both His "commandments and . . . laws" as already existing and in force well before He listed the Ten Commandments verbally at Mt. Sinai, as described four chapters later!
2) "Holy" It was day set apart and sacred. A day special to God. Six days are regular days but the seventh day Sabbath was set apart as holy
3) The Seventh day is the "sabbath of the Lord your God." The seventh day is the day of the Lord, the Lord's Day. In Isaiah 58 God again says, "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:" (58:13). Is there any question which day is God's day and is holy to him?
4) It is a memorial of the creation week, and that we should follow the example of God, he rested on the Sabbath.
5) The gentiles were to keep the Sabbath as well. These are converted gentiles, the law applied to them as well as the Israelites. "And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
"ONE LAW shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you." (Ex 12:48-49).
Ezekiel clarifies even more: "And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations,
"In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.
"And ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things: but ye have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves.
"Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel. " (44:6-9). Circumcised of the heart is conversion to the religion of Yahweh-Jesus Christ. Paul makes this case clearly in Romans 2, "For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
"Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
"But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." (vv.25-26, 29). Paul of course got this from the Old Testament as shown above and also in Deuteronomy 10:16.
Isaiah speaks also of converted gentiles, those that, "Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
"Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people." (56:6-7). Those that "join themselves to the Lord" means conversion to God, see 1 Corinthians 6:17. These converted gentiles that keep the Sabbath, these will God bring into his kingdom. So, in the Old Testament, the laws of God including the Sabbath were for the Israelites and the gentiles who converted to Yahweh-Jesus Christ! (For more examples of the gentiles and the law of God read our booklet The Saving Works of God).
During Israel's history, two things kept cropping up, and these two main reasons were why Israel got removed from their land, that was Idolatry and Sabbath breaking. Nehemiah in his day, when Israel began to break the Sabbath once again, he said, "Didn't God punish us and this city because our ancestors did these very same things? And here you are, about to make God furious again by disgracing the Sabbath!" (Neh 13:18, Contemporary English Version). The Pulpit Commentary says, " 'Did not your fathers thus? The desecration of the sabbath is among the sins most strongly denounced by Jeremiah (Jer_17:21-27) and Ezekiel. (Eze_20:13 Eze_22:8, Eze_22:26, etc.) And did not our God bring all this evil upon us and upon this city? God had said by Jeremiah, 'If ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched'. (Jer_17:27) The burning of the city by Nebuzaradan was the performance of this threat." (emphasis theirs). Israel was removed out of their land, and lost their identity even to this day, as a whole do not know that they are the Israelites of the Bible, and when told utterly refuse to accept it, unless revealed by God. Today we in the Israelitish nations continue to reject the Sabbath, and have forsaken God, eventually God will remove us from our lands that he gave us, and bring us into captivity. (Read our Booklet USA and Britain in Prophecy for details).
The New Testament
Now in the New Testament, here is where all Christians believe that the Sabbath was abrogated. Let's see if this is true. First can we find in history, which day was the day the Jews recognized as the Sabbath?
Dio Cassius, a Roman historian, explained the strategy employed by Pompey in taking Jerusalem in 63 BCE: "If they [i.e., the Jews] had continued defending it [i.e., the Temple] on all days alike, he could not have got possession of it. As it was, they made an exception of what are called the days of Saturn, and by doing no work at all on those days afforded the Romans an opportunity in this interval to batter down the wall. The latter, on learning of this superstitious awe of theirs, made no serious attempts the rest of the time, but on those days, when they came around in succession, assaulted most vigorously. Thus the defenders were captured on the day of Saturn without making any defense, and all the wealth was plundered. The kingdom was given to Hyrcanus, and Aristobulus was carried away."
In passing, the Roman historian also made the following comment upon the Jewish custom of observing the Sabbath: “They are distinguished from the rest of mankind in practically every detail of life and especially by the fact that they do not honor any of the usual gods, but show extreme reverence for one particular divinity. They never had any statue of him even in Jerusalem itself, but believing him to be Linnamable and invisible, they worship him in the most extravagant fashion on earth. They built to him a temple that was extremely large and beautiful except in so far as it was open and roofless, and likewise dedicated to him the day called the day of Saturn, on which, among many other most peculiar observances, they undertake no serious occupation.” (Ibid., Chapter 17, in Loeb Classical Library, Dio’s Roman History, Volume 3, Pages 125, 127, 129, emphasis added).
The important fact for us to note in this story of the capture of Jerusalem by Pompey in 63 BC is that the day of Saturn in the planetary week of the pagans then corresponded to the Sabbath or seventh day of the Biblical week of the Jews. The testimony of Dio Cassius is confirmed by that of Josephus, the Hebrew historian, who was a contemporary of the apostles. Josephus’s account of the siege runs thus: “Nor had the Romans succeeded in their endeavors, had not Pompey taken notice of the seventh days, on which the Jews abstain from all sorts of work on a religious account, and raised his bank, but restrained his soldiers from fighting on those days; for the Jews only acted defensively on Sabbath days.”
“Had it not been for our practice, from the days of our forefathers, to rest on the seventh day, this bank [thrown up by Pompey] could never have been perfected, by reason of the opposition the Jews would have made; for though our law gives us leave then to defend ourselves against those that begin to fight us and assault us, yet does it not permit its to meddle with our enemies while they do anything else. Which thing when the Romans understood, on those days which we call Sabbaths they threw nothing at the Jews, nor came to any pitched battle with them; but raised up their earthen banks, and brought their engines into such forwardness, that they might do execution the next day. The city was taken on the third month, on the day of the fast, upon the hundred and seventy-ninth olympiad, when Caius Antonius and Marcus Tullius Cicero were consuls.” Josephus adds, in the same account, that his testimony was confirmed by the writings of Strabo, Nicolaus of Damascus, and Titus Livius (Livy). (source: Josephus, Wars of the Yews, Book 1, Chapter 7, Section 3, in The Works of Flavius Josephus, Page 618; See footnote 9; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 14, Chapter 4, Sections 2, 3, in The Works of Flavius Josephus, Page 413). Notice, this practice was from the days of their "forefathers." The practice of the Sabbath in the first century was practiced in Old Testament times as well as in the time of Jesus, unabated. The Romans called it the "day of Saturn" which of course responds to our day called Saturday!
Gaius Sosius in 37 BC
In 37 BC the state of political affairs at Jerusalem was similar to that existing at the time of Pompey’s intervention. Antigonus, son of Aristobulus II, had been taken with his father to Route, but later succeeded in escaping and returning to Palestine. He then attempted to make himself ruler over the Jews. The Romans, in the meantime, had lent their support to Herod, their Idumean collector in chief of taxes there. This Herod was the one who later slew the babes of Bethlehem (Matthew 2) in an attempt to destroy the Messiah. With the help of the Parthians, Antigontis seated himself in Jerusalem and tenaciously opposed the ambitious Herod. The latter obtained the help of Antony, the Roman consul, who ordered Gains Sosius, the governor of Syria, to use the army to support Herod. Sosius, in command of the Roman troops, proceeded to depose Antigonus and establish Herod in Jerusalem. Dio Cassius wrote thus about it: “This officer . . . conquered in battle Antigonus, who had put to death the Roman guards that were with him, and reduced him by siege when he took refuge in Jerusalem. The Jews, indeed, had done much injury to the Romans, for the race is very bitter when aroused to anger, but they suffered far more themselves. The first of them to be captured were those who were fighting for the precinct of their god, and then the rest on the day even then called the day of Saturn. And so excessive were they in their devotion to religion that the first set of prisoners, those who had been captured along with the temple, obtained leave from Sosius, when the day of Saturn came round again, and went up into the temple and there performed all the customary rites, together with the rest of the people.” (Dio Cassius, Roman History, book 49, Chapter 22, in Loeb Classical Library, Dio’s Roman History, Volume 5, Page 387, emphasis added). Notice again, the day of Saturn, and it was a weekly occurrence of every seven days, every Saturday!
This was before the time of Christ. But, there is also historical evidence that the same day was observed even after Christ died and was resurrected.
It was in 66 AD that the Jews of Palestine revolted against the government of Rome, and Nero, the emperor, sent his general, Vespasian, to put down the rebellion. The armies of Vespasian, led to ultimate victory by his son Titus, captured the city of Jerusalem in 70 AD The Roman author Sextus Julius Frontinus, who wrote in Latin about the time near the close of the first century, referred to the conquest of Jerusalem by the armies of Vespasian, saying: “The divine Augustus Vespasian attacked the Jews on the day of Saturn, on which it is forbidden for them to do anything serious, and prevailed.”(Frontinus, The Stratagems, book 2, Chapter 1, Section 17, in Loeb Classical Library, Frontinus, Page 98, author’s translation). Frontinus wrote about 97 AD, and the fact that he designated one of the seven days by the name of Saturn reveals that his readers were already familiar with the use of the planetary week.
Dio Cassius says this in his account of this war between the Omans and the Jews: “Thus was Jerusalem destroyed on the very day of Saturn, the day which even now the Jews reverence most. From that time forth it was ordered that the Jews who continued to observe their ancestral customs should pay an annual tribute of two denarii to Jupiter Capitolinus.”(Dio Cassius, Roman History, book 65, Chapter 7, in Loeb Classical Library, Dio’s Roman History, Volume 8, Page 271). Dio Cassius wrote about events right up til AD 229. In this passage he writes "even now" the Jews still observe the Sabbath on the same day, in his day, as well as in the days when the temple stood.
The date of the fall of Jerusalem, according to several authorities, was Saturday, September 8, 70 AD. (The New International Encyclopedia, Volume 22, Page 309, Article “Titus.”). So, when we read of the Sabbath Day in the New Testament, it means the Sabbath that the Jews were keeping, which history shows is Saturday, the same day they observe today. Jesus when he went into the synagogue "as his custom was" (Luke 4:16), went in and all the Jews of the town were there on the Sabbath and he read the scriptures. Jesus and the Jews kept the same Sabbath, Friday sunset to Saturday sunset (see Lev 23:32).
The Roman Week in the First Century
In the first century of the time of Christ, the Romans adopted the seventh day week cycle, and they adopted it from the Jews. In fact, "...it is generally recognized that it was the popularity of the Jewish seven-day week, with its Sabbath, that influenced the Romans just before the beginning of Christianity to adopt the seven-day planetary week in place of their eight-day (nundinum) week" (Sabbath and the New Testament, p.117, Samuele Bacchiocchi). Some believe it was the other way around, that the Jews adopted the day of Saturn from the Romans, therefore making the case that the Sabbath is pagan in origin, of course this is not the case. The Hebrews just numbered the days of the week, 1st day 2nd day etc..., the seventh day was called the Sabbath. The Romans adopted this system, and of course being Pagans added the names days of the week in honor of their gods. In fact S. D. Waterhouse writes in his article, “The Introduction of the Planetary Week into the West:” that, “Thus it came about that the ingredients for the planetary week were brought together; the concept ‘of planetary gods being taken from the Babylonians, the mathematics having been supplied by the Greeks, and the dekans or hours, adopted from the Egyptians. Alexandria, possessing a large, indigenous, and influential Jewish population, was well suited for bringing in a final ingredient, that of the Hebrew weekly cycle.” (The Sabbath in Scripture and History, Appendix A, p.313, emphasis added). Also concerning the origins of the Sabbath day and the seven day weekly cycle, many have concluded that, "No single hypothesis or attempted combination of hypotheses has succeeded in providing a conclusive solution to the quest of Sabbath origins. It maybe concluded from the point of view of religio-historical investigation the Sabbath is unique to Biblical religion" (The Sabbath in Scripture and History Gerhard F. Hasel, p.22).
Josephus says, “There is not one Greek or barbarian nor a single nation to whom our custom of abstaining from work on the seventh day has not spread, and where the fasts and the lighting of lamps and many of our prohibitions in the matter of food are not observed.” (Josephus, Against Apion 2, 40. A similar statement is found in Philo, Vita Mosis 2, 20). The Romans adopted the weekly cycle. Saturday was the first day of the week for them, Sunday was the second at that time, but for the Hebrews the day of Saturn was always the seventh day for them, and the Israelites would not have given up the seventh-day Sabbath for the Roman weekly cycle. This would have been idolatry to them. In fact, in the days of the prophet Amos the Israelites that turned to paganism, associated the Sabbath with the god Saturn which God condemned, "Apostate Hebrew thought had long associated the highest sphere of the heavens, ruled by Saturn, as the sphere of the Ancient of Days. The antiquity of this association can be dated centuries back to the time of the Old Testament prophet Amos. Rebuking Idolatry, the Hebrew prophet singled out for special condemnation Israel's chief star god Kaiwan (kywn) the Chaldean and Persian designation for Saturn" (The Sabbath in Scripture and History, Appendix A, p.313).
A "Hybrid" Institution- Robert L Odum says during that time, the calendar was a hybrid institution, that "The week as it appears in our modern calendar is a hybrid institution. The numerical order of the days is that of the original Biblical week, but the nomenclature is that of the pagan planetary week of long ago...In this pagan week the days came in this order: (1) the day of Saturn, (2) the day of the Sun, (3) the day of the Moon, (4) the day of Mars, (5) the day, of Mercury, (6) the day of Jupiter, and (7) the day of Venus. Their correspondence to the days of the Biblical week was as follows:
1. First day 2. Day of the Suit
2. Second day 3. Day of the Moon
3. Third day 4. Day of Mars
4. Fourth day 5. Day of Mercury
5. Fifth day 6. Day of Jupiter
6. Sixth day 7. Day of Venus
7. Seventh day 1. Day of Saturn (Sunday Sacredness In Roman Paganism p. 7, By Robert Leo Odom ).
Saturday, due to the influence of the Jews, the Romans made, the first day of the week, however it was the seventh day for the Jews, but then Sunday was made, the first day of the week in the Roman calendar. How, and when did this occur? Samuele Bacchiocchi's book from Sabbath to Sunday reveals that the religion of Mithra, and Sun worship which took over the Roman Empire contributed to the "day of the Sun" moving from the second day to the first day of the week, for the first day of the week for the Romans was the most " 'venerable' position" of the weekly cycle, "The contemporaneous existence of Sun worship and of the planetary week suggests the possibility that with the development of the former, the day dedicated to the Sun took on greater importance. This is corroborated by the process whereby the primacy and prestige of the day of Saturn was transferred to that of the Sun. In fact, initially the day of the Sun 'had nothing to distinguish it from the other days' since it was the second day of the week following Saturn-day which was the first. In time, however, the day of the Sun came to occupy the first and 'most venerable' position.
"The process which led to the enhancement of Sun-day at the expense of Saturn-day is difficult to trace because of the lack of explicit information regarding what religious customs..." (pp.247-248, emphasis added). Though the process is not known, most likely the Emperor gave the order to change it, but by the second century the day of the Sun, or Sunday was established the first day of the week. The famous pagan astrologer Vettius Valens, in his Anthology composed between A.D. 154 and 174, in explaining how to find the day of the week of any given birth date he explicitly states: "And this is the sequence of the planetary stars in relation to the days of the week: Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn.” “Vettius Valens, who undoubtedly was a pagan, used the week of seven days, [and] reckoned the seven-day week as beginning with the day of the Sun (Sunday) and ending with ‘the sabbatical day’ (Sabbath day)” (p. 134); (ibid, footnotes, p.251). Therefore "...the day of the Sun, enhanced by the prevailing Sun-cult, did supplant the day of Saturn in the Roman world by the beginning of the second century..." (ibid, p.251). After this we see from that time on, till now, Sunday is the first day of the week, and Saturday is the seventh day, and is the Sabbath, which never changed in the Jewish reckoning of the days of the week. As we see in one example of many, in the Syriac Didascalia (ca. A.D. 250), it says “Cease therefore, beloved brethren, you who from among the people have believed, yet desire still to be tied with bonds, and say that the Sabbath is prior to the first day of the week because the Scripture has said: ‘In six days did God make all things; and on the seventh day he finished all his works, and he sanctified it.’ We ask you now, which is first, Alaf or Tau? For that (day) which is the greater is that which is the beginning of the world, even as the Lord our Saviour said to Moses: 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.'" (ibid, p.275). Clearly, with the knowledge of the Jews celebrating the Sabbath, knowing the day of Saturn was the seventh day, and promoting the first day of the week, which was Sunday, that was established at that time, the day we call Saturday today is the seventh-day Sabbath.
Which Day Did Jesus Recognize?
Now that we have established which day is the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week that the Jews observed and was passed on to them by their "forfathers." What day did Jesus keep? What does your bible say? If Jesus kept the wrong day, then he would of sinned, and not be our savior, because sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4).
In the Gospel of Luke Jesus after the temptation in the wilderness came to his home town of Nazareth, "....and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read" (4:16). We know from biblical and secular sources that the Sabbath day was Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. This is the day Christ recognized as the holy day of God. He was in the synagogue with the other Jews, these other Jews also recognized the same day, and it was as "as his custom was." The reason was not that he knew the Jews were in the synagogue that day and he had to preach to them so he went to the synagogue, instead he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, THAT WAS HIS CUSTOM! In fact Robertson's Word Pictures puts it, "As his custom was (kata to eiōthos autōi). Second perfect active neuter singular participle of an old ethō (Homer), to be accustomed. Literally according to what was customary to him (autōi, dative case). This is one of the flashlights on the early life of Jesus. He had the habit of going to public worship in the synagogue as a boy, a habit that he kept up when a grown man." (emphasis added).
Lord of the Sabbath
Jesus when he confronted the scribes and Pharisees, because they thought he violated the Sabbath by plucking ears of corn. The Pharisees said to him, "...Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?" (Mark 2:24). They were right it is not lawful most of the time! But look at the situation Jesus and the disciples were in. Jesus said, "Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?" (v.25). Do you see? When a situation arises which is out of your control and there is a real Human need, it overrides the Sabbath! Like David, who when he was in desperate need, "How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?" (v.26). This is the true spirit of the Sabbath, to do "good and the Sabbath days" (Mark 3:4), to "Save life." (Mark 3:4). It saved David, it saved Christ! Then Jesus concluded, "And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
"Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath." (vv.27-28). Notice Jesus said, the Sabbath was "made for MAN." This does not just means the Jews, but for all mankind! And, it was made for man's benefit, to save him, set him free, not man for the Sabbath. This is what the Jews were doing, they turned the Sabbath into a burden, oppressive, and not what it truly was!
So Jesus called himself "Lord also of the Sabbath" Not only is Jesus declaring himself Lord of the Seventh-Day Sabbath, and instituted the Sabbath as freedom, not bondage, but that in this context, as God through his law set them free in David's time, God through the Sabbath law, set them free at this time as well.
Jesus' Chance to Change the Sabbath
During the Passover, we see Christ instituting new symbols of the bread and wine as symbols of his broken body and shed blood. Now, the Covenant goes into full effect at the death of the testator, "For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
"For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." (Heb 9:16-17). This is why Jesus instituted these new symbols while he was still alive, because once dead, ratified and confirmed in his blood, "...no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto." (Galatians 3:15). Question to all the Sunday keepers. If Jesus wanted to change the Sabbath, here is the opportunity, because after his death nothing can be "added." When did Sunday keeping begin? According to Sunday keepers, it commemorates the resurrection of Christ! How can that be if the bible says nothing can be added after the death of Christ, and the resurrection took place 3 days later? Something the Sunday keepers should think about.
Did the Resurrection of Christ take place on Sunday? Read our Booklet Is Easter Christian? Part 3 Here for details.
Paul and the Sabbath
What day did the Apostle Paul keep? He made it clear that, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1). He did what Christ did! Patterned his life after his savior. Did he keep the same day as Jesus?
"Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews:
"And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures," (Acts 17:1-2). Robertson's Word Pictures again says, "As his custom was (kata to eiōthos tōi Paulōi). The same construction in Luk_4:16 about Jesus in Nazareth (kata to eiōthos autōi) with the second perfect active participle neuter singular from ethō." (emphasis added). Its the same wording, with the same context. There was a synagogue of the Jews and Paul "went in unto them" as his "custom was." Other translations have, "After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom..." (NRSV).
"So as usual, Paul went there to worship, and on three Sabbaths he spoke to the people. He used the Scriptures" (CEV).
"And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures," (ESV).
"... There was a Jewish synagogue, and Paul as usual went in;" (Moffatt Translation). See others as well (GNB, GW, ISV). Clearly the context is that Paul went to the synagogue as his custom was, and it was on the Sabbath that he attended, because he reasoned with them for "three Sabbaths."
In the next chapter we see the same scenario, "After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth;
"And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.
"And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.
"And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks." (Acts 18:1-4). Again, Paul in the synagogue, and on the Sabbath preached Christ. The Sabbath was sacred to Paul. He believed in the Law of God and kept it with all his might. As he testified to Felix, "But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:" (Acts 24:14).
Another example is in Acts the 16th chapter. Here Paul on his travels, "Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;
"And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days." (11-12). Here Paul is "abiding" in the city of Philippi for a certain number of "days." The next verse shows when they gathered for worship, and which day they regarded as sacred to them and other Christians, "And on the SABBATH we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither." (v.13). Why wait till the Sabbath to gather and pray for worship? Why not Sunday? Or any other day for that matter? Also, on that day "prayer was wont to be made." The Greek word here for prayer is "proseuchē" which in this context means, " 'proseucha', an oratory, or a place built and made use of for prayer; that is, as they walked along, they saw a place, which in their opinion looked like a religious house, or a place for prayer, and so made up to it, where they found some persons assembled together on that account: this sense is confirmed by several versions; the Vulgate Latin version reads, 'where there seemed to be prayer', and so reads Beza's most ancient copy; and the Syriac version is very express, 'for there was seen' בית צלותא, 'an house of prayer'; to which agrees the Arabic version, 'we went out to a certain place, which was thought to be a place of prayer'; to which may be added the Ethiopic version, 'and we thought there was prayer there'; and that the Jews had their oratories, or prayer houses, is certain; ..." (Gill's Commentary emphasis added). It was a "house of prayer" a place the Jews gathered on the Sabbath, and it was a "custom" of theirs to gather on the Sabbath in a place of worship. Strong's # 4335 calls it a "chapel" The Old King James word "wont" is "nomizō" and this means, "properly to do by law (usage), that is, to accustom (passively be usual); by extension to deem or regard: - suppose, think, be wont." (Strong's #3543). What law? The law of keeping the Sabbath! So basically this passage is telling us that it was by the law of God that they gathered together in a house of prayer on the Sabbath day!
Why is it that Paul before his conversion sent letters to all the "synagogues" asking them if there were those of "this Way" to let him know so he can bring them "bound unto Jerusalem"? (Acts 9:2). Why were Christians in the synagogues? These kept the Sabbath "according to the commandment" (Luke 23:56).
Why is it that gentile Christians at the conclusion of the Jerusalem Conference, James commanded and said that if Gentiles wanted to know the law and will of God that, "For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day." (Acts 15:21)? He told them the law is preached every Sabbath in the synagogues if they wanted to know God's will. Why? Why not say, "Every Sunday in Church we will preach to them the will of God"? Why the Sabbath? The Church was looked upon as just another Jewish sect, see Acts 24:5; 28:22. They did not see the difference between them and the Christians except for Jesus being the Messiah, and not following the doctrines and traditions of men. Other than that, the Jews and Christians kept the same days. We find the Christians in the temple worshipping, and keeping the hour of prayer (see Acts 2:46; 3:1). For a full examination on whether we should keep the law of God, read our booklet "The Saving Works of God."
Paul's Direct Command to Keep the Sabbath
Many people make the challenge that if Paul said to keep the Sabbath directly to the Church then they will keep it. There is in the Bible such a commandment, unfortunately most of the time when you show it to some one, they usually do not keep it even though it is there in black and white.
The book of Hebrews is a letter from Paul to Christians. He heavily quotes the deep spiritual, theological scriptures of the Old Testament showing how these are fulfilled in Christ. In chapter 4 he talks about the "rest" that is to come, and compares it to the rest when Israel came into Canaan during the time of Joshua. Let's examine the scriptures verse by verse to get the complete meaning, for this chapter for some is very complex.
"Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." (Hebrews 4:1). We must remain in the "fear" of God, meaning obedient to him (Psalm 11:10). "Lest" the promise which is eternal life (1 John 2:25), which is the meaning of the "rest" in this passage, we should come short of it, we must stay in obedience to him. He has given us his salvation, and now we must be in "continuance, and we shall be saved." (Isaiah 64:5). Basically Paul was saying we must stay obedient to God or we will lose the promise of Eternal life.
This promise of Eternal life was linked with keeping the Sabbath, "For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
"Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
"Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
"Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
"The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him. (Isaiah 56:4-8). Surely the Apostle Paul had this scripture in mind when speaking about the "rest" of eternal life and keeping the Sabbath, linking the two together, and so entering into "his rest" clearly means that seventh-day Sabbath is a type of the kingdom of God as we shall see.
"For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it." (v.2). The gospel of salvation of Christ was preached to Christians as well as to the Israelites of the Exodus. The giving of the law was and is the way of salvation. The first commandment in the law is to believe on your Savior Yahweh/Jesus. (For greater detail on this read or booklet The Saving Works of God). Did not Jesus, the Savior say, "...but if thou wilt enter into LIFE, keep the commandments." (Matthew 19:17)? Salvation is through the law of God as Jesus says, and this was preached unto the Israelites. "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:" (Deut 30:19). This law is not just to live long in Canaan but for eternal life as well. Notice, the Covenant that God made with Moses and Israel, was the same Covenant God made with Abraham: "The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day." (Duet 5:3). In this passage, the context is NOT a different covenant, "The meaning is, 'not with our fathers' only, 'but with us' also, assuming it to be 'a covenant' of grace." (JFB Commentary). The Good News Bible renders this passage, "not only with our fathers, but with all of us who are living today." The Bible says, "God said that "Abraham" "obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws." (Gen 26:5). God presented Abraham with "my covenant" and was an "everlasting" one (Gen 17:13). When God called Moses, and Israel came to Sinai, God presented "my Covenant" (Exodus 6:4, 5; 19:5), to them, then gave his laws. The laws God presented to Israel at Sinai, are the same laws God said ABRAHAM KEPT! Now Jesus came to "to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:" (Romans 15:8). Jesus came to "confirm the Covenant" (Daniel 9:27), this is the Covenant of Abraham, and Jesus said, "salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). Salvation came to the "Jew first" Rom 1:16. The Abrahamic Covenant has many "promises," and one was eternal life. Abraham knew it, see Hebrews 11:16. This is why Christians are called "Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:29). The same promises to Abraham apply to us as well as well as to them, because its the same Covenant. So the gospel was preached to them, but they had no faith and perished in the wilderness.
"For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall ["not" Heb 3:11; Psalm 95:11] enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world." (v.3). "We" Christians "which believe" do "enter into rest." What rest is this speaking in the present? God's seventh-day Sabbath! Then he quotes Psalm 95:11 that believers who do not enter in his rest, his wrath shall be upon them and they shall not inherit eternal life, as Isaiah 56 says those who keep the Sabbath will inherit eternal life! The latter half of the verse Paul writes, "although the works were finished from the foundation of the world." God spoke of his rest long after the time God rested and established the Sabbath in Genesis the second chapter. This is what Paul meant when he said, "although." Clearly God meant for the Sabbath to have a deeper meaning than just a day of rest, but in the future of a permanent rest in the kingdom of God, and as another type, the Israelites resting in the land of Canaan.
"For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works." (v.4). Paul links verse 3 and 4 to show which day he was speaking of when God rested from all his works, the seventh day Sabbath.
"And in this place again, If they shall ["not"] enter into my rest." (v.5). Here with certainty, we know that Paul is showing us the significance of the rest in the Kingdom with the seventh-day Sabbath. Also, Paul is showing that those who believe and keep the Sabbath, will inherit life, and those who do not will not enter into the Kingdom rest in the end because of their unbelief. Paul is showing to sets of people here and clarifies in verse 6.
"Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:" What remains? The Seventh day! The Sabbath remains as a sign of the people of God, those who keep it will enter, and those, like the Israelites of old, who did not inherit Canaan, will not enter the kingdom because of unbelief. You must have faith, and faith is shown by keeping the law of God, (For more detail on this read or booklet The Saving Works of God).
"Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." (v.7). Paul says that God limited a certain day, this means, "He designates, or definitely mentions. The word rendered 'limiteth' - ὁρίζει horizei - means to 'bound,' to set a boundary - as of a field or farm; and then to determine or fix definitely, to designate, appoint. Here it means, that he specifies particularly, or mentions expressly. (Barnes notes). What day did God appoint or fix as his holy day? 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..." (Isaiah 58:13).
In David he says "To day, after so long a time;" meaning, "as two thousand five hundred years from the first seventh day to the time of Moses, and five hundred years from the times of Moses and Joshua, to his:" (Gill's Commentary). From the first Sabbath to The Sabbath in David's day he was telling them even then "Today" meaning the Sabbath, not to "harden their hearts." To keep the Sabbath holy and to obey God to inherit eternal life as we see in the next verse.
"For if Jesus [Joshua] had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day." (v.8).
"then would he not afterward have spoken of another day." The "he" is David speaking by influence of the Holy Spirit, "...because long after this time the Holy Spirit, by David, speaks of this rest; the apostle, therefore, concludes," (Clarkes Commentary).
"Answer to the objection which might be made to his reasoning, namely, that those brought into Canaan by Joshua (so “Jesus” here means, as in Act_7:45) did enter the rest of God. If the rest of God meant Canaan, God would not after their entrance into that land, have spoken (or speak [Alford]) of another (future) day of entering the rest." (JFB Commentary, emphasis added). That future rest is the promise made to Abraham of eternal life, the kingdom of God, the permanent rest of the land of Canaan, in which the Israelites from Egypt entering in was only a type. Now comes this amazing scripture:
"There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God." (v.9). Since there is a permanent rest still coming there still remains a "rest" to the people of God that we must continue in to show our belief in Christ! Let's break this scripture down. There "remaineth" means literally to "leave behind" (see Strong's #620).
So there is "left behind" which means something that is already in existence, a "rest" to the people of God. This word "rest" in the Greek is "sabbatismos" (Strong's #4520). I find this very interesting because Strong's says, that this word means "a 'sabbatism', that is, (figuratively) the repose of Christianity (as a type of heaven): - rest." And, that it is "From a derivative of G4521;" Strong's 4521 says, "sabbaton sab'-bat-on Of Hebrew origin [H7676]; the Sabbath (that is, Shabbath), or day of weekly repose from secular avocations (also the observance or institution itself); by extension a se'nnight, that is, the interval between two Sabbaths; likewise the plural in all the above applications: - sabbath (day), week." "Sabbatismos" is the noun, the verb form of the word is sabbatizo which means, "to keep the Sabbath" ( see also A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). Why all of a sudden, one means to keep the Sabbath, and the other is spiritualized away? Well it's for the simple fact of the bias against the holy Sabbath day of God. Because of this erroneous translation, and Protestant hostility against the seventh-day weekly Sabbath-the Fourth Commandment in preference to Sunday, this verse is almost universally misinterpreted and misunderstood. In fact, the true meaning of Hebrews 4:9 is the very opposite of the false interpretation assumed and taught by many churches, ministers and theologians. But there are sources that admit to its meaning. Here are some:
"Sabbath rest, Sabbath observance" (Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament).
"The words `sabbath rest' is from the [Greek] noun sabbatismos, [and is] a unique word in the NT. This term appears also in Plutarch (Superset. 3 [Moralia 166a]) for sabbath observance, and in four post-canonical Christian writings which are not dependent on Heb. 4:9" (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 5, p. 856).
"Sabbatismos" in Greek literature is always, 100% of the time, referring to “seventh day Sabbath-keeping” Strangely, Sabbatismos is only found in the following ancient Greek texts, most of which are penned by pagan authors:
Plutarch,“De Superstitions 3 (Moralia 1660)
Justin Martyr,”Dialogue With Trypho” 23,3
Epiphanius,“Adversus Haereses” 30,2,2
“Apostolic Constitutions” 2,36
Martyrdom of Peter and Paul
Early Church leader, Origen knew what this word meant, "After the festival of the unceasing sacrifice (the crucifixion) is put the second festival of the Sabbath, and it is fitting for whoever is righteous among the saints to KEEP ALSO THIS FESTIVAL of the SABBATH. There remaineth therefore a sabbatismus, that is a keeping of the Sabbath, to the people of God." [Hebrews 4:9] (Homily on Numbers 23, para. 4, in Migne, Patrologia Groeca, Vol. 12, cols. 749,750, emphasis added).
A. T. Lincoln acknowledges that in each of the above Instances “the term denotes the observance or celebration of the Sabbath. This usage corresponds to the Septuagint usage of the cognate verb sabbatizo (cf. Ex 16:23; Lev 23:32; 26:34f.; 2 Chron 36:21), which also has reference to Sabbath observance. Thus the writer to the Hebrews is saying that since the time of Joshua an observance of Sabbath rest has been outstanding,” (p.213 A.T. Lincoln).
The following sources translate this word correctly using the historical meanings and the grammar of this word properly.
Liddell and Scott define Sabbatismos as " a keeping of the Sabbath." They give no other definition, but derive it from the verb Sabbatizo, which they define by these words only, "to keep the Sabbath." Schrevelius defines Sabbatismos by this one phrase : " Observance of the Sabbath." He also derives it from Sabbatizo. Sabbatismos is therefore the noun in Greek which signifies the act of Sabbath-keeping, while Sabbatizo, from which it is derived, is the verb which expresses that act. (See the Lexicons of Liddell and Scott, Schrecelius, and Greenfield).
Notice what Origen wrote about Heb 4:9, to fellow Catholics of gentile churches in Egypt: "But what is the feast of the Sabbath except that of which the apostle speaks, 'There remaineth therefore a Sabbatism' [Hebrews 4:9], that is, the observance of the Sabbath by the people of God? [Notice how this man understood his native Greek tongue!] Leaving the Jewish observances of the Sabbath, 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. If, therefore, you cease from all secular works, and execute nothing worldly, but give yourselves up to spiritual exercises, repairing to church, attending to sacred reading and instruction ... this is the observance of the Christian Sabbath" (Origen 's Opera, Book 2, p. 358). He knew that this word meant the seventh-day Sabbath, and he wanted Christians to keep it in a Christian way as oppose to the way the Jews kept it, without Christ as the centre of worship.
Presbyterian scholar Samuel T. Lowrie wrote the following about sabbatismos: "In Christian writers it is of common occurrence, and used in its simple meaning only . . . Justin uses it interchangeably with σαββατα φυλασσειν [sabbata phulassein, "to observe Sabbaths"] and σαββατιζειν [sabbatizein, "to keep Sabbath"] . . . "(pp. 130, footnote, An Explanation of the Epistle to the Hebrews).
"The fact that entering Canaan was not entering God's rest, explains the continued existence of the institution of the Sabbath day. And the continuance of Sabbath keeping is evidence that the true rest has not been attained. σαββατισμος [sabbatismos] means, "observance of the Sabbath." The Author says this observance "remains" . . . as it was before, an ordinance for "the people of God." (pp. 130-131, An Explanation of the Epistle to the Hebrews) .
When Paul used sabbatismos in Hebrews 4:9, he did so knowing that its meaning was well known to the Greek-speaking believers of that day. After all, its verb form (sabbatizo) is widely employed in the Septuagint-which, as a translation, was as familiar to the Greek-speaking Jews and Gentiles of the early Church as the King James Bible is to Christians today.
For example, the use of the verb sabbatizo in
Leviticus 23:32 in the Septuagint substantiates its meaning. The Greek English
Lexicon of the Septuagint defines sabbatizo as "to keep [a] sabbath, to rest"
(Lust, Eynikel, Hauspie). The English translation of this verse in the
Septuagint reads: "It [the Day of Atonement] shall be a holy sabbath
[literally, `a Sabbath of Sabbaths'] to you; and ye shall humble your souls,
from the ninth day of the month: from evening to evening shall ye keep your
sabbaths" (The Septuagint With the Apocrypha, Brenton).
The phrase "shall ye keep your sabbaths" is translated from the Greek phrase, sabbatieite to sabbata is which literally means, "you shall sabbathize the Sabbaths." The form of the Greek verb sabbatizo is the second person plural sabbatieite, which means, "ye shall keep" ---"you. all," meaning everyone shall keep the Sabbath. Throughout the entire Septuagint, the verb sabbatizo is never used except in relation to "Sabbath-keeping." Understanding this definition, the KJV translators translated sabbatieite as, "shall ye celebrate your sabbath." However, they deliberately did not translate sabbatisomos that way in Hebrews 4:9 because of Sunday keeping bias-following the lead of the Roman Catholic Church, as Rome's Challenge so forcefully argues.
There is no question that the Greek verb sabbatizo in Leviticus 23:32 is specifically referring to Sabbath observance. This meaning equally applies to the noun form sabbatismos, used by Paul. Thus, the continuity of the Septuagint's use of sabbatizo and the use of sabbatismos in Hebrews 4:9 confirms that Paul was upholding the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath for all true Christians.
Therefore the proper translation of Hebrews 4:9 correctly should be, "There remaineth [left behind] therefore a rest [a keeping of the Sabbath] to the people of God." Without insertions, "There is left behind therefore a keeping of the Sabbath to the people of God." Another translation writes, "It is the duty of the people of God to keep the Sabbath" (Hebrews 4:9; Lamsa translation). So Paul is saying, since the Kingdom of God is the permanent rest to come we must continue to keep the seventh-day Sabbath to show God that we continue to obey and believe in him so we do not perish and not enter into his rest.
"For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his." (v.10). Again Paul says that "He" meaning us Christians have entered into the "rest" meaning the Sabbath and we rest for our works as God did from his, see Genesis 2. When did God rest? "And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
"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 2:2-3). Interesting, here, in this passage the word rest is “katapausis” and with “sabbatismos” in verse 9 they are used synonymously. This is seen especially in the context of verse 9 and 10. “In the Septuagint, katapauo is used in reference to the Sabbath in Genesis 2:2, 3; Exodus 34;21; 31;17” (Footnotes The Sabbath in Scripture and history, p.344, Appendix E). Another interesting point about this is, the "...shift of the word 'rest' from katapausis to sabbatismos in verse 9 is that the author deliberately changed his Greek. That implies that both he and his readers were keeping the seventh-day Sabbath and that they could think of heaven as one extended Sabbath rest. The switch of words would have made no sense if the seventh day Sabbath (see 4:4, 10) was not a reality in their lives or if it had a negative connotation, one that would develop some centuries later" (Exploring Hebrews by George Knight, pp.75-76, emphasis added). The use of these two words make it clear that "it characterizes the Christians assurance of which the seventh-day Sabbath is both symbol and part" (Footnotes The Sabbath in Scripture and history, p.343, Appendix E).
"Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. " Here is a very interesting scripture. Paul here says to "labour!" That we must labour into that rest. Not, by our works, but God's works, his law we must work in our lives, the gift he has given us and that we must continue in them so we can be saved as Isaiah says, "Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved." (64:5). Its "God's ways" his righteousness not ours! James says the same thing, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (2:26). In the context of the chapter, James was showing examples of people who obeyed God, doing God's works not their own. Paul on the other hand was speaking of our works, our ways in which a man cannot be justified (For more detail on this read or booklet The Saving Works of God). Jesus also said we must labor and do his works, see Rev 2:26; John 6:27-29 and we shall be saved. So let us work the works of Righteousness so we can enter into God's rest, lest we fall into sin, and lose our salvation as did the Israelites of old in the wilderness by not keeping God's Sabbath.
So in conclusion, Hebrews 4 shows that the Christians were keeping the Sabbath and that Paul gave a direct command to keep the Sabbath day! Bacchiocchi concludes, "It may be argued that since the author of the Epistle is not discussing the actual observance of the Sabbath but rather the permanence and fulfillment of its blessings, no inference can be drawn regarding its literal observance. Such observation is hardly justified since the Epistle is addressed to a Jewish-Christian community that highly regarded Jewish observances such as Sabbath-keeping. The fact that the author is not engaged in a polemic defense of the validity of Sabbath observance, but rather in an exhortation to experience its blessing which 'remains . . . for the people of God' (4 :9), makes his testimony all the more valuable, since it takes its observance for granted. What the recipients of the Epistle needed to know was not the binding obligation of the Sabbath commandment, but rather its true meaning in the light of the coming of Christ." (From Sabbath to Sunday, p.63, emphasis his and mine).
For Colossians 2:16-17, a full study of these verses click Here
For a full study of Romans 14:5-6 click Here
The Lord's Day
Many people believe that the Lord's day as quoted by John in Revelation 1:10 means Sunday! Well, Sunday is found nowhere in the New Testament, so clearly this is just an assumption, or adding something that is just not in the text. In Fact, "Sunday became known as the Lord's day at a somewhat later time...But the question at issue is whether Sunday was known as 'the Lord's day' in the late first century, and whether John meant Sunday by the phrase in Revelation 1:10. There is no specific evidence of either." (The Sabbath in Scripture and History, p.126).
Other say that this means the "Day of the Lord" meaning the day Jesus Comes back and judges mankind.
Those who interpret "the Lord's day" in Revelation 1: 10 as the future "Day of the Lord" argue that John in vision was transported to that day, and beheld its events being unfolded. According to this view, Revelation 1:10 means: "In my trance I found myself at the day of judgment." But does the context of the phrase "the Lord's day" in Revelation 1: 10 permit this kind of interpretation? The same source says, "The vision that John beheld after being caught up by the Spirit was not of events that belong to the eschatological 'Day of the Lord.' Rather it was a vision of the glorified Christ walking among the seven lampstands, representing the seven churches, as a minister to them in the present age. In Revelation 1:9, 10, the prophet gives the place and time when he received the vision, rather than implying that in his vision he was transported to the final day of judgment: 'I John ... was on the island called Patmos.... I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day."' (ibid, p.126, emphasis added).
Does this mean the Sabbath Day?
The Sabbath was set apart for sacred use at Creation (Gen. 2:2, 3). The intermediate agent in that creation, according to several New Testament passages, was the Lord Jesus Christ. The fourth of the famous Ten Words describes the seventh day "as a sabbath to the Lord your God" (Ex. 20: 1 Off.). In the book of Isaiah God calls it "my holy day" and "the holy day of the Lord" (Isa. 58:13). All three of the Synoptic Gospels quote Jesus saying, "`The Son of man is lord even of the sabbath"' (Mark 2:28; cf. Matt. 12:8; Luke 6:5).
This view may also have the support of an interesting reference to the Lord's day in the apocryphal Acts of John: "And on the seventh day, it being the Lord's day ..." It is not possible to be certain that the author refers to the seventh day of the week. He may possibly mean the seventh day of the journey, but the former seems probable.
But if John means the Sabbath in Revelation 1:10, why should he refer to it as "the Lord's day"? The book of Revelation has as its background the conflict between the "Lord Caesar" and the "Lord Christ." Christians were facing persecution and the threat of martyrdom because of their refusal to recognize Caesar as lord. For them there was but one Lord, Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 8:5, 6). Deissmann has shown that there were special days devoted to the Roman emperor. Would it not be appropriate under such circumstances to exalt Jesus Christ as "the ruler of kings on earth" (Rev. 1:5), and to refer to the Sabbath as the real "Lord's day" as opposed to Caesar's day which was the day of the Sun, Sunday?
Sabbath Keepers in History
Some claim that there is no evidence of the church keeping the Sabbath, but Sunday, and this is simply not true. There are many books that demonstrate the fact that Sabbath keepers have been around since the time of the birthday of the church in Acts 2.
Here are a few examples:
"The primitive Christians had a great veneration for the Sabbath, and spent the day in devotion and sermons. And it is not to be doubted but they derived this practice from the Apostles themselves, as appears by several scriptures to the purpose." "Dialogues on the Lord's Day," p. 189. London: 1701, By Dr. T.H. Morer (A Church of England divine).
"...The Sabbath was a strong tie which united them with the life of the whole people, and in keeping the Sabbath holy they followed not only the example but also the command of Jesus." "Geschichte des Sonntags," pp.13, 14
"The Gentile Christians observed also the Sabbath," Gieseler's "Church History," Vol.1, ch. 2, par. 30, 93.
"The primitive Christians did keep the Sabbath of the Jews;...therefore the Christians, for a long time together, did keep their conventions upon the Sabbath, in which some portions of the law were read: and this continued till the time of the Laodicean council." "The Whole Works" of Jeremy Taylor, Vol. IX,p. 416 (R. Heber's Edition, Vol XII, p. 416). Click here for a website that traces the Sabbath keeping Christians throughout history.
Everyday a Sabbath?
Many believe that it doesn't matter what day you worship God or that everyday is the Sabbath. Can you prove this in scripture? First of all, to all the Sunday keepers, if it doesn't matter which day you worship God, why go to church on Sunday? Why not Tuesday? or any day? Why is the tradition Sunday?
To the people who believe that any day can be the Sabbath, it’s all up to the believer. Biacchiocchi writes: "the belief that everyday is the Sabbath is absurd…the end result …is that no REAL worship is offered to god, because nothing really matters. These views are deceptive devices designed to do away both the belief and worship of God. The theory that everyday is the Sabbath ultimately results in no Sabbath at all" (Sabbath in the New Testament, p.179, emphasis added).
God warns those who call everyday a Sabbath, "Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them" (Ezekiel 22:26). "[They] made no distinction between the clean and unclean (Lev_10:10), the Sabbath and other days, sanctioning violations of that holy day. ‘Holy’ means, what is dedicated to God; ‘profane,’ what is in common use; ‘unclean,’ what is forbidden to be eaten; ‘clean,’ what is lawful to be eaten" (JFB Commentary, emphasis added). To make the Sabbath a common everyday occurrence is condemned in the Bible itself. The difference between Unholy and Holy must be shown. That day is dedicated and was set apart by God, and it should be recognized as such.
Sabbath only for Israel?
Many quote Exodus 31:13 saying that keeping the Sabbath was only for Israel. "Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you." But as we have seen in the Old Testament like Isaiah 56, the gentiles were keeping the Sabbath as well, and God offered them salvation for it.
But, are there two kinds of Christians? Since its binding on Israel forever, and the Jewish people converted to Christianity in the time of the Apostles, does that mean that the Jews kept it on Saturday and the Gentiles on Sunday? Read Galatians 3:28-29: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS. And if ye [Gentiles] be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
So, since the Sabbath is BINDING TODAY on the Jewish part of God's Church, and there is no difference - we are all ONE in Christ - it is also binding on Gentiles! This scripture in Galatians is NOTHING NEW! Actually, this is an OLD TESTAMENT LAW! Gentiles that converted to YAHWEH were considered ISRAELITES!
"But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." (Lev 19:34; 25:34). These people are gentile converts and became "Abraham's seed" and obeyed the same laws. The strangers, or Gentiles kept the Sabbath, see Exodus 20:10; 23:12; Deut 5:14. The Day of Atonement, Lev 16:29. The Passover, Ex 12:48-49; Number 9:14, and the Sacrificial laws, Num 15:14.
"One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you." (Ex 12:49, Num 9:14; 15:15-16, 29; Lev 24:16, 24).For people to say that the Sabbath was for Israel only is totally going against scripture. The gentiles when converted became Israelites, and therefore as Israelites the Sabbath was binding on them as well. They become the "Israel of God" (Gal 6:16). As Paul said in Romans 2:22-29 the true Israelite is not only of the flesh but of the spirit as well, and those Israelites who sin " thy circumcision is made uncircumcision." (v.25). Those gentiles who keep the law, "Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?" (v.26), they are Israelites just as the Old Testament says.
So, clearly, the Sabbath is not done away, and the true Sabbath day that the Christians kept and should keep today, is the same one God instituted way back at the time of Creation, what we call Friday sunset, to Saturday sunset, and it will remain this day forever more as God says when his Kingdom comes, "And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh [Jew and Gentile] come to worship before me, saith the LORD." (Isaiah 66:23).