Are You Obligated to Keep a Weekly Sabbath Day?
IT MAY be that you have been taught from childhood by your church that God requires Christians to observe a weekly sabbath day. But did you know that the Holy Bible nowhere commands Christians to do so?
Perhaps you may point to the fourth of the Ten Commandments as your reason for keeping it, but the command there about holding the sabbath sacred and not doing any work on that day was not given to Christians. (Ex. 20:8-11) It was given to Israelites who were gathered at the foot of Mt. Sinai in the sixteenth century before our Common Era. God told them that sabbath observance was a “sign between me and you during your generations.” (Ex. 31:13) He did not say this to any other nation.
What did sabbath observance mean for these people? It meant that they could do no form of work on that day. They were not to carry a load, gather sticks, cook a meal or even light a fire. It was to be a day of complete rest from labor, and anyone who violated that law by doing any kind of work was to be put to death.—Ex. 16:23-25; 31:15; 35:3; Num. 15:32-35.
Any person today who believes he is obligated to observe this sabbath law, to be consistent, likewise ought to refrain from all forms of labor. But how do most people spend the day of the week that they regard as a sabbath? They rest from their weekly labors but usually engage in other forms of work such as mowing the lawn, puttering around the garden, playing golf, cleaning the house, cooking a special meal, taking a drive, and so forth. If they really were under the divine sabbath law any of these activities would make them, violators of it. So they are not actually keeping it.
But since the sabbath law was given only to the nation of Israel, how can people who were never part of that nation be expected to obey it? When a law in one country requires merchants to close their stores on a certain day, must the people in other countries also close their stores because of that law? Of course not! It applies only in the one country. So too with the sabbath law. Only the people within the borders of the ancient Israelite nation were required by God to obey it. Other nations were not under that obligation.
Nevertheless, some persons might argue that Christians are supposed to observe a weekly sabbath day, and they may point to Genesis 2:2, 3 as proof. There the Bible states that God proceeded to rest on the seventh day and “proceeded to bless the seventh day and make it sacred.” This is a historical statement of what God did. But where is there anything in it that commands man to cease every manner of work on the seventh day of every week as a religious observance? There is certainly nothing wrong with resting from work one day a week, but when churches claim that God requires it of all Christians as a religious observance, they are misrepresenting the facts.
In the more than 2,500 years from Adam down to the giving of the sabbath law to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, the Bible makes no mention of any command from God to observe a weekly sabbath day. Furthermore, there is no record of any man of faith during this period ever keeping such an observance. Thus evidence is lacking that God requires weekly sabbath observance of all mankind because he rested on the “seventh day.”
JESUS CHRIST OBSERVED THE SABBATH
Although there is no specific command for Christians to observe the weekly sabbath-day law, can it not be said that God expects them to keep it because Jesus Christ did? The answer is No! Jesus Christ belonged to the nation to whom the sabbath law was given and therefore was required to keep it. Like the other Israelites, he was required to show obedience to God by obeying the requirements of the law that was given at Mt. Sinai.—Gal. 4:4.
But after Jesus’ death the law given to those people no longer applied to the Jewish followers of Jesus Christ, for he had brought the Law covenant to an end by fulfilling its purpose. At Romans 7:4 the Bible states: “So, my brothers, you also were made dead to the Law through the body of the Christ.” And in Ro 7 verse six, it expands this thought by saying: “But now we have been discharged from the Law.” Since Christ fulfilled the purpose of the Law covenant, the Bible says: “Christ is the end of the Law.” (Rom. 10:4) God replaced it with a new covenant, and that new covenant does not require weekly sabbath observance for God’s approval.—Heb. 12:24.
Many of the fine commands in the Law covenant were repeated to Christians, and they became part of that new covenant. The commands against immorality and idolatry, for example, are shown to apply to Christians, at 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 and Acts 15:28, 29, but no mention is made of weekly sabbath-day observance. That was not given to Christians.
That Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ did not regard weekly sabbath-day observance as a Christian requirement is evident from what he wrote about the observing of days. In his letter to certain Christians who were persuaded to keep observances of the Law covenant he wrote: “You are scrupulously observing days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that somehow I have toiled to no purpose respecting you.”—Gal. 4:10, 11.
WHAT THE SABBATH-DAY OBSERVANCE MEANS TO CHRISTIANS
The sabbath observance that was required of the nation of Israel prophetically pointed forward to the peaceful and restful reign of Jesus Christ, who is called the “Lord even of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27, 28) His thousand-year reign will be like the weekly sabbath in that it will be devoted to the worship of Jehovah God and will be a time of real refreshment for man, physically and spiritually. The sabbath day was one of the many things in the Law covenant that were “a shadow of the things to come.”—Col. 2:17.
There is no need for Christians to think they are obligated to observe the weekly sabbath law given to the Israelites. God does not require it of them, as the Bible shows, but he does require them to worship, obey and serve him. This they are expected to do every day of the week. They are also required to assemble together for worship and instruction. (Heb. 10:25) Since it is the custom in most countries for people to be off from work once a week, that day would be a convenient one to do it. Talking about God’s purposes with one’s neighbors is another fine way to use this day.—Rom. 10:10.
In view of these Scriptural facts, if you have been taught by your church that the Almighty God requires you to observe a weekly sabbath day to gain his approval, you have not been told the truth. Instead of leading you in the way of the truth, it is misleading you and binding you to religious falsehood. Would it not be better to follow the truth that Jesus said would “set you free”?—John 8:32.