Jon Gary Williams
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Article 43 - Sabbath

Is the Sabbath To Be Observed Today?

Jon Gary Williams

The meaning of the word "sabbath"
The most literal definition of the word sabbath is "to cease" or "to cease from labor." In biblical context the word is associated with "rest" (Ex. 20:11; 31:17), and it is identified as the "seventh day" of the week (Ex. 16:26). 

When was the keeping of the sabbath established?
Genesis 2:3 is used by Sabbatarians (those who keep the sabbath observance) to show that the sabbath was kept from the beginning of creation. However, this is a misuse of the text. 

Genesis 2:3 is a figure of speech called prolepsis wherein an event is spoken of as having occurred before it actually did. This is because the recording of the event was done after the event occurred. (For example: A historian may write: "Columbus discovered America." This is not to imply that the new world was already called "America" when it was discovered; simply that when the historian made the statement, it was known as "America.")

Other prolepsis examples are: Genesis 12:8 as compared with Genesis 28:19; and Matthew 10:4 as compared with Matt. 26:47-49.

The sabbath was given at Mt. Sinai after the Jews "came forth" from Egypt (Deut. 4:44,45; 5:1). But the sabbath was not "made known" to the Israelites until Mt. Sinai (Neh. 9:13,14). 

For whom was the sabbath intended? 
The sabbath was not a universal requirement. It was declared specifically to the Israelites who were present with Moses (Deut. 4:13), and was not made known to their ancestors (Deut. 5:1-3).

Why was the sabbath given?
The sabbath was given as a "sign" between God and Israel (Ex. 31:13, 17). It was to be used as a memorial to remind the Israelites of being freed from Egypt (Deut. 5:15).

What happened to the sabbath?
The law of Moses, of which the sabbath was a part, was taken away by the death of Christ (Col. 2:14). The law of Moses, of which the sabbath was a part, was taken away for another law (will) to be established (Heb. 10:9). The law of Moses, of which the sabbath was a part, was fulfilled and, hence, that law was completed (Matt. 5:17).

Is sabbath keeping a "moral" obligation?
There is nothing "moral" about any day, even the sabbath. This is only an idea invented by man. The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath (Mk. 2:27). Christians are not to "keep" any day. Christians are not to be judged by keeping the sabbath (Col. 2:16,17).

The "first day" of the week
Sabbatarians claim that the Catholic Church changed the sabbath to Sunday. This is a falsity and demonstrates the weakness of this doctrine. Church history clearly shows that Christians were worshiping on the first day of the week (Sunday) long before the Catholic Church existed. 

The significance of the "first day"of the week.
1. Jesus arose from the dead the first day of the week (Mk. 16:9).
2. The Holy Spirit came on the first day of the week (on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ) (Acts 2:1-4).
3. The church was established on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1,41).
4. The church assembled on the first day of the week (I Cor. 16:2).
5. The church partook of the Lord's supper on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).