Do Christians Need to Keep the Sabbath?
I have been a JW for fours years, but recently I had a conversation with my father, who is a Seventh-day Adventist. We talked about Sabbath; if it is one of the Ten Commandments of God,why do we only keep 9 of the Commandments and leave out the Sabbath? Of course, I understand why we as Jehovah’s Witnesses do not keep it as our worship day, but what i do not understand is why we do not follow all of the the Ten Commandments. The Bible does say that Jehovah blessed the seventh day,which is Saturday.
On your question regarding why Christians don’t keep the Sabbath, there are several things I would point out:
- While it’s true that Genesis tells us that God blessed the Sabbath and made it holy, there is no record of him ever giving a command for man to observe the Sabbath until the Mosaic Law was given. From Adam to Moses, there is no command to keep the weekly Sabbath and no biblical account of anyone keeping it.
- The statement that “we only keep 9 of the Commandments and leave out the Sabbath” starts from a wrong concept. We don’t keep 9 (or 10) of the commandments, and nobody (except Jesus) ever has. The Bible is quite clear that the Law was given to show us what sin was, not that we will somehow gain salvation through keeping it. The Law is not eternal, as Adventists claim, but “was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made.” The Ten Commandments as such were the Law of Israel only, not given to all of humankind. Deuteronomy 5:2-4 is specific in saying that God did not give the Law covenant to any of the fathers of Israel who lived before Moses.
- Furthermore, we don’t gain salvation through Law-keeping. All of us are sinners and have violated God’s Law many times in many ways. Salvation comes exclusively through Christ, not through any works that we can do. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Our salvation is exclusively by faith, and we are saved FOR good works, not BY them.
- The Sabbath itself is shown in Scripture to be a “shadow of the things to come,” not a regulation for all time. Colossians 2:13-17 says:
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”
As a “shadow,” the Sabbath (and the Law as a whole) pointed Israel forward to Christ. Because the Israelites were unable to keep the Law, it became obvious that they could not accomplish their own salvation by their works. Clearly, something else was needed, and their need was met by Christ, who died so that their sins could be forgiven by faith in His sacrifice.
- Adventists will assert that the “Sabbaths” mentioned in Colossians 2:16 (cited in #4) are the “ceremonial” annual Sabbaths and do not include the weekly Sabbath. There is, however, no biblical reason to make this distinction. The text refers simply to “Sabbaths” without specifying which Sabbaths; we may therefore conclude that all of the Sabbaths required by the Law are being referred to.
- Paul is quite explicit in Romans 14:4-8 about the question of observing certain days. He makes it clear that what days are observed by a Christian are strictly a matter of individual conscience:
“Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”
Certainly if there was still a requirement for Christians to keep the Sabbath, Paul would not have written what he did here.
- There is no command in the New Testament after the death and resurrection of Christ for Christians to keep the seventh-day Sabbath, nor is there any record of anyone’s doing so. There are some references in Acts to various of the Apostles or others going to the synagogue on the Sabbath, but when else would they go there to find an audience of Jews to whom they could proclaim the Gospel? The Christians did not worship in the synagogues then any more than Christians today would worship in a Jewish synagogue. But if you wanted to find an audience of Jews, where better than a synagogue on the Sabbath?
- Hebrews 4:9-11 tells us,
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”
This does not refer to a requirement to observe a weekly Sabbath day. Rather, it refers to our resting in Christ and not depending on our own works for salvation. God “rested” on the seventh day of creation. He does not get tired so that he needs to refresh himself by resting. The meaning of the “rest” is that he stopped working; his creation was done. The Israelites were commanded to rest on the seventh day because they had worked all week and needed the day off to regain their energy; they stopped working on that day. So the meaning of God’s rest for Christians can be found in Christ. We are saved by His work and can rest from our own works. We can stop working at Law-keeping (as those under the Law were required to do) and rest in the finished work of Christ. This is the fulfillment of the shadow that was cast by the literal Sabbath day under the Law. Everything pointed forward to Christ.
I hope this information is helpful and draws all who read it closer to our Savior!