Christians and the Sabbath, a topic not discussed much in our busy society today, but is it essential for Christian living? “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8). The Israelites observed and kept the Sabbath while adding a few extra burdens that were not necessary for the Sabbath day, but does this include Christians also? Do Christians have to take a day of rest or is that just part of the Old Covenant? Delving into God’s word is key to solving this puzzle.
Paul spoke about the Sabbath in the book of Colossians, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” (2:16,17). The Old Covenant was a shadow of things to come, which is Christ, but does that indicate non-observance of the Sabbath? To better understand this one must first better understand the Sabbath better. The Sabbath was a day of rest from work and a day of worship and is held on Saturday. The law speaks of the Sabbath as a holy day and absolutely no work should be done on the Sabbath day.
Jesus observed the Sabbath day, but at the same time healed on the Sabbath day, which the Pharisees saw as a type of work and condemned Him for doing so. Was Jesus in the wrong for healing on the Sabbath? “Then He said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they kept silent.” (Mark 3:4). Jesus is showing here that it is lawful to heal and to do good and this should not be seen as doing work, but instead seen as doing what God would want one to do if presented with such a case.
Now understanding the Sabbath a little better let’s look at it a little deeper. God said that the Sabbath was to be observed forever, so must Christians observe it also? The Sabbath was meant for the people of Israel and not for Gentiles, whenever an outsider wanted to become a part of Israel’s faith, then they had to become circumcised and follow the law including the Sabbath. Through Christ we are now free from the law, but it is also good to study and follow the law as the dietary law itself is very healthy also. Taking a day of rest and reflection as well as worshiping God is good for all Christians, which most do on Sunday, but most do not actually take the rest part seriously. Taking a complete day of rest from physical activity is very good for one’s health both physically and mentally. As Christians we are to imitate Jesus and with this imitation comes the observance of the Sabbath day.
Now let’s take a look at what Paul meant in Colossians, “no one judge…regarding..Sabbaths.” The true meaning in this is more so directed towards the day of itself, whether Sabbath is on Saturday, Sunday, or Wednesday, “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5). The Sabbath was a day of rest and a day of worship, so Sabbath can be every day and one day. Every day we should worship God and one day we should take to rest and relax from our works for our own health and restoration as our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit to dwell and to use.
The Sabbath is not mandatory for Christians, but is beneficial and should not be seen as a burden to be carried out, but instead as a part of life. Rest is essential for any human being and serving and worshipping God is essential for all Christians, so we should set one day a week aside to just be alone with God, speaking with Him and listening for His voice. Taking rest from our busy lifestyles and from the distractions of this world and instead putting our focus on the Lord and all His glory. “Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1).