Jewish Sabbath and Christianity

Sabbath had been an important debate within Christianity, which resulted even in Sabbath based denominations. Here we will look into what Sabbath means, if Christians or Jews had to follow it today.

Exod 31:13,16-17 “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.  …  Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’

Deut 5:15 And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

As part of the old covenant, Sabbath was given to the children of Israel for the following two reasons:

  • A sign that the children of Israel may know that He is the Lord who sanctifies them.
  • A rest on the seventh day for the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt.

Apart from the Sabbath rest on the 7th day of each week, there are also feasts of the Lord where no work is allowed.

Exod 31:15b Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.

Sabbath is really serious. Anyone who works on the Sabbath day will surely be put to death.

Sabbath & Old Testament Gentiles

Isa 56:3a,6-7 Do not let the son of the foreigner Who has joined himself to the LORD Speak, saying, “The LORD has utterly separated me from His people” …  Also the sons of the foreigner Who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, And to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants– Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And holds fast My covenant– Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.

Sabbath was for people of all nations who love the Lord and hold fast to His covenant (referring to the Old Covenant). It means, the foreigner who joined himself to the Lord had to do all the obligations of the Old Covenant just like any other Israelite yet they cannot inherit any land for there is no promise for any gentile in the Old Covenant. Hence, the Old Covenant clearly separates the children of Israel and gentiles.

Acts 15:1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

This is exactly why in the early church the Jewish Christians wants the gentile Christians to circumcise according to the law of Moses to bring them into the congregation of Israel for them to be saved where Paul came to rescue. What the Jewish Christians said is absolutely correct if there was no New Covenant. However, things are different after Jesus came. So, what about now? Is Sabbath still valid today for gentile Christians?

Is Sabbath valid for gentile Christians?

As we saw earlier, Sabbath was given to the children of Israel as a sign for their sanctification and as a rest for they were slaves in Egypt.

  • How did the Lord sanctified the children of Israel?
    • Sacrifice (Leviticus 4)
  • What was the rest did the children of Israel receive?
    • Promised Land (1 Kgs 8:56)

It is very important to note that there are absolutely no promises in the law for any gentiles who joined himself to the Lord.

Isa 56:7a Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar

The only blessing for a gentile who follows the Old Covenant is pilgrimage. The reason being, Old Covenant was never given to gentiles but to the descendants of Jacob. Also, the Old Covenant provides no provision for a gentile to be part of the descendants of Jacob in order to inherit the promises of the Old Covenant.

Jas 2:10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.

Hence, following Sabbath means, keeping the Old Covenant and thus, must obey all of it. Therefore, uncircumcised Christians who do not keep the feasts of the Lord, yet follow the Sabbath (as most Sabbath denominations do), are guilt of all.

The New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Sabbath sign.

Heb 13:12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.

Matt 11:28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

  • Christ sacrificed Himself to sanctify us by His own blood.
  • The rest is the eternal life with Christ in His Kingdom

christ

Unlike the Old Covenant, the New Covenant is confined to the land of Israel  gives hope and promise to all people both Jews and non-Jews as Christ spoke in His great commission (Matt 28:18-20).

Deut 12:11 “then there will be the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the LORD.

John 4:21-24 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Christ gave a clear indication that the worship according to the Old Covenant where the children of Israel must worship on the appointed place will come to an end.

Col 2:16-17 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.

Paul also mentioned, Sabbaths are a shadow of things to come pointing to the New Covenant. There is no Sabbath obligation in New Covenant for inheriting eternal life which is promised. Hence, Sabbath is not valid for gentile Christians.

Is Sabbath valid for today’s Jews?

As we saw earlier, the Old Covenant was not given to gentiles, nor does it have any promise for gentiles to inherit the land of Israel. The Sabbath law was never given to uncircumcised gentiles. But, what about Jews? Can they use the Old Covenant? We saw earlier that following the Old covenant is an abomination to God. While the Old Covenant promises the land of Israel as rest, the New Covenant promises eternal life, rest with Christ.

Heb 8:7-13 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah– not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.  For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

The author of Hebrews gives an excellent explanation of how the first covenant is now becoming obsolete and both Jews and gentiles are not under it. It is important to note that the Old Covenant is not yet obsolete because Christ still had to fulfill the fall feasts of the Lord during His second coming as per the law, which the Jews were symbolically doing it in during the Old Testament times.

It is also important to note that Jesus Christ did not make the New Covenant with the gentiles for salvation is of the Jews. But, unlike the Old Covenant, the New Covenant includes people of all nations.

Heb 4:4-10 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts. For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

The sign of Sabbath in the Old Covenant was all along pointing to our rest with Christ as explained by the author of Hebrews. If the New Covenant replaces the Old Covenant, and the New Covenant was given to Jews where the seventh day rest was not included, then Sabbath is not valid for today’s Jews as well.

The only book in the New Testament which God gave Jesus Christ to show His servants is the book of Revelation. We are blessed for reading, hearing and keeping the things that are written in that book. Not once Sabbath was mentioned.

Did Sunday replaced Sabbath?

Absolutely not! There is no reference in the Bible that says this.

Acts 20:7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

Since there is no Sabbath in the New Covenant, Christians chose the first day when the Lord rose from the dead as the day to gather, break bread and have fellowship.

Conclusion

Following Sabbath means, keeping the Old Covenant and thus, must obey all of it. Therefore, uncircumcised Christians who do not keep the feasts of the Lord, yet follow the Sabbath (as most Sabbath denominations do), are guilt of all. The New Covenant which replaces the Old Covenant has no Sabbath obligations. The only book in the New Testament that contains the revelations which God gave Jesus Christ to show His servants is the book of Revelation where Sabbath is not mentioned even once.