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Should Christians honor Sunday as the new Sabbath?

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Question:   On the issue of Sundays, I personally believe we are still supposed to keep them holy (Sundays now replacing Saturday as the Sabbath for the Church). I'm not saying this is a salvation issue, and certainly it is not something that people should divide over in the Church. But after I began keeping Sundays holy it changed my life! I understand your point that we are to enter into the "Sabbath rest" of God 7 days a week. I do believe that, but I couldn't do that until I gave the Lord one day a week of truly focusing on Him. The better I keep Sundays holy, the more peace I have throughout the week. Maybe others can enter that Rest without keeping Sundays holy (or Saturdays or whenever) but not me.

Response:  I think it is great that you devote an entire day of your week to the Lord - that is a wonderful thing which I would in no way wish to denigrate or turn you away from. But as to Sunday as a necessary day of worship, I suppose the first thing to point out vis-a-vis the Sabbath is that the Sabbath is Saturday, not Sunday. This is no small point, though it is often underappreciated in discussions of this sort. God's chronology of the six-day restoration of the universe makes it clear, as it is made clear in the Law and the Prophets, that it is the seventh day which is holy, not the first. There is no scripture in the New Testament which discusses or suggests in any way that somehow Sunday is now the seventh day or that honoring Sunday could ever be the same or an equivalent thing to honoring Saturday (anymore than any other day of the week). What I mean by this is that for me it is indisputable from scripture that if one believes that it is necessary for Christians to continue Sabbath observance, then of necessity the day on which they must do so is Saturday (Friday night to Saturday night) and not Sunday, because Saturday is the Sabbath, not Sunday. No amount of church tradition can change this fact. Indeed, I would argue that the very reason that the early Church (while still under apostolic leadership) changed the main day of worship from Saturday to Sunday was to make a deliberate contrast between Jewish ritual which foreshadowed the Messiah (and which has now been fulfilled in Him, our Lord Jesus Christ) and the reality of the Christian hope (in our Lord Jesus Christ who was resurrected on Sunday, not Saturday).

As to Saturday Sabbath observance, like the dietary regulations of the Law, this was symbolically important in the past because it showed Israel as separate and apart from the other nations of the world (i.e., holy; cf. Deut.4:6-8). We Christians, taken from all nations and made unalterably holy in Jesus Christ, are to be truly holy in all we do rather than symbolically holy, and that is why we are not to follow the strictures of the written code, but rather the living commands of love in the truth of Jesus Christ (as taught extensively in Romans, Galatians, etc.). Besides the argument which I have made repeatedly in the past to the effect that Sabbath observance is never commanded in the New Testament (while all the other commandments are repeated), I find the following scriptures difficult to ignore:

So don't let anyone judge you in regard to food or drink, or in the category of festival observances, be it of new moons or Sabbaths. All these things are shadows of what was to come, but the reality has to do with Christ.        
Colossians 2:16-17

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each should be fully convinced in his own mind.        
Romans 14:5  NIV

The Romans verse is clearly in the context of mature believers being patient with those who have not yet been able to put aside superstitions and the like (Sabbath and festival observances being of that ilk particularly for Jewish converts). But that our Sabbath is a rest wherein we are supposed to abide at all times seems clear to me from Hebrews:

So then there does remain a Sabbath observance (sabbatismos) for the people of God.           
Hebrews 4:9

It is very clear from the whole tone and tenor of Hebrews (and from chapter four in particular) that Paul is deliberately contrasting the step-by-step, day by day, moment by moment Sabbath of the Christian way of life with the former ritual observances into which the Jewish converts he is addressing were being drawn backward to their spiritual harm.

I want to be clear that if you are doing anything that is helpful for you spiritually I am all for it. You have clearly made a number of applications of scripture to your life out of a genuine desire to please God and follow our Lord more carefully. How can anyone object to that! Setting Sunday aside for Him can certainly have positive effects. How can any time or effort we devote to our Lord ever be a wrong thing? My only objection would be to any suggestion that devoting an equal amount of time and effort to Him in a different way or on a different day would somehow not carry the same weight (because it is not Sunday). As the traditional day for communal church worship (and as a day that more people than not in this country have off), Sunday is certainly a fine time to set aside for the pursuit of spiritual matters, especially for those whose lives are so busy that it is difficult to put forth a consistent effort at other times in the week. But I would not downplay the wonderful benefits of trying to capture every step, every moment for Him. Clearly, that is a high standard that only our Lord ever completely mastered, but the goal is a noble one. To some extent, at least I have found this in my own life and have seen it at work in the lives of other, it is also true that when one "sets aside" a certain time for God there is a tendency to consider that "the job is done" as long as the "set-aside" has been accomplished. Now a complete day is really a lot, especially if, indeed, nearly every waking moment and every ounce of energy on that day is truly devoted to thinking about, learning about, and serving Him. But I would ask you not to underestimate the development of a mindset which starts to organize everything in the life for Him, and tries to begin to walk with Him at all times.

As in many other matters of how we apply our faith to life, I would certainly counsel you not to change the good things you are doing over night. All too often when Christians decide that something they have been doing is not really necessary they abandon it before they are ready, willing and able to replace it with something better. That is exactly Paul's point in Romans 14 (cf. 1Cor.8). It is far better, for example, to refrain from eating meat sacrificed to idols out of an admittedly poor understanding of the principles of scripture involved than to indulge in a way that can damage one's Christian walk and life. That is to say, it is far better to do a good thing for a faulty reason than to give up doing good (or start doing bad) for a good reason mis-applied. It is far better to draw closer to God by making very good use of your time for Him on Sunday than to lose this very positive time with Him because you may become convinced that Sabbath observance is not a commandment we are held to at present.

Here are a few links where the issue is discussed in more detail:

The Sabbath

Sabbath Questions

Is Sabbath Observance Legitimate for Christians?

The 10 Commandments (in part 5 of "The Satanic Rebellion")

The 10 Commandments (in "Hamartiology", part 3B of "Bible Basics")

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism.

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism II

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism III

I commend you for your dedication and devotion to the Lord, and I pray that all the knowledge and truth you come to believe will build you up spiritually and never cause you to stumble in any way.

In Him who is able to build us up in the truth of the Word of God and through the guidance of the Spirit, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.


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