The Sabbath in the New Testament
JESUS' EXAMPLE AND TEACHING
Let us look at what the Bible says about the Sabbath. First we should start with Jesus' teaching and example.
"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'" John 14:6.
Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life." He "suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps." 1 Peter 2:21. "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." 1 John 2:6.
Did Jesus give us an example of Sabbathkeeping? Did He say anything about the Sabbath? Indeed He did. "So He [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read." Luke 4:16.
Jesus kept the Sabbath. The Scribes and Pharisees accused Jesus and His disciples of breaking the Sabbath (see Matthew 12:1-14; John 5:1-21; 7:21-24), but Jesus always claimed that He and His disciples were innocent of Sabbathbreaking. Jesus kept the Sabbath according to the Bible, not according to the rules of the Pharisees. Those who accuse Jesus of Sabbathbreaking today are doing the same work as the Scribes and Pharisees did in Jesus' day.
Jesus not only kept the Sabbath, but He taught His followers to keep the Sabbath also. Before His crucifixion, in predicting to His disciples the fall of Jerusalem, He told them to pray that they might not have to flee on the Sabbath day. Jesus was speaking of an event that was not to take place for another forty years, showing that He expected the '' sciples to still be keeping the Sabbath then. (See Matthew 24:20.)
DOES THE SABBATH STILL APPLY AFTER JESUS' DEATH?
Though it is generally acknowledged that Jesus kept the Sabbath during His earthly
ministry, some say that since His death, it no longer matters which day a person worships. Jesus' teaching in Matthew 24:20 disagrees. But to support their idea they quote
Colossians 2:16: "Let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths."
This important text bears consideration. It should be noted first of all that the text speaks of Sabbaths (plural) rather than the Sabbath (singular). In the Jewish economy there, were two kinds of Sabbaths-the seventh-day Sabbath of the Ten Commandments and the yearly ceremonial Sabbaths of the sanctuary service. The word "sabbath" means rest, and in the Jewish economy there were several yearly feast days on which all the people rested and worshipped. One of these was the Passover. The Passover came on the 14th day of the first Jewish religious month each year. Thus, it came on Monday one year, on Tuesday the next year, etc. '
You can read about these yearly ceremonial sabbaths in Leviticus 16-31- 23-4 44 These yearly feasts pointed forward to Jesus and His ministry and had no more significance after He came. The Passover Sabbath, for example, was actually a prophecy fore telling the day of Jesus' crucifixion. He died on the day of the Passover, at the moment of the slaying of the lamb. Jesus is the true Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5-7)
These yearly ceremonial sabbaths were all instituted as a part of the sanctuary services and pointed forward to Jesus. The Sabbath of the Ten Commandments pointed back to the Creation: "Remember the Sabbath day ... for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth ... and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." Exodus 20:8-11.
Thus there were two kinds of sabbaths-the yearly ceremonial sabbaths established at Sinai, and the weekly Sabbath established at Creation and embodied in the Law of God. Paul is very clear in Colossians, which sabbaths he is talking about-the ceremonial sabbaths only. Many people read only until the word "sabbaths" and fail to read the rest of the sentence in the next verse. "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." Colossians 2:16,17. Paul said not to judge people regarding these ceremonial sabbaths, but the Bible makes plain that the seventh-day Sabbath is a perpetual memorial.
John, the last of the apostles, stated that there was still a day that belonged to the Lord, when he wrote the book of Revelation in A.D. 96. "I was in the Spirit in vision on the Lord's Day ..." Revelation 1:10.
While John here does not say which is the Lord's day, Jesus tells us plainly that His day is the Sabbath. "For < Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Matthew 12-8
That was a very bold tement for Jesus to make when He claimed to be the "Lord of the Sabbath," for it is n, directly from the fourth commandment which states that "the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD." (When LORD is in all capital letters in the Old Testament it is translated rrorn.the Hebrew word "Jehovah.") Jesus was claiming to be the Creator of the fourth commandment. "And He [Jesus] said to them "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Siabbath, Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord' of the Sabbath.1" Mark 2:27, 28.
Notice also that Jesus did not say that the Sabbath was made for the Jews but for man. It was established and created in the beginning of Creation. Jesus was the Creator It was He who created the Sabbath in the first place. (See John 1:1-14 and Colossians 1:16.)
THE DAY THE APOSTLES KEPT
Following the example of Jesus, the apostles kept the true Sabbath. There is not a single instance recorded of any of the apostles worshipping on Sunday. Yet there are scores of recorded examples of their keeping the Sabbath. Let us look at some examples:
"And when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. So when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God." Acts 13:42-44. Note that this second Sabbath worship meeting mentioned was not for the Jews but for the Gentiles.
"And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there." Acts 16:13. They were in a heathen city where there was no Jews or Jewish synagogues, but when the Sabbath came they went to the river to worship. This was twenty-two years after the resurrection.
"Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures." Acts 17:1, 2.
"And he [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks ... And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them." Acts 18:4, 11.
THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK
Where, then, did the keeping of the first day of the week come from? Since Jesus did not mention Sunday or the first day of the week in the Bible, He did not institute worship on this day. In fact, there are only nine references to the first day of the week in the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. These references are Genesis 1:5; Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1
., 2; Mark 16:9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1; John 20:19; Acts 20:7; and 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2. A perusal of these texts will reveal that nowhere is the first day of the week called "the Sabbath day," "the Lord's day," "the day of the assembly," or anything like that. None of these references even hint that the sanctity of the Sabbath was transferred to that day. Nowhere is it called the Christian Sabbath or the Christian day of worship.
Let us review these nine texts. The first text tells what God created on the first day of the week. The next six give a simple account of the resurrection of Jesus after resting in the tomb over the Sabbath, with no command of change or example of worship. That leaves just two more texts.
The first is in 1 Corinthians 16:2: "On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosy?er, that there be no collection when I come."
Here Paul is speaking to the believers about special provisions, possibly grain or other food supplies, which he was taking to the saints in Jerusalem. We read in the book of Acts that there was a famine in Jerusalem and Paul wanted to take an offering for their relief. He sent word ahead to get things ready so that he could take these gifts with him. Even if this text had referred to money, it is better to manage our finances on other days than on the Sabbath.
Now let us turn to the only other verse that mentions the first day of the week. "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." Acts 20:7.
This text without careful analysis could support Sunday worship. However, there are two important questions that need to be asked: First, does the meeting on the first day of the week make that day a holy day? Jesus partook of the Lord's supper on Thursday night before the crucifixion. Even today many churches hold meetings on Wednesday evening and on other days of the week. Now, if this text should call the first day of the week a Sabbath or a Lord's day, that would be different; but it does not. It merely says he talked until midnight.
Now notice verse 8: "There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together." Notice that this was a night meeting on the first day of the week. If that be the case, on which night was it held? In the Bible, God said the Sabbath day was to run from sundown on the sixth day until sundown on the seventh day. In the Bible, days were always counted from sundown to sundown. (See Leviticus 23:32; Genesis 1. Without modern watches, how would people have known when a new day began?) Thus the Jews considered Saturday night to be the first day of the week. That is why the New English Bible translates verse 7 as follows: "On the Saturday night, in our assembly for the breaking of the bread, Paul, who was to leave next day, addressed them, and went on speaking until midnight."
Now notice what happened Sunday morning. Did he go to church? No: "Now when he had come up, had broken bread [this expression in Bible times referred to any meal, not just the Lord's supper] and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed." .Acts 20:11.
On Sunday morning Paul did not go to church, but hiked 14 miles across the peninsula to Assos to meet the other disciples. He had been there with these people some days before the Sabbath came. As soon as the Sabbath was over, he bade them good-bye, gave a last discourse and left the next morning.
We have looked at all the first day texts and found the obvious; the Bible does not say, anywhere, that Sunday is a sacred day.