Seattle Area Seventh Day Baptist Church, Auburn Washington

Frequently Asked Questions About The Sabbath

(Bible quotations are from the ESV)

1.  What is the Sabbath?

2.  What does God want us to do with the seventh day?

3.  I've been told the Sabbath is Jewish, and that Christians are supposed to observe their day of worship on Sunday (in honor of Christ's resurrection).  Is that true?

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1.  What is the Sabbath?

The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week (Saturday). According to Genesis 2:3 (ESV), "God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation." The Sabbath begins with sunset on Friday evening and ends with sunset on Saturday evening (days in the Bible being reckoned in that way, Gen. 1:5, Lev. 23:32, Mark 1:21 & 32). The Sabbath provides weekly relief from making a living “by the sweat of your face” (Gen. 3:19), freeing us to find fellowship with God and refresh our spirits in a "day of rest." For that reason it is a gift of God's grace for mankind ("The Sabbath was made for man," Mark 2:27), fulfilling the purpose of the blessing God pronounced upon it at creation.
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2.  What does God want us to do with the seventh day?

The following Scripture passages tell us:

Exodus. 20:8-11.  "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."

Isaiah 58:13-14.  "If you... call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable... then you shall take delight in the Lord."

Leviticus 23:3.  "On the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation."

The word Sabbath means "cease, desist, rest."   The Sabbath is a day for laying aside ("resting from" or "ceasing from") the daily grind of labor in order to acknowledge our dependence on God for all we have, and to seek fellowship with God and his people.  This is what it means to "keep the Sabbath holy."  God "made" the Sabbath holy, and we are to "keep" it holy--by devoting it to God and using its hours in accordance with his purposes for the day.  Twenty-four hours of religious activity is certainly not necessary, but rather a consciousness of the special significance of the day, which we carry with us until sunset Saturday evening.  Thus, it is Sabbath "all day," just as on someone's birthday, it's their birthday "all day." 

Most ordinary tasks of life (like mowing the lawn or doing the laundry) can easily be kept for another day, out of respect for God.  Refusing to accept overtime hours at work on the Sabbath can be more difficult, but employers will often honor that conviction, if we take a stand on it and are willing to do extra work on other days (like Sunday). Calling the Sabbath "honorable" (Isa. 58:13) means honoring its holiness by yielding to God's will that it be a day of rest (even "In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest," Ex. 34:21).  Those who honor the LORD's holy day "shall take delight in the Lord."

The symbolism of the seventh day reminds us of God as our Creator and as the Redeemer of his people (Deut. 5:14-15). The Sabbath is God's invitation to take "time out," echoing in our private thoughts and public worship, God's own judgment that the Universe he has provided for us is, "very good" Gen. 1:31. It is a time for giving extra attention to our relationship with God. Keeping the Sabbath is a personal sign between God and his people that he is their God (Ezek. 20:12,20). It is a day for "a holy convocation " (Lev. 23:3--i.e., church day). In many other ways the hours of the Sabbath may be dedicated to God, such as in the doing of good (Matt. 12:12, Mark 3:4). But it is also appropriate to just enjoy the relief from the daily grind which the Sabbath offers.  Back to Top

3.  I've been told the Sabbath is Jewish, and that Christians are supposed to observe their day of worship on Sunday (in honor of Christ's resurrection).  Is that true?

Abraham was the father of the Jews (John 8:31, 39), who are his descendants through Jacob's son, Judah. The Sabbath was given at Creation, long before Abraham, Jacob or Judah lived (see Gen. 2:3 above). Also, God commanded its observance (Ex. 16:30) even before the law was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19). Since the Sabbath was given before the Jews and observed before the law of Moses, it can't rightly be called Jewish, anymore than monogamous marriage can be called Jewish, which (like the Sabbath) was instituted at Creation (Gen. 2:24). Furthermore, in Mark 2:27, Jesus said, "the Sabbath was made for man," (i.e., mankind) not just Jews. When God gave the Ten Commandments, he commanded observance of the Sabbath, along with the honoring of father and mother, and the prohibition of murder and adultery. Though the Ten Commandments were first revealed to the Israelites, Christians have accepted them as universal moral principles that apply to us, too. However, due to the desire to abide by unscriptural church traditions, most Christians today reject the Fourth Commandment ("Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.") or try to apply it to Sunday

It's fine to worship God on any day of the week, but Scripture nowhere tells us to "forget" the Sabbath by no longer keeping it holy, nor does it tell us to observe Sunday in honor of the resurrection. It was not Sunday (the first day of the week) that God blessed and made holy, nor did he bless a "one day out of seven" sequence (any day we might choose). Scripture specifically says God blessed "the seventh day" of the week  (Gen. 2:3). 

Sabbath rest carries the God-given symbolism of God's own rest on the seventh day of Creation, which Sunday rest does not. Celebrating someone's twenty-first birthday a month after that person's actual day of birth would certainly be possible, but not nearly as meaningful! Likewise, it's not nearly as meaningful to celebrate Sabbath rest on a day other than the one God specifically blessed and made holy, based on the symbolism of Creation

Since God even made observance of the seventh day one of his Ten Commandments, then substituting a man-made tradition for the God-given one is directly disobedient to God's will. Rather than commend such a practice to his followers as "Christian," Jesus repudiated it. Speaking of how another of the Ten Commandments was made to conform to man-made traditions, Jesus told those responsible: "Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? ... for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God" (Matt. 15:3,6). Making Sunday into the "Christian Sabbath" replaces a God-given tradition with a man-made one. Even though this practice is widespread among Christians today, and is well intentioned, turning from the seventh day dishonors God by breaking his command and nullifying his word. It is also a sad neglect of a gift God gave to all mankind as a blessing.

As to Sunday observance in honor of the resurrection, Jesus never taught such a practice. When teaching about the meaning of his resurrection, Jesus specified only that it would be "on the third day" (i.e., the third day after he was placed in the tomb--Matt. 16:21, Mark 8:31). What is important about the day of the resurrection is the fact that it would come after Jesus had lain in the grave for 3 days, not that it would be any particular day of the week. Jesus makes no effort to point out which day of the week his resurrection would fall on, nor do his apostles, when they teach about the resurrection, even after it had occurred.  Back to Top

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