Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sabbath Day

My article from today's Algona Upper Des Moines about the Sabbath Day:

Q: Since the Ten Commandments say to “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it Holy,” then why do Christians worship on Sunday instead of Saturday? Are Christians required to refrain from working on certain days in order to honor the Sabbath Day?

When God created the world, He created for six days, and rested on the seventh, which is Saturday. When God gave the Commandments to Moses, He called this day the Sabbath Day and commanded that the people of Israel also rest that day, which included that they were not allowed to work or engage in certain other activities. Instead, it was typical during Old Testament times for the people to gather and hear and be taught about what was written by Moses and the Prophets.

Beyond merely being wise advice for their physical and mental health, this day also had a meaning which pointed forward to events which would occur in the future—those of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus reflects this idea when He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28 ESV)

In addition, Jesus was charged with offending against the rules of Sabbath observance because He healed a man on the Sabbath (Mt. 12, Mk. 3, Lk. 13), and He was criticized because His disciples picked grain and ate it while walking through a field on the Sabbath. (Mt. 12, Mk. 2, Lk. 6) In response, Jesus makes clear that His presence has fulfilled the Sabbath, saying, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mt. 12:8 ESV)

In the book of Acts, the first two times that Jesus appears to the disciples after His resurrection, it is on Sunday, and when the Holy Spirit comes to the Christians on Pentecost, it also occurs on a Sunday. It is later recorded throughout the New Testament that when the Apostles gathered for worship, they did so on Sunday, because that was the day on which Jesus rose from the dead.

However, while the Bible does instruct that Christians are expected to gather for worship (Heb. 10:25), it does not specify that they must do on a certain day. Christians throughout history, though, have overwhelmingly chosen to gather on Sunday, since it is the day on which Jesus’ resurrection, His appearances to the disciples, and Pentecost occurred, as well as the fact that Sunday worship was the example set by Jesus’ Apostles.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul even corrects those who seek to require that Christians continue to observe the Sabbath Day or that they worship on a specific day of the week. He says, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (Col. 2:16-17 ESV)

He also says, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” (Rom. 14:5 ESV)

Both Jesus and Paul make it clear that for Christians there is not a law regarding they day on which they are to worship, nor is there any longer a requirement that they avoid work or business on a certain day of the week. The book of Hebrews even says, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:9-10 ESV)

Whoever has entered God’s rest through faith in Jesus has already experienced the fulfillment of the Sabbath according to these verses. However, this commandment does still have relevance for Christians. Martin Luther says regarding this commandment, “We should…not despise preaching and God’s Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”

Even though Christians are not obligated to take a certain day of rest or hold their worship services on a specific day of the week, God does still command that we do not neglect hearing and learning from the Scriptures. Instead, He invites us to read the Bible ourselves as well as gathering with other Christians to hear pastors teach about Jesus and to remember His death and celebrate His resurrection until He comes again.

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