Do Christians have to Keep the Sabbath?

The Sabbath was created by God for man’s benefit. In creation God embedded a 7 day cycle with one of those days intended for rest and concentrated worship. In the Mosaic Covenant this cycle was formalized as part of the law (Ex 20:8-11) and also as a covenant sign (Dt 5:14-15). Even in this institutionalization of the Sabbath it was still intended to benefit man. The people had just served over 400 yrs under a master who gave no days off. Now, the people of Israel were officially a theocracy under the direct rule of YHWH

. Under this new Master Israel was provided a day of rest.

This Sabbath day was to be a day of ceasing. A day to cease from normal activity and focus all your efforts on worshipful enjoyment of God. This day was graciously provided, not maliciously required.

Today we don’t observe the Sabbath as Israel did. Jesus has fulfilled the Sabbath so that all who believe in Him participate in a spiritual rest (Sabbath) that anticipates ultimate rest in the Kingdom (Heb 4:9). Furthermore, we are no longer under the civil requirements of the Mosaic Covenant because we are not national Israel. This is why the church doesn’t have to check for skin diseases, stone people, or observe the Sabbath in the same way that Israel did.

However, the 7 day cycle of creation and the principle of weekly rest and worship still exists. In the Old Covenant this principle was upheld in the Sabbath on the last day of the week. In the New Covenant this principle is upheld in the Christian Lord’s day on the first day of the week. The day has changed because in the New Covenant we are remember the resurrection of Christ for our deliverance, which happened on the first day of the week. Additionally, we are not required to keep all the regulations of the Old Covenant Sabbath because it’s been fulfilled in Christ. But this does not mean that we don’t have to uphold the principle behind the Sabbath regulations. The principle of weekly ceasing from our normal activities to rest and focus our efforts on worshipful enjoyment of God. God still intends for us as Christians to uphold this principle (Heb 10:25).

As Christians our attitude should be TGIL (Thank God it’s the Lord’s Day). Upholding the principle behind the Sabbath is not always easy for us though. We don’t like to rest, because we think the world won’t survive without us. When we do rest we would rather focus on ourselves than on God. However, when we uphold this principle it is to our benefit (by God’s design).

The bible has always taught that the Sabbath is a benefit to man, unfortunately the Pharisees took a beneficial principle and twisted it into something oppressing (Mark 2:27-28). They made the Sabbath about man working for his salvation instead of man resting in the God of salvation.