What is the Sabbath and how does it apply to Christians today? The Sabbath is not just a single day as in the Old Testament; it is our season of rest from religious works because of Jesus’ perfect work on the cross.
Colossians 2:16b-17 “16 a So let no one judge you in food or in drink, b or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
Most Christians can agree to some point with the first four items listed in verse 16, but there is still a split in the body of Christ over the meaning of the Sabbath and when to observe the Sabbath. In its strictest term Sabbath is a specific day of rest proclaimed by the Law of Moses in Exodus 16:26, “Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is the Sabbath, there will be none". The seventh day of the week was originally set aside by God from His works in Genesis 2:2, “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done”. Note of interest: When God finished His work on earth at the end of the sixth day and rested on the seventh, nowhere else in the bible does it say that God started working again on anything else here on earth. He finished and is at rest from His work leaving the rest to us. There are other references in the bible for the seventh day, seventh month, and seventh year and all are related to rest from works, but Moses was the first to declare it as a holy day dedicated unto the Lord as originally stated in Exodus 16:26. There are 61 references to the Sabbath in the Old Testament and all relate to rest from works and either indicate or point to that day as a non-work holy day to God. However, the first of 52 references in the New Testament is in Matthew 12:1 and of all people, Jesus, born under the Law allowed His disciples to break the “no work rule” by picking grain from the fields. It is obvious the disciples were not consecrating that day unto God, but did make the decision to be in the presence of Jesus. That concept was greatly misunderstood by the people in Jesus’ day and still is today. Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28, and Luke 6:5, proclaim that Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath. To be in the presence of Jesus is to be in Sabbath, or “at rest” from your religious works to gain righteousness with God. In all four of the gospels Jesus is accused by the Pharisees of breaking the Sabbath because He “worked” by healing people on that day. For those Christians and non-Christians alike who chose to “fight” over which day is the Sabbath and consecrated to God, I have to ask, which one of you are going to join the Pharisees in accusation of Jesus? Since the resurrection of Jesus, Christians are to live daily in Sabbath which is rest from religious works in any effort to gain righteousness.
It is obvious that something has changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament and Christians to a point understand what that change is; the death of our Lord and Savior Jesus which sets us free from the bondage of the Law. The problem still lies with legalists today trying to blend both Jewish law and God’s grace into their own brand of “part work/part grace religion”. This is predominantly what Christianity looks like today, but was also a problem in Paul’s day as the Colossians were moving into Gnosticism. Those who hold the “Sabbath” today in the strictest since know that Sunday is not the true Sabbath or seventh day of the week; it is Saturday. This is even funnier in that those Christians who chose to argue that Sunday is the Sabbath day and the true day to worship God are actually “fighting” against the very Law of Moses they are trying to uphold. Sunday rest/worship started in the United States with the Pilgrims. During the Industrial Revolution when people came out of the fields of working their own land to live and into factories to earn a living, they kept the tradition thereby leaving Sunday the most prevalent day for people to attend church and have a day of rest from the factory; end of story. There is no other reason the majority of churches in the United States have their “main” services on Sunday other than that was the dedicated day of rest in this country for factory workers. The book of Acts is the last book the word Sabbath is used and it was the day the Jews went to synagogue and we read in Acts that is when Paul tried to teach the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection for our salvation to the Jewish people.
It is good to rest and refresh ourselves from our natural work, and therefore, to have a rest day is good. There is a day of rest for God’s people to enter into, but under the New Covenant it is not a specified day of the week. Nowhere in the New Testament is there a specific day set aside and called our “holy day” to enter into the Lord’s presence or go to church. Jesus covered this when He spoke of how we will worship God in the spirit, as He told the Samaritan woman at the well in John Chapter 4. The true Sabbath and day of rest is explained in Hebrews Chapter 4 and references to the Day of our Lord which began at the death of Jesus and was consecrated at His resurrection. The day we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior is the day we enter into the Day of Rest or Sabbath from our religious works of trying to please God in effort to be in His presence.
Verse 16 & 17 sum up this truth; everything and every law from the Old Testament is merely a shadow of things to come. Go stand outside in the sun and try to hold on to a shadow. A shadow is not real nor does it have substance. A shadow is actually the absence of light blocked by something that is real which is in the way of the light beams. Jesus is the light, as first proclaimed by Simeon as read in Luke 2:32 when Simeon saw and held baby Jesus in his arms while in the temple, and proclaimed by Jesus Himself in John 8:12 & 9:5. Christ Jesus is the complete substance of our salvation and rest from spiritual works to please God. In Him we worship God both in Spirit and in truth. When a man stands in the presence and the light of Jesus and then tries to hold his fellow believers accountable for Laws of Moses, man’s doctrines, ways of life, and so forth, what they are actually doing is casting their shadow over their fellow Christians and blocking the true light which is from Jesus. People who do this are actually making their fellow Christians look at them instead of pointing them to the true light which is from Jesus. Go to church on Sunday and or any other day your church is open to learn more of the Word of God, but most of all learn to rest in your faith in Jesus as your Lord and savior, the author and finisher of your salvation, Hebrews 5:9, 12:2.
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