Why Don’t Christians Keep the Sabbath?
Happy Shabbat to all my Jewish friends! My observation is for them it’s like Christmas every week but without the presents. It’s a really big deal to them, their families, and their communities. I can see why. As I read the Old Testament, it was a really big deal to God. So why Don’t Christians Keep the Sabbath? I’m reading Ezekiel right now. Chapter after chapter God rebukes His people for not keeping the Sabbath. It’s even one of the Ten Commandments – remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
What About Us?
How should we Christians view the Sabbath and what do we teach our children about this? (You do plan to teach your children about this, right?)
I find it very interesting when the Jewish disciples had a big debate in Acts 15: 12-21 about whether or not the new Gentile converts should have to get circumcised in order to follow Christ, the conclusion was only that the only “rules” they should have to live by were that “they abstain from the pollution of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.”
Not one word was mentioned about keeping the Sabbath.
What is the “Rest”?
God rested when His work was done, and Jesus rested when His work was done. But the ancient Jews never enjoyed that rest in the way that it’s available to us today, even thought they kept the literal Sabbath. Hebrews 4:9-10 tells us: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.” It is clear in reading of Hebrews that the Sabbath rest for followers of Christ is not a day of the week, nor a sun-up to sun-down ritual. It is a spiritual rest that is only available to the followers o Christ.
(I encourage you to read all of Hebrews as it is a fascinating exhortation to Jewish believers teaching them about their traditional rituals from the perspective of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Everything they did was a prophetic picture of the coming of Christ.)
Colossians 2:16-17, should erase any doubt about the nature of the Sabbath: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
Neither Saturday nor Sunday
From this we can see that the Sabbath clearly isn’t a day of the week. It’s neither Saturday nor Sunday! The Old Testament Sabbath was a “type and shadow” of things to come like the Tabernacle which was a prophetic picture of the day when Christ would shed His own blood and make a way for us to enter the very presence of God for ourselves! We enter into the Sabbath rest when we stop “working” (we’re not saved by works) and that only happens when we accept that Jesus’ sacrifice was for each of us.
Here’s another related question: why do Christians worship on Sunday instead of Saturday? It’s because Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday. This became more of a Gentile Christian tradition, as it would appear that the original Jewish Christians also continued to keep the Sabbath. It doesn’t make one right and the other wrong. It is a difference of heritage and perspective. The original apostles were careful not to force new Gentile converts to keep any of the Jewish laws and traditions, because as the Apostle Paul wrote, “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” Acts 15:10.
If you can make a literal Sabbath fit your lifestyle and you really desire to follow the traditional way, that’s fine. Just make sure either way you are not doing it out of legalism, but because you are trying to follow God the best you can. We all need to be careful not to judge one another.
Keep My Commandments
But now, Christian, before you say to your friends who observe the Sabbath, “Yeah! So there!” Just in the natural there are some very good reasons to “take a day of rest.” In American society there is no day of rest. Some work 7 days a week. For some it’s their only day off to clean the house and go grocery shopping. But just from a human, practical standpoint, your spirit, soul, and body need a rest.
Also, go back to Acts 15:20; as a whole – a Christian culture- we’ve not done a very good job of what we were told to do “abstaining from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.” So maybe we should really focus on the basics: “Do you love me? Then keep my commandments. Jesus.” (John 14:15)