Keeping the Sabbath


There are a number of religious groups that assert that the Christian believer must keep the Sabbath Day, and that this day is Saturday – ‘the Lord’s Day’ – and not Sunday. It is generally claimed that the sabbath was given to mankind to observe, ‘more than two thousand years before the existence of a Jew’. What validity do these statements have, and how important is the Sabbath to today’s Christian believer?

The Bereans of New Testament times had this commendation:
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11

So with this in mind, let us look at some verses from Scripture that make reference to the Sabbath, for the advice of Paul is:
Prove all things, hold on to that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21

The first sabbath.

A good place to commence this study is the opening book of the Bible. Genesis 2:2,3 refer to the seventh day, and show that God established the seventh day as a separate and holy day. However, the passage does not refer to this seventh day being a ‘sabbath’, nor does it say that it was to be observed by mankind as a sabbath. Neither does any other passage in this first book of the Bible state, or even infer, that the seventh day had been instituted or observed as a Sabbath day of rest for mankind.

You will recognise that the first occasion in which the seventh day is referred to as the sabbath was with the children of Israel in the wilderness.

And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the LORD said to Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” Exodus 16:23-29

The instructions being given here were to become part of the Ten Commandments that would be given to Moses two months later.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Exodus 20:8

However, returning to the narrative of Exodus 16, the passage reads as though the sabbath was being introduced for the first time. The basis of collecting food on six days and resting on the seventh is covered in verses 4-8 of that same chapter, “that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or no.” (v4)

That the observance of the sabbath was a new concept is admitted by Moses himself when he repeated the law a second time:
The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all here alive this day.” Deuteronomy 5:2,3

So it was not the covenant that had been given to the fathers (i.e. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), but one that was being given to them in their day. This is repeated three times in this one verse to emphasise the fact. And what was this particular covenant? The Ten Commandments, which Moses immediately goes on to relate. These commandments are called ‘the covenant’ in a number of places:

I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.” Exodus 34:28

He declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even Ten Commandments.” Deuteronomy 4:13

There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there in Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel… I have set there a place for the ark, wherein is the covenant of the LORD.” 1 Kings 8:9,21

A New Testament writer, Paul, also regarded the Ten Commandments as the covenant made with Moses, and used an Old Testament passage to drive home his point.
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with the fathers, in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt …” Hebrews 8:8,9 [Quoted from Jeremiah 31:31-34].

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    10 Comments on "Keeping the Sabbath"

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    11 months 18 days ago

    How comes all 9 laws(commandments) are still put into practice till now while the 4th law being ended? no place where the bible abolished that commandment.
    why you said that these laws have being replaced by grace through Jesus while others still active? why the one to be abolished while the rest still in use?

    Noel Goetz
    1 month 8 days ago

    Exodus 31:16 “Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath.”- I take it people of Israel means the Jews. Therefore, if you are a Jew you should thereby keep the commandment. If you are not, then you are under no compulsion.

    27 days 6 hours ago

    Hi Noel,
    You are correct in your thinking. It was also re-stated in Ezekiel 20:19–20 as a reminder,
    “I am the LORD your God; walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules, and keep my Sabbaths holy that they may be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.”
    It was specifically to those in Israel, and of course their descendants who would be the Jews of today.
    However, it was introduced just days prior to the Law of Moses, which of course was done away with in Jesus. We, or the… Read more »

    9 months 13 days ago

    I encourage all to let scripture be your guide and not mans opinion… The word of God cannot contradict itself. If there is a contradiction found one must attribute it to mans incorrect interpretation.

    Exodus 31:16 ESV
    Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant FOREVER.

    -God explained the Sabbath was to be observed FOREVER! So weather given before Moses or for the first time in the wilderness, forever means forever… If it was the intent of God to do away with it once the Messiah came, HE (not being… Read more »

    11 months 12 days ago

    Hi Thomas,
    Thank you for your comment.
    Let’s not confuse two issues: those that are timeless and that which is not. The law against murder is timeless—it has been since Creation: Cain was guilty of it. The Sabbath observance however was only introduced at the time of the Ten Commandments and was exclusively given to the Israelites.
    “Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: and madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand… Read more »

    Robert Janko
    3 years 11 months ago

    “Im a Christian but i believe the Ten Commandments still abide. Iam writing this with nothing but loved but you forgot to quote the second part of hebrews 8 so u made it seem that the new covanent was going to be something completely different from the ten comandments but if you read hebrews 8:10 “”This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”” so this… Read more »

    Suday Kumar Rout
    3 years 11 months ago

    “It seems that Jesus Christ has been replaced with Paul (a self styled apostle). At the outset of His famous Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells “”Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or Prophets ; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfil (Matt.5:17).””
    No weekly days has been mentioned in the Bible i.e. Sunday, Monday or Friday etc. Israelites were counting the days by observing the moon.
    Very simple commandment has been given by our Almighty Father God Through Moses that””Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the… Read more »