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Ask Pastor Roger Barrier - Church Leadership

Is it Biblical to Observe the Sabbath on Sunday?

  • Dr. Roger Barrier Preach It, Teach It
  • 2015 2 Oct
  • COMMENTS
Is it Biblical to Observe the Sabbath on Sunday?

Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at [email protected].

Dear Roger,

We worship on Sunday. I’m worried we are violating God's 4th command to keep the Sabbath Holy. I can't find any Biblical reference why we changed. Can you help?

Thanks, Gil

Dear Gil,

The Sabbath, was given to Israel, not to the church. The Sabbath is still Saturday, not Sunday, and has never been changed. The Sabbath runs from Friday night at sunset to Saturday night at sunset. The Sabbath is part of the Old Testament Law and as a result most Jews still worship on the Sabbath. On the other hand, Christians are free from the bondage of the Mosaic Law, and thus free from worshiping on the Sabbath, “…for sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14).

It is well to note that every one of the Ten Commandments is included somewhere in the New Testament except the command to obey the Sabbath.

God still has an eschatological plan for Israel. He has a different eschatological plan for the Christian church. The plans are not the same. His plan for Israel includes worshipping on the Sabbath. His plan for the Christian church allows Christians to worship on any day that they so choose.

“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” (Colossians 2:16 -17).

“One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).

Because Jesus arose from the dead on the first day of the week, Sunday, those early Christians called it the "Lord's Day" (Revelation 1:10), and regularly met for their Christian worship on Sunday (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2).

The transition from worshipping on the Sabbath to worshipping on Sunday did not occur immediatey. 

When non-Jews began to convert to Christianity, there was much dispute about whether Gentile Christians had to observe the Jewish laws about circumcision, dietary restrictions, Sabbath observance, and so forth, before they could become Christians. About 20 years after his conversion, Paul, Peter, James and other Church leaders met at the "Council of Jerusalem" and decided that it was not necessary for Christians to observe the Sabbath rules and other Jewish laws (Acts 15:28-29, Romans 14:5-6, Colossians 2:16).

In the early centuries of Christianity, Constantine was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. In 321 A.D. he proclaimed Sunday a legal day of rest and ordered all judges, city-people and craftsmen to rest. Since that time, worshipping on the Lord’s Day has become normative for most Christians. The one exception is the Seventh-Day Adventists who still worship on Saturday.

Is the Sabbath an important commandment? Or is God just filling space on the tablet?

The Sabbath command takes more words to discuss than any of the other ten.

God needed only four words to tell us not to kill.

He needed 97 to tell us to remember the Sabbath day.

There is an eternal principle here that goes right back to the creation.  God created and worked for six days and then rested on the seventh.  If resting one day out of seven was good enough for God it ought to be good enough for us!

God never intended for us to live life at full speed, 24/7. He designed our bodies to need sleep every night and to take a day of rest every week.

He has woven a rhythm into the fabric of the universe.

And it goes “six days work, one day rest, six days work, one day rest.” 

The world says, “Go, go go go go go faster.” (Notice the six and seven pattern).

God says, “go go go go go go rest.”

The biblical position is that we are no longer required to worship on the Sabbath. However, the principle of the Sabbath stands as an eternal principle of our need for rest.

Gil, let me share a few thoughts about applying the eternal principles of the Sabbath to us in our day.

“THE SABBATH WAS MADE FOR MAN, NOT MAN FOR THE SABBATH” (Mark 2:27). 

The Pharisees discovered 1,500 different ways a person could break the Sabbath.

The law said not to carry a burden on the Sabbath.  So they argued over how big is a burden? Anything that weighed more than two dried figs was a burden. If you can’t carry a burden, can you drag it? How far?

You couldn’t spit on the Sabbath. If spittle hit dirt and made a little row, that was plowing.

You couldn’t light a fire nor quench a flame on the Sabbath. Recently a fire broke out in Jerusalem. Everyone ran to see the fire.

When some Orthodox Jews got there, they stoned the fire truck for putting out a fire on the Sabbath.

In the Sabbath we see the heart of God. God is no scorekeeper. Enjoying the Sabbath with rest and worship is more important than following any man-made religious rules.

THE WORD SABBATH IS SYNONYMOUS WITH REST. 

If you don’t give your body a break, your body is going to break.

Bishop Gerald Kennedy of California’s Methodist church told of two groups crossing plains during migrations to California during gold rush days.

One group was led by a Christian who stopped every Lord’s day for worship and rest.

The other party was led by a non-Christian who was so motivated with gold fever that he refused to let them stop and rest.

The wagon train that rested and worshipped every seventh day arrived first in the gold fields.

Rest the mind as well as the body.

Sometimes I’ll be sitting with my son-in-law, Ricky. I’ll say “What are you thinking?” and He’ll say “Nothing.” And he’s serious. I love it! There’s nothing going on up there. He’s learned to quiet his mind. I am jealous. I’ve rarely had a mind that doesn’t go 100 miles per hour.

Resting on the Sabbath means taking twenty-four hours off every seven days.

For most of us this means five days at our job, one day working at home to get all the chores done, and one day with no work whatsoever. That is six days on and one day off.

Sometimes we think we can be like the Energizer Bunny—and just keep going and going and going.  But the bunny is a fraud.  They have to keep putting new batteries in.

Once upon a time Julie and I decided to light a candle during our day of rest to remind us to slow down and rest. After a few weeks we got too busy to light the candle. No one ever said that learning how to rest would be easy.

Have you ever noticed on a hot day that when you turn your gas grill on high, the propane tank gets cold?  It’s because the tank is being decompressed.

According to the natural laws of compression and expansion, when we compress something like a gas or a liquid, it becomes very hot. Decompressing something has the opposite effect.

Life is like that. The more we compress into life the more heat it produces, and that heat comes in the form of stress and anxiety. The more we decompress the more enjoyment and fulfilled is life.

Even Jesus needed a time away to rest from his ministry of teaching and healing. We see in Luke 5:16 where Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” 

He walked for weeks and the phone never rang.  He got along just fine.  He got everything done he needed to do.

SABBATH KEEPING IS ABOUT REMEMBERING.

The Ten Commandments are given twice in the Bible. The commandment regarding the Sabbath is the same in both places, but the reasons for the commandment are different.

In Exodus chapter twenty, the reason is tied to the rhythm of creation.

In Deuteronomy chapter five, the reason is connected to remembering all the great things God did for the people of Israel!

Sometimes we forget that we are eternal beings. There’s more to life than just making a paycheck and getting a promotion. I forget that I was created to be in relationship with my Creator.

I forget that I am a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I need to remember that I was bought away from sin not with silver and gold but with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19).

I need to remember that God allows difficulties for the good purpose of molding me to look like Jesus.

When pressures and trials come, it’s easy to feel we’ve been abandoned by God.  The Sabbath reminds us that God has been faithful in the past, and that He will be faithful in the future. 

GOD DESIGNED THE SABBATH TO BE OUR DELIGHT.

 “… if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way … then you will find your joy in the LORD…” (Isaiah 58:13-14).

HOW DO WE KNOW WHEN WE’VE DONE THE SABBATH RIGHT?

Answer: “When we are no longer exhausted and mentally upset as we began another week.

No one snatches Sabbath Rest from us. We give it away by our choices.

Partner up with Jesus: “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Gil, I hope I’ve answered your question and even added a few extra thoughts that you may find helpful.

Love, Roger

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

Publication date: Oct. 2, 2015


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