Sabbath Day? June 2024

Good Summer Day to You,
Yesterday in the sermon, I concluded by talking about the importance of worship. Since we worship the true, holy, living God it only makes sense we should make worship a priority in our lives. Christians and our American culture have forgotten the importance of regular worship. And over the last 50 years or more each generation has made worship less important than the last. During the sermon I was remembering to myself that my grandparent’s idea of Sunday (“The Lord’s Day”) was more than worship; they had a whole idea of sabbath keeping. They had self-imposed rules about gardening, car washing, and shopping that lasted for the whole day. Many of their rules were deeply rooted, but rooted in culture and religion – not scripture. Let’s explore the idea of “Christian” Sabbath keeping.
What instruction do we have in scripture about a “Christian” Sabbath? The short answer is… none.
Sabbath keeping is an Old Testament tradition which started with Moses. It was etched in stone literally among The Ten Commandments saying…

Deut. 5:12-15
12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you. All your male and female servants must rest as you do. 15 Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day.

Breaking the Sabbath was grounds for capital punishment (Num. 15:32- 36), and that is why we see such intense conflict between Jesus and Pharisees about Sabbath rules. Jesus healed, his disciples harvested handfuls of grain, and Jesus cast out demons on the Sabbath day. These comments help explain his thinking… “Then he turned to his critics and asked, ‘Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?’ But they wouldn’t answer him. (Mark 3:4) “And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:12) Jesus, and the disciples, were often breaking the Pharasee’s rules because as Jesus also says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) The Sabbath was intended to be a good thing for man. As Billy Graham pointed out, it was intended to be a day of rest for the body, food for the soul, and worship of God.
It would be good for America, at least in my opinion, if only essential businesses were open on Sundays: fast food restaurants, gas stations, hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, and first responders. It would be good for America if there were no sports practices or sporting events on Sundays. No NFL, no MLB, no Nascar on the Lord’s Day. But we don’t live in that world. Our world is much more like the world of the first-century church.

Did the early church establish any rules about “sabbath keeping”? When the first church council met at Jerusalem they discussed what Old Testament rules should be required in the new church of Jesus. Their list was few. Their list did not include Sabbath keeping. Read for yourself in Acts 15:23-29.

Did the early church practice or expect “sabbath keeping”? In the Roman world, Sunday was a day of work. They did not have it off as we mostly do today. Those Christians most often met in the evenings after their work was completed. This is what led to the problems Paul corrected in 1 Cor. 11:17- 34. The rich who set their own schedules were able to eat the Lord’s Supper meal as soon as they wished and eat as much as they desired before the blue collar class arrived. The workers had not yet completed their jobs when the Lord’s Supper service began so they arrived only to receive the scraps. There was no “sabbath keeping” for the church in the ancient Roman world because it was a day of work like all the others. Yet Sunday was still the day to be at worship.

Therefore, not only did the early church not expect gentiles to practice Sabbath keeping, but those who worked on Sunday were not punished and, as you read in 1 Corinthians, their equal participation in worship was protected. The early church did expect regular attendance in worship.

The early church was devoted to, faithful in their worship. Acts 2:42 & 46a says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” And what of those who failed to attend worship regularly? Those who chose to regularly skip worship were encouraged to get reconnected. Heb. 10:24-25 instructs, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Throughout the New Testament, we see believers justifiably miss worship for a variety of reasons: work; sickness, injury, pain, and old age; traveling away from home and the inability to travel (imprisonment); and we could add being a caregiver, household crisis, occasional community obligations, and probably many more. Over the years the question of what a Christian is to do on Sundays has had many responses. The Bible is clear that worship was to be part of our regular activity, but there were also common sense reasons a person may not be able to attend. The question of “sabbath keeping” is far more complex. The New Testament never establishes a rule or even a precedent for not working. Yet as Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man”… i.e. for his benefit. A sabbath day would certainly be good practice: for our bodies, for our souls, and for our relationships with God.

Would you establish a personal or national sabbath day? What do you think?

God Bless,

Pastor Dave