Should Christians keep the Sabbath? Is Sunday the Christian Sabbath? Is the way Jewish people keep the Sabbath the Biblical way? Does it matter?
The Sabbath (Shabbat in Hebrew and Shabbos in Yiddish) is the seventh day of the week. It is the day that God rested after creating the heavens and the earth in six days. It is a day set apart from the other days and it establishes a God-pattern from the very beginning.
Most people who keep the Sabbath keep a weekly Sabbath, although a minority keep what is called the Lunar Sabbath. And fewer still reset which day they keep the Sabbath each year based upon the following of a solar-based calendar (sometimes knows as an Enoch calendar, Jubilees Calendar, or Dead Sea Scrolls calendar). The issue of which day to keep Shabbat is part of the larger issue of which calendar to follow, which can be a highly divisive issue within the Hebrew Roots Movement or those who consider themselves Messianic. Click to learn more about the Jewish calendar vs. the Biblical calendar.
Two incorrect notions
Most Christians believe at least two things about the Sabbath that are not based on Scripture:
(1) They believe that the Sabbath is Jewish, that is, it was only given to the Jews. We have covered this extensively in other teachings (see Did the Church really begin at Pentecost?, Is there one law for Jews & another for Gentiles?, and Who or What is Israel?). To summarize, all of Yahweh’s instructions for His people were given to what the Bible calls Israel. And Israel has always been made up of both the native-born Israelites (of which Judah a/k/a the Jews are but one of the twelve tribes) and the resident-foreigners who have been with Israel from the very beginning. These foreigners were Gentiles until they chose to follow Yahweh, the God of Israel. At that moment they became part of Israel and ceased being Gentiles. This is exactly what both the old and the new testaments teach.
(2) They believe that the Sabbath day was changed from Saturday to Sunday. This is actually contradictory to the prior notion. How can the Sabbath be only for the Jews but then also be changed to Sunday when the Gentile Christians worship? That doesn’t even make sense. “It’s not for us because we’re not Jewish and it’s not for us because we worship on Sunday, which is the new Sabbath.” If Sunday is the new Sabbath day and the Sabbath was only given to the Jews, then shouldn’t the Jews be keeping Sabbath on Sunday and shouldn’t Gentile Christians not be keeping Sabbath at all? This is the only logical conclusion if you believe that the Sabbath was only given to the Jews.
First of all, there’s not a single verse in the Bible–either old testament or new– that says that the Sabbath has ended or changed. Not one. We challenge you to get out your Bible and turn to a verse that says that the Sabbath has ended or that it has changed to Sunday. By definition, the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week when Yahweh rested after the six days of creation, and Sunday is the first day of the week.
Sabbath goes back to creation, as does marriage. Yet we know of no one who teaches that because Jesus came and died that marriage has been done away with. To the contrary, the Sabbath is an eternal covenant between Yahweh and His people. It is a sign that we are in covenant with Him, that we are His covenant people.
Sign of the covenant
The Sabbath is one of the few things in the bible that God (YHWH or Yahweh in Hebrew) calls a sign between Him and mankind.
And Yahweh spoke to Moses and said, “And you, speak to the people of Israel, saying, ‘Surely you must keep my Sabbaths, because it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, in order to know that I am Yahweh, who consecrates you. Exodus (Shemot) 31:12-13
And I brought them out from the land of Egypt, and I brought them to the desert, and I gave my statutes to them, and my regulations I made known to them, which, if a person does them, then he will live by them. And also my Sabbaths I gave to them to be a sign between me and between them so they would know that I, Yahweh, am the one sanctifying them. Ezekiel 20:10–12
And I said to their children in the desert, ‘You must not go in the statutes of your parents; you must not keep their regulations, and you must not make yourself unclean with their idols. I, Yahweh, am your God, so go in my statutes and keep my regulations and do them. And treat my Sabbaths as holy, and they will be a sign between me and between you that you may know that I, Yahweh, am your God.’ But the children rebelled against me; they did not walk in my statutes, and they did not observe my regulations, which if a person does them, then he will live by them. Ezekiel 20:18–21
It is both a sign and a covenant between God and His people:
Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed. Exodus (Shemot) 31:16-17
Are you sure the Sabbath is not for you?
We challenge you to read this passage from Isaiah and conclude that Yahweh is not concerned about the Sabbath or that it doesn’t apply to you because you’re not a Jew:
Blessed is the man who does this,
and the son of man who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”
And let not the foreigner who joins himself to Yahweh say, “Surely Yahweh will separate me from his people.”
And do not let the eunuch say, “Look! I am a dry tree!”
For thus says Yahweh, “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
and choose that in which I delight,
and who keep hold of my covenant.
And I will give them a monument and a name in my house and within my walls,
better than sons and daughters;
I will give him an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.
And the foreigners who join themselves to Yahweh to serve him
and to love the name of Yahweh, to become his servants,
every one who keeps the Sabbath, so as not to profane it,
and those who keep hold of my covenant,
I will bring them to my holy mountain;
I will make them merry in my house of prayer.
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar,
for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,”declares Yahweh, who gathers the scattered ones of Israel (still I will gather to him, to his gathered ones). Isaiah 56:2–8
Q: Which man is blessed?
A: The one who keeps the Sabbath.
Q: Who are these foreigners who join themselves to Yahweh and serve Him?
A: They are Gentiles who willingly choose to serve and be faithful to Yahweh, the God of Israel.
Q: What does Yahweh delight in?
A: “My Sabbaths”
Q: What do the foreigners do who join themselves to Yahweh?
A: They love His name and keep His Sabbaths.
Q: Where will Yahweh bring these foreigners who love His name and keep His Sabbaths?
A: To His Temple (His house of prayer) on the holy mountain which is in Jerusalem in the land of Israel.
Q: Isn’t this the verse Jesus quotes from in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, & Luke?
A: Yes. And notice that when it says that His house will be a house of prayer for all peoples, it is referring to the native-born Israelites and to these scattered ones of Israel, the foreigners who have joined themselves to Yahweh and are keeping His Sabbath. This is the church. This is the one people of God. And they are obedient to His commandments, and they keep His Sabbath.
So should Christians keep the Sabbath? Absolutely ‘Yes!’
For another great look at this subject, watch this video teaching by 119 Ministries: