I’m preaching a series through the 10 commandments at City Church at the moment. Last Sunday it was on the 4th commandment ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy’. Here are the five reason I gave as to why as a Christian I am not a Sabbatarian and how the 4th commandment is fulfilled in Christ.
From Sabbath to Lord’s day
Reading the story of the early church in the book of Acts and other parts of the New Testament you discover that the earliest Christians, many of them Jews, changed the day on which they met to worship from Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath day) to Sunday a day that was called the Lord’s Day.
Something remarkable happened as a result of the resurrection of Jesus — all those first Christians who were Jews began to reorder the pattern of their weeks from Saturday to Sunday.
Three texts highlight the change:
Acts 20:9 – On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.
1 Cor.16:1-2 – Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
Revelation 1:10 – On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.
But might that just mean that Christians keep the commandment simply by shifting the day from a Saturday to a Sunday?
The Sabbath commandment is not repeated in the New Testament
Looking through the New Testament you discover that the Sabbath commandment is the only commandment of the 10 commandments not repeated for Christians. Nor is there any evidence of it being practised.
For at least the first 300 years of the life of the church the first day of the week, the Lord’s day was just a normal working day as it still is for Christians meeting in many Muslim countries today. Christians who met on the Lord’s day did so after work.
And what that also means is that
For many Christians Sabbath observance was not possible
Why is that so? Looking again at our commandment in Exodus 20:9-10 and it is clear that everyone was to stop work for the Sabbath. Men, women, sons, daughters, servants, animals and foreigners. In other words Old Testament Israel was told everyone had a day of rest.
But as the early church grew so most Christians in the ancient world didn’t live in Israel and many of them were gentile slaves. No less that two-thirds of the ancient world were slaves and their ability to even take a day off was entirely at the discretion of their masters. They were simply unable to keep a Sabbath. Time-off was at the mercy of their masters.
Israel as a nation were commanded by God to observe the Sabbath, Christians around the world were simply unable so it seems to me unthinkable that God could command his people to do that which humanly speaking they could not do..
Not until the first Christian Emperor Constantine declared that Sundays would be a day off.
But it’s not the Sabbath no longer has any relevance for it finds its fulfilment for us in Christ.
We enjoy our Sabbath-rest by resting in Jesus.
In our second reading tonight (Hebrews 3:7-4:13) we saw something of how the 4th commandment is fulfilled in Christ.
2 ways in which the 4th commandment finds its fulfilment in Jesus
We experience Sabbath rest now by trusting in Jesus
Now we who have believed enter that rest – Hebrews 4:3 (NIV)
If you are a Christian then you enjoy rest now. We rest in Christ and enjoy peace with him. Jesus described his very purpose in coming as giving us rest with God through thegospel (c.f.Matt 11:28-30). Only the Christian enjoys God’s rest in that we rest from our efforts to be saved by our works. The message of the gospel is not that we work for God but that he worked for us.
We will experience God’s eternal rest by trusting in Jesus
Hebrews 4:9-10 ‘So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.’
There is a future day in which we will rest in God’s presence in glory for ever. We will stop working as the church. No more evangelism, no more sermons to prepare, no more chairs to put out, no more missions and church planting.
So Christians don’t ignore the Sabbath command but experience it’s fulfilment in Jesus
The New Testament treats Sabbath observance as a matter of conscience
Wherever the Old Testament Sabbath is mentioned it is in the context of a freedom of conscience.
Paul writes to the Colossians: 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. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Col. 2:16-17)
In Romans he writes: 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.
So there we have 5 reasons why I’m not a Sabbatarian. In my next post however, I’ll say a little bit about why I do keep Sunday special as a Lord’s Day man.
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