[Gary] I was reading an article online that sparked quite a controversy. The author claimed that there are spiritual, emotional and physical benefits for Christians who observe some form of the Fourth Commandment. The Commandment to observe the Sabbath.
The article produced a torrent of comments. Some people accused the author of not knowing Christ because of her desire to observe a Sabbath. Others claimed that they found great spiritual rejuvenation by taking one day off during the week for rest and worship. One person then pointed out that according to the Bible the Sabbath is a very specific day—the day we call Saturday in the western world. This created more heated controversy.
Why do Christians argue about the Sabbath?
Well today, let's look at what the Bible actually says about the Sabbath. We'll also talk with a pastor and other Christians about this subject as we explore "Is the Sabbath Relevant for Christians?"
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[Gary] Why do some people find great spiritual benefits in observing the Sabbath while others claim that Sabbath observance is the same as denying Christ?
These are polar opposite viewpoints. Discovering the truth will help unlock a great blessing in your life.
Now the first thing we have to do is define, what is the Sabbath?
Christians dispute that Sunday is the Sabbath, or that Saturday is the Sabbath, or that the Sabbath is a principle guiding everyone to choose a day each week for rest and spiritual rejuvenation. Others argue that Jesus is the Sabbath and that any talk of a day is irrelevant.
A foundation of Christian faith is belief in creation and a Creator, not just happenstance evolution. At the very beginning of the Bible, in the book of Genesis, we read about creation, how God prepared the earth for human beings.
Genesis 2 states: "Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made" (Genesis:2:1-2).
When God finished the physical creation He set aside the seventh day as a day of rest. The controversy among Christians about the Sabbath—it begins right here.
Does this passage prove that human beings should follow the example of the Creator and observe the seventh-day Sabbath—or is it just an allegory of God experiencing a mystical rest?
Earlier I mentioned the fourth of the Ten Commandments. Well let's read what the Fourth Commandment actually says, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work…For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it" (Exodus:20:8-11).
Pay close attention to what is written in the Fourth Commandment. After preparing the earth and creating human beings, God rested on the seventh day…"Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." To "hallow" means to make something holy, to set aside something for special use by God.
The Sabbath is included in the Ten Commandments, but it was "created" long before God visited Israel from Mount Sinai. This understanding is vital if we are going to have a proper definition of the Sabbath.
Now the next point of controversy—how do we know which day is the seventh-day Sabbath? I mean let's face it—you can find business calendars or calendars from different parts of the world, that list Sunday as the seventh day. The traditional western calendar lists Saturday as the seventh day.
How do we know that the actual Sabbath day hasn't been lost to history?
Well the answer to this problem is very simple. The Jews, and the other 12 tribes of Israel, were given the Ten Commandments and led by God to their homeland. Eventually, the Jews were removed from their homeland and scattered around the world.
Today, many centuries later, you can travel across the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, Australia and the Middle East and find Jewish synagogues. And every place you go, Jewish people observe the seventh-day Sabbath on the day we call Saturday. The Sabbath day isn't lost to history. The actual Sabbath day has been passed on from generation to generation in the Jewish community.
There is no legitimate controversy on what is the Sabbath day of the Bible.
Now at this point, the controversy about the Sabbath day shifts to the claim that Jesus, by His sacrifice, made the Ten Commandments obsolete. Therefore, Sabbath observance is not necessary. Now, you can easily find out from an online search, some Christians claim that Sabbath observance is an act of actually denying Jesus.
Listen carefully to what I'm about to say because almost all Christians will agree on these points. Let's start where we agree.
Christianity rests on a belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the divine Son of God.
The only remedy for human sin is the substitute sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, an avenue is open for us to come before the throne of God and be His children.
Because of the reality of Jesus' sacrifice, Christians no longer need to offer the sacrifices commanded to ancient Israel and performed by the Levitical priesthood.
I think most of us can agree on these statements.
But a problem arises when people claim that the Sabbath is a ritual like the animal sacrifices or washings of the Old Testament Levitical priesthood.
Now remember something, we've already proven that the Sabbath was created by God at the time when He finished the physical creation, long before the tabernacle in the wilderness or the Levitical priesthood was even established.
Jesus said, "For the son of Man"—and that's a very important phrase. The Son of Man is a Messianic title—"the son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath" (Matthew:12:8). Here Jesus, the Son of God, expresses His authority over the Sabbath.
Now is there something about this statement, "For the son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath" that people often miss?
I want to read to you a remarkable passage written by the apostle Paul to the New Testament Colossians. This passage is about the person of Jesus Christ:
"He"—speaking of Jesus—"is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him"—now remember, the subject here is Jesus—"for by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him" (Colossians:1:15-16).
Here Paul claims that God the Father created all things in heaven and earth through the One we know as Jesus Christ.
Now think about it. Who then, in Genesis 2 created the Sabbath day?
The apostle Paul claims that all things were created by God through His Son. Time, the 24-hour day, was created by the Son of God. The seven day week was created by the Son of God. The seventh-day Sabbath was created by the Son of God.
When we look at the creation account we see two great moral imperatives given to humanity—the seventh-day Sabbath and marriage. Few Christians will argue that marriage was abolished by Jesus, yet so many claim that the Sabbath was made null and void. This is a great inconsistency.
You need to do some real soul searching here—because the seventh-day Sabbath day is relevant for Christians.
We'll talk about some of the benefits of the Sabbath in a moment, but please understand this subject is too significant for us to properly cover in one short program. That's why we produced a free Bible study aid for you— Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Rest.
Jesus Christ did not abolish the Sabbath. Contrary to common belief, the apostle Paul didn't teach that Christians aren't to keep the seventh-day Sabbath. You need this blessing from God in your life.
We'll send you a free copy of Sunset to Sunset: God's Sabbath Rest . Just call, toll free: 1-888-886-8632. 1-888-886-8632. Or you are welcome to visit our website at BeyondToday.tv to read or download your copy. Now if you live outside of North America, you can write to us at the address shown on your screen throughout the program [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254].
Beyond Today is sponsored by the United Church of God. We're joined here today by a United Church of God pastor. He's also an instructor at Ambassador Bible College. His name is Frank Dunkle. Thanks for being with us. Now he'll share his thoughts on this subject in just a moment.
The Sabbath—a day of spiritual and physical rest was set aside for you and your family to reconnect with God. Maybe you've heard pastors talk about a need for a day of worship. Family counselors write articles about the need for a day of rest. Now perhaps you've thought, "Well, that sounds great. But how could anyone these days ever find time to do that?"
The reality is, you can't afford not to observe the Sabbath. It is a Commandment and blessing from God. And remember, when we talk about the biblical Sabbath, we're talking about an actual 24-hour period from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown.
Well what is the purpose for a Christian to observe the Sabbath?
Frank, tell me your story—how did you discover the seventh-day Sabbath?
[Frank] Well Gary, it started when I was very young. My family wasn't particularly church-going, but when I was about 10 years old, my grandmother came to an understanding of the seventh-day Sabbath through Bible study and teaching of the Church, and she passed it onto me and the rest of the family.
And without any other prior teaching otherwise, I looked in the Bible and I saw that the Bible teaches that we should keep the seventh-day Sabbath, that Jesus kept that Sabbath, His disciples continued to teach it afterwards. So, it was pretty easy to continue keeping the Sabbath and then enjoy the blessings and benefits that came from it.
[Gary] So at 10 years old, you picked up your Bible and you read it and said yes, this is what we should do?
[Frank] Yes, I did.
[Gary] You were convicted by that? Convicted by the Bible at 10?
[Frank] Pretty much.
[Frank] Of course it grew over time. But, I continued to study and saw what it teaches.
[Gary] Well, our Beyond Today video crew asked some people, who observe the Sabbath, "What are the benefits they receive from God for obeying these commandments?" Well here are some of the answers we received:
> God commands us to do it, but He commands us to do it because it helps us. Human beings are not meant to live seven days a week…work, work, work. We are meant to rest and we are meant to be with our God. And my Sabbaths are blessed beyond belief.
>> The Sabbath is a time mode. It's a reprieve from the chaotic pace of the week.
> The benefits that I have now being a mother is that I have a son that lives out of the house that is grown now and he calls us on Friday and says, "Hey Mom, are we going to have that Sabbath breakfast?" So it brings our family together, which I believe that God wants us to be brought together and to have that restful, peacefulness with each other.
>> By the end of the week, by Friday, it's just really tiring. My school work or anything. And the Sabbath is just a day to just relax and just cool off. If we wouldn't have the Sabbath, it'd just be chaos all week.
[Gary] A profound relationship with God, renewed family relationships, physical and emotional rest, and as this teenager said, a day, "just to cool off." If we wouldn't have the Sabbath we would just have chaos all week.
Has Sabbath observance benefitted your life?
[Frank] Absolutely. I tend to be a bit of a workaholic. And so, it's hard for me to stop, to put things down if a project is not finished, I don't want to stop on it. And it can be difficult to do that and be at peace in my mind. But, when the Sabbath comes, it's something God commanded. He diverts our attention, and so I know that He is in charge and I'm not. And so I can have peace of mind and focus on other things besides the tasks that I thought were so important during the rest of the week.
[Gary] I think some people would find it interesting that a pastor says you work so much you don't have time for God, but actually it's easy for pastors to do.
[Frank] Surprisingly so.
[Gary] We get so caught up in other people's needs, we forget, hey we have to stay close to God. And the Sabbath is a way that God brings us back, reminds us.
One of the ladies we talked to mentioned that the Sabbath helped her have a "bigger picture." Let's take a look at this.
> It's a good time to have a pause in your week and to kind of realize what the bigger picture is. You go through your life with school and work and everything, and it just seems to be this constant rush. When you stop and realize that there is a bigger picture and we recognize God's plan every single week, you can remember that throughout the week.
[Gary] In addition to rest from work, the Sabbath is also a time to attend worship services with a congregation. Now as a pastor, how do you find worship services on the Sabbath help people in their relationship with God?
[Frank] Well they help a great deal, largely by the instruction that comes out of it. Of course we do praise and worship God. We have song service, we pray to God, but we have sermons that provide focused instruction from God's Word. We spend time getting into it and showing what it teaches. And then after the service, members tend to stay around and talk to each other and share ideas, and encourage each other. And so, it is a great learning environment—learning about God and God's way, not talking about sports or anything else that might be a focus other days.
[Gary] I think it is interesting, a lot of people don't realize that the early Church was based on communities. The Church was a community and that's one of the things the Sabbath does. It helps us have a community of believers to relate to.
[Gary] Well thanks Frank. I appreciate you being here today.
[Frank] Thank you, it's a pleasure.
[Gary] What about Jesus and the Sabbath?
The Beyond Today panel will tackle that question, but first let me remind you of today's free offer.
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[Gary] Now we're joined by fellow Beyond Today hosts Darris McNeely and Steve Myers. In the last segment we were looking at some interviews our Beyond Today staff did with Christian Sabbath keepers. Now there's one comment I want to look at so we can talk about it:
> We've had some people ask questions about why we keep the seventh-day Sabbath and we've explained to them that that's the day God originally instituted, it's the day Jesus Christ kept, it's the day that the apostles kept, it's the only day we can find to keep, so that's what we do.
[Gary] So why is it that so many Christians, when here we have the Sabbath day given to us as a blessing by God, actually believe to observe the Sabbath is denying Christ?
[Darris] That's a very good question and the answer to that question is because people associate the Sabbath day with something Jewish. And, believe it or not, whether people want to admit it or not, there is a great deal of anti-Semitism in society today and even among Christians who do not fully understand what this means, because the Jews continue to keep the Sabbath along with other Christian groups. But it is typically associated with being Jewish, and yet, Christ did keep it and God originally gave the Sabbath to all of Israel and really all of mankind. But you can keep the Sabbath day and worship Christ. Christ kept the Sabbath and He taught the Sabbath. He is the God who created the Sabbath.
[Steve] I think if you read the Book, you come to that conclusion. That it wasn't just a Jewish thing at all. You pointed out how it was created right from the start. And if you read the Book, you'll find that out.
You read history books and you can verify the fact that in history, the Catholic Church stepped away from the Sabbath because they didn't like things that were Jewish. So when you study their counsels, you come to that conclusion that they didn't want anything to do with things that were Jewish. And so that happened very clearly throughout history and it's really provable.
And so, if you check out the history books as well as your Bible, you can't help but come to the conclusion, you need to keep the Sabbath, and yet Christianity stepped away hundreds of hundreds of years ago.
[Gary] You know what's amazing. You don't hear anyone say that the other Nine Commandments are Jewish. Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not murder—those are good points. But the Sabbath gets this Jewish stamp on it and now it's not Christian. But you know as a pastor, I have been with thousands of people over the years who keep the seventh-day Sabbath who find great spiritual, physical, emotional benefits from keeping the Sabbath. And I know myself, I do also.
[Darris] Of course, I do as well. And one of the benefits comes from understanding that the Sabbath was made for man. There is a scripture in Mark:2:27, where Christ Himself says: the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. The Sabbath is our benefit and that's what you've been bringing out in this program today. But, it is for us and you can only understand that by keeping it, and by ceasing from our own labors and our own work on that day, on the Sabbath day, to begin to allow God to do His work within us. And that's really what happens, is that we cease from our labor so that God can do His work in us in a spiritual sense.
And when that happens, a person can begin to experience—not only an inner peace—but also a framework for living that really does begin to lead us into some answers and a way of life that is away from so much of the uncertainty, the chaos, some of, many of the problems that do plague us and are part of this life. But it gives us a contentment, gives us a peace, that is one of the great benefits because this day, as a part of God's law and Gods way of life, is for us, and made for us.
[Steve] Yeah, and that's what's interesting about that particular passage as well. It says the Sabbath is made for man. If you really look into that word, it's more than just the Jews, it's really for mankind. The Sabbath was made for mankind. So it wasn't made for the Jews. It was made for everyone! So one of the benefits of the Sabbath, you begin to study that—why was the Sabbath made for mankind—and I think you can come to personally understand why that is.
In fact, I think the second part of that verse is also so critical there, actually the next passage. It says, therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath. Just step back and think about that for a moment. Do you worship on the day that Jesus is the Lord of? Well, He is Lord of the Sabbath day, the seventh-day Saturday Sabbath—Friday sunset to Saturday sunset—and it was made for all of us. And so there are tremendous blessings for obeying Jesus' command right there.
[Darris] And there is something to doing it on the day that God created and has made holy. That day is indeed a—it has been described by others as kind of a temple in time, and it is a sacred space, and you can only experience it by entering it in the way that God tells us to.
[Gary] Many, many years ago, a Christian approached me and said that by keeping the Sabbath I was denying Christ and was very upset over it. And the person did not answer back when I said, no, I observe the Sabbath because Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. That's why I do it.
[Steve] It's almost just the opposite, isn't it?
[Steve] Instead of denying Christ, you are identifying the fact He is our Lord, He is our Savior and we obey Him and follow Him and love Him, and do all of those things that show He really is our Lord.
[Darris] And one of the things that people charge against those who keep the Sabbath is, well you are worshipping a day, rather than worshipping God. No, that's a false argument, because we are not worshipping a day, we are worshipping God.
[Gary] To worship a day is an absurdity. That is an accusation of idolatry. That is just an absurdity. We are worshipping God the Father and Jesus Christ.
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The Sabbath—created by God to be a specific day at creation, reinforced in the Ten Commandments, observed by Jesus and the early Church—is relevant and a blessing from God.
It's time you take an honest look at what the Bible actually says and discover how Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath.
Finally, if you don't have time to watch our program each week at this time, may we suggest you set your DVR to record it for later viewing.
Join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom. We also invite you to join us in praying, "Thy Kingdom come." For Beyond Today I'm Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.
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