Focus on Jesus Series
The Sabbath Day
by Ed Vasicek
Christ was frequently involved in controversies. We frequently see two patterns regarding the controversial behavior/teaching of Christ and/or His apostles. The first pattern begins with a controversial act, then the Pharisees and/or Scribes challenge Him and complain about the act. Christ then silences them with a wise answer, but His accusers are never really satisfied; they are just quieted down for a time. The second pattern is a little different. Christ plans to do the controversial act, explains why He thinks it appropriate to do what He is about to do, and asks for objections. Since His reasoning is airtight, His enemies gnash their teeth and try to cook up a scheme to kill Him. Some of His most heated arguments were about the Sabbath Day.
The hallowing of the Sabbath Day finds its roots in the Creation Week when God rested on the Seventh Day. He was not, but His work was done. The Torah says Israel was to rest every Saturday. I am sure it wasn't long until the question was raised, "What does and does not constitute work?" Rather than define when someone was clearly over the line, the Rabbis offered a variety of rules to specify exactly where work began. These rules were tedious and dealt little with the attitude of the heart. One rule (wisely) forbade reaping, but is pulling off a few grains of barley, rubbing them, and then eating them "work." Is speaking the word and healing a man "work?" Christ said, "No," and many of the Pharisees said, "Yes." Christ and His disciples clearly kept the Sabbath as defined in the Old Testament, but they did not obey the traditions and added restrictions of the Pharisees. So today many Christians obey church traditions or the legalistic rules of men but disobey the clear precepts of the Word of God.
To the New Testament believer, every day is alike (Romans 14:5) and no one is to pass judgment on another about Sabbath Days (Colossians 2:16-17). If believers want to observe the Sabbath, they may do so, but the New Testament believer is not required to do so. The Jews Rabbis took so much pride in their Sabbaths that they DISCOURAGED God-fearing gentiles from observing the Sabbath (unless they became full converts to Judaism), so gentile Christians never felt pressure to observe the Sabbath.
Down through the centuries, Christians have often met on the first day of the week (SundayŚcalled, "The Lord's Day") in commemoration of the Resurrection. This should not be confused with the Sabbath. The Sabbath Day cannot be changed; it is by definition the Seventh Day, as defined not only in the Mosaic code but also through the Creation Week. In the early church (as we see in Acts), when most believers were Jewish, they would attend synagogue on the Sabbath and meet with Messianic believers Saturday Night (the first day of the week, our Sunday, began at sunset on our Saturday).
Because of passages like Exodus 31:13-17, Messianic Jews are divided as to whether it is God's will for them to keep the Sabbath or not. Romans 14:5 offers a position of tolerance for those whose opinions differ on this matter. The Sabbath Day will be instated during the Millennium for all mankind (Isaiah 56:6-7).
Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA