Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What does the Bible say about the Sabbath?

This is a paper I wrote in Bible College. I believe it includes all references to the Sabbath in the (Protestant) Bible. 


The Sabbath was a sign between Israel and God given to Israel through Moses (Neh. 9:14; Ex. 31:13,16-17; Ezek. 20:12, 20). No (human) Sabbath keeping is mentioned before the law of Moses. The rest of redemption is memorialized and anticipated in the Old Covenant (deliverance from Egypt in Deut. 5:15; Christ). There is no New Testament command to keep any particular day. However, the New Testament does warn against judging non-Sabbatarians (Rom. 14:5-6; Col. 2:16) and the keeping of special days (Gal. 4:10,11). Nevertheless, we are told that congregational worship is important and should not be forsaken (Heb. 10:25).

In examining the Scriptures pertaining to the Sabbath I found three universal principals. These principles underlie the specific applications that governed the nation of Israel. The Sabbath was a time for Israel to rest from their own works as a shadow of the time when the Israelites would keep a perpetual Sabbath. Many of these verses are specific applications of the universal principle of ceasing from their own works and allowing God to work in them.

Principle one: Teaching of the spiritual rest to come.
Gen. 2:2,3 (note that God blessed and sanctified the day through Moses because He “had rested”); Ex. 16:23-30; 20:10-12; 31:13-17; 34:21; 35:2,3; Lev. 16:31; 19:3,30; 23:32; 23:38,39; Num. 15:32; 28:9,10; 28:25; 31:24; Deut. 5:12-15; 16:8; Neh. 9:14; 10:31; 13:15-21; Isa. 1:13; 56:2-6; 58:13; Jer. 17:21-27; Ezek. 20:12-24; 22:8,26; 23:38; 44:24; 45:17; Amos 8:5; Hosea 2:11; Mat. 12:1-12; Mark 2:23-28; 3:2-4; Luke 6:1-9; 13:10-16; 14:1-5; 23:56; John 5:9-23; 9:14-16; Rom. 14:5-7; Col. 2:16, 17; Heb. 4:1-11;

Many of these verses demanded that no work be done. This is specific application of the universal principle that there was a time coming in which Israel would cease from her own ways and would allow God to work in her. Christ has now come and enabled us to live in the Spirit and cease from our own works.

Principle two: A day for congregational worship.
Ex. 2:16; 20:8; Lev. 19:30; 23:3,8,24; 24:8; 26:2; Deut. 16:8; Neh. 10:33; 13:22; Isa. 66:23; Ezek. 23:38; 46:1,3; Luke 4:16, 31; Acts 13:14,27,42,44; 15:21; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4

            The Israelites were commanded to meet on certain days for worship. These specific applications taught the universal principal that God expects congregational worship. To this day God expects His children to assemble and worship Him in holiness.

Principle three: A day of rest for workers and land. (Stewardship)
Ex. 20:10; 23:12; Lev. 23:8; 25:2-8 (stewardship); 25:8; 26:34,35, 43; Num. 28:25; Deut. 5:14; Mark 2:27

            God demanded that His people allow those who served them, both man and beast, to rest on the Sabbath. God also required Sabbaths for the land. These specific applications were based on the underlying universal principles of stewardship, and mercy. Employers should not inhibit their employees from worshiping God by requiring constant service. Likewise, the land should not be exploited to the point of being detrimental to the land’s health.