Proof of the Sabbath

Randall Ricker

In another Bible study we learned that God communicates to humanity through the Bible. The Bible describes a weekly day of rest and worship called the Sabbath, and it commands that we keep that day holy. Let us prove from the Bible that we must keep the Sabbath day holy.

OLD TESTAMENT INSTRUCTIONS

First we will look at a few Old Testament scriptures on this subject. The first mention of a day of rest is in Genesis 2:2-3. God rested after six days of creating, and He sanctified the seventh day. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “sanctify” as “to reserve for sacred use.”

Even before the Ten Commandments were formally written on Mount Sinai, the Israelites were commanded to keep the Sabbath. In Exodus 16:4-5, they were told that God would provide a food that they should gather six days of the week. On the sixth day they would gather twice as much as on the other days. This was to be a test of whether they would obey God’s law. We will see in later verses that the part of God’s law being tested here is the Sabbath. In verses 22 through 26, Moses explained that the seventh day was a Sabbath rest. In verses 27-30, God expressed displeasure that some people tried to gather manna on the Sabbath day. He said that they “refuse to keep My commandments and My laws.” Notice that God specified a particular day of the week to be the Sabbath; He did not leave it to the choice of the people. In verse 4, God said that He was testing the Israelites, and they failed the test. This is why we call the Sabbath a test commandment. It is a test for us today, too. We are tested as to whether we will work and do our own pleasures on that day, or keep it holy.

The Sabbath is so important to God that He made its observance the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-11). Again, it is the seventh day in these verses. A period of seven days is a week, and the seventh day of the week is Saturday. You will not find anywhere in the Bible that the Sabbath is the first day of the week, as some teach. To nail this point down, read Matthew 28:1.

When does the Sabbath day start? We might guess that it starts at midnight, but read Leviticus 23:32: “’…from evening to evening you shall celebrate your sabbath.’” The Sabbath starts at evening, which is sunset. This is consistent with Genesis chapter 1. Have you ever wondered why Genesis 1:5 reads, “…the evening and the morning were the first day”? We would normally say, “the morning and the evening,” in that order. However, God starts days at evening, and that includes the Sabbath. The Sabbath is from sunset Friday evening to sunset Saturday evening.

Now that we see which day is the Sabbath, we can go on to understand its significance. We already saw in Exodus 16 that it is a test commandment. In the Bible study, “The Seven Day Week Shows God’s Plan,” we learned that the Sabbath represents the Millennium, the future 1000-year reign of Christ on the earth after His return. There is still more significance described in Exodus 31:12-17. In verse 13 we read that when we keep the Sabbath, God sanctifies us. Earlier we defined “sanctify” as “to reserve for sacred use.” The Sabbath reserves us for sacred use. In other words, the Sabbath identifies us as the people of God; it sets us apart. Verses 14 and 15 refer to a statute for the physical nation of Israel which is obviously not enforced today. Verse 16 and other verses remind us that the Sabbath is to be kept forever. Verse 17 tells us that the Sabbath identifies God who created all things. It reminds us that God rested on the seventh day as we read in Genesis 2. We have seen from this chapter that the Sabbath identifies the people of God, and the Sabbath identifies the true God.

What we have studied in the Old Testament should convince us that the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, and that we must keep it. Some readers would insist on proof from the New Testament of the Bible. Here it is!

NEW TESTAMENT PROOF

Luke 4:14-16 shows that it was Christ’s custom to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath, which was obviously the same day of the week that the Jews kept.

On one occasion the Pharisees criticized Christ’s disciples (students) for picking grain and eating it on a Sabbath as they walked along. If the Sabbath were no longer to be kept, Christ would have said so at this point. If the Sabbath had been changed to Sunday, Christ would have told them. But He said in Mark 2:27, “’The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.’” That means that the Sabbath is a benefit for humanity. We derive spiritual strength from worshipping God on that day and receiving instruction in His Word. It is a day when we can spend some extra time in prayer and Bible study. We can enjoy the rest from our work, and we delight in the extra time we can spend with our family and friends. People should not impose their restrictions on what is to be done on that day. Our Sabbath conduct should be based on what we find in the Bible. In verse 28, Christ called Himself the Lord of the Sabbath. “Lord” is Strong’s Concordance #2962, which means supreme in authority, controller. Christ is supreme in authority concerning which day the Sabbath is and how it is to be kept. Christ inspired the Bible, and we are studying the Bible to prove which day it is.

Some teach that the apostle Paul preached against the Sabbath. On what is commonly called his first journey, Paul visited Antioch in Pisidia, which is in Asia Minor. Read Acts 13:14-15. Paul preached in a synagogue on the Sabbath. In verse 42 we read that “the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath.” If the Sabbath were no longer to be kept, Paul would have told them. If the Sabbath had been changed to Sunday, Paul would have told them to come back tomorrow. But verse 44 reads, “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.” This is a clear example of Paul keeping the Sabbath, and there are others as well.

Paul is believed to be the author of the epistle to the Hebrews. Hebrews 4:9 refers to “a rest for the people of God.” The Greek word for “rest” in this verse is different from the word for rest in the other verses of this chapter. Here it is Strong’s Concordance #4520, which is derived from the word “Sabbath.” That is, there is a Sabbath-rest for the people of God. God rested from His works (verse 10) on a Sabbath in Genesis 2, as we have read, and we rest on that day, too.

We can take 1 Corinthians 11:1 as a New Testament command to keep the Sabbath. Christ kept the Sabbath, Paul imitated Christ by keeping the Sabbath, and Paul commands us to imitate him as he imitated Christ. Therefore we too keep the Sabbath.

When the next Sabbath comes along, have a delightful Sabbath!

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