THE BIBLICAL SABBATH
A Test of Personal Obedience
Millions of professing Christians, many of them sincere and honest, seek to please God and be accountable to Him. What many of these believers may not understand is that when you are converted and become a new creation in Jesus Christ, you are called into a life of obedience to the commands of God. One of those commands calls us to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Millions of Christians ignore the biblical Sabbath as though it were just a footnote in the Word of God. When they are questioned, the vast majority of Christians believe that Sunday, the first day of the week, is the Sabbath. Are they correct? Did you know that nothing pleases God more than to be believed and obeyed? The Sabbath may be the single greatest test of your personal obedience to God. What say you?
B. A. Wiseman
This lesson is not directed to unbelievers, but to those who profess Jesus Christ and by grace through faith trust Him for their salvation. These believers have rightly concluded that their salvation is not based upon their good works or anything that they could boast or demonstrate as making them worthy and deserving of God’s saving grace. Salvation does not come by the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. That is first and foremost.
If the law could save us, we would not have needed Jesus Christ to suffer, bleed, and die for our sins. Sin is defined as the transgression of God’s law (I John 3:4). Without the law, can we define sin and establish the guilt of the sinner? No. Therefore, it is urgent that we believers understand the importance of God’s timeless law. Every generation must hear the preaching and teaching of the law to establish our guilt before our most holy God and send us to Jesus Christ as the only remedy for sin. Because the law of God is so seldom preached, our country is filled with unsaved people. Sadly, many people who do profess to believe in God still know so little of Christianity and doctrine. If you truly believe, Christian, you have a duty to walk worthy of the King and learn of His old pathways.
Many modern Christians understand that no one could ever be good enough to deserve the greatest gift one can receive—that of salvation. They know that their very best is but filthy rags in the sight of our holy God. For this reason, they understand that the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed unto them, and they are justified by faith rather than by the works of the law. Believers understand that we can be a new creation in Jesus Christ only because God our Father “…hath made him (Jesus Christ) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Cor. 5:21).
Believers must also understand that not one of us made the choice to believe. We learn this from Jesus Christ Himself: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). God our Father chooses and draws whom He will to Christ Jesus by means of the Holy Spirit. Jesus declared this in John 15:16: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit…” That our sovereign and holy God does the choosing and generates faith in those who believe is confirmed again in Pslam 65:4: “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts:…” (Psalm 65:4).
The Word of God clearly teaches that God calls believers before the foundation of the world: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4). We learn from II Timothy 1:9 that we are saved and called, “…Not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” Our sovereign God, not the believer, chooses and generates faith in Jesus Christ, causes the sinner to repent, and empowers the believer with faith. God calls us to believe and trust in Jesus Christ for the payment of our sin debt and empowers the Holy Spirit to give us the ability to overcome the habit and dominion of sin. We are clearly taught to give God all the glory and praise for our calling and election. Even our repentance from sin is God’s gift to the sinner: “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).
God does the choosing and draws the sinner to faith and belief in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The sinner then comes to repentance and confession of his sin and seals this confession with baptism for the remission of sin (Acts 2:38). Then the sinner can trust in the full assurance that he will never lose his salvation. Because every believer is bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ, they cannot lose their salvation. What God has purchased with the blood of His eternal Son, He will not lose! “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29). Did Jesus Himself not say, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me. . .And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day” (John 6:37, 39)?
The Big Question
Having established the basis for true salvation in Jesus Christ and that this salvation rests solely upon God’s sovereign grace, the next big question is this: if your salvation is real, should you not desire to please our holy God by living in obedience to His commandments? “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (I John 2:3-4). Jesus Himself declared in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Jesus confirmed the importance of obedience in John 15:10 by saying, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” Jesus made it clear in Matthew 7:21-23 that many professing Christians live in a fraudulent salvation: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Folks, that is scary. Do not let this be said of you!
Believers walking in a genuine salvation should check out the status of how well they believe and obey God’s Word. For example, examine where you stand on the question of the fourth commandment. The Sabbath commandment is one of the Big Ten of God’s moral law and is itself a covenant within the greater covenant known as the Ten Commandments. God intends us to observe the Sabbath from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. Falling on the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath has remained unchanged throughout the ages. Calendars have been re-calibrated through the ages, but the weekly Sabbath on the seventh day of the week (Saturday) has remained unchanged throughout time. Yet, millions of Christians, even those who consider themselves part of the remnant, are unwilling to obey the Sabbath command and observe the seventh day of the week, Saturday, as holy unto the LORD.
Consider this: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made” (Genesis 2:1-3). The law of the weekly Sabbath was given to the children of God at the end of Jehovah’s finished work some twenty-five hundred years before the written law was received at Mt. Sinai about 1491 B.C. This Sabbath law followed His six days of work. The words week and seventh derive their origin from essentially the same Hebrew root word. Jehovah placed His special blessing on the seventh day of the week alone when He especially blessed and sanctified the seventh day.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11). The weekly Sabbath of the seventh day is the fourth commandment in the moral law of Jehovah. The commandments are the essence of God’s law.
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. . .But he (Jesus) passing through the midst of them went his way. And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the Sabbath days” (Luke 4:16, 31). Jesus observed the weekly Sabbath on the seventh day of the week, the day we call Saturday and the day of the week designated Sabbath, which has remained unchanged throughout history.
“But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and sat down” (Acts 13:14). “And he (Paul) reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (I Cor. 18:4). “For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works…here remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” (Hebrews 4:4, 9). The word rest in Hebrews 4:9 is root word #4520 in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and means sab-bat-is-mos, sabbatism, a time of repose; root word #4521 means Sab’-bat-on, the Sabbath or weekly repose.
“For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD” (Isaiah 66:22-23). Isaiah clearly let us know that the weekly Sabbath of the seventh day would be observed and sanctified in the restored Kingdom of God. The Prophet Ezekiel forecast the Sabbath during the Kingdom: “Thus saith the Lord GOD; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened” (Ezekiel 46:1).
The weekly Sabbath of the seventh day was established as the finished work of Jehovah in Genesis 2:1-3. The Sabbath was revealed to the children of Israel in the Sinai Wilderness (Exodus 16:25-26), incorporated as the fourth commandment in the covenant of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11), and given the character of a sign or mark to identify Israel, the people whom Jehovah chose as His very own before the foundation of the world: “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:16-17).
The Word of God is true and unchanging! “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6). “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). “For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100:5). “The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprighteous” (Psalm 111:7-8). “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever” (Psalm 119:160). Finally, Psalm 146:6 reminds us that Jehovah is the God Who “…Keepeth truth for ever.” The Word of God is settled in heaven forever (Psalm 119:89). By all means it must be settled in the mind of the believer! “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” The Bible teaches about a timeless, eternal, and unchanging God.
If the Word of God never authorized any day but Saturday from Genesis to Revelation, who moved the Sabbath to Sunday, the first day of the week? The following historical quotes provide the answer.
“The Catholic Church,” declared Cardinal Gibbons “by virtue of her divine mission changed the day from Saturday to Sunday” Catholic Mirror, September 23, 1983 (Official Organ of Cardinal Gibbons).
By what authority did the Roman Catholic Church transfer the biblical Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday? This change was not by the authority of God or Scripture.
“Question: Which is the Sabbath Day?
Answer: Saturday is the Sabbath Day.
Question: Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?
Answer: We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, in the Council of Laodicea (AD 364), transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday” (The Converts’ Catechism of Catholic Doctrine, p. 50, Third Edition).
Did you know that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the church, by way of the pope, has a higher authority than the Word of God? Consider this quote from the Catholic Canon and Tradition, p. 263:
“The authority of the church could therefore not be bound to the authority of the Scriptures because the church had changed the Sabbath into Sunday, not by command of Christ, but by its own authority.” The Roman Catholic Church believes that Sunday should be the day when we cease from our labors rather than the biblical Sabbath of the seventh day, or Saturday. “Is not every Christian obliged to sanctify Sunday and to abstain on that day from unnecessary servile work? Is not the observance of this law among the most prominent of our sacred duties? But you may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify” (James Cardinal Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers (1917 Edition pp. 72-73).
Consider these words from Father Enright, C.S.S.R. of the Redemptoral College, Kansas City, History of the Sabbath, p. 802: “The Bible says, ‘Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath day.’ The Catholic Church says, ‘No! By my divine power I abolish the Sabbath day, and command you keep the first day of the week. And lo, the entire civilized world bows down in reverent obedience to the command of the holy Catholic Church’.”
But this is not all! The Roman Catholic Church dared to say this in the Catholic Press, Sydney, Australia, August 1990: “Sunday is a Catholic institution and its claim to observance can be defended only Catholic principles…from beginning to end of Scripture there is not a single passage that wants the transfer of weekly public worship from the last day of the week to the first.”
The Reformation Fathers might have prevailed against the Roman Catholic Church in the 1500s had they been willing to confess that Sunday, by order of the Roman Catholic Church, was not acceptable as a replacement for the biblical Sabbath of Saturday, the seventh day of the week. Instead, the Reformation Fathers held onto the Roman Catholic tradition of Sunday, thus confirming the idea that the Catholic Church trumped Scripture.
The Protestant Reformation had previously rested on the idea of “Sola Scriptura,” the Bible alone. But their stubborn refusal to return to Saturday, the biblical Sabbath, gave the Roman Catholic clergy at the Council of Trent (1545-1563) grounds to continue their long standing teaching that the Roman Catholic Church, by virtue of the pope, could trump the Word of God. The Reformation Fathers lost their argument on Sola Scriptura, and the Catholic Church survived.