by Jeff Reed
As a Sabbath keeper I am usually perceived by non-Sabbath-keeping Christians as a legalist, outdated, or not fully understanding grace. They believe that the Fourth Commandment has either been done away, changed, or is kept by Jesus living in us. In this article I don’t want to look at why those arguments are flawed. Instead, I believe it would be more constructive to focus on seven New Testament reasons Christians should keep the Sabbath.
1. Jesus kept the Sabbath.
We read many accounts that Jesus was always teaching on the Sabbath. Sometimes He would explain a spiritual truth through a healing. On one occasion He explains a misunderstanding that arose concerning His disciples picking grain. He was teaching through example and focusing on proper understanding of the Fourth Commandment. Luke 4:16 tells us clearly that “as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” A custom is an established observance that brings meaning into our life. Jesus’ custom started at creation and continued in His human life. “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6). I’m pretty sure that includes His customs.
2. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath.
The observances we keep reflect the God we serve. Many different religions have different practices and ceremonies honoring their gods. What Christians observe should honor our God. One of Jesus’ Sabbath lessons ended with him making the conclusion “Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). By keeping this day we are declaring that Jesus is our Lord. It is a way we honor and worship Him.
3. The Sabbath was made for us.
Also as part as this same lesson to the Pharisees He explains that “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). We are physical creatures and we often find ourselves tired or weary from the challenges of life. The Sabbath was created to give us rest. It gives us opportunity to recharge so that we can function correctly the other six days of the week. It is how the Creator made us. It is a wonderful gift from God that we should rejoice at the wisdom He had in its creation. Importantly, you can only understand how great this gift is by keeping it.
4. The Apostle Paul kept the Sabbath.
“Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2). On several occasions we see Paul keeping the Sabbath. This is the same man who wrote 28 percent of the New Testament. In his letters he continually emphasized the importance of keeping the law for Christians. Not for the purpose of salvation but in response to our salvation through Christ. “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12). He was a Sabbath keeper and understood its importance in our relationship with Jesus.
5. Luke directly refers to the Sabbath commandment.
In the book of Luke we learn that the women who were at the crucifixion of Jesus afterward prepared spices and fragrant oils to anoint His body. Then “they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56). Luke wrote this account at least thirty years later. Notice that he does not refer to it as “the former Sabbath” or “the Jewish Sabbath” but as a commandment in the present tense. And this was after His crucifixion, a point in time where some believe the commandment was changed.
6. Jesus’ instruction shows that the Sabbath will be important in the future.
In referring to the future event that will precede great tribulation, Jesus advises to “pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath” (Matthew 24:20). If there was no longer going to be a Sabbath command after His resurrection, why would He make this statement? The answer is simple. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
7. Sabbath keeping remains for the people of God.
“There remains therefore a rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). This verse can be easily overlooked as supporting the Sabbath because the Greek word sabbatismos is translated as rest. Some Bible translations translate it more correctly as “sabbath rest.” When this word is used in other ancient Greek literature it usually means a “keeping of the sabbath.” So Hebrews 4:9 is essentially saying that “there remains a keeping of the sabbath for the people of God.” This emphasizes the theme found in Hebrews 4 connecting the seventh-day rest with the rest that comes as we are diligently obedient to Christ.
These are seven New Testament reasons for Christians to keep the Sabbath. There are actually many more and I encourage you to visit the Sabbath topic section of our website for additional in-depth studies.