“Do you have any thoughts on observing the Sabbath? I have been trying to make a picture of the ideal Sunday for a Christian in 2016 in the USA. And I am stuck. Many of us “have to” work – but even defining “have to” is problematic. We go to church. But I know from experience that those serving/working at church are not resting. I am an empty-nester so I do have the ability to rest on Sundays, but I am not sure watching all the sin in murder mysteries is in any way honoring to God. Should it even be Sunday – maybe Saturday is the ideal Sabbath. What are your thoughts? Before a person can rest on the 7th day or honor the Sabbath and keep it holy, one needs to know what he’s striving for.” – Bobbie
Thanks for the question, Bobbie! I think this particular issue goes right along with our recent discussion with filmmaker Brian Godawa about “Hacksaw Ridge” (since the main character, Desmond Doss, is a Christian who believes in observing the Sabbath).
I think a good principle to remember when thinking about this issue is: we should look at the Old Testament law over the shoulders of a Jew. If we do that I think we see that the Mosaic Law, first and foremost, was for the Israelite at a particular time in history. This is part of the rationale I offered in the post “Should Christians Obey Old Testament Laws?” I essentially argued that Christians are no longer obligated to the Mosaic Law because the new covenant in Christ means that the old covenant has been done away with, and we find that idea rather clearly laid out in Hebrews. To answer your question: I don’t think that Christians are obligated to observe a Sabbath. The Sabbath commandment (unlike you shall not murder, or you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, etc.) is actually not reissued in the New Testament, whereas many other ten commandment laws are. So there’s an argument from silence here, that were it necessary for Christians to observe the Sabbath, then Sabbath observance should have been reissued in the New Testament; but it’s not.
What’s interesting is that Paul addresses Sabbath observance in Romans 14:5 and Galatians 4:10 and Colossians 2:16 but he never says that Christians must observe the Sabbath in obedience to God. He has a number of opportunities due to the controversies between some first century believers who make a big deal out of the Sabbath and those who don’t. But Paul never prescribes, he merely describes that some choose to observe those days. Also, the church in Acts actually came together on Sunday (first day), not Saturday (seventh day). We can find examples of that in Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2. In other words there is no indication in Scripture that the early church was meeting to worship as part of Sabbath rest.
Now, I’ve heard an argument that says Christians should observe Sabbath because it predates the Mosaic law, in other words, it goes back to creation in Genesis. That’s true. But nowhere in Genesis is there a command for people to do what God did in Genesis 2:2-3. The Sabbath rest pictures God’s completed work, initially with Creation and again with Christ’s death on the cross for our sins. That’s why the writer of Hebrews uses the Sabbath as an analogy in 4:10 to communicate that believers enter into God’s rest, pictured by the Sabbath.
I will say this: while the Sabbath is not a commandment that a Christian is obligated to obey, I think the principle of Sabbath rest is a wise course of action. It’s wise to rest our bodies and our minds, particularly in the 21st century with the way we are saturated in distraction and mental noise via advertisements, media, and technology. Meditation (the biblical kind) is something that could be very nicely developed if one gave their body a physical and mental rest. So, again, I think it’s wise to rest our body, and not only that but utilize that downtime to worship the Lord and meditate on His word. But I don’t find any good reason to think that the Christian is obligated to observe Sabbath.