Must We Observe the Sabbath?

Steven Deaton

Some of our religious neighbors believe that observing the Sabbath is required of one who desires to follow Christ and live right before God. They will cite several Old Testament passages and maybe even a few in the New. However, as we observed last week, the Old Testament is described as "the letter" that "kills" and "the ministry of death" (2 Cor. 3:6, 7). As for the New Testament and the Sabbath, nowhere does it teach that a disciple of Christ is obligated to observed the Sabbath. Let us examine this more closely.

First, when we look into the Old Testament we see that the Sabbath was not even mentioned until Exodus 16, shortly after the children of Israel had left Egypt. Later, the Sabbath command was given in the ten commandments, and these were done away (Ex. 20:8-11; 2 Cor. 3:3-11; Col. 2:14). Also, consider the fact that the Sabbath was given to the nation of Israel alone (Eze. 20:10-12). The book of Nehemiah reveals, "You came down also on Mount Sinai, And spoke with them from heaven, And gave them just ordinances and true laws, Good statutes and commandments. You made known to them Your holy Sabbath, And commanded them precepts, statutes and laws, By the hand of Moses Your servant" (Neh. 9:13-14). When it says, "made known to them," it implies they did not know of the Sabbath before--it was new.

Second, New Testament passages which are used to prove Sabbath keeping is a must for those who wish to follow Christ, must be twisted to do so (cf. 2 Pet. 3:16). For instance, some want to cite Jesus’ observance of the Sabbath as an example we are obligated to follow (Mk. 1:21; 6:2; Lk. 4:16, 31). Yet, they will not advocate--and rightly so--the keeping of Jewish feasts which the Lord also observed (Lk. 2:41-42; Jn. 2:13; 5:1; 7:2, 10, 14; Matt. 26:17-20). We need to remember that Jesus was born under the Law (Gal. 4:4). He lived when God’s will was for man to observe the law of Moses, so He did. However, Jesus was preparing the way for His gospel to be preached among all nations (Matt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16). This began at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Lk. 24:26-27; Acts 2). Thus, the law changed and we are not obligated to keep the Sabbath, since it is nowhere commanded in the Gospel of Christ (cf. Heb. 7:12).