What Should Observing the Sabbath Look Like? (Part 5)

Church

In the past few weeks, as we have studied what the Bible says about the Sabbath, we have seen the importance of the Sabbath in the Old Testament, and that it was more than a ceremonial “shadow” which would pass away with the advent of Christ; that it was a moral law with lasting significance, deeply rooted in God’s heavenly rest and redemptive work. Therefore, it was no surprise that the Sabbath continued for the first-century church in the form of the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, Sunday.

Finally, last week’s article considered some obvious objections to the idea that the Fourth Commandment still applies to New Testament Christians. We finished up that examination with Paul’s exhortation in Romans 14, “The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord,” a declaration which raises the obvious question: How should we “observe the day” in 21st-century America?

To answer that question, we must take one last survey of what the Bible has to say about the Sabbath…

Read moreWhat Should Observing the Sabbath Look Like? (Part 5)

A New Testament Sabbath? But What About…? (Part 4)

Church

My last article on the Sabbath laid out the reasons for believing that the Old Testament Sabbath was transformed by Christ into the Lord’s Day of the New Testament—still a day for worship and rest, filled with the content of the Sabbath but now occupying the first day of the week. In this penultimate article in my series on the Sabbath, I will consider a few verses which might seem to disagree with that conclusion.

Colossians 2:16-17: A Passing Shadow?

Perhaps the most obvious passage which seems to teach that Old Testament Sabbath commands have no relevance for the Christian is Colossians 2:16-17, which says, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” It certainly sounds like Paul is declaring that the Sabbath is entirely an Old Testament thing, a shadow which has passed away in the light of Christ. But first glances may be deceiving.

Read moreA New Testament Sabbath? But What About…? (Part 4)

The Sabbath in the New Testament (Part 3)

Church

Last week’s article on the Sabbath examined how other parts of the Old Testament law were maintained, discarded, or modified in the New Testament. We saw that the Sabbath’s unique combination of moral and ceremonial elements gives us reason to expect it to remain relevant for New Testament Christians, though with changes that reflect Christ’s atoning work. But what does the New Testament actually say about the Sabbath?

The Sabbath in Jesus’ Life and Teaching

In keeping with the Old Testament’s intense interest in the Sabbath, Jesus devoted more time to teaching about the Fourth Commandment, through both word and example, than to any other commandment. In general, when the Gospels record Jesus speaking about Old Testament law he is clearing away misunderstandings of it, and the Sabbath is no different.

Read moreThe Sabbath in the New Testament (Part 3)

What Sort of Law Is the Sabbath? (Part 2)

Church

What, if anything, does the Old Testament Sabbath hold for New Testament Christians? Last week, I started a short series looking at what the Bible teaches about the Sabbath and its place in our lives today. That first article laid the groundwork for our study by examining the Sabbath in the Old Testament. We saw that the first recorded Sabbath was inaugurated by God as soon as the Israelites left Egypt. Soon after, Sabbath observance was the fourth commandment given by God at Mount Sinai and became an important marker of his people. In later generations, the prophets would urgently call Israel to faithfully observe the Lord’s day of rest and worship.

The Ten Commandments are repeated twice in the Pentateuch. In Exodus, God links the Sabbath with his rest after the six days of creation, which was itself a representation of the perfect and joyful rest which he enjoys in Heaven and into which he invites us. In Deuteronomy, the Sabbath is associated with God’s redemptive work, bringing his people out of slavery in Egypt. The Israelites were to enter into the Sabbath with the joy of freed slaves savoring a hint of Heaven.

Having surveyed the Sabbath in the Old Testament, the obvious next step is to examine what the New Testament has to say about the Sabbath’s place under the new covenant which Jesus inaugurated. But first, I want to pause to consider what we might expect the New Testament to say.

Read moreWhat Sort of Law Is the Sabbath? (Part 2)

‘If You Call the Sabbath a Delight’ (Part 1)

Church

I taught a class last week on how New Testament Christians should understand the Old Testament law, and I knew the first question that would be asked as soon as I was done. Sure enough: “What about the Sabbath? Does that commandment still apply to us today?”

For some modern American Christians, that’s a silly question: Of course it doesn’t. Jesus abolished the Sabbath requirement, as verses like Colossians 2:16 make plain. For other Christians, it’s a silly question for the opposite reason: Of course we should keep the Sabbath. It is a command of God, rooted in his work of creation and redemption, making it one of the commandments which Jesus warns against discarding in Matthew 5:17-20.

For other Christians, the question of the Sabbath is a matter of confusion and guilt. You are not sure what to think, but you suspect you may be displeasing God and missing some blessing which could come from using Sunday (or is it Saturday?) differently.

Read more‘If You Call the Sabbath a Delight’ (Part 1)