By Jerry Rector
Copyright 2007 Life Assurance Ministries, Inc., Glendale, Arizona, USA. All rights reserved. Revised May 21, 2007. Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chapter 1: Sabbath Not Changed
Answering the question of why I no longer “keep” Sabbath in the manner I was raised is fairly common for me now days. Almost all other beliefs are ok to question, but this belief is held by many to be above scrutiny. I felt the same way for most of my life as well, so can easily identify with these thoughts. The following is offered up to you, the reader, in the spirit of humility and prayerfulness—hoping that this study will help you grow in your walk with Christ.
I really want you to hear and understand this opening statement from me: I don’t believe that the Sabbath was ever changed to Sunday! Instead, I believe that Jesus fulfilled the ritual of Sabbath observance in the same way that He fulfilled the rest of the ritual/ceremonial law (and moral law, for that matter.) He fulfilled all of God’s law by keeping it perfectly, paving the way for salvation for us all. I believe this introduced a new approach to worship under the New Covenant described by Jesus and practically applied through the New Testament writers. So let me say again, I don’t believe there is anything particularly holy about worship on Sunday as opposed to some other day. However, I do see and believe that Christian’s worship on Sunday (and Saturday) is holy and blessed by God. And I believe that weekly worship in a church setting is very important, and part of God’s plan for our spiritual lives, though not a requirement for salvation. Let’s start at the beginning and examine the Sabbath in the first 5 books, and then through the rest of the Bible.
The Sabbath is clearly linked to Creation. No question that this was one of its purposes—to remind the Israelites of their Creator. It had two additional purposes as well—to remind them of their deliverance from Egypt (see the version of the 4th commandment that appears in the re-stating in Deuteronomy 5), and point them to the deliverance from sin that Jesus the Messiah would bring.
Going back to Creation, we know God rested from His work of creation on the 7th day, but there is no mention of Adam and Eve participating in that rest. There is no mention of the term “Sabbath.” We only know that God rested. In fact, it is hard to tell just when Eve was created. I’ve read the sequence many times, and it says that Adam named the animals and had time to get lonely before Eve was created. It seems that this would have taken up more time than what was contained in 24 hours of the 6th day. (Whether or not these periods were more than 24 hours is another discussion…) But, the description of the 6th day reports the creation of male and female humans, so the sequence is unclear. And for my purposes, it doesn’t have to be clear. I whole-heartedly believe in the creative power of God and am not worried about exactly how he did it. My point from this: what that 7th day was like is also not clear. All we know about it is that God rested from his work, blessed it, and made it holy. It does not say that he made every 7th day holy. Again, let me emphasize that the term “Sabbath” is not used. The book of Genesis does not contain this term in Hebrew at all. The fact that He made it holy does not have a clear implication for humans. Many locations in the Middle East were made holy by one event or another, yet we as Christians don’t make pilgrimages there. Many other days, months, and even every 7th year were made holy for the Israelites, but have no significance for us today.
One cannot say, then, that the Sabbath was instituted at Creation. You may believe that it was, but you cannot demonstrate that from the Bible, making it an assumption. It is therefore impossible to base doctrinal beliefs on that premise.
Adam and Eve had not sinned yet, so work as we know it hadn’t been introduced into the world. Adam and Eve were able to commune and worship with God on a daily basis. As far as God is concerned, we have every indication that His rest persisted daily. So, once God began his rest on that 7th day, it was a lasting rest. He did not resume creation on the 1st day of the next week. God apparently set up sacrifices – hence the story of Cain and Abel – but we still get no indication of any Sabbath observance. Not with Enoch or Noah or anyone pre-flood.