Tag: What is the difference between the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day?

What is the Difference between the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day?

What is the Difference between the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day?

While Sunday is the traditional day of worship for Christians, many still remain uncomfortable over the issue of the Sabbath day. This is due to a common error that the Sabbath was the day of worship. Groups such as the Seventh Day Adventists hold that God requires the church service to be held on the Sabbath day which is Saturday, the seventh day of the week.

But is that really what the Sabbath command was?

In this article, I would like to tackle several of the questions and possible confusion Christians may have in reference to the 4th commandment of God found in Exodus 20:8-11, repeated in Deuteronomy 5:12-15. Are Christians required to observe the Sabbath? Was the Sabbath changed from Saturday to Sunday?

What is the Sabbath Day?

The word “Sabbath” comes from a Hebrew verb that means “to cease, stop, rest, and to come to an end.” Based on this definition of the word, the Sabbath Day was a day “to cease from work.” The institution of the Sabbath had its origin in Genesis 2:2-3 which states that on the seventh day, God rested after finishing His work of creation; God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because in it He rested from all His work.

The important thing to note here is that no commandment is made in this text. Although God rested and observed the Sabbath, nothing is said about Sabbath observance and worship. The seventh day isn’t even called the Sabbath but is differentiated and set apart (sanctified) from the other six creation days.

God designed that the seventh day would be a special memorial to His creation and its original perfection.What is the difference between the Sabbath and the Lord's Day

Giving of the Sabbath to Man

The Sabbath was not given to man till 2500 years later in Exodus 20:8-10. Throughout the book of Genesis, there is no record of any Sabbath observance on the part of men, no mention of the Sabbath being a day of worship. There is no record that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and the other patriarchs observed the Sabbath.

Even after the flood when God gave some commands to Noah and his sons (Genesis 9), nothing is said about Sabbath observance.

The first mention of the Sabbath in some significant way is in Exodus 16:22-26 when God feeds the people manna from heaven as they wander in the wilderness, and manna comes every day except the Sabbath day. God was preparing His people for the Sabbath command they would soon be given.

In the 20th chapter of Exodus, God gave the Ten Commandments and in it, the law for the Sabbath day has been given for the first time (Exodus 20:8-11). Israel was to treat the seventh day as holy because God had done so, and had declared it to be so.

The Observance of the Sabbath under the Law 

The fourth commandment is not just a requirement to keep the Sabbath but more of an instruction to keep the Sabbath holy (Exodus 16:23; 20:8). Because God designated and declared the Sabbath day as a holy day, keeping it involves much more than abstinence from labor; it requires acknowledging it as a sacred and sanctified day because of God’s deeds and declaration.

It also instructs each Israelite to plan and finish his week’s work by the Sabbath. It deals with the problem of men not wishing to stop what they’re doing because they have not finished by instructing them to plan to finish by the end of the sixth day and to see to it that they do finish.

What is the difference between the Sabbath and the Lord's Day

What’s the punishment for Sabbath-breakers? Death! Anyone who breaks the Sabbath is to be put to death (Exodus 31:14; 35:2). In Numbers 15:32-36, we read of the man who was found gathering sticks on the Sabbath to build fire and was stoned to death. (See also Exodus 35:2-3.) This tells us how serious God is about Sabbath-keeping.

What is the Lord’s Day? 

In the New Testament, Revelation 1:10 is the only verse that refers to Sunday as “the Lord’s Day,” However, it is noteworthy that the apostolic Church kept Sunday, the Lord’s Day, as a day of fellowship and worship (Acts 20:7). But why Sunday and why is it called the Lord’s day? Because Sunday, the first day of the week, was when Jesus rose from the dead (Mark 16:9).

Beginning with the first resurrection Sunday, the Lord Jesus seemed to “train” His disciples to gather together on the first day of the week. Since that time, believers have gathered on the first day of the week to celebrate His victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 16:2). Also, the Church was born at Pentecost which fell on a Sunday, fifty days after Christ rose from the dead.

What is the difference between the Sabbath and the Lord's Day

There is no verse in the Bible that commands believers to worship on the first day of the week but we do this simply because this has been the practice of Christians from the very beginning, based upon the life-changing fact of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The early Christians continued to meet regularly on the first day of the week, not on the Sabbath (Saturday).

Was the Sabbath Changed from the Seventh Day to the First Day?

Contrary to the claim of many Sabbatarians that Sunday worship was not instituted until the fourth century, the early church fathers, from Ignatius to Augustine, taught that the Old Testament Sabbath had been abolished and that the first day of the week (Sunday) was the day when Christians should meet for worship.

*Get the book “From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation” by D.A. Carson for further study.

In this book, a series of authors assert the premise that Sunday is “a new day of worship that was chosen to commemorate the unique, salvation-historical event of the death and resurrection of Christ, rather than merely being another day for celebrating the Sabbath.”

Sunday has never replaced Saturday as the Sabbath. The Sabbath day that the Bible speaks about in Exodus 20:8-11 has nothing to do with worship and sacrifice. The Sabbath command was to do no work on the Sabbath day and nowhere in Scripture is the Sabbath day commanded to be the day of worship.

The Lord’s Day is not a direct counterpart to the Jewish Sabbath and the Sabbath day was not changed from the seventh day to the first day. “Sunday is not the Christian Sabbath” and it’s not biblically correct to refer to Sunday as the Sabbath because nowhere in Scripture is the first day of the week referred to as the Sabbath.

While the Lord’s Day is the day of sacrifice, worship, and fellowship, the Old Testament Sabbath as mentioned earlier was a day of rest; it was a day when beasts of burden, slaves, and humans all rested. It was not associated with temple attendance or any religious observance.

What is the difference between the Sabbath and the Lord's Day

While some assume that the Lord’s Day in the New Testament is the equivalent of the Sabbath, the Sabbath was given to Israel as a sign of their covenant with God (Exodus 31:13, 17). It was a perpetual reminder to Israel of their separation unto God. Their keeping of the Sabbath would help distinguish them from the heathen (other nations) around them. The Sabbath day was also instituted by God for the nation of Israel to commemorate His deliverance of them from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15).

Sunday has not replaced Saturday as the Sabbath. Rather, the Lord’s Day is a time for believers to gather and commemorate Jesus’ resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week.

Are Christians Required to Keep the Sabbath?

Although God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, that does not mean that He requires all of His people to rest on it. Because if He did then we should, by all means, keep it, even if we have to adjust our work schedules and sacrifice our time with our families.

If the effect on our lives is so great, we have to ensure we’re getting this right according to God’s commands. Is the command clear enough to require Christians to lose their jobs and suffer financially? Because if God does not require the Sabbath, then it would be wrong to put this unnecessary burden on anyone.

Some may argue that Jesus and the first Jewish Christians kept the Sabbath (Luke 4:16; Acts 13:14, 17:1-2, 18:1-4) so we must do the same. We have to understand that Jesus was born under the law so He kept all the Jewish laws and kept them perfectly. But Jesus rejected a strict legalistic interpretation of the Old Testament commandment. He said Sabbath observance was not a duty that mankind owed to God.

Rather, the Sabbath was made by God as a day of rest for man (Mark 2:27).

The first Christians were predominantly Jews and still adhered to the Mosaic and Jewish Laws so when Gentiles began to convert to Christianity, it created a dilemma among the Jewish Christians. There arose some disputes about whether the Gentile Christians had to observe the Jewish laws about dietary restrictions, circumcision, Sabbath observance, etc.

At the Council of Jerusalem, Paul, Peter, James, and other Church leaders decided, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that Sabbath observance was not one of the commands they felt necessary for Gentile believers to keep (Acts 15:19-20, 28-29).

What is the difference between the Sabbath and the Lord's Day

Sabbath Observance by the Apostles

If Christians were to observe the Sabbath day, the apostles would have clearly taught the Gentile believers who obviously did not have any idea about Sabbath-keeping. If the Sabbath is important, why is it that the New Testament never repeats the command? The apostle Paul had a lot to say about how Christians must conduct themselves and lists numerous sins that can keep a person out of the kingdom of God, but he never mentions the Sabbath.

On the contrary, Paul rebukes the Galatians for thinking God expected them to observe special days, which includes the Sabbath (Galatians 4:10-11). Paul also writes in Colossians 2:16-17 that monthly rituals, eating and drinking restrictions, and the celebration of annual festivals should not be the basis for judging other believers.

Paul is saying that Christians are not to say it is wrong for other Christians to be working on the Sabbath and they in return should not let anyone make them feel guilty for what they do on the Sabbath.

The reason for this is, that these rituals are just a shadow of the things that are yet to come, which are found in Christ. Similarly, Romans 14:5-6 makes it clear that Sabbath-keeping is a matter of spiritual freedom, not a command from God. If a Christian feels he is being led to practice Sabbath-keeping, that is, not working on Saturdays, he may do so but should not judge those who do not keep the Sabbath.

What is the True Way to Keep the Sabbath Day?

There is a Sabbath rest for the people of God whereby believers need to rest and cease from their own works (Hebrews 4:9-10) in order to allow the living God to work in and through them (Hebrews 13:21).

But this Sabbath rest is not for Saturday or Sunday – it is for every day of the week. We do not just come into the presence of God and rest in His peace once a week on Sunday (Lord’s Day) but we can come to Him every day.

What is the difference between the Sabbath and the Lord's Day

Final Thoughts

There is absolutely nothing wrong with worshiping on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.

In fact, we should worship God every day. Not only on Saturday or Sunday. Many churches today have both Saturday and Sunday services, some even hold worship services every day for church members who need to work on Saturday and Sunday.

Christians are in no way obligated to keep the Sabbath command in the Old Testament because they are no longer under the Law, but the principle of keeping one day in a week and making it holy unto the Lord has not changed. Christians should still follow the pattern of designating one day of the week to gather in worship.

Six days we work and earn our living, and we designate one day holy unto the Lord to gather in worship, but we do not refer to this as the Sabbath.