Question: Do you think we should still observe the Sabbath and what day do you believe the Sabbath was on? I know many things have changed from the old to the New Testament.
This is a great question and actually falls into an important category of commands in scripture. Which of God’s laws do we follow and which do we not? Christian’s debate these things often but I believe that the debate is often just a distraction they don’t see. It’s not wrong to ask the question, as in this case. Not even in the least. However, many people will try to argue these things to put people under some kind of religious control. When we understand God’s heart, we can get our answers fairly easily.
Before I can fully answer this question we must understand a few things. What was the purpose of God’s laws, what is freedom in Christ, and has the Old Testament passed away? I’m going to answer the last, first. Jesus answered this for us in Matthew 5:17-18 (NASB). “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Jesus’s purpose was not to get rid of God’s law, which is and always will be holy. His purpose (in part) was to fulfill it. So what does that mean?
Jesus fulfilling the law meant that He would perfectly do all that it required. The fact was, no one could, so He did. Jesus clearly tells us here that He was not going to abolish it. So what does that mean for us, I thought we weren’t under the law anymore (Romans 6:14)? It is true, grace is our law, but that did not mean that God is ok with our sin and disobedience now. The Bible clearly teaches us that. We are not under the BONDAGE of the law which is something very different. The bondage of the law was the effect that it brought forth, the condemnation or the sentence of death and separation from God. This is why Romans 8:1 says that there is no more condemnation, if… and that’s a big if! If we are IN Christ Jesus. Being in Christ, Romans tells us, is not license to sin but the ability to follow God even if we miss. There is a huge difference between those things! There were people all through the New Testament that thought they could get away with living sinfully and yet the Bible strongly warns against this. It is an extremely dangerous thing to be flippant about sinful lifestyles.
So, continuing to go backward on the questions I posited, what then is freedom in Christ? Galatians 5:13-14 (NASB) gives us a great look at this. “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’” Freedom in Christ is freedom to please God and fulfill His plan for your life, despite the fact you cannot fulfill His law perfectly. In other words, we now have access to God, despite our imperfections. Though we are free, it is still good in the sight of God that we try not to sin. Not that we get into bondage about it, but that we don’t lose hope when we miss it. Remember, Jesus ate and talked with sinners but also said, “Go and sin no more.”
Lastly, let’s look at the purpose of the God’s law. Specifically we will look at the Sabbath (because that was the question), but this can apply to it all. In Mark 2:27 (NASB), Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” God instituted the sabbath because He knew some things. For one, man because of sin would have to toil on the earth (Genesis 3). There is always something to do, something that needs fixed, or done, or conquered, or, you get the point. God gave man the sabbath so he would take some down time, rest, and most importantly, seek Him! We see Jesus direct the disciples toward this in Mark 6:31. The purpose of the sabbath was not so man had a “religious day,” it was so man did not forget in all he had to do was to take time and seek God. Though the sabbath was a particular day of the week, it wasn’t the point. Though there were rules to it, the rules weren’t the point. The outcome and effect it would have on humanity was the point.
We don’t HAVE to specifically follow the Law to a “t” anymore but let me ask you, is it helpful to consider? Is it a bad thing to set aside time in our busy schedules to seek and hear from our Heavenly Father? When we understand what Jesus was saying about love being the greatest commandment we gain the clarity needed. It was repeated by Paul in Galatians 5:14 (NASB). “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’” The Law of God was always about love and man made it about rules. We are free from specific observances however that does not mean that we should throw it all out either.
To sum this all up, don’t be entangled in the bondage of man’s doctrines and rules but also, don’t throw out what’s good either. I don’t observe the sabbath in the sense that I worship on a certain day and cease from work, but I endeavor to live a lifestyle that makes room for true sabbath in it. I want time with God and His Body. Not because He commands it, but because I love Him.