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The Sabbath (2)

Having observed that the Sabbath was commanded exclusively to the people of Israel to remember how they were slaves in Egypt and that God delivered them, many believe that Sunday, the first day of the week, is the Christian Sabbath. But do the scriptures teach the continuance of the Sabbath into the New Testament to all peoples?

First, there is no place in the New Testament where we read an example of Christians keeping the Sabbath. Some try to use the example of Paul to prove that Christians were keeping the Sabbath.

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” (Acts 17:1–3 ESV)

The apostle Paul finds a synagogue of Jews and begins to teach the Jews about Jesus, as was his custom. Please notice, however, that nothing in this text nor in the other New Testament texts declares that Paul was keeping the Sabbath. The reason for going into the synagogues every Sabbath to teach Jesus is because that was when and where the Jews were gathering. This was the best opportunity for Paul to teach the Jews about the risen Jesus. Paul is teaching Jesus, not observing the Sabbath. The New Testament is very clear that Christians are not under the Sabbath command.

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. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16–17 ESV)

The apostle Paul says that the observances of the Mosaic Law including the Sabbath were only shadows of things to come. The substance is Christ. The Sabbath was looking forward to a greater reality found in Christ and lost its value once Christ, the substance, came. The writer of Hebrews makes the same point.

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. (Hebrews 10:1 ESV)

The writer of Hebrews also argues that our salvation is found in Christ and his covenant, not in Moses and his covenant.

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. 8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:6–13 ESV)

Notice the first covenant, the Mosaic Law, was made obsolete when Christ came and established his covenant.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:5–10 ESV)

The writer of Hebrews points out that we are sanctified (made holy; purified) through the offering of Jesus. In doing so, Christ takes away the first covenant in order to establish the second covenant, his covenant. The writer of Hebrews also tells us that the covenant of Christ took effect when Jesus was sacrificed on the cross.

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. (Hebrews 9:11–18 ESV)

No Sabbath command given to Christians. Sunday is not a Christian Sabbath. The Sabbath was only given to Israel and was made obsolete when Jesus died on the cross. In the next article we will look at what the Sabbath shadow was pointing toward.