Bad Arguments For Keeping the Sabbath Today
The topic I am contacted about the most on this website is the Sabbath Day. There are quite a number of people who do not appreciate my articles demonstrating that Christ does not require us to keep the Sabbath today. In my discussions a number of arguments arise for why we should keep the Sabbath. I thought I would try to address them all here.
One of the fundamental teachings in the New Testament is that Gentiles (and Jews also) do not need to keep the Law of Moses to be saved. Christ completed the purpose of the Old Testament Law and brought it to its planned end. Let us take a quick look at how the Bible teaches us this idea.
If we begin with the Old Testament, we find that it was always God’s plan for it to end and something better replace it. Moses spoke of a Prophet that would be like him in Deuteronomy 18:15-19.
15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ 17 “And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:15-19, NKJV)
We see that Jesus was that Prophet as evidenced by the quotation in Acts 3:22. This means that when Jesus came, they were to listen to Jesus rather than Moses. This is what the Law taught–that you should listen to Jesus rather than the Law.
We see this idea in Jeremiah 31:31-34 which is quoted in Hebrews 8. Let’s take a look at what Hebrews says.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:7-13, NKJV)
Here we see that Jeremiah prophesied about a new covenant. The covenant with Israel was based on the Law of Moses–the 10 Commandments, priesthood, etc. The new covenant would have law associated with it but it would be based on forgiveness of sin. This is not an additional covenant to go along with the one that was already there, but rather a new one that would replace the old one.
The idea of Gentiles needing to become Jews (be circumcised) and keep the Law of Moses to be saved is something that had to be dealt with quite a lot in the New Testament. Acts 15 shows how this problem was dealt with in Jerusalem. Galatians was written specifically to deal with this problem. It is also mentioned in Colossians and Ephesians. Hebrews is more focused on the idea that even the Jewish Christians do not need to the rely on the Law of Moses–Christ is much better.
Now let us examine some of the arguments of those who teach that we must keep parts of the Law of Moses today (especially the Sabbath Day).
Because Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, “The Lord’s Day” in Revelation 1 is the Sabbath.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, (Revelation 1:10, NKJV)
There is nothing here to indicate what day the Lord’s Day is. It also says nothing about anything we should do about the Lord’s Day, so it doesn’t really matter. Historically, we have plenty of evidence that early Christians referred to Sunday as the Lord’s Day and no evidence of the Sabbath being referred to in that way (that I am aware of). But that does not prove what John meant by it. It is a non-argument and simply assuming something to be true because they want it to be true.
God said His word would never change.
God’s word also said that the Old Testament law would be finished when the Prophet like Moses would come. Since His word does not change, we know that it was finished. That is why Paul can write in Galatians 2:19, “For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.” If you actually follow the Law of Moses, you will die to the Law of Moses and follow Christ! Even those who insist that you keep the Sabbath will admit that many of the laws, such as those of sacrifices, have been taken away. If some can be taken away and God’s word has not changed, why can all of it not be taken away and God’s word not change?
An appeal is often made to Jesus’ statement regarding the Law in the Sermon on the Mount.
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19, NKJV)
For many, it looks as though Jesus is saying that nothing of the Law will pass until heaven and earth pass away. But that is not what Jesus says here. He says that none of it will pass away until all is fulfilled. He also says that he came to fulfill it. Rather than a proof that we should be keeping the Law of Moses today, this passage is proof that Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets and thereby completed the purpose of the Law. It is has now passed. Even those who try to use this passage to prove that some of the Old Testament law should be kept today do not believe that “the least of these commandments” is still law today. They generally try to make a distinction between moral and ceremonial law, but Jesus makes no such distinction. It is all fulfilled and all passed away.
Hebrews 4:9 talks about the Sabbath rest that remains for the people of God.
There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. (Hebrews 4:9, NKJV)Consequently, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. (Hebrews 4:9, NASB)
The context of this passage shows that this is clearly not a reference to the Sabbath Day, but rather another rest that the Sabbath Day was teaching about. In verse 8, we find that it was a day after the time of Joshua but the Sabbath Day was given already by then. In verse 10, we see that it is entering into God’s rest where we rest from all our works. This is referring to heaven as our Sabbath rest. You can see a more detailed article about it here.
God created the Sabbath before there was Jew or Gentile, so it cannot apply only to the Jews.
The reason for this claim is what is said in Genesis 2:3 about the 7th day of Creation. We also see this referenced in the Sabbath Law God gave Israel through Moses.
Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:3, NKJV)
For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:11, NKJV)
While it is true that God blessed the 7th day, it is never referred to as the Sabbath until the Law of Moses. There is not command or mention of resting on the 7th day until the Law of Moses. Also, remember the Genesis is one of the books of the Law. Part of its purpose is to explain the reason for some of the laws (such as circumcision or the Sabbath). Just because it is mentioned that God blessed the 7th day at Creation does not mean that He made it a rest or worship day for man at that time.
While not a strong evidence in itself, it is interesting to notice that no other nation seemed to have knowledge of the Sabbath Day or anything like it before God gave it to Israel through Moses. Basically all nations have a 7 day week which can be traced back to Creation, but none have the Sabbath except Israel. But as I said, that by itself is not a strong evidence, only interesting to accompany what the Bible actually says regarding the Sabbath being given only to Israel.
The strongest evidence that this was a new law and only for Israel is what is said in the Law of Moses about the reason for the Sabbath. Deuteronomy 5:15 tells us that the reason for the Sabbath is directly tied to their slavery in Egypt where they had no rest.
And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:15, NKJV)
Also in Exodus 31:15-17, we find that the Sabbath is specifically called a “sign” between God and Israel.
15 Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 16 Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ ” (Exodus 31:15-17, NKJV)
How can it be a sign between Israel and God if it was given to all people? That would not make sense. The Sabbath was a special day for Israel and distinguished them from the other nations that did not have a Sabbath law.
We can see that while God’s rest on the 7th day of Creation is connected with the Sabbath Law, the Sabbath was not established at that time and was only established in the Law of Moses a special sign of a covenant between God and Israel. Gentiles were never given the Sabbath law.
There is no scripture that teaches Christians to worship on Sundays.
There is also no scripture that teaches Christians to worship on the Sabbath. The passages they try to use are examples of worship on the Sabbath but are not actual examples of Christians meeting to worship on that day. We will deal with those examples later in our response to another argument. We do, however, have examples of Christians worshiping on the first day of the week (Sunday). There is an emphasis on the first day of the week in the New Testament. It is the day Jesus was raised from the dead. While those determined to keep the Sabbath today often say that Jesus was raised on the Sabbath because it was before sunrise on Sunday, the wording of the scriptures says otherwise. Here are some passages that emphasize the first day of the week.
1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (Matthew 28:1-6, NKJV)
1 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” 8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. 9 Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. (Mark 16:1-9, NKJV)
1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.
13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:1, 13, NKJV)
1 Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:1, 19, NKJV)
We see a very clear emphasis placed on the first day of the week. It is specifically mentioned in every gospel account. Mark even specifically says that it was the day Jesus rose from the dead. This does not teach us to worship on the first day of the week, but we have to wonder why the Holy Spirit makes such a point of mentioning the first day of the week in particular and no other days of the week. The only other day of the week mentioned is the Sabbath and that is in connection to it being passed when these things happened. There is clearly something special about the first day of the week that was not special before. No particular day of the week was ever mentioned in the Old Testament except the Sabbath day, as far as I can tell. But now the first day of the week is emphasized in the New Testament.
So why do we know it is right to worship on the first day of the week? Acts 20:7 shows us very clearly that this was a day Christians met to eat the Lord’s Supper.
6 But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days. 7 Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. (Acts 20:6-7, NKJV)
We see in verse 6 that they were there for seven days, obviously being there on the Sabbath, but the day they met to break bread (eat the Lord’s Supper) was the first day of the week. Now the emphasis on the first day of the week in connection with Jesus’ resurrection makes sense. This is the day we are to remember and proclaim His death until he comes again through the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:26).
The argument they will commonly use against this is that “to break bread” can be a reference to a common meal. They are correct. It can be. But the context tells us that it is something they did together as part of a religious service with Paul preaching to them. We read in Acts 2:42 that the disciples were devoted to the “breaking of bread” as part of their worship to God.
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42, NKJV)
Since it is listed along with other things related to worship, we know it is referring to something done in worship as well. The only worship we find that involves breaking bread is the Lord’s Supper, which is clearly something that they were to do on a regular basis. Acts 20:7 tells us when they did it and so we know when God is happy for us to do it also.
In addition to this, 1 Corinthians 11 condemns the eating of a common meal as a church. It is the Lord’s Supper that is to be eaten together as a church. Common meals are to be eaten outside of the assembly of the church (as we also find in Acts 2:46).
Along with Acts 20:7, we also have 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 that teaches us about gathering on the first day of the week.
1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: 2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2, NKJV)
We see from this they were to take up a collection every first day of the week. Why? Because that is when they would be together. This was not only in Corinth, but also in the churches of Galatia. We saw that meeting on the first day of the week was the practice in Troas as well. As this is clearly the practice of the early churches, approved by Christ, we know that He is happy if we meet on the first day of the week today to eat the Lord’s Supper. While we can also see from Acts 2:46 that the Christians could meet every day, Sunday is the only day we have authority for eating the Lord’s Supper or collecting money for the needs for which the church is responsible.
The Catholic Church admits that they changed the Sabbath to Sunday, but they don’t have that authority
Emperor Constantine I in A.D. 313 commanded that everyone keep Sunday as the Sabbath. The Roman Catholic Church, or at least some of their leadership, does claim that they changed the Sabbath to Sunday.
What the Roman Catholic Church claims does not concern us. Only what the Bible says should concern in this matter. If someone claimed that they invented the teaching of Jesus being raised from the dead, would that nullify the truth of Jesus’ resurrection? Certainly not! So forget what the Catholic Church says. It doesn’t matter.
Besides this, those who say Sunday is the “Christian Sabbath” are teaching something not found in the scriptures and not claimed by us. We do not believe the Sunday is the Sabbath. We believe we are to worship on Sunday as the New Testament gives us that example in multiple places. We do not believe we are to keep the Sabbath, as the Sabbath was taken away and nailed to the cross with the rest of the Old Testament Law.
In connection with this so-called argument, they like to use a prophecy in Daniel 7 to demonstrate that it was prophesied that the Roman emperor would try to change the Sabbath day.
23 “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast shall be A fourth kingdom on earth, Which shall be different from all other kingdoms, And shall devour the whole earth, Trample it and break it in pieces. 24 The ten horns are ten kings Who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, And shall subdue three kings. 25 He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute the saints of the Most High, And shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand For a time and times and half a time. 26 ‘But the court shall be seated, And they shall take away his dominion, To consume and destroy it forever. 27 Then the kingdom and dominion, And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’ (Daniel 7:23-27, NKJV)
The fourth beast is clearly the empire of Rome in the prophecy. In verse 25, we see one of the kings (emperors) of Rome intending to make alterations in times and in law. Those who use this passage to argue for the Sabbath being kept today see this as Emperor Constantine changing the Sabbath (alteration in times).
Now, I don’t know that I understand the prophecy well enough to know exactly which emperor this and what he is doing. They like to make him the same as the beast in Revelation 13, which much better corresponds with Nero than Constantine. But whoever it is, it never says anything specifically about the Sabbath in the prophecy. We should use the clear teaching of the New Testament that the Sabbath has been taken away rather than take an unclear prophecy and try to make it say something different from the clear teaching.
Jesus and Paul had a custom of going to the synagogues to worship every Sabbath.
Since they know they need to demonstrate some New Testament authority for keeping the Sabbath Day as God’s law, they appeal to Jesus and Paul’s example. They even quote from 1 Corinthians 11:1 to show that we are to follow Paul’s example as he followed Christ’s example. But we need to understand that Paul did not do everything Christ did. He was not crucified, but he did submit himself to death for Christ’s sake. He is certainly not telling everyone that they must be physically crucified. So what example is he speaking about?
In chapters 8-10, Paul had just been speaking against eating meat sacrificed to idols. The verses just before 1 Corinthians 11:1 are speaking about pleasing men in all things rather than seeking our profit so that they will be saved. He gives some specific teaching about this idea in chapter 9.
19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23, NKJV)
Paul makes it clear that in his example, he kept the Law of Moses while with Jews even though he was not actually under that law. He did not keep the Law of Moses when with the Gentiles (those who were not under the Law). That is the example he is exhorting us to follow–doing what is honorable in the sight of men rather than being needlessly offensive to them. We want them to listen to the message of the gospel. As a Jew, he could keep the various laws, including those involving sacrifice at the temple (Acts 21:17-26). But he always made it clear that he was not keeping these things as God’s law for him at that time. Especially, it is clear even in the Acts 21 passage that Gentiles were not required to keep the Law of Moses.
So let us look at the example of Jesus. Did Jesus keep the Sabbath Day? Certainly He did. Jesus was under the Law of Moses since it was not finished until He finished it on the cross.
4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5, NKJV)
We also find in Colossians 2:14 that the law was taken away when it was “nailed to the cross.” Ephesians 2:11-22 shows that it was through the cross that the Law of commandments contained in ordinances was abolished to put to death the enmity between Jew and Gentile. So Jesus keeping the Law of Moses is expected and does nothing to prove that we should be keeping it today. What about Paul?
Acts 17:1-3 is the passage that they generally appeal to in order to show that it was Paul’s custom to worship on the Sabbath.
1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.” (Acts 17:1-3, NKJV)
The problem with this is that it does not tell us that the reason Paul went to the synagogue was to worship. You can’t find that idea here anywhere. It tells us that his custom was to go there to reason with the Jews from the Scriptures and preach Christ to them. That was why he went to the synagogues. We can see this in other passages that talk about him going to the synagogues.
Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. (Acts 9:20, NKJV)
And when they arrived in Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. They also had John as their assistant. (Acts 13:5, NKJV)
Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. (Acts 14:1, NKJV)
10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. (Acts 17:10-11, NKJV)
Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. (Acts 17:17, NKJV)
And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:4, NKJV)
And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. (Acts 18:19, NKJV)
And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. (Acts 19:8, NKJV)
It is clear that the primary reason Paul went to the synagogues was to reason with the Jews about Christ. He would have done this on the Sabbath because that is when the Jews met at the synagogues. There is never any indication that he did this to worship or keep the Sabbath day holy, although we know he would not have violated that law while with the Jews because of the influence that would have on them listening to him (as seen above in the discussion about 1 Corinthians 8-11).
Another passage that is often used is when Paul preached at the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia and the Gentiles asked for him to speak to them again the next Sabbath day.
42 So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath. 43 Now when the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews and devout proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. (Acts 13:42-43, NKJV)
The question that then is asked is why did Paul not invite them to the Sunday service when they asked to have the gospel preached to them the next Sabbath? But the obvious answer is that there was no church and no meeting place in Antioch yet. Paul and Barnabas had just come and the gospel was just starting to work on the hearts of those who heard. Where would they invite them? Besides that, the synagogue was a good public place where many could hear the gospel preached. The idea that we have to invite people to church for them to hear the gospel is not an idea found in the scriptures. The meetings on Sundays are primarily for those who are already Christians. The Christians go out to where people are to teach them the gospel. That is the primary method of evangelism we see in the New Testament.
Besides that, we do not know what all was involved in the encouragement to “continue in the grace of God” to those who did believe. Instructions about the law of Christ and the worship He desires could absolutely have been part of that. But to argue against the clear teaching that we are not under the Law of Moses and to argue against the examples of Christians worshiping on Sunday by simply observing that there was no mention of a Sunday service in a city where there was not even yet a church is an extremely weak argument.
In Acts 10, Peter was specifically told that there was a change in regard to the relationship between Jew and Gentile. There is no such correction about keeping another day besides the Sabbath.
There is no specific correction like this in relation to executing those who break the Sabbath, but I doubt many of those who demand that we keep the Sabbath today will insist on that law still being in force. When we are clearly told that the whole Old Testament law is finished, we do not need a specific correction for every law that is finished. All of them are finished.
But if they insist on the Sabbath being a special law of some sort, we can see a specific correction of that law in Colossians 2:16-17 which specifically mentions that we are not judged by the Sabbath day any longer and that it was a shadow what was to come in Christ. But then we have an objection to this use of Colossians 2:16-17.
Colossians 2:16-17 says “sabbaths” not “The Sabbath” and so it is dealing with special sabbaths, not the Sabbath Day.
First, let me state that I am not a Greek scholar by any means. However, I can read commentaries by those who are and even search the Greek text for the plural of the word. Besides the fact that Greek scholars say the plural is used in place of the singular, we can see this clearly being done in several passages. In each of the following passages, the plural “sabbaths” is used in the Greek, even though the translators correctly translate to the singular in English.
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. (Matthew 28:1, NKJV)
So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. (Luke 4:16, NKJV)
But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. (Acts 13:14, NKJV)
And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. (Acts 16:13, NKJV)
Even the order of the list in Colossians 2:16 is important and you will find that sometimes they will not list it in its proper order because they recognize this as well (but don’t want you to see it).
16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17, NKJV)
Festivals are yearly celebrations, such as Passover or Pentecost. A new moon was obviously a monthly celebration. So what comes after yearly and monthly? That’s right. Weekly. That’s what the sabbaths were. Weekly Sabbath days that we are not judged by since it was only a shadow of what was to come in Christ and has been nailed to the cross.
There is a distinction between the 10 Commandments and the rest of the Law of Moses
There is a distinction between “moral law” and “ceremonial law” and only the ceremonial law was nailed to the cross.
One passage used to demonstrate this is Luke 1:6 which talks about the parents of John the Baptist walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements (or ordinances) of the Lord. So they say that there is a distinction between commandments and ordinances. The commandments are the 10 Commandments and the rest of the law is the ordinances that was taken away.
One of the passages that helps see very clearly that the 10 Commandments is included in the law that was taken away is 2 Corinthians 3:7-18.
7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious. 12 Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— 13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:7-18, NKJV)
We can easily note that the law written and engraved on stones is the 10 Commandments. This is part of the argument those who demand keeping the Sabbath usually make, so there should be no objection there. But if you are not sure that this is the 10 Commandments, he mentions the shining face of Moses in connection with it. When did Moses’ face shine like this?
28 So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. 29 Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. 34 But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out; and he would come out and speak to the children of Israel whatever he had been commanded. 35 And whenever the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone, then Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with Him. (Exodus 34:28-35, NKJV)
It is also interesting to note that the 10 Commandments are called “the words of the covenant.” They were specifically a covenant between God and Israel and they are referred to in this way multiple times.
Back to 2 Corinthians 3, we see that the 10 Commandments were called “the ministry of death” and their glory was “passing away.” In verse 11, it speaks of what is passing away and that which remains. In connection to the 10 Commandments, it speaks of Moses being read in verse 15 and that a veil lies over the hearts of those who are reading him (clearly with the intention of continuing in that Law). We have something much more glorious, which is from Christ Himself. Freedom from the 10 Commandments does not mean that we are free to murder, lie, commit adultery, etc. because Christ teaches us against those things. But something Christ never teaches us to do is keep the Sabbath day.
If you use passages like 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 to say the Sabbath is taken away, you have to get rid of all the 10 Commandments.
Absolutely. See the previous argument for more on that.
Isaiah 66:21-24 says that the Sabbath would continue on through the recreating of the earth.
Here is what Isaiah 66 says.
22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord, “So shall your descendants and your name remain. 23 And it shall come to pass That from one New Moon to another, And from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord. 24 “And they shall go forth and look Upon the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, And their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” (Isaiah 66:22-24, NKJV)
First, it doesn’t say that it would remain when the new heavens and the new earth come to be, but rather that it would endure like those things would endure. But whatever this prophecy means in particular, we must notice that the New Moons are mentioned right along with the Sabbaths. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone try to argue that the new moons are still the law today. So if you want to argue that we must literally keep the Sabbath today from this verse, to be consistent, you must also insist that we keep the New Moons. And remember that they are also listed specifically in Colossians 2 as something we are no longer judged by.
History teaches us that the Sabbath was kept by Christians through the 1st Century of the church.
I don’t know much about such things as they don’t demonstrate authority from God, but we can very early on see that Christians worshiped on Sundays (that also does not establish authority, but the scriptures do). Did Jewish Christians also keep the Sabbath? Probably, since they also worshiped at the temple and offered sacrifices (Acts 22). But that does not mean that any of that was still God’s law. And the Gentiles were never under the Law of the Sabbath and it is quite doubtful that many of them (if any) would have kept the Sabbath, knowing that it was not God’s law.
In Matthew 24:20 Jesus says that they should pray their flight would not be on the Sabbath day.
Matthew 24 deals with the destruction of Jerusalem (see the first verses for that to be clear). Christians living in Jerusalem would have had a difficult time running away on the Sabbath. I don’t know in that time if they still closed the gates on the Sabbath, but they did under Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:19). Besides this, they may have been prevented by the officials of the city from traveling that far on the Sabbath. There are definitely other reasons besides the need to keep the Sabbath as God’s law that would make it more difficult to flee Jerusalem on the Sabbath. This passage does not demonstrate that Jesus expected His followers to worship on the Sabbath.
Luke 23:56 says that Jesus’ followers rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.
This occurred while Jesus had not yet been raised from the dead. I do not believe it was clear to anyone that the Law of Moses was finished. I am not even sure if the Law of Moses was clearly completed until after the resurrection. Of course they would keep the Sabbath at that point. In Jerusalem, they would have continued to keep the Sabbath even when they did know, because that was the law of the city and nation. But it is not God’s law any longer, as is made clear in the rest of the New Testament.
I’m sure there are other arguments that they can use on occasion, but these seem to cover most of them. If we simply understand the fundamental teaching about this, that the Law of Moses is completed in Christ, then we already know their arguments are wrong. We just have to examine them to see how they are wrong.
Give yourself some time to read Acts (especially chapter 15), Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Hebrews. I believe if you will really read these books with an open mind, you will find that there is simply no room for requiring the keeping of the Law of Moses. Christ has come and brought His law, while fulfilling the purpose of the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses that has been taken away includes the 10 Commandments and that includes the law of the Sabbath. We cannot bind that as law on anyone today and be pleasing to Christ.