The other day a friend of mine wrote something on Facebook about being tired and sleeping in on Sunday morning and missing the Sabbath. This puzzled me slightly, since I knew the woman to be a Christian, so I added a comment that she didn’t have to observe the Sabbath.
Soon, I had a response from her asking what I meant. She didn’t know what the Sabbath was, nor did she know it didn’t apply to Christians. Perhaps others are in some confusion about this, too.
The Sabbath is an Old Covenant (Testament) observance. If you are Jewish, you undoubtedly know this and observe the Sabbath regularly. To a Christian, however, it is an archaic and meaningless term.
Under Mosaic Law, the Sabbath starts Friday evening and runs until Saturday evening. Never did have anything to do with Sunday. On the Sabbath, one was to attend services, refrain from work, and meet other requirements. I’m sure my friend Renee Schuls-Jacobson could explain the details of the Sabbath far better than I can.
For Christians the Sabbath, like all of Mosaic Law, became null and void with the death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus. God signified this loudly and clearly with the rending of the veil or curtain in the temple at the moment of His death. No human agency was involved, but this barrier between the Holy of Holies and the remainder of the temple ripped from top to bottom, signaling the official shift from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant.
Under the Old Covenant, there were hundreds of laws that governed every aspect of life. I couldn’t begin to explain all the nuances. Paul refers to this as the curse of the law.
God announced His intentions with regard to His people in the 31st chapter of Jeremiah.
Verse 33 says:
But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord, I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
Verse 34 concludes:
. . . I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.
External laws are somewhere between difficult and impossible for people to keep. We have jails and prisons filled with people as a testament to that fact. We have municipal traffic courts and other such institutions to attest further to this truth. Neither I nor anyone reading this post can claim never to have broken a law.
God knew that when He first created us. He knew before Adam walked the earth He would one day have to send His Son as a living sacrifice to atone for our sins and put us under a different covenant.
When God said He would put His law within us and write it on our hearts, He was talking about the work the Holy Spirit does within each Christian to change us and make us more Christlike. A song we used to sing thirty years ago said, “From glory to glory He’s changing me, changing me and transforming me.” That’s what the Holy Spirit does within all of us who accept Jesus as our Savior.
You can pass a law telling me not to murder, but you can’t prevent me from murdering. God, on the other hand, can work inside me through His Holy Spirit to remove any desire I might otherwise have to murder anyone. He changes my want-to in order conform me more closely to the image of His risen Son. None of us completely attain that during this lifetime, but He will move us more and more in that direction if we submit ourselves to Him and allow Him to.
Under the Old Covenant He obligated His people to observe the Sabbath. They were—and those who remain under the Old Covenant still are—commanded to attend temple services.
Under the New Covenant, we have no such command. God puts it in our hearts to WANT to fellowship with other Christians. We may do that in a formal church service, or in a home fellowship, or in a Sunday school class or other venue. I may or may not have a desire to listen to a sermon. I may or may not like the music in a certain church. But one of the first things God did to me when I was born again was to build in me a desire to fellowship with His people. That’s a lot more powerful than handing me a law that says I must attend this or that or whatever.
For my Jewish friends, this is not intended to imply that you don’t enjoy your synagogue experiences or the friendship of others who attend your synagogue. It is merely intended to demonstrate the difference between an external law that says “Thou shall or Thou shall not” and a desire planted internally.
How do you feel about the difference between an external law and an internal desire? Our readers would like to know.
If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
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Excellent and thought provoking issue, David. You have a way of getting the brain cells fired up in a different way, and that’s good. I grew up in a Methodist home wherein Sunday was the day set aside for worship and doing the work of the Lord. i.e. visiting shut-ins, taking care of errands for people, reading to the blind, just whatever needed to be done. However, my grandparents on my father’s side were devout Southern Bsptist and all work on the farm stopped at 6 pm on Friday and did not resume until Monday a.m. at 6 am. One individual was always available to take care of emergencies and that type of thing. As an adult looking back, I believe the home I was raised in had a lot more to do with how I approach my own morals and values.
I’m sure you’re right, Sheri. Most of us not only get our moral values from how we were raised, but we get a lot of our theology from custom and tradition rather than from the actual word of God.
I’m not sure this is true. I mean, I suppose it’s true that Christians no longer celebrate the Sabbath from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday — but don’t Christians traditionally go to church on Sundays? And isn’t it supposed to be a day of rest?
So maybe the day people set aside is different but, so what?
As you say, Jews are, in fact, commanded scripturally to keep the Sabbath holy. It’s in the Ten Commandments, yes. As I understand it, however, believers Jesus Christ generally believe that everything they have, and every moment they live, belongs to the Lord. At the very minimum, and as much as they are able, they happily give G-d the first tenth of their income (tithe) because they believe everything they have belongs to Him. So it is not out of any forced obligation, but joyfully, willingly, that Christians set aside one day each week to honor G-d, because every day truly belongs to him! (This is exactly what observant Jews believe.) Is this not the case?
Obviously there are different levels of observance, but most Jews accept the idea that while they may not “choose” to go to temple, it is still the Sabbath. We are commanded to keep the Sabbath — not necessarily attend to a specific synagogue. Jews don’t have to go anywhere or commune with a rabbi. So long as we have a Torah, we’re good.
When it comes to attending services, Jews and Christians are much more alike than your post implies.
I’m so glad you read and commented, Renee. I knew I’d get some of the details of Sabbath wrong and hoped you’d correct me. Christians are encouraged not to forsake gathering themselves together, but there is no specific command that such gathering take place in a church. In fact, the use of the word church to mean a building is a misnomer that crept into Christianity sometime back in the Middle Ages. When the New Testament speak of the church, it refers to the body of Christ, which can be all believers or any gathering of two or more believers.
Very interesting and clarifying. Thanks.
You’re welcome, Sharon.
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Thank you, Bryan. I appreciate your comment, and I followed you on Twitter.
I saw…thanks for the follow. Always love being connected to people like yourself!