Welcome. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you believe in God, and perhaps you also believe that the Christian Bible is God’s written revelation to humanity. Maybe you also believe that the seventh day of each week – the Sabbath – is a special day, declared holy by God as a gift to all humanity – named Saturday after the Roman designation of centuries past. Or perhaps you are just curious about the Sabbath, about why some Christians worship God on that day, rather than on Sunday.
This series is intended (1) to explain what we believe about God’s Sabbath; (2) to lay out in adequate detail the bases for our beliefs; and (3) to explain why so many Christians around the world today – and for many centuries past – attach no particular significance to the seventh day as a day declared holy by God.
Since the best place to start is usually at the beginning, we’ll start with the account of creation in the Bible in the book of beginnings – Genesis – where we are told that God created the universe over the span of six nights and days. Without quibbling over the actual length of those original nights and days – after all, the Bible also informs us that with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day – we can in any case concede that the language of Genesis, which of course is meant to be understood by humans, is representative of what we humans experience as 24-hour cycles composed of daylight and darkness.
Genesis chapter 2, verses 3 and 3 inform us: By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (All scripture quotations will be from the New International Version of the Christian Bible.)
From those verses we conclude that virtually from the beginning God, the creator of the universe, established the seventh day as holy and as a day of rest.
Fast forward to the half-way point of Exodus, the second book in the Bible, and we find the creation of what we know as God’s Ten Commandments, written, the Bible informs us, on two stone tablets by God Himself with his own finger atop Mount Sinai on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
The fourth of the Commandments pertains to the Sabbath day. Quoting from Exodus chapter 20, verses 8-11:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it Holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath Day and made it holy.
God would later declare to Moses that the Sabbath will be a lasting sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested. (Exodus 31:17)
From these Bible passages we believe that all people everywhere who worship the One True God – the creator of the world – have been called from the very beginning to observe this special day – the Sabbath – as a Holy day and a day of rest based on God’s personal declaration.
Although God’s chosen people, the Israelites, were not always faithful, the status of the seventh day – the Sabbath – as a Holy day of rest did not change throughout the tumultuous events of history recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible.
In our next presentation, we will examine the Sabbath as it was observed in the time of Jesus and in the earliest decades of Christianity as recorded in the New Testament. Were God’s commands annulled? Or is the seventh day still Holy, even today?