The Sabbath: For Christians To Keep?

The Sabbath: For Christians To Keep?

The word Sabbath is from the Hebrew root “to cease” or “to desist.” It is the holy day of the week for Jews when they stop work, rest and go to the synagogue. It was given to the Jews, along with circumcision, as a sign of the covenant that God had made with them. Orthodox Jews are still very conscientious about observing this day.

One needs to remember that it was given to the Jews at Mount Sinai and is part of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:8-11). The God rested on the seventh day after six days of work, an example for Israel to follow.

When Israel failed to observe the Sabbath the prophets condemned them for breaking the covenant. There is no mention of Sabbath keeping prior to this. It is a distinctive sign of the covenant that God made with Israel, “a perpetual covenant” (Ex. 34:12). God said to them, “Surely my Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you” (Ex. 34:13 NKJ).

But God is through with the old covenant.


The book of Hebrews was written before the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. when animal sacrifices would cease there. “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12) “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” (Heb. 8:13).

Under the teaching of the apostles the early churches moved away from Judaism. There are many strong warnings not to go back to circumcision and the keeping of the law (Gal. 1). The churches then moved away from observing the Sabbath as a day of rest and worship to the first day of the week, the day that Christ arose (Acts 20:i7).

The new covenant is elastic, like a new wine skin, not rigid with all the rules of Judaism, the Torah plus all of the traditions of the elders. Today Christians can celebrate the first day of the week as a day of rest and worship, but without a multitude of detailed rules about what is permitted. If you go back to the law, you must keep it all. Remember that it is obsolete. Rejoice in the new covenant, sealed with Christ’s precious blood. Rejoice in your liberty as a child of God.

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Donald Norbie

Donald Norbie was born in 1923 in Minnesota. He was saved in 1938. He continued his college education after World War II and serving in the U. S. Navy. After completing his graduate work, Donald and his wife, Marie, were commended to the Lord’s work by their assembly in Wheaton, Illinois in 1949. He taught at Emmaus Bible School for three years. After this, he and his family moved to Oklahoma to evangelize and teach the Bible. In 1970, they moved to Colorado and have lived there ever since. Mr. Norbie continues to be active in evangelism, teaching, and writing.