SHOULD WE OBSERVE
"And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from
all his work which God created and made." - Genesis 2:3
"Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy." - Exodus 20:8
Many people who believe that Yeshua is the Messiah
are very uncomfortable over the issue of the Sabbath day.
Observing Sunday is a deeply honored traditional day
of worship. AND YET... The scriptural precedent and
authority for Sunday observance is clouded at best.
Many people who have maintained a deep and abiding
devotion to serving Adonai, and have a deeply engrained
"Sunday Worship" tradition are deeply disturbed over
Equally disturbing is the inflammatory rhetoric
which has been engaged in by individuals and religious
groups on both side of the issue. Others are disturbed
by what they find when they confront the full force of
what the scriptures say about this issue with the intention
of casting aside their comfort zone and opening themselves
up to the possibility that they may yet come to a more mature
knowledge of the truth.
This is NOT a simple issue easily resolved with a few pat
answers and some handy proof texts!
A number of key questions about the Sabbath need to be
considered before we can come to a resolution which
respectfully treats all, even those with a different
understanding than our own, who brings a genuine desire
to seek the will of Adonai to the discussion.
1. Was the Sabbath just for Israel?
2. Is a Gentile Believer supposed to
keep the Ten Commandments?
3. Is a Gentile Believer required to keep the Sabbath?
4. Did Sunday replace Saturday as "the holy day"?
5. Is there clear scriptural example for replacing
the Sabbath with Sunday worship?
Oddly enough, one of the first keys to understanding a clear biblical principle
involved in this issue is to see some of the facts concerning Noah's Animals!
Noah was to take seven of the "clean" and only two of the "unclean" animals into the Ark. (Gen. 7:2-3)
How did Noah know which were "clean" and which were "unclean?" "Clean" and "Unclean"
are theological definitions which are defined in the Law of Moses. Torah assumes that
Noah understood the details of clean and unclean long before the Torah was given. It is obvious
that we have to come to one of three different conclusions - either (1) The statement about
Noah's dealing with the clean and unclean animals was an anachronism inserted in a tribal legend,
or (2) Some instructions from G*d from before the time Torah was written were not written down and
included in our canon of scriptures, or (3) many principles which were later codified in the Torah
were clearly recognized as proper responses to G*d long before they were codified in Torah. Answer #1
is unacceptable to those who believe that Torah is divinely inspired. Answer's two or three all point to
the inescapable conclusion that we must not conclude that all of Torah is a part of some "Law of Moses"
which many bible scholars have concluded is "inferior" and no longer in effect.
We have no record that Noah was ever circumcised. He most definitely was not a part of the covenant
of circumcision which was cut with one of his descendents. Noah was still able to understand complex
evaluations which we tend, if we just look at the surface of Torah, to consider to have been first
introduced at Sinai.
The Origin of the Sabbath
When Yeshua taught that "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.." (Mark 2:27)
His words do not point back to the Ten Commandments. They point to the action of G*d long before
the giving of the Ten Commandments. They point to the original purpose and will of G*d. The Sabbath
came into being as a final crowning part of the act of Creation. It was set apart at creation for
the benefit of humanity. G*d's Sabbath rest was a divine example for the benefit of man. (Genesis 2:1-3).
The first place the word "Sabbath" (from the Hebrew verb shabbat, meaning "to rest from labor"; the day of rest)
is used is in Exodus 16:23.
"And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said,
Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the LORD: bake that
which ye will bake today, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that
which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning."
- Exodus 16:23
Notice that this takes place BEFORE the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai.
They were to gather twice as much on the sixth day in anticipation of a day they were either observing or,
at the very least, understood that they were supposed to be observing.
This gives us a very strong indication that:
The Sabbath was instituted and being observed by those who wanted to accurately serve G*d
long before Torah was given at Sinai: The strong indication is that it was understood and observed
by G*d-fearers since Creation.
The commandment to observe the Sabbath, as given in the Ten Commandments, was just exactly like the other
commandments. It was a well-known principle. It was generally understood to be a part of G*d's plan for humanity.
It was codified into Torah (often called "The Law of Moses") because of human failure to honor what they obviously knew G*d
wanted them to do. Men demonstrated a failure to keep other principles taught by G*d, and those principles
were then specified in the Torah.
That the Sabbath had been ordained prior to Sinai is even accounted for in the very wording
of Exodus 20:8: The statement "Remember..." indicates prior knowledge.
Observing the Sabbath was part of the covenant which G*d
made with Israel at Sinai. Is It Applicable to All People?
We have shown that the Sabbath precedes the Mosaic covenant. It would seem reasonable to understand that some
supposed annulment of that covenant would only annul the Sabbath instructions of that covenant. The pre-Mosaic
principle is still applicable to all who want the benefits of keeping the Sabbath. The setting apart of the Shabbot acknowledges the physical need of humanity for a Sabbath of rest. We are so constituted that the welfare of our bodies requires that we rest from ordinary labor at least one day in seven. The failure of many people to set aside a day of total rest may account for the staggering toll which stress takes on people in our modern society.
G*d set Himself, on the seventh day of creation, as the ultimate example. How can we ignore this ultimate example?
If we do really love G*d, we need to spend time with Him. Indeed, we should crave to spend time with Him! We need to come to this one inescapable conclusion -- It is for our benefit! G*d is not a capricious diety like the "gods" of
the Egyptians, antagonistic to the welfare of His creation, and making capricious demands so He can watch us dance like puppets on a string. He did not command the keeping of the Sabbath to make us give up something which was really for our benefit. Failure to rest one day out of seven hurts our health, hurts our families, hurts us emotionally, and hurts us spiritually. Keeping the Sabbath is for our benefit. Can we point to a clear and unequivocal commandment that Gentiles keep the Sabbath? NO! Can we point to sound and solid reasons for them to do so? Yes, a thousand times, yes...
OBSERVING THE SABBATH ACCORDING TO TORAH
Torah sets very strict regulations for observing the Sabbath. Those regulations are a part of the covenant of Moses. Some people seem to believe that the Ten Commandments is no longer a law from G*d. Logic demands that if we were to accept this doctrine, (which we do not} then we could ONLY assume that ONLY the Mosaic regulations governing the Sabbath
were revoked. Such a revocation would not revoke a principle established long before the Sabbath itself.
Lighting a fire on the Sabbath was forbidden. Collecting food on the Sabbath was forbidden. The penalty for profaning
the Sabbath by working on it was death.
Not everything was forbidden on the Sabbath. The priests still carried on with their Tabernacle duties.
The Temple was full of activities. Circumcision was performed on the Sabbath if it was the eighth day after the
THE SABBATH IN THE BRIT CHADASA (New Testament) PERIOD
The religious leaders of Yeshua's time had twisted the Sabbath away from the true nature of G*d's intention for the day.
The true meaning of the Sabbath had been obscured by the restrictions laid upon its observance;
it had become a formal event filled with anxiety and fear about how harsh religious leades were going to view human performance. Such a Sabbath gave people no real peace and rest.
Yeshua took the same approach towards the Sabbath as He did all of the Almighty One's Torah instructions.
None of His teachings revoked even one instruction which came G*d. They revoked only those interpretations of men which violated
the original intentions of G*d's instructions. He took humanity right back to the original purpose of the instruction. This is the whole purpose and intention of the Sermon on the Mount.
Yeshua was in the custom of attending synagogue on the Sabbath. When we consider that Yeshua viewed the
Sabbath with G*d's eyes, and saw that it's observance by humanity should fulfill G*d's purpose, it was inevitable that the religious leadership
who had added so many rules would come into sharp conflict with Yeshua over the Sabbath.
His teaching upheld the authority and validity of the ORIGINAL Mosaic Sabbath instructions. He did not accept
or validate later Rabbinic ammendments. His emphasis was on the satisfaction of the will of G*d which was the reason
for the instruction in the Torah. He clarified the true meaning by showing the original reason the
Sabbath was given: The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath . - Mark 2:27
Yeshua asserted His lordship over the Sabbath. He defended His disciples for plucking grain on the Sabbath
by alluding to the time when David and his men ate the bread of the Presence. In so doing, Yeshua placed Sabbath observance in the same class as ceremonial law. Genuine, legitimate human need took precedence over
He reminded His critics that the priests in the Temple profaned the Sabbath and were held guiltless.
He referred to the circumcision of males on the Sabbath Day. Yeshua was angry with those at Capernaum who
showed more concern for ritual observance of the Sabbath than for a man who was unable to use his hand.
He was angered when the ruler of the synagogue became indignant when He healed a woman who had a spirit
of infirmity for 18 years.
In every instance of His violation of the Pharisee's rules governing the Sabbath, Yeshua placed human need above
ceremonial observance of the Sabbath. He never did or said anything to suggest that He intended to deprive
humanity of the privileges afforded by such a day of rest.
The Early Believers
The first Believers in Yeshua were loyal Jews. They worshiped daily in the Temple at Jerusalem; they attended
services in the synagogue; they revered the Torah. Rabbi Shaul is recorded in the book of Acts as having, for all of his life,
the habit of observing the Sabbath. If Rabbi Shaul's instructions in Romans, Galatians and other passages
which deal with "the Judaizing question" are carefully examined without the latent anti-semitic interpretations of "replacement theology", those instructions
are plain - they are designed to keep Gentile Believers from being afflicted with the same sort of performance anxiety which
kept many of the Jewish people of that day from gaining the true benefits intended by G*d. They were not intended to be
a whip used against Sabbath, Torah, or any of Hashem's instructions.
The dispute over the requirements of Gentile Believers was resolved at the Council at Jerusalem.
Nothing in that dispute even began to infer that Jewish Believers were ordered to or even free to abandon
The Danger of Legalism
Paul taught that "the law" was a yoke of bondage from which the Believer had been set free. What law were Believers
set free from? What was the handwriting of ordinances which was nailed to the cross? The Koine Greek word translated ordinances is "dogma." Dogma refers to MEN'S interpretations of Torah which made Torah a burden instead of a joy.
There are no grounds for making the Sabbath a heavy burden on those who would be reluctant to observe it, and who would grudgingly began to go through some ritual form of observation to avoid the disapproval of what they percieve to be
an angry diety who is demanding something burdensome of them. This type of observance always descends into some
modern form of the same religiosity which disgusted the Messiah.
IT IS NOT LEGALISM to teach that observing the seventh day Sabbath is a profitable endeaver for all Believers,
whether Jewish or Gentile. It becomes legalism when we try to force you to observe it in some particular fashion, or to observe it without it being a thing which comes from the heart. It is unbearable legalism when we impose
and enforce rules based on our experiences in life, rules about the specific details of how YOU must observe
the Sabbath for it to be a valid observance. IT IS ALSO A VICIOUS FORM OF "REVERSE LEGALISM" FOR SOMEONE TO TEACH THAT WE HAVE TO
ABANDON THE SABBATH IN ORDER TO AVOID THE LEGALISM SHAUL WAS TEACHING AGAINST.
The Sunday "Sabbath"
Many Gentile Christians now call the first day of the week "The Christian Sabbath." But has God expressly authorized
this change? According to many interpretations, Yeshua appeared, after His resurrection, to His disciples on four occasions which were on a Sunday. This became one of the major reasons for calling Sunday the "Lord's Day,"
and believing that it replaces the traditional Sabbath.
Some scriptures in the Brit Chadasha (New Testament) refer to meeting, laying by in store, or other activities
on the first day of the week. A careful examination of those scriptures will show that the word "day" was
interjected by translators, and is not found in the Koine Greek. The authority of these scriptures are even further clouded by the bragging claim of Constantine that he had successfully tampered with them.
During the first century most Messianic Jews continued the practice of observing the seventh day of the week.
Many first century Jewish (non-Messianic) sources speak of "the Nazarenes" or "Ebionites" (what non-believing Jews
called those who believed in Yeshua) whether Gentile OR Jew, as observing forms of worship almost
identical to their own, with the only distinctive difference being the teaching that Yeshua is the Messiah.
Many of those early believers observed BOTH days, the Saturday Sabbath and Sunday. The Jewish expression
of belief in Messiah was, to most outsiders, hardly distinguishable from Judaism. That branch had a strong
influence on Gentile Christianity, until the rise of Constantine to power, and then it dwindled rapidly.
Constantine introduced a very strong element of anti-Semitism into the "Christian" church.
Constantine forbade those who believed in Yeshua, on pain of death, from worshipping on the Sabbath.
Sunday worship was a convenient means of excluding Jewish believers from continued fellowship with Gentile Believers.
His reason for excluding them was clear - they would not compromise their principles and accept Constantine,
who continued to worship the Roman Sun Idol, as having any right to exert authority among those who believed in Messiah.
Most Gentiles have little knowledge of or appreciation for the trauma suffered by Jews-under the banner
of "Christ" and under the depiction of a cross. Most Gentile Christians have little or no knowledge of Christian
History from the post-Apostolic days until the time of the Protestant reformation, a time of great persecution of
Jews by people who proudly wore the name "Christian." Many of those persecutions focused on the
Jewish practice of Sabbath worship.
Degrading, abusing and abolishing Christian appreciation for the great gift of the Sabbath has been a central
part of a great Satanic effort to deprive Gentile Believers of the depth of richness which can only be mined by a deep respect for and study of the Jewish roots of their faith.
The "Christian Sabbath" Views
There are many different views about the Sabbath among those who call themselves Christians. Some groups reject
ANY observance of the Sabbath by anyone as absolute proof that the observers are mired down in "Legalism."
Some groups strongly adhere to Saturday as the Sabbath. Most of these arguments ignore one central fact - the
seventh day Sabbath is not the critical theological issue. The real issue is balancing a sense of awe and deep
respect for G*d's word with a proper understanding of our liberty in the Messiah. The Epistles to the Galatians, Colossians,
and Romans teach us that following man's dogma, that is human interpretation of the practical details of observance of
rituals, are not conditions for our acceptance by G*d. The performance of a specific set of rituals in a certain specific way
is a matter of our understanding, and we must not begin to think that those interpretive judgments become a set part of
the way G*d will deal with people for all time. Our specific ways of dealing with the practical matters of application MUST
apply the spirit and intention behind G*d's principle to OUR society and culture, but they do not, no matter how deeply
we are impressed with our own wisdom, become a permanent part of G*d's plan. This is definitely Good News! The
commandments concerning the Sabbath are few, and they are simple, and amazingly, they are purposefully vague.
They leave much for us to work out for ourselves - Remember the Sabbath Day. Keep it Holy. Don't work on the
Sabbath. The Sabbath is given for our benefit.
Through history, the practical application of these commandments has varied. We know that there was no such thing
as a Synagogue before the return from the Babylonian Captivity. Hence, there was no Synagogue service. We see little indication in either the Torah or Jewish literature that any sort of public worship was a part of Sabbath observance before the return from captivity. People stayed at home. They read the Torah. They rested. They centered their
attention on G*d.
The gospels give us a clear picture of the Messiah participating in Synagogue activities. Which plan was correct, that
of the Jews before the Babylon captivity, or that which was common afterward? Each plan began as a genuine effort to respond to the spirit of the command by G*d. It would seem that either plan, that is, staying home and doing no work while focusing on the goodness of Adonai, or going to a public worship service was acceptable
to G*d - AS LONG AS IT WAS A SINCERE RESPONSE OF THE HEART TO THE COMMANDMENT TO KEEP THE SABBATH HOLY.
Some Closing Thoughts
(1) The Sabbath is a basic part of the creation, specifically given for the benefit of man. It is not
intrinsically limited to the Mosaic Covenant.
(2) Sabbaths will be observed when Yeshua returns:
"For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall
remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name
remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to
another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to
worship before me, saith the LORD." - Isaiah 66:22, 23
(3) No scripture specifically defines REMEMBERING THE SABBATH AND KEEPING IT HOLY as gathering together on that day
for public worship.
(4) The Sabbath is intended as a time of devotion, not a subjection to burdensome rules. It is for the benefit
of man, to be taken advantage of. It is a demonstration of God's love, and a partaking of His blessing.
(5) No scripture clearly and unmistakeably says that the seventh day has been annulled and set aside.
(6) Having been freed from burdensome regulations does not mean that we must or should abandon one of the most
wonderful benefits of Creation.
(6) Any day of the week, including Sunday, is an acceptable day to worship Adonai.
(7) Participating in a public gathering for worship is not the only way which we may remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy!
(8) We should not bicker, pick at, or destroy one another over the issue. If you do not want the benefits of
G*d's Sabbath blessings, far be it from me to force them on you!
"One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day
alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." - Romans 14:5
Our Congregational Position
1. We worship on the Seventh Day Sabbath. We certainly have the freedom in Messiah to do so.
This is our congregational practice.
2. We leave it up to the conscience of members as to what they do, as individuals in their private time on the Sabbath. Whether they go shopping, carry money, participate in sports activities, or other activities
is up to the conscience of the individual.
3. We do not allow money-raising activities to be a part of our common Sabbath experience. We do have a collection
box available for those who are used to bringing their tithes and offerings to services, but we do not allow
members or visitors to use the occasion of our worship services to promote any type of selling activity.
4. There are no other rules, other than this simple one - No one is allowed to try to force the dictates of what their conscience demands as a part of their personal Sabbath observance on any other person.
5. We don't make the Sabbath a "burden": we simply encourage everyone to avail themselves of G*d's blessing.
6. We refuse to initiate or participate in any action, language, or speech which condemns or abuses people who worship on Sunday. We ask them to respect our freedom to worship on Shabbat, and we respect their freedom to worship on Sunday.
7. We have many friends who are not a part of Messiah Assembly, but who stay at home, keep the Sabbath in the way it
was kept before the return from Babylonian captivity, and who then worship on Sunday. We applaud them,
encourage them, and enjoy sweet fellowship with them.
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