Mainstream Christianity needs to repent and restore the holy day of rest, the Sabbath
It is past the time to restore the holy day of rest, the Sabbath. I believe with all of my being that *mainstream Christianity needs to repent from the sin of neglect and degradation of the 4th Commandment. It needs to repent and restore the Sabbath as a holy day of rest as God commanded. It should be part of the “restoration talk” we hear so much about in mainstream Christianity nowadays.
Our polluting of the Sabbath with “doing our own thing” and “business as usual” such as shopping, going to movie theatres, gardening, home maintenance, spit braais after church service to sell the food for fundraising, etcetera, brings dishonor to God’s name among the people of the world.
How will the world know that we are “set apart, holy people” if we do exactly what they do on the “day of rest”, namely pleasing self.
On the holy day of rest Christians used to…
On the holy day of rest Christians used to… go to church services and their children to Sunday School. In South Africa shopping on Sunday (mainstream Christianity’s holy day of rest) was almost unheard of right into the 1980s.
After church service they would go home and have a quiet day with a family Sunday lunch and quiet, afternoon rest. Playing non-Christian music was not allowed and reading Christian literature or the Bible was encouraged. There was no television in South Africa until 1967 to amuse people. In the late afternoon the sick at home or in hospital would be visited and prayed for at their bedside. In general, Sunday was a day of worship of God, Christian fellowship, and rest.
Do you remember that? I do.
The disintegration of the holy day of rest, the Sabbath
The disintegration of the holy day of rest started when 7-day-a-week shopping and entertainment was legalized. The exception were liquor stores. For a time after the legalizing of 7-day-a-week shopping, most Christians stayed away on Sundays from shopping malls and entertainment centres after attending church services in the morning. But then…
It became convenient to “quickly pop into the supermarket” after church service and yes, not long after that, it became a habit. Then there would be a movie at the theatre that the kids wanted to see and yes, the family went to see a Sunday afternoon movie and so Christians digressed into “doing their own thing” on Sundays.
You know what I am saying, I am not the only one who did this. The Sabbath commandment, which existed from the beginning of creation, disintegrated into another day except for the church service attendance.
Now in 2018 there is almost no observance of the holy day of rest by mainstream Christianity and many Christians don’t even attend church on Sundays, they rather sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast, often at a restaurant in the shopping mall.
My personal journey back to the holy day of rest, the Sabbath
I have felt convicted (note – not condemned) about my neglect of the Sabbath for a few years but only truly repented about a year ago and made changes necessary to keep it as a holy day and a day of rest. This happened after being confronted by two indisputable biblical facts during Bible study, research and meditation.
The first biblical fact is that the Ten Commandments have not ceased being relevant after Jesus walked on the earth. He and the Apostle writers actually confirmed it time and again. The second biblical fact is that the 4th commandment (of the Ten Commandments) is God’s command to rest on the 7th day of the week (the Sabbath) from all work and observe it as a “holy day”.
Do not use the word “but”
Do not use the word “but… didn’t Jesus say, to the Pharisees who challenged Him because he healed a man on the Sabbath, ‘will you not take your calf out of the well when it falls in on a Sabbath?’” So I excused shopping in the supermarket after church as an emergency similar to “taking the calf out of the well,” even though I could have shopped ahead of time.
We try to justify ourselves with a “but”.
No teaching from pulpits
Nowadays, there is hardly ever any teaching or exhortation from pulpits about the polluting of the holy day of rest, the Sabbath (or should I rather say Sunday?). Mainstream Christianity hardly ever use the word “Sabbath” and the absence of any teaching results in Christians “doing their own thing” just as the world does.
A whole generation has now grown up without Biblical teaching on the keeping of the commandments of God and, inter alia, the Sabbath. They grew up on teaching of grace, abundant life and prosperity. Is it any wonder the Body of Christ has become powerless in an ever growing evil world? We want everything the world has with a “Christian wrapping” around it of “abundant life”.
If you are honest you will agree we now have no day of the week in mainstream Christianity that meets the requirements of the 4th commandment. We do not regard the 7th day as a holy day of rest, namely Saturday and we do not, on our **Sundays, do that either (or very few of us do).
What does God’s Word, the Bible, teach us?
But is this acceptable to the Lord God? What does God’s Word, the Bible, teach us? Let me start by referring you to 2 Timothy 3:14-16 (please read it).
Here is Exodus 20:8 – 11 in the NASB translation of the Bible –
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner (stranger/refuge) who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (emphases mine)
This is part of the Ten Commandments. It is a holy day. It is the seventh day of the week and not the first day of the week. This last statement I will not elaborate on now. I want to concentrate on the fact that, mainstream Christianity has allowed the “day of rest”, which is Sunday (as changed by the Roman Catholic Church), to be anything but holy and labour free!
Yes! Mainstream Christianity and its leadership has allowed that – not world governments but the Church universally known as the Body of Christ.
God wants us to be refreshed and draw near to him on the Sabbath
Exodus 31:15, 17 also NASB translation of the Bible reads –
“For six days work may be done but on the seventh day there is a Sabbath of complete rest, holy unto the Lord; whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall surely be put to death. It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth but on the seventh day He ceased from labour and was refreshed.”
God wants us to be refreshed, to meditate and draw near to him on the holy day of rest. It is a commandment that builds our relationship with God. The world has slid further down a slippery slope of debauchery because we as Christians are supposed to be salt and light in a rotting, darkening world.
Years ago, Christians would close their businesses on the holy day of rest and so their customers, including non-Christians, could not work either. In South Africa citizens are allowed by law to object to working on Sundays on religious ground without being discriminated against but, do they? I believe the blame for the polluting and disregard of the holy day of rest, can be put at the door of mainstream Christianity.
Jesus and the Sabbath
What do we know about Jesus and the Sabbath from the New Testament?
In Mark 2:23-28 and in Mark 3: 1-5 (please read it) Jesus says the following:
“the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath”, and “the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath”; and
“is it lawful to do good instead of harm on the Sabbath day, to save a life or to kill?”
So what is that saying to us concerning the strict instructions in Exodus regarding the Sabbath? It is my understanding that Jesus, the Perfect Man declared that He is “Lord even of the Sabbath” and that ‘the Sabbath was created for man”, and to me it means that it is not a law of rule but a law of love. God’s intention, I believe, for the 4th Commandment was because of His love and care for us.
God knows we need one day in seven days to rest from the physical labour, mental and emotional stress to quiet ourselves and draw close to Him. One day in seven! If someone needs healing then pray for healing or if you are called out to an emergency then go. It is the same as releasing your animal which have fallen in a ditch. Helping in need is not breaking the Sabbath as a holy day. Working and going about your business, is however.
Jesus did not say that they could carry on with their daily work, or that anyone else in their household could carry on with chores. He never advocated “business as usual” on the holy day of rest.
In Luke 4:16 Jesus went into the Synagogue to teach on the Sabbath. So he fulfilled and did what the 4th commandment required, namely to assemble, teach and meditate on the word of God and not do any work.
The New Testament confirms Ten Commandments
Jesus says in Matt 5:17 – 20 That He did not come to abolish the Law (Ten Commandments) and the Prophets but to fulfill it (i.e. He totally kept it). He says in verse 19, “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven,…” He ends in verse 20 by saying that “…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The Pharisees and teachers of the law kept the letter of the law. We are to keep the “heartbeat” of the law i.e. see beyond the letter to the depth of meaning and do that.
Acts 13: 14 – 16 – “… and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets…”
Acts 16: 12 – 13 – “… and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city… a Roman colony… and on the Sabbath day we went outside the gates to a riverside… a place of prayer.”
Acts17:3 – “… he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures.”
Heb. 8:10b “…I will put My laws in their minds and write them on their hearts, I will be their God, and they will be my people.”.
The holy day of rest, the Sabbath was never annulled in the New Testament
It is clear from these Bible references that the Ten Commandments including keeping the the holy day of rest, the Sabbath was never annulled. Sabbath as the holy day of rest was focused around teaching, studying and meditating on God’s Word in an assembly – it could take a major part of the day. The important point is that the Apostles always used the Sabbath to meet in synagogues or a “place of prayer” to assemble and teach.
Why? Because people worked and did their business on the other six days of the week. Yes, they also met as church leadership on the first day of the week together to “break bread” but that does not at all mean or imply that the 1st day of the week replaced the Sabbath or that “breaking bread” always meant holy communion. To make that assumption, without clear New Testament instruction, is far fetched I believe.
We need to rest one day in seven
To restore the commandment regarding the Sabbath we need to cease all labour and worship God. We need to rest one day in seven. Our rat race lives with pressures and our time with i-phones and tablets, call for that. We drive ourselves or are driven by others to do more, get more, be more. We desperately need the holy day of rest to refresh and restore.
Switch off, for once, your i-phone and television on the holy day of rest. Announce to your household your decision and get them to participate. Connect with your family. Experience the difference in your week. No burnout!
Jer. 6:16 (Amplified version) “Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads and look; and ask for the eternal paths, where the good, old way is; then walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk in it!” (Emphasis mine)
What will you do?
There is a blessing attached
“Blessed is the man who refuses to work during my Sabbath days of rest, but honors them;…” (Isaiah 56.2 Living Bible translation). Who does not want a blessing from God?
God will bless you with mental alertness, physical refreshing and spiritual growth.
If our loving God made it a commandment then He, as our Creator, surely knows and understands how much we need to assemble around His Word and rest from all work one day in seven. After all, He rested on the seventh day after creating all that is, seen and unseen!
It is my fervent prayer that God’s people will restore the Sabbath as a holy day of rest.
*Mainstream Christianity in this post excludes the Seventh Day Adventist Church and any Messianic Jewish Fellowships.
**As declared by the Roman Catholic Church around 365 AD due to Antisemitism and adopted by the Reformation. Do your own online research about this historical fact.