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Keeping the Sabbath Commandment in Jesus Christ

by David A. DePra

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made;

and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had

made. 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 2:2-3)

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall you

labor, and do all your work. But the seventh day is the sabbath of

the LORD thy God. In it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son,

nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle,

nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord

made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested

the seventh day. Wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day,

and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11)

     The fourth commandment is the sabbath commandment. It is a

command to abstain from work on the seventh day. And of course,

the seventh day is Saturday. There is no argument or dispute

about this. Saturday has always been the day the Jews have

honored as the sabbath. This goes back thousands of years.

     The sabbath commandment is, of course, based on the fact

that God rested from creating the heavens and earth. Thus, it is not

an arbitrary day which God picked. God did not simply assign a

day of rest for no reason. The sabbath is the seventh day as a

direct result of God having rested on the seventh day -- once His

work of creating the world was finished.

     Today Christians do not keep the sabbath. We do not honor

Saturday any more than we honor one of the other days of the

week. We work on Saturday and usually do not worship on that

day. To us, the seventh day is just another day. And as we will

see, there is nothing wrong with this. It is acceptable in the eyes of


     Most Christians today consider Sunday to be the day of worship.

But we usually don't call it the "sabbath." In addition, we don't keep

Sunday AS the sabbath -- in other words, we often do work on that

day, or at least, do many things which the original sabbath

command would have prohibited.

     The reason Christians keep Sunday as the day of worship, rather

than Saturday as the sabbath, is that we believe things changed

once Jesus was raised from the dead. We believe that Sunday

was the day of the resurrection, and that it was at that point that God

designated it as the day of worship. This tradition likewise goes

back two-thousand years or so. As we will see, this too is

acceptable in the eyes of God.

The Commandment of Grace

     There are entire denominations, both Christian and cultic, which

do not accept Sunday as the day of worship. They insist that the

sabbath remains Saturday, the seventh day. They insist that to say

otherwise means that God CHANGED one of the ten

commandments. The most notable group which has these beliefs

is the Seventh Day Adventist church.

     This argument must be addressed. But in doing so, we will not

only find the solution to this question, but a wonderful Truth about the

sabbath commandment which applies to us today. For embedded

in the ancient sabbath commandment of God -- the fourth

commandment of THE TEN -- is the gospel of grace in Jesus


     That may seem shocking. But it is true. The gospel of Jesus

Christ -- that we are saved and preserved by grace, and not our

works -- is one of the ten commandments. Thousands of years

before Jesus Christ, God had already wrapped up this Truth and

symbolized it in His ten commandments.

Has the Commandment Changed?

     Those who argue that we must keep the seventh day today,

just as Israel was commanded long ago, have a point upon which

they base their argument. They say that if God changed the

sabbath from Saturday to Sunday that He changed one of the ten

commandments. And would not this contradict the many scriptures

which assure us that God's law is unchangable? In addition, would

it not open the door to us saying that God changed some of the

OTHER ten commandments?

     If the fourth commandment merely stated, "Remember the

sabbath day and keep it holy," we could argue that God has the

freedom to change the sabbath to whatever day He pleases. But

the commandment does not stop there. It specifically identifies the

SEVENTH day as the day. It says we must keep the SEVENTH

day as our day of rest because GOD rested on that day. So it is

pretty difficult to divorce the sabbath from the seventh day. You

really do have to make a wholesale change in the commandment

to do so.

     There are other problems, too. There is not a single verse in the

New Testament which says that we are to worship on Sunday. Not

a teaching and not an example. The best anyone has suggested

is I Corinthians 16:1. There Paul writes, "Now concerning the

collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of

Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one

of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be

no gatherings when I come."

     This verse has been used to show that Christians were already

meeting on Sunday. But take a look at it. If we weren't trying to find

an indication that Sunday was the day of worship, would that verse

really prove anything to us? Not at all. Paul does not say, "Now

concerning the day of worship....." Rather, he says, "Now,

concerning the collection for the saints...." THAT is the context and

his purpose. The fact that he told them that the first day of the week

would be a good day to take up the collection carries no special

significance. He gives them only this reason for collecting on the

first day of the week: "That there be no gatherings when I come."

     Paul, for reasons unknown, did not want collections taken when

he was there visiting. So he suggested they be taken ahead of

time. If we want to grab this passage and make a doctrine out of

it, we might also say that collections should never be taken on the

day of worship -- because Paul certain would have been there for

that day when he came. And he didn't want them to have to collect

offerings "when I come."

     So we see that there isn't any indication anywhere as to a

change from Saturday to Sunday. In fact, if there was any change

at all which we find mentioned in the New Testament, it is from

Saturday to NO day in particular at all. The New Testament speaks

speaks loud and clear to the fact that all days are now alike unto

the Lord:

One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every

day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He

that regards the day, regards it unto the Lord; and he that regards

not the day, to the Lord he does not regard it. (Rom. 14:5-6)

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of

an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days. Which

are a shadow of things to come; but the body (reality and

substance) is of Christ. (Col. 2:16-17)

     If the sabbath commandment were in force, whether we think it be

Saturday or Sunday, how could Paul possibly write these words?

He could not write them. It would be impossible. Thus, we see that

something HAD happened regarding the fourth commandment, the

sabbath commandment. But not a change from Saturday to

Sunday. The change was completely outside of THAT alternative.

Fulfillments and Types

     The scripture quoted above, from Colossians 2:16-17, reveals to

us, in a nutshell, the key to understanding many of these sabbath

and holy day issues. In the Old Testament, God gave Israel

seven annual holy days to keep, in addition to the sabbath. The

keeping of these holy days was NOT optional. The were HOLY

days and just as important as the seventh day sabbath. But Paul

is now, after the resurrection, able to tell us the purpose behind

them. They were a "shadow" of things to come. But the reality of

those "shadows" HAS come. That reality is Jesus Christ Himself.

     Everyone of the annual holy days has been fulfilled in Jesus

Christ. Christ IS our passover. Christ is the fulfillment of the days of

unleavened bread -- He has taken away sin. Christ IS the first

fruits of those raised from the dead. Pentecost HAS come through

the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The trumpet has sounded, and

the ingathering of God's harvest has begun in Christ -- and will

culminate at His Second Coming. The day of Atonement is totally

fulfilled in God's judgment of sin in Jesus Christ. And in Jesus

Christ, God has made His tabernacle in men. We ARE the temple

of God.

     But wait. What about the sabbath day? What about the

seventh day? How has that been fulfilled in Jesus Christ?

We begin to find the answer by turning to the book of Hebrews:

For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the

word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them

that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest....For

He spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise,

"And God did rest the seventh day from all his works." And in this

place again, "If they shall enter into my rest." Seeing therefore it

remains that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first

preached entered not in because of unbelief, again he limits a

certain day, saying in David, Today, after so long a time; as it is

said, "Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." For if

Joshua had given them rest, then would he not afterward have

spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the

people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath

ceased from his own works, as God did from his. (Heb. 4:2-10)

     What we find here is a completely different concept of the

sabbath rest. Paul is using the promised land as a "type" of

sabbath rest. But then he brings this forward as a spiritual type for

us. He says, "We which have believed DO enter into rest." What

rest? The rest which is the result of God's grace in Jesus Christ.

We see this when Paul adds, "For he that enters into His rest (in

Jesus Christ), ceases from his own works, as God did from His."

     Do we see what God is saying here? He is saying that if we,

by faith, enter into the free gift of God in Jesus Christ, that we will

do what? -- we will cease from our own works, just as God did

from HIS, when He created the world. In other words, if we, by faith,

embrace the grace of God in Jesus Christ, we are keeping the

the sabbath, the fourth commandment.

     The fourth commandment is actually a spiritual type of the very

gospel of grace. Wrapped up in it is the New Covenant itself. God

is saying, "You keep the sabbath by ceasing from your own works,

and by faith, entering into the rest provided by Jesus Christ." We

KEEP the sabbath, not by doing, but by believing. For Paul says,

"We which have believed DO ENTER His rest."

     Now we can see that keeping the sabbath no longer has

anything to do with keeping a day. It has nothing to do with physical

work. It has to do with believing and resting in Jesus Christ. Jesus

IS God's sabbath. He is our rest.

This is the Work of God

     All of this Truth about the real fulfillment of the sabbath in Jesus

Christ is a theme which runs throughout the Bible. We can start right

back in the book of Hebrews, with the verse following the above

quoted passage:

Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after

the same example of unbelief. (Heb. 4:11)

     Note the "therefore" of this verse. Paul is saying that BECAUSE

there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God -- through God's

grace in Jesus Christ -- THEREFORE "let us labor to enter into that


     But this is a rather ironic way to put it. How does one LABOR

to enter God's rest, when God has already said that it is by FAITH

alone that we enter the rest? Futhermore, how does one LABOR to

enter the rest when God has already said that "he who enters his

rest, cease from his own works (labor) as God did from His?" Is

there a contradiction here?

     No. But there is a play on words here. It is a play on words which

reveals to us a great deal of Truth.

     We are able to understand what the writer of Hebrews means in

this passage by reading another passage from John. There we

find a very similiar play on words by Jesus:

Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which

endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto

you. For Him has God the Father sealed. Then said they unto Him,

"What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" Jesus

answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye

believe on him whom he hath sent. (Jn. 6:27-29)

     Jesus here tells the crowds the same thing we read in Hebrews.

He says, "Labor for that which God shall freely give." How do you

labor for a free gift? We need not guess, for that is exactly what the

crowds asked Jesus. They asked, "What shall we DO that we

might WORK the works of God?", that is, "What labor shall we do to

receive this 'meat which endures unto everlasting life?'"

     Jesus answered, "THIS is the work of God: Believe." Period.

In other words, Jesus is saying, "You want to labor. You want to

earn from God. But it is impossible. You cannot. So I'll tell you what

kind of work you CAN do. You can believe. You can believe, and

stand by faith, in all that I have done for you. And if you do, God will

accept your faith as the one work which is greater than all the good

deeds and law keeping you might have performed."

     Faith is therefore a work; a labor. But not in the conventional

sense. Faith, in effect, is the work by which we take all of our other

works, and put them aside. By that same faith we then place our

full reliance upon the finished work of Jesus Christ, and embrace

God's free gift of grace.

     So that is now twice we have seen FAITH likened to a work;

likened to "labor." But there is yet another place where faith is not

merely likened to a work, but is directly CALLED a work:

Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count

you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of His

goodness, and the WORK OF FAITH with power, that the name

of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him,

according of the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

(I Thes. 1:11-12)

     Here faith is directly called a work to be fulfilled. But unto what

end? That God may be glorified according to the GRACE of Jesus

Christ. Thus, we have the "work" or "labor" of faith, resulting in the

grace of God having it's way in us.

     Faith IS a work. But it is a work which casts us into full trust and

reliance in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Thus, we "labor" to

believe by taking all of our works and surrendering them in favor

of full faith and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Keeping God's Real Sabbath

     The sabbath commandment is a command to enter into God's

rest by faith. To keep that commandment, we must cease from our

own works, and place our faith in His finished work. Then, and only

then, are we RESTING on that "day."

     God rested on the seventh day -- seven denoting spiritual

perfection. Of course, God wasn't tired. His rest is indicative of

a ceasation of work -- due to the fact that things were FINISHED

and complete. WE now rest from our labors because we believe

that in Jesus Christ, the NEW creation is finished and complete.

There is no work left to do. We need only embrace, and enter into

His rest by faith.

     The type continues the more we think about it. God forbade

work on the sabbath. If you broke the sabbath, it meant death. Such

is the case spiritually. You cannot keep the sabbath in Jesus Christ

if you are "working" -- that is -- doing your own works. No. You must

CEASE from all of your labors -- from trying to maintain God's grace

towards you through your works. You must stop trying to do for

yourself what God has already done. But if you won't stop, then you

do not believe. You are therefore denying the grace of God. The

end of such a thing is death to your spirit.

     Isn't it marvelous that God, right from the begining of creation, had

revealed His Truth of grace, and His intentions towards us, in one of

THE ten commandments?

Jesus said,

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will

give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am

meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For

my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:28-30)

Likewise, Isaiah was inspired to write:

If you turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure

on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD,

honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor

finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words, then shall

you delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the

high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy

father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. (Is. 58:13-14)

     In Jesus Christ we are set free from the burden of having to work.

We need only enter into HIM -- for He IS our rest. And if we will do

so, we will find that the result will be a life filled with good works -- but

not works we do in order to finish what Christ started. They will be

good works which are the result of Christ's finished work in US.

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