Categorized | Sabbath Observance

Sabbath Observance in History and Scripture

We believe that the Sabbath was instituted in Eden before sin entered, that it was honored of God, set apart by divine appointment, and given to mankind as the perpetual memorial of a finished creation. It was based upon the fact that God Himself had rested from His work of creation, had blessed His Sabbath, or rest day, and had sanctified it, or set it apart for man (Gen. 2:1-3; Mark 2:27). We believe, further, that it was none other than the Son of God Himself, the second person of the eternal Godhead, who was the Creator of Genesis 1:13, and who therefore appointed the original Sabbath (John 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16, 17; Heb. 11:1, 2).

While the Sabbath is enshrined in the very heart of the commandments of God, it must be remembered that Jesus said, “The Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:28). In other words, He is its author and its maker. He is its protector. The Sabbath is the “sabbath of the Lord [Jehovah] thy God” (Ex. 20:10).

150

Hence Christ is its Lord; the Sabbath belongs to Him. It is His day; it is the Lord’s day. Inasmuch as we, His blood-bought children, belong to Him and live in Him, and He lives in us (Gal. 2:20), how natural that Sabbath observance, among other expressions of love and loyalty to Him, should be revealed in our lives.

We understand that the Sabbath was not initially given simply to provide rest from physical exhaustion, but was for man’s highest good—spiritually, intellectually, and physically. It was primarily for fellowship with God, inasmuch as it is the presence of God that gives rest and makes holy. But after man’s fall, it also provided needful physical rest as well.

Many centuries later, the weekly seventh-day Sabbath was reaffirmed at Sinai (Ex. 20:8-11; 31:16, 17). God gave His chosen people an organized system of worship. This Sabbath precept was placed in the midst of the moral law, or Ten Commandments, which were given by God to man. The law enunciated principles that are eternal and that, in their application to this earth, are based upon the abiding relationships of man to God and man to man. The Sabbath thus reminds man of Christ’s work as Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, and now, because of sin, as Redeemer.

In addition, certain yearly festivals, or ceremonial sabbaths, falling on specified days of the month and connected with the Mosaic sacrificial services, were introduced. These prefigured the gospel provision of salvation through the coming “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). But the Decalogue, sealed with the lip and finger of God,

151

was lifted above all Jewish rites and ceremonies. This is evident from the fact that the Sabbath was established before man sinned, and therefore before he had any need of a Redeemer. It was not a part of the ceremonial regulations occasioned by the entrance of sin, and which were annulled by the death of Christ (Col. 2:17). Thus the. Ten Commandments and the gospel in figure, in inseparable union, were affirmed to Israel of old.

So the Sabbath, established in Eden, was kept by patriarch, prophet, and people of God throughout the centuries of pagan darkness. And when Christ came, at His incarnation, He likewise observed the seventh day as the Sabbath (Mark 6:1, 2; Luke 4:16, 31), and was “Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:28)—the Creator who had established the original seventh-day Sabbath of creation week.

He also fulfilled, in antitypical reality, the Old Testament types of redemption—dying as the “Lamb of God,” a vicarious, completely efficacious, and atoning death for man, on the specified fourteenth (or Passover) day of the first month. The Saviour died, we believe, on the sixth day of the week. Then, after remaining in the tomb over the seventh-day Sabbath, Christ rose triumphant over death on the first day of the week. The typical ceremonial system ceased when Christ completed His great redemptive act. But the Decalogue and the gospel-in-actuality remained as the Christian’s continuing guide, one setting forth the standard, and the other providing the enabling power for its observance.

152

The texts in the New Testament specifically mentioning the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:1, 2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7, 8; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2) cannot rightly be construed as enjoining the observance of Sunday, or as transferring the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day.

The seventh-day Sabbath continued to be kept by Christ’s followers for several centuries. But along with the Sabbath there was a growing observance of what was known as the festival of the resurrection, celebrated on the first day. This was observed at least from the middle of the second century (see Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, V. 22). And the first recorded observance was at Rome (Justin Martyr, First Apology, ch. 67).

Thus these two observances—the Sabbath and the “festival of the resurrection”—came, in time, to parallel each other. In the fourth century the apostatizing church—first, at the Council of Laodicea (in canon 29)*—anathematized those who continued to “Judaize,” or rest on the seventh day of the week, and decreed the observance of the first day in its stead (Hefele, History of the Councils of the Church, vol. 2, p. 316). Thus ecclesiastical custom was first enforced by church council action.

Seventh-day Adventists believe that this very change was predicted in Bible prophecy, in Daniel 7:25. The church in Rome led out in bringing about the change to Sunday. Thenceforth Sunday was observed by most Christians, before, during, and following the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. The Sabbath, however, still continued to be observed by some in various parts of Europe and elsewhere.
_______
*The canons of the provincial Council of Laodicea were incorporated into the law of the church by action of the general Council of Chalcedon, 451, and thus became obligatory for all churches.

153

The revival of seventh-day Sabbath observance was largely brought about in the seventeenth century by the Seventh Day Baptist movement in Britain and on the Continent. Seventh-day Adventists began the promulgation of the Sabbath truth about 1845-46 in America.

We believe that the restoration of the Sabbath is indicated in the Bible prophecy of Revelation 14:9-12. Sincerely believing this, we regard the observance of the Sabbath as a test of our loyalty to Christ as Creator and Redeemer.

Seventh-day Adventists do not rely upon their Sabbathkeeping as a means of salvation or of winning merit before God. We are saved by grace alone. Hence our Sabbath observance, as also our loyalty to every other command of God, is an expression of our love for our Creator and Redeemer.

Leave a Reply