The seventh day Sabbath is a law included in the Ten Commandments and a tradition that has its roots in the Old Testament books of the Bible as well as Jewish culture. For most Christians, church services and the holy day set aside for rest normally take place on Sunday in order to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ that happened on the first day of the week in the New Testament.
Several Christian sects have broken away from this traditional Sunday worship and have chosen to observe the seventh day Sabbath such as the Seventh Day Adventist church. Members of the Adventist church believe that scripture clearly illustrates the need to keep this commandment and that Christians are not exempt from resting on the seventh day of the week.
“Seventh-day Adventists affirm that if one were to keep the Sabbath, then it must be by God’s time clock, not ours,” said Dedrick Blue, Senior Pastor of Ephesus Church in New York City to The Christian Post. “Therefore Adventists observe the seventh-day Sabbath from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday.”
Shabbat Artifacts From the Museum of Jewish Heritage
Blue highlighted how the 24 hour, midnight to midnight system used in modern times does not apply to God’s time table, “the Biblical reckoning of days is from sunset to sunset or from evening to evening.” This measurement of time is clearly illustrated in the creation story in the book of Genesis.
And although Sunday worship is not shunned by Blue, he believes that the seventh day Sabbath was instituted by God at creation and that man should continue to observe it. “It is always proper to worship God every day of the week. God is honored by our worship whenever we offer. But I would respectfully disagree with my brothers and sisters in Christ that would call Sunday, the Sabbath,” Pastor Blue said. “From Scripture it appears the Sabbath has never been changed, abrogated, set aside, nor has its solemnity been transferred to another day.”
But the Sabbath day is more than just a day for corporate worship. In order to truly understand this ancient tradition, one must look to the Jewish people who have been practicing this holy day of rest long before Christianity began.
The Sabbath or Shabbat in Hebrew is a day where the people of God should refrain from all forms of creative labor the way God did during creation, according to Dr. Paul Radensky of The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. “Those things which are creative, that’s what we should desist from on the Sabbath,” said Radensky to The Christian Post.
Radensky, a practicing Jew, explained how creative labor is defined in the Old Testament as what the Rabbis considered the type of work that was involved in rebuilding the portable predecessor for the Temple of Solomon. “It’s seen that if God creating the world was the macrocosm, then the microcosm is humans building this portable temple,” said Radensky explaining how God refrained from creative work and how man followed suit in the Bible on the seventh day.
These types of labor fall into 39 categories in the Jewish Bible and include activities such as building, stitching, writing and creating a fire. Turning a light on is also considered creative labor since it creates a circuit, therefore it is prohibited on Shabbat by many Orthodox Jewish groups.
He also illustrated the various groups in Judaism and how they observe the Shabbat differently. Orthodox or more Conservative Jews observe Shabbat from sun down on Friday to sun down on Saturday. They refrain from doing any labor and normally attend synagogue. They also share meals with family and stop to recognize the wonder of creation. “By observing the Sabbath, you’re witnessing that God created the world in 6 days," Radensky said.
The reformed or more liberal Jews view Shabbat as more of a good idea, rather than mandating its observance on a weekly basis. Some of them will even attend synagogue, but not practice some of the stricter customs recognized by their more orthodox counterparts. “I think everybody has kind of an aspiration to the rest on Shabbat even if they don’t mandate it,” Radensky said.
Radensky, in agreement with Pastor Blue feels that God should be worshipped and revered every single day, but that Shabbat stands out as a special day set aside for all men to stop laboring and celebrate God as creator with family. “When we stop and we take a moment to think about that, we should be grateful,” he added.
Declaring a day of rest and worship for God is essential, according to both Radnesky and Pastor Blue, but some activities or good works must continue to be performed throughout the Sabbath. “As an Adventist, we believe that it is not proper to have someone working for you on the Sabbath,” Pastor Blue said. “However, when Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, he made it clear that doing good works of healing, protecting and saving humanity were in line with God’s work.”
Labor such as caring for the sick, helping out your neighbor and tending to your flock are all permissible activities, according the Pastor Blue. “But a faithful Adventist does not eat in restaurants on the Sabbath, or keep others in their employ.” Blue explains how Jesus illustrated that the Sabbath was made for man, all men and not just those who practice a particular faith.
In both Judaism and Christianity there are Sabbath observers who will go as far as to question the faith of their counterparts who refuse to implement this practice into their lives. Some Adventists believe the seventh day Sabbath holds just as much importance as any of the other Ten Commandments given to Moses and that breaking it is a complete disregard for God’s law. Jews will also question their fellow believers, but it normally comes down to a particular group’s whole approach to Jewish law, according to Radensky.
Some Christian sects will even go as far as to question one’s salvation by their neglect of the seventh day Sabbath and this causes major division within the faith. “Sabbath is not a means of Salvation,” Pastor Blue said. “There is only One Name given among men whereby we might be saved, that is Jesus. I don’t keep the Sabbath to be saved. I keep it because I have been saved. I love and honor the one who saved me and desire to spend time basking in the sunshine of his grace.”
To Christians with opposing views, Sunday worship is essential to the faith and had its origins in the New Testament church. “Sunday worship actually originated with the earliest church -- in the book of Acts,” said Pastor Brandon Ward, the youth Pastor of Oasis Christian Center in New York City to The Christian Post. “It is clear that Christians would meet with the Jewish non-believers on Saturday, and would meet in house churches on Sunday as well as many other days.”
Pastor Ward believes that the Sabbath was a sign or type that pointed to the coming of Messiah. “While I believe that we should take a day to rest, I think that needs to be done in the context of New Testament Christianity -- which means taking a day to enjoy the ‘rest’ of Jesus Christ, and his work, not a day to perform some kind of legalistic formula called rest,” Ward said.
The Sabbath representing the rest that Christ would give to believers is a sentiment that Pastor Blue can agree with. “Of course true rest is eternally found in Christ,” Pastor Blue said. “The Sabbath reminds us that we are created by God and the Sabbath points to our redemption in Christ.” Adventists also recognize the importance of the first day of the week or Sunday, according to him. “As Adventists we celebrate the fact that Christ was risen on the first day of the week, as the scriptures declare. The resurrection is essential in the scheme of salvation,” Pastor Blue added.
Pastor Ward, Pastor Blue and Radensky all agree that every day should be reserved for and dedicated to God. But to Christians like Pastor Ward, Jesus Christ’s work on the cross fulfilled the Sabbath, therefore it should not be a mandated practice for believers. “Every day is Sabbath -- not ritual and observances, but a freedom of heart and purity of worship,” he added.