New Covenant and Law/Commandments – The Sabbath Question

I am a Christian so my perspective is in regards to my Christian faith. The issue of the Sabbath has been debated by well intentioned Christians since at least the 2nd Century. I suspect it will be debated until the end time arrives.

The Sabbath is an important topic for me for it is a decision that I must be publicly comfortable with and confident in every week in terms of compliance with the expectations of my Creator God and Redeemer (e.g., Matthew 22:34-40; John 3:16; John 14:15) walking after his Holy Spirit rather than the flesh (e.g., John 16:13-16; Romans 8:1-6; 2 Cor 5:7-10).

Let me say it certainly would be nice if humans all over the world could agree on a calendar where either Saturday or Sunday is the seventh day and that seventh day is both the Lord’s Day and the Sabbath given that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. And it would be nice if everyone would agree that seventh day aligns with the Exodus 16 first Sabbath Day and that Exodus 16 first Sabbath day aligns with the first seventh day of Genesis 2. But reality is we do not agree. Reality is that we change the time every year between day light savings and standard time. So it is not unimaginable that humans at some point in history may have realigned or misaligned calendar days for some reason. I tend to believe that the Catholic Church should have just set Saturday (seventh day) as the Lord’s Day since Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath given that it seems to think Saturday is the seventh day Sabbath. However, given that Sunday is so ingrained worldwide as the day of worship assembly and rest combined with the uncertainty as to whether Saturday indeed aligns with the first Sabbath and first seventh day and considering the New Moon based calculation of the moving Sabbath as discussed below, I think it is not necessary to try and get everyone to turn to Saturday as the Sabbath and Lord’s Day. If we knew for sure it would be one thing but not knowing for sure is another thing.

I find my comfort in Col 2:16 and Romans 14:5. I will trust Jesus Christ to judge me righteously and with truth not speculation. I will trust him above trusting any human on this earth. Col 2:16 says let no one judge you as to Sabbath days or holy days.

The Sabbath was defined under the law of Moses in the 2nd Month after the children of Israel left Egypt. Exodus 16:23; 20:8-11; Leviticus 23:3 are key scriptures concerning the Sabbath.

The early post biblical Christian church determined that Christians are free to observe the principle of the Sabbath in spirit rather than letter by honoring the resurrection of Jesus as discovered on the first day of the week in place of the Sabbath. The rationale seems to have been rooted in scriptures such as Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:24-28; Rom 2:27-29; 7:6; 2 Cor 3:6; Col 2:16. These scriptures deal with Jesus saying he is Lord of the Sabbath and Paul speaking of focusing on walking in the spirt rather than letter of the law and not judging one another about such things as sabbath days. At some point the early post biblical Christian church referred to this first day of the week as the Lord’s Day and at some point Sunday since at some point Sunday was considered the first day of the week. The timing of all of this is unclear.

In America, Canada, and Israel, the calendar shows Sunday as the first day of the week and Saturday as the seventh day of the week. Thus, many see Saturday as the Sabbath.

However, in Great Britain, France, and Germany the calendar shows Monday as the first day of the week and Sunday as the seventh day of the week. This is the International Standards Organization (ISO) format. Some say the ISO changed the historical format. But then I say if they can change it who can say for sure that someone such as the Greeks or Romans or Babylonians years before them did not change it before the ISO changed it.

The Roman Catholic Church headquarters in Vatican City follows the same calendar day of the week format as America which means it seems to consider Saturday as the seventh day of the week and the Sabbath. However, it holds the seventh day (Sabbath) is not binding on Christians. It instead transfers the functionality of the Sabbath holy convocation and rest to the first day of the week which is Sunday its calendar. It calls Sunday the Lord’s Day and not the Sabbath. There was a time it did forbid its members from keeping the Sabbath on Saturday. However, it now encourages assembly and rest on Sundays and says nothing about the Sabbath, effectively leaving it up to its members to do both the Lord’s Day and Sabbath if one desires without any kind of sanctioning.

The Church of England seems to have broken away from the Roman Catholic Church but still reportedly maintains some major Romans Catholic traditions. So it is in a sense neither Protestant not Catholic yet in a sense both. The Church of England seems to not use the words Lord’s Day or Sabbath. It simply calls its primary worship day Sunday which according to the ISO calendar is the seventh day. This means for the Roman Catholic Church Sunday is the first day but for the Church of England Sunday is the seventh day on Great Britain calendar.

So then calendar structure is arbitrary and depends on who is drawing the calendar especially since none of us can say for sure that any given date aligns with the first day of Genesis 1 and the seventh day of Genesis 2.

Indeed, unless the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God made sure that Nisan 1 in Exodus 12:1 when he gave the calendar to Moses aligns with the original seventh day of Genesis 2, Saturday on modern calendars does not align with the original seventh day. Of course, God could have done that but there is nothing in scripture that says he did. He could have just reset the calendar for his sabbath day purposes.

For assuming there is always 30 days in Nisan, if Nisan 1 was on a Sunday then the first recorded Sabbath would have been on a Tuesday if we follow Exodus 16 rendering of the first Sabbath as illustrated in an Exodus and My New Covenant Religious Calendar package I prepared for my use but made public for consideration. Only if Nisan 1 was on a Thursday would the first recorded Sabbath have been on a Saturday.

Note that in the my religious sabbath calendar page n the calendar package, I use the international format used by Great Britain and others in which I redefine the Lord’s Day to align with the seventh day yielding a synonymous Christian Sabbath and Lord’s Day. This is effectively what the International format does in making Sunday no longer the first day of the week but the seventh day of the week. This should not be problematic for the Roman Catholic Church since in their documents they do not refer to the first day of the week but rather just use the word Sunday.

I don’t know whether the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church or any other church take this merger view. But really if other people can create their own calendar to include Hebrew Calendars, Gregorian Calendars, Julian Calendars, and even the USA government which has a Budget Calendar that starts on Oct 1 instead of Jan 1, then I can create my own calendar for my religious purposes given my religious liberty and freedom in Christ Jesus. I will trust Jesus to judge me not any human on such matters.

For me Sunday is both the Christian Sabbath and Lord’s Day; by that I mean Sunday is my regular day of worship (holy convocation) and rest. I call it my Christian Sabbath rather than simply Sabbath to emphasize that the implementation/execution of the Sabbath principle differs under the New Testament from its letter (as written) under the Old Covenant. For under the New Covenant it is more about the spirit than the letter (Rom 7:6; 2 Cor 3:6). Sunday is the day I choose to regularly have my holy convocation with those with whom I assemble and the day I choose to regularly  avoid “work” whether observance of the Sabbath is commanded by God or not for it is certainly good for me and society (Leviticus 23:3; Exodus 20:8-11).

I choose Sunday because my workweek has generally begun on Monday throughout my work life as that is the custom/tradition in the nation in which I live. Exodus 20:8-11 says six days one shall work and the seventh day (after working six days) shall be the Sabbath to Lord. It does not give a particular calendar day of the week. Indeed, unless one considers New Moon indicators (briefly discussed later) the Sabbath in scripture is not conclusively based on a calendar day but rather the seventh day after six days of work.

Now certainly it is good for a community to establish regular work/rest days. But the scripture does not mandate any particular calendar days for that. Therefore, nations and communities thereof are seemingly free to establish standard work/rest days. America has traditionally (before the 24×7 work time) had Monday through Friday as work days with Saturday and Sundays being the weekend.

Accordingly Sunday has being the generally excepted worship/rest day except for a relatively few church entities, for example Christians such as Seventh Day Baptist and Seventh Day Adventist as well as traditional Israelites of Judaism who choose Saturday as their regular worship/rest day claiming it is the biblically mandated calendar day. A relatively more recent group reportedly founded in mid 1960’s but more recently experiencing popularity and growth known as Hebrew Israelites (or African Hebrew Israelites or Black Hebrew Israelites) also choose Saturday making the same claim. Although Sunday is my regular day of community worship assembly and rest, I do not find it problematic for others to choose Saturday as their regular day of rest and community assembly for worship.

In all of this one should remember the Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath and the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28).

Also as for me, I don’t trust any human to have accurately passed down calendars so as to align with the biblical calendar of Gen 1 through Gen 2:3 and/or of Exodus 12 whether traditional Jew, Hebrew Israelite, Catholic, Baptist, Seventh Day Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, or other Christians

It is clear that disciples of Christ should obey the principles set forth in the Ten Commandments such that obedience to the Sabbath commandment being about spirit (Rom 7:6; 2 Cor 3:6) more than letter.

For the true disciple of Christ (John 3:16; John 8:31-32; Ephesians 1:6-7), the Bible indicates that failure to always obey the Ten Commandments including the spirit of the Sabbath will not result in lost of salvation.

With respect to keeping the sabbath in spirit rather than letter, Jesus says the Sabbath is made for man not man for the Sabbath.

Also in this regard, Col 2:16 cautions against judging regarding sabbath days. In my view the compelling reason for Col 2:16 is that it is difficult for people so far removed from the land of Israel in the days of Moses to know exactly what day is the Sabbath Day as folks use numerous formulas to calculate the Sabbath day.

For example, in my study and discussion with folks on what day is the Sabbath in this day and time sincere well meaning people who love God don’t agree: (2) it is based on when time began in Genesis 2:1 and we know beyond a shadow of doubt that Saturday was Saturday/7th-day in the beginning, (2) it is based on the New Moon and therefore will possibly start a different calendar day of the week each month and each year creating a moving Sabbath, (3) it is not based on the New Moon, (4) it is always the 7th, 14th, 21nd, and 28th of each month (5) it is always the 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th of each month, (6) it is based on there being 364 days as given in the book of Jubilee chapter 6; this will result in the year eventually starting in winter rather than spring; and so on

Obedience to the Sabbath commandment is more about spirit (Rom 7:6; 2 Cor 3:6) than letter.

Seemingly the reason the Sabbath is not brought forward in the same way as the other nine is that once Israel was disbursed outside of the land of Israel there would be no command and communication structure to retain and pass down knowledge as to when the Sabbath would be kept.

Indeed, people have various formula today for determining what day is the Sabbath.

I don’t trust any human to have accurately passed down calendars so as to align with the biblical calendar of Gen 1 through Gen 2:3 and/or of Exodus 12 whether traditional Jew, Hebrew Israelite, Catholic, Baptist, Seventh Day Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist, or other Christians

Outside of the New Moon indicators of Exodus 12:2, Exodus 16:1-30 and Ezekiel 46:1-3, I find no biblical basis for conclusively (not human speculative reasoning) determining the Sabbath in this day using the Bible.

I find the New Moon indicators in these times to be dependent on humans (e.g., the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA) that I am unwilling to trust for my soul salvation. I also find the New Moon indicators to be largely unworkable in modern employment conditions. Therefore, I do not consider New Moon indicators to be a viable solution to the issue.

Note that Gen 2:1-3 says nothing about the sabbath.  Sabbath does not mean seventh.  The seventh day is used as basis for the sabbath but they are not the same.  Different Hebrews words are used for them.

Gen 2:1-3 says God rested on the seventh day. It says nothing about man resting on that day.

There is no scripture that says Adam and Eve, Cain, Abel, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob/Israel or Joseph were commanded to keep the sabbath or anyone else prior to the Israelites being brought out of Egypt.

In fact there is no evidence the Israelites kept the Sabbath or even knew about it for the first month and a half after being brought out of Egypt.

The first time the word sabbath appears is in Exodus 16:23 after they entered the wilderness of Sin on the 15th day of the second month after leaving Egypt. Prior to that there is no recorded commandment to keep the sabbath.

Even considering Hebrew 4 about Jesus being our sabbat rest at some level, it is still good to take a day of rest weekly and to ensure one’s household takes one and if you are an employer to give your employees one (Exodus 20:10).

Exodus 20:8-11 speaks of the sabbath.  Other reference are Exodus 16:1-31; 23:12; 31:12-17; 34:21; 35:2-3; Deuteronomy 5:13-14; Leviticus 23:3.

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Christianity Bible Basic Christian Doctrine Christian Sabbath/Holidays

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