Why Do Christians Keep the Sabbath?
In the symphony of time, there exists a sacred refrain, a rhythm that echoes through the corridors of creation: A seventh-day rest ordained by the very Word of God from Creation. To delve into the Biblical perspective on celebrating the seventh-day Sabbath, from Friday evening through Saturday evening, is to embrace a legacy of grace through creation, the commandments of God, His faithfulness, and the disicpleship modeled by the Lord of the Sabbath, Christ Yeshua (Jesus).
The foundation of the Sabbath can be traced to the very dawn of creation, where the Creator, having fashioned the cosmos in six days, sanctified the seventh day as a day of rest. In the Book of Genesis, we read, "And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation" (Genesis 2:2-3). This Sabbath, was the first experience of mankind and a picture of their eternal rest,
Here, in the quiet cadence of divine repose, we find the genesis of the Sabbath — a day set apart, blessed, and consecrated by God Himself. It is a rhythm woven into the very fabric of existence, an acknowledgment that rest is not only a physical necessity but a spiritual imperative. The seventh day becomes a sacred, rythmic interlude, an invitation to commune with the Creator in a manner distinct from the toil of the preceding days.
The echo of the Sabbath resounds beyond the ancient garden of Genesis and finds explicit expression in the commandments given to God's people. In the Book of Exodus, the fourth commandment stands as a testament to the enduring significance of the Sabbath: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it, you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates" (Exodus 20:8-10).
The fourth commandment is both prescriptive and emancipatory — a call to cease from labor and a proclamation of freedom from the perpetual demands of toil; free people rest. It extends beyond the individual, embracing the community and even the sojourner within the gates, emphasizing the universality of the Sabbath principle and the grace of God's kingship.
The Sabbath offers a mark of distinction for God's people, offering a statement of His grace and our present status in Him. The Sabbath is a commemoration of the liberation He has granted. In Deuteronomy, the Sabbath commandment is reiterated, intertwining the themes of rest and the freedom of deliverance: "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day" (Deuteronomy 5:15).
This link between Sabbath observance and the exodus from Egypt underscores the redemptive dimension of the Sabbath — a day that not only commemorates God's creative work but also celebrates His deliverance from bondage. As such, it becomes a weekly pilgrimage through which God's people rest and experience a tangible reminder of His liberating power.
Throughout the generations of the Old Testament, God's people are instructed to regard the Sabbath as a "holy convocation" (e.g. Leviticus 23:3). Herein, we see two essential aspects of this day: Holiness and congregation. In holiness, the sacremental day is to be unlike the preceeding six, pure and free from the toil and mundane burdens of daily life. In congregation, God desires the assembled presence of His people. These two aspects combine to foreshadow the eternal rest of the Age to Come, an age of holiness and perfect unity.
The New Testament, while witnessing the transformation of certain Old Testament practices (such as the Levitical sacrifical rites), does not negate the sanctity of the Sabbath. Instead, it provides an amplified perspective, with Yeshua Himself both keeping and affirming the enduring relevance of the Sabbath. In Luke 4, we find that Yeshua's personal custom was to engage in holy convocation on the Sabbath Day, setting the precedent for the Christian life of His disicples, who are instructed to "walk just as He walked (1 John 2:6).
In the Gospel of Mark, Yeshua declares: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27-28). This bold statement of His grace, authority, and divinity reiterates Leviticus 23 in which God twice declares that all of the Biblical Feasts (of which, the Sabbath is foremost) are the "Feasts of the LORD."
In affirming Himself as the Lord of the Sabbath, Yeshua unravels the manmade, legalistic entanglements that had obscured the essence of the Sabbath in the first century. He reveals that the Sabbath is a gift, a benevolent provision for humanity's wellbeing. He also wrests the Sabbath from the grip of religious abuse and rests it fully in His authority. In asserting His lordship over the Sabbath, Yeshua affirms that He is the true rest, in Him is the ultimate Sabbath that transcends the confines and controls of dogma. He invites those who esteem Him as Lord to embrace the Sabbath as it was in Eden; a day crafted for rest and communion in Him.
Just as all sacraments reveal a transcedant truth, so too does the Sabbath. As a sacrement, the experiential weekly Sabbath isn't annulled by the spiritual reality it foreshadows. Though Christ is the true bread from heaven that that gives us eternal life, we too consecrate, break, share, and eat literal bread. While Christ's death and God's forgiveness are what truly wash our souls, we still rejoice in water baptism. Likewise, the sacramental act of keeping the Sabbath isn't annulled by our eternal rest in Christ. To the contrary, it is precisely because we have eternal rest in Christ that we delight more fully in the sacrament of keeping the weekly Sabbath. The Sabbath is a sacramental sign of a spiritual reality.
The Apostle Paul provides further illumination on the interplay between the sacramental and the spiritual reality. While recognizing that diverse opinions and practices had crept into the early Christian community, Paul emphasizes the principle of honoring a set-apart time for worship and rest. He says that such should be done without fear of condemnation. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul writes, "Therefore, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ" (Colossians 2:16-17). Note the present tense: "These are a shadow." Like all sacraments, the Sabbath remains a shadow of what Christ will bring to fullness in His return.
In the grand tapestry of Scripture, the seventh-day Sabbath, from Friday evening through Saturday evening, emerges as a profound and enduring gift from the Creator. It is a day woven with threads of creation, liberation, communion, and anticipation of the soon coming Millennial Kingdom — a day that beckons humanity to rest in the rhythm of divine provision and to find ultimate rest in the redemptive work of Christ.
To celebrate the Sabbath is not a mere adherence to a legalistic code but an invitation to participate in the sacred symphony of creation and redemption. It is a deliberate pause in the ceaseless cadence of daily life, a sacred interlude where the eternal intersects with the temporal. The seventh day, sanctified and blessed, remains a timeless sanctuary — a place where humanity, in quiet communion with the Creator, finds rest for the soul and echoes the eternal refrain: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).