About 10 years ago, I dealt with the issue of Saturday sabbatarianism as I journey out of Seventh-day Adventism. I studied, research, debated, spoken about in symposiums, cried, poured my heart out into this subject. I’ve spoken through emails with theologians and pastors like Dale Ratzlaff, Clay Peck and read their respective books. I read the works of famous sabbatarians and former sabbatarians in the area of theology like Dr. Desmond Ford and Robert Brinsmead. I prayed, journeyed and decided.
Ten years fast forward, I moved on and outgrown that issue. And, instead of joining holy huddles, debating about all these non-essential topics and becoming spiritual obese, I decided I need to flex my spiritual muscles and honor and give glory to Jesus by following his important instruction before he left – to make disciples.
These days, however, I’m attracted again to talk about that theological issue, this time with the other end of the pendulum – the Sunday Sabbatarians. Sunday sabbatarianism, for those who might ask, is a belief that Sabbath observance was transferred from Saturday to Sunday. I don’t really want to dive into it as my energy’s best placed in other things. But since this topic is dear to my heart, let me deal with it anyway.
I know the arguments used by Sunday sabbatarians, but I’ve not talked with anyone before – until now. One thing I realized, refuting Sunday sabbatarianism is far EASIER than refuting Saturday sabbatarianism. Here’s why:
1. The Bible NEVER said that the Sabbath was transferred from Saturday to any day, much more to Sunday. Never. How easy can that be?
2. Now, for a Sunday sabbatarian to justify his belief, he has to use two twisted approach:
a) Make a lot of assumptions. For instance, they would assume that “sabbatismos”, a unique kind of sabbath mentioned in Hebrews 4 is a DAY. Nowhere do we see that though. Not in the context around the verses nor the context of Hebrews as a book. Hebrews talks about how everything in the Old Covenant was fulfilled and pointed to Jesus.
b) They will appeal to tradition. They would argue that since the early church worshiped on Sundays, therefore, it must be the new Sabbath. Wrong. First of all, the early church did not claim that Sunday is the new sabbath ACCORDING to the Bible. Some church fathers claim that Sunday is the “sabbath” for Christians just so to differentiate it from the Jewish sabbath. But this claim is not based on clear instructions from the Bible. Secondly, I respect Christian traditions, but I don’t use it to go above what the Bible did or did not say. Otherwise, I’ll just be a Roman Catholic and make traditions part of my irrefutable belief system.
Old Covenant sabbath?
Together with Adventists, a Sunday sabbatarian actually agrees that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Covenant practices. What they missed though is the opportunity to be true to that statement. What a Sunday sabbatarian will do is insist on adopting an old covenant practice of observing a sabbath DAY but then also insist that it has been changed to Sunday to be “new covenant-friendly”. In this regard, the Seventh-day Adventist is even more consistent than a Sunday sabbatarian. At least, the Seventh-day Adventist holds on to true Biblical sabbath and tries to explain that it remains as the Christian sabbath. The Sunday sabbatarian, however, not only adopted an old covenant practice, it even tries to add something to the Bible!
For Christians, is Saturday the sabbath day? No. The Jewish sabbath at its very essence is the very center of Jewish laws, identifying the Jews as a people. It has its very special purpose. (see. Exo. 20 and Deut. 5). The old covenant, to which the ten commandments are part of, fulfilled it’s requirement in Jesus.
Is the sabbath then transferred to Sunday for Christians to observe? No. Nowhere in the Bible do we see such important doctrine. You will have to twist the scriptures and hide under intellectual arrogance to prove that such a doctrine exist.
What, or who, then is the Sabbath? Jesus. He is our rest (Matt. 11:28). He is the way, the truth and the life. He is the fulfillment of the law. He is to be worshiped everyday through our life (Rom. 12). He is “sabbatismos”, the new sabbath mentioned in Hebrews 4. Jesus is our Sabbath, everyday.
The question for both camps is not actually what day is the Sabbath day for Christians. The real question is what has changed from the Old Covenant to the New that makes the sabbath in its real essence and intent become more than just a day.
Physical rest and weekly meetings
I still believe that the principle of a sabbath day of rest is a good practice. In fact, Saturday is STILL my physical sabbath rest. On that day of the week, I got to sleep in until 10 am and be with the family for the whole day. Sunday is NOT my physical sabbath day as this is one of the busiest day of my week. And honestly, Sundays are not the days where I feel closest to God. Yes, I got to serve him and corporately worship Him on Sundays, but I’m more technical on Sundays than any other days. However, everyday, that 30 minutes in a day when I’m quiet in the presence of God, is my heaven on earth. Those moments when I got to be quiet and listen to him, worship him with his words and sometimes with a song or two. Those time of the day when I got to exercise my trust and dependence on him. When I got to worship him through the way I let him live in me and I living out his life.
While I hold that sabbath is everyday, Christians should choose a day, most of which chose Sunday, Christians in the middle east choose Friday, to be their corporate time to meet together and worship God as this is what the Bible instructed us to do.