Are Christians Obligated to Keep the Sabbath?
Copyright 1994 - 2017 Bill's Bible Basics

Authored By  :
Bill Kochman

Published On :
October 27, 2001

Last Updated :
January 3, 2009


Observing The Sabbath, Every Day A Blessing, Acknowledging God On Daily Basis, Hypocrisy Of Church Attendance, Charade Of The Jews, Lip Service Or True Worship, Spiritless Feast Days, New Testament Christians, Old Testament Law, Jesus Frees Us From The Law, Purpose Of The Sabbath, Mosaic Law Our Schoolmaster, Letter Of The Law Or Spirit-Led, Saved By Grace And Not By Works, Grace And Works Can Never Be Mixed, Blood Of Animals Or Blood Of Christ, View Of The Jerusalem Brethren, Don't Let Anyone Judge Your Freedom In Christ, Live According To Your Own Faith, Stand Fast In Freedom




While I have already written extensively regarding the correct attitude which modern New Covenant Christians should have towards the Old Testament Levitical and Mosaic Laws, now and then, this topic still comes up on our private Christian mailing list. Recently, one of our conversations touched on the topic of the Christian denomination known as the Seventh Day Adventists, and the fact that observance of the Sabbath day is a central part of their doctrine. In asking me about this subject, one of our dear members quoted the following verse from the Book of Genesis:

"And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."
Genesis 2:3, KJV


This woman then proceeded to ask me the following question:

----- Begin Quote -----

Wouldn't that Day, being blessed, hold some special significance, if we acknowledged it, and worshiped the Lord as our Creator on that Day, just as Sunday is set aside today?

----- End Of Quote -----

In answering this woman, the first point I would like to make here, is that I do not believe that it is necessary for us to acknowledge one particular day each week in order to honour the Lord. As far as I am concerned, every day is a special blessing, because every day is given to us to live by the Lord. As the Psalmist was inspired to write:

"This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."
Psalms 118:24, KJV


Over a thousand years later, the Apostle Paul penned the following words to the brethren at Rome, when they too were apparently having problems, because some of them felt that it was necessary to observe certain feast days, while some of the others viewed every day as being the same, and of equal importance:

"One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."
Romans 14:5, KJV


Rather than acknowledge a particular day as part of a weekly ritual, because it is mandated by some branch of organized religion, I believe that it is much more important that we acknowledge the Lord in our lives; and quite frankly, in our home, we do this every single day of the year, and not just on one day of the week when worldly people try to show their holiness and devotion to God. We shouldn't do things out of mere habit, or simply because it is the politically correct to do, but rather because we have thankful hearts. If we do have thankful hearts for all that the Lord has done for us, we will manifest our thankfulness to Him every day, and we will acknowledge Him every day. If we are not truly living our lives in obedience to God's Word and Will; and if we are not acknowledging Him in our lives every single day of the year; then setting aside one hour of one day a week is nothing short of total hypocrisy, and God doesn't like it!

As I point out in the article "The Biblical Practice Of Fasting", by the time that Jesus arrived during the First Century, the so-called worship of the spiritual elders of Israel had been reduced to nothing more than a pitiful and hypocritical charade before both God and man. It was all talk and no substance; it was spiritless and dead; just like so many modern church services today. It is for this reason that Jesus strongly rebuked the Scribes and the Pharisees, and thoroughly exposed their sins and the hypocrisy of their ways, in such discourses as that found in Matthew chapter twenty-three. In the Gospel of Mark, the Lord very pointedly told His self-righteous religious enemies that they honoured God with their mouths, while their hearts were very far from Him, as we see here:

". . . Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition."
Mark 7:6b-9, KJV


As you can see, in rebuking the spiritual elders of Israel, Jesus was quoting from the Prophet Isaiah. This is because since the days of the Prophets, the Lord had been rebuking the Israelites because of their dry, spiritless religion of dead works. This, of course, included their observance of certain feast days, including the sabbaths. These solemn practices had become utterly worthless and vain. In fact, they were quite disgusting to the Lord, because they were not being done from the heart; and they were not coupled with true obedience; as we see by the following verses:

"And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest."
Lamentations 2:6, KJV


"Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it."
Malachi 2:3, KJV


"To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."
Isaiah 1:11-17, KJV


Isn't that quite amazing? The ancient Israelites were going through all of the right motions of pretending to be a holy sanctified people with all of their special feast days and Sabbath observations; they were making long prayers to God; they were offering their morning and evening sacrifices; they were getting together and having their solemn meetings; and the Lord was utterly sick of it. He didn't want to have anything to do with it. In fact, He even went so far as to say that He didn't even want to hear their prayers because they stunk in His nostrils. Their prayers were no longer a sweet-smelling incense to Him; they had become a foul odor which nauseated Him. How much those verses remind me of so many modern church-goers who also go through the motions of pretending to be Christian, while they live their daily lives in hypocrisy and deep sin, and collectively do things to other nations of the world, which a Christian people simply should not do!

It should be clear then, that if our hearts are not right with the Lord, going to church on Sunday, or Saturday, or Wednesday is not only a meaningless act, it is in fact a hypocritical act; legalism at its worst; and God utterly hates it. But returning to our main point concerning the necessity of observing holy days such as the Sabbath, the simple truth of the matter is that we Christians are not under the Old Testament Covenant; we are under the New Testament Covenant; which was signed and sealed by Jesus' own Blood. I explain this concept in more detail in such articles as "Is Jesus the Only Begotten Son of God?", as well as in "The Blood Atonement: In Jesus' Own Words". I encourage you to read them if you desire a more in-depth understanding of the significance of the Sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

The point is, being as we Christians are covered by the New Testament Covenant, or agreement if you prefer, we are no longer bound by the bondage of the Old Testament Law as the pre-Christian era Israelites were. As I explain in quite a few other articles, such as in "The Royal Law: Thou Shalt Love", Jesus came to free us from dependence upon the Law. That is why in explaining these things to the Law-observing Jews of His time, He said such things as the following:

". . . If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free . . . If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
John 8:31b-32, 36, KJV


"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord."
Luke 4:18-19, KJV


Jesus was free from the Law; and He taught His followers that they could be free from the Law as well. For example; after an incident where the Lord's Disciples were caught picking corn on the Sabbath day, consider what happened next:

"And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath."
Mark 2:24-28, KJV


On another occasion, when Jesus was about to perform another miracle of healing, once again His religious Law-observing enemies -- the unbelieving Jews -- found an opportunity to attack Him. Notice again how the Lord responded and put them to shame due to their self-righteous legalism, and lack of love and mercy:

"And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him."
Luke 13:14-17, KJV


Over and over again those self-righteous, and supposedly Law-observing Scribes and Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the Mosaic and Levitical Laws; and each time, Jesus would respond to their holier-than-thou accusations with words such as we find in the previous two examples. Jesus offered them an opportunity to be freed from the weight and burden of the Law, but many of them simply refused to accept His invitation. They preferred the old ways, the old customs, the old traditions, and the old doctrines; because through their rejection of Jesus Christ, they could continue to boast of their own supposed righteousness, as well as keep the common people under their control, through their subtle manipulation of the Law. How much this sounds like some churches today, which make certain unnecessary demands upon their blind flocks; such as forced observance of the Sabbath, or honouring Mary and the Saints, or going to confession, or being water baptized.

Please notice precisely what the Lord says in the previous verses. First of all, He tells them that He is the Lord of the Sabbath. What does He mean by that? In my view, He is saying that He and His Father created the Sabbath, so He is entitled to do whatever He wants to do on it, whether they like it, or agree with it, or not. Second, the Lord is also very clearly saying that the Sabbath was not made for men to be under bondage to it. That is why He says "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath". The idea behind the Sabbath, was simply to instruct men to rest when their bodies required it. That, in my opinion, is the spirit, and true intent, of the Law concerning the Sabbath. You need to remember that the Israelites were under Egyptian bondage for a period of several hundred years. They didn't have a day off from work; they didn't know what it meant to rest; so the Lord had to teach them to do so by making it a law.

As I point out in some of the aforementioned articles, the Apostle Paul tells us plainly that the Law was only meant to serve as a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ; at which time our dependence would be upon Him, and not upon strict adherence to the Mosaic Law, for our Salvation, as we see here:

"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster."
Galatians 3:24-25, KJV


Sadly, as we have already seen, some people today, even certain Christian denominations, such as the Seventh Day Adventists, are just like those self-righteous Jews of old. They have taken a step into the legalistic past by mandating that their members observe the Sabbath. Such people have fallen under the bondage of the letter of the Law, instead of being Spirit-led, and freed through Christ. In describing the Law-bound Jews of his own time, and explaining how New Testament Christians must be led by the Spirit instead, the Apostle Paul wrote:

"For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and NOT IN THE LETTER; whose praise is not of men, but of God."
Romans 2:28-29, KJV


"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
Romans 8:14, KJV


You see; as Paul states in the previous verses, we can choose to live according to the letter of the Law as the Jews did; we can try to do everything right on the physical level -- such as be circumcised, or observe the Sabbath -- in order to convince other people of how good and holy we are, so that we might win their praise, but it is all nothing but dead, legalistic, self-glorifying works; and in the end, they will amount to nothing, and they will be burned. As the Apostle Paul also wrote:

"Now if any man build upon this foundation [meaning Christ] gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
1 Corinthians 3:12-15, KJV


What God desires of us most, is true worship of the Spirit, in humility, so that He can receive the praise, glory and honour, and not us. As Jesus said to the woman at the well so long ago:

"God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
John 4:24, KJV


To be quite honest, I am not very familiar with the doctrine of the Seventh Day Adventists. I don't know if they view the observance of the Sabbath as an essential part of God's Salvation Plan. I certainly hope that they don't, because if there is one thing of which I am absolutely certain, it is that our so-called "good works", including observance of the Sabbath, cannot possibly ever save us, or contribute to our Salvation in any way. As I point out in such articles as "Are You Crucified With Christ?", Jesus Christ paid the full price for our Salvation, and our works cannot add to what He has already accomplished. As I have shared with my readers many times before, the Scriptures plainly tell us:

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV


"And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
Romans 11:6, KJV


"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;"
Titus 3:5, KJV


So either we believe that we are saved fully and totally by God's Grace, or else we try to save ourselves through our own so-called good works and observance of the Mosaic Law. We simply cannot have one foot standing upon Grace, while the other is standing upon the Law and good works. Please don't misunderstand my words. I am not saying that there is no place in the life of the Christian for works. As I point out in such articles as "Parable of the Sower: Salvation and Service", as well as in "Study, Work, and Don't Be Ashamed", works are indeed a very important part of our walk and life service to the Lord; but, if we are counting on our works to save us, if our faith is in our works, then we are doomed to absolute failure from the start; because we will never be good enough, or holy enough, or worthy enough, to deserve Salvation and Eternal Life of our own accord; because as James wrote, absolutely none of us can keep the entire body of the Mosaic Law. If we break even just one of them, we are guilty of having broken them all:

"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."
James 2:10, KJV


Furthermore, if we could keep the entire Law, and save ourselves through our own good works, then as Paul also wrote to the Galatians, we have nullified the Sacrifice of Christ, and He died in vain:

"I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain."
Galatians 2:21, KJV


The reason why Jesus was able to do the things which He did on the Sabbath day, is because He was free from the letter of the Law; and so are we when we believe in Him, and accept His Atonement for our sins. It is just that simple. We simply cannot be saved through our observance of any part of the Old Testament Mosaic Law, including the observance of the Sabbath; because if we could, that would be depending upon ourselves, instead of upon the Sacrifice of Christ. Allow me to share with you a few more important Scriptures on this subject, as they make this very clear to those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear:

"And by him [Jesus Christ] all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses."
Acts 13:39, KJV


"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith."
Romans 3:20-27, KJV


"Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God."
Romans 7:4, KJV


"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified . . . I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain."
Galatians 2:16, 21, KJV


"But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith."
Galatians 3:11, KJV


"Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace."
Galatians 5:4, KJV


Notice in that last verse, Paul is telling the backslidden Galatian brethren the very same thing that he wrote to the Roman brethren in Romans 11:6; and that is, that either we are saved, or justified, by the Law, meaning our own good works, or else we are saved solely by God's Grace. There simply can be no mixing of the two; and that is precisely what some modern-day Christians, such as the Seventh Day Adventists, or perhaps the Messianic Jews, are doing, when they insist that we must believe in Jesus, but we must also fulfill parts of the old Mosaic Law, such as observing the Sabbath. They are trying to mix the Old Covenant, which was sealed by the blood of animals, with the New Covenant, which was sealed by the precious Blood of Jesus Christ, or as the Lord Himself called it, the Blood of the New Testament:

"For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."
Matthew 26:28, KJV


So allow me to ask you something dear reader: Are you a New Covenant Christian, or are you bound to the Old Testament Law like those legalistic Jews of old? Do you truly trust completely in the Blood of Jesus Christ for your Salvation, or are you secretly trusting in your own perceived goodness and self-righteousness? Personally, I am convinced that we New Testament era Christians are not bound by the mandates of the Mosaic Law for our Salvation. Our only hope is in Christ. Furthermore, I believe that no one should place unnecessary burdens upon others, or attempt to add to God's finished work through Christ, because of the rigid dogma of their particular denomination. As James, Peter and the other Apostles wrote to the Gentile Christian brethren who were living outside of Israel:

"For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well."
Acts 15:28-29, KJV


Allow me to ask you a final question: If the Jewish-born Jerusalem brethren -- who personally knew and were taught by Jesus Christ Himself -- considered it very important for the Gentile Christians to observe the Sabbath day, why didn't they include it in this list of recommended observances which they sent to them? The answer seems very obvious to me: They didn't consider the Sabbath observance necessary, or even a priority, for the Gentile brethren. In fact, after explaining to the Colossian brethren how Christ had freed them from the curse of the Law, by nailing the ordinances of the same on His own Cross, the Apostle Paul then tells them to not let anyone judge them because of what they did or didn't eat or drink, or because they didn't observe the various feasts and sabbaths like the legalistic Jews did:

"Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross . . . Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:"
Colossians 2:14, 16, KJV


Just as Paul had questioned the Galatians regarding why they had backslidden from the freedom they had gained in Christ, and allowed the legalistic Jews to place them anew under the bondage of the Law, he also questions the Colossian brethren in a similar manner when a few verses later he states:

"Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?"
Colossians 2:20-22, KJV


In other words, Paul is saying, "If you truly believe that you have become dead to the Law through the body of Christ, then why are you still observing and obeying the doctrines and commandments of men, according to the Mosaic Law?". So what we have seen then, is that Jesus, the Jewish Apostles, and Paul, all make it clear that we are no longer bound by the mandates of the Mosaic Law, insofar as our Salvation is concerned; and that includes the observance of the Sabbath day. In summing up his thoughts on this topic to the Roman brethren, Paul states:

"One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."
Romans 14:5, KJV


So while I have now given you a clear understanding regarding what the New Testament teaches concerning the relationship between New Covenant Christians and the Mosaic Law, it is up to you to decide what you want to believe; because as I am sure you must realize, we must each choose to live according to our own faith. If after reading this message, you still desire to observe the Sabbath, it is really up to you. Allow me to emphasize here that there is absolutely nothing wrong or evil about doing this; but it simply isn't necessary, and it certainly won't help to save you. Only Jesus saves. If you fully realize that you are only saved by God's Grace through Christ, and not by any ritualistic works of the Law, and if observing the Sabbath, or going to church on Sunday makes you feel like you are pleasing the Lord, then by all means do it; but just remember that if you really want to please the Lord, you need to remember Him, and acknowledge Him, every single day of your life, and not just when your particular brand of organized religion calls you to church. God desires a continual, on-going relationship with you, and not just a once-a-week date at the local church building, where many people worship Him in name only.

As for me and my house, we will follow Paul's advice to the Galatians when he writes:

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
Galatians 5:1, KJV


I am free from the bondage of the Law through Christ; how about you? With these thoughts, I will bring this article to a close. I pray that it has been both instructive, as well as a blessing, in your life.


BBB Tools And Services


Please avail yourself of other areas of the Bill's Bible Basics website. There are many treasures for you to discover.