Name: Greyson M. Gambrell
The Sabbath was institutionalized by God Himself. There are two reasons why God gave the Sabbath day. The first is due to God creating the world in six days and then resting the seventh. The other reason is for Israel to remember that they were slaves in Egypt, and God rescued them with a mighty hand and outstretched arm (see Gen. 2.3 and Deu. 5.12-15). It has always been for man to rest and keep it Holy (see Ex. 20:8-10). Just like God, the commandment is to do work six days, and on the seventh day to rest.
Disobedience to the command was punished in the Old Testament. A man gathering sticks on the Sabbath during the wilderness journey of the Israelites was stoned for violating the law of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was not to be violated as seen by this punishment, being given by the Lord’s command (see Num. 15:32-35).
As to the commandment in the New Testament there is debate as to how to deal with the Sabbath. First there is an issue with the day of the week in which the Sabbath is held. The Bible indicates that the believers congregated on the Lord’s Day. This was the day Jesus was resurrected (see Jn. 20:1). The disciples gathered on this day as indicated in Scripture (see Act. 20:7). History teaches that it was under Constantine that the Sabbath was changed to be on the Lord’s Day. He wished to replace Christian ideals over pagan practices and therefore changed the Sabbath to the day of the week when pagans worshipped the sun. So there is the issue of observing the Sabbath on the time of sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, or to observe the day on Sunday. This is an issue for messianic Jews, and those who question history. For example does church tradition hold weight over adherence to the original and present day observance of the Sabbath kept by the Jews?
The other issue has to do with the dawn of a new age of the New Covenant. Jesus clearly showed Himself as having authority over the Sabbath and called Himself Lord of the Sabbath. He said that the “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (see Mar. 2:27). The issue is whether Christ is changing the commandment or simply adding revelation about the commandment. He certainly is making Himself virtually equal with God (Erickson 702). The challenge is that in the Old Testament a man picking up sticks on the Sabbath is stoned while Christ is defending His disciple’s actions of eating the grains. One thing to keep in mind is the nature of the New Covenant. The New Covenant is not like the one made with Israel when God led them out by the hand out of the land of Egypt, but it is a new different covenant (see Jer. 31:31-32). The Old Testament is a tutor for us to lead us to faith, to lead us to faith in Christ. When Christ was revealed, Jesus was able to explain fully the nature of the Sabbath. He is the Lord of the Sabbath so he can define the Sabbath and its nature.
Paul explains that one observes every day the same while another esteems one over another and that we should not pass judgment on a brother (see Rom. 14:5-10). We are not to judge someone about Sabbaths because these things are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ (see Col. 2:16,17). With this in view, those who do not observe the Sabbath, they will stand before Christ in judgment and other Christians should not judge them. On the other hand whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (see Rom. 14:23). So that person should observe the Sabbath according to their faith; to eat, shop, or mow the lawn is a matter of faith.
The shadow of things to come is the final rest—Sabbath—to be found in eternal life inherited after the judgment of Christ (see Heb. 4:9). This is the understanding of the meaning of the Sabbath’s typology,that it points to a final rest for God’s people.