Question: What is the biblical view of the Sabbath? Define and delineate the proper application, for Christians, of the Sabbath in today’s society. Specifically, should Christians: a. eat out; b. shop; c. mow the lawn?
Response: In the Old Testament, the Sabbath has two major functions. First, the Sabbath is a holy day which is set apart for rest and reflection. In Genesis, God established the Sabbath as a day on which He would rest after the six days of creation. It was set apart as a holy day by his decree and was a time when the people of God would reflect on how God had rescued them from out of Egypt. Second, the Sabbath became a sign of God’s covenant with his people. God had chosen Israel to be his very own and had set them apart. By observing the Sabbath the people would demonstrate their faithfulness to the covenant.
The Israelites were to work six day and then rest on the seventh. They observed the Sabbath on Saturday. They were also to do good and refrain from committing evil on the Sabbath. By keeping the Sabbath holy they would demonstrate their obedience to the commandments and their reverence of his holy day.
In the actions of Jesus we receive a new perspective on the purpose of the Sabbath. Jesus healed the lame and blind on the Sabbath. Jesus said that the Sabbath was a day to do good (see Matt 12.6). Jesus and his disciples gathered food when they were hungry on the Sabbath. Each time Jesus and his disciple were challenged by the Pharisees for not keep the Sabbath holy. Jesus stated that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath (see Mark 2.27). Jesus even declared the he is lord of the Sabbath (see Matt 12.9 and Mark 2.28).
Christians today are living under the new covenant established by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. When are not held to ceremonial laws of the Mosaic covenant. Whereas obedience to the law was the means of demonstrating righteousness and establishing justification and under the Mosaic covenant, a Christian’s justification and righteousness is found by faith in Jesus and his work on our behalf. Jesus has fulfilled the requirements of the law in our place.
Christians can apply concepts from the Sabbath in their lives. We are to take time to rest and reflect on the graciousness of God in Christ. The Sabbath was a time when the people came together to worship. As Christian we should regularly come together in corporate worship (see Heb. 10.24). The early church would meet together on Sunday (see Acts 20.7 and 1 Cor. 16.2). Biblically, the last day of the week is related to the completion of the creative work of God and his rest. For the Christian, the first day of the week is to celebrate the completion of the saving work of Christ and his resurrection.
Specifically, Christians can eat out, shop, or mow the lawn on Sunday (the Lord’s Day) or Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath). All these actions can be conducted on any day. There is no special day that we must observe (see Gal. 4.10). We must follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit and our conscious in directing all our actions while always giving reverence and honor to God.