The Sabbath

Published by DonDavidson on

Eric Liddell, a young Scotsman, refused to compete in the 100-meter dash and two relay races in the 1924 Paris Olympics because he was unwilling to race on a Sunday.

I am old enough to remember when people in the United States could buy little more more than groceries on a Sunday.

The Jewish Orthodox Union website lists 39 categories of “work” that cannot lawfully be performed on the Sabbath.

One of the Ten Commandments forbids working on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), which for the Jews lasts from sunset on Friday evening until sunset on Saturday evening. The prescribed punishment for violating the Sabbath was death. (Exodus 31:14-15 and 35:2) Numbers 15:32-36 tells the story of an Israelite who was caught gathering wood on the Sabbath—the Lord ordered that he be stoned to death.

The prophet Jeremiah warned the Israelites about the consequences of violating the Sabbath (Jeremiah 17:27), and Nehemiah, as Governor of Jerusalem, strictly enforced the Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:15-22).

But then along comes Jesus who says he is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5), and that “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

He heals on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:9-14, Mark 3:1-5, Luke 13:10-14, Luke 14:1-4, John 5:2-12, John 9:1-14), casts out a demon on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21-26, Luke 4:31-35), lets his disciples pick and eat grain on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-2, Mark 2:23-24, Luke 6:1-2), and even tells a paralyzed man whom he has just healed to pick up his pallet and walk away (John 5:8-12)—all of which were viewed as violations of the Sabbath under the then-prevailing interpretation by the Jewish leaders.

What are we to conclude? I think Paul has the final word on this matter, and it is this: “One person values one day over another, another values every day the same. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5)

If you want to strictly observe the Sabbath—whether on Saturday or Sunday—that’s fine. And if you want to treat Saturdays and Sundays just like other days, that’s fine, too. “Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.”

But do not make the mistake of judging those who believe differently from you, for Paul has a word for that, too: “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4) Paul says something similar in Colossians 2:16-17: “Therefore, no one is to act as your judge in regard to food and drink, or in respect to a festival or a new moon, or a Sabbath day—things which are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”

God created the Sabbath so that people would have at least one day each week in which to rest from their labors and turn their attention to God. If you choose to observe the Sabbath this way—whether on Saturday or Sunday—that is wonderful. If you instead choose to rest when you can and turn your attention to God at various times during the week, that is also wonderful.

I really don’t think God cares when you focus on Him as long as you do so—and do so regularly. So do what works for you, and be fully convinced in your own mind.


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