Sabbath Questions, Answers, and Comments
THE SABBATH BEGINS FOR HUMANITY
Q. When was the Sabbath revealed to humanity?
A. In order to answer this question, we must go back to the very beginning of the Genesis record and review the circumstances surrounding the creation of Adam and Eve and the nature of their relationship with their Creator.
Adam and Eve
After God created Adam and Eve, he placed them into a garden (Gen.2:8-9) where he protected them and provided for all their needs. Adam was to tend the garden and eat its produce (Gen.2:15-17). Adam had no occupation, trade, or profession; he did not have to work for a living, nor did he have to work to acquire wealth. God provided all of his needs, and all that Adam needed to do was tend the garden.
Adam and Eve had free use of everything in the garden with one exception; they were not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen.2:16-17).
As long as they obeyed this instruction they had no knowledge or understanding of sin (Rom.7:7). Paul says, "But sin is not imputed when there is no law" (Rom.5:13); therefore, prior to their disobedience, Adam and Eve were sinless individuals because they had no knowledge of the law.
After they disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit, three things happened to them:
- They gained the knowledge of good and evil (Gen.3:22) and became aware of God's Law (Rom.3:20; Gen.4:1-7), which includes the Sabbath commandment.
- They became aware of the penalty for violating the law (Rom.6:23).
- They were evicted from the garden and told they would have to work for a living (Gen.3:17-24) and that God would no longer provide for their needs--they would have to work to sustain their life and acquire wealth.
Because Adam and Eve had no knowledge of God's law before they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they had no knowledge of the Sabbath while they remained under God's care in the garden. But, after being expelled from the garden, they had to work for a living (Gen.3:17-24), and because the law had been revealed to them, the Sabbath commandment applied to them and their descendants.
KEEP ANY DAY?
Q. May a Christian keep any day of the week as the Sabbath?
Some people quote Romans 14:5 as proof that a Christian may keep any day of the week as their Sabbath? Did Paul say it was permissible for a person to replace the Sabbath day with any other day on which they wanted to worship? Or, are people reading something into the Bible that is not there?
A. In order to answer the above question, we must first see if Paul kept the Law of God:
"But this I confess to you, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets" (Acts 24:14 KJV).
Here, we find Paul being accused of heresy by the Jews because he was following Christ. His rebuttal to this accusation is that he still believed everything contained in the original covenant with national Israel, including the seventh-day Sabbath.
There is no question that the apostle Paul respected the laws of the covenant which still had value for Christians. He worshiped on the Sabbath with Jews and Greeks (Acts 18:4,9; 17:1,10,17), he spent the days of Unleavened Bread at Philippi (Acts 20:16), he was hurrying to Jerusalem to observe Pentecost (Acts 20:6), he assumed a Nazarite vow at Cenchrea (Acts 18:18), he purified himself at the temple to prove that he lived in observance of the law (Acts 21:24), and he had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3).
Because Paul observed the Sabbath as instructed by the law, it is not logical that he would teach others that it was permissible to pick any day of the week as the Sabbath.
Was Romans 14:5 really speaking of the Sabbath?
"One man esteems one day above another: another esteems every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind" (Rom.14:5 KJV).
Notice that the Sabbath day is never mentioned in this verse. If Paul had been giving permission to call any day the Sabbath, he would have been more direct and given much more detail. All he said was that some individuals feel that one day is better than another, and to some individuals, one day is just like another, and that each individual must make their own decision regarding the day they choose. Verse 6, explains what Paul is speaking of in verse 5: "He that eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks" (Rom.14:6 KJV).
What Paul says in verse six, sounds very much like something which someone would say prior to eating a meal, as they thanked God for the food he has provided. Notice he went on to say: "He that eats not, to the Lord he eats not, and gives God thanks."
Once in a while, a person finds it necessary to fast and pray in a time of great spiritual or physical need, either for themselves or for others. This is what Paul refers to. The one who chooses not to eat is fasting, but he also gives thanks to God. In verses 5 and 6, Paul refers to a person choosing a day on which to perform a food fast. This day would only be a special day to the one who chooses to fast on it. This day has nothing to do with the Sabbath observance.
WORK ON THE SABBATH
Q. Are there certain occupations, professions, or trades which may legally be performed on the Sabbath without violating it?
A. The answer is yes and no, depending on what God's law clearly allows and does not allow and the person's motivation for doing the work.
It should be obvious that some types of occupations, professions, and trades are not ones which are beneficial to a Christian lifestyle. However, it is conceivable that almost all physical work under certain circumstances could be considered spiritual work for a short time.
There are a number of clear scriptures that give guidelines as to what kinds of occupations, professions, and trades may or may not be performed on the Sabbath.
For a child of God to pursue any type of work on the Sabbath dictates that they consider their actions and attitudes very carefully.
It is clear that the priests who officiated at the tabernacle and later at the temple were required to work on the Sabbath and the annual festivals in order to perform their duties. However, this work was being done for a spiritual purpose and was commanded by God to be performed.
The ministers of the early church also labored on the Sabbath. They preached sermons, healed the sick, and performed other normal ministerial duties on the Sabbath. This is how they earned their living. However, this work was considered spiritual work just as the priesthood's work of labor was considered spiritual work.
The Medical Profession
Those in the medical profession earn their living from caring for the sick and injured, but does God allow for the sick and injured to be cared for on the Sabbath? The answer is yes, because it is the compassionate and loving thing to do.
Q. Is it permissible to be employed in police work, fire protection, or as a soldier on the Sabbath?
A. In ancient Israel and during Christ's time, there were temple guards and soldiers whose function it was to protect life and property. It is obvious that without these types of professions no one's life or property would be safe; therefore, they are a necessary part of this world.
God understood that there was a need for these occupations and professions and made allowance for them (2.Kgs.11:19; Neh.4:22-23). Guards did not cease to perform their duties on the Sabbath (Neh.13: 15-21), nor did soldiers (Matt.27:62-66).
Before the ministry of Christ, we see John baptizing people because they had repented and wanted to follow God:
"Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said to him Master, what shall we do? And he said to them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, what shall we do? And he said to them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages" (Lk.3:12-14 KJV).
John was the son of a priest of God and was preparing the way for Christ's ministry, but he did not tell the soldiers to quit their occupation; he told them to be just and fair in performing their duty. At that time in history, it was lawful to be a soldier.
As the early church began to preach the gospel and God began to call many to become his sons, we see a number of accounts where those in civil service were called to repentance and baptism (Acts 8:26-38, 10:1-4;34-48; 16:23-36). We are not told what happened to these individuals after their baptism, but it is clear that none were required to quit their jobs before baptism.
Work on the Sabbath
Obviously, there are a number of problems concerning Sabbath observance that must be resolved by those whose occupation or profession sometimes makes it necessary for them to work on the Sabbath.
If a person is engaged in work that is not in violation of the law of the Sabbath (e.g., humanitarian work or protective services), that person must still observe the letter and the spirit of the law; therefore, there are a number of questions which must be resolved:
- How does one pursue their work and still perform their obligation to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy?
- How does one resolve the question of receiving payment for this work on the Sabbath?
Because of these and other questions concerning work on the Sabbath, some may decide to make a change in the way they earn their living.
Because each of these work situations has its own unique set of problems and circumstances, each must be dealt with on an individual basis, and each must be resolved so that a person has a clear conscience in their relationship with God the Father concerning the Sabbath.
SALVATION AND THE SABBATH
Many ask if Sabbath observance is required for salvation? As we shall see, the answer really depends upon the person doing the asking. Before one can answer this question correctly, one should really decide whether or not they truly want to obey God or are just looking for an excuse not to obey God.
A Christian is a person who has done the following things:
- Accepted Jesus Christ as his/her personal savior.
- Repented of sin and been baptized as an outward sign of repentance.
- Received the holy spirit of God.
As a result of receiving the holy spirit, one will have the desire to obey God, especially when shown new truth. But, to say a person is not a Christian because he does not understand or keep the Sabbath is to make a judgment that only God has the prerogative to make.
There is absolute proof that God wants us to observe the Sabbath and his other laws, because observing these laws is good for us (Deut.30: 15-19). There is also absolute proof that God will destroy those who will not follow his way of life (1.Jn.3:4). God is extremely fair, just, and merciful with humanity, but he does demand obedience:
"Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin" (Jms.4:17 Para.).
Herein lies a basic spiritual principle: If a person knows what is good and righteous and chooses that which is ungodly and evil, sin is imputed to that person, and the performance of sin requires that the death penalty be administered to that person (Rom.6:23).
The answer to the question of whether or not you must observe the seventh-day Sabbath to obtain salvation can be answered by asking yourself four questions:
- Do I understand what the Sabbath is and what it symbolizes?
- Do I understand that God commands it to be observed?
- Do I understand that breaking the Sabbath is a sin and punishable by eternal death unless repented of and covered by the blood of Christ?
- Do I understand that repentance means to stop practicing sin?
If the answer is yes to the above questions, Sabbath observance is a requirement for your salvation. No one can earn salvation by keeping the Sabbath, but one must keep it in order to maintain a good relationship with God.
God will not condemn us for what we do not know or understand. Salvation is an individual matter between you and the God Family, and not between you and some other person. Your salvation is your responsibility (Phil.2:12), and God holds each individual responsible for their own salvation.
No one can earn salvation by keeping the Sabbath commandment or any other law of God. Salvation cannot be earned, it is a gift from the Father, which he gives through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. However, obedience to the law of God is a part of the terms and conditions of a person's agreement with God the Father. Therefore, a person will not receive salvation unless they live up to their part of their covenant agreement with God.
For those who do not understand the Sabbath, it is not required that they keep it for salvation only because they do not understand. However, it would seem highly unlikely that a person could come to repentance and be given the holy spirit of God without understanding the Sabbath, which is a part of the Ten Commandments. However, this is God's decision to make, and not man's. Here again, one is only judged for the spiritual knowledge which one possesses.
However, this does not mean that a person will not suffer the consequences of breaking God's physical and spiritual laws. Blessings come from obedience to his laws, and penalties come from breaking them. His laws are empirical and without dependence upon humans for their enforcement.
A Deadly Mistake
A deadly mistake in regard to obedience and disobedience is being made by many whom God has called. Some do not yet understand that spiritual knowledge from God must be acted upon positively by the recipient. God the Father and Jesus Christ are extremely serious about our salvation. They are so serious that they have placed the powers of the universe at the disposal of those called to salvation.
The calling of individuals to salvation is not a game to be taken lightly—it is a life and death matter. No one who is unwilling to obey God's rules of conduct will enter his eternal habitation. For those who obey, there is salvation and eternal life; not salvation through works, but salvation through Christ. For those who do not obey, there is death and dishonor.
God will not be mocked. Those who wish to destroy the law will be destroyed by it. Those who say the Sabbath is not for modern man should remember that God says he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. See Mal.3:6; Heb.1:12; 13:8.
THE SPIRIT WORLD AND THE SABBATH
Some wonder how the Sabbath relates to the spirit world and if the Sabbath law is binding upon it.
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" (Gen.1:1-2 KJV).
The process by which this physical dimension of time and space came into existence dictated that the spirit-energy of God be used. The Creator God defined this transfer of spirit-energy into a physical creation as his work. He said he performed this work for six days (Ex.20:11) and then ceased from this work on the seventh day of his creative process:
"And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day" (Gen.1:31 Para.).
Here we see the physical creation completed; however, this is not the end of God's creative process for the benefit of humanity.
It is important to understand that the Sabbath did not exist before the creation of humanity, and that it was created specifically for humanity (Mk.2:27). This holy time, which belongs to God, pertains to humanity's physical environment, and is a spiritual bridge between God and humanity, providing a day set aside for worship and spiritual growth.
Creation of the Seventh Day
"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and set it apart: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made" (Gen.2:1-3 KJV).
Since God had already completed his physical creation in six days, what was the work that ended on the seventh day?
It was the work of creating the Sabbath, which was ended on the seventh day (Mk.2:27).
The English word rest in Genesis 2:2-3 is translated from the Hebrew word shabbat, which means cease, desist, and rest.
It is obvious from scripture that God does not need to rest from physical labor as humans do, because he never gets tired (Isa.40:28). God ceased his work because it was finished, not because he was tired or obeying his law concerning the Sabbath.
Sabbath Made for Humanity
The spiritual and physical dimensions of existence are two completely different things. The weekly Sabbath is only a day of rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation for humans.
"The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mk. 2:27 NIV).
The Sabbath rule concerning work does not apply to the spirit world, because the Sabbath was not made for it. The Sabbath was made to benefit physical humans.
The Father, Jesus Christ, and the Angels perform work on the Sabbath; however, this work is not in violation of the Sabbath law which prohibits work, because the law of the Sabbath does not apply to them. It only applies to physical beings doing physical work.
FOOD AND THE SABBATH
There are basically two questions which are most often asked about food and the Sabbath:
Q. How much cooking may be done on the Sabbath?
A. As we know, a person must eat on the Sabbath day just like on any other day of the week; therefore, food must be prepared. Most food preparation can and should be done on Friday (preparation day). But it is not wrong to warm food or do a small amount of food preparation on the Sabbath (Ex.12:16).
Remember the instruction is to cease from one's normal work on the Sabbath. If cooking is how one makes their living six days a week, one should not cook on the Sabbath. If cooking is a part of one's daily household duties, then one should take a break from this type of activity, or at the very least, minimize the amount of effort involved in food preparation by preparing most of it before the start of the Sabbath.
Q. Is it permissible to purchase a meal in a restaurant or food from a market on the Sabbath?
A. The instructions for Sabbath observance include preparing for it. Biblical and historical evidence clearly show that preparation of food which would be eaten on the Sabbath was part of getting ready for the Sabbath observance. (Ex.16:23-30; Mk.15:42).
The instructions concerning the Sabbath prohibit a person from making their servants or cattle work on the Sabbath. Hiring a person to prepare and serve your food on the Sabbath clearly violates this instruction. See Ex.20:10-11; Deut.5.13-15.
Additionally, these instructions prohibit buying and selling on the Sabbath. Purchasing food on the Sabbath is no different from purchasing any other item on the Sabbath. See Neh.13:14-21.
By B.L. Cocherell b5w5