The Sabbath Today

I am somewhat loath to write an essay declaring whether or not it is correct to observe the Sabbath today, as the one thing that is clear from our New Testament is that there is no correct answer. Nonetheless we are also told that it is a subject upon which we should have an opinion and that the opinion should be well thought out. This paper will thus be a little different from the usual. Rather than trying to produce a correct Biblical conclusion I will instead aim to show that one can dogmatically assert there is no correct answer. I will then state my personal preference and some of the logic behind it.

My assertion that Sabbath observation is a personal issue is based upon two different passages. The first briefer one is in Colossians:

Col 2:16 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:

In context Paul is discussing the fact that the requirements placed upon us have been taken away and nailed to the cross[1]. In fact Paul then proceeds to assert that if we have died to Christ and the principles of the world then you should not then allow yourself to be subject to regulations[2]. In fact if this were the only passage on the subject I would be tempted to assert that the Sabbath should not be celebrated.

However Paul gives a slightly longer presentation of this topic in Romans:

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

Rom 14:6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

The Roman context is a little different from the one in Colossians. In Romans we are dealing with the matter of how people may live together in harmony within the fellowship. I suggest the basic premise is given at the head of the chapter:

Rom 14:1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.

The subject very specifically is how to deal with people that have weak faith; the answer is that they should be brought into fellowship but they should not be allowed to stir trouble disputing doubtful things. The chapter then proceeds to discuss those doubtful things which are essentially the same as the list in Colossians. In short essays such as this one should be of limited circulation and not allowed to cause contention.

It should perhaps be noted in passing that in the case of meat verses herbs we are explicitly told that the one that is weak in faith with have the extra dietary restrictions. We are not explicitly told whether it is the stronger or weaker that wished to celebrate the Sabbath or Holy Days. However I would suggest that given the passage in Colossians it is almost certainly the case that the religious observance of the Sabbath is considered to be the weaker option.

It may perhaps come as some surprise then to read that whilst I do not accept a need for a religious observance of a Sabbath I do believe that for me personally a Sabbath-like day is of benefit. The reason is simply one of mental, emotional and physical weakness. Whether it is poor time management, a tough schedule or just real of imagined frailty I get tired. Left to their own devices one day rolls into the next and large chunks of one ToDo list follows the day into the next. Without some kind of externally imposed break life could easily become an exhausting treadmill.

I believe that many of the laws imposed upon Israel had a practical benefit as well as a symbolic religious one. For example the Sabbath that the Jews were to give their land is directly akin to the 'crop rotation' methods that many farmers use today. I consider the Sabbath to be just such a law. Clearly we are told that it is commemorative of creation[3] which is symbolic. However the symbol should remind us that God created our bodies and He created them in His image. After a burst of activity He settled back to observe and reflect: I believe He has created human bodies that function most effectively under similar conditions.

One argument often made against a modern Sabbath is that the Lord violated many Sabbath restrictions. However I would note He violated the man-made rules imposed upon the Sabbath. He stated: "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath[4]" I think the implication here is that a properly operating and reasonable Sabbath actually benefits society; but the Sabbath of Christ's time had become onerous.

My conclusion then follows naturally from my premise. The Bible clearly states that a person's position upon the Sabbath is a personal issue. You may well not agree with me but agree with yourself. I think the balance of Colossian's and Romans suggest that the Sabbath as a God imposed ordinance is now gone; however for those that wish to continue observing it that is fine. My slant is a kind of 'modify to suit' approach. I believe that God built-bodies work best in a seven day cycle with a 'day different' to step back from the grind. I suspect that if I was stronger the cycle would not be required; but that is a decision I will make at the time.

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