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*Frequently asked questions*

The Bible, the written word of God, is our sole authority in answering all questions pertaining to our spiritual life. However, in reading the Bible, we must keep in mind that the Bible is not written like a book of science where each statement is exact and complete in itself, nor like a book of law where the goal is to elaborate matters in sections and sub-sections so as to avoid loopholes. The Bible is written for the heart, and can be understood in its proper sense only by those who are spiritually minded (1Co.2:14), and who desire to do the will of God once it is revealed (Jn.7:17). Those who want to argue against the word of God can always find arguments, and those who do not want to obey what God says can appear to find words of God themselves to support their stand. Please read the following with an open heart and a willingness to know God's ways and obey them. - Jacob Ninan

The Sabbath

1. What is the Sabbath?

The Sabbath is one of the special rules God made for the people of Israel after He had brought them out of Egypt on the way to the Promised Land (Ex.16:23). This is also the first reference in the Bible about Sabbath. The Sabbath is to be 'holy' unto the Lord. This means that it should be a day 'set apart' to the Lord. They were not do any work on that day, but to take rest and to recognise that it was a special day for the Lord. They could work for six days, and the seventh day, Saturday, would be the Sabbath.

2. What were the requirements of the Sabbath>

The first time when God gave Israel the Sabbath law, it concerned collecting manna from the ground each morning. They were to collect manna daily according to their need, and on the sixth day they were to collect extra for the seventh day also because God would not give manna on the seventh day. On the Sabbath day the people of Israel were to stay put in their homes and not to go out (Ex.16:29). They were not to do any work on the Sabbath day (Ex.20:10). They were not to light a fire (for cooking, light, etc.) on the Sabbath day (Ex.35:3). The whole day (actually according to the way the Hebrews counted days from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday), was to be dedicated to the Lord.

3. Weren't there different kinds of Sabbath?

There was the weekly Sabbath, one year in 7 years Sabbath and the fiftieth year Sabbath. In addition there were special Sabbath days in connection with festivals (Jn.19:31). Israel was not to sow any seed on every seventh year but to let the ground lie fallow (Ex.23:11). They were also to set free any Hebrew slaves they had on the seventh year (Ex.21:2). God would provide them extra harvest during the sixth year so that they would have enough for the seventh year (Le.25:20,21). Every fiftieth year was to be a year of jubilee when all debts would be released and all slaves would be set free (Le.25:10).

4. Who was the Sabbath for?

The Sabbath was a lasting covenant between God and Israel (Ex.31:16,17). This was a part of the covenant (which we now refer to as the old covenant or the old testament) which God gave to Israel through Moses, and signified by the Ten Commandments. Like the covenant of circumcision, this also was to be a sign for Israel (Ex.31:13). We shall see later what this was to signify. Just as the old covenant was never meant for people other than Israel, the Sabbath law was also not for others.

5. What was the purpose of Sabbath?

The old covenant was a preparation for the new covenant which Jesus brought forth. It was like a shadow that vaguely represented the reality (Col.2:16,17), or like a tutor in charge of a young boy till he reached maturity enough to inherit his father's wealth (Ga.3:24-26). One shadow was where people had to keep one day in seven as holy (set apart, dedicated) to the Lord, while they had no such restrictions for the other six days. In the new covenant relationship through Jesus, all our days are dedicated to the Lord, and every day we seek to live as unto the Lord. Now there is no special day set apart for the Lord, and all days are equally holy. Whether we work or sing songs unto God, we do all things as unto the Lord, for His honour (Rom.14:5;Col.3:17). The purpose of instituting the Sabbath was to teach Israel, who was emerging from 430 years in Egypt where they hardly had any knowledge of God, to reverence Him, and to remember how God had rested after six days of creation (Ex.31:17) and how He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt (Deut.5:15). And when the time came for the new covenant, they were to understand the fuller meaning of 'ceasing from their own works' (Heb.4:9,10) in order to do the will of God. They would also find 'rest' from their struggle to please God by their works when they came to experience acceptance with God through faith in Jesus as a gift of grace.

6. Are Christians required to follow the Sabbath?

Christians are to live under the new covenant (even though many are still living for all practical purposes as if they were under the old covenant). In a true sense of that, when they live all their days as unto the Lord, they don't need a special Sabbath day. Paul knew that many did not yet understand the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant and that Christians were being misled to follow the old covenant practices also, such as circumcision, Sabbaths, festival days, tithes, etc. So he strongly opposed the influence of some Jews on the Christians to follow such customs (Col.2:16-19).

7. But it says in Hebrews that there is a Sabbath for the people of God!

There is a Sabbath rest for the people of God (Heb.4:9). It is not referring to the Sabbath as a day of rest, but a Sabbath rest which we can enter (and enjoy) by faith (Heb.4:2,3). This rest, of course, is referring to 'ceasing from our own works' in order to do the will of God (Heb.4:10). Certainly a lesson we can take from the Sabbath is to be reminded that we need regular physical and mental rest. But now there is no more a law that says we should totally rest on any particular day.

8. Many teach that Sunday is the Sabbath for Christians.

When the early church started, they switched from meeting on Saturdays (the Jewish Sabbath) to Sundays (the first day of the week or the day of the Lord's resurrection). This can be best understood as a break from the old covenant Sabbath laws to a celebration of the new covenant. This could not have been a shifting of the Sabbath day itself to Sundays. This is evident from the fact that in all the letters from the apostles that lay down teachings for the Christians there is no mention of keeping the Sabbath (even on Sundays), or insisting on meeting together (only) on Sundays. On the contrary, Christians are warned against going back to keeping of Sabbaths, special days, etc. (Col.2:16-19).

9. Some teach that the Sabbath was a part of the Ten Commandments, and as such remains even today.

We can see that the Ten Commandments themselves were shadows of the ultimate standard of God for man, as Jesus explained with the examples of murder and adultery (Mt.5:21,22,27,28). In other words, the laws of the spirit supersede the laws of the old covenant as the fulfilment of the Law. In that context, when we can by faith enter into the Sabbath rest today under the new covenant, there is no need to keep the old covenant Sabbath as pertaining to one day in seven.

10. Doesn't the Bible say that the Sabbath was an everlasting commandment?

Ex.31:13,16,17 says that it is a covenant between God and Israel lasting through their generations. But when they come to God through faith in Jesus under the new covenant, will not the new covenant supersede the old covenant? The new covenant, as a better covenant from God replaces the old covenant, and the old covenant then becomes obsolete (Heb.8:13). Just as the circumcision of the foreskin gives way to the circumcision of the heart (Rom.2:28,29), the old covenant Sabbath day gives way to the new covenant rest.

11. Someone told me that it was Paul's custom to keep the Sabbath.

This is a misinterpretation. Paul followed a custom of visiting synagogues on the Sabbath days in order to preach the good news about Jesus to the Jews who gathered there. He went over to where he could meet them in order to win them for Christ, and not for worshipping God with them on the Sabbath. This is clear from his own teachings against following Sabbaths, special days, etc.

12. Some people teach that God has never changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.

That is right. As you have seen above, this is just an assumption that some people have made even though the evidence is clearly to the contrary. At the same time, God has moved on from keeping of Sabbath days to a continual Sabbath rest!

13. Didn't Jesus say that those who neglected the least of the commandments would be least in the kingdom of God? I am not telling you to disobey the law regarding Sabbath, but to understand the 'better' new covenant laws that have replaced the old covenant laws. Instead of telling you to neglect commandments, I am telling you that we must fulfil the laws of God in the higher and greater sense.

14. Many godly Christians have tried to keep Sabbath on Sunday. Are you saying they were wrong?

They have done it with a sincere desire to honour God. The Bible says that if someone tries to honour God by keeping special days that would be fine for him, and God would honour him for that (Rom.14:5). But those 'who know better' are not to despise or condemn them (Rom.14:10).

15. Are you saying that we can work or play games on Sundays?

We can do whatever we need to do, as long as we do it as unto the Lord, in a way that honours God (1Cor.10:31). We must also make sure that as far as we know we are also doing the will of God for us in that way.

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