The drama goes on. You know, all that stuff about whether Katelynn, my eleven year old, can wear make-up. I have come to a tentative conclusion and it has to do with the fourth commandment. We will get to that in a moment.

Some people need to take a sabbath rest from going church. Just hang with me. I will get there too.

I don’t know about you, but I love Chick-fil-a. It is our families favorite place to each on a dime (or so). My youngest, Zach, is made purely of Chick-fil-a chicken nuggets and chocolate milk. It is amazing what the body can turn those two into. Chick-fil-a is not open on Sundays, so Zach justs practices his 3-year-old fast that day. I admire Chick-fil-a for not being open on Sunday. I think it is one good application of what it means to keep the Sabbath and make it holy.

For most people that I know, the obligation to keep the sabbath is either seen as null-and-void in the church age or it simply means that we “go to” church. If you hit Sunday School and “big church” you have done double duty! However, I don’t believe this captures the essence of the fourth commandment very well.

The fourth commandment is found in Exodus 20:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exo 20:8-11 ESV)

This commandment is one of the only commands that is tagged with an explanatory clause, helping us understand the reason for its institution. As the Lord rested on the seventh day of creation, so also we are to keep the Sabbath “holy.” The parallel here is between “rest” and “holy” in verse 11. They key here is that the Sabbath is set apart (i.e. “holy”) as a day of rest from our labors. The term “sabbath” translates the Hebrew sabbat (שבת), meaning “to cease.”

As I said before, many people believe that this is the only one of the Ten Commandments that does not have an abiding moral principle, being completely fulfilled in Christ. While I agree that Christ is our Sabbath rest (Heb. 3:9-11) in that he fulfilled the Law and we have rest from our labors, I don’t think that Christ’s fulfillment takes away from the principles being expressed that are truly eternal. We still need to take breaks . .  and a whole lot more.

Christ made it clear that the Sabbath was created for man (Mark 2:27). Paul makes it clear that no one is to become legalistic about when we take a sabbath (Col. 2:16).  

Today, in our industrialized world, we have much more opportunity for rest then did the Israelites in the Old Testament times. Their labor was a sweaty field labor. Most of the time it was hand to mouth. As well, it lasted from sunrise to sunset. And we think we have it hard! For them the dictum was: “Don’t work today, don’t eat today.” It was that simple. In our western world, we normally work from 8am-5pm and take two days off!

However, I believe that there is a deeper principle involved here that we dare not miss. The Sabbath was not only about giving us a break from work, but also about having us turn our attention to God. No, I don’t mean going to church. No, I don’t mean that we pray an extra prayer. No, I don’t mean that this is when we should meditate an extra half an hour on God’s word. What I mean is that the Sabbath represents our ultimate trust being placed in God.

You see, while the Sabbath does refresh us mentally and physically, there is also a second purpose: It also refreshes us spiritually as it directs us away from self-reliance to reliance on God. I believe that this is primarily what is at stake when God instituted the Sabbath. Notice what God says in Ezekiel: “And also I gave them My sabbath to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them” (Eze 20:12; emphasis mine). The key here is the phrase, “that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.” The Sabbath has a spiritual effect to turn our attention away from ourselves to our God. When the Israelites took a break on Saturdays, this was not an easy thing to do, either personally or sociologically. They relied on what they could produce each Saturday. The cessation from work on that day meant that they may not eat. They were the generators of their livelihood. If they did not generate, who would provide for them? As well, they had to think about the future. Even if they could make all that they needed in six days, what if they worked every Saturday anyway?  They could put all this extra money (grain, food, whatever) in the bank. It could be their “rainy day fund.” It could be used to secure them in their old age. It could serve as a generous inheritance for their children. Nevertheless, God wanted them to trust in him and know that he would take care of them. He was their security. It was an issue of trust that caused them to cease and, as a result, “know that He was the Lord.”

The lines at Chick-fil-a are almost always out to the street. I am glad they move fast. But they are closed on Sunday. While I often curse this fact, I appreciate the example they set. It is a Christian organization which seeks to follow the Lord in the way they do business and the example they set. By keeping their doors closed on Sunday, they are losing a lot of money. But this loss is the ultimate sign, no matter what day they chose to close their doors, of their trust in the Lord.

While we may live in an industrialized world where it is much easier to take breaks from our work, and while our breaks do fulfill the principle of renewal, I don’t know if this always qualifies for this second purpose of the Sabbath. Cessation from self-reliance is at issue here. Let me broaden it a bit. Keeping the Sabbath is about cessation from those things we accomplish that creates self-security. If this is the case, while it applies to our jobs, it has much broader application.

Now, back to the make-up issue. (And NO, once again, this post is not about make-up!) My tentative conclusion about how I am going to raise my girls is this. They can’t wear make-up in public until the are twelve (see the post on scruples). As well, once they start to wear make-up, they have to take a sabbath rest from it one day a week. What I mean by this is that they cannot wear make-up to school on a day of their choosing every week. Why? Because I have seen too much “image reliance” in my life. I know how one’s image can control them. For some, it is not their bank account that secures them, but what others think about them. I have seen girls who were vampires living in darkness until they look “perfect.” Why? Because they are afraid that others might not think so highly of them. I remember one girl who used to sprint to the bathroom every time someone even touched her hair. As attractive as her hair might have been, her reliance upon this was a real turn off. She needed to take a sabbath rest from these image issues. She needed to let her hair down and care more about her inner beauty than her outer appearance. What does God think of me? This should be our main question. But for so many of us, we are only as good as other people think we are. We have an image to protect.

While some people need a sabbath rest from work and some need it from make-up, others need it for a host of other things. What are the things that create self-security in your life other than God? A boyfriend or girlfriend? Your spouse? Parents? Children?  Economic security? Your studies and brain power? Who defines your image? A daily blog? A touchdown streak? Winning at Monopoly? A suit and tie?

You know what? For some people it is going to church. Their spiritual image is defined by never missing a service. It would kill them to skip. In these cases, they need to take a Sunday off. And do what? Nothing. They just need to recognize God’s grace and rest from their labor of trying to keep up. The odd thing about this is that if I am understanding this command correctly, I am saying that some of us need to break the sabbath in order to keep it!

Bottom line: If there is anything other than God you are leaning to heavily on, you need a regular intentional sabbath rest from it. Give this time over to God and consciously recognize your addiction to these things. The Lord is the Lord of your life.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    30 replies to "What Does it Really Mean to Keep the Sabbath"

    • A. M. Mallett

      Where do you draw the line between regarding the Sabbath as a day set aside for your contemplation of the the things of God and that Sabbath the Adventists through their “spirit of prophecy, Ms. White” declare as a part of the law not included among the ordinances nailed to the Cross of Christ?

      • C.W. Good

        Churches that make the Sabbath more important than Jesus are wrong and works oriented. The Sabbath is not found in
        John 3:16. The repentant thief on the cross receiving the promise of eternal life from Jesus demonstrates Eph. 2:8&9.
        Who works to receive a free gift? If we love God and our neighbor then we are commandment-keepers who rest in
        Jesus. May this be the experience of all. Amen.

    • Ed Kratz

      Well, Col 2:16 says “Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.”

      I don’t think it has anything to do with a day, but a principle of placing our reliance on God rather than our own handiwork. Certianly, sociologically speaking, we all need a break, and a weekly one at that. But just as importanly, we need to rest from counting our horses or checking the bank account.

    • EricW

      I think the implication or maybe even clear teaching in the Epistle to the Hebrews that the literal/physical chronological weekly Sabbath was only indicative, as a type and/or shadow, of the true Sabbath rest that believers are to strive to enter into – which they do by faith – pretty much eliminates any Sabbath-keeping “obligation.” That’s not to ignore the benefits of a day of rest, only to put the OT Sabbath in NT perspective.

    • Craig Hurst

      I worked for Chick-fi-a and my boss (who was a Christian) told me that Chick-fil-a makes more in 6 days than any other fast food restaurant does in 7 (with the exception of maybe McDonalds). That is why they are the only fast food chain allowed in most malls. You can chalk it up to their comparatively higher prices (but the food is so worth it!) or acknowledge that God blesses them for their decision to obey the 4th commandment as a business so the individuals can as well.

    • Cadis

      Not too long ago my husband’s place of work wanted to alternate the workers standard (Sat.& Sun.)days off. My husband’s new days off would be Mon. & Tues. . Maybe one of his co-workers new days off would be Wed. Thurs..etc. The managment’s motive was to keep a 24/7 work force rotating and not have to pay overtime. This company employs alot of workers in our area and it would also mean that if you worked for this particular company there would be no possible way to have a standard day to worship. My husband would have had to give up teaching on Sundays. We would no longer be able to conmmit to a church. They came pretty close to adopting this new schedule. The majority of workers mostly complained about being cheated out of overtime money, but would have grudgingly gone along,seeing it is already well excepted to work a Sat or Sun or both. There were a few, us included, who saw the larger problem and threatened that we would claim our right of religous freedom and worship, I think, brought this large company to it’s senses. It would have been very bad PR.

      Israel as a nation needed a fixed day too. The Church also needs a standard day. That is if they are going to come together as a group or body to worship.

    • Dave Z

      Many years ago, probably in the 1930s, when most companies and busnesses were closed on Sunday, my dad’s boss told him he was going to have to work Sundays. My dad was very much opposed, but went to his pastor to ask what top do. The pastor told him “No, that’s a sin, Sunday is the Sabbath and we’re not to work.” Then he thought a minute and said, “Well it would be OK if you worked Sunday, but gave all that day’s pay to the church.”

      My dad left that job and that church.

    • Dave Z

      @Cadis,

      Where are you located? Here in CA, it would not be a PR issue, nobody would think twice about it. We have some folks who have recently gotten jobs that require work on Sunday morning. We’re just glad they got a job at all in this economy. But we’re starting a new Sunday evening service this week, in large part to provide an option for them.

    • Cadis

      Dave,
      It was not so much that a worker is required to work on Sunday, from time to time, or even every other Sunday but if this large company adopted a work schedule were there was no standard, excepted day off , i.e. that everyone had a different day off and other companies picked up on this….it would mean chaos for Christians trying to schedule a time to come together to worship, that is what we nicely threatened we would bait the local newspapers to write about( which they would have). It is a nuclear power plant in PA! PR is important to them.

    • Lucian

      To be dead to sins and go to church on Sundays.

    • Canadian

      A.M. Mallett #1,
      Saturday was the Sabbath day given to the children of Israel as a sign of the covenant, remembering both rest at creation and liberation from Egypt. Exodus 31:16-17; Deut 5:15.
      As one of the “Ten Words” the Sabbath for Isreal was not just a principle but a command for a specific day. The principles contained in the command are obviously wider than the day itself but for Israel it was reduced and located to that specific seventh day. The SDA’s will beat our heads in if we try to make the sabbath a command for the new covenant. Sunday does not become the Sabbath! The worship principle and rest principle have been somewhat transfered to Sunday as the Lord’s Day, but the Sabbath was a covenantal command for a nation in Palestine. Ellen White was a plagiarist and false prophet. The early church fathers clearly testify to the end of the keeping of the Jewish Sabbath and the rythym of worship moved to the day of resurrection. Don’t be mislead by the SDA fear tactics about why would Christ only nail the 4th commandment to the cross and how it is eternal because it was written with the finger of God.

    • rayner markley

      Cadis, your husband’s experience reminds me of Josef Stalin’s attempt in the 1930s to keep the factories running non-stop and obliterate Christian worship. The first Soviet calendar mandated 5-day weeks with each worker off every 5th day (generally). Workers could be assigned a different day off from other family members, relatives or friends. That was in effect from fall 1929 to summer 1931. From then until June 1940, the work schedule was changed to a 6-day week with a common day off. After that, the experiment was abandoned, and the 7-day week with Sunday rest was brought back.

    • EricW

      The old creation/old covenant/old man had a specific day of rest as a reminder of that creation and that covenant. But the things of the old creation and old covenant were always anticipating the new creation/new covenant.

      Old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.

      The true Sabbath rest is entered into by faith, not by keeping a set day.

      Christ IS the Sabbath.

      From its earliest times the Church has recognized that a new era dawned with Christ’s resurrection, and the First Day of the Week has swallowed up in victory that which was old and fading and dying and destined to end. It is the Lord’s Day because we have now entered into The Day of the Lord. Saturday commemorated God’s rest. Sunday commemorates the Lord’s New Work.

    • bethyada

      Michael, I found this a real useful/ helpful post. Much to ponder.

      I had previously considered the rest and focus on God aspect of the Sabbath. Not the removal of self-reliance aspect.

      Thanks.

    • Yohan Perera

      I think you have done a very good job by talking about the self-reliance aspect…

      By the way as Pastors (I am one of them) we should not make Sabbath or the Sunday service a big burden on our congregations. Like the Bible says Sabbath is for man and man is not for Sabbath.

      Instead of passing judgement on a person who fails to attend the Sunday service, we can always explain to him about the rewards of coming to God’s presence on a Sunday morning.

      Most people have told me the Sunday service indeed gives rest to their minds from a stressful week etc.

    • rayner markley

      The other side of selling is buying. How do we stand on that? Does anyone go out to eat on Sunday? To be consistent, we should stay home and prepare our own food. Or maybe, to achieve Sunday rest, prepare it the day before.

    • Mary

      “The early church fathers clearly testify to the end of the keeping of the Jewish Sabbath and the rythym of worship moved to the day of resurrection. ”

      This statement is true, however, when did GOD declare He had changed HIS mind about this? Does all theology rest on the early church fathers (ahem…MEN!) OR should it REST (pun intended) on what the LORD says, the Author and Finisher of all things holy?
      I realize this may be a question either ignored or pounced upon here, but I think this is a valid question. Who changed it, God or man? AND why?

    • A. M. Mallett

      Mary, consider this inquiry. When did the LORD give you, assuming a Gentile believer, the commandment of the sabbath?

    • Renju Philip

      In one of the hymns, John Newton says as follows:

      Safely through another week God has brought us on our way;
      Let us now a blessing seek, on the approaching Sabbath day;
      Day of all the week the best, emblem of eternal rest,
      Day of all the week the best, emblem of eternal rest.

      Here we come Thy Name to praise, let us feel Thy presence near,
      May Thy glory meet our eyes, while we in Thy house appear:
      Here afford us, Lord, a taste of our everlasting feast,
      Here afford us, Lord, a taste of our everlasting feast.

      Mercies multiplied each hour through the week our praise demand;
      Guarded by almighty power, fed and guided by His hand;
      Though ungrateful we have been, only made returns of sin,
      Though ungrateful we have been, only made returns of sin.

      When the morn shall bid us rise, may we feel Thy presence near:
      May Thy glory meet our eyes, when we in Thy house appear:
      There afford us, Lord, a taste of our everlasting feast,
      There afford us, Lord, a taste of our everlasting feast.

      While we pray for pardoning grace, through the dear
      Redeemer’s Name,
      Show Thy reconciled face, shine away our sin and shame;
      From our worldly cares set free, may we rest this night with Thee,
      From our worldly cares set free, may we rest this night with Thee.

      May Thy Gospel’s joyful sound conquer sinners, comfort saints;
      May the fruits of grace abound, bring relief for all complaints;
      Thus may all our Sabbaths prove till we join the church above,
      Thus may all our Sabbaths prove till we join the church above!

    • Renju Philip

      We should keep the Sabbath in the following ways
      • The Sabbath not only belongs to God but it is His day because of what He did on that day. The rhythm, of a six day work and a one day rest, as we learn in verse 11, is based upon God’s rhythm in the order of creation which was to bring societal consequences in Israel.
      • There are two sides of the Sabbath, labour and rest. In giving the Sabbath Day, God is not calling us to indolence or laziness. He’s calling us to an activity of serving Him completely on the seventh day. There’s a rhythm of work and rest, six days to work and last to rest.
      • Due to the prohibition of work, realizing that this day is uniquely the Lord’s, Israel must carefully refrain from all unnecessary work on that day. That’s the nature of the command. To observe a regular time of rest and worship in our fast paced world, demonstrates how important God is to us.
      • Sabbath is to have consequences for families; it’s to have consequences for servants; it’s to have consequences even for animals and also for foreigners. If we look at Ex 20:10, you will find mentioned seven categories of beings who benefit from the Lord’s Day, you, your sons, your daughters, your male servants, your female servants, your domestic animals and foreigners who dwell in your midst. The wife is not mentioned here  because she is included as much as husbands in the ‘you’ being addressed.

    • Renju Philip

      Jesus Christ was the fulfilment of Sabbath

      The Old Testament Sabbath looked back to exodus and creation, but it also looked forward. In the near future, it looked forward to Canaan, the promised land of rest. At the same time, the Sabbath anticipated the coming of a Saviour. Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all God’s promises, including the promise of Sabbath. When the people of God rested, they had the hope of eternal rest, which God fulfilled in Jesus Christ Matt 11:28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
      When we come to Jesus Christ in faith, we enter God’s rest place. We give up trying to work for our salvation because we learn cannot work for it. We also abandon the anxiety and sheer exhaustion that go along with striving to be good enough for God. Instead, we rest upon what Jesus did for us, to keep God’s law, by dying on the cross, and rising from the dead on our behalf and thereby trampling death forever.
      Today when we celebrate the Lord’s Day, we are still looking backward and forward. We look back to creation, and also to Christ’s incarnation as man, His glorious death to save us and celebrated resurrection as we rest in the finished work of Christ (John 19:30). Then we look forward to our everlasting rest. The scripture says, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…” (Heb 4:9-11a). Our weekly day of rest is both a day to remember and a day to wait in hope for the coming of Christ.

    • Bible Study

      The Sabbath represents the day of God’s rest. We are children of the day, of the light, not night or darkness. The day represents righteousness that comes through faith alone in Jesus. God’s rest comes through faith as well. As Jesus told us, Come unto me all ye that labor and I will give you rest. All who are seeking to please God by your own works of righteousness in the flesh, trust in the righteousness of Christ and rest, keeping the spiritual intent of the commandment to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. God bless.

    • Mary

      “Mary, consider this inquiry. When did the LORD give you, assuming a Gentile believer, the commandment of the sabbath?”

      God’s election back in the day was (and still is) the nation of Israel. That being the case, their constitution, other wise known as “the law”, the Sabbath as one of the basic statutes, we can see that all others within the community of believers not native born were/are referred to as “aliens”. Short of posting all the references, please look at the number of times the reference associating aliens/strangers, sojourners to the community of the chosen people is made. Who would these aliens/strangers/sojourners people be referring to? Then look at Ephesians 2:12, 19; Also please look for the “lasting covenant” references and then look for the rescinding of these commandments. A couple of references to meeting “on the first day of the week” does not a Sabbath make. Unless, of, course, we want to completely undo Yahweh’s commandments because they are “too grievous”.
      Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that Jesus is our Sabbath rest. He is also the King and when He returns and establishes His Kingdom, will Christianity or Judaism be the manner of life? OR will everyone live however they feel led? OR will there be a set of laws-like the ones spoken of that will be written on our hearts-to live by? Howbeit, we metaphysically translate this to mean that God lets us pick and choose another day to call it the Sabbath and to completely ignore His day. According to the weekly calendar, Saturday logistically remains the 7th day. I think these are some of the basic questions that, once answered, lead to other questions. Not questioning God, but rather the understanding of who He is and how we should live as the Day of His returning swiftly approaches. Peace and blessing!

    • A.M. Mallett

      Mary,
      This is not a matter of undoing God’s law. It is instead coming to realize that we are not under the law. Acts 15 addresses this matter well.

    • Mary

      Acts 15:28For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials:
      29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.”

      The certain word “essentials” is as important to this proclamation as is this statement that is overlooked in the face of attempting to cast aspersions upon the, dare I say …”Jews”:
      Acts 15:7-9 After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as [he did] unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

      We see that Peter (Jewish) is declaring that the same condition for salvation applies to ANYONE (whosoever will), although Israel was first elected. The conditions are:1.”Believe”” (not a mere confession, but an all consuming giving over to the revelation that Christ is the Messiah) 2. “Purifying their hearts ‘by faith'”
      TRUE Israel did not obey the law because it was given, but because of their belief/faith in the God that gave it. They honored Him through obedience.

      Finally, for newborn babes in Christ, the last sentence in this passage tells us not to worry, the Word(the Spirit) will convict and reprove-
      Acts 15:19-21 Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
      IMHO-Mary

    • Marc Taylor

      Hebrews 8:13 teaches that the entire Old Covenant is obsolete. If a command from the Old Covenant is repeated in the New Covenant then we are to obey it. Interestingly out of the Ten Commandments 9 are repeated in the New Covenant for the Christian to obey – the 4th Commandment is not repeated.

      • J.

        Respectfully, the Sabbath was mentioned. “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” The Sabbath was made for man,” etc.

    • Mark Ducharme

      @ Marc Taylor

      For some reason can’t make comments on the baptism thread so, if it’s okay, responding here to your last post there.

      I fail to see, absent conjecture & presupposition, how – in anyway possible – Romans 8:9 and 1 John 4:13 might exclude baptism. The Bible (NECESSARILY) assumes a certain amount of intelligence & understanding borne of recall & learning. That is why when Jesus says in Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” we KNOW His not mentioning baptism in the second half of that statement does NOT erase the first half. Just as the Acts of the apostles are not erased because we’re not reminded of them constantly thereafter. (see: Hebrews 6:1-2)

    • Marc Taylor

      Mark,
      Please contact the admin of this board via email and let them know. I don’t want to hijack this thread.

    • arthur shasta

      here it is…

      the Sabbath is not “eternal”. for instance, was Abraham a Sabbath observer ? Issac ? Jacob ? Noah ?

      Sabbath observance is part of the Mosaic Law covenant imposed on the people at Sinai. i say “imposed” because the Law, as Paul tells us, is not meant to save us but to illustrate that we CANNOT keep the law and that we NEED a Savior. the Lord put the Sabbath, and the rest of the Law, on the people because, like all humans, they were so proud in their own ability to meet the standard of holiness set down by the Lord that they replied “yes” when God asked them if they could keep this covenant.

      could they ? the record shows they failed miserably. the Law is meant to be a mirror you see yourself in and RUN to find the solution in Jesus Christ.

      Sunday, Saturday, night, day…you know what Paul says regarding this !

      the key is to embrace to salvation of the Lord and let his magnificent Grace provide and guide

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