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What is the Sabbath?

The word ‘sabbath’ simply means ‘stop’. It is God’s instruction that we should stop our usual activity for one day in every seven. The Jews kept this day on the Saturday. As the early Christians went forward in Christ, they met together everyday as it says in Acts 2:46-47. Then a pattern began to emerge that the first day of the week (Sunday) became a special day for Christians to remember Jesus resurrection. See Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2.

In the early church there were many Jewish Christians who struggled about how much of the Old Testament law they should keep, even though they understood the freedom that they should have in Christ. Peter had this struggle over the Jewish food laws (Acts 10:9-20). The Apostle Paul says in Colossians 2:16 that we should not view these issues as matters of spiritual life or death: Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (NIV)

Or as he says in Romans 14:5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. (NIV)

What this means is that God has given us freedom about which day should be special for Him and for us – we are not designed to keep going without a break! A day of rest was God’s good plan for the benefit of the people He created: see Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (NIV)

In other words the Sabbath rest was part of God’s kindness to the nation of Israel to provide rest for His people from all their work. He made it a law so that people would know it was really important (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). But this day of rest does not have to be a Sunday!

However it is important to have time to hear God’s Word preached, and to worship Him. As Christians we are all members of Christ’s body – the church. Every Christian is vital for the church (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Therefore, as a Christian it is important that you are a part of a church where each person can meet together and serve one another. Practically it may be more difficult to serve if we have to work on a Sunday but there may be other opportunities with the church, house fellowship or Christian fellowship at work on other days of the week.

We have been given freedom, in Christ, whether we keep a special day set apart or treat each day the same. But we must be settled in our conscience that whatever we do, we are honouring God (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31).