The Sabbath: Only for the Old Testament?

Even the New Testament shows that God expects us to observe a seventh-day Sabbath.

Is the seventh-day Sabbath just for the Old Testament? Many people believe so. But what does the New Testament say on the subject?

Did Jesus Christ keep the Sabbath?

“And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught” (Mark 1:21). So clearly, Christ was a seventh-day Sabbath-keeper. But was this just a one-time event?

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read” (Luke 4:16).

Mark 2:28 goes so far as to say that Jesus Christ “is Lord also of the sabbath.” In fact, since God created all things through Him (Ephesians 3:9), Jesus Christ actually created the Sabbath!

Yet some say Jesus did away with the Sabbath at His death. Many believe we should observe Sunday because of references to the first day of the week in the New Testament. But did the Church after Christ keep the Sabbath?

There are eight New Testament passages that contain the phrase “first day of the week,” though the word day is not in the original Greek any of those times. Acts 20:7 is probably the most referenced instance. In the Bible, the day begins at sunset (Leviticus 23:32). Paul spoke “until midnight,” which means this “first day of the week” was a Saturday night. The other seven passages, if they even allude to God’s people coming together, give no evidence of Sunday being a day of worship.

These eight passages give no authority to change the weekly day of worship. Even the Catholic Church recognizes this. As Cardinal James Gibbons wrote: “You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day we never sanctify” (Faith of Our Fathers).

As to the example of the first-century Church, they too kept a seventh-day Sabbath. In Acts 17:1-2, for example, the Apostle Paul visited Jews in Thessolonica, and “as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures” (Acts 17:1-2). This was the seventh day of the week, as Jews have always observed. He did it “three sabbath days.” And not simply because he was in town for three weeks; this was “as his manner was”—the same Greek word Luke used when he wrote “custom” in Luke 4:16. It was Christ’s custom to keep the Sabbath day, and it was Paul’s—years after Christ had been resurrected.

In Acts 13, Paul preached to both Jews and Gentiles in the synagogue on the Sabbath, which proves that it wasn’t just for the Jews. In fact, the Jews were offended by Paul’s message, and “the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath” (verse 42). Paul was a Christian who, like the rest of the New Testament Church, observed the Sabbath. “And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God” (verse 44).

Prophesying about the end time, Christ says to His very elect, “But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day. For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:20-21). So the Sabbath will continue to be in effect until at least that point—and those who escape the tribulation will be keeping it.

We have seen that Christ kept the Sabbath while on Earth. The New Testament Church after Him did as well. The Sabbath is to be in effect up until the return of Jesus Christ. All this is provable from the New Testament. If you have closed your mind to the Old Testament, reconsider looking at it to learn why and how to observe the Sabbath. Go back to Genesis and see how God put His presence in this day, thus making it holy (Genesis 2:1-3). What God has made holy, He commands us to keep holy (Exodus 20:8-11).

The Sabbath means resting from the labor of the week and remembering the Creator. But more importantly, it typifies a time of rest from this hectic world, of which Satan is now deceiver and god (Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4). The 6,000 years Satan has had man in his grasp are a type of the six-day workweek, since 1,000 years is as one day to God (2 Peter 3:8).

The Sabbath is not only for the Old Testament, but still in living effect today!