Are Christians supposed to “remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy”?
The “ten commandments” are given in Exodus 20, verses 3 thru 17. In verse 8, we find the fourth commandment, which is “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy”. There are many people who believe that this commandment is binding upon Christians today, just as it was binding upon the people of Israel, in the day when the commandment was given.
This is something that we need to know, because if it IS a binding commandment for us today, then we had better be keeping that commandment, along with every other commandment that God has given us to obey. This is really not a difficult question to answer though, if we are simply willing to learn, and to believe, what the bible says on the matter.
There’s actually two ways in which we can approach the question. First, we can consider whether or not this old testament law is still in force today, and secondly, we can consider who this law applied to in the first place. Let’s address the second consideration first.
Who did this law apply to, when God gave the commandment? Did this commandment apply to everyone who was alive, or did it only apply to a select group of people? Let’s see what the bible says.
It says in Exodus 19:1; “In the third month, after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.”
Verse 18 says; “Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire, and it’s smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently.”
You can see, that on this occasion, the only ones who were present, were the sons of Israel, and God. God had brought Israel out of their bondage in Egypt, and now He descends upon Mt. Siani, to give them the laws which they must live by. The nation of Israel was consistently referred to by God, as “My people” (ie. Ex 3:7). Israel was God’s “chosen people” (ie. Isaiah 43:20)
In chapter 20, verses 3 thru 17, God gives the part of His law to Israel, that we refer to as the “ten commandments”, which includes the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy”.
Then in chapters 21, 22, and 23, God gives many, many other laws to His people. But again, notice that all of these laws, were given to the nation of Israel. These laws were given to no other nation, or group of people, except to Israel!
God made it very clear, in Deuteronomy 4:44 & 45, that the old covenant laws, were given to Israel, and to Israel alone; “Now this is the law which Moses set before the sons of Israel; These are the testimonies and the statutes and the ordinances which Moses spoke to the sons of Israel, when they came out from Egypt.”
We need not even go any further with this approach to the question, because it is more than obvious, that the only people who were ever commanded to “Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy”, were the Israelites. This was a part of their covenant with God. God made that covenant with no one else, except the sons of Israel.
Therefore, the one and only reason that anyone could possibly be concerned with whether or not that law is still in force, is if they themselves are one of the sons of Israel. If you are of Jewish descent, then you would rationally ask the question; Is the commandment to remember the Sabbath day, still binding today?
If you are not of physical Jewish descent, then neither that commandment, nor any other commandment which was a part of first covenant, would ever have been binding upon you any how.
So then, let’s deal with the next question; Is the command to remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy, still binding upon the Jews today? We’ve already clearly established that it was NEVER binding upon anyone OTHER than the Jews, in the first place.
Once again, let’s see what the bible says. Let’s turn to Jeremiah 31:31 thru 33. Here’s what God says concerning the first covenant that He made with Israel; “Behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.”
“Not like the old covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, declares the Lord.”
“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord; I will put My laws within them, and on their heart I will write it, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
The old covenant was with the physical descendants of Abraham, of whom Israel (Jacob) was the grandson. But the new covenant is with the spiritual descendants of Abraham, through faith in Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul wrote to Jewish Christians in Galatia, and this is what he says concerning the old law, in Galatians 3:23 thru 29; “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.”
“Therefore, the law has become our schoolmaster, to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For you are all sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus.”
“For all of you who were baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then are you Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
There is so much revealed in these verses, however, so many people fail to understand what’s being said. Verse 24 clearly states that the old law served as a “schoolmaster”. A schoolmaster is in charge of teaching, and that was the purpose of the old law. To teach the people how to live, and how to obey God, to make them ready for the coming Christ. And that verse also clearly says, that now that faith in Christ HAS come, the Jews are no longer under the schoolmaster. In other words, they are no longer under the old covenant law. The old law had served it’s purpose, and now it’s of no value anymore. The Jews, as well as everyone else, are now under the law of Jesus Christ.
And verse 28 specifically states that now, it’s not only the Jews that are under the new law, but everyone is under the law of Christ! “There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The old law was for the Jews, the physical sons of Israel. The new law is for everyone! Through faith in Christ, everyone can be a “spiritual” son of Abraham. (Verse 29).
People who believe that we must still “remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy”, try to separate the ten commandments, from the rest of the old covenant law that Moses gave to Israel. But as you can see from the passage in Galatians, God does not separate one part of the law from the other.
Hebrews 6:20, tells us that “..Jesus has entered (into heaven) as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” The priesthood under the old covenant, was specified by God to be from the family of Levi. The old testament is full of references to “the Levitical priesthood”. However, Jesus was NOT descended from the tribe of Levi, He was descended from the tribe of Judah. And so in the new covenant, there was a change of the priesthood.
Hebrews 7:12 plainly says; “For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change in law also.” It has been ordained by God, that when the priesthood changes, the law must change also.
Verse 18 says; “For on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment, because of it’s weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand, there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.”
The old law, which was given only to the sons of Israel, had served it’s purpose, in preparing the people for the Christ, and therefore, it has been “set aside” in favor of the new covenant, which was inaugurated by the blood of Christ.
I pray that this short lesson has helped you to understand the facts about the commandment to “remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy”. The entire old covenant law, was given to the sons of Israel, and to no one else. And the entire old covenant law, ahs been “set aside”, and replaced, with the new and better covenant in Christ.
Once again, the prophetic words of Jeremiah; “Behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, When I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.”
If you have any questions at all, please leave them in the comment section provided below.