Do Modern-Day Christians Need to Observe the Sabbath?

Most Christians know the Ten Commandments. They remember the story in Exodus when Moses goes to the mountain and receives the commands on plaques from God. We easily resonate with the command not to murder, yet have we examined all the commandments and fully understand what they are asking of us? Do we even have to follow them anymore, or did they die when Jesus rose on the third day and the curtain ripped?

What about the fourth commandment, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." (Exodus 20:8) Must we follow that one? If so, how? In this article, we will examine this commandment and its commandment for today.

What Is the Sabbath Commandment?

The Sabbath commandment is found in Exodus 20:8-11, "Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."

This is the longest commandment given by God. In Exodus 23:12, we are given additional information about the Sabbath, "Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed."

While God gave the commandment to Moses in Exodus, the Sabbath concept was introduced in Genesis. "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done." (Genesis 2:2-3)

God modeled rest in Genesis. He didn't need to rest, but He created a cycle, a pattern of labor and rest for us. The Hebrew word "Shabbat" (Sabbath) means "to cease." We are to cease from our regular work.

Six days you are given to work. On the seventh day, there must be a pause to honor the One who made you. This interrupts your constant hustle and bustle for a time of reverence toward God and some much-needed rest.

Now that we have refreshed ourselves on the commandment in the Bible, let's look at the practical application of this direction.

stone replica tablets for ten commandments

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/allanswart

Are We Supposed to Follow the Fourth Commandment?

Do we have the luxury of deciding that a particular commandment is out of date or not relevant anymore?

No, we do not have the authority to pick and choose the commandments we want to follow, nor can we individually select what parts of the Bible are true or false. The commandments were given to us by God for our benefit. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." Jesus did not eradicate the law but completed and fulfilled it perfectly, which none of us are able to do.

The Sabbath is a gift. It's a way to honor God and to keep us from burning ourselves out. Most of us don't have an off button when it comes to "being productive." If left to our own devices, we run ourselves into the ground. Hence, the world and the constant go, go, go nature.

God gave us a day of rest to rest in Him, to worship Him, and remember who created us. If we selectively choose which commandments to follow, aren't we playing God? Trying to be God is a real temptation for all of us. We tend to lean on our own strengths and desires. We must trust that God has the better plan and knows what we need even more than we do.

Sabbath is about trusting in the Lord. Kevin DeYoung asks challenging questions as author of The 10 Commandments, "Can you trust God to give you manna for two days on the sixth day? Can you trust God to make up for "lost" work on one day by blessing you on the other six days? Can you trust that this burden you're carrying is not yours to carry alone? Can you trust God to carry it (and carry you!) if you have faith enough to stop striving and start worshiping?"

Mr. DeYoung's questions are convicting. Trusting in the Lord is a challenge for all Christians, but the Sabbath commandment puts our faith to the test.

How Do We Follow the Sabbath Commandment?

I would argue this is probably the most ignored commandment by Christians today. Most Christians understand and clearly agree with most of the commandments, 'Do not murder,' 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not steal,' and so on.

I know when my husband and I felt convicted to be more intentional about what we did and did not do on the Lord's Day, we mentioned this to a fellow Christian, and their comment was, "That's very Old Testament of you." We don't think it's Old Testament or New Testament, but rather God's law.

The Pharisees asked Jesus which is the greatest commandment in the law. Jesus' response sums up the Ten Commandments in Matthew 22:37-40. His first comment incorporates commandments one through four in verse 37, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." In verses 39 and 40, Jesus' statement includes commandments five through ten, "And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Love God and love others; that is what we are commanded to do.

Jesus' comment confirms that we don't get to pick and choose which commandment to follow. They are all important and must be taken seriously. Celebrating the Sabbath falls under the loving God category.

While some details are debated amongst theologians about how to execute the Sabbath day, they all agree on the core principle. Everyone acknowledges the Sabbath day is made to worship the Lord. This involves attending church to be in communal worship with other believers. The other uncontended part is to rest. This is a day of rest. We are to rest in the Lord.

Jesus healed on the Sabbath; it caused much consternation for the Pharisees because they thought He was breaking the Sabbath. (Luke 13:10) He allowed His disciples to pluck heads of grain and eat from the field. (Matthew 12). Jesus showed mercy on this day of rest, and so should we.

Perspective: Gratitude vs. Restriction

woman resting on sofa with low lighting and plants in background

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/petrenkod

Our perspective on things influences whether or not we are motivated to do something. Some people view the Sabbath as a rule that restricts them. Why should they be kept from being productive or doing what they want?

However, if you view the Sabbath as the gift or blessing it is, you take a different perspective on the day. God gave this day to us because we need rest! He loves us and cares for us. God created a day for us to worship and recharge. This day reminds us that the world doesn't revolve around us, but rather Him who made us. When you focus on Him, you remember who is in charge, and your life gets put in proper perspective and order.

When you view the Sabbath as a gift, you thank God for wanting to provide us with what we need: rest. We can forge ahead on Monday through Saturday with work, responsibilities, activities, etc., because we know rest is coming on Sunday. Sunday is a day to worship Him, and yet we benefit.

Rest is not a punishment but a present for God's people. The world may view Sunday as just another day, but for us, it's the best day of the week. It's a holy day—a day to be saturated by the Word of God. You get to say no to your other responsibilities (laundry, shopping, going to the office, yard work, kids activities, etc). Did I say kids' activities? Yes, you are allowed to set boundaries around your worship time, family time, and what are appropriate activities for the day.

Attending worship is a priority on the Lords Day. This usually means saying no to anything else that tries to take its place. It must be number one; otherwise, are you really worshipping God with all your heart, soul, and mind, as Jesus instructed us in Mark 12:30? Are you teaching your kids what's important in this world?

If you want your kids to be faithful adults, you must model that participating in church is necessary and our duty. If you consistently take them, they will learn that Sunday morning is the day we go to church. Make it non-negotiable.

"If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." (Isaiah 58:13-14)

The Ten Commandments are guardrails for us, a way to keep us on the narrow path and expose our sin so we can repent. Through our love for God, we get to honor Him by striving to follow His rules. When our hearts are open to God, we accept His standards, understanding it's how He shows His love to us. It's the loving care of a father who wants their child to succeed in this toilsome world.

The Sabbath is a gift from the Lord! We need rest. The Sabbath is the ability to trust in God that He will provide us with the rest and teaching we need.

How are you spending the Sabbath day?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Evrymmnt

Katie Kennedy headshotKatie T. Kennedy lives in Richmond, VA. She is married to a wonderful husband Jonathan and they have three girls. She is a writer, blogger, and employee of the family business. After a mid-life spiritual transformation, she discovered her love of writing. She loves to travel, read, be in nature, cook, and dream.  She would love to connect with you online at, Instagram or Facebook.



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