Friday, April 27, 2012

Do Christians Still Honor the Sabbath?

From Scripture we know that's Christ did not abide by the Fourth Commandment according to Jewish Law. It was on the Sabbath that Christ did most of His miracles. Neither did the Appostles abide by this Law as we know they plucked and ate ears of corn on this day. Christ made a new covenant though His Crucifixion and the example of His life, instructing us to no longer observe the day of the Sabbath as a religious observance. If you examine the New Testament you will find that all the commandments of the Decalogue are taught by Jesus or His Apostles except for the fourth one regarding the observation of the Sabbath. You cannot find one reference to the fourth commandment in the New Testament. In addition we know that Jesus condensed all the commandments into two, love of God and love of our neighbor saying, "On these two commandments hang all the Law and Prophets." (Mt 22:40) Paul we know taught day and night every day toiling in his work for the benefit of souls.
From the earliest days Christians honored the eighth day as the Lord's day, not the Sabbath. This was seen as the day of the Resurrection, a day where it was declared that we have been freed from the chains of sin and death and promised that we too will rise from bodily death into eternal life.

Elder Clopas reports the following:
On the first day of the week the event of the Resurrection took place, and on the first day of the week in Emmaus He performed the first Liturgy with the breaking of bread before His disciples. It was on the evening of the first day of the week, "when the doors wre shut where the disciples we assembled for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst of His disciples and said to them, "Peace be unto you." It was on the first day of the week (Sunday) that the Savior breathed on His disciples giving them the power to bind and loose the sins of men. On the same day of the week, as well, He appeared to His disciples again, with Thomas present, for whom He fortified his faith in His Resurrection. In addition, it was on this day that the Apostles celebrated the breaking of bread, in other words, the Divine Liturgy. On the same day the gathering of economic aid and preaching as organized by the Apostles took place in order to assist the impoverished Christians.
In this way the Resurrection day (Kyriaki - Sunday) became from the earliest times the day of the Divine Liturgy. We can see this in the writings of early Church Fathers.
Saint Ignatius writes,
Those who we brought up in the ancient order of things have come to possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observation of the Lord's Day...
Saint Justin Martyr writes,
Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.
Elder Cleopas tell us,
"We can find similar testimonies in the Didache (or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), in the canons and the multitude of the holy Fathers and writers of the Church from the second to the fourth century, as for example Tertullian, Saint Irenaeus, Saint Ambrose, Saint John Chrysostom and many others. In fifth century, Sunday became a secular day of rest by a decree of Constantine the Great which affirmed the general practice of Chrstians at that time.

Reference: The Truth of Faith, pp 169 - 191


  1. "The great Moses mystically foreshadowed this day, saying: 'And God blessed the seventh day.' For this is the blessed Sabbath; it is the day of rest, in which the Only-Begotten Son of God rested from all His works, and through the dispensation of death, in body He rested. And having returned to it again through the Resurrection, as the only Good and Merciful Lord, He granted to us Life Eternal." (Doxistacon of Great and Holy Saturday [sabbath] Orthros)
    While the "Eighth Day" or day of Resurrection has a meaaning the Sabbath never had, it is important to remember that Christ kept the fullness of the Law in perfection. And the first christians kept the observance of the Law as well (the myrhh-bearing women observed the Sabbath, etc., etc.) From the most ancient of times within christianity, the Sabbath has been remembered and "kept" (not according to the letter of the Jewish Law) as the day of rest. The day of rest in the tombs. This is the traditional day that commemorations, including the Divine Liturgy, for the dead have been held from the very earliest days of christianity and to this very day. Christians keep the Sabbath by being united with Christ in Baptism and resting in Him.

  2. I am wondering what the author of this post would contend is the spirit of the fourth commandment? Would the author suggest that embracing the rhythm of rest and labor inherent in God's Kingdom as well as setting aside regular and consistent time and space and opportunities to truly delight in the Lord was not respected or observed by the our Lord and His Apostles? Surely not. I believe that in our present "Church culture" there are many who are missing the spirit of the Sabbath as blatantly as the Pharisees in the time of Jesus. Productivity and efficiency in the name of Jesus has taken the place of truly honoring the Lord in our times of labor and rest.

    Let us be careful that in our desire to make a point about the suspension of the Sabbath for the sake of the concept of its fulfillment in Christ we do not open the way for dishonoring the Lord's honoring of the truly spirit of the Sabbath in our daily life by not taking a day in seven to stop and honor the Lord in spirit and truth. The way we conduct "Church" on the Lord's Day is very often not, in fact, a manifestation of the Sabbath.

    I get what the author is trying to say, But... I guess the long and short of all this is that I see a lot of throwing out of the baby with the bath water ...

  3. Some further quotes from Elder Cleopa of Romania (1912-1998),
    "We no longer have any need of keeping the Sabbath. The New Testament has succeeded the Old, dedicating another day to rest and celebration - the first day of the week, the Lord's Day. The consecration of this day of celebration and rest is independent of the old Sabbath. The Sabbath of the old Law, as we showed earlier, was instituted by God as a day of celebration and rest in memory of the exodus from the slavery of Egypt of only one people: the people of Israel. On Sunday [the Greek word for Sunday (κυριακι) comes from the word for Lord and can be translated literally as "the Lord's day], however, we celebrate the memory (αναμνηση) [anamnesis which is more than just a memory or reminiscence but that the events of the past are actually present in the Church here and now] of the resurrection of the Lord, through which was accomplished the renewal and regeneration of the entire world, our exodus from the slavery of sin and the acquisition of the heavenly Canaan."

    So we can see it is important not to mix the meaning of these two days of celebration, one is for the Jews and the other for the Christians. As I pointed out earlier we can see that neither Christ nor the Apostles honored this Sabbath day celebration.

    in regards tot he Myrrh-bearers Elder Cleopa has the following to say, "You've also referred to the fact that the holy Myrrh-bearers kept and honored the Sabbath day, "and rested on the Sabbath day according to the commandments." (Lk 23:55-56) In deed, the Myrrh-bearers, as the simple women they were, honored the Law and all its prophets. They followed Christ, but like Joseph of Arimathea, whom the holy Gospel says was a counsel member, and "a good and just man", they kepis to the Law out of fear of the Jews. Joseph of Arimathea, "a rich man" and "an honorable council member," while in such fear of the Jews that he followed Christ secretly, out in the open worked as every Jew, even taking part int he council. How much more then, would a few women fear not keeping the Sabbath in violation of the Law?"

    So, the point Elder Cleopa is making is that Christians do not keep the Sabbath, which has a different meaning intended for the people of Israel, but do keep another day, the Lord's Day, Sunday. This is part of the New Covenant. As we know there are groups who do honor the Sabbath (Saturday) such as Jehovah's Witness and this is an error. We as Christians give special meaning to the eighth day, the first day of the Week, Sunday. It wasn't until the wanderings of the Israelites in the desert did God give the instruction to honor the Sabbath: "And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day." (Dr 5:15)

    So is it not an error to think of Sunday as the Sabbath? If so, then wouldn't we have to also follow the Jewish regulations concerning work on this day? Those transgressions which Christ was crucified for? In a visit to Israel even the elevators in the hotel where I stayed did not operate from sundown on Friday to sunset Saturday. It seems to me the idea of Sunday or the Lord's Day is quite different than the Jewish Sabbath. Christians did not simply modify the Sabbath, they, including Christ and the Apostles, rejected it and created and new day for "remembrance".

  4. Jesus said the Sabbath was made for mankind and not mankind for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28) Shabbat observance is found right there yet you are blind to it. Sunday is not commanded to be a holy day of rest. The sabbath is the Lord's Day, not sunday

  5. Plucking grain on the Sabbath is expressly allowed by the Law. Healing on the Sabbath has always been allowed by the Law. You are incorrect to state that Jesus was a Sabbath Law breaker.

  6. The earliest (Jewish) Christians rested on the Sabbath and gathered for Eucharist on the Lord's Day.

  7. God wrote on stone twice to keep the Sabbath. God never changes. Jesus rested in the grave on the Sabbath.

  8. From the text above: "You cannot find one reference to the fourth commandment in the New Testament". I am Orthodox and not Sabbatarian. However, and with that in mind, the writer of this article is quite wrong regarding most of the comments regarding the Sabbath and the New Testament. Consider just one of many references to Jesus adherence to the Sabbath; Luke 4:16, " 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"(KJV). ..."as was His custom"... . Pretty clear I would say. I would say, keep both! As for the Sabbath, keep The Commandment, not the oppressive Jewish tradition (man's law). But the spirit of the Commandment, kind of like, is it "REALLY" fasting if you eat a soy hot dog that looks and tastes just like a beef hot dog? That is between you and God. And in the end, so is keeping or not keeping the Sabbath.

  9. The Sabbath is still on the 7th day in Holy Orthodoxy. The Eastern Churches kept it and so should we. You can't pick and choose which of the 10 commandments to keep or not keep.

    XXXVI. O Lord Almighty Thou hast created the world by Christ, and hast appointed the Sabbath in memory thereof, because that on that day Thou hast made us rest from our works, for the meditation upon Thy laws…Thou didst give them the law or decalogue, which was pronounced by Thy voice and written with Thy hand. Thou didst enjoin the observation of the Sabbath, not affording them an occasion of idleness, but an opportunity of piety, for their knowledge of Thy power, and the prohibition of evils; having limited them as within an holy circuit for the sake of doctrine, for the rejoicing upon the seventh period…On this account He permitted men every Sabbath to rest, that so no one might be willing to send one word out of his mouth in anger on the day of the Sabbath. For the Sabbath is the ceasing of the creation, the completion of the world, the inquiry after laws, and the grateful praise to God for the blessings He has bestowed upon men (Apostolic Constitutions – Didascalia Apostolorum Book VII, Section II)

    There is a seventh book of the Apostolic Constitutions which contains seventeen Sabbath blessings in six prayers that are identical to the Jewish “Amidah of the Sabbath”. This is pre-rabbinic liturgy put together by Ezra the Scribe.

    1. I truely enjoyed that selection of patristic writings thank you.I am also Orthodox.I will say, I dont agree with the POV of the above writer.I was taught when I entered the church that The day was for us and not us for the day and..quoting man holds a day holy another sees each day as the same..let each be therfore convinced..for if i keep the day or not i keep the day unto the Lord or I do not keep it unto the is not for us to judge anothers servant.Also..let no one put you in bondsge again concerning sabbath days, new moons which are but a shaddow of things above. Now..having said all this..i was told in Orthodoxy..True Sabbath is still and always has been Friday even to Saturday eve..but is not a law enforced..but up to the believer.Sunday is and always shall be OUR most important day..The Day of Our Rebirth in Christs Resurrection..The Day Our True Life began/begins. Many writings include references to Great Saturday..prayers for the departed, references to Christs repose..the Sabbath.We..ENTER INTO HIS REST because of His resurection..and we Abide in that sabbath via His Holy Spirit and Obedience..Eucarist.Notice also when the Corrum of the Apistles met in Jerusalem discussing Gentil conversion..The gave them only 3 requirements..No Idol worship, no sexual impurity, no strangled with blood inside food to eat.Nothing at all in requirements for gentiles to keep the Sabbath Day as was innthe law.It goes on to say..not even our ancestors could keep it therefire no further burden will we place upon them.Now..i am one who ejoys a fully jewish Sabbath..though i have not done this in years..THAT DAY OF REST was for me..not ME for it. We honor God every day..we gather eclesia on Sunday..and if we are wise we do pick a day of rest even if it isnt Saturday.All these traditions are spelled out in the histories and writtings of the fathers.For those that wish to feel elite and say those who are Orthodox and are not keeping the ancient sabbath day are not actually Orthodox..are breaking the command to bot have scripture subject to personal oppinion.It is for The Fathers..and the Bishops..Basically the Apostles of The Faith to say so one way or the other..and anything beyond that..if we attempt to force our oppinion..we are being vain and proud. Talk to Your Fathers and ask for Patristics to read that will allow you to agree with the church..from now back to the ancient leaders..The Apostles themselves.

  10. I am a seeker in Orthodoxy, but one of the things I have noticed in my readings, including some of the above, is the lack of joy and peace that Orthodox writings and believers possess. It appears to me that the continual parsing of God's word and what it means prohibits those that may want to go forward into the Orthodox church, tradition, and community. Jesus came to fulfill the law, and that we all might through Him, be saved. I do not believe we should do away with or even skirt the intent of the previous commandments. However, what I do treasure about the Orthodox teachings that I have learned so far, is the mystery of God living in me and I in him. Finding that pursing loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind is quite enough in itself. And that the second to love others as myself a full time job. You speak of soy hotdogs, throwing the baby out with the bath water, on an on--aren't the two greatest commandments that Christ gave to us sufficient? Will not the rest take care of itself if we tend to those two first? I am not a scholar, merely a traveler and seeker--but I do find the constant bickering amongst the Orthodox thinkers tiresome and making much ado about the minor rather than the major.