When discussing the Ten Commandments, the subject of the Sabbath usually arises. I want to use this extra essay in the Matthew series to try and clarify this subject which confuses many people. I am indebted to a fine scholar on this subject, Theodore Epp, who has written extensively and well on the subject of the Sabbath.
In Genesis 2:3 we have the first mention of the Sabbath. It says that God finished His work of Creation and rested. No mention of man keeping the day is mentioned here. Four hundred and thirty years after God made a covenant with Abraham, the Sabbath is mentioned, and it was a covenant between God and Israel. Never was the Sabbath ever ordered for the Gentiles. In Nehemiah 9 he says that God gave Israel the laws and the Sabbath to be kept. It was a covenant with Israel. Exodus 31:13, “Speak thou unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you”.
In Galatians 3 Paul clarifies the whole subject. He says that the Law was given to make sin clear, and we were prisoners to the law because no man could keep it perfectly, so all were condemned by it. The Law, then, was a teacher that made us realize we needed a Savior, Jesus Christ. He then says, “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the Law”. The Law only condemned those who broke it, as we all do, but now, having faith in Christ and walking in the Light with Him cleanses us from sin and sets us free.
While Jesus was on earth, prior to the Cross, He, being a Jew, kept the Law very strictly. In fact He was the only One who ever was able to perfectly keep the Law. So He said not one jot or tittle would pass from it until all was fulfilled, and He fulfilled it. The final period was made when, on the Cross, He said, “It is finished”.
Prior to his conversion, Paul was a Jew and kept the law. However, his attempts to convert his Jewish people to Christ was rejected, and he shook off the dust of his clothes and went to the Gentiles. His only visits to the Synagogues after this were to preach Christ to the Jews who gathered there.
The Apostles went to the Synagogues, because that is where the Jews gathered and they could preach to them. After the Cross the Sabbath is not mentioned again. The Apostles met with Christians on “The First Day of the Week” (Acts 20:7). And this was called “The Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10).
So the Old Covenant included the Sabbath, but we are under a New Covenant and it is not like the Old. “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the Law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God!” (Hebrews 7:18-19).
“Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.” (Hebrews 7: 22)