Old Testament Sabbath VS New Testament Sabbath
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (ESV)
Exhaustion, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, burn-out, repeat. I am a biblical counselor in my local church and I discuss these topics in my counseling sessions every week. Not only have I discussed these issues with members of my local church, I have experienced all of them. Over the next few days, we are going to explore the often ignored fourth commandment and I am growing in my conviction that a good Sabbath can alleviate these issues in some cases.
As we journey through this commandment together, I hope to address both body and soul. God created our whole person. And I am more and more convinced that a regular Sabbath is physically and spiritually good for us. Of course, all of God’s commands are good for us, but for the next two articles, I want to demonstrate the necessity of the Sabbath. Like any article, this isn’t comprehensive, but I pray it challenges you to re-think how you approach the Lord’s Day.
This article will seek to answer the question, "Is there a difference between the Old Testament Sabbath and the New Testament Sabbath?"
Then, the next article will answer five common questions I receive in my local church about the Sabbath.
In our passage, today, Moses starts with the word, “remember”. As I’ve demonstrated in my article on how the Ten Commandments are still binding on believers, this isn’t the first time God’s people heard about the Sabbath. God instituted the Sabbath when He created all things (Genesis 2:2-3) and contrary to what many Christians believe, Jesus did not make the Sabbath obsolete.
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Jesus fulfilling the Sabbath does not mean we aren’t expected to keep the Sabbath. As we will see, God expects that one day in seven days be kept holy. This article progresses with that assumption.
Is there a difference between the Old Testament Sabbath and New Testament Sabbath?
It is important to know that The Moral Law (and consequently, the Sabbath) was administered differently under Moses than under Jesus. For instance, we aren’t putting folks to death who break the Sabbath today (Numbers 15:32-36).
In his book, "Call the Sabbath a Delight" Pastor and Author, Walter Chantry states, “When Moses, under inspiration, superintended the law he taught its application by giving very exact external details for living. Sticks must not be gathered on the Sabbath ([again] Numbers 15:32-36). No fire must be lit in their dwellings (Exodus 35:3) on the Sabbath. Additional sacrifices were prescribed for the Sabbath day (Numbers 28:9-10). Strict instructions down to minute particulars were given. Our Saviour handled precisely the same Sabbath law in a different spirit. He elucidated the principals involved in the Sabbath commandment, emphasizing inward matters of heart motives. He displayed a much greater disposition of leniency, granting men a larger freedom. This we observed both in his tolerance of his disciples’ picking grain on the Sabbath and in his teaching on that occasion.”
Later, Chantry concludes, “Moral Law must be preserved. Judicial Law [Positive Law] must be laid aside.”
The Positive Law demanded that lawbreakers be put to death for breaking certain laws. Some believers fail to see distinctions between the two types of Law in the Old Testament and this creates so much of the confusion we experience when discussing the Moral Law (summarized in the Ten Commandments) and our obligation to keep it as Christians today. The enduring Moral Law is administered differently now that the covenant of grace is concluded.
Now, there is this issue of days in regards to the Sabbath that distinguishes the Old Testament Sabbath and the New Testament Sabbath. Originally, God rested on Saturday. Christians today practice the Sabbath on Sunday. Does the New Testament warrant this? It would seem so (although the New Testament practice of the Sabbath still differs from ours today). Practicing the Sabbath on Sunday is a part of what makes the New Covenant new. Just as God rested on Saturday after He created all things, Jesus rose from the grave on Sunday (Mark 16:9) marking new creation. Therefore, Christians in the New Testament practiced the Sabbath on Sunday to celebrate. The resurrection marked the conclusion of the covenant of grace that the Old Testament promised. The New Testament believers practiced the Sabbath on what they called the Lord’s Day (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10) and we as believers look to follow that pattern today.
So how should we observe the Sabbath on the Lord's Day?
We should gather as a local church (Hebrews 10:25).
We should sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19).
We should give priority to the preaching of the Scripture (Acts 2:42; 1st Timothy 4:13).
We should be devoted to prayer (Colossians 4:2).
We should be partakers of the ordinances/sacraments (Matthew 28:18-20; 1st Corinthians 11:24).
We should serve one another (1st Peter 4:10; Hebrews 10:24).
 Chantry, Walter. Call the Sabbath a Delight. (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1991), 63-4.
 Ibid, 69.
 There is actually evidence that the 1st century worshipped Saturday and Sunday.