After wrestling for years with whether God expected a New Testament disciple to tithe, in 2008 I started tithing 10% of my gross income. Over time since then, I’ve developed confidence that God will provide all my financial needs, and He has. In 2014, the Spirit of God led me to take the next step in my discipleship journey—honoring the Sabbath.
The Christian Sabbath?
Like most Christians, I believed the ‘Christian Sabbath’ was on Sunday, and that Jesus removed the requirement for us to obey the Old Testament commandments and laws.
We’re now under grace, right? And, just like 99% of Western Christians, I felt my Sabbath ‘obligation’ to God was complete after I went to church for 1 or 2 hours each Sunday. After that, I was free to enjoy what I wanted to do, whether it was watching sports on TV, mowing the lawn, or going shopping, without another conscious thought about God that day.
The 7th Day?
In 2013, one of the last courses I took for my Doctor of Ministry degree was entitled “The Feasts of Jehovah.” I think this is when the Spirit of God really started tugging on my conscience. I learned that the Sabbath—like tithing and burnt offerings—was instituted long before Moses received the law on Mount Sinai. It goes back to creation itself. Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day, and their first task was to rest, with God, on the seventh day.
In January 2014, the Spirit of God used the Ten Commandments to challenge me to honor the Sabbath Day. The 4th commandment is,
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)
Later in Exodus God said,
“The sons of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.’ “It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor and was refreshed.” (Exodus 31:16-17)
So, God Himself observed the Sabbath, and the 4th Commandment is to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. I knew in my heart I wasn’t honoring the Sabbath and keeping it holy. The Spirit challenged me with these probing questions:
- Are you going to obey My word?
- Am I the Lord of your life, or not?”
Does the 7th-day Sabbath apply to Christians?
Since the Sabbath was instituted at the beginning of Genesis, and not at Mount Sinai, I wondered whether Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection negated God’s requirement for mankind to keep the Sabbath? Then, I remembered there’s a 1000-year Sabbath coming in our future, in the millennial reign of Christ, the 7th millennium of this creation. God said the Sabbath was to be observed perpetually for all the generations of Israel. Also, the Sabbath is to be ‘a sign’ to the world. Keeping the Sabbath is like tithing our time.
Objections to the 7th-day Sabbath
Following the Biblical Sabbath, from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, would mean some radical changes for me. For example:
The Sabbath is out of sync with the world
Dedicating each Saturday to the Lord would immediately put me out of sync with the world system and the majority of Christendom.
In our culture, Saturday is generally used for entertainment and sports, shopping, mowing the lawn, and other non-spiritual activities.
On the positive side, while my Christian brethren are going to Church on Sunday I’d be free to enjoy entertainment and sports, shopping, and other activities.
The Sabbath is a sign to both me and them
It testifies that some are trying to follow the commandments of the Lord, even though it makes them be ‘out of sync’ with the world.
It testifies that I value the Lord’s approval more than the fellowship and approval of the world.
Forsaking profitable work on the 7th day of each week is also a sign that I’m trusting in the Living God to provide my needs.
Remember the Sabbath to Keep it Holy:
‘Dedicating’ the day means using the 24-hour period from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset to rest, seek the Lord, fellowship, and worship.
Keeping the Sabbath is like tithing my time. When I dedicate one day a week to the Lord, I’m worshipping by:
- Being obedient to His word.
- Showing that He is worthy of one day of my focused attention each week.
- Believing that I’ll be able to accomplish all the things I need to do in the other 6 days each week.
Keeping the Sabbath — New Testament
Many will argue from Colossians 2:16,
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
Jesus and apostles honored the Sabbath
Jesus honored the Sabbath perfectly in compliance with scripture, but He often got in trouble with the Jewish leaders who persecuted Him because He violated their man-made religious rules–their takanot (pronounced taak-a-note).
After the resurrection, the apostles, including Paul, continued to honor the 7th-day Sabbath. So, in Col 2:16 (and other places) Paul was not saying we shouldn’t observe the Hebrew scriptures about the Sabbath. Instead, he was saying not to comply with the unscriptural takanot of the Jewish religion.
Obey the scriptures–Not the takanot
Jesus and all the apostles, including Paul, honored the scriptural Sabbath day. But, they didn’t follow the additional legalistic requirements–the takanot— that Jewish religious leaders added. Here are a couple examples of such unscriptural legalisms that still exist today:
- For many years my son had Hasidic Jewish neighbors in Brooklyn NY. Once, he was walking down the street when a young Jewish man asked my son to do him a favor. It was the Sabbath and the Jewish family’s apartment was very hot. Because it was the Sabbath, the Jewish man wasn’t allowed to adjust the thermostat because that would constitute work on the Sabbath.
- Another time, my son noticed that every Saturday in NYC many of the elevators were programmed to automatically stop at every floor. He then discovered this was because Jewish people could climb stairs, but were restricted from pushing an elevator button on the Sabbath.
So, Paul was saying that while we should follow the Hebrew scriptures, we don’t need to comply with man-made rules. And we shouldn’t let anyone judge us for not following them.
This was also Jesus’ attitude. He perfectly obeyed all the Sabbath commandments of scripture. But He ignored their takanot rules and refused to let the Pharisees and Sadducees judge Him for it.
My experience so far
When I started honoring the Sabbath I attended a local Messianic Jewish synagogue. I immediately found myself in a Hebraic culture that was very different than any Church I’d ever attended.
By moving from Sunday to Saturday, I moved from a Greek/Roman Christian Church system to a Hebraic/Messianic system. Both claim to follow Jesus, but they’re as different as night and day.
I believe the 18 months we spent in the Messianic synagogue was a spiritual training experience from God, but then it was time to move on.
Christian Takanot – Church Membership
The need to be members of a local congregation has been drilled into our heads. But there’s only one verse that supports the requirement to ‘go to church’ every week.
Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:25
Church leaders commonly misuse Hebrews 10:25 to keep their people in bondage to all kinds of unscriptural church practices. Rather than submit to their takanot, I’ve decided to follow the Lord’s commandments, including His appointed times when He said we’re required to meet. Everything else, including weekly ‘services’ is optional. Everything else is Christian takanot.
From 2015 to Now
In 2015 we moved from Pennsylvania to a farm in Virginia. We attended the local Messianic congregations that are within a 1-hour drive, but didn’t ‘witness’ to their spirit. We no longer fit into the local Sunday churches either. Some will think we must be rebellious or unreasonable, but we’re not. We’re just trying to ‘follow the Lamb’ according to the word of God.
So, we’ve been honoring the Sabbath and worshiping at home or at other places and times as the Spirit leads. We fellowship with brethren throughout each week, not just at 1-hour weekly church services. When the corona virus forced the lock-down of churches it didn’t affect us at all..
At first we felt guilty for not complying with Hebrews 10:25. But then I realized God never said “thou shalt attend church every Sunday.” Instead, God’s requirements for our assemblies are clearly spelled-out in Leviticus 23–a chapter that church leaders universally ignore. So, like Jesus, we choose not to follow the takanot of the world’s religious systems, who add to the requirements of the Bible for their own benefit.
In 2015 we traveled to Israel for the Feast of Tabernacles, and I returned in 2018 for Israel’s 70th birthday as a nation.
In 2019 I joined about 2000 brethren camping for 8 days while attending the Feast of Tabernacles with Lion & Lamb Ministries in Oklahoma.
Conclusion: Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy
The weekly 7th-day Sabbath is a type and shadow of what’s to come. Jesus our Messiah will establish His 1000-year reign on the earth in the 7th millennium.
Until then, let us obey the 4th Commandment. Let us rest on the weekly Sabbath. Let us fellowship, teach, and remind ourselves of the reality that’s coming.