God made the Sabbath on the seventh day of creation week, and it reminds us of our Creator. How does He want us to remember the Fourth Commandment today?
The Sabbath in the Bible
God recorded the Fourth Commandment in Exodus 20:8-11 (this is numbered as the Third Commandment by Catholics and Lutherans):
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
The Sabbath was made at creation
God made the Sabbath on the seventh day of the creation week, and it reminds us of our Creator: “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:1-3).
We follow God’s example and command by remembering and resting on this seventh day each week.
Unless God told us, how would we know how He wants to be worshipped? How would mortal man know what is holy time—unless God revealed it? Thankfully He has revealed it, though so few today “remember” the seventh-day Sabbath.
Sabbath: Saturday or Sunday?
Biblical scholars, whether Jewish, Catholic or Protestant, recognize that the seventh day of the week was and is Saturday. More precisely, using the biblical method of marking time, it is from Friday at sunset to Saturday at sunset.
So who changed the Sabbath? God didn’t, and neither did the apostles or early New Testament Church. Nowhere in the Bible was the Sabbath day changed to Sunday. Read more about the history of why most churches today have their services on Sunday in our article “When Did the Change From Saturday to Sunday Occur?”
Sabbath rest and freedom
The Sabbath command is repeated in Deuteronomy 5:12-15, but this time God highlighted the theme of freedom.
“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor … that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.
“And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”
The Israelites were given freedom from slavery under Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt. This pictured, in type, the freedom we can have from Satan and sin. As the One who became Jesus Christ delivered Israel from Egypt with a mighty hand (1 Corinthians 10:4), Jesus is our Deliverer and Savior today.
Whose Sabbath is it? Jesus is “Lord of the Sabbath”
“The seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:10). It belongs to God. Jesus said He is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28).
The Sabbath was made for man
But Jesus tells us His purpose for the Sabbath is for our benefit: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).
The Sabbath is not a selfish day. We are to let our servants (employees) rest as well (Deuteronomy 5:14). And Jesus clarified that it is not wrong to do good on the Sabbath, giving examples of emergencies and setting the example of caring for the sick and injured (Matthew 12:10-13).
The Sabbath, the day God rested, is both the forerunner and the weekly reminder of the wonderful future rest, free from the bondage of sin.Why did the Pharisees and religious leaders accuse Jesus and the disciples of “doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:2)?
Because they and their ancestors had learned the wrong lessons from Israel’s punishment for Sabbath breaking and other sins. They had added many human-devised rules and laws as a hedge around the Sabbath. God’s commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3), but the rules of Judaism had become a burden (Matthew 23:4).
The Sabbath now and in the future
Chapters 3 and 4 of the book of Hebrews weave together the interrelated themes of the Sabbath, entering the Promised Land and entering the Kingdom of God. Each is a type of rest, with the Promised Land an imperfect picture of the future peaceful Kingdom.
The Sabbath, the day God rested, is both the forerunner and the weekly reminder of the wonderful future rest, free from the bondage of sin (Hebrews 4:4, 9). “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9, New International Version).
In that future Kingdom, all people (Jews and gentiles) will worship before God on the Sabbath (Isaiah 66:23). The Sabbath was made for all of humanity, and God praises the gentiles “who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants—everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath” (Isaiah 56:6).
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The Sabbath command today
We are still required to work diligently for six days to meet our needs and prepare well for the Sabbath each week. This teaches us diligence, planning and priorities. God mandates a day of rest not to promote idleness, but because we need it.
But more than sleep and doing nothing, the Sabbath is a day for doing something different: refocusing on God, worshipping and fellowshipping with Christians of like mind (Hebrews 10:24-25), praying, studying the Bible and meditating.
The Sabbath is a day to bond with family, appreciate the creation and do good, perhaps visiting the widows and orphans (James 1:27). The Sabbath should be a delight, not by doing our own hobbies, interests and pleasures, but by honoring God and seeking to please Him and do His will (Isaiah 58:13-14).
We have many resources to help you study what the Bible says about the Sabbath and why this blessing from God is so often neglected today.
Our booklet The Sabbath: Neglected Gift From God is the most comprehensive resource. We also have a much shorter study guide Facts About the Sabbath and a fascinating video series “The Sabbath: A Gift From God.”
And below this article are links to 20 related articles on everything from “Was the Sabbath Changed to Sunday?” to “How to Keep the Sabbath as a Christian” to “Is the Sabbath a Sign of God’s People?”
Let us know if you have any questions by using the “Ask a Question” link below. We wish you all the best as you learn about the Fourth Commandment and God’s holy Sabbath.