Even as a young child, I knew the minister was right about that. But his statement did not support the argument he was trying to make.
I began observing the seventh-day Sabbath more than 60 years ago when I was a very young boy. In fact, I was so young that I have very few memories of those early days. My earliest memories of observing the Sabbath began when I was about 5 years of age.
Discovering the Sabbath
In 1952 my mother came across The World Tomorrow radio program, sponsored by the Radio Church of God. Very shortly after that discovery, she began observing the seventh-day Sabbath. She also taught her two children the importance of this very special day. We were living in Michigan City, Indiana, at that time, but soon moved back to Arkansas, where we worked as sharecroppers on the farm that my grandfather managed.
When we moved to Indiana in 1951, my mother was a Baptist who attended services and worshipped on Sunday, but when she returned to Arkansas in 1955, she was a committed seventh-day Sabbath-keeper.
A Sabbath vs. Sunday confrontation
One day, shortly after we moved back to Arkansas, the local Baptist minister, Brother Edwards, as he was known by the congregation, made a house call to my grandparents’ home.
Unfortunately, my mother and I were in the living room with my grandmother when he arrived. He quickly focused his attention on my mother, who had not been to the Baptist Church in several years. He asked her why.
She responded without any hesitation that she believed that Saturday was the appropriate day for worship, and she could no longer accept Sunday. Brother Edwards exploded out of his chair! He had a disability that caused him to limp, but he suddenly stood upright in the room without any evidence of a problem. He pointed his finger at my mother and said: “A 4-year-old child knows that Saturday is the Sabbath.” He then added, “But it doesn’t matter which day you keep, as long as you keep Sunday.”
My mother then responded, “If it doesn’t matter which day one keeps, then I choose to keep Saturday!”
That ended the conversation, and Brother Edwards left very angry.
My mother was not a confrontational person, and she was only in her mid-20s when this incident occurred, but the Sabbath was important to her. I witnessed this entire exchange as a child—probably no more than 5 or 6 years of age.
My mother’s situation was not unique. Down through the years, many have been persecuted for their belief in the seventh-day Sabbath in opposition to the commonly observed Sunday.
How can you ignore one of the 10 Commandments?
The Sabbath is the fourth of the 10 Commandments, but it’s one that is brushed aside by the majority of professing Christians. Why? How can you ignore one of the 10 Commandments? Most hide behind the supposed fact that the Sabbath was changed to Sunday by the apostles shortly after Christ’s death, or they argue that a Sunday resurrection is proof of Sunday worship. But neither of these “facts” is true. There is no biblical or historical evidence to support either conclusion.
From the time of creation, the Sabbath was sanctified (set apart) as a day of rest and a day of worship (Genesis 2:1-2). It was codified as one of the 10 Commandments at Mount Sinai. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. … 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” (Exodus 20:8, 11).
The seventh day of the week extends for 24 hours (from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, based on the biblical reckoning “from evening to evening” found in Leviticus 23:32). During this time we should cease from work and instead rest and assemble for church services where possible.
Those Christians who have observed the seventh-day Sabbath down through the centuries have faced intense persecution for not accepting Sunday as their day of worship. Some ask, “Is God really concerned about which day you worship on?” as though the answer was in doubt! The answer isn’t in doubt. In fact, it is very clear! Yes, He is! At least, so says the Bible!
How do you keep the Sabbath?
Once you become convinced from Scripture that you need to keep the Sabbath, then you must ask the next question, as my mother did: How do you keep the Sabbath?
The Bible does not contain an exhaustive list of dos and don’ts for the Sabbath, but there are basic principles that one should keep in mind. Here are just a few:
- Prepare in advance. Preparation involves giving thought, prayer and planning for each Sabbath. Some may have a special family dinner on Friday evening; others make plans to get together with those of like mind after services for additional fellowship. The point is to prepare in advance. This was the lesson of the manna that God gave to the Israelites—to gather twice the manna on the sixth day in preparation for the seventh (Exodus 16:4-5).
- Attend church services on the Sabbath. Our regular Sabbath routine should include assembling with others if at all possible. The Bible warns us about “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). We should also remember that the seventh day of the week is the Sabbath, whether we are on vacation or out of town on business or visiting family.
- Make the Sabbath a day of rest and a day of learning (Exodus 20:8-11). It is a good day for additional Bible study, prayer and meditation—all of which we are admonished to do regularly, but even more so on the Sabbath. It is a day to focus on your spiritual development.
After we’ve observed the seventh-day Sabbath for many years, there is a danger of our becoming lax and letting the Sabbath become routine. We can make this special day similar to the other days of the week, except that we don’t go to work. To avoid work is only part of keeping the Sabbath. The Sabbath isn’t a vacation away from work, but a deeply spiritual observance that includes refraining from work.
There are also those on the other end of the spectrum who make the Sabbath a burden. This was true of the Pharisees in Jesus Christ’s day. Jesus referred to them as hypocrites who strained “out a gnat and swallowed a camel” (Matthew 23:24).
Have we become lax in our observance of the Sabbath, or have we become like the Pharisees? Both extremes are wrong according to the Bible.
God intended for the Sabbath to be a delight.God intended for the Sabbath to be a delight (Isaiah 58:13), but the Pharisees made it a burden. They divided work into 39 different categories, some as mundane as tying a knot. And since these were all classified as work, they were all forbidden on the Sabbath day.
But Jesus did not agree with their man-made regulations about the Sabbath. He declared that He was the Lord—Master—of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28)! Jesus Christ had no tolerance for the Pharisees and their approach toward Sabbath-keeping, referring to them as hypocrites on more than one occasion (Matthew 23:13).
Jesus and the Pharisees
A good example of Christ’s objection to the Sabbath rules developed by the Pharisees is found in Matthew 12. In this case the Pharisees accused the disciples of breaking the Sabbath by plucking ears of grain and eating them while traveling. The Pharisees interpreted the traveling and plucking grain as outside the limitations they had placed on the Sabbath. “And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, ‘Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath’” (Matthew 12:2).
Jesus condemned them for their attitude and in so doing gave us insight into how the Sabbath should be observed. To pluck an ear of grain when you are hungry isn’t harvesting a crop, nor is it wrong. The Sabbath isn’t a day for punishing yourself, but a day to rejoice. While one may choose to fast on the Sabbath on a special occasion, it should not be our normal practice.
What does this example teach us? It teaches us that man-made rules for Sabbath-keeping do not supersede the Scriptures, no matter how well intentioned they might be. There are activities that are clearly in violation of the Sabbath command, but there are also activities in our modern society that one must make personal decisions as to whether they are violations. These are activities that are not addressed by Scripture. Over the years many have wanted a list similar to what the Jews had, identifying every activity as either acceptable or not acceptable. But the Bible provides no such list.
If you are convinced that the seventh-day Sabbath is the proper day for worship, what are you doing about it? Are you prepared each week for the Sabbath; are you attending church services on the Sabbath; and are you making the Sabbath a day for rest and learning while drawing closer to God?
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Even a child
I still remember the incident in my grandparents’ living room when Brother Edwards yelled at my mother that “a 4-year-old child knows that Saturday is the Sabbath.” I was a little older than 4, but I knew that he was correct. I understood that Saturday was the Sabbath from a very young age.
Each week, every seventh day, we have an opportunity to observe this very special day. Scripture states it simply: “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” (Exodus 20:8-10).
Learn more in our free booklet The Sabbath: A Neglected Gift From God.