Christian Churches of God

No. 31





The Sabbath

(Edition 3.0 19940528-19991020-20080106)


This paper is an exposition of the Fourth Commandment and the obligations it imposes on the Christian.




Christian Churches of God

PO Box 369,  WODEN  ACT 2606,  AUSTRALIA




 (Copyright © 1994, 1999, 2008 Wade Cox)


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The Sabbath


The Sabbath day is holy to the Lord, according to the Fourth Commandment. In Exodus 20:8 we read:

Exodus 20:8-11 "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; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, 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 the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it. (RSV)


This is so that all may rest (Deut. 5:14).


Proposition 1: You are to work six days a week

We are not to be idle. Whatsoever our hands finds to do, we do it with all our might (Eccl. 9:10). For what we sow, that we reap (Gal. 6:7). Also render service as a loyalty to the brethren, especially to those who are strangers (3Jn. 5-7).


The seventh day is the Sabbath

It is calculated as the Saturday from the creation. It is noted by all nations as being the Sabbath and as falling on Saturday of the current calendar. The seventh day is in a continuous cycle and can not be allocated to another day. Thus the new world calendar being proposed strikes at the very heart of the Law. That is why the Roman system has continually opposed Sabbath-keeping, as we see from the paper General Distribution of the Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122) (cf. also The Role of the Fourth Commandment in the Historical Sabbath-keeping Churches of God (No. 170)).


Proposition 2: You shall do no work on the Sabbath

There is to be no labour on the Sabbath by any individual of any social group in the control of Israel. The Law is to be kept by all in Israel – stranger and Israelite alike. Nehemiah gives the example of work on the Sabbath.


Nehemiah 10:28-31 The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, 29 join with their brethren, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God's law which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord and his ordinances and his statutes. 30 We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons; 31 and if the peoples of the land bring in wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the sabbath or on a holy day; and we will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt. (RSV)


The Sabbath is thus understood to be representative of a system that is peculiar to the people of God. It extends to all in its charge and there can be no trading on the Sabbath or a Holy Day with any person either of the people or the Gentiles (the nations).


The Sabbath is a sign or seal (Ex. 20:8,10,11; Deut. 5:12) between us and God, who makes us holy (Ex. 31:12-14; Sabbaths, plural, are here the sign). This sign extends into the Holy Days from the Passover (Ex. 13:9,16) and Unleavened Bread, which is a sign of the Law of the Lord (Deut. 6:8) and of His redemption of Israel (Deut. 6:10), which through Christ, extends to those in Christ (Rom. 9:6; 11:25-26). These signs are to guard Israel against idolatry (Deut. 11:16), being signs and seals of the Lord's elect (Rev. 7:3).


The leader of one of the Churches of God in the twentieth century denied that the Sabbath was a seal. That effectively removed the seal of God from that Church and placed it with individual members. The same man said that he was measuring the Temple of God in accordance with Revelation 11:1, when he came to Australia in 1987. The measurement of the Temple is indeed carried out by the shepherds. However, unless our righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees we will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Mat. 5:20), as they are the measuring stick (see the paper Measuring the Temple (No. 137)).


Ezekiel 20:12-13,16,20-21,24 shows what God said of His Sabbaths:


Ezekiel 20:12-13 Moreover I gave them my sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I the LORD sanctify them. 13 But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness; they did not walk in my statutes but rejected my ordinances, by whose observance man shall live; and my sabbaths they greatly profaned. "Then I thought I would pour out my wrath upon them in the wilderness, to make a full end of them.


Ezekiel 20:16  because they rejected my ordinances and did not walk in my statutes, and profaned my sabbaths; for their heart went after their idols.


Ezekiel 20:20-21   and hallow my sabbaths that they may be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I the LORD am your God. 21 But the children rebelled against me; they did not walk in my statutes, and were not careful to observe my ordinances, by whose observance man shall live; they profaned my sabbaths. "Then I thought I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the wilderness.


Ezekiel 20:24  because they had not executed my ordinances, but had rejected my statutes and profaned my sabbaths, and their eyes were set on their fathers' idols. (RSV)


This is a parable of the wilderness of sin, after the Messiah of Aaron. We are made to walk in the steps to Messiah and the Millennium through the wilderness of sin. The Sabbath is a sign of our faithfulness and of our redemption into the Sabbath Rest of God. It is a weekly reminder that God promises He will send the Messiah and deliver this planet at the point of a sword. The Millennium is the Sabbath Rest of God. To abandon the Sabbath is to abandon the hope of God. This is the reason that we are persecuted for keeping the Sabbaths of the Lord.


Anyone who defiles the Sabbath shall be put to death (Ex. 31:14; Num. 32:36). This punishment refers to the forfeiture of eternal life granted to the elect. They are cut off from among their people (ibid.), being denied eternal life. It is a sign between God and the children of Israel forever (Ex. 31:17).


The preparation for the Sabbath is to be undertaken on the previous day (Ex. 16:5). The food is to be gathered and prepared from the example of the manna. Each man was to abide in his place (Ex 16:29-30). They are to rest both in earing time and in harvest on the Sabbath (Ex. 34:21; cf. the paper The Juma’ah: Preparing for the Sabbath (No. 285)).


Thus the action of the Lord in picking ears on the Sabbath was condemned. The Lord, however, demonstrated that he was Lord of the Sabbath not by intention that it need not be kept, but rather by the manner in which it was kept. From this text, it is lawful to pick enough food to eat on the Sabbath, and also from the Law of the Testament (Mat. 12:1-12).


Matthew 12:1-12  At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath." 3 He said to them, "Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law how on the sabbath the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath."  9 And he went on from there, and entered their synagogue. 10 And behold, there was a man with a withered hand. And they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?" so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, "What man of you, if he has one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath." (RSV)


(This refers also to 1Sam. 21:6 where David ate the shewbread: Ex. 25:30; Lev. 24:5-8.)


More particularly, the priests in the Temple profane (render common) the Sabbath and are blameless (Mat. 12:5; cf. Num. 28:9-10; see also Neh. 13:7; Ezek. 24:21; Jn. 7:22-23). Thus our work on the Sabbath as the elect in the worship of God is blameless. In fact, there were more sacrifices carried out on the Sabbath than on any other day.


Leviticus 26:34 requires the Sabbaths to extend into the Jubilee and land systems. Because the land did not rest then, the Lord will send the nations into captivity to regain the Sabbaths of rest.


The command thou shall not kindle a fire throughout your habitations refers to braziers or forges and not to household appliances (Ex. 35:3). Obviously, in the Temple there were constant sacrifices, and people were kindling fires all the time. If we look back in the original texts, in terms of their application when the Laws were given, this command was dealing with the concepts of construction. No construction work or moulding by fire is to be carried out on the Sabbath day.


The Sabbaths are coupled with fear of the Lord and the reverence of His Sanctuary (Lev. 19:30), of which we are. The Sabbath day was thus made for man so that the Sanctuary of the Lord could be made holy and a proper dwelling for God. Similarly, the Sabbath is coupled with honour of mother and father (Lev. 19:3). The Feasts themselves are holy convocations as Sabbaths, and no work is to be done on them. The Day of Atonement carries the same punishment as the Sabbath, i.e. to be cut off from Israel (Lev. 23:29-30). An offering by fire is to be made every Sabbath by the priesthood on behalf of the people of Israel forever (Lev. 24:8). This offering is a command to the elect to offer prayer and thanksgiving before the Lord each Sabbath. Thus, we are commanded to make offering in assembly. Moreover, from this text in Leviticus 24:1-4, the priesthood are to keep the lamps filled with pure oil from beaten olives.


The priesthood is to keep the lamps in order. Thus, the preparation of the elect is a daily responsibility, and the oil of the lamps of the virgins must be maintained on a daily basis from Sabbath to Sabbath. They are required to hallow God’s Sabbaths (Ezek. 44:24).


Nehemiah 13:15  In those days I saw in Judah men treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on asses; ... (RSV)


Nehemiah 13:19  When it began to be dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the sabbath. And I set some of my servants over the gates, that no burden might be brought in on the sabbath day. (RSV)


The merchants and sellers lodged outside of Jerusalem once or twice, but Nehemiah did not give in. When it is within our control to stop labour or not work on the Sabbath or not to buy or sell, we must do so and we must fight any opposition. We cannot buy on Holy Days, or go to restaurants on Sabbaths and Holy Days.


The laxity that crept into the Churches of God about the Sabbath came from the building of the auditorium on the Sabbath at Pasadena, in the United States. The Sabbath construction was done on the grounds that it could not be controlled. That is false. The construction was within our gates, and the fact that it happened commenced the destruction of the principle of rest on the Sabbath for the menservants of the people of Israel and their sojourners.


Nehemiah commanded that the aliens also kept the Sabbath. He is our example as to the manner in which the Law should be kept. Nehemiah 13:22 shows that it is the responsibility of the priesthood of the Lord – the new priesthood of the elect – to cleanse themselves and keep the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath.


Christ also gave commandment regarding the healing of the sick. This is to be conducted on the Sabbath. Thus, it is lawful to heal and to feed the sick and maimed on the Sabbath.


The lesson of the ox in a ditch is that of emergencies. It is not enough to do something from practice that should be planned for in advance. Luke 14:5 shows that it is important to deal with emergencies on the Sabbath. This, in fact, dealt with the concept of healing on the Sabbath. The proper care and preparation for the sick and the afflicted on the Sabbath are major problems. That any one person should eat alone on the Sabbath is to our shame and discredit. People do not love one another and do not prepare for the Sabbath so that they confer maximum benefit on their brethren.


Psalm 118:24  This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. (KJV)


The Sabbaths must be kept in spiritual purity (Isa. 1:13). It must not be polluted (Isa. 56:2,4-7).

Isaiah 56:2  Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil. (KJV)


Isaiah 56:4-7 For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; 5 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. 6 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; 7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. (KJV)


The Sabbath is a delight, not a day of mourning (Isa. 58:13-14). The Sabbath will be kept for all flesh when they come to worship before the Lord; from one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another (Isa. 66:23). No burden is to be borne on the Sabbath, nor is it to be brought to Jerusalem (Jer. 17:21). Therefore, we are to rejoice in the Sabbath and bring joy to the House of God. We are to carry no burden out of our houses on the Sabbath (Jer. 17:22). Thus, work on one's property is also forbidden on the Sabbath. It is to be hallowed (ibid.).


The Sabbath is the prerequisite to the inheritance of the kingdom of Israel if no burden is brought in through the gates of the city. Kings and princes shall sit upon the throne of David. However, if this warning is not heeded then the city shall be destroyed by fire (Jer. 17:27). Thus the heathen will mock at the Sabbaths in the day of her affliction (downfall, Lam. 1:7, RSV). Thus the Sabbath is the sign and the source of scorn in affliction for those of the House of God. The king and priest will bear the indignation of his anger for the profanation of the Sabbath (Lam. 2:6).


The Sabbaths are for mirth and rejoicing; but, as a punishment, the mirth of the Sabbaths is taken away (Hos. 2:11). The right attitude must be kept on the Sabbath. One must not look to its cessation to undertake business, because that carries on into the attitude of honesty, sacrifice and giving (Amos 8:5).


Christ was greater than the Temple as we are greater than the physical Temple. We are the Temple and the Sabbath was made for us (Mk. 2:27); so too we must keep the Sabbath as a preparation for the home that we must be to God.


We must always be conscious of doing good and of healing the infirmities of all (Lk. 13:10-16). We ought not, under any circumstances, watch one another to judge what good we do for each other on the Sabbath (Lk. 14:1-6; Col. 2:16).


Luke 23:54 shows that we must prepare for the Sabbath. We are to think ahead and do good to one another. We should show that we love one another as Christ loves us, and grow in faith, as we are all made whole (Lk. 5:5-14).


As it is lawful to circumcise on the Sabbath, so also is it lawful to circumcise our hearts with giving and the power of the Spirit.  We should judge each other with righteous judgment by the good we do on the Sabbath (Jn. 7:21-24). There are both Jews and Gentiles called into the House of God for the Sabbath messages (Acts 13:42; 18:4).


We are a small flock who work together under affliction. There has been a continual effort made to stamp us out, as we will see in the paper General Distribution of the Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122). We must hold fast to the Sabbath. That we have those who fall away, even at the highest levels of our servants, does not excuse each and every one of us in the proper execution of our responsibilities towards God in the Sabbath (cf. the paper Law and the Fourth Commandment (No. 256)).