Jesus and the Sabbath

Among those who claim to follow Jesus, no biblical command has aroused as much controversy as the Fourth Commandment—God's instruction to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8-11). Here in particular we find that people's interpretations of Jesus' teaching are all over the map.

Some argue that Jesus annulled all of the Ten Commandments but that nine were reinstituted in the New Testament—all except the Sabbath. Some believe that Jesus replaced the Sabbath with Himself, and that He is now our "rest." Some believe that no Sabbath at all is needed now, that we can rest or worship on any day or at any time we choose. Regardless of which argument one uses, an overwhelming portion of traditional Christianity believes that Sunday, the first day of the week, has replaced the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week.

Can we find support for these views in Christ's practice or teaching? In light of Jesus' clear teaching on the permanence of God's laws, what do we find when it comes to His attitude toward the Sabbath day?

In studying the Gospels, one of the first things we should notice is that Jesus' custom was to attend the synagogue for worship on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16). This was His regular practice. On this particular occasion, He even announced His mission as Messiah to those in the synagogue that day.

Interestingly, we later find that Paul's custom was also to worship and teach in the synagogues on the Sabbath day (Acts 17:2-3). Neither he nor Jesus ever so much as hinted that they needn't be there or that they should worship on a different day!

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