This article is intended to be a shot of whiskey, not a pint of beer. Just a few ounces to set your throat ablaze and warm your cheeks – that’s all I’m after. So here are six principles for New Covenant Sabbath keeping, and they’re coming at you like a four-year-old’s questions…fast.
Christ Is Our Sabbath
Christ has given us rest from our labors (Matthew 11:28). He is the substance; the Old Covenant Sabbath was the shadow (Colossians 2:16-17).
Sabbath rest is unknown to any who labor to gain God’s favor, who know nothing of the sweet repose of free justification and the imputed righteousness of Christ.
Christ Is Lord of the Sabbath
Christ is Lord of the Sabbath, meaning he a.) has authority to interpret it properly and rebuke fools who pervert the Fourth Commandment (Matthew 11:28-12:14), b) He is the fulfillment of it (Matthew 11:28; Colossians 2:16-17), and c) He has authority, as the author and perfecter of the Fourth Commandment, to alter the nature and day of the Sabbath.
There Remains a Sabbath Rest for the People of God
There is still a Sabbath Day in the New Covenant, though it differs from the Old Covenant Sabbath (Hebrews 4:3).
The New Covenant Sabbath commemorates Christ’s resurrection, the first day of the New Creation, just as the creation Sabbath commemorated God’s rest on the seventh day of creation (Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:11) and the Hebrew Sabbath commemorated Israel’s deliverance from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15).
The New Covenant Sabbath is on the First Day of the New Creation
Because the event commemorated by the New Covenant Sabbath is the resurrection, not creation or the exodus, the Sabbath day has been moved to the first day of the week.
Jesus met with His disciples on Sunday, the first day of the New Creation (John 20:1, 19); He gave them His Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday when they were gathered together (Acts 2); and Jesus continues to meet with His disciples through the presence of His Spirit each Sunday (Matthew 18:20; Acts 20:7). Furthermore, John calls Sunday “the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10).
Now, instead of working six days to enter rest, we rest from our labor first, rest now being a prerequisite to work.
Sabbath Keeping Is According to Conscience
While there is a New Covenant Sabbath Day (Sunday), there is no strict prescription for New Covenant Sabbath observance, though it must include assembling with the people of God, in accordance with the New Testament pattern. Outside of that, the way families observe the Sabbath is left up to conscience. For this reason, we may not pass judgment on the way other Christians keep the Sabbath, save their obligation to worship with God’s people (Hebrews 10:25).
Sabbath Days are Feast Days
The New Covenant Sabbath is a feast day. Communion and preaching are essential to Sunday worship (Acts 20:7). Communion is so important to the weekly gathering that the entire New Covenant era is characterized as a feast (Isaiah 25:6; Matthew 22:1-14; Revelation 19:6-9). Merry-making and laughter should characterize our Sabbath observance, not solemnity and silence.