The Sabbath in the Gospels

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Adventists tell us that the Bible commands Sabbath keeping for Christians.

All the verses mentioning the Sabbath in the New Testament (apart from the Gospels) are discussed here.

Not one commands Sabbath observance, and not one gives an example of Christians keeping the Sabbath.

I often get told that Jesus set the example we are to follow.  But if we do all the things Jesus did under the Old Covenant, we need to do the following:

  • Keep the Passover (lamb and all) – Luke 2:41-42, Luke 22:8, Matt 26:17-19
  • Keep the Feast of Tabernacles – John 7
  • Keep Hannukah – John 10:22
  • Be circumcised – Luke 2:21
  • Sacrifice birds – Matt 8:4 – here Jesus commanded a man to go and offer the sacrifice that Moses commanded – see Leviticus 14, where God tells Moses how do offer such a sacrifice.

Clearly Jesus lived under the Old Covenant, and NOT everything he did is applicable to us.

These are the verses from the four Gospels.  (For saving space, the verses are cited but not quoted in full.)

  • Matt 12:1 – picking corn in a neighbour’s field was okay (Deut 23:25) but what about on the Sabbath?  Even collecting manna on the Sabbath was prevented.  Jesus cites David eating the shewbread (verse 4) which was not on the Sabbath, and the priests working on the Sabbath.  But it’s a clear change of what may or may not be done – going from not collecting manna to permitting picking of grain.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • Matt 12:2 – see above.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • Matt 12:5 – see above.  None of these three verses has a command to keep the day.
  • Matt 12:8 – Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath – see my discussion of this verse here.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • Matt 12:10 – healing on the Sabbath.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • Matt 12:11 – rescuing sheep on the Sabbath.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • Matt 12:12 – doing good on the Sabbath.  No command to keep it after his resurrection.  He is giving a lesson on the relationship of the law to man, not commanding the Sabbath.
  • Matt 24:20 – discussed in full here.  No command at all to keep the Sabbath.  Some Adventists interpret fleeing for one’s life as profaning the Sabbath, with Jesus telling them to pray not to have to.
  • Matt 28:1 – mention of the day in the context of the events of Jesus’ crucifixion.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • Mark 1:21 – Jesus taught in the synagogue, which would not have been filled on other days. Just because he kept the Sabbath under the Old Covenant, doesn’t mean we should under the New.  No command here for Sabbath keeping.
  • Mark 2:23 – parallel passage to Matt 12 – see above.  No command to keep the Sabbath anywhere here.
  • Mark 2:24 – parallel passage to Matt 12 – see above.  No command to keep the Sabbath anywhere here.
  • Mark 2:27 – parallel passage to Matt 12 – see above.  No command to keep the Sabbath anywhere here.
  • Mark 2:28 – parallel passage to Matt 12 – see above.  No command to keep the Sabbath anywhere here.
  • Mark 3:2 – parallel passage to Matt 12 – see above.  No command to keep the Sabbath anywhere here.
  • Mark 3:4 – parallel passage to Matt 12 – see above.  No command to keep the Sabbath anywhere here.
  • Mark 6:2 – similar passage to Mark 1:21.  No command to keep the Sabbath anywhere here.
  • Mark 15:42 – mention of the day in the context of the events of Jesus’ crucifixion.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • Mark 16:1 – mention of the day in the context of the events of Jesus’ crucifixion.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • Luke 4:16 – Note the important use of the word CUSTOM, discussed here.  Jesus taught in the synagogue, which would not have been filled on other days. Just because he kept the Sabbath under the Old Covenant, doesn’t mean we should under the New.  No command here for Sabbath keeping.
  • Luke 4:31 – Jesus taught in the synagogue, which would not have been filled on other days. Just because he kept the Sabbath under the Old Covenant, doesn’t mean we should under the New.  No command here for Sabbath keeping.
  • Luke 6:1 – parallel passage to Matt 12 – see above.  No command to keep the Sabbath anywhere here.
  • Luke 6:2 – parallel passage to Matt 12 – see above.  No command to keep the Sabbath anywhere here.
  • Luke 6:5 – parallel passage to Matt 12 – see above.  No command to keep the Sabbath anywhere here.
  • Luke 6:6 – parallel passage to Matt 12 – see above.  No command to keep the Sabbath anywhere here.
  • Luke 6:7 – parallel passage to Matt 12 – see above.  No command to keep the Sabbath anywhere here.
  • Luke 6:9 – parallel passage to Matt 12 – see above.  No command to keep the Sabbath anywhere here.
  • Luke 13:10 – Jesus taught in the synagogue, which would not have been filled on other days. Just because he kept the Sabbath under the Old Covenant, doesn’t mean we should under the New.  No command here for Sabbath keeping.
  • Luke 13:14 – healing on the Sabbath.  No command here for Sabbath keeping.
  • Luke 13:15 – rescuing ox/ass on the Sabbath.  No command here for Sabbath keeping.
  • Luke 13:16 – healing on the Sabbath.  No command here for Sabbath keeping.
  • Luke 14:1 – healing on the Sabbath.  No command here for Sabbath keeping.
  • Luke 14:3 – healing on the Sabbath.  No command here for Sabbath keeping.
  • Luke 14:5 – rescuing ox/ass on the Sabbath.  No command here for Sabbath keeping.
  • Luke 23:54 – mention of the day in the context of the events of Jesus’ crucifixion.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • Luke 23:56 – resting on the Sabbath under the Old Covenant.  Sabbatarians forget that Jesus had not yet risen from the dead when they were keeping that Sabbath – man was still living under the Mosaic Law, and since Jesus had not risen from the dead, there could obviously not be any other day they could think of to keep.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • John 5:9 – healing on the Sabbath.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • John 5:10 – carrying a bed on the Sabbath.  Jer 17:22 – God separates carrying burdens from actual work-related burdens; both are prohibited.  Obviously a lesson in Sabbath keeping.  But it’s a clear change of what may or may not be done.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • John 5:16 – Jesus persecuted for his views on the Sabbath.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • John 5:18 – John here reports what Jesus had done – broken the Sabbath and claimed equality with God.  He’s not reporting the views of the Jews; he’s stating what Jesus had done to anger them.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • John 7:22 – circumcision on the Sabbath.  The claim that Jesus would have said that the Sabbath would no longer be kept by Christians if that were to be the case fails because here he could have said the same about circumcision, and we KNOW it was the case with circumcision.  Why did Jesus remain silent?  Because his lesson was in the context of the Old Covenant.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • John 7:23 – healing and circumcision on the Sabbath.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • John 9:14 – healing on the Sabbath.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • John 9:16 – miracles on the Sabbath.  No command to keep the Sabbath.
  • John 19:31 – mention of the day in the context of the events of Jesus’ crucifixion.  No command to keep the Sabbath.

So, where in the New Testament do we find a command to keep the Sabbath?  Nowhere.

Did Jesus command us to keep the Sabbath?  No.

Did the Apostles command us to keep the Sabbath?  No.

Did Jesus keep the Sabbath?  Yes, under the Old Covenant.  He was also circumcised, kept Passover, Hannukah, and commanded a sacrifice to be made.  If we recognise the context, we realise that his Sabbath keeping was part of the law he lived under.


Comments imported from the old blog:
Note that some important and/or revealing statements are highlighted in red by me.  My answers are in bold.

Posted by R. Griffith on January 19, 2007, 10:19 am
Matt. 19:17 …But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

Joh. 14:15 …If ye love me, keep my commandments.

Joh. 14:21 …HE that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveht me shall be loved of my Fahter, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

Joh. 15:10 …If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.

Heb 4:1 …Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.
For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.
And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.
Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:
Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, Today, after so long a time; as it is said, Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
For if Joshua had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

There remaianeth there for a rest to the people of God… Jesus kept the commandments, and the observance of the commandments is still a requirement for the people of God.
It is written: “Sin is transgression of the law” and “The wage of Sin is death”

The Sabbath is the fourth commandment, Jesus kept the commandments. If he did not keep the commandments he would have been in transgression of the law, a sinner, and if this were so he would not have been the perfect sacrifice without spot or blemmish, and there would be no power in his blood to atone for the sins of the world.

If you understood the truth of the gospel you would not stumble over this concept… the Sabbath has been from the foundation of the world… it is an integral part of the gospel of the kingdom… observance of the commandments is what defines the people of God and seperates them from the heathens… it is by this mark that God will know his people when he returns… They that keep his commandments.

I place before you one last scripture… I want it to be understood that here the origional greek word for ‘wicked’ is a word better translated as ‘lawless ones’, the word ‘unlearned’ is better translated ‘untaught’… he is referring of course to those who do NOT keep the commandments… compared to those that DO keep the commandments.
He is saying that those who don’t keep the commandments do not understand the writings of Paul, and in fact twist (wrest) them unto thier own destruction. They do not understand because in order to understand what Paul wrote in “ALL” his epistles one must believe that keeping the commandments is a priority to the people of God…. Think about it… Paul was according to the LAW a pharisee, as it is written… so fervent in fact that he pursued the early Christians to bring them to justice, and personnally oversaw thier persecution… He undestood the law better than any man, which was why he was chosen by God in the first place.
That is why we are admonished in this text that the “lawless” will not understand Paul’s writings, they will twist his writings, and will do so unto thier own destruction. Proof that observance of the commandments is very important to the plan of salvation… The Sabbath is the FOURTH COMMANDMENT!!!

2Pe 3:15 …And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is “salvation”; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
As also in “all” his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are “unlearned” and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, “unto their own destruction.”
Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the “error of the wicked”, fall from your own steadfastness.
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen.

Posted by R. Griffith on January 19, 2007, 10:52 am
also to answer directly the three questions to which you respond with a negative answer:

Where in the New Testament is the commandment to keep the Sabbath?

YES: Throughout the New Testament we are told to keep the commandments: Because the Sabbath is the fourth commandment, which, by the way, happens to be the seal of God.

Did Jesus command us to keep the commandments?

YES: Whenever Jesus commanded us to keep the commandments, the Fourth of which is the Sabbath commandment.

Did the appostles command us to keep the commandments?

Actually this is a loaded question because we are not as Christians compelled to follow the commandments of the apostles even if they did command us… We are to follow the example and commandment of Christ. We are not known as Lukians, or Markians, or Johnians are we?

So the question is moot.

I am amazed that you could seem to have laid it all out so thoroughly… and think that you have once and for all solved the questions about Sabbath observance.
Maybe you should actually read your Bible in the context of the Gospel… you obviously do not understand the scriptures nor the power of God.
I wonder if you are even capable of acknowledging your lack of understanding… I will be interested to see how you answer. please feel free to use any biblical texts you think may support such a non-biblical idea…
The truth is, the Sabbath cannot be undone… it is written that heaven and earth shall pass but one jot and one tittle shall nowise pass from the law untill all is fullfilled.
The Seventh day is an integral part of the creation, therefor the heavens and earth would have to be undone in order for the Sabbath to be removed from the law.

Posted by R. Griffith on January 19, 2007, 11:05 am
I’m sorry I should have checked over my typing before I posted….

I am acknwoledging some mistakes… the last two Questions should rather read:

Did Jesus command us to keep the Sabbath?

and , Did the apostles command us to keep the Sabbath?

The answers to both of these questions remain as written.

I also found that some of the lines in the text appear to get cut in half, I rectified this by clicking and drawing the curser accross them then releasing them, to iron the page out.

Posted by stephen on January 19, 2007, 4:27 pm

“we are not as Christians compelled to follow the commandments of the apostles even if they did command us”

Actually, we are commanded to do just that, by the Apostle Paul, in the New Testament. We are told to keep their traditions – both those they wrote down, and those they taught verbally.

The commandments: Adventists often confuse the two concepts “commandments” and “decalogue” or “10 commandments.” We cannot assume that whenever the New Testament mentions “commandments” it always refers to the 10 Commandments. In most cases, it doesn’t.

The issue is not a matter of lawless vs commandment keepers. Both Saturday and Sunday sides believe they are doing it for God’s glory, and God approves. It’s really a matter of whether lawless refers to the 10 Commandments in the Mosaic Law.

Hebrews 4 – this doesn’t mean keeping Saturday holy. [link]

“the Sabbath has been from the foundation of the world”

As long as there have been days, there has been a 7th day. But it was revealed to humans at the time of Moses. [link]

“it is an integral part of the gospel of the kingdom…”

Biblical evidence is lacking for that, except perhaps some verses that also indicate that animal sacrifices and the Levitical priesthood are an integral part of the Gospel.

“observance of the commandments is what defines the people of God and seperates them from the heathens…”

I thought the Bible said that people would know that we are Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another. Faith is what makes us people of God; faith separates us; works are merely how we grow in faith.

“it is by this mark that God will know his people when he returns…”

Mark of the Old Covenant people of God. We live in the New Covenant, and the Holy Spirit is the mark we have, according to the Bible.

“They that keep his commandments”

This is where the confusion lies. The Bible doesn’t distinguish between the law of Moses and the law of God – both terms describe the entire law. We can’t expect that the law we need to keep is the 10 commandments, when we live under a new covenant, with a new law, a law greater than the 10 commandments – something Catholics and Protestants alike believe.

The answers?

Did Jesus command us to keep the Sabbath? No, he expanded on and improved the law, giving us a greater commandment. Never once does he mention the Sabbath as one of the commandments we need to keep. We can’t read into the text something that isn’t there simply to satisfy our own theology.

Did the Apostles command us to keep the Sabbath? No, the law they promoted was not the 10 commandments, which was replaced by a greater law. They tell us so.

No command … no example set.

Posted by R. Griffith on January 19, 2007, 9:42 pm
There is no point in talking in generalizations about who confuses what… I am dealing strictly with your non biblical take on these ideas…

The bible makes clear distinctions between the ten commandments (the Deacalogue) and the law of moses…
The ten commandments were written by the finger of God in stone… and in no wise shall come to pass until all is fullfilled.
Moses laws or the levitical Laws, were written by the hand of Moses in a book or books…and were nailed to the cross.

There should be no confusing which law is being discussed in these verses
Matt 19:17
Joh 14:15
Joh 15:10
These verses are referring to the Ten commandments which were written by the finger of God in tables of stone.

Heb 4:1 is talking of the sabbath directly stating “there remains therefor a day of rest for the people of God- and HE spake on the seventh day in this wise…

Only those who want to live in darkness could refuse to see it is that clear

2 Pe 3:15 is speaking directly about a difference between commandment keepers and the lawless… it is what the passage is about, destinguishing between the two…. lawless ones are clearly they who do NOT keep the commandments.

It is impossible to love one another without observance of the commandments…

if we do not observe the first four we do not love God… they reflect our duty toward God
have no other Gods before me, make not an idol and worshipo it, take not gods name in vain, REMEMBER the sabath
if we do not observe the next six we do not love our fellow man… honor father and mother, do not kill,do not commit adultery, dont steal, dont bear false witness,don’t covet.
these are our duty toward man…
Christ replied when asked which is the greatest commandment, love God wiht all your heart… (the first four)… and the second is like unto it, love your brother… (the next six)

Christ came not to destroy the law but to fullfill… he didn’t come to change or remove the ten commandments he came to teach us the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law…

“you have heard it said thou shall not kill but I say unto you that whosoever is angry at his brother without a cause hath murdered him in his heart”
Now does that sound like he changed or destroyed the law or did he just fullfill it by giving us a greater spiritual knowledge of that commandment?

“Ye have heard it said thou shall not commit adultery, but I say unto you that whosoever shall look upon a woman to lust after her hath commited adultery with her in his heart.”

destroyed, or fullfilled?

thou shall not kill and thou shall not commit adultery are both part of our duty toward men as dictated by the ten commandments written by the finger of God, the fourth of which is the Sabbath commandment and cannot be removed from the decalogue.

by our fruits they shall know us… by our love for one another…. well if a man kills his brother does he love his brother? the answer is quite obviouse.

the ten commandments existed before Moses…
Lucifer lied to the heavenly host, and coveted the throne of God…

He was as Jesus said the father of lies… meaning he created the lie… he was the first to bear false witness… if this was not contrary to a law then he would not have been cast from heaven… because he would not have sinned. but he was the originator of sin.

He said in his heart I shall be as the most high… he tried to usurp the throne of God… covetousness…

None of these ideas stand alone… they are all integral one to another… and all of them make up the gospel of the kingdom…

I believe it is you who are trying to fit things in to support your own theology…

there are two classes of people in this world… those that will perish in the end and those who will move on to eternal life… that is why there are two resurections in Revelation…

what is the difference between the two… one group do not keep the commandments (the decalogue, written by the finger of God in tables of stone, that shall in no wise pass until all is fullfilled… even the heaven and earth shall pass but they will not)

and the other group are those who do keep the commandments of God…

that is why they are called the commandments of God….

It is true that God commanded Moses to write in a book the levitical laws… they are also the commandments of God but they were written by the hand of Moses and not the finger of God.

there is a difference. the bible in fact lists more than one difference between the ten commandments and Moses law… but I’m sure you wouldn”t even bother trying to actually find the differences, because then you might actually have to admit that you have been lied to and are inproperly taught and improperly teaching for commandments the doctrines of men…

It is sad… because your salvation depends upon you keeping the commandments of God, the decalogue, the ten commandments, written by the finger of God in tables of stone, placed inside the ark of the covenant… Moses law was placed beside the ark (another difference) and shall never be done away with…

I’ll now overwhelm you further… but please go back to the basics before you try to understand the greater truths…

Posted by R. Griffith on January 19, 2007, 9:51 pm
I made a mistake in my articulation, that last verse about the law of God being placed inside the ark of the covenant is the immutable law… Moses law has been done away with… I wrote it as though it is moses law shall never be done away with

It was not my intention for the paragraph to read that way.

Posted by stephen on January 19, 2007, 10:13 pm

The bible makes clear distinctions between the ten commandments (the Deacalogue) and the law of moses

Actually, it doesn’t.

The ten commandments were written by the finger of God in stone

… but they have been replaced. 2 Cor 3:3-11 speaks of the law written on tablets of stone. What law was that? And why was it replaced?

There should be no confusing which law is being discussed in these verses
Matt 19:17
Joh 14:15
Joh 15:10
These verses are referring to the Ten commandments

This is a typical example of how Adventists read things into the Bible that are not there.

“Ye have heard it said thou shall not commit adultery, but I say unto you that whosoever shall look upon a woman to lust after her hath commited adultery with her in his heart.”

destroyed, or fullfilled?

Expanded upon. Improved. He doesn’t even mention Moses, or the law it comes from.

the ten commandments existed before Moses…

This is where Adventists start making things up that are not in the Bible. Moral principles existed. Not the Decalogue encoded as a legal code.

because your salvation depends upon you keeping the commandments of God, the decalogue, the ten commandments

And Sunday keepers do keep God’s law. Just not the way you want them to, but they keep it.

the law of God being placed inside the ark of the covenant is the immutable law

Jer 3:16 And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.

The Ark of the New Covenant replaces the Ark of the Old Covenant. Likewise with the contents of each.

Moses law has been done away with

Yet many Adventists limit how far they walk on the Sabbath, and observe the dietary sections of the Law of Moses.

The end of it all?

Where in the Bible does Jesus command Sabbath keeping? Nowhere. Not one of the verses above that mentions the Sabbath contains a command to keep it.

Where in the Bible do the Apostles command or set an example of Christian Sabbath keeping? Nowhere. And we know the Apostles are to be followed, because the Bible instructs us so.

The 10 commandments vs “my commandments” of which Jesus speaks? Can’t be, if we look at what Jesus us really saying, without reading Adventism into his words. Can’t be, if Paul’s statement about the law on tablets of stone being replaced is correct.

If the Bible never mentions the Sabbath as a Christian obligation, and if the Apostles never recorded their observance of it as an example, how important is it really?

I do as the Apostles did, which is what the Bible says we should do.

Posted by stephen on January 19, 2007, 11:03 pm
I’m closing comments here, for now – I don’t have the time to keep coming back, and although this sort of debate is fine, it’s for when I have the time. I think enough has been said to highlight the issues on both sides.

It’s clear that both of us acknowledge there is no explicit command to keep the Sabbath, and one must obtain an interpretation that the Sabbath must be kept from passages that mention commandments but not the Sabbath. The Apostles never saw fit to set an example of Sabbath keeping either. But they weren’t silent on the topic – they said it was not necessary.

Nowhere does the Bible state that the 10 Commandments are still a binding legal code. Neither Catholicism nor most of Protestantism believe this. It’s an interpretation that doesn’t hold much water – and that’s all it is, an interpretation. What makes it right? Not the Bible, surely … it’s an interpretation of what the Bible says, not the Bible itself. Unless the Bible states this explicitly, all we’re left with is interpretations, and each person needs to make up their own mind.

And no, salvation has absolutely nothing to do with the Sabbath. Salvation is probably the most important goal of the New Testament and the Gospel … and the Sabbath is never mentioned.

Most people voted: I disagree
Your reaction to this post:
  • I agree 
  • I disagree 
  • I am not sure 
  • Awesome 
  • Interesting 
  • Boring