Sabbath rest or sabbath worship? – Part 1

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Icon of the Resurrection
Icon of the Resurrection

Adventists and other Old Covenant sabbath keepers often mention a hideous crime committed by Christians other than themselves – “Sunday worship”. That is, the use of Sunday as the primary day of communal worship by going to church, and often having the day off from work (in keeping with the principle of rest). They also imply worship of a day, and worship of the sun, which is utter nonsense but makes them feel better.

What Adventists claim is the right way to do things, is “sabbath worship” – i.e. going to church on the weekly 7th day sabbath, aka Saturday. Which isn’t worship of a day (although it replaces Christ with a day of the week) and it isn’t Saturn worship.

Sabbath worship? The Jews do that, right? On Saturdays? So it must be spelt out in the Old Testament, right? And Christians use Sunday instead, for the same purposes, because Jesus rose from the dead on that day.

If Adventists are right, even remotely right, there must be some biblical instruction in the Old Testament that the sabbath is God’s decreed day of worship.

Yet there is not. Not one mention of the sabbath as a day of worship. Not one instruction to keep the sabbath by gathering together for worship. The closest we get is this:

Leviticus 23:3 (KJV) – Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings.

This is the only time in the Bible that the sabbath is linked to an instruction that a group of people gather together (convocation = con + vocare = to call together). And where are they instructed to gather? In their dwellings. Not at the temple or its nomadic tabernacle equivalent at the time. Not at the synagogues which didn’t exist at the time. The people of Israel rested. They stayed at home. They didn’t go travelling off somewhere. They didn’t light fires. They didn’t go to a carol service.

And the ONLY verse in the KJV that contains both the words “sabbath” and “worship” is:

Isaiah 66:23 – And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord.

South Arabian Sabbath lamp
South Arabian Sabbath lamp

And, as I’ve discussed elsewhere, this isn’t about worshipping ON one sabbath and then waiting till the next sabbath and worshipping again, but rather it’s about continuous worship for periods of 28 and 7 days (FROM one new moon UNTIL the next; FROM one sabbath UNTIL the next). And if logic requires us to interpret this verse as indicating Christian sabbath observance, it must also indicate Christian new moon observance. So it falls apart as an argument for weekly sabbath worship gatherings.

REST – that’s what the Israelite people did at home on the sabbath.

WORSHIP – that’s what the priests did daily – DAILY – in the temple, offering various forms of sacrifices. The people participated in this worship. But it was not a weekly sabbath event.

Later, people ventured out of their homes and travelled a minimal distance to the nearby synagogue. The synagogue did not replace the worship at the temple – it was not a weekly worship service. It was an educational event where the law and other things were discussed. There was never a command that came later that made synagogue meetings a form of worship, or a form of sabbath observance, or a form of sabbath obligation. That’s not in the Bible. The sabbath was simply the best time to dedicate to such an event.

To summarise:

  1. There is no command in the Bible to gather for worship on the sabbath, or to worship on the sabbath. This is a key mistake by Adventism that undermines their entire system of sabbath worship.
  2. The purpose of the sabbath was for rest, not worship.

When we look at the pattern of worship in the Bible, we see sacrifices and the temple in the Old Testament, which progresses to worship of Christ and the Father “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

When we look at the pattern of rest in the Bible, we see the sabbath in the Old Testament, and Jesus calling us to rest in him in the New Testament.

There is no place in all of this for the insistence that the Old Covenant sabbath must continue in the New Covenant as a day of worship, which it was never intended to be.

Once we accept that, there is no room for the sabbath any longer, either as a day of rest or a day of worship, except as a custom or tradition not biblically binding on those who choose not to observe that custom or tradition.

Part 2 (verses provided to me by Adventists) here.

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1 comment

    • Teresa Beem on January 5, 2019 at 1:42 am

    Fantastic! Adventists do not understand that the synagogue, as you wrote, at the time of Christ was not remotely equated to the Temple. The Temple was for corporate worship because of the sacrifice. Your sins were removed during worship. That could not happen at the synagogue.

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