Read verses 1-3: The First Sabbath
Q: What does “Shabat”, the Hebrew word for “Sabbath” actually mean
A: It simply means “to cease”. God did not “rest” because He was weary since God does not become weary. Rather, He “ceased” from His creative works as those tasks were now completed.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
Q: So what might be significant about the fact that God “blessed the seventh day”?
A: God blessed the creatures (Gen. 1:22) and man (Gen. 1:28) and now blesses the Sabbath by setting it apart as a special day.
Point: There is as yet no commandment to observe the Sabbath. In fact, since Adam was created on the sixth day, the Sabbath Day was actually the first day for him.
Q: How is the Sabbath referred to in the rest of Genesis?
A: This is a trick question since the term “Sabbath” never appears in all of Genesis and is not formally used until Exodus 16:23. God does not give the Sabbath to Israel as a special sign of His covenant with them until Exodus 20:8-11.
Q: Did God ever tell the Gentiles to observe the Sabbath?
A: No such direction is recorded in the whole of Scripture. In fact, it is made quite clear that the Old Testament Law given through Moses was given only to Israel.
He declares His words to Jacob,
His statutes and His ordinances to Israel.
He has not dealt thus with any nation;
And as for His ordinances, they have not known them.
Praise the lord!
Point: One reason Israel was sent into captivity was because the people profaned the Sabbath (Neh. 13:15-22), in effect breaking their covenant with God. While on earth Christ observed the Sabbath since He lived under the dispensation of the Law, but He did not follow the man-made rules of the Pharisees which had broadened the conditions of the Sabbath far beyond God’s original intentions. (See Mk. 2:23-28)
Q: So why do Christians generally meet on Sunday rather than Saturday?
A: In the Early Church Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the dead, was referred to as “The Lord’s Day” and became the church’s special day for fellowship and worship. (See Acts 20:7; 1 Co. 16:1-3; Rev. 1:10)
Point: Whereas the “Sabbath Day” related to the old creation and was given expressly to Israel, the “Lord’s Day” relates to the new creation through Christ and belongs especially to the church. The Sabbath represents the Law as six days of labor followed by rest, but the Lord’s Day represents grace because we begin the week with rest followed by works.
Q: Is it permitted for Christians to worship on the Sabbath?
A: Yes, as long as they do not judge or condemn believers who do not join them.
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
In fact, the legalistic keeping of the Sabbath by Christians is actually seen as a return to bondage from which we’re supposed to be spiritually free from.
But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.
Paul even suggests in Romans 14:4-13 that Sabbath-keeping can be the mark of an immature Christian who has a weak conscience.
Application: We have to examine the whole of Scripture to fully understand what it means to “rest” or dedicate a special day to the Lord. Hebrews 4 indicates that the greater spiritual meaning of the Old Testament Sabbath is as a type for the future kingdom of rest as well as the spiritual rest we obtain through faith in Christ.