Jesus is the fulfillment of the law, which includes the fact that He is the fulfillment of the Sabbath, which means He Himself is the Sabbath that we are to rest in. I've heard others claim that the early church observed the Sabbath on Saturday, not on Sunday, until the 3rd or 4th century; but there are several New Testament references suggesting that they worshipped on Sunday. Consider the following... (Mt.5:17-20)
"Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven." (ASV)
Jesus says "Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets". His teachings were so opposed to the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees that some might assert that he was a destroyer of the law. He replied that he had not come to destroy it, but to fulfill it. He does not say that he has come to perpetuate it. It is all fulfilled and completed in Him. To fulfill means to complete its' purpose. He was the end or the completion of the law. It was a "schoolmaster to bring us to Christ" (Gal 3:24), but Paul declares by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, "After faith is come we are no longer under the schoolmaster." In other words, we are no longer under the law, because of faith.
By the phrase "law of Moses" is meant all that was revealed through Moses. The Law of Moses was only the shadow of the Good Things to come (Col 2:17; Heb 10:1). Jesus Christ declared His intention to fulfill every word of the law (Mat 5:17-18), and He did it (Luke 24:44). The law was insufficient. It could not bring about justification (Act 13:39); It couldn't produce righteousness (Gal 2:21); It couldn't produce life (Gal 3:21); The law couldn't bring about perfection (Heb 7:19); Nor could the law of Moses free the conscience from a knowledge of sin (Heb 10:1-4).
Several scriptures in the New Testament declare the Abolishment of the Law.
a. The law is abolished (2Co 3:6-13; Eph 2:15);
b. Christ is the end of the law (Rom 10:4);
c. It was the ministration of death (Exo. 32:1-28), and that it is "done away" (2Co 3:7);
d. Jesus took away the first that He might establish the second (Heb 10:5-9);
e. It was nailed to the cross (Col 2:14-16);
f. Those who had been under it had been delivered from it (Rom 7:6);
g. They were dead to it (Rom 7:4);
h. They were not under the law, but under grace (Rom 6:14);
i. They were no longer under the schoolmaster (Gal 3:24-25);
j. They were not required to serve the law (Act. 15:1-24; Gal 3:19);
k. The Christian who sought justification under the law had fallen from grace (Gal 5:4);
l. Now the righteousness of God is revealed without the aid of the Law (Rom 3:21-22).
With that understanding, that we are no longer under the law, some people will argue that the seventh day rest was long before the Law of Moses, so it has nothing to do with the Law of Moses. Please allow me to specifically address the true New Testament understanding of the Sabbath.
The Law of Moses required the Hebrews to remember the Sabbath day (Ex. 20:8-11); in apostolic times, the people of God remembered the Savior in the feast that He ordained (Mat 26:26-30; 1Co 11:23-29) on the first day of the week (Act 20:7). The truth is: it doesn't matter what day we attend church. Jesus Himself is our Sabbath. We find our rest in HIM, not in a day. Jesus Christ has become our Sabbath Rest
The Sabbath Day was a command given specifically to Israel.
There is no biblical record whatsoever of anybody keeping the Sabbath prior to Exodus 16 (Neh. 9:13-14). Even after they received the full-blown Sabbath command (Ex. 20:8-11), Israel, who often condemned the sins of her pagan neighbors, never criticized their violation of the Sabbath.
The Sabbath was part of God's ceremonial law and not grounded in His unchanging character.
The Sabbath was a ceremonial law given specifically to Israel, not grounded in God's unchanging nature. Similar to the entire old covenant, it has been fulfilled and brought to completion in Christ (Mt. 5:17). If David had a right to make an exception in the ceremonial law, Jesus had more (Mt. 12:1-8; c.f 5:21-48). Even Jesus said,"The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mk. 2:27). Moreover, He called Himself the "Lord of the Sabbath" (Lk. 6:5).
The Sabbath was the sign of the Old Covenant
(Ex. 31:16-17; Neh. 9:14; Eze. 20:12). Because we are now under the New Covenant we are no longer under obligation to keep the Old Covenant, particularly the sign of the Old Covenant. The writer to the Hebrews remarked, "When He said, 'A new covenant', He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear" (Heb. 8:13).
The New Testament nowhere commands Christians to observe the Sabbath.
The church is warned of many sins in the New Testament, but breaking (or observing) the Sabbath is never mentioned. The book of Acts mentions the Sabbath nine times, never once as a day of worship for Christians. If anything, the Apostle Paul rebuked the Galatians for attempting to add the observance of days to the sufficiency of Christ's work for salvation (Gal. 4:9-11). The church even changed their day of primary worship celebration from Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath) to Sunday (the Lord's Day) (Ac. 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2) to show that a new order had been erected with the resurrection of Christ (Jn. 20:1, 19).
Jesus Christ through His redemptive work regained the Sabbath that Adam lost.
Jesus Christ came to complete a redemptive work (Jn. 4:34; 5:36) by restoring the rest that was forfeited in the Garden. In following the same pattern for the first creation, Jesus Christ began the work spoken of in Genesis 3:15 (c.f. Gen. 1:3). He completed the work on the cross (Jn. 17:4; 19:30; c.f. Gen. 1:5). The work was met with God's satisfaction by the resurrection and ascension of Christ (Rom. 1:3-4; Gen. 1:4) leading again to a perfect divine rest (Heb. 10:11-12; c.f. Gen. 2:1-3).
The Sabbath was a sign that pointed to something greater.
Like much of the Old Testament, the Sabbath pointed to Jesus Christ. The Old Testament Sabbath preached the gospel when it called for faith and a cessation of work (Rom. 4:4-5). We dishonor our Savior when the signs still receive the preeminence that He alone deserves. Now that Jesus is here, the signs have become obsolete (Heb. 8:13). The Apostle Paul said, "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" (Col. 2:16-17). Jesus is the new Joshua that leads God's children to a greater Promised Land of rest (Mt. 1:21). Jesus is the new Sabbatical Jubilee (Lev. 25:8-10) that provides a greater cancellation of debts (Lk. 4:18-19).
Jesus Christ has now become the Sabbath rest for Christians under the New Covenant.
God has completed His work of the new creation. Christians are the first fruits of that creation (2 Cor.. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). Our rest, as it was enjoyed by Adam everyday, has again been restored. During this life we still deal with some remnants of the curse, but we recognize our rest in Christ (from meritorious works) through faith and daily worship (Col. 3:17). Due to His redemptive work, He has become our Sabbath rest. Jesus said, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Mt. 11:28-30; c.f. Heb. 4:1-11). We currently rest in Jesus Christ under the New Covenant.
The Hebrew Word: Sabat.
The key to understanding how Jesus is our Sabbath rest is the Hebrew word "sabat", which means "to rest or stop or cease from work". The origin of the Sabbath goes back to Creation. After creating the heavens and the earth in six days, God rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made (Genesis 2:2). This doesn't mean that God was tired and needed a rest. We know that God is omnipotent, literally "all-powerful". He has all the power in the universe, He never tires. So, what does it mean that God rested on the seventh day? Simply that He stopped what He was doing. He ceased from His labors. This is important in understanding the establishment of the Sabbath day and the role of Christ as our Sabbath rest.
God used the example of His resting on the seventh day of Creation to establish the principle of the Sabbath day rest for His people. In Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15, God gave the Israelites the fourth of His Ten Commandments. They were to "remember" the Sabbath day and "keep it holy". One day out of every seven, they were to rest from their labors and give the same day of rest to their servants and animals. This was not just a physical rest, but a cessation of laboring. Whatever work they were engaged in was to stop for a full day each week.
The various elements of the Sabbath symbolized the coming of the Messiah, who would provide a permanent rest for His people. Once again the example of resting from our labors comes into play. With the establishment of the Old Testament Law, the Jews were constantly "laboring" to make themselves acceptable to God. Their labors included trying to obey a myriad of dos and don'ts of the ceremonial law, the Temple law, the civil law, etc. Of course they couldn't possibly keep all those laws, so God provided the sin offerings and sacrifices so they could come to Him for forgiveness and restore fellowship with Him, but only temporarily.
Just as they began their physical labors after a one-day rest, so, too, did they have to continue to offer sacrifices. Hebrews 10:1 tells us that the law "can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship". But these sacrifices were offered in anticipation of the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross, who "after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right of God" (Hebrews 10:12). Just as He rested after performing the ultimate sacrifice, He sat down and rested and ceased from His labor of atonement because there was nothing more to be done, ever. Because of what He did, we no longer have to labor in law-keeping in order to be justified in the sight of God. Jesus was sent so that we might rest in God and in what He has provided.
Another element of the Sabbath day rest which God instituted as a foreshadowing of our complete rest in Christ is that He blessed it, sanctified it, and made it holy. Here again we see the symbol of Christ as our Sabbath rest?the holy, perfect Son of God who sanctifies and makes holy all who believe in Him. God sanctified Christ, just as He sanctified the Sabbath day, and sent Him into the world (John 10:36) to be our sacrifice for sin. In Him we find complete rest from the labors of our self-effort, because He alone is holy and righteous. ?God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God? (2 Corinthians 5:21). We can now cease from our spiritual labors and rest in Him, not just one day a week, but always.
Jesus can be our Sabbath rest in part because He is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8). As God incarnate, He decides the true meaning of the Sabbath because He created it, and He is our Sabbath rest in the flesh. When the Pharisees criticized Him for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus reminded them that even they, sinful as they were, would not hesitate to pull a sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath. Because He came to seek and save His sheep who would hear His voice (John 10:3,27) and enter into the Sabbath rest He provided by paying for their sins, He could break the Sabbath rules. He told the Pharisees that people are more important than sheep and the salvation He provided was more important than rules. By saying, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27), Jesus was restating the principle that the Sabbath rest was instituted to relieve man of his labors, just as He came to relieve us of our attempting to achieve salvation by our works. We no longer rest for only one day, but forever cease our laboring to attain God's favor. Jesus is our rest from works now, just as He is the door to heaven, where we will rest in Him forever.
Hebrews 4 is the definitive passage regarding Jesus as our Sabbath rest. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts his readers to enter in to the Sabbath rest provided by Christ. After three chapters of telling them that Jesus is superior to the angels and that He is our Apostle and High Priest, he pleads with them to not harden their hearts against Him, as their fathers hardened their hearts against Jehovah in the wilderness. Because of their unbelief, God denied that generation access to the holy land, saying, "They shall not enter into My rest" (Hebrews 3:11). In the same way, the writer to the Hebrews begs them not to make the same mistake by rejecting God's Sabbath rest in Jesus Christ. "There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:9-11).
There is no other Sabbath rest besides Jesus. We are in Christ. He is our Sabbath. We can worship on Saturday or Sunday or seven days per week (& we should). God isn't locked into a specific day of the week. The New Testament principle is that those things were written, "for our learning" but not as a set of rules. Jesus is the fulfillment. Jesus is the Sabbath. He alone satisfies the requirements of the Law, and He alone provides the sacrifice that atones for sin. He is God's plan for us to cease from the labor of our own works. We dare not reject this one-and-only Way of salvation (John 14:6). "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3).
Sure the 1st century church gathered in the synagogues on the Sabbath. The church was nearly 100% Jewish and that is when the Jews gathered in the synagogues. In order to enlighten their people that the Messiah had come, they used the venue where their religion was being taught. Yes, the purpose of Paul and the other apostles going to the synagogue on the sabbath was to worship Jehovah, but also for the purpose of convincing them that their Messiah had already come. The synagogue on the sabbath day was the most logical time and place for these dialogues.
But we know that those who converted to Christianity gathered on the first day of the week also:
"Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight." (Acts 20:7)
"On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come." (I Cor.16:2)
The purpose for the gathering on the first day of the week was for Christian Fellowship, worship, teaching, and observing the Christian ordinances, not evangelism. So I wouldn't agree with Sunday services taking on a seeker-type of format. It is all about worshiping Jesus, receiving His Word, and other Christian activity.
They also had gatherings of one kind or another on a daily basis: "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ." (Acts 5:42). Some of these daily gatherings could've been evangelistic in nature, or discipleship, or nearly any other purpose.
The bottom line is: God doesn't care what day of the week we gather for corporate worship. We should be worshipping Him 7 days per week. In the New Testament we are commanded to gather, but not told what day to gather. Jesus Himself is our Sabbath. Jesus Himself is our rest. Jesus Himself is the fulfillment of that Old Testament law. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty (II Cor.3:17).
Site Mailing List
Abiding Life Christian Ministries
P.O. Box #772, Annandale, VA 22003
(703) 867-3615 / email@example.com
Abiding in the Life of the Spirit and the Word!