What Does Honoring the Sabbath Look Like Under the New Covenant?

This is the final part of a series I am working on about honoring the Sabbath and what it means for believers today. Feel free to catch up by reading part 1part 2, and part 3.

I distinctly remember learning the Ten Commandments as a little girl in Sunday school. Every one of them made sense to me except for one… honoring the Sabbath. What did that even mean anyway? Did going to church on Sunday mornings count?

What Does Honoring the Sabbath Look Like Under the New Covenant? | alyssajhoward.com

 

 

As an adult, this topic only grew more confusing. In the Bible, the Sabbath was always Saturday. God rested from His work at Creation on the seventh day. He made the day holy. And nowhere in His Word do we have any indication that the day changed to Sunday. And even if the day did change to Sunday, is going to church enough? Wasn’t the Sabbath all about rest? How could I be honoring the Sabbath rest when I spend my Sunday afternoons working around the house?

And this leads me to my main question… what does honoring the Sabbath look like under the New Covenant?

God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said, “In my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest,’” even though this rest has been ready since he made the world. We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: “On the seventh day God rested from all his work.” – Hebrews 4:1-4 (NLT)

 

The writer of Hebrews used the Sabbath day to illustrate a point to the Jewish people. The Israelites were offered God’s rest when He brought them out of slavery in Egypt, but they disobeyed. They failed to trust in Him as their God which led them to 40 years of wandering in the desert. That generation failed to enter God’s rest and died in the wilderness. It was their children who eventually saw the Promised Land.

But as we see throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites continued to fail time and time again. They worshiped idols, made alliances with pagan nations, and they hardened their hearts towards God. And with the exception of a small remnant, they would ultimately reject Jesus as the Messiah and persecute all who followed Him.

But there is good news! God’s promise of rest still stands!

We can enter God’s Sabbath rest when we listen to His voice and open our hearts to Him.

 

Hebrews 4 is interesting in that it speaks of entering God’s permanent place of rest found in Christ, but it does so in light of God resting on the seventh day of Creation. Both concepts are intertwined. The truth is that God’s weekly day of rest served as a foreshadow of the permanent rest He longs to give us. The passage actually states that He prepared this rest for us at Creation. It was His plan all along!

It’s for this reason that God cared so much about His people honoring the Sabbath day and keeping it holy. Jesus isn’t just “Lord of the Sabbath,” He is our Sabbath rest!

 

In part 2 of this series, I wrote about the purpose behind the Sabbath in the Old Testament. Based on all the New Testament teaches regarding the issue, I do not believe we are required to religiously set aside a day of the week under the New Covenant. (Although there’s nothing wrong with doing so, and many have found it to be quite rewarding and spiritually restful. And I will also add that if you feel in your heart that God has called you to set aside a day of rest each week, then do so!) I do believe, however, that the purpose behind the Sabbath still stands in Christ.

  • Rest – Jesus told us to not be anxious about anything. (As a natural worrier, I know this is easier said than done.) God wants us to find our rest in Him. Even when the world is crazy and chaotic around us, even when we have a lot on our plate… we can rest in knowing that He is our strength and that He will always provide. On another note, I also believe that God never intended for us to overwork ourselves. Physical rest is a good thing, and we should make it a part of our normal routine.
  • Trust – God is our provider. We can trust Him with every area of our lives. Our finances, our family, our careers… the Creator of the universe has our best interest at heart.
  • Freedom – We are set free from the Law. We are set free from sin. And we are set free from death. Even when we encounter struggles and strife in this world, we are set free by God’s peace that surpasses all understanding.
When we find our rest in Jesus, we are set free from every burden of this world! Click to Tweet
  • Holiness – Honoring the Sabbath is what set God’s people apart from the rest of the world, and I believe it still does to this day. When we complain and stress about life, the world can see that we aren’t at rest. Our rest in Christ should be evident to those around us. 

 

Honoring the Sabbath means honoring the rest we have found in Christ Jesus.

We honor the Sabbath when we choose to live in that rest each and every day. What good is it to worry, work, and stress all week and then simply take a day off to recover? Isn’t that what the Pharisees did? God wants us to live in His rest every day of the week. As a believer, the Sabbath day is every day.

We honor the Sabbath by taking the time to rest with God, trusting Him to provide and sustain us, living in freedom apart from sin, and by not being afraid to demonstrate this truth to the world around us.

 

For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. - Hebrews 4:10

 

*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

**Photo by Alexander Shustov on Unsplash

 


 

I welcome your thoughts and opinions regarding God’s Sabbath rest. Please remember that we are all part of the body of Christ. We are here to learn and grow as believers, not tear each other down. Thanks!

 

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7 Comments

  1. My husband is a self-proclaimed bona-fide workaholic farmer who farms with his dad and brother. A farmer’s work is never done and many time they’re racing against the weather to get crops in or something like that. Yet, on Sundays, they park the tractors and only do the necessary chores. I’ve taken a cue from them and I don’t work on Sundays anymore either. It’s officially our day off and it really helps me get through the week.

    1. Hi Alyssa,
      I was trying to figure out how to reply to the original post but I was unable to. I think you make a lot of great points about the Sabbath according to the Bible. However, I will have to respectfully disagree with the Sabbath being every day or any day you choose. Don’t get me mistaken we should be honoring God every chance that we get. However, as you mentioned, there is no evidence documenting the Sabbath ever being changed to Sunday or any other day. God specifically set the Sabbath day (Saturday) as a holy day for man( Mark 2:27). We see in the New Testament that Jesus also kept the Sabbath day (Luke 4:16, Mark 1:21 are some examples) as well as his followers after he was crucified and resurrected. I had to do some research as to when this may have gotten lost because this day was still very clear in the New Testament as it was in the Old Testament. Please read about Constantine and how this day was changed ‘by man.’ This was very difficult for me to accept because my entire christian life had been surrounded by ‘going to church on Sundays.’ As you know that this is not the end all be all of Christianity but learning that we should still be observing the Sabbath came as a bit of a shock. Many modern day churches don’t talk much about the Sabbath day or if they do they will inadvertently say that Sunday is the Sabbath or the Sabbath can be any day but we know that this is not biblical. When I searched for truth in other people, I got “Well this is how it is now,” or “The Sabbath was only for the Jews.” However, as Christians we can deny what the Bible says and we also need to make sure we aren’t falling away from the truth because of modern tradition. I encourage anyone that may struggle with this as I did also not to believe based on my words but search the scripture. I also encourage you to read ‘Ten Commandments Twice Removed’ by Danny Shelton and Shelly Quinn. This book also shines some light on the topic. God bless you & take care!

      1. I agree with Samantha and respectfully disagree that Sabbath can be any day or that Sunday is the Sabbath. Constantine became very anti-Semitic and did not want to look anything like the early Jewish believers. He actually made it unlawful to work on Saturday! God never changed His holy day and he still commands us to observe it. This will be a sign and testament to non-believers according to scripture. Like Samantha all my life I observed “Sunday Sabbath” as I was taught. But it never set well with me. Once I researched and re-read scriptures Old & New testaments, I knew I was not pleasing God, by observing what He has commanded.
        I feel so blessed and my husband and I’s life continues to improve in so many ways since observing all 10 commandments!
        Blessings and thanks for your article. Well done. Love

  2. What a needed post for me this weekend, Alyssa! I am frantically trying to get so much done and leave Sunday open to rest, physcially, spiritually, and mentally. I know of and also remind others of its importance but so often life intervenes. I’m determined to stem that tide this weekend-your post is one more reminder of how important it truly is. To find rest in Jesus, that is my goal! Glad I popped over from #DancewithJesus!

  3. Alyssa, this is a tough topic to tackle, but you handled it so admirably. I do agree with you that ‘the purpose behind the Sabbath still stands in Christ.’ I know God desires for us to find true rest in Christ and it all starts with our faith. What a wonderful testimony our lives would be if we could truly rest in Christ.

  4. No, we are not under the law, but we do obey the law. Jesus says that if we love Him, we will keep His Commandments. Which ones, He was asked. Love God, and love our neighbor, he answered. The first 4 Commandments tell us how to love God. The next 6 tell us how to love our neighbor. And who gave us these Commandments? Jesus, Himself. He was the Rock that went with the Israelites in the wilderness. He is the Creator Who made all things. He is the Giver of the Commandments, and His Commandments are not grevious.

    We do not obey His Commandments to obtain salvation. That is His gift of grace. We obey because we love Him, giving thanks for His provision of salvation.

  5. Hello Alyssa, I was excited to see this topic as for the last 6 months this has been a personal point of interest. I hesitate to post too much here because I am of the mind that sometimes what the Lord Jesus Christ speaks to us through the Holy Spirit is often times between just us. I have been doing a sundown Friday to sundown Saturday Sabbath for at least 6 months now, I just note that for now and prepare myself for it…..Bible reading and studies and ask the Holy Spirit to guide me. I just want to honor God in remembering the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Now it’s either preparing or letting the Holy Spirit direct me and I can say it has been and is a powerful, wondrous and enjoyment of time spent in His presence. I am non denomination yet I was raised Seventh Day Adventist and the Sabbath was kept in the home, so I recall having worship and fellowship and this aided me now as I observe in my home. It is SO much more than merely not going to work or working……..Thank you for the study of this.
    Be Encouraged

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