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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

20 April 2006

Sabbaths and Sundays

Q: Why do we Christians treat Sunday as the Sabbath if Saturday is the seventh day?

SabbathA: We do so because we are not mandated to keep any specific day. Indeed, Saint Paul told the Colossians, “Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. (2:16)”

However, most of the Church at a very early part of its history chose Sunday as its focal day because that’s when Jesus rose from the dead. Every Sunday was, therefore, considered a celebration of His resurrection.

Still, we shouldn’t dismiss the idea of “Sabbath rest.” God designed us well and built in the need for refreshment of body and spirit. Living as fallen creatures in a fallen world, rest is even more essential. Yet a proper Sabbath need not be idleness: For those who work with their minds, physical exertion can be very restful. For those whose jobs are done by routine, mental challenges are refreshing.

Evidently, many of the Jews at Jesus’ time thought otherwise. They narrowed the commandment, defined work as doing almost anything meaningful under any circumstances, and burdened others with their rigorous legalism. In response, Jesus reminded them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)” God gives us and blesses us with rest — in the New Testament, we’re not forced to cease activity; rather, we’re allowed to relax and recharge.

The Last SupperFinally, we await the fulness of the Sabbath rest written of in Hebrews 4, where the writer contrasted the limited earthly rest we have to the ultimate Sabbath of an eternity with Christ. This rest already begins on earth, as we remain believers in Christ. Our deepest rest and greatest source of empowerment flow from Jesus — thus His Church, His Gospel, and His sacraments are central to our Sabbath rest.

As Christ tells us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)” How do you come to Him? Where does He give You rest? Where more completely than in His house on His Day! How more fully than in hearing His gracious, forgiving Word and in eating and drinking His body and blood!

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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Blogger Frank said...

What, no discussion of Sunday being the eighth day?

20 April, 2006 14:27  
Blogger Newbirth said...

Hmmm, what a great way to get my Sabbath Q&A page out for people to see. I'll make each question/argument into a blog post. :)

I'm no pastor, though. Just a weird Baptist girl from California. :)

25 April, 2006 21:59  
Anonymous Sabbath said...

I do believe that we should still have our Sabbath rest and I believe that the bible mandated a day to be of such (Ex. 20:8-11, among others). Humans are not left at liberty to choose the day that best suits them.

05 March, 2009 09:47  

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