God gave the Sabbath Day to keep as a sign between Himself and Israel “that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.” By observing the Sabbath, Israel would give a testimony that He was their God and they were His people who would always acknowledge the day on which He rested after finishing creation.
It is to our advantage to start with the account of creation in the first and second chapters of Genesis. God created for six days and the account of each day contains these words: “And the evening and the morning were…” Each day of creation had boundaries, the evening and the morning, but the seventh day was different in that it had no such boundaries. In a divine way, God reserved the seventh day with rest “from all his work which he had made.”
He blessed and sanctified the seventh day centuries before it became the object of the fourth commandment. No other commandment begins with “remember,” possibly emphasizing to Israel the importance of observing the Sabbath as a day of rest. Just as God observed the first Sabbath, resting from His work of creation, the Jews would observe the Sabbath from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday.
God said to keep the day holy, or set it apart from the other six days in a way like no other nation. It was a day devoted to God, and they should observe it by doing no work. Both the day and the people were set apart.
How was the Sabbath a sign to Israel? It should first serve to keep fresh in their minds and hearts the Creator and their subjection Him. Their obedience to the command would be a testimony of belief distinguishing them from all other people.
Why is it that most Christians observe Sunday as a day of rest? Christ arose on the first day of the week, and we find early Christians gathering on the first day of the week. Luke supported this when he wrote, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7).
The apostle Paul, in addressing this, said, “do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day” (Colossians 2:16). Sabbath-keeping, as far as Christians are concerned, is about spiritual freedom.
In Acts 15 we find dissension in the church, and eventually it was decided that a letter would be sent from the apostles and elders. In the 29th verse we are told that the letter said believers should, “abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if you keep yourselves, ye shall do well.” It would seem the apostles and elders would have addressed a day of worship, but there is no mention of such a day. In fact, the fourth commandment tells us to keep the day holy. To do work on the Sabbath would result in death, but it does not tell us to worship on that day.
For Christians, there is a Sabbath rest in Christ Jesus, who said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). He went on to say, “the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.” Sunday is a day of physical and spiritual rest, and a day on which we have the opportunity to worship the Lord. Christ is our Sabbath rest because He sanctifies and makes us holy. For all who have entered into Christ, every day is a day of worship.
The Sunday school lesson is written by Ed Wilcox, pastor of Centerville Baptist Church. firstname.lastname@example.org