The Irony in the Sabbath Debate

Among the many divisions and splintering’s of the faith is the heavily debated topic of the seventh day Sabbath.

Those who attend church on Sunday believe the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday. They believe this partly due to passages such as Acts 20:7 where Paul was preaching on “the first day of the week” and Revelation 1:10 referring to “the Lords Day” which they believe is Sunday because it is commonly believed Christ rose from the grave on Sunday morning.

Those who attend church on Saturday claim to be observing the Sabbath because the 4th commandment in Exodus 20 commands the Israelites to keep the seventh day holy.

The issue with this debate is that a person could make the argument for or against the observance of a certain day of the week based on how the various scriptures appear to contradict one another. But how do we reconcile this debate? Is there any additional biblical evidence to clarify this subject other than a direct reading of the English versions of the bible? Does the Holy Bible really instruct us to “go to church” on a specific day of the week?

The biblical evidence presented in this chapter is sure to upset the worldview of both Saturday and Sunday observing denominations. However, if you enjoy learning biblical truths as opposed to observing the religious traditions of men, this information is guaranteed to set in stone your understanding of the seventh day Sabbath observance once and for all.

To begin, we will discuss how the entire premise of Christian Sabbath observance is based on two false assumptions. The first false assumption is that “keeping Sabbath” means you must go to church on a prescribed day of the week. The second false assumption is that only those who attend church on the Sabbath love the Lord God enough to obey His commandments. At which point, the varying manifestations of Christianity begin quarreling over which day is to be observed as the Christian Sabbath – Saturday or Sunday.

We will discuss how Christians could observe the Sabbath, but the question of should we observe Sabbath has become convoluted by the religious teachers own ignorance of what the Sabbath was originally meant to represent; a day of rest and cleanliness at the end of this current earth creation (Genesis 2:2-3). Not a day of traveling and gathering for a worship service.

The seventh day Sabbath was given to the Israelites as a sign between themselves and the creator God (Exodus 31:12-18) to observe as a shadow of things to come (Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 10:1). But the Israelites were rebellious, and the Sabbaths were greatly polluted (Ezekiel 20:12-14). A shadow of things to come would be manifest in the physical appearance of the creator – the Word of God – Jesus Christ (John 1; Colossians 1:15-17). The only one who is the same as the Father (John 1:18; 6:38; 10:30; Hebrews 1:5). The promised Messiah who would fulfill all things (John 19:28; Luke 24:44). Our redeemer (Galatians 3:13) who takes away the sin of the world (Isaiah 53; John 1:29). It is He who is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:6-8; Luke 6:1-5), and it is He in whom we receive our own personal Sabbath rest forever (Hebrews 4:9-10). Our salvation and Sabbath rest are now found solely in following the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ – to love God and love one another – and not by the “observance” one day over the other.

However, let’s say for argument’s sake we would like to continue observing the seventh day Sabbath. The question is not “are we keeping Sabbath on the correct day”? But more importantly, “are we keeping Sabbath in the correct way”?

Just what exactly is necessary to observe this “hallowed”, “sanctified”, and “holy” day of creation correctly?

The simple truth revealed in the Hebrew scriptures is crystal clear. The physical act of getting up and going to church or synagogue on Saturday is the very act of breaking Sabbath.

First, the Israelites were not allowed to preform ministry on the Sabbath. (Exodus 20:8-10)

The word “labour” (H5647; abad) means to serve, to till, worshipers “kept in bondage” by the Lord [1]. We (mankind) were put under bondage for taking part in original sin and were made to till the ground as a punishment (Genesis 3:23). This punishment is our “labour” spoken of in Exodus 20:9 and Genesis 3:23.

The word “work” (H4399; mlakah) means deputyship, i.e. ministry, or employment but never servile. Mlakah is derived from the root word “malawk” (H4397) meaning to dispatch as a messenger – angel – prophet, priest or teacher. That is the “work” spoken of in Exodus 20:9 and Genesis 2:3.

There is no mistaking this Hebrew word mlakah with the word abad or “labor”. “Labor” is tilling the ground, while “work” is given to ministry as a teacher of God. As in, “Six days shalt thou labour (abad), and do all thy work (mlakah): But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work (mlakah)” (Exodus 20:10; emphasis mine).

All people, including priests and rabbis, were forbidden from performing work (including mlakah; the work of the ministry) on the seventh day Sabbath. It truly is this simple to understand the irony.

Mlakah, or “work” is the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:2-3 when God rested from his “work” on the seventh day and “sanctified” it. The bible says the Lord God rested from His ministry (mlakah) of creation on the seventh day.

Exodus 20 says the Israelites were not allowed to mlakah (ministry as employment – to dispatch as a messenger, prophet, priest or teacher) on the seventh day Sabbath. But the only thing modern “Sabbath keepers” teach us is that “working” (employment) is prohibited on the Sabbath. Why?

The Lord God did not rest from his abad (labour) on the seventh day. Never once does the bible say God “labored” in the first place. He is the God of creation and does not need to toil or till the land. The burden of labor (abad) belongs to man for sinning and “eating of the tree of knowledge” (Genesis 2:17). God does not labor because he never sinned and is not kept under bondage. Only man labors under bondage. It is man who does abad – not God. God, performed his mlakah for six days. Then, he rested from his mlakah of creation on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3).

The reason this distinction between abad and mlakah is so important is because the word abad (labour) is not found in Genesis 2:2-3. Genesis 2 is often used by Sabbath “observers” to suggest ‘we were told from the beginning of creation the seventh day is sanctified and should be kept holy; not only from the time of the Exodus and the law of Moses. Therefore, we were told from the beginning of creation to never work (as employment) on the Sabbath. That is why we refuse to go to work on the Sabbath. And, that is why we go to church on Saturday – we are keeping the Sabbath holy.’

They claim to be keeping the seventh day Sabbath holy by not “working” on the Sabbath. Ironically, they are doing the opposite. They break God’s original Sabbath commandment by performing ministry (mlakah) on the seventh day when they are in fact supposed to be resting from all things; including ministry.

If we were to take the bible seriously (which we all claim, we do) then we are commanded to perform our mlakah for six days then on the seventh day we are commanded to rest from our mlakah – our deputyship as a prophet, priest, or teacher.

This revelation will come as a shock to many in the faith, but if you research this for yourself you will find this information is biblically accurate. The definitions and context for these two words used in Exodus chapters 20 through 35 are clear. The bible was, after all, not written in English. Not only should we research the Hebrew definitions, but also the context of everywhere else this word mlakah is used in the book of Exodus. So let us do that now.

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[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Hebrew and Greek definitions were taken from: Strong, James (2010). The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Thomas Nelson

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