After the Lord had completed the works of creation, He rested on the seventh day. He then blessed it and sanctified it for the benefit of man to keep it holy and to cease from all his secular labor. Thus the Sabbath was instituted as a memorial of the works of the Creator. This is the Lord’s day. Genesis 2:1-3; Mark 2:28; Exodus 20:8-11; 16:23; Isaiah 56:2; 58:13. The Sabbath is also a sign of God’s spiritual rest in which He wanted Adam and his descendants to take part. To us the Sabbath is, therefore, a sign of rest that we find in Christ. Hebrews 3:18, 19; 4:1-4, 9-11 (cf Matthew 11:28, 29).
“The Sabbath was not for Israel merely, but for the world. It had been made known to man in Eden, and, like the other precepts of the Decalogue, it is of imperishable obligation. Of that law of which the fourth commandment forms a part, Christ declares, ‘Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law.’ So long as the heavens and the earth endure, the Sabbath will continue as a sign of the Creator’s power. And when Eden shall bloom on earth again, God’s holy rest day will be honored by all beneath the sun. ‘From one Sabbath to another’ the inhabitants of the glorified new earth shall go up ‘to worship before Me, saith the Lord.’ Matt. 5:18; Isa. 66:23.” —The Desire of Ages, p. 283.
“No other institution which was committed to the Jews tended so fully to distinguish them from surrounding nations as did the Sabbath. God designed that its observance should designate them as His worshipers. It was to be a token of their separation from idolatry, and their connection with the true God. But in order to keep the Sabbath holy, men must themselves be holy. Through faith they must become partakers of the righteousness of Christ. When the command was given to Israel, ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,’ the Lord said also to them, ‘Ye shall be holy men unto Me.’ Ex. 20:8; 22:31. Only thus could the Sabbath distinguish Israel as the worshipers of God.
“As the Jews departed from God, and failed to make the righteousness of Christ their own by faith, the Sabbath lost its significance to them. Satan was seeking to exalt himself and to draw men away from Christ, and he worked to pervert the Sabbath, because it is the sign of the power of Christ. The Jewish leaders accomplished the will of Satan by surrounding God’s rest day with burdensome requirements. In the days of Christ the Sabbath had become so perverted that its observance reflected the character of selfish and arbitrary men rather than the character of the loving heavenly Father.”—The Desire of Ages, pp. 283-284.
A Sign of Relationship Between God and His People
The Sabbath is a sign of the relationship between God and His people. It designates them as His special, peculiar people who keep His commandments, who are free from idolatry and worship the true God. Exodus 31:16, 17; Ezekiel 20:20.
A Sign of Deliverance and Redemption
When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, the Sabbath was declared to be also a sign of deliverance from slavery. Deuteronomy 5:15. It became part of the written law of God—that “fiery law” of ten commandments—which came from the right hand of the Lord. Deuteronomy 33:2. To us, the Sabbath is also a sign of deliverance from the slavery of sin. It is therefore a sign of sanctification and redemption. John 8:32-36; Exodus 31:12, 13; Isaiah 56:1, 2; Ezekiel 20:12 (cf John 17:17).
A Sign of Christ’s Righteousness
Since the law of God is the expression of His righteousness (Psalm 119:142, 172), and since the Sabbath is the seal of God’s law (Exodus 31:17; Isaiah 8:16), true Sabbath-keeping is also a sign of Christ’s righteousness in His followers.
Christ Taught True Sabbathkeeping
The controversy between Jesus and the Pharisees concerning the Sabbath never involved the question whether or not the Sabbath should be observed. The discussion was only over the question as to how the Sabbath was to be kept. Jesus put away all unnecessary human traditions and taught “lawful” Sabbath-keeping by giving us an example. Luke 4:16; Matthew 12:1-12; Luke 13:10-17; John 5:2-11; 7:22, 23. By teaching correct Sabbath-keeping according to the law, Christ confirmed the sacred validity of the Sabbath commandment.
Christ’s instruction to His disciples, to pray that their flight would not have to occur on the Sabbath, confirms the Sabbath sacredness in the Christian dispensation. Matthew 24:20. That instruction was given not only for the benefit of the believers living in Judea after Christ’s crucifixion (cf Matthew 24:16-18; Acts 8:1), but also for the benefit of those living in the last days. Matthew 24:3, 32, 33.
The Pharisees, who had been watching Christ continually, were not able to find in Him any evidence of Sabbath-breaking. Not even when He stood before Caiaphas could they accuse Him of having violated the Sabbath. They did not even try to use false witnesses against Him on this point. Luke 6:7; Matthew 26:59-66; John 18:28-31.
When the new covenant had already been confirmed by Christ’s death on the cross (Hebrews 9:16), and because no change could be made after it had been validated (Galatians 3:15), the disciples still continued resting on the Sabbath in obedience to the fourth commandment. Luke 23:56.
Immediately before His ascension, Christ gave final instructions to His disciples to teach and observe “all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” He had never spoken a word about a supposed Sabbath-Sunday change—past, present, or future. Matthew 28:20 (cf Luke 16:17).
The Early Christians Were Faithful Sabbathkeepers
The early Christians kept the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, and held religious meetings consistently on that day. Acts 13:14, 42, 44; 16:13; 17:1-3. For one year and six months Paul preached in Corinth every Sabbath, persuading Jews and Greeks, and there is no indication that he ever tried to introduce a Sabbath-Sunday change. Acts 18:4, 11. Ananias, a church leader, would not have had a good testimony of all the Jews if he had not been a strict Sabbath-keeper. Acts 22:12.
After the ascension of Christ, both Jews and Christians worshiped in the synagogues on the Sabbath day. Acts 9:12; 22:19; 15:21 (cf Matthew 23:1-3; John 16:2). There is no evidence that the early Christians offended the Jews by not keeping the Sabbath. Acts 25:8; 1 Corinthians 10:32.
When there was a conflict in the church over the ceremonial law, there was no disagreement caused by an attempt to change the Sabbath. This shows that such attempt was never made among the early Christians. If some of the leaders had tried to do such a serious thing, the whole book of Acts would be aflame with references to the conflict caused by the attempted deviation. Therefore, complete silence on this question proves that the early Christians knew of no innovation on this point. Acts 15:1-6, 23-29.
On the New Earth
In the earth made new the redeemed will come to worship before the Lord Sabbath after Sabbath. The Sabbath will continue to be a memorial of God’s creation throughout eternity. Isaiah 66:22, 23.
Keeping the Sabbath Holy
“Remember the seventh day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt no do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11.
The fourth commandment of the Law of God confirms the validity of the seventh-day of the week as the Sabbath that God had ordained in Eden. After resting upon this day, God blessed and sanctified it. Genesis 2:3. He then set it apart as His Sabbath, a holy day of rest, the memorial of His creation. Mark 2:27. He also made it the sign (Exodus 31:17) of allegiance between man and Himself, as the one and only true God.
True Sabbath-keeping, in conformity with God’s holy law, can only take place when God’s original purpose in His establishment of the seventh-day Sabbath is clearly understood, and when love for God in the heart is supreme. By keeping the Sabbath holy according to God’s instructions in His Word, we confirm our relation and allegiance to Him as our God, Creator, and Heavenly Father.
Blessings of Sabbath-keeping
When God blessed, sanctified, and set apart the seventh day of the week as His holy Sabbath day, He also promised to bless and sanctify all who observed it according to His instructions (Ezekiel 20:12):
“Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD, and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” Isaiah 58:12-14.
The fourth commandment prohibits all manner of secular work on the Sabbath that can be done on any other day of the week. This prohibition extends to all the members of the household, visitors staying in our homes, and even our domestic working animals.
Friday, a Day of Preparation
“On Friday let the preparation for the Sabbath be completed. See that all the clothing is in readiness and that all the cooking is done. Let the boots be blacked and the baths be taken. It is possible to do this. If you make it a rule you can do it. The Sabbath is not to be given to the repairing of garments, to the cooking of food, to pleasure seeking, or to any other worldly employment. Before the setting of the sun let all secular work be laid aside and all secular papers be put out of sight. Parents, explain your work and its purpose to your children, and let them share in your preparation to keep the Sabbath according to the commandment.”—Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 355-356.
“On Friday the clothing of the children is to be looked after. During the week they should be all laid out by their own hands under the direction of the mother, so that they can dress quietly, without any confusion or rushing about and hasty speeches.”—Child Guidance, p. 528.
“There is another work that should receive attention on the preparation day. On this day all differences between brethren, whether in the family or in the church, should be put away. Let all bitterness and wrath and malice be expelled from the soul. In a humble spirit, ‘confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.’ James 5:16.”—Vol. 6, Testimonies for the Church, p. 356.
“When the Sabbath commences, we should place a guard upon ourselves, upon our acts and our words, lest we rob God by appropriating to our own use that time which is strictly the Lord’s. We should not do ourselves, nor suffer our children to do, any manner of our own work for a livelihood or anything which could have been done on the six working days. Friday is the day of preparation. Time can then be devoted to making the necessary preparation for the Sabbath and to thinking and conversing about it. Nothing which will in the sight of Heaven be regarded as a violation of the holy Sabbath should be left unsaid or undone, to be said or done upon the Sabbath. God requires not only that we refrain from physical labor upon the Sabbath, but that the mind be disciplined to dwell upon sacred themes. The Fourth Commandment is virtually transgressed by conversing upon worldly things or by engaging in light and trifling conversation. Talking upon anything or everything which may come into the mind is speaking our own words. Every deviation from right brings us into bondage and condemnation.”—Child Guidance, pp. 529-530.
Things Compatible with Sabbath-keeping (Examples):
Christ attended church meetings on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16) and taught us by example that it is lawful to do good on this day. Matthew 12:9-13; Mark 3:1-5.
Christ was a true Medical-Missionary and healed many people on the Sabbath. In connection with the healing and welfare ministry He stated: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27:28.
Therefore, all works of mercy which are in harmony with the purpose of the Sabbath, are permitted. Matthew 25:35-36.
“Physicians need to cultivate a spirit of self-denial and self-sacrifice. It may be necessary to devote even the hours of the holy Sabbath to the relief of suffering humanity. But the fee for such labor should be put into the treasury of the Lord, to be used for the worthy poor, who need medical skill but cannot afford to pay for it.—Health, Philanthropic, and Medical Missionary Work, page 42.”—Medical Ministry, p. 216.
“Often physicians are called upon on the Sabbath to minister to the sick, and it is impossible for them to take time for rest and devotion. The Saviour has shown us by His example that it is right to relieve suffering on this day; but physicians and nurses should do no unnecessary work. Ordinary treatment, and operations that can wait, should be deferred till the next day. Let the patients know that physicians must have one day for rest.”—Medical Ministry, p. 214.
“How much the faithful physician needs the sympathy and prayers of the people of God. His claims in this direction are not inferior to those of the most devoted minister or missionary worker. Deprived, as he often is, of needed rest and sleep, and even of religious privileges on the Sabbath, he needs a double portion of grace, a fresh supply daily, or he will lose his hold on God and will be in danger of sinking deeper in spiritual darkness than men of other callings. And yet often he is made to bear unmerited reproaches and is left to stand alone, the subject of Satan’s fiercest temptations, feeling himself misunderstood, betrayed by his friends.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 446.
“Acts of necessity and mercy are permitted on the Sabbath, the sick and suffering are at all times to be cared for; but unnecessary labor is to be strictly avoided.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 307-308.
Things Incompatible with Sabbath-keeping (Examples):
Preparation of foods, i.e., cooking, baking, etc. Exodus 16:23.
Carrying burdens, as well as buying, transporting, and selling all manner of merchandise. Nehemiah 13:15-22.
Doing our own pleasure and engaging in conversation inappropriate for the Sabbath. Isaiah 58:13.
Trespassing on God’s time during the Sabbath.
“The Sabbath . . . is God’s time, not ours; when we trespass upon it we are stealing from God. . . . God has given us the whole of six days in which to do our work, and has reserved only one to Himself. This should be a day of blessing to us–a day when we should lay aside all our secular matters and center our thoughts upon God and heaven.”—Heavenly Places, p. 152.
Mending, cleaning, sweeping, washing clothes, polishing shoes, reading secular materials, etc.
The edges of the Sabbath should be carefully guarded. 6T 356.
All differences between family members and brethren should be put away before the Sabbath begins. 6T 356.
Confessions should be made to God and one another. CG 356.
Before the Sabbath begins, all the inmates of the house should gather at the family altar to read the word of God, and worship Him through prayer and song.
Children should take part in family worship service, especially on the Sabbath. 6T 357.
Long prayers and services should be avoided. 6T 357.
All should attend the worship service and the Sabbath school in God’s house, where they may become active participants. 6T 367; CG 531.
Everyone has a part in making the Sabbath meetings interesting. 6T 362.
While cooking is not permitted on the Sabbath, it is not necessary to eat cold food. CG 532.
“Provide something that will be regarded as a treat, something the family do not have every day.”—Child Guidance, p. 532.
Plan to go outdoors to see the hand of God in nature. CG 533, 534.
Take time to read the Bible, the Spirit of Prophesy books, etc. CG 532.
Control your thoughts and words, and direct your meditation and conversation upon spiritual subjects. GW (1890 ed) 208.
Remember that visiting the sick and giving Bible studies are in perfect harmony with the spirit of true Sabbath-keeping.
“Those who are not fully converted to the truth frequently let their minds run freely upon worldly business, and, although they may rest from physical toil upon the Sabbath, their tongues speak out what is in their minds; hence these words concerning cattle, crops, losses, and gains. All this is Sabbath breaking. If the mind is running upon worldly matters, the tongue will reveal it, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”—Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2, p. 703.
“We should each Sabbath reckon with our souls to see whether the week that has ended has brought spiritual gain or loss.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 356.
“None should permit themselves, through the week, to become so absorbed in their temporal interests, and so exhausted by their efforts for worldly gain, that on the Sabbath they have no strength or energy to give to the service of God. We are robbing the Lord when we unfit ourselves to worship Him upon His holy day. And we are robbing ourselves as well; for we need the warmth and glow of association, as well as the strength to be gained from the wisdom and experience of other Christians.”—Child Guidance, p. 530.
“Many need instruction as to how they should appear in the assembly for worship on the Sabbath. They are not to enter the presence of God in the common clothing worn during the week. All should have a special Sabbath suit, to be worn when attending service in God’s house. While we should not conform to worldly fashions, we are not to be indifferent in regard to our outward appearance. We are to be neat and trim, though without adornment. The children of God should be pure within and without.”——Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 355.
Sleeping in the house of God?.
“Let none come to the place of worship to take a nap. There should be no sleeping in the house of God. You do not fall asleep when engaged in your temporal business, because you have an interest in your work. Shall we allow the service which involves eternal interests to be placed on a lower level than the temporal affairs of life?”——Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 361.
Suggestions about food preparation for the Sabbath
“We should not provide for the Sabbath a more liberal supply or a greater variety of food than for other days. Instead of this the food should be more simple, and less should be eaten, in order that the mind may be clear and vigorous to comprehend spiritual things. Overeating befogs the brain. The most precious words may be heard and not appreciated, because the mind is confused by an improper diet. By overeating on the Sabbath, many have done more than they think to dishonor God—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 357.
Traveling on the Sabbath
“If we desire the blessing promised to the obedient, we must observe the Sabbath more strictly. I fear that we often travel on this day when it might be avoided. In harmony with the light which the Lord has given in regard to the observance of the Sabbath, we should be more careful about traveling on the boats or cars on this day. In these matters we should set a right example before our children and youth. In order to reach the churches that need our help, and to give them the message that God desires them to hear, it may be necessary for us to travel on the Sabbath; but so far as possible we should secure our tickets and make all necessary arrangements on some other day. When starting on a journey we should make every possible effort to plan so as to avoid reaching our destination on the Sabbath.”—Vol. 6, Testimonies for the Church, p. 359-360.
Children playing on the Sabbath?
“Parents, above everything take care of your children upon the Sabbath. Do not suffer them to violate God’s holy day by playing in the house or out-of-doors. You may just as well break the Sabbath yourselves as to let your children do it, and when you suffer your children to wander about and suffer them to play upon the Sabbath, God looks upon you as Sabbathbreakers.”—Child Guidance, p. 533.
Attending Secular School and Taking Exams on Sabbath.
“Some of our people have sent their children to school on the Sabbath. They were not compelled to do this, but the school authorities objected to receiving the children unless they should attend six days. In some of these schools, pupils are not only instructed in the usual branches of study, but are taught to do various kinds of work; and here the children of professed commandment-keepers have been sent upon the Sabbath. Some parents have tried to justify their course by quoting the words of Christ, that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day. But the same reasoning would prove that men may labor on the Sabbath because they must earn bread for their children; and there is no limit, no boundary line, to show what should and what should not be doneò.”
“Our brethren cannot expect the approval of God while they place their children where it is impossible for them to obey the fourth commandment. They should endeavor to make some arrangement with the authorities whereby the children shall be excused from attendance at school upon the seventh day. If this fails, then their duty is plain, to obey God’s requirements at whatever cost. In some places in Central Europe, persons have been fined and imprisoned for not sending their children to school on the Sabbath. In one place, after a brother had plainly stated his faith, an officer of justice came to his door, and compelled the children to go to school. The parents gave them a Bible instead of their usual text-books, and their time was spent in studying it. But wherever it can be done, our people should establish schools of their own. Where they cannot do this, they should as soon as possible remove to some place where they can be free to keep the commandments of God.
“Some will urge that the Lord is not so particular in his requirements; that it is not their duty to keep the Sabbath strictly at so great loss, or to place themselves where they will be brought in conflict with the laws of the land. But here is just where the test is coming, whether we will honor the law of God above the requirements of men. This is what will distinguish between those who honor God and those who dishonor him. Here is where we are to prove our loyalty. The history of God’s dealings with his people in all ages shows that he demands exact obedienceò”
“If parents allow their children to receive an education with the world, and make the Sabbath a common day, then the seal of God cannot be placed upon them. They will be destroyed with the world; and will not their blood rest upon the parents? But if we faithfully teach our children God’s commandments, bring them into subjection to parental authority, and then by faith and prayer commit them to God, he will work with our efforts; for he has promised it. And when the overflowing scourge shall pass through the land, they with us may be hidden in the secret of the Lord’s pavilion.”—Historical Sketches of SDA’s, pp. 216-217.
“With such special directions as these, how can fathers consent to their children attending school on the Sabbath, or any part of the Sabbath, the same as on any common weekday? Here is a cross to lift. Here the line of separation is drawn between the loyal and the disloyal. This is the sign that there is a people who will not make void the law of God although it is at a sacrifice to themselves. Here we may bear our testimony to the world of our allegiance to the Creator and Governor of the world. Here the testimony is borne to the world of the truthfulness of the Sabbath.”—Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, p. 79.
Jewish Yearly Holy Days
The Lord’s weekly Sabbath pointed to the past, to God’s work of creation, while the seven yearly Jewish holy days, also called sabbaths, pointed to the future, to Christ’s work of redemption. God made a clear distinction between these two when He said: “From even to even shall ye celebrate your sabbath(s). . . Besides the sabbaths of the Lord. . . .” Leviticus 23:32, 38. In Romans 14:5, Galatians 4:10, and Colossians 2:16, 17, it is clear, from the context, that Paul refers to the yearly sabbaths of the Jews (“your sabbaths”), not to the weekly Sabbaths of the Lord (“My Sabbaths”).