Some people believe that, since the Sabbath commandment isn’t explicitly repeated in the New Testament, it is no longer binding. But is this true?
The Sabbath commandment did not have to be repeated in the New Testament, simply because the people to whom Jesus Christ and the apostles preached would never have imagined that it needed to be repeated!
The Scriptures that would later be called the Old Testament were their Bible, their guide for living (Romans 15:4 Romans 15:4For whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
American King James Version×). Paul described them as being “given by inspiration of God, and … profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works.
American King James Version×). The Holy Scriptures clearly commanded them to keep the Sabbath, and the common people accepted that as God’s inspired instruction.
Jesus Christ and the apostles lived and taught in a Sabbath-keeping society. Jesus’ confrontations with the Pharisees were over how to observe the Sabbath, never over whether to observe it.
When the apostles took their message beyond the confines of Judea, Sabbath observance was well known in other parts of the Roman Empire. Notice, for example, what the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, writing during the New Testament period, said: “The multitude of mankind itself have had a great inclination for a long time to follow our religious observances; for there is not any city of the Grecians, nor any of the barbarians, nor any nation whatsoever, whither our custom of resting on the seventh day hath not come … As God himself pervades all the world, so hath our law passed through all the world also” ( Against Apion, Book 2, chap. 40).
The examples of Jesus and the apostles confirm that they believed in and obeyed all of the Ten Commandments. Throughout the book of Acts—written by Luke, a gentile —the Sabbath and the annual Sabbaths described in Leviticus 23 are mentioned quite routinely (Acts 13:14 Acts 13:14But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.
American King James Version×, Acts 13:42-44 Acts 13:42-44 42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles sought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. 43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. 44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.
American King James Version×; Acts 16:13 Acts 16:13And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spoke to the women which resorted thither.
American King James Version×; Acts 17:2 Acts 17:2And Paul, as his manner was, went in to them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,
American King James Version×; Acts 18:4 Acts 18:4And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.
American King James Version×, Acts 18:21 Acts 18:21But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that comes in Jerusalem: but I will return again to you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.
American King James Version×; Acts 20:6 Acts 20:6And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came to them to Troas in five days; where we stayed seven days.
American King James Version×, Acts 20:16 Acts 20:16For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hurried, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.
American King James Version×; Acts 27:9 Acts 27:9Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,
American King James Version×). Whether to observe them simply wasn’t a question.
To learn more, read our free Bible study booklet The New Covenant: Does It Abolish God’s Law?