How much are you willing to follow Jesus Christ’s example? As the apostle John tells us, “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6, New Living Translation).
So why wouldn’t you want to follow Jesus’ example? Jesus worshipped on the Sabbath—Friday sunset to Saturday sunset —and He told us that we should too.
But many have a tendency to say things like: “Well, the Sabbath was an Old Testament thing,” or “The Sabbath has nothing to do with salvation,” or “We have liberty and aren’t restricted to a particular day of the week,” or “The Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday.”
Jesus Christ emphasized just how important the Sabbath is for all people everywhere.
Before you jump to conclusions, I’d like you to notice a simple verse that carries so much meaning. It’s found in Hebrews 13:8. It says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (emphasis added throughout).
How does this passage help determine if you should rest and worship on the biblical Sabbath?
Jesus set the example
Let’s notice how Jesus was “yesterday”—in the past. To do that, we have to consider a verse that refers to a time before the creation of the earth. Did you know that the account describing the oldest time in the Bible is not right at its beginning? This passage speaks of a time prior to events described at the beginning of your Bible in Genesis 1.
Believe it or not, this passage is a key that will help you unlock the answer to the Sabbath question. It’s a key to understanding not only the Sabbath but also the entire Bible. And it’s found in the New Testament—at the beginning of the Gospel of John.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-3; John 1:14).
Here’s why this passage is so important: It tells us that, before any physical creation, a Being called “the Word” existed. It also tells us that the Word became flesh, a physical being. That should immediately get our minds working on making a connection.
Here’s the key: The Word is the One who became Jesus Christ—they are one and the same. It also tells us that He was with God—meaning God the Father. And we find that the Word was also called God!
So not only are we told that the Word became Jesus, but we’re also told what He was doing. He was making—or creating—all things in accordance with the perfect will of the Father. Not just some things, but all things were made through Him!
The Sabbath was holy from creation
Genesis 2:1 tells us: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (New International Version).
Let’s ask ourselves:
Who made the heavens and earth? The Word did—the One who became Jesus—as directed by the Father.
Who made the seventh-day Sabbath? The Word did—the One who became Jesus.
Who blessed and sanctified the seventh-day Sabbath? The Word did—the One who became Jesus.
Who rested from all His work on the seventh-day Sabbath? The Word did—the One who became Jesus.
Who made the seventh day holy? The Word did—the One who became Jesus.
This is a vital key to understanding the true Sabbath and why it should be important to you. Before Noah, before Abraham, before Moses, and long before the Old Covenant, the Word—the One who became Jesus—created the seventh-day Sabbath. It wasn’t just any day. He blessed it, and He set it apart from every other day.
Do you see how important it is to God? He designated Friday sunset to Saturday sunset as holy time (in the Bible, God counts time from “evening to evening”—sundown to sundown—as shown in Leviticus 23:32 and Genesis 1:5; Genesis 1:8; Genesis 1:13; Genesis 1:19; Genesis 1:23; Genesis 1:31).
When something is holy it means that it is something special and precious to God. He made the Sabbath unique, and He told us all to remember this wonderful time that He designed.
Not only did it become holy time, but we find Jesus, the Word, setting an example for all mankind—for you—to follow. What did He do? He rested. He rested from the work of creation.
The Sabbath is still holy
Remember the scripture we began with—Hebrews 13:8. It says that Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” Looking back to “yesterday,” we find that Jesus created the Sabbath as holy time at creation.
Since the Scripture must be true—that Jesus is the same—what do we find as we go forward through time?
Let’s move forward from creation into the future, to after Jesus Christ returns to the earth. We find Isaiah prophesying about worship on the seventh-day Sabbath: “From month to month and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all humanity will come to worship me, says the Lord” (Isaiah 66:23, Common English Bible).
Isn’t that amazing? It may even surprise you. Jesus our Savior says that the Sabbath is the day He designed for worship. He made the Sabbath at creation. And millennia later, after He returns to earth, it’s still holy as the day of worship for “all humanity.”
Remember what holy means. This weekly day of worship is incredibly special and precious to God. He loves it, and He wants you to love it too. The Sabbath of worship and rest He created was not just any day of the week—and it certainly was not Sunday.
But here’s the part that may be truly unexpected: Who will worship God on the Sabbath day? Isaiah prophesied it wasn’t just a Jewish day of worship. It wasn’t made only for the Israelites. It was designed for humanity—for you and for me—for everyone. Isaiah tells us that the seventh-day Sabbath continued to be holy from creation and still is the time for worship for all people.
In fact, this wasn’t the only place where Isaiah mentioned this idea. He also speaks to you and me—to people who believe in God and want a closer relationship with Him. He instructs us what we should do.
Do you know what he said? He prophesied that all people who love God will come to worship on God’s Sabbath and serve Him and that the temple of God would be called “a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:6-8).
The Sabbath is for you
Here’s a question: When you hear the inspired Word of God, do you allow it to guide you in what you do? Perhaps we should all ask: If I want to follow Jesus, when should I worship?
Many people have many ideas about the Sabbath and how to worship, but the Bible makes plain what’s right and proper—what you could call authentic worship.
Is there a particular day of the week that comes to mind when you hear the word “Sabbath”?
We already know that the Word—the One who became Jesus—created the Sabbath day as a day of rest and worship at creation. He verified it thousands of years later in Isaiah’s prophecies. So should you follow your own tradition—your opinion—or should you follow Jesus’ example?
Let’s look back into the first century A.D. We find Jesus—the Word—is made flesh. He’s called Immanuel, “God with us,” God in the flesh (Matthew 1:23). Jesus Christ was walking the earth. While this is still in the past, if Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, we should find Jesus remaining “the same.”
So what was Jesus’ regular practice? How did He honor God? What day did He observe? The Bible records Jesus’ own routine custom at the start of His ministry: “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read” (Luke 4:16).
We shouldn’t minimize this. It was Jesus’ regular custom to worship on the Sabbath! What day of the week was that? Ever since that time and for centuries before, the weekly cycle has been followed. Time has never been lost. And don’t forget, Jesus knew the right day—because after all, He established the day of rest and worship at creation. Now we see that He validates and confirms it. Christ not only remembered the Sabbath day, but He kept it holy, from sunset Friday through sunset Saturday.
The Sabbath was never changed
Now here’s a tough question: Did Jesus set His example of Sabbath worship so we don’t have to? Should we just disregard the way that Jesus worshipped? Sadly, that’s what many ministers teach today!
But Jesus never once told His disciples to ignore His example. He never once said any church or any person has the authority to transfer the Sabbath to Sunday. In fact, He taught just the opposite. He said, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me” (John 12:26).
This is the same Jesus who was the Word, the One who created the Sabbath. Jesus set it apart as holy and told us to follow Him—to live like Him, to think like Him, to worship like Him.
So no wonder He emphasized the point by saying something remarkable. In Mark 2:28 we find He said that He is “Lord of the Sabbath.”
What day of the week is the Lord’s day? According to Jesus Christ, it’s the seventh-day Sabbath! It’s not Sunday or any other day of the week. Jesus clearly tells us that He is Lord of the Sabbath day. His day of worship is the Sabbath!
He is consistent (Malachi 3:6). We’ve seen that yesterday, Jesus as the Word created the weekly day of rest and worship—the seventh-day Sabbath—lasting from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.
The Sabbath was made for all mankind
Today Jesus is still Lord of the Sabbath. Some might argue that Jesus only observed the Sabbath because He was a Jew. After all, what else would you expect a good Jew to do other than keep the Sabbath day? Let’s think about that for just a moment.
In this same section of Scripture, in Mark 2:27, we find something that so many Christians miss. It’s a crucial key to understand the truth about proper worship.
Jesus says, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” If you read over that phrase quickly you might miss the point. You could think that the Sabbath was for Jews only—a burden. But wait! The meaning becomes clear when you understand the definition of the word “man.” The Sabbath was made “for man.”
The word Christ used means all of mankind, not just the Jews or one single person. The word is translated differently in other versions. By comparing them, the meaning becomes crystal clear. The New Revised Standard Version states, “The Sabbath was made for humankind.”
Jesus emphasized just how important the Sabbath is for all people everywhere. He said, “The Sabbath was made for the good of human beings” (Mark 2:27, Good News Translation). It wasn’t made just for the Jews and then done away with or replaced by Sunday, it was “made to benefit man” (The Living Bible).
So contrary to what most churches teach, Sabbath worship was not somehow altered or annulled. Jesus is consistent. He’s constant. He’s the same. He said that “the Sabbath was made for the good of man” (Bible in Worldwide English). It was the day “made to help people” (Expanded Bible). It was “made to meet the needs of people” (New Living Translation, 2013). It wasn’t exclusive to one group of people or for just a limited time only. It was the same yesterday and today as well. “The Sabbath was made for the good of people” (Contemporary English Version).
Even now authentic Christians take Jesus’ words to heart and follow Him by observing the seventh-day Sabbath, Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. They worship on the same day that Jesus did. This isn’t a “Jewish Sabbath.” It’s the Christian way of observing the true Sabbath over which Jesus is Lord. And Christian means one who follows the example of Jesus Christ, who lives as He did.
Choose to follow Jesus’ Sabbath example
I hope you’ll determine to find out about this authentic Sabbath that Jesus designed for you. The Word of God shows that Jesus created, verified and observed the seventh-day Sabbath, and He taught us that we should follow His example.
If you still have doubts about which day is the Christian Sabbath, remember that in the future the Sabbath will be observed by all people during the reign of Christ over all nations (Isaiah 66:23).
Moreover Hebrews 4 explains that Christians should be observing the seventh-day Sabbath today (see our free study guide Sunset to Sunset: God’s Sabbath Rest).
So let’s remember the Sabbath. It looks back to creation and reminds us of our Creator. In the present, we keep the seventh day holy, and we consider the One who has delivered us from the bondage of sin. And finally, the Sabbath looks forward to the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God, when there will be true rest for all humanity!
We’re all left with a choice. What should you do now?
Get out your Bible! Start to study into the true Sabbath day. God’s Word will guide you to the point where you’ll have to make a decision. Will you live by “every word of God” as Jesus directed?
There is no doubt that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. By observing the seventh-day Sabbath, Jesus proved He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Follow Him!
And of course, the United Church of God, publisher of this magazine, has hundreds of Sabbath-keeping congregations that meet on Saturday across the United States and around the world. Go to http://www.ucg.org/congregations to find a congregation near you.
Call one of our pastors or visit with our members. They’ll help you discover more about the biblical command to keep God’s Sabbath holy!