Questions and Answers: The issue of keeping the Sabbath causes me great concern

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The issue of keeping the Sabbath causes me great concern

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All of us should be concerned about whether we are following God’s instructions or not. God offers encouragement for those who sincerely want to obey Him. Speaking through the prophet Isaiah He says, “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite [remorseful] in spirit, and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2 Isaiah 66:2For all those things has my hand made, and all those things have been, said the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word.
American King James Version×
, English Standard Version).

The apostle Paul clearly stated that we are to obey God’s law: “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (Romans 2:13 Romans 2:13(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
American King James Version×
, ESV, emphasis added throughout).

The apostle James, half-brother of Jesus Christ, made the same point that we must be doers of God’s law: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves … But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22 James 1:22But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
American King James Version×
, 25).

God also gives clear instructions not to change the form of worship He lays down in Scripture: “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32 Deuteronomy 12:32What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
American King James Version×
).

Jesus Christ firmly challenged the Pharisees for altering God’s laws and substituting their own traditions and interpretations (Matthew 15:7-9 Matthew 15:7-9 [7] You hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, [8] This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. [9] But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
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; Mark 7:6-13 Mark 7:6-13 [6] He answered and said to them, Well has Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. [7] However, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. [8] For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things you do. [9] And he said to them, Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition. [10] For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother; and, Whoever curses father or mother, let him die the death: [11] But you say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatever you might be profited by me; he shall be free. [12] And you suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; [13] Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which you have delivered: and many such like things do you.
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). He made it very clear that such practices did not have His approval.

With specific regard to the seventh-day Sabbath, Jesus stated of Himself that “the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5 Luke 6:5And he said to them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
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). As the Creator on behalf of God the Father, Jesus was the One who created the Sabbath (John 1:1-3 John 1:1-3 [1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] The same was in the beginning with God. [3] All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
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, 14; Ephesians 3:9 Ephesians 3:9And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
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; Colossians 1:16 Colossians 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
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). He commissioned His Church to preach the gospel, but that mission does not include any authority to change God’s commandments. Instead they were to follow His obedient example and teaching (Matthew 28:18-20 Matthew 28:18-20 [18] And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. [19] Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
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). Jesus clearly stated, “I have kept My Father’s commandments” (John 15:10 John 15:10If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
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).

With that established, we can now address who usurped the authority of God the Father and Jesus Christ and taught that God’s seventh-day Sabbath had been transformed to Sunday.

The Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine (Peter Geiermann, 1957) specifically states on page 50:

“Question: Which is the Sabbath day?

“Answer: Saturday is the Sabbath day.

“Question: Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?

“Answer: We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, in the Council of Laodicea, transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.”

Clearly, keeping holy God’s seventh-day Sabbath (observed from Friday sunset until Saturday sunset) has been replaced by Sunday worship in mainstream Christianity. Indeed Catholic writings confirm the basis for this substitution being the belief that the Church had the authority to overrule the very words of God. But by what authority? To quote the same source:

“Answer: The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday by the plenitude of divine power that Jesus Christ bestowed upon her” (ibid.).

Later, Protestant groups split away from the Catholic Church, but they mostly followed Rome’s lead in accepting Sunday.

Yet Christ commissioned His disciples to teach obedience to God’s law, not to alter it. When confronted by Satan, Christ answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ ” (Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
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). God, at Mt. Sinai, spoke the Ten Commandments, including the Sabbath commandment.

Throughout the book of Acts, the New Testament Church consistently met on the Sabbath day (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.
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, 27, 42, 44; 16:13; 18:4). Clearly the early Church followed the example that Jesus Christ had set (Luke 4:16 Luke 4:16And 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 for to read.
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). Notice the phrase “as His custom was.” Down through the centuries the true Church has followed biblical instruction and example by observing the seventh-day Sabbath.

The New Covenant did not amend the Ten Commandments. Indeed Jesus Christ strengthened and magnified them as prophesied in the Old Testament (Isaiah 42:21 Isaiah 42:21The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable.
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). The command to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8 Exodus 20:8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
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) points us back to Creation, identifying God as our Creator and the one who made the Sabbath day by resting on it (Genesis 2:1-3 Genesis 2:1-3 [1] Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. [2] And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. [3] And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
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).

As shown in Hebrews 4:4-10 Hebrews 4:4-10 [4] For he spoke in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. [5] And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. [6] Seeing therefore it remains that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: [7] Again, he limits a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. [8] For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. [9] There remains therefore a rest to the people of God. [10] For he that is entered into his rest, he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
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, it also points forward to the coming millennial Sabbath rest when Jesus Christ reigns on earth in the Kingdom of God. The Greek word sabbatismos, translated “rest” in verse 9, literally means “a Sabbath-keeping,” “a Sabbath rest” or a keeping of a Sabbath” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and News Testament Words, 1985,”Rest”).

Many church organizations today have lost sight of these facts and reject the Sabbath. But as Jesus said of the religious leaders of His day: “They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matthew 15:14 Matthew 15:14Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
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). We must not follow those who have rejected God’s explicit commandments and substituted human tradition in their place. 

None of us can alter the beliefs and practices of the world around us. But what we can do is strive to obey God to the best of our ability. As Christ’s apostles said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29 Acts 5:29Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
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). Inevitably this will put us at variance with many religious practices, customs and traditions of men. But if we want to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and obey God, we must bring our lives into line with the true teachings of the Bible.

And it should be noted that not all churches worship on Sunday instead of the Sabbath. A sizable number, though still a small minority, worships on the Sabbath in accordance with God’s instruction. The United Church of God, which publishes The Good News magazine, has hundreds of congregations around the world that observe God’s seventh-day Sabbath.

For more information on how and why the Sabbath was replaced by Sunday and how to observe the true Sabbath today, request or download our free booklet Sunset to Sunset: God’s Sabbath Rest. Also helping explain the story is The Church Jesus Built.

Those interested in finding a Sabbath-observing congregation near them can check our website at www.ucg.org/congregations.

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