In Colossians 2 16 Paul is telling the people not to keep there old Jewish practices which were pointing to the coming of christ which has now happened. If they continue in them they fail to recognize there fulfillment in christ. One of the practices he mentions is the sabbith day. So it begs the question, do we still need to take the day of rest?
Excellent question, @Michael_Ryan - and the verse you have brought up does indeed seem to treat the sabbath (and to be clear, we are talking about the seventh day, or Saturday) - to treat it the same as kosher diets, circumcision, temple sacrifices, and other Mosaic fast days, feast days and holy days in general. There are very few Christian sects that practice the sabbath rest on Saturday - the church has historically met to worship on Sunday, because it is celebrated, not as the sabbath, but as the Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10) when He rose from the grave.
Sabbatarian groups such as the Seventh Day Adventists and Sabbatarian Baptists argue that Christians should continue the sabbath rest because it is a part of the Ten Commandments, which makes it part of the moral law which has been universally binding upon all mankind since the beginning. After all, God first instituted it in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:1-3.
However, there are several problems with this view.
First, while it is true that in Genesis 2, God blessed and sanctified the sabbath day, He sanctified it unto Himself, because it was the day that God rested. He could hardly have ordained it as a day of rest for mankind in the Garden of Eden for the simple reason that there was no burdensome labor before the fall. Just pluck a fruit and eat it - life couldn’t have been simpler!
Also, while the sabbath is in the Ten Commandments, it is the only one of the Ten that is nowhere repeated in the New Testament. On the contrary, we see verses like the one you have mentioned that explicitly say, Let no man therefore judge you in…sabbath days. And he goes on to explain that such things foreshadowed spiritual realities that have been embodied in Christ - as you yourself have mentioned.
And Romans 14:5-6 tell us not to make an issue out of kosher diets and special days with other believers.
So how does Christ in the New Testament fulfill what the sabbath foreshadowed? Well, remember that God rested from creating on the sabbath day, and man was at rest in the Garden, and as long as man would have believed what God said about the forbidden fruit, they could have continued in that state of rest in endless fellowship.
But the serpent entered the Garden - Eve was deceived and believed him - Adam followed - and our race has been restless ever since. As Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Thee!”
But Christ came to die and rise and invites us to come to Him and He will give us rest - Matthew 11:28. It was doubting God’s word that broke our rest in the beginning, but everyone who turns from doubt to belief returns to the rest that God has offered to restore us to from the beginning - Hebrews 4:3-10.
So is resting on the sabbath really a part of the moral law that has been binding on all mankind since the beginning?
Well, no - for a couple of reasons.
A moral law binding on all men in all times and all places has been written in the hearts of all men at all times and all places. Romans 2:14-15 points out that even people who never had a Bible to tell them right from wrong still know in their consciences that it’s wrong to kill an innocent person, to steal from your neighbor’s hut, to curse your elders, and so forth. These are universally binding moral laws.
So has it ever occured to you to feel guilty about mowing your lawn on a Saturday? Or doing the laundry? Probably not - unless you were raised in a home that taught a sabbatarian view. But then the guilt was taught to you by men - it did not intuitively arise from your own God given conscience.
Also, God declared in Exodus 31:13 that the sabbath was given to the nation of Israel as a “sign” between Him and them that they were His own special people.
But a moral law that is binding on all men around the world and across the ages does not work as a sign to set one people apart from all the rest.
Imagine, for example, if Moses had said, “This is the sign between you and God that He has chosen you out of all people to be His special nation - you are not allowed to kill each other!”
Huh? You mean everybody else is allowed to kill one another? Well, of course not! So how would that make Israel any different from the rest? Well, obviously it wouldn’t! No moral law that is binding on everybody can ever work as a sign to distinguish one group from the rest.
But the sabbath was a sign to distinguish Israel from the rest. Therefore, it cannot be binding upon us all.
Having said all of that, however, I do recognize that as a practical matter it is very beneficial to take one day off from your normal labor - you just wouldn’t want to turn it into the kind of burden that the Pharisees did.
I hope this will help you with this question.
The Sabbath on the whole is not only burdensome but impossible to keep perfectly.
- Sunday (1st day of the week)
- Friday (Preparation Day)
- Saturday (Jewish Sabbath)
The Sabbath is represented as the day God rested after 6 days of creation. Friday is Preparation Day and all necessary works must be completed because they cannot do anything that is considered a work on Sabbath
Sunday is the first day of the week. It is celebrated to commemorate the day of the Resurrection and Pentecost. Without the Resurrection there will be no Christianity. If Christians wanted to observe a special day of worship, it must be Sunday to commemorate the Day of Resurrection and the Pentecost.
I believes it is good to set aside a day for corporate worship and fellowship (not rest from work) each week in compliance with Hebrews 10:25 (Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching).
For believers in Christ, Sunday is a holy day, not a holiday or a day of rest. Every day must be a holy day, but setting aside a particular day for worship with less distractions in remembrance of the resurrection of our Lord is good.
Sunday is the day Christ rose from the dead. His Resurrection is the foundation of Christianity. Without the resurrection there is no Christianity. This day also gives us a separate and unique identity from that of Judaism. Mixing the new with the old will be destructive. Matthew 9:17 "Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Sunday, the first day of the week is called the Lord’s Day in Revelation 1:10.
By the time of Christ, the meaning of the Sabbath had become obscure. It had become a heavy burden as Sabbath-keeping degenerated into legalism.
It is impossible to keep the Sabbath because there are so many rules to be observed. We cannot light a fire. Food must be prepared on Friday (Preparation Day) and served cold on Saturday (Sabbath). We cannot use the elevator. We cannot drive our cars because we have to use the ignition. We cannot open a fridge because the light inside will be turned on. On a Sabbath day we cannot even use a needle. So, how can we treat a patient who needs an emergency surgery to survive? We cannot switch on or off our lights, fans, computers, phones, etc. We cannot travel far. We cannot even tear a piece of paper.
The Jews once earned the infamous reputation for being foolish. They became the laughing stock of the world. King Ptolemy captured Jerusalem without a fight. His army marched into Jerusalem and took control of the city. The Jews didn’t do anything because it was Sabbath. They thought lifting arms to defend themselves was breaking the law of Sabbath. This must be the one of the easiest wars ever won in history. And of course a lesson learned by the Jews the hard way.
Paul suffered immense problems throughout his ministry because of the Judaizers in the churches that he had established. They want non-Jews to be circumcised, avoid eating unclean animals, etc.
In the New Covenant we are entering a rest through Jesus Christ. The OT Sabbath was a type of spiritual rest in Christ just as Melchizedek was a type of Christ. The High Priest who offered sacrifices in the tabernacle was a type of Christ. Jesus Christ became our High Priest and the offering he offered was not a sacrificial animal but himself.
Colossians 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Our spiritual rest begins now in this life and reaches its consummation in the resurrection to eternal life at the return of Christ.
Christ has set us free, so why should we chain ourselves again with the old laws of food, rituals and ceremonial rites when the reality is found in Christ alone?
Great question, @jlyons has given you a good answer….maybe I can add to it a little bit. As I reviewed the whole passage that you referred to Colossians 2:6-23. It is giving us reassurance as followers of Christ that relationship with God does not depend upon keeping rules….like the Sabbath. If we are in Christ we are free from keeping rules. These rules can have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
With that being said; do we still need to take the day of rest?
I think @jlyons has explained very well the transition of the Christian church from Saturday rest before the resurrection of Christ to a Sunday rest in honor and recognition of the rest that we now have in Christ and His resurrection. But I believe the bottom line of your question is; should we still take one day a week of rest?
With that in mind I would refer you to Mark 2:23-28 where Jesus is being questioned by the Pharisees about doing work on the Sabbath. Jesus response is that the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Here Jesus is telling them that God gave the commandment for the Sabbath for their/our benefit. It was not about keeping a rule, but it was good for us to us take one day a week (apart from work) to specifically focus on the Lord. First off I am reminded that our lives can be a never ending race to get worldly things accomplished (accomplishments with no eternal value) if we don’t take time to take a deep breath and rest in the Lord. Secondly if we are not taking time to rest, reflect and reset our priorities in life we can easily be taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Which the passage in Colossians warns us about.
So to answer your question, is it a law that we should be taking the Sabbath rest…no. But should we be taking one day a week to rest in the Lord….yes. It is best for us spiritually and physically.
May the Lord go with you as seek to live in Christ.
In Exodus 20, verses 1-8 is about honoring God. In fact verse 8 is to Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Is it a moral issue? Moral law is universal and for all time. A wrong thing cannot be right at another time. A wrong thing is always wrong. Like murder, adultery. Idolatry, etc. So again in Exodus 20, verses 3 to 7 are moral issue so as verses 12-17. In verse 8, Is not remembering the Sabbath day a moral violation?
Let me elaborate further, Genesis 9 : 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; 13 I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. This is the Noahic sign. If I miss appreciating the point of the rainbow, do I violate any moral law?
Genesis 17: 10 “This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.” This is the Abrahamic sign. If I do not get circumcised, do I sin?
Exodus 31: 12 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 13 “But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘You shall surely observe My Sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations,” . This is the Mosaic Sign. It’s not universal… only for the Jews. It’s not for all time… Jesus was coming straight to it.
Going back to Exodus 20, the Lord rested on the 7th day - the Lord made…. Created… out of nothing… we make things out of things… only God can make things out of nothing. Rested … not because he got tired…rested because it was completed.
There’s not one New Testament command to keep the Sabbath. All the ten commandments are repeated in the New Testament except the one about the Sabbath. It is never quoted in the New Testament. There are no prescriptions or Sabbath rules anywhere in the new covenant. There is no instruction about behavior on the Sabbath anywhere in the New Testament. (John MacArthur)
In Acts 15, when the Jerusalem Council decided what would be required of Gentile believers in the church, they did not require them to observe the Sabbath. The apostles never commanded anybody to observe the Sabbath. They never chastise anybody for not observing the Sabbath. They never warned believers about Sabbath violations. They never encouraged believers to hold to the Sabbath.
It is gone, with one exception. We can go back to that original Genesis 2 chapter, and we can be reminded that every seventh day that goes by is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the greatness of our Creator. We can bless that day by in it acknowledging God as Creator.
Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” . Matthew 12:8 “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”. The whole idea is to celebrate and honor God – that is not to do any work! Jesus is our rest… The Lord of the Sabbath!!