What Does Observing The Sabbath Day Look Like Under Grace? And Should You Observe It?

The question we are going to answer in this post is: “What is the Sabbath? And is it something you need to respect as a New Covenant believer?”

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So we’re free from the law, but what about Sabbath observance? Is there such a thing as Sunday being the Christian Sabbath?

We must talk about this issue as it will rob us of our freedom just as any other part of the law does.

Yes, weekly Sabbath observation is rooted in the law. If we impose Sunday as the Christian Sabbath on believers today, we must likewise observe the rest of the law.

The law is an all-or-nothing system. Adopting portions of it is not an option.

Contrary to popular belief, Sunday is NOT the Christian Sabbath.

With my Dutch reformed background I was taught that Sunday is “the day of the Lord” – it was regarded as a special day of the week that we ought to keep holy. I was required to consider Sunday as our Sabbath time and everybody was expected to rest on that day.

Not only did we go twice to church but we were also told what we could and couldn’t do.

We couldn’t play with friends as usual. Doing any manual labor in or around the house was forbidden – so no mowing of the lawn, washing the car, doing laundry, etc. Also doing a hobby was not allowed.

Another aspect was to never buy groceries or anything else on Sunday for then you would not only be guilty of breaking the law by not keeping the Sabbath-rest yourself, you would also be found guilty for letting other people work for you so that they were not able to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. So buying something, like ice-cream, would cause double-trouble in your life.

This would of course also include eating in restaurants on Sundays (something that’s common in some places like the U.S is strictly forbidden in other places; can you see how this is a man-made rule and not an invention of God?).

There are still many ways that some Christians mark Sunday as a Sabbath day. We need to ask ourselves the question: What is the Sabbath? And is there such a thing as a holy day during the week that we must set apart for special observance?

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True Sabbath-Rest Revealed

In Exodus 20 the Lord commanded the observance of the Sabbath day in the ten commandments that were given to Moses on two tablets of stone on Mt. Sinai.

In the “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” Commmandment, God connected the Sabbath day with the rest He took on the seventh day of creation.

For the Jews, the Sabbath was essentially a reminder of the seventh day of creation, in which God rested after His work. Accordingly, God mandated that Israel remember the Sabbath day and reserve it for rest.

Today, we too look back on the finished work of creation. We exclaim along with King David how creative and beautiful the universe is (Ps. 8: 19).

But a greater feat then creation has been accomplished – the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Just as God declared His creation “good” and then rested, Jesus announced from Calvary, “It is finished!” and then sat down at God’s right hand.

The author of Hebrews invites us to rest along with God.

We rest by ceasing from the dead works we thought would gain us favor with God. Rather than performing religious acrobatics to rid ourselves of sins, we can sit down with Jesus. We can simply agree, “Yes, it’s finished.” This is entering God’s rest.

So let me share how we as people under grace celebrate the Sabbath today:

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also rest from their own work, as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest (Heb. 4:9-11)

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Hebrews 4:1-11 talks about a Sabbath rest that is available to all New Testament believers, but is not necessarily functional in all New Testament believers. This New Testament Sabbath rest is simply a relationship with God in which we cease from doing things by our own efforts and let God work through us (Gal. 2:20; Heb. 4:10).

The Sabbath for us is not a day, but rather a relationship with God through Jesus.

The Old Testament Sabbath was a perfect picture of this New Testament relationship. While all the other nations of the world were working seven days a week, God’s people worked only six and dedicated the seventh day to worshiping their God. The natural mind would say they wouldn’t fare as well, and yet they were blessed above all nations of the earth.

The Jews were also commanded to let their fields lie idle every seventh year and call the whole year a Sabbath unto the Lord (Lev. 25:1-22). No crops could be sown, no vineyards could be pruned, and no fruit could be gathered (Lev. 25:4-5).

The Lord blessed the Jews with three times the normal harvest in the sixth year to sustain them through the sixth and seventh years and into the eighth year while their crops were growing again (Lev. 25:20-22).

This was an undeniable witness that it was the blessing of their covenant God and not their own efforts that produced this prosperity. Thus, God illustrated to all people who lived under the Old Covenant that salvation was the work of God and not of their own efforts.

The Sabbath Is A Person, Not A Day

The Sabbath was a covenant between God and the nation of Israel (Ex. 31:12-17).

The New Testament church is not mentioned observing the Sabbath. The Sabbath is only mentioned in the book of Acts in connection with the Jews and then only twice more in the New Testament (Col. 2:16 and Heb 4:4), explaining this relationship to which we now have access.

There were even admonitions given to the New Testament church not to esteem one day above another (Gal. 4:9-10 and Col. 2:16-17) but warnings not to condemn those who do (Rom. 14:5-6).

In contrast to the Old Testament requirement to keep the Sabbath, in the New Testament, there is the greater purpose of the Sabbath revealed.

In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul reveals that the Sabbath was only a shadow of things to come and is now fulfilled in Christ:

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.

This verse makes it clear that the Sabbath was symbolic – a mere shadow of the Substance (Reality) that would come.

Is it wrong to keep the Sunday – or any other day of the week for that matter – as a day of rest and worship? No, not at all. According to Exodus 23:12, one of the purposes of the Sabbath was to give man and his animals one day of physical rest each week. Today’s medical science has proven that our bodies need at least one day of rest each week to function at our peak.

Deuteronomy 5:15 also clearly states that the Sabbath was to serve as a reminder to the Jews that they had been slaves in Egypt and were delivered from bondage, not by their own efforts, but by the supernatural power of God.

So even though God doesn’t require Sunday to be the designated Sabbath day for a Christian – as a day of rest and worship – scheduling one day of rest each week will help you function at your best. Thus, it’s actually good to keep one day a week separate from all your day-to-day activities.

But we cannot regard any day of the week as more or less holy since everything has become holy since we ourselves are holy people in Christ.

In other words, Sunday is not the Christian Sabbath!

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Spiritually speaking, the meaning of Sabbath is that the work of Jesus Christ is finished and He is now our resting place.

We don’t work to gain God’s favor or acceptance. Because of the finished work of Christ, all of life is an enjoyment of a Sabbath. Heb. 4:10 says,

The one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.

For the Christian, the Sabbath is not a day – not Sunday, not Saturday, not another day.

The Sabbath for the Christian is a Person named Jesus Christ.

The Bible invites us to enter into the Sabbath as believers. Enter into Sabbath rest.

Jesus is your Sabbath.

It’s not a day of the week; it’s a life.

Jesus Christ is the rest, the Sabbath, for those of use who believe.

So to suggest, then, that Sunday is the Christian Sabbath, is just an attempt to bring the Old Testament law and superimpose that on New Testament Christianity, and the two do now mix.

The real Christian Sabbath is Jesus Christ. There is no greater rest.

So what’s our conclusion?

Genuine Sabbath-rest is found in Christ and not in a particular day of the week.

Colossians 2:16 sums it up well,

Do not let anyone therefore bring a restriction to your freedom by reviving religious rules and regulations pertaining to eating and drinking; all Jewish festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths have come to an end in Christ! (The Mirror)

Can it be any clearer?

Sabbaths have come to an end for the Sabbath is not a day anymore, but a Person – Jesus.

Enjoy your 24/7 Sabbath-rest 🙂

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  1. Great thoughts on Sabbath! I never quite understood it myself. And yes, I plead guilty to have frowned at my brother for mowing the lawn on a Sunday! Now I get it! It’s ceasing from our works (trying to keep the Law) and resting in His Finished Work (Grace)! I sure am loving and enjoying this Sabbath rest now!! Thanks for clarifying this. God bless the work you do. I’m learning everyday.

    • Bas Rijksen says

      Hi Eva,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      It took me a long time, to not see that certain activities were ok on Sunday! Lot’s of frowning here too 🙂

      Great. Yes, enjoy your 24/7 Sabbath rest!

      Have a great day,


  2. This makes so much sense. I’ve come across a lot of teaching lately that places a lot of emphasis on keeping the Sabbath, and I’ve been feeling guilty about not keeping it, partly because I work in a retail store and to be fair, they have everyone takes turns working on Sunday. Ten years ago, I was walking closely with God, but have been backsliding for about the last ten years until last summer. God allowed some things to happen that caused me to start reading my Bible again, and I’ve been working through some questions about the Bible that I’ve always had, but never bothered to address until now. Anyway, it has been puzzling me why I never felt convicted about not keeping the Sabbath, even during the years when I was more focused on Jesus. It seemed to me that surely the Holy Spirit would have convicted me of that. Now I know why. It’s because I wasn’t doing anything wrong in that area. I discovered your website a couple days ago, and you have already answered a lot of my questions. I have been praying for God to help me find someone who can help me with answers, and I think it just might be you. Thank you so much and God bless you.

    • Bas Rijksen says

      I love that…how God helps you to find places where you can find your answers.

      I experience that too 🙂

      Yep, nothing wrong with not keeping any day, like the Sabbathday…the Sabbathday is a Person, Jesus, YEAH!

      Enjoy your 24/7 effortless Sabbath Rest 🙂




    I am very much at home now.You did a good job here.Sabbath is a person and the rest is Holy Spirit directed activities.I appreciate.