The Sabbath and Lord’s Day

There is much confusion amongst believers concerning the Sabbath and Lord’s day. The Apostle Paul tells Timothy ( 2 Tim 2v15) to

‘rightly divide the word of truth.’

Much error is introduced into the church when Bible teachers fail to do this. Some ignore the first major division in the Bible – OT., and NT. They try to apply the OT teaching concerning Israel to the NT Church.

Exodus 31v12 – ‘The Sabbath Law.’ 

Greg Hanley

C H Mackintosh. ‘Notes on the Book of Exodus.’  (1820 – 1896)

‘Our chapter closes with a special reference to the institution of the Sabbath. It was referred to in Exodus chapter 16, in connection with the manna; it was distinctly enjoined in chapter 20, when the people were formally put under law; and here we have it again (Chapter 31) in connexion with the setting up of the tabernacle. Whenever the nation of Israel is presented in some special position or recognised as a people in special responsibility, then the Sabbath is introduced. And let my reader carefully note both the day and mode in which it was to be observed, and also the object for which it was instituted in Israel.

“Ye shall keep the sabbath, therefore, for it is holy unto you: every one that defiles it shall surely be put to death; for whosoever does any work  therein, that soul shall be cut off from among the people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever does any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.”

This is as explicit and absolute as anything can be. It fixes “the seventh day” and none other; and it positively forbids, on pain of death, all manner of work. There can be no avoiding the plain sense of this. And, be it remembered, that there is not so much as a single line of Scripture to prove that the Sabbath has been changed, or the strict principles of its observance, in the smallest degree, relaxed. If there be any Scripture proof, let my reader look it out for his own satisfaction.

Do Christians have to keep the Sabbath?

Now, let us inquire if indeed  professing Christians do keep God’s Sabbath on the day and after the manner which He commanded.  It were idle to lose time in proving that they do not. Well, what are the consequences of a single breach of the Sabbath? “Cut off”, “Put to death.”

But, it will be said, “we are not under law, but under grace.” Blessed be God for the sweet assurance! Were we under law, there is not one throughout the wide range of Christendom who should not, long since have fallen beneath the stone of judgment, even upon the solitary point of the Sabbath. But, if we are under grace, what is the day which belongs to us? Assuredly, “the first day of the week,” “the Lord’s day.” This is the Church’s day, the resurrection day of Jesus, who, having spent the sabbath in the tomb, rose triumphant over all the powers of darkness, thus leading His people out of the old creation, and all that pertains thereto, into the new creation, of which He is the Head, and of which the first day of the week is the apt expression.

The Lord’s day

The distinction is worthy of the serious attention of the reader.  Let him examine it prayerfully in the light of Scripture.  There may be nothing and there may be a great deal in a mere name.  In the present instance, there is a great deal more involved in the distinction between “the sabbath” and “the Lord’s day” than many Christians seem to be aware of.  It is very evident that the first day of the week gets place in the Word of God, which no other day gets.  No other  day is ever called by that majestic and elevated title “the Lord’s day.” Some, I am aware, deny that Rev 1v 10   refers to the first day of the week; but I feel most fully assured that sound criticism and sound exegesis do both warrant, yea, demand the application of that passage, not to the day of Christ’s advent in glory, but to the day of his resurrection from the dead.

But, most assuredly, the Lord’s day is never once called the Sabbath.  So far from this, the two days are again and again, spoken of in their proper distinctness. Hence, therefore, my reader will have to seep clear of two extremes.  In the first place, he will have to avoid the legalism which one finds so much linked with the term “sabbath;” and, in the second place, he will need to bear a very decided testimony against every attempt to dishonour the Lords day. or lower it to the level of an ordinary day.  The believer is delivered, most completely, form the observance of “days and months, and times and years.” Association with a risen Christ has taken him clean out of all such superstitious observances.  But, while this is most blessedly true, we see “the first day of the week” has a place assigned to it in the New Testament which no other has.

Let Christians give it that place.  It is a sweet and happy privilege, not a grievous yoke.

I shall close these remarks by pointing out, in one or two particulars, the contrast between “the sabbath” and “the Lord’s day.”

  1. The Sabbath was the seventh day; the Lord’s day is the first.
  2. The Sabbath was a test of Israel’s condition; the Lord’s day is the proof of the Church’s acceptance, on wholly unconditional grounds.
  3. The Sabbath belonged to the old creation; the Lord’s day belongs to the new.
  4. The Sabbath was a day of bodily rest for the Jew; the Lord’s day is a day of spiritual rest for the Christian.
  5. If the Jew worked on the Sabbath, he was to be put to death; if the Christian does not work on the Lord’s day, he gives little proof of life…….
  6. The Jew was commanded by the law to abide in his tent; the Christian is led by the spirit of the gospel to go forth, whether to attend the public assembly, or to minister to the souls of perishing sinners………

Would be good to have some more thoughts about this issue which is often a topic brought up today amongst believers.


Only available now second hand – ‘Notes on the Pentateuch.’ C H M

(5 Volumes)