A Question I Was Asked:

Can You Please Briefly Explain the Lord's Day/Sabbath Day Difference?

The Question:

Thank you. I have started to come to UK Apologetics regularly and I want to thank you for that special gift of 'explanation.' Too many christian type websites never really explain anything at all, they assume everybody understands but I find that they don't understand anything much about Bible and the Christian life any more...we need more explanation. So thank you for your ministry of explanation.
Now for my particular question: Can you briefly explain the difference between the Lord's Day and the Sabbath? I know you have considered this before, but I am asking about the special differences between the two.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, glad to be of service and thanks for the kind remarks.

The Sabbath Day was given to ancient Israel and was a vital part of the old covenant which was an agreement between the Lord and Israel, ratified at Mount Sinai. The Old Testament books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy give all the details; Moses was very much involved in that and so this is sometimes called, 'the mosaic code,' or 'the mosaic covenant.' This, then, was mainly applicable to the tribes of Israel, that body of people which Moses led out from Egyptian slavery. That covenant, of course, is now concluded in Christ as several New Testament Scriptures make clear, Hebrews 8:13, for example. This 'mosaic code' actually contained over 600 laws! The Sabbath day, as revealed to Moses, was the period between sunset Friday and sunset Saturday; it was holy time and the people of Israel were under very strict rules regarding what they could do, and could not do, during this weekly time period.

One should just note in passing that a 'one day in seven' day of rest was given at Creation (Genesis 2:2-3), but this was free of all legal instructions and prohibitions; various prohibitions were only given to old covenant Israel in the mosaic Sabbath.

Today the majority of Christians, based on several clear New Testament Scriptures, believe that the entire meaning of that sabbath was fulfilled in Christ; the root meaning of 'sabbath' is rest, bearing this in mind, just consider Matthew 11:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Mathew 11:28-30).

I note that my questioner requests a 'brief' explanation so I won't go too deep here (we have numerous other articles which do that), but putting the above Scripture together with many other New Testament points, including the difference in approach towards the Sabbath Day between Jesus and the Pharisees, many comments from Paul the Apostle, the contents of Acts 15, plus a substantial section of Hebrews (Hebrews 3:18-4:11), it becomes obvious that the old covenant Sabbath is not applicable to Christians today. However, Christians are now given the example of the Lord's Day, held on the First Day of the week (Sunday). This was the day of the resurrection and the day that the disciples first met to talk about the recent crucifixion. As my 1998 article on the Lord's day states,

'... we find in the account what can justly be referred to as the first Sunday evening worship service! (John 20: 19-22). And as if to underline the desirability of seeking after the Lord on this day, the disciples can again be found assembling on this day one week later (John 20:26). (The Old King James says here; "after eight days..." and this is true to the original Greek, but misleading since it appears that the inclusive method of counting is being used here; One Sunday to another being eight days. Almost every modern translation says here, "One week later") Again, Jesus appears as if to bless this assembly. Quite obviously, Jesus did not appear in order to rebuke His disciples for "keeping" the wrong day!!'

We know from very early church documents (including the 'Didache' and the writings of Justin Martyr), that Sunday was indeed seen as the 'Lord's Day.' This day, however, offers freedom (unlike the Sabbath), so no work is banned, although most Christians would want to put a difference in this day, putting a focus on the Lord and, perhaps, avoiding one's usual form of work. Some Christians customarily refer to the Lord's Day as "the sabbath," whilst - hopefully - fully understanding that the Lord's Day is not the Sabbath. That has come and gone.

Finally, two particular groups of Christians see this a little differently. They see the Lord's Day as the continuation of the Sabbath in a new form. These are, ironically, two groups which would otherwise have little in common:

I happen to believe, after many years of study of the Scriptures, that the two above groups are certainly in error on this point but one should always respect sincerity.

In our day and age Christians may well continue to say that 'Sunday is our day of rest,' and this is quite understandable and permissible for the Christian but, truthfully, the Sabbath is now gone, being superceded by something far better! The Lord's Day, in a very real sense, is to get back to the 'one day in seven' spiritual rest instituted at Creation; the focus is now entirely on the work of Christ, not on various prohibitions.

Robin A. Brace. May 10th, 2013.