Wednesday, December 6, 2006


Why Do Seventh Day Baptists Observe the Sabbath?
by Dr. Paul Manuel

Seventh Day Baptists keep a day for worship different from that of most other Christians. Instead of gathering on the first day of the week, Seventh Day Baptists meet on the seventh day of the week, the biblical Sabbath. Why would they choose to separate themselves in this way? What scriptural reasons are there for worshipping and resting on the seventh day rather than on the first day? Seventh Day Baptists keep the Sabbath because…

1. They note God's example, for He observed it at creation.
By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. (Gen 2:2)

For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth…and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. (Exod 20:11)
2. They recall God's deliverance, for He instituted it after the exodus.
See, the Lord has given you the sabbath; therefore He gives you bread for two days on the sixth day. Remain every man in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. (Exod 16:29)

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day. (Deut 5:15)
3. They obey God's precept, for He commanded it on Sinai.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exod 20:8)

Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. (Deut 5:12)
4. They recognize God's designation, for He appointed it for worship.
For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. (Lev 23:3a)
5. They accept God's invitation, for He opened it to gentiles.
Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord…every one who keeps from profaning the Sabbath…I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer….for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples. (Isa 56:6-7)
6. They join God's people, for He gave it to Israel.
…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, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” (Exod 31:13)

…you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree (Rom 11:17)
7. They seek God's approval, for He linked it to reward.
If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your [own] pleasure on My holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy [day] of the Lord honorable, and honor it, desisting from your [own] ways, from seeking your [own] pleasure and speaking [your own] word, then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you [with] the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isa 58:13-14)

How blessed is the man…who keeps from profaning the Sabbath…. (Isa 56:2)
8. They anticipate God's kingdom, for He demands it in tribute.
“And it shall be from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says the Lord. (Isa 66:23)
9. They follow God's son, for he kept it on earth and expected it from disciples.
…as was his custom, he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath…. (Luke 4:16)

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others [to do] the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches [them], he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:19)

…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…. (Matt 28:20a)
10. They copy God’s church, for early believers, Jews and gentiles, continued to keep it.
It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God…. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath. (Acts 15:19, 21)
11. They await God’s heaven, for it is the ultimate release from their labor.
So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. (Heb 4:9)
Seventh Day Baptists do not keep Sunday because there is no biblical evidence that God changed His appointed day or that the earliest believers observed another day. In fact, there are only three New Testament references to Sunday, none of which gives that day priority over the Sabbath.

Jesus rose on the first day, but only after he rested in the tomb on the seventh day.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. (Luke 24:1; cf. v v. 13, 21, 46)
Paul preached on the first day, but it was a final (not a regular) meeting before he left the area.
On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul [began] talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. (Acts 20:7)
Corinthians set aside money on the first day, but it was a private savings not a public collection.
On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. (1 Cor 16:2)
The shift from Sabbath to Sunday followed an influx of gentile converts that changed the demographic makeup of the church, leaving Jewish believers a marginalized minority. Because the law did not have the same status among non-Jews as it did among Jews, there was less concern for keeping it. Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, became the preferred day of worship, a practice the Emperor Constantine promoted in the 4th century and subsequent church councils prescribed.

Although some Jewish believers (those who managed to avoid assimilation) continued to keep the Sabbath, gentile Christians generally did not. Seventh Day Baptists arose in the mid-17th century with a renewed recognition of the Sabbath’s importance.

The primary difference between the two days is that Sabbath observance is based on biblical teaching, whereas Sunday observance is based on church tradition.

"How blessed is the man… who keeps from profaning the sabbath."

Rev. Paul Manuel is a member of the Madison Seventh Day Baptist Church and pastor of the German Seventh-Day Baptist Church in Salemville, PA. His Ph.D. is in Hebrew and Semitic Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


  1. A question I have always had is how does Colossians 2:16-17 fit into this? "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to 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." (NIV) Thanks.

  2. Anonymous9:43 AM

    Paul’s choice of words in this chapter makes his concern clear. The Colossians are succumbing to “philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men” (v. 8), rules based on “the commandments and teachings of men” (v. 22). To remove all doubt about the source of these regulations, he twice calls them “the elementary principles of the world” (vv. 8, 20). Such a description does not apply to Mosaic law, which is of divine not human origin. It seems that the Colossians have been imposing these “elementary principles of the world” upon the biblical holidays, adding requirements about the specific way one must keep what God ordained. The apostle uses a common, three-fold summary of religious observances—“festival…new moon…Sabbath” (v. 16; see 1 Chr 23:31; 2 Chr 2:4; 8:13; 31:3; Neh 10:33)—and nowhere does he suggest that his readers should stop keeping them. Rather, the holidays portend “what is to come” (v. 17; cf. Heb 4:9). According to hints elsewhere in the chapter (again, none of which is characteristic of Mosaic law), the Colossians have adopted a form of Jewish mysticism that advocates asceticism (vv. 21, 23) and angel worship (v. 18) as a means of reaching God. Paul says no such supplementary activity is necessary.

    Paul states that what formerly stood between his readers and God has been removed by Jesus’ death. The apostle’s use of the term “certificate of debt” (v. 14, NIV “written code”) is also not a reference to the Mosaic law but to the indictment and sentence that follow upon one’s disobedience of it. The analogy is of a criminal who has another person pay the penalty for his misdeed. The criminal’s debt is, thus, canceled, and he is freed from what the court imposed upon him. His payment does not annul the law that required the penalty in the first place; nor, once the sentence is fulfilled, is he free to violate the law again. The law remains unchanged, as does his obligation to obey it. What is gone is the debt he incurred by his initial violation. (A parallel to Paul’s analogy appears in the Jewish prayer book: “Our Father, our King, blot out and remove our transgressions from your sight. Our Father, our King, cancel in your abundant mercy all the records of our sins.”)


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