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Sabbath Deficiency Syndrome

Sabbath Deficiency Syndrome

Nowadays, if you read an article by a Christian lamenting the lackadaisical attitude with which Christians view the Sabbath, you, for better or worse, automatically assume the author is referring to Sunday.

British author and editor Charles Gardner’s recent piece in Israel Today, however, goes against the grain. “As we are discussing the commandments, I have continued to be much exercised by the question of the Sabbath, and why it has come to mean nothing to most modern Christians. Is this behind many of our current troubles?” Gardner asks after pointing out the dismal state of national affairs, both politically and morally. 

He is speaking of the seventh-day Sabbath of the fourth commandment, which begins, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work” (Exodus 20:8–10).

He continues, “Our once Christian nation has progressively ditched many of the Ten Commandments handed down to Moses. When the ancient Israelites did this, God allowed the Babylonians to unleash their terror on his disobedient people and take them away into exile. (2 Chron 36:19–21).”

The Bible Sabbath

Though one could question just how theologically sound it might be to parallel events in the theocracy of ancient Israel to those in modern England, the question nonetheless is a thought-provoking one, especially as Gardner clearly defines what he understands the Sabbath to be.

“We’ve been very slow to recognize the importance of rest because we cut ourselves off from our Judaic roots some 1,700 years ago. The process was driven by antisemitism among the Church Fathers who moved the Sabbath to Sunday in a clear effort to distance themselves from our Hebraic heritage,” he writes. “That the Sabbath was thus re-invented to fall on the first day of the week, because it was the day Jesus was raised from the dead, is a weak argument. For there is no specific biblical text to back it up.”

Historical records prove these facts to be true. Christianity in the early centuries had been seen by the Romans as just another Jewish sect. After all, its Messiah was Jewish; its first leaders were mostly Jewish; its greatest apologist, Paul, was Jewish; its whole context was Jewish. And because the Jews had been very unpopular among the Romans (due to numerous revolts, uprisings, and so forth), the Christian church, in an attempt to distance itself from the anathema, began to avoid one of the most distinguishing practices of the Jewish faith: the seventh-day Sabbath. Slowly but surely, Christians replaced Saturday with Sunday as their holy day, even though nothing in the Bible sanctioned that change.

Today, Sunday has become so firmly ensconced in Christian history and tradition, most Christians mistakenly interpret the Bible through this manmade lens. For instance, if you ask a random Christian walking down the street what day is considered “the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10), chances are he’d respond with “Sunday.” But that’s never remotely stated in the Bible. In fact, in the Scriptures, the only day of which Jesus claimed to be the Lord is the seventh-day Sabbath, that is Saturday: “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5), Christ said.

Likewise, today, most Christians automatically think that the reason to worship on Sunday is because that’s when Christ was resurrected, but that concept is no more rooted in Scripture than is the idea of Santa Claus. The Bible does, however, clearly identify something else as the symbol of the resurrection: baptism (Romans 6:3, 4).

Sabbath Life

“It’s a complete mystery to me why we Gentiles ever thought that keeping the Sabbath was the one commandment we could dispense with,” Gardner bluntly puts it. Indeed, the Bible clearly states, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2). Jesus Christ, in the New Testament, similarly said: “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail” (Luke 16:17). In other words, the law of God, the Ten Commandments, does not change. And the only One who could change it, God, won’t—ever: “I am the LORD, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6).

Gardner goes on to say, “Many of us are literally working ourselves to death,” dubbing the condition “a Sabbath Deficiency Syndrome.” He quotes another author who described it as a kind of “slow suicide.” And it makes sense.

“God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it” (Genesis 2:3). And because He did that, on the Sabbath day, we, His creations, are to receive a special blessing: “If you … call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father” (Isaiah 58:13, 14). Keeping the Sabbath perpetuates abundance of life. For a beautiful picture of “The Blessings of the Sabbath,” take a look at our free resource.

Gardner has started us down the path, but the Sabbath is not just about our physical well-being; it has a crucial role in the rest of our lives. Our free resource “The Sabbath in Prophecy” provides a solid introduction to the topic. Find out how deeply the Sabbath is connected to your eternal future.

This article contributed by Clifford Goldstein
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