Matthew 12:1 - Apostles on the Sabbath

Should we keep the Sabbath?

One Messianic believer, Lew White of Fossilized Customs reasons regarding keeping the Sabbath, but is his reasoning accurate knowledge based on the scriptures or an inspired expression we should test?

For Illustration purposes, let’s suppose that one takes the position that the “Sabbath” day is no longer in force, as Christians will often explain, yet they still believe that all Scripture is inspired by Yahuah. Taking the total number of times the word “Sabbath” is used in ALL of Scripture, we find 170 occurrences. Next, we assess the total amount of all Scripture, and find that the Brith Chadasha (Renewed Covenant “Messianic” writings, or “N.T.”) is about one-sixth of the whole.

Then we consider an analogy where all Scripture represents 5 large pancakes, and the occurrences of the word “Sabbath” within the text are represented by 170 blueberries (Remember, the word “Sabbath” is used 170 times in all of Scripture).

You put 109 blueberries (65% of them) into the first 4 pancakes. (These first four pancakes are analogous to the “Old Testament”, or the TaNaKh).

You put 61 blueberries (35% of them) into the last single pancake. (This last pancake is going to be VERY rich with blueberries, in fact it is mathematically much more dense with blueberries than the first 4 pancakes (on average, the other 4 only have 21.8 blueberries each!).

First, if this illustration divides the pancakes based on the division of books based on ‘rightly dividing’ the word of truth, then there should be two pancakes, one for Matthew-Acts for the ministry of the kingdom (plus the letters to the Hebrews, and Revelation), and another for Paul’s letters to the Christian congregations regarding the good news of grace.

If we make that distinction you’ll at once notice a striking fact. Of the 68 occurrences of “sabbath” in the “new testament” according to Strong’s only two of those occur in Paul’s letters.

Let’s examine those two instances:

1 Corinthians 16:2: On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.

Many translate the occurrence of “sabbath” in this verse as “on the first day of every week” instead. Why? Because the use of the word wasn’t referring to the practice of keeping the sabbath, but rather that weekly they should set aside funds to send to their brothers in need.

The other occurrence of “sabbath” in Paul’s letters should be taken in context.

Colossians 2:13-16: When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, …

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.

In the verses immediately preceding the only other occurrence of “sabbath” in Paul’s letters, which wholly contain the ministry to the Gentiles, or non-Jews, says specifically that Christ cancelled the written code with it’s regulations—like keeping the Sabbath—therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink—for not keeping kosher—or with regard to the Sabbath.

Obviously Paul wasn’t teaching the keeping of the sabbath to the Christian congregation in the ministry he was specifically called for—to share the good news to the Gentiles. In fact, it is in Paul’s letters where you fill find more information why it is that we do not keep the law as the Jews do, whether that be with regard to circumcision, keeping the sabbath, or keeping kosher. (See Romans 2-4, Galatians 4-5)

Matthew 12 contains 8 references to the sabbath. In this chapter, the Messiah is accused by the Pharisees, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath” and he responds, “the Son of Man is master, even over the Sabbath!” He then goes on to heal on the Sabbath, while the Pharisees are looking to bring charges against him.

Who should we be imitating from this account, is it the law-keeping Pharisees who were seeking to kill the Messiah? Mark and Luke record parallel accounts where 13 more occurrences of sabbath appear, so in total this account refuting the Pharisees law keeping of the sabbath amount to 21 of the 66 in these books.

There are 8 more instances which are used to indicate which day of the week it is, such as “They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach”, likewise the note that it was “after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.”

You may review the rest of these occurrences to see that while there are 68 occurrences of the word “sabbath” in the Christian Greek scriptures, it is not used to support, but rather to refute keeping the sabbath.

“For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” — John 5:18

In the words of the Messiah himself,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” — Matthew 5:17

The Messiah offered himself as the ransom sacrifice and thus ended keeping the law.

Resurrected, he commissioned his apostles:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Paul was specially chosen for this ministry, the resurrected Messiah appeared to him, and to another it was confirmed—”This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.”

When Paul saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the good news of grace, Paul confronted even the apostle Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” — Galatians 2:14-16

Therefore we should heed the words of Paul,

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.

Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.

Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.

Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the good news I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.

Let us not fall to the teachings of men, a good news other than that which was given to us by the Christ through Paul. Several months ago when I first read the writings from the man who used the illustration above, I my heart lept into reaction. Am I failing to keep the sabbath? We are to test the ‘inspired expressions’ to see if they are true. The scriptures are clear, the Jews keep the law, while Christians live in the grace of the fulfilled law by Christ.

Personally, I enjoy relaxing on Saturday, and studying the scriptures over brunch—but I’m not confused, this isn’t keeping the sabbath, it’s enjoying grace.