The Burden of Proof: Christians and Sabbath-Keeping

The apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions … One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rm. 14:1, 5). Now, this is not an invitation to quarrel over opinions, but it is an invitation to understand the Revelation of God more clearly by considering the opinions of others who love and cherish the Word of God.

Having taught through Romans, I know the potential response to this text, and I have heard responses outside of that context. Many times the initial response is not, “What does this text mean?” but it is, “Paul is not speaking of the Sabbath here.” Well, the text clearly says that some esteem one day better than another, and others esteem all days alike, yet the apostle’s response is not that one person is wrong and the other is not, but it is that each must be convinced in his own mind. Now if all in this text means every day, then that naturally would include the Sabbath. But if the argument is that Paul does not mean to include the Sabbath in this, then the burden of proof falls upon those who think that Christians are still obligated to keep the Sabbath.

For those who think that Christians are still obligated to keep the Sabbath, this is where your burden of proof lies:

1. For those who think that Christians are obligated to keep the Sabbath and that Sabbath is Sunday or “The Lord’s Day,” your burden of proof lies chiefly in that you must show a command in the New Testament that expresses that God’s Sabbath has been changed by God from the seventh day to the first day. For the command in Moses is clearly that the seventh day, and the seventh day alone, is holy, for it was the seventh day that God rested from creating the universe. Otherwise, if you observe the first day as holy when God has clearly shown that it is the seventh day, then you are necessarily breaking the Sabbath.

2. For those who think that Christians are obligated to keep the Sabbath and are to keep the Sabbath on Saturday, your task is bit more difficult (though this is also the burden of Group 1). You must show from Scripture why we—we who have died with Christ and thus have died to the law and are thereby freed from it (cf. Rm. 6:1-7:4)—are under the Mosaic law of the Sabbath. For while it is universally acknowledged that God rested on the seventh day, Sabbath-keeping was not commanded until Moses (cf. Ex. 16:23). If your argument tends toward its preceding the Ten Commandments, then you must also demonstrate why circumcision—which existed from Abraham and yet was denounced by the first church council (cf. Acts 15:6-11) and was condemned as anti-Gospel by Paul (cf. Gal. 5:2-6)—is not to be kept but the Sabbath is. If your argument tends toward the Ten Commandments being universal moral laws, then you must demonstrate that Scripture classifies the Ten in this way and that they transcend the laws that we who are in Christ have been freed from.

Happy digging.:) Comments and answers to the aforementioned questions are certainly welcome. By studying these things, I hope we all will become convinced in our own mind. Grace and peace.

Categories: Theology

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