[Echo Zoe Radio] Ryan Habbena: The Christian’s Relationship to the Sabbath

Ryan Habbena is pastor of Conquering King Fellowship church in Eagan, Minnesota, Instructor at Village Schools of the Bible, President of the Mount Moriah Foundation and Zera Biblical Films, and board member of Echo Zoe Ministries. He joins us this month to talk about the Sabbath, from the historical requirements of Sabbath keeping to the contemporary, New Testament understanding of the Sabbath.


Outline of the Discussion
  • The Law, the Prophets, and the New Covenant writings have much to say about the sabbath.
  • Addressing “Christendom” in the broadest sense (Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, and even Cultic,) there is a broad range of views regarding the sabbath.
  • Seventh Day Adventism, which Ryan describes as “a more tolerable cult,” has in it’s very name the adherence to sabbath-keeping, and that the sabbath is the seventh day of the week (Saturday.) It is an Antichrist doctrine that strays, according to them.
  • Within mainline Protestant denominations, we find the “Puritan sabbath,” which is the understanding that the sabbath has been changed from the seventh day to the first day.
  • Within Messianic Judaism, we have a traditional sabbath, in keeping with traditional Judaism.
  • It’s helpful to look at the whole counsel of God in regard to the sabbath. The discussion of the sabbath begins with the seventh day of creation, in which God ceased. This began the seven day cycle.
  • There is no command to keep the sabbath prior to Moses. Compare this to circumcision, which begins with Abraham.
  • It is in the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) that we first see a command to keep the sabbath. (Exodus 20:8-11)
    • It is in the commandment that the issue becomes more complicated.
    • The other nine commandments are transcendent. We would say they are all still binding under the New Covenant.
    • The place to start with a New Testament understanding is with the commands of Christ. What does He have to say about the specific Mosaic command regarding the sabbath?
    • In Exodus 35, we see the penalty for sabbath-breaking is death.
  • There is also a sabbath for the land. The land shall be cultivated for six years, and allowed to rest on the seventh year.
  • There is both continuity and discontinuity between the Mosaic Law and the New Covenant. An example of continuity is that the only way anyone is saved, in any era, is by Grace through Faith. No one has ever been saved by observation of the Law.
  • The rabbinical elements of Judaism had their rise during the Second Temple (Intertestamental) period. A major controversy among the rabbinical schools was in regards to how to observe the sabbath. What is bound, and what is loosed?
  • The sabbath customs are very strange to the non-Jew. For example: the willingness to load the dishwasher on Saturday, but unwillingness to press the “start” button to allow the dishwasher to run (loading it seems to be the work, not running it, but they see things differently because of what the rabbis teach.) Similarly, the elevators have a “sabbath” mode, whereby the door opens and closes at every floor; there is no need to press any buttons.
  • Some of the tension between Jesus and the rabbis was their perception that He was breaking the sabbath.
  • Jesus deliberately violated rabbinical traditions without violating the Law.
  • As an aside, in Martin Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” we find the line “Lord Sabaoth His Name.” This does not mean “Lord of the Sabbath,” but rather “Lord of Hosts.”
  • Jeremiah prophesies a New Covenant (31:31-34.) This covenant is not like the covenant made with their fathers.
  • The issue of the sabbath is directly related to Covenant. It matters which covenant we are under.
  • The sabbath is something valuable to be looked towards as a believer, but is not in regards to an old covenant law.
  • Romans 14 speaks to differences between the old and new covenants; things like what to eat, what festivals to observe, and days to regard. If we, as new covenant believers, were called to observe the sabbath as was done under the old covenant, this is where Paul would have clarified as such.
  • We shouldn’t see sabbath as a day to worship, but rather as something that points us to the perfect, finished work of Jesus Christ. We who believe enter into His sabbath rest.
  • Paul likewise rebukes the Colossians over their practice of judging each other in regards to several old covenant practices (2:16-17)
  • The consistent thread is that it is okay (or good) to continue to observe old covenant practices such as sabbath keeping. What is not okay (or good) is commanding others to do the same.
  • The author of Hebrews links belief to sabbath rest (3:16-4:13.)
  • Other views of sabbath (views that hold Christians to sabbath observance, lead to a slippery-slope. If we are to observe the sabbath as in the old covenant, must we make lists of forbidden activities? What must the punishment be for failure to observe the sabbath?
Scriptures Referenced
  • Genesis 2:1-3
  • Exodus 20:8-11
  • Exodus 35:1-3
  • Exodus 23:10-11
  • Matthew 16:19
  • John 5:1-17; ch. 9
  • Jeremiah 31:31-34
  • Hebrews 8
  • Acts 2, 15
  • Romans 2
  • Romans 14: 1-6
  • Colossians 2:16-17
  • Hebrews 3:16-4:13