Day 5: Is Keeping the Sabbath Legalistic?

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When do we worship God?

We have discussed the fact that the Sabbath was created at the end of the first week when God rested and blessed the seventh day, setting it apart from the rest of the week. We have also looked at how the Sabbath was given in God’s Ten Commandments as the Fourth Commandment. God asked us to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

The Fourth Commandment is the only one that begins with the word “Remember.” That suggests to me that God didn’t want us to forget the Sabbath. I was raised not keeping the Sabbath. In fact, even though I went to church on a regular basis, I was never taught about the Sabbath.

It was not until I met my future husband, Mykal, who believed in following all of God’s Commandments that I began to understand – really understand – God’s plan for this world. Mykal was a Sabbath keeper. In other words, he kept the seventh-day Sabbath just as Jesus did during His life here on earth. It was something I had never studied and so I began an exciting foray into the Scriptures to learn just what God wanted me to understand. It was then that I realized how much I wanted to live a Biblical life. To really follow the Word of God and not the ideas of men.

Many people reject the idea of “keeping the commandments” because they believe that trying to keep God’s law is legalistic and no one can “work their way to heaven” so it doesn’t really matter which day we go to church. I agree that no can work their way to heaven. The only thing that makes us righteous before God is Jesus’ blood covering our sins. HE is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus is the only way. Our belief in Him, our relationship with Him, is all that can ultimately save us from eternal death.

What did Jesus say? The Bible says:

“If you love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15

The Bible also says:

“He who says, ‘I know him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” 1 John 2:4

And that is not all the Bible says about commandment keeping. God never changes and so, He promises:

“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding you 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

Is it really legalistic to keep the Sabbath? Or does God want us to keep keep ALL of His Law?

Think about this: Is it okay today to lie, steal, commit adultery, dishonor our parents, worship idols, take the Lord’s name in vain, or covet? Of course not! Then why is it okay to disregard God’s Sabbath?

Did Jesus say, “Go and sin no more.” or did He say, “Go and do whatever you want?”

Is it legalistic to be obedient to God? The Bible is very clear that God expects us to seek out Him on a daily basis and be obedient. Psa 89:30-32 says,

“If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments;
If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments;
Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.”

Keeping God’s commandments are part of our worship. It is how we express our love for Him. Of course, if you are keeping God’s law because you want to be “good enough” to get to heaven, or “work your way” to heaven, that is wrong. But so would reading your Bible be wrong if that was your reason for doing do. You see, keeping God’s Law and keeping the Sabbath is about your motives. It is a matter of the heart. And God knows the difference. Here are a few more verses on keeping God’s Commandments:

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:19

“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” John 14:21

“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” John 15:10

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” 1 John 5:3

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  1. Wonderful article! I completely agree and this is exactly the revelation that my husband and I came to this past year. We opened up our Bibles and started reading them without the lens of pre-conceived doctrines over our eyes and what we found was EYE OPENING. We don't observe God's commandments and His law to earn salvation, we keep his commandments because WE ARE saved and we love God. God's likes and dislikes haven't changed and even John defines sin as the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). God is compassionate to give us His revealed will and a definition of what sin is. If we didn't have a definition how would we possibly know if we're sinning or not? The other thing I opened my eyes to this past year is that you have to read the Bible in a way where NOTHING contradicts something else. So if your "interpretation" of a verse in the New Testament contradicts something in the Old then it is probably a wrong interpretation. God doesn't contradict himself and He doesn't change. Jesus IS God, he IS the God who gave us the commandments and the law, he IS the God who created the universe, He's the very God who is all throughout the Old Testament. So when he says "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15, 1 John 14:23) he means ALL of them, that he has given from the beginning of the Bible to the end (Genesis to Revelation), not just the one he gives in the New Testament. It's a beautiful thing when you make that connection. A lot of people I've come across try to point to Paul as "writing off the commandments" but what Paul is trying to get at in his letters is that Jesus is the ATONEMENT for our sins, meaning that he took on the punishment part of the law, but the rules part of the law are still the definition of sin. Anyways, I won't get more into it, but I'm pleased to have found a blog by a Christian who strives to keep God's word, because it's what you do when you LOVE Him. :) Thanks again and God bless you and your family! Sarah