Why should we study the Sabbath?

[These are some thoughts taken from the book "Sabbath in Crisis" by Dale Ratzlaff.   He says it much better than I can in most cases, so I am using some of his words, and some of his outline.   Janet Brown, 1995]

Why should we study the Sabbath?
"A highly developed and well-organized belief system can often be the most dangerous blinder to truth.  We need only to look at history to see this demonstrated time and again.  Jesus told His disciples about His imminent death, but they were unable to comprehend what He said because it did not fit within their theological framework.

Copernicus taught that the sun, not the earth, was at the center of the solar system.  But this concept was not readily accepted because it did not fit within the approved teachings of the day.

Galileo met with the same resistance to his discovery of truth.  He could demonstrate his findings by observable evidence.  But when he did this, it often only infuriated those who watched.  For a person of that day to accept the teachings of Copernicus and Galileo meant that his whole belief system came tumbling down.  MANY OF THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS FELT THAT IT WAS EMOTIONALLY EASIER TO HANG ON TO THE ACCEPTED TEACHINGS OF THE TIME, EVEN IF THESE TEACHINGS DID HAVE SOME PROBLEMS, THAN TO ACKNOWLEDGE NEW FACTUAL EVIDENCE WHICH THREATENED THEIR WORLD VIEW, OR THREATENED THEIR CONTROL/AUTHORITY.

For us to entertain the idea that our own belief system may be wrong results in considerable insecurity.  People have gone to great lengths to defend the indefensible in order to safely preserve what they considered to be "truth".

Those seeking truth must have a certain reverence for the evidence, like the Bereans (Acts 17:11).  The one who is honestly studying a doctrine must give serious consideration to the evidence which does not fit his belief system.   He must be willing, if necessary, to take apart his system of theology and put it back together again to fit the biblical evidence.  This is not an easy task.   However, it does bring a great amount of confidence and peace when it is accomplished.  Real truth has nothing to fear from searching investigation."   (taken from pages 16-17)

Who keeps the Sabbath?
Sabbath belief can be divided into three main categories (please understand that this is an oversimplification):  (taken from pages 13-14)

a)  Sunday-sabbatarians:
    Those who believe Sunday is the Sabbath of the New Testament.
    They often refer to it as the Lord's day and see it as a special
    day set aside for religious service.

b)  Saturday-sabbatarians:
    Those who believe Saturday is the true, biblical Sabbath and
    continue to worship on the seventh day.  Some hold the seventh
    day as the preferred day of worship but see no reason to try to
    persuade other Christian groups to observe the seventh day.  On
    the other side of the spectrum are those (like the Seventh-day
    Adventists) who worship on the seventh day and teach the seventh-
    day Sabbath will be God's final test of loyalty for Christians
    living in the last days before the second coming of Christ.  They
    believe those who worship on Sunday will, in the last days, receive
    the mark of the beast.

c)  Non-sabbatarians:
    These are Christians who believe the Sabbath as a special day no
    longer exists.  They believe it is important to have a time of
    Christian worship but the day on which it takes place is
    unimportant.  Usually, they worship on Sunday, and may even call
    it the Lord's day, but do not hold it as a sacred day to be
    reverenced as do sabbatarians.

The Sabbath in Genesis:  Is it "a memorial of creation"?
The Seventh-day Adventists teach that the seventh-day Sabbath is a memorial of creation originating in the Garden of Eden.  But is that what the Bible says?  Let's look at Genesis:

  1. Creation was completed in six days.
  2. God rested on the seventh day.
  3. God blessed the seventh day.
  4. God sanctified the seventh day.
  5. The reason God sanctified the seventh day was because He rested on it.
  6. The seventh-day account does not have the formula "and there was evening and there was morning, a seventh day" as do the six days of creation.
  7. There is no mention of the word "Sabbath" in the book of Genesis.
  8. There is no command for mankind to rest in the Genesis account.
  9. Nothing is expressly mentioned regarding man in the seventh-day-creation rest.
  10. The seventh-day "rest" of God was most likely characterized by His delight in His new creations and in open fellowship with Adam and Eve in the sin-free, perfect environment of Eden.
  11. The conditions which characterized the "rest" of God would probably have continued had it not been for man's sin.
  12. The seventh day of Gen 2:2,3 may have been a regular day as were the first six days of creation, or it may have been an indefinite period of time.
  13. The Genesis account does not mention an end to God's seventh-day rest.  It is presented as an ongoing state by the omission of "and there was evening and there was morning, a seventh day".  The fact that the Genesis account is so carefully constructed indicates that this omission was not accidental.
  14. When man sinned, he was excluded from God's REST and God began His WORK of redemption to restore man back to himself.

What is this new "WORK" which God started immediately after Adam and Eve sinned?  We read that "The Lord God MADE garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them" (Gen 3:21).  This event was the beginning of a "WORK" which would continue throughout the centuries until it's significance would become fully revealed in the death of Christ.  The death of that first lamb, while not mentioned as such in the Genesis account, was the acorn of the great truth which, through the following centuries, would grow into the great, spreading oak of righteousness by faith.  It pointed forward to Christ's substitutionary life and death for lost mankind.  Naked Adam and Eve were clothed with robes made from the skin of the lamb - a substitute who gave his life.  Millennia later Paul would put this same truth in these words:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  2 Corinthians 5:21

All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  Galatians 3:27

The work of redemption was the work which God started when man sinned and was driven from Eden's rest.  This work would continue until man was restored to God's true rest.  Jesus is our Sabbath rest, not some 24-hour period of time.