We have to discern what we mean by “Sabbath.” Technically speaking, Sabbath, Shabbat in Hebrew, is a creation ordinance according to the Old Testament how God established it at creation. He established it on the seventh day of the week, which is our Saturday.
Most Christian scholars have agreed that what God established as a creation ordinance was fundamentally a day of rest in the cycle of one in seven, and it’s secondary that it happened to be on the seventh day. The point is that it was a day of rest in the cycle of one in seven, and calendars have changed throughout the years regarding what is actually the seventh day, the sixth day, the fifth day, and so forth.
In the New Testament, we see Christians gathering together on the Lord’s Day. We understand that the Lord’s Day was the first day of the week to celebrate and commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We see John in prayer on the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10). We see the church in Acts gathered on the Lord’s Day from time to time (see Acts 20:7). The impression we’re given is that first-century Christians understood that the first day of the week was the Christian Sabbath or the Christian day of worship.
Today—and throughout history—Christians have looked at the first day of the week as the Christian Sabbath. Whether you call it the “Lord’s Day,” the “Christian Sabbath,” or simply the “Sabbath” is secondary, in my mind. The New Testament calls it the “Lord’s Day.” Some theologians, such as those at the Westminster Assembly, have said: “What is the Christian Sabbath? It’s the Christian day of rest and worship.” I think that’s perfectly fine.
So, should we celebrate the Christian Sabbath? Should we celebrate, commemorate, and keep the Lord’s Day? Absolutely—and I would even say that because it is a creation ordinance, it’s not really optional. Christians are called to have that day—the first day of the week—as the Christian Sabbath, as the Lord’s Day. It is a time for rest, worship, fellowship, mercy ministry, and even for deeds of mercy and necessity for doctors, firefighters, police officers, nurses, and so on.
I would add this: even for those of us who are pastors, the Lord’s Day is our day of rest and worship as well. That is misunderstood, I believe, by a lot of pastors. Sure, you might get another day off in the week, and that’s fine. But the Lord’s Day is your Lord’s Day. It is your Sabbath as well. It is our day to celebrate. It is our day to fellowship. It is our day to worship. It is our day to rest. Even though we don’t always get to rest as much as we might like, our rest in doing the things that God has called us to do is joyful rest.
I typically preach three times each Sunday: twice in the morning and once in the evening. Here we are right now on a Tuesday night, and I’m still tired from Sunday. My voice is still catching up from Sunday night, and I was tired coming into Sunday. But I really do believe that God has called pastors to rest on Sundays as well. My work in ministry—preaching, serving the Lord, greeting people between services, answering questions, talking to folks—all that is a part of ministry and a part of service, but I don’t hold what I do any differently than any Sunday school teacher. I don’t hold what I do over what deacons and other elders do, what ushers do, or what other teachers are doing. We are all doing ministry. I just get to help lead in the celebration, along with the choir, our chief musician, other musicians, and other pastors. I’m helping to lead in the worship and lead in the celebration.
So, I think all of us need to see the Lord’s Day as our day of rest and worship because it’s a creation ordinance that God has established for history throughout all time.