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Observing the Sabbath
This document reflects commonly held beliefs based on scripture which have been endorsed by the church's Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the Executive Presbytery.
Does the Assemblies of God believe in observing the Sabbath? Why on Sunday, and how are Christians to observe the Sabbath in practice?
Over the years, attitudes in the Assemblies of God toward observing the Sabbath or the Lords Day have modified noticeably. In earlier days of the Movement, people refrained from athletic activities, entertainment pursuits, reading secular magazines and newspapers, and accepting jobs requiring Sunday work. Those standards, in some cases, may have been too legalistic, but we are in danger today of missing the real significance of "Sabbath rest."
In Hebrew, the word Sabbath means "rest" and comes from the verb meaning "to cease." One of the Ten Commandments reads, "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy" (Exodus 20:8; Deuteronomy 5:12). The reason for this commandment is that God wants His people to rest or cease from their normal work schedules. Jesus tells us that God instituted Sabbath observance for mans benefit (Mark 2:27). God set the example by "resting" on the seventh day of the creation week (Genesis 2:2,3).
In the New Testament, the Sabbath commandment is the only one of the Ten Commandments that is not mentioned as binding upon Christians. The spiritual significance of the Old Testament Sabbath was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who gives spiritual rest to those who acknowledge Him (Matthew 11:28,29; Hebrews 4:1-11).
The New Testament indicates the early Christians gathered for worship on Sunday, the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Jesus disciple John called it "the Lords Day" (Revelation 1:10). For those Christians who lived in New Testament days, Sunday worship was a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus which took place on the first day of the week (Luke 24:1). While we are not commanded to observe Sunday as the specific day of rest and worship, the principle of the Sabbath is that one day in seven should be set aside for physical and spiritual renewal.
Many Christians today attempt to fulfill the Sabbath solely as a day of rest, believing that any activities which interrupt routine personal work duties (and especially those that provide a sense of personal pleasure) constitute Gods intended rest. Advocates of this "pleasurable rest" theory believe they can best observe the Sabbath through pleasurable activities (e.g., an enjoyable shop at the mall, a prolonged Sunday morning sleep, or time on the golf course). But this attitude fails to recognize the latter portion of the admonition: "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy" (Exodus 20:8).
No church can dictate personal holiness. Nor should it create a set of legalistic restrictions for observing the Sabbath. However, it is right for the church to call believers back to a holy reverence for this special day. In doing so we must face the question of what is appropriate for the Sabbath. This should not be determined on the basis of what is wrong, but rather on what is right for the Sabbath.
What is right for the Sabbath? It is right to sacrifice time to allow time for God. It is right for the Sabbath to give undistracted focus to our Heavenly Father. It is right to allow opportunity for thanksgiving and worship. It is right to use the Sabbath for study and personal discovery of Gods love and His ways. It is right to use the Sabbath for self-examination, confessing sins, and seeking repentance. It is right to pursue personal communion with the God who fills the spiritual void in our souls. Healthy fellowship in a local church with others of like belief is especially right for the Sabbath.
But many Christians are also guilty of omitting the essential rest of the Sabbath. They have wrongly thought that mere attendance in ones church fulfills the Sabbath. Unfortunately, some of these faithful who attend the weekly services do so without ever opening their hearts to the Lord. Sadly they go through the motions without encountering the presence of the Lord, thus missing the Sabbath rest.
As Christians we must never seek a minimum standard for observing the Sabbath. Instead, we should approach God in thanksgiving for our salvation and for all He has done for us. When our heart is right and we are full of the Holy Spirit, we can then be assured we have properly kept the Sabbath and found Gods provision of holy rest.
The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching. The official position is found in Statement of Fundamental Truths, Sections 7 & 8.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise specified.