The Relevancy of the Fourth Commandment: An Introduction to Contemporary Issues Concerning the Seventh-day Sabbath

INTRODUCTION

As a Bible teacher for a number of years, I’ve always been in a consent search for the best ways to explain what the Bible teaches. My conversations have not only been with those who have the same denominational background as me. I have spoken with those in other parts of the Christian faith, of other religious orientations, and even those of atheistic leanings. These dialogues have caused consistent re-assessment of the “how,” the “what,” and the “when” of doctrinal content. That is to say that I’m always in need of improvement.

Perhaps these brief explanations will provide clarification as to what I mean concerning the “how,” what,” and “when” of doctrinal content. The “how” of the content is the manner in which I attempt to present the information I have. The “what” of the content refers to the information that is to be included in the content itself. Finally, the “when” of the content addresses the appropriateness of the time at which the content is to be presented.

It is true that one doesn’t need theological training to talk to others about their scriptural findings. However, I believe that if you possess the ability to improve on the manner in which you communicate what you have learned in your studies, then opportunities will present themselves that will cause you to tweak your method of communication. Opportunities to improve should never be shunned. “Let the wise man listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” (Prov. 1:5 NIV).[1]

SOME MAJOR ISSUES

These dialogues have prompted important considerations concerning the struggles that some Christians face with the acceptance of a Seventh-day Sabbath. Often times, doctrinal points are pressed upon others without the realization that these are real people with the ability to think and reason just as effectively as we can. More thought, consideration, and patience should be given to those who are being challenged to accept something that will bring about so much change in their lives. Accepting the Sabbath will result in a massive change to one of the days of the most treasured weekend.

Simply stating to these individuals that they are going to hell or that they are not “real” Christians because of doctrinal differences shows a lack of understanding. When it comes to the eternal destiny of a person it is best to “judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes” (1 Cor. 4:5). Casting these individuals in the lot of the loss is a revelation of our disregard concerning their true grasp of what we are attempting to explain to them. It’s as if we are more concerned with showing them how right we are.

Another phrase that has become quickly popular in Christian dialogue is: “you believe what you want to believe, and I believe what I want to.” Some who may feel that others are losing their hold of denominational teachings may even approach them with this phrase: “What you believe is what you believe.” Though the latter is well meaning, it might be masked language from a person who believes more in denominational tradition than the scriptures. Unless you’ve had a conversation concerning the individual’s belief, how do you know what they believe? The former seems to be a result of frustration concerning either one’s inability to prove their belief, or inability to reach an agreement with the person(s) with whom they are speaking. (A separate investigation on this topic is merited in order to fully nuance all the details.)

Though I’ve listened and (I hope) carefully considered the points that those with differing views have presented, it has not resulted in a change concerning my belief in the relevancy of the Seventh-day Sabbath. Thus, this article is an introduction to a series, which seeks to address the many concerns that I have heard on the relevancy of a Seventh-day Sabbath from Christians.

Here are some concerns:

  • Social Concerns
    • The concept of a Seventh-day rest period is not conducive to 21st century daily life
    • I was brought up in a Christian tradition that doesn’t subscribe to the Seventh-day Sabbath teaching
  • Biblical/Theological Concerns
    • Should Christians observe the fourth commandment?
    • Isn’t Jesus’ constant run-ins with the Jews concerning the Sabbath an indication that he didn’t deem it necessary for his followers?
    • Doesn’t Paul’s teaching conflict with the idea of a mandatory Sabbath?
    • Isn’t Sunday the Sabbath?

Whereas these do not state all concerns that one may have concerning the Seventh-day Sabbath, they do, I hope, capture the majority of them. These concerns have been addressed, are being address, and will be address by future authors. However, it is profitable to provide different perspectives on these concerns. It may be that one is able to explain a particular area in a manner that would bring out certain aspects that another might miss.

What do you think are some major issues with the Seventh-day Sabbath doctrine?


[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scriptures in this article are taken from the New International Version.

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