Sabbath-keeping on the seventh day of the week was a provision of the Law among the Jews, as stated in the Third Commandment. It reads, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the Seventh Day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God, in it thou shalt not do any work…. (Exodus 20:8-11)
If this is part of the Law whose control over us was removed by Jesus’ death, and which never was given to the gospel church, but whose righteousness (or right-meaning) is fulfilled in us, then all may see that, to any recognizing the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, there can be no bondage to the observance of any day. And in harmony with this thought is Paul’s statement that "one man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike: Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." (Romans 14:5) And if he shall make up his mind on this subject, from the foregoing statements of the Apostle relative to the Law, he will, doubtless, be persuaded with Paul and with us, that since Jesus has "blotted out the handwriting of ordinances which was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; …therefore, henceforth, no man should judge us in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come. …Wherefore, if we are dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?" (Colossians 2:14, 16, 17, 20.) To those in Christ there is no law on the subject except that of Love. They may celebrate any or no day according to their judgment as to what would glorify God and bless men.
The fact that the Law compelled a rest every seven days, and that mankind seemed to require it, is an excellent reason why such a day should be observed. And love to God and a desire to worship him and to commune with his children is one of the best reasons for observing such a day. As to which of the seven days should be the best to observe, the church very early in its history decided that the first day of the week would be very appropriate, since on it Jesus arose from the dead and met with them, causing their hearts to burn within them as he expounded the Scriptures unto them. (Luke 24:27, 32) Accordingly, we find that they commonly met on that day, even before they came to appreciate fully their liberty, and while they still frequently observed the seventh day also. For example, Pentecost came on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1). Other examples of meetings taking place on the first day can be found in Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2. Paul, as the Lord’s special agency in leading the other apostles — and the Church in general — into true liberty, practiced as he taught: sometimes he met with the Church on the first day, and sometimes he went into the synagogues on the Sabbath, or seventh day.
In western culture, we find that Sunday is the only day of the week that has not been claimed by business or commerce. We are glad that we have such a day where meeting with those of like precious faith is not in conflict with our employment. If our culture would permit two such days every week we would all the more rejoice to rest, to worship, to study, and to engage in consecrated activities apart from the cares of this world.
The question of Sabbath-keeping, like that of circumcision, is one that depends on the spirit or intent of the observer. As Paul testified to those who practiced circumcision in his day, so we testify to Sabbath (or seventh day) keepers now, namely: If they keep the seventh day or any other day as under "Moses’ Law," and in hope of keeping that Law and gaining its promised blessings, they are "fallen from grace," and at present Christ is "profiting them nothing," for the Jew did just so before Christ came. (Galatians 5:2-4.)
We cannot gain life by keeping the Law, for none can keep it perfectly, and to keep the Third Commandment and to fail in any other point, deprives one of life and condemns one to death under the Law covenant just as surely as though the whole Law were violated, for "whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10) Hence that entire covenant was set aside on account of human imperfection, and another covenant, written and sealed with the blood of Christ, takes its place – the covenant which speaks of favor, life and peace through the righteousness of him who bought us with his own precious blood.
Let us remember that under the Law the seventh day was commanded for rest only, and Paul gives us the key in Hebrews 4:3-10 where he declares that "we which have believed do enter into rest"; for he who trusts in Jesus as his justifier rests from attempting to do the work for himself and accepts it as a finished work – a gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Those who thus rest in Jesus, do as God the Father did; for having created man, whose sin and fall he foresaw, Jehovah rested the entire matter in the hands of Christ to redeem men and destroy sin and death during the seventh day. (Seven thousand years from Adam till the end of the Millennium.) Whosoever thus believes in Jesus, as the propitiation for his sins, has "joy and peace (rest) in believing" (Romans 15:13) – a rest not transitory but permanent; not partial, but complete; not of one day, but of all days – a rest well-illustrated in the seventh day which typified it; for seven is the symbol of completeness. Since this rest is the gift of God’s love, and since we enter it when we come under the "royal law," is it not, therefore, fulfilled in love? for love is the fulfilling of the Law – to all in Christ Jesus who appreciate their standing and walk as saints.
One may ask further, "How should we answer someone who feels strongly about selecting one day of the week over others as a holy day of worship or rest?"
We should gladly allow the selection of days to depend upon the religious belief of the one who feels so strongly. To the Jew the seventh day (Saturday) is the one to be observed, as it was commanded in the Law that was given to the Israelites that they should keep the seventh day as a holy day. That Law is still binding upon the Jews. If a Seventh Day Adventist, then let him keep the seventh day, for he believes that he is under the Law, and with that belief he certainly should keep the seventh day. To those who are members of some one of the various Protestant Churches, or of the Roman Catholic Church, let them observe the first day (Sunday) as the day of rest, as they believe that it is so commanded, and surely it would not be right for them to violate their conscience by doing otherwise.
To the true Christian, the consecrated child of God, let these keep every day holy unto the Lord and not merely one day in seven. And let these enjoy a rest by faith in the Lord and in His sure promises. Let no one attempt to judge another in respect to this matter of observing the Sabbath or holy days. No one has the right to judge his fellowman in this regard; but let every man be full persuaded in his own mind (Romans 14:4, 5). If any one presumes to judge another in these matters, he is violating a direct command of the Lord as expressed by one of His inspired Apostles (Colossians 2:16). If any one should say that we are not saved and that we are lost because we do not observe some special day, ask him gently but firmly – "Who made thee a judge?"
As to other Holy days, the Jewish calendar had days set apart for ceremonial and other features of the Law. For example, the Atonement Day was set aside to bring the nation into typical justification with God. The Passover was celebrated as the anniversary of Israel’s first-born being spared on the eve of the Exodus. Since the time of Christ, numerous Holy days have come into traditional practice. Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ; Easter celebrates His resurrection; Pentecost celebrates the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Church collectively, etc. Which of these holidays apply to us?
For the same reasons enumerated above, the Holy days prescribed by the Jewish Law no longer apply. Among Christian holidays, many would be surprised to learn that the only annual celebration specifically enjoined upon Christians is the anniversary of our Lord’s Last Supper, in which we memorialize His death. Jesus’ words were, "…As often as ye do this, do this in remembrance of me." Paul explains further that "as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death till he come." (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24-26). Should we then shun other days, such as Christmas and Easter? Our answer is that we would never wish to discourage our fellowman from meditating upon or rejoicing in our Lord’s birth, His resurrection, or any event which would give pause for sanctified or reverent thought. Consecrated Christians observe what Jesus and the Apostles enjoined upon the Church, but give full liberty to others to observe or celebrate according to conscience or tradition. Finally, we encourage any inclination within those around us to reverence our Lord, regardless of days, dates, moons, etc.