Applicable to Gentiles in Community of Israel 1250 BC?
The Sabbath is commanded to be observed by one of the Ten Commandments issued to Moses in 1250 BC. (Ex 20:8.) In the first century AD, Jesus taught the Law was still to be observed by His disciples. (Matt. 5:17-19.)
The Sabbath-command applies to sojourners / foreigners (i.e., Gentiles) just as much as to Israel. Deut. 5:12-15; Lev. 25:6; Exo 23:12. (On what part of the Law applies to Gentiles, see our discussion at this link.)
Influence on Gentiles
The seven day week is a universal phenomenon (coincidence?), tracing back to the Babylonians after they captured the Israelites and brought them to Babylon. The Bablyonians practiced it by 600 BC, coinciding with the captivity of the Jews, with the holy day being the "seventh day" of the week (i.e., Saturday). (See Wikipedia.) While they did not apparently call it Sabbath, it functioned that way. Hence, apparently many Gentiles were generally following this practice outside of Israel by at least 600 BC.
India / Hindus had a seven day week by about 100 BC, with an equivalent to Saturday as the seventh day. China in the 4th Century AD adopted the seven day week, influenced by the Christian Manichean sect. Id. Japan adopted the seven day week as early as 1007 AD. Id. And now it is truly universal.
God's Promise of Salvation to Gentiles Links It To Obedience to the Seventh-Day Sabbath
The promise in Isaiah 56 of salvation to Gentiles ("my salvation is about to come", 56:1) was predicated on two things: "keep the Sabbath from profaning it and keep his hand from doing evil." (Isaiah 56:2) or "who keep My Sabbaths, and choose things that please Me, and take hold of my covenant." (Isaiah 56:4,6). Essentially, the salvation of a Gentile -- according to God's word -- turns on obeying the Sabbath and keeping from evil as outlined in His covenant, i.e., taking hold of those commands which apply expressly to sojourners / foreigners. God promises eunuchs in return for obedience that "I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off." (Isaiah 56:5.) God similarly then promises the Gentiles / "foreigners" (who similarly obey) that "I will bring to My holy mountain And make them joyful in My house of prayer," and "their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar...." (Isaiah 56:7.)
Early Church Was Predominantly Obedient On Sabbath
In obvious reliance upon Jesus (and hence rejection of Paul's abolition of Sabbath), the early church continued to obey Sabbath on Saturday for several hundred years after Christ while worshipping either on Saturday or on the Lord's Day - our present Sunday.
The Ante-Nicene church records from 125 A.D. to 325 A.D. clearly show the church's general practice was:
- to keep the rest commanded for Sabbath on Saturday, but they typically also assembled on Sabbath for worship; and
- on what we today call Sunday (and they called the Lord's Day), they did not rest but typically assembled for worship.
See the Eastern canonical book (adopted 692 AD) and early canon of Syrian-Antioch church Constitution of the Apostles (ca. 300 A.D.) Book 7, ch. XXIII at this books.google link ("but the Sabbath and the Lord's day keep as festivals, because the former is the memorial of creation and the latter of the resurrection"); ch. XXX at this link (Lord's day is day to assemble, not rest); Book 5, ch. XX at this link)("Every Sabbath and every Lord's day hold your religious assemblies").
Bingham, a Christian scholar, summarizes numerous ancient sources besides Constitutions and confirms this was the overwhelming practice of the early church: "The ancient Christians were very careful in the observation of Saturday, or the seventh day... It is plain that all the Oriental [Eastern] churches, and the greatest part of the world, observed the Sabbath as a festival... Athanasius likewise tells us that they held religious assemblies on the Sabbath, not because they were infected with Judaism, but to worship Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, Epiphanius says the same." (Joseph Bingham, Antiquities of the Christian Church (1878) Vol. II, Bk. xx, Ch. 3, Sec. 1, 66. 1137,1136). See also Bingham, Works of Bingham at 542 ("Sabbath of every week was observed in many churches;" Id. at 543 (communion was sometimes on Sabbath but typically on Sunday.) See also Bingham, Antiquities of the Christian Church Vol. IV at 233 (quotes Athanasius again).
This means the Sabbath persisted for these several hundred years despite Paul's pronouncement in 50 AD that the Sabbath was abolished. (See our link on Paul's words doing so.)
Etymological Practices That Speak Volumes of Persistent Early Observance
This explains why if you spoke a European language today, you would be using the word "Sabbath" for day seven of each week instead of "Saturn's-Day" -- Saturday in English. In Spanish, day seven is "Sabado" -- Sabbath, not "Saturno." In Italy, day seven is "Sabato" -- not "Saturno." In Russian -- Subbota; in Portguese --- Sábado. In Romanian --- Sâmbat. In Greek -- Savato. In Armenian - Shabat. In Georgian - Sabati, etc. ("Weekday Names," Wikipedia.) In fact, even outside Europe we find Sabbath continues as the name used in many nations simply modified to their language: Somalia -Sabti; Arabic - as-Sabt; Malta - Is-Sibt; Malaysia - Sabtu; Indonesia - Sabtu; and Sudan - Sabtu.
Further, the Didache from 100-200 AD is confirmed as correct that "Sunday" was at the same time kept weekly as the "Lord's Day." The European tongues likewise all call our English "Sun-Day" the "Lord's Day," i.e., "Domingo" (Spanish) and "Domenica" (Italian), etc. As Answers.com explains, English is anomolous in erasing the faith-aspect of what originally was present - "Sabbath" and the "Lord's Day" for days seven and one:
In Spanish, that leaves the words for Saturday and Sunday that weren't adopted using the Roman naming pattern. Domingo, the word for Sunday, comes from a Latin word meaning "Lord's day." And sábado, the word for Saturday, comes from the Hebrew word Sabbath, meaning a day of rest (in Jewish and Christian tradition, God rested on the seventh day of creation). ("Names of Days").
This is an etymological proof that there was such a long standing original Sabbath-observance practice that Spaniards, Italians, Portuguese, Romanians, Greeks, Russians, etc., refused to buckle in the 300s when the name change was being enforced. These Europeans to this day call day seven "Sabbath."
The British Christians were more pagan and amenable to change. When in the 300s AD Rome insisted they adopt a celestial god's name to be associated with each day (see next section), they had no problem using "Saturn" for Saturday and the "Sun-god" for Sunday. As Origins of the English Names for the Days of the Week Explains: "English, like most of the Germanic languages, preserves the original pagan/sun associations of the day."
(This is similar to the English calling Jesus' Passion week "Easter" after the goddess "Eostre" (Celtic for Osiris), but in Spain and Italy it is still called "Passover" -- Pascua and Pasqua respectively -- the Spaniards and Italians et al. retaining the passion's original spiritual connection to the Hebrew feast).
When Did The Rules Change?
Then in 321 A.D., Rome at Constantine's urging instituted the observance of a day of rest to their Sun-God, i.e., Sun-Day. (See our link.) He declared himself Bishop of the Catholic Church at Rome, and at the same time issued a civil law making Sunday a worship day to the Sun-god. As Wikipedia under "Sabbath" records:
The Roman emperor Constantine, a sun-worshiper, professed his conversion to Christianity, although his subsequent actions suggest that the “conversion” was more of a political move than a genuine change of heart. Constantine proclaimed himself Bishop of the Catholic Church and then enacted the first civil law regarding Sunday observance in A.D. 321.
- "On the venerable day of the sun let the magistrate and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however, persons engaged in agricultural work may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain growing or for vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost." 
Note that Constantine’s law did not mention Sabbath but referred to it as a “the venerable day of the sun.”
The Roman Catholic Church gradually adopted thereafter Sun-day as a day of rest in place of the traditional Sabbath. As Eusebius explains in the 330s in his commentary on Psalms, a Sabbath rest should now be on Sunday and "we" (the Roman Church to which he belonged) "transferred" the Sabbath to Sun-day, the Lord's Day:
And all things that were duty to do on the Sabbath, these we have transferred to the Lord's day, as more appropriately belong to it, because it has precedence and is first in rank, and more honorable than the Jewish sabbath." (Robert Cox, Sabbath Literature (1865) Vol. I at 361.) See also, Robert Cox, Literature of the Sabbath Question (1865) at 363.)
In 336 AD, at the Council of Laodicea, the Roman Catholic Church without shame declared it had the power to move Sabbath to Sunday. This is still admitted in the modern era in Catholic catechism classes. See, Rev. Peter Geiermann, C.SS.R., (1946), Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine, p. 50. In Wikipedia, we have an extensive quote from page 50 of the Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine:
- Q. Which is the Sabbath day?
- A. Saturday is the Sabbath day.
- Q. Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday?
- A. We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church, in the Council of Laodicea, (AD 336) transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday….
- Q. Why did the Catholic Church substitute Sunday for Saturday?
- A. The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday, because Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday, and the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles on a Sunday.
- Q. By what authority did the Church substitute Sunday for Saturday?
- A. The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday by the plenitude of that divine power which Jesus Christ bestowed upon her!
In 363 AD, Catholicism Curses Sabbath-Keepers
It was only in 363 A.D. that the Roman Catholic Church went so far as to make it a heresy and anathema to rest on the Saturday-Sabbath. At the Council of Laodicea of 363 A.D.—one of the first church councils controlled primarily by the Roman Bishop—it was decided to deem heretical and anathema (cursed) the practice of keeping Sabbath. (Canon 29.) (Nicene and PostNicene Fathers (1990), supra, XIV at 148.) This officially declared Sabbath was moved to Sunday.
The Council claimed Sabbath-keeping was “judaizing.” (See next quote below.) Even though the term "judaizing" is not found in the NT, this was how by 363 AD Roman Catholicism came to describe the enemies of Paul's doctrine in Galatians even as the Catholics now embraced Paul's anti-law positions. The Catholic Church now claimed any effort to follow the Law given Moses (besides faith) severs one from Christ. Hence, Roman Catholicism now wielded as a pejorative term "judaizer" against those who resisted the Roman rulers' decrees that Sabbath as Saturday was abolished in favor of Sun-Day (Nicene and PostNicene Fathers (1990), supra, XIV at 148.) The decree reads in part:
Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather, honoring the Lord’s day [i.e., Sunday]; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ. Id., at 148.
See also Bingham, Antiquities of the Christian Church at 235.
The same history is recounted by the Jewish scholar, Abraham Millgram in Sabbath: Day of Delight (1965). We have typed up his four page discussion of such history at this link.
Roman Catholic Archbiship Of Our Era Admits This Was An Unbiblical Change
Heroically but without effect, a Roman Catholic Archbishop of Baltimore, Cardinal James Gibbons, tried to confess this error. Perhaps he hoped Catholicism would reverse this error. Gibbons wrote in The Faith of Our Fathers (1917) that “you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we [Catholics] never sanctify.” (Id., at 89.) He similarly wrote elsewhere:
"For example, nowhere in the Bible do we find that Christ or the Apostles ordered that the Sabbath be changed from Saturday to Sunday. We have the commandment of God given to Moses to keep holy the Sabbath day, that is the 7th day of the week, Saturday. Today most Christians keep Sunday because it has been revealed to us by the Church outside the Bible." ("To Tell You The Truth," Catholic Virginian (Oct. 3, 1947) page 9, quoted in "Gibbons," Wikipedia.)
Hence, Gibbons implied the church could with equal authority change it back to what the Bible dictated. Gibbons' subtelty apparently was too subtle, and no one listened.
Paul in 500s Cited By Catholicism To Curse Sabbath-Keepers
Despite heavy pressure from Catholicism beginning in the 300s to end Sabbath observance, many Christians resisted. Good Christians tried to continue resting on Sabbath as had been the tradition from Christ to the late 300s.
In the 500s, Pope Gregory the Great (540-604 AD) actually claimed that anyone who wished to still keep the Sabbath by resting from work besides worshipping on the Lord's Day [i.e., on Sunday] had the spirit of the Anti-Christ. Not only that, the pope, relying upon Paul's words in Galatians 5:2, clearly implied that those observing Sabbath were now cut off from Christ. The pope equated them to persons who must endorse circumcision too for Gentiles -- a red-herring:
"What else can I call these but preachers of the Anti-Christ...he must say too that the commandment of circumcision of the body is to be retained. But let him hear the apostle Paul saying in opposition 'If you be circumcised, Christ profits you nothing.' Gal. 5:2.
Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Second Series (2007) Volume XIII Gregory the Great at 92.
As one can see, the Roman Catholic church knew Paul was its ally to abolish Sabbath to conform to the desires of the Roman state. And this was the period where Rome (the state) wished to do away with Sabbath -- a costly second day of rest during a 7 day week. (Rome could not afford our current 2 days of rest of both Saturday and Sunday.) Rome -- the state -- instead required all citizens to worship and rest on Sun-Day (i.e., the day of Sol Invictus, the God-of-the-Sun.
Paul's Writings Beginning in 300s Are Elevated To Support Christian Worship on Day of Sun-God
Thus, it was precisely in this period when Paul's writings for the first time were taken very seriously, and were now officially promoted. As Thomas F. Martin in "Vox Pauli," in the Journal of Early Christian Studies says:
"From the mid-300s C.E. to the mid-400s, there was a marked turn towards the figure and theology of Paul, indicated by the flurry of commentaries on Pauline letters written during that period." (Journal of Early Christian Studies - Volume 8, Number 2, Summer 2000, pp. 237-272)
Despite the Western church's late turn towards Paul, the Catholic rulings abolishing Sabbath on Saturday in 336 AD and again in 363 AD at Rome were never accepted outside of Roman territories. The Eastern Orthodox have always maintained Christians must keep the Sabbath on Saturday while worshipping on Sunday. "Orthodox Christians continue to celebrate Saturday as Sabbath." ("Sabbath in Christianity," Wikipedia.)
Roman Catholicism Later Embraces Full Blown Apostasy from God's Law in 1200s
In time, Roman Catholicism even hardened its position further in favor of Paulinism's anti-Law position. Thomas Aquinas in the 1200s went so far as to say that practicing ritual elements of the Mosaic law (such as the Sabbath rest) was a mortal sin, as it was tantamount to denying that the Messiah had come. (Aquinas, St Thomas (1981) Summa Theologiae (Christian Classics) at 3020, referenced in "Gibbons," Wikipedia.)
Doesn't the Bible speak of this -- about the ones calling darkness light, and light darkness? (See Isaiah 5:20.)
For a somewhat shorter PDF version of our article here, click here.
The Terrible Consequence to Gentiles Who Obey Roman Catholics' Paganized Sabbath Change
What is the consequence of abandoning Sabbath even though God said it applies to foreigners in community with Israel?
God will only remember His children by those who keep His Sabbaths. See Exodus 31:13 (sign with God); Isaiah 56:3-6 (eunuchs and foreigners who keep Sabbath, God will remember); and Isaiah 66:22-23 (in eternity, Sabbath will be kept)
Daniel 7:25: Prophecy of Changing The Law and Times and Seasons
Some say the Roman Catholic Church is the beast of Daniel because in 336 AD and repeated in 363 AD it changed the times and the seasons by moving Sabbath on Saturday to Sunday. See Dan. 7:25. Thus, these same voices --- apparently the Adventist church --- claim anyone resting on Sunday has the mark of the beast. I take no position on those claims. But I do want to address an historically inaccurate rebuttal to such claims.
Error Of Those Who Claim Sabbath Was Never Kept by Predominant Christian Church
At a popular website, Sabbath Keepers Refuted, it claims the church never kept Sabbath on Saturday, and if any one set Sunday as Sabbath, it was the Roman government, not the Roman church. Hence, they contend those who obey Sabbath on Sunday do not have the mark of the beast - alleged to be Sunday Sabbatarianism. It claims:
"the universal record of history and the New Testament proves that Christians never kept the Sabbath after the resurrection of Christ." (Sabbath Keepers Refuted, Sabbitarians and Mark of the Beast.)
The Roman Catholic Church later joined in urging Christians to CHANGE from resting on Saturday to Sunday. Later the RCC made this a threatening command.
As one can see from the above impeccable scholarly sources and early church historians, the statement Christians "never kept the Sabbath" after the resurrection of Christ is untrue. The opposite is the case.
Even as of today, the Eastern Orthodox have two milennia of an unbroken history of keeping the Sabbath on Saturday. The Adventists or whoever make these 'mark-of-the-beast' claims are at least historically accurate.
Mistranslations Designed to Mislead the Innocent God-Fearing Gentile
So why was Sabbath Keepers so insistent? Well, here is an ugly secret: the pro-Sunday translators repetitiously mistranslated Luke's descriptions in Acts of church meetings on "mia ton Sabbaton" - meaning "on one of the Sabbaths" -- as instead "on the first day of the week." For example, Acts 20:7 in the KJV & NIV. This is literally an off-the-wall translation. It has no excuse except to mislead innocent God-fearing people like those at Sabbath Keepers that Sunday was always the day of rest in the early church. For a detailed article at our site, see First Day of the Week? Or On One of the Sabbaths?
The King James, however, was not always consistent. It clearly has even Paul worshipping on Sabbath. For in Acts 13, we learn:
13 Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem.14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. (Acts 13:13-14 KJV.)
Paul then gives a speech where he mentions the prophets are read every Sabbath day, as if that is a norm he personally experiences. Paul says even in the King James:
27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. (Acts 13:27 KJV.)
Then Paul agrees to worship and lead a Sabbath observance of Gentiles the next week! We read:
42 And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words [from Paul] might be preached to them the next sabbath. 43 Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. 44 And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. (Acts 13:42-45.)
Hence, the argument Paul only observed Sabbath because Jews followed Sabbath (Acts 18:1,4 KJV "he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath") fails in light of Acts 13:42-45 as Gentiles asked Paul to meet the next Sabbath with them, not the Jews, to hear more of his message, assuming Paul was observant of Sabbath from sincere belief. Paul had an opportunity to say there and then that he would meet them on Sunday, not Saturday, but did not.
So Sabbath Keepers claim that no Christian followed Sabbath in the early church cannot be defended based upon even the King James which inconsistently renders the word for Sabbath(s) as sometimes about the Sabbath in reference to Gentiles following Paul, and the day they met was Sabbath, but other times as the first day of the week.
Incidentally, the King James Bible is the same Bible that translates the word "pascha" (passover) in Acts as Easter to make us think the apostles remembered Jesus' resurrection on the pagan holiday for the goddess Eostre. This is only true today, starting in the 300s under the pagan Constantine who as a self-declared pope of the Roman Catholic Church moved the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus from Passover to the day to worship the goddess Easter (Eostre). See our article Easter Error.
Sabbath: Is It The 12 Hours From Sunrise Saturday to Sunset?
By the way, it was apparently a late oral tradition in Judaism as a hedge around the Law to start Sabbath rest on the prior evening of Friday. However, the meaning of "Day" in Gen. 1:5 was the daylight portion from sunrise to sunset, and "night" was from sunset to sunrise. Hence, true Sabbath Day rest begins Saturday morning, and ends Saturday at dusk. For an excellent article on this at a website dedicated to this issue, see http://www.12hoursabbath.com. See footnotes for that page at http://12hoursabbath.com/page2.php
Importantly, the author explains that Lev. 23:32 is not support for including the prior evening in the weekly Sabbath rest. That verse instead addresses the Day of Atonement, and how it is measured. Id. The 12 hour weekly sabbath is at 23:3 but the annual 24 hour sabbath for the Day of Atonement is in 23:32 which takes in parts of 2 days, and all of one night.
In agreement, please note that Bingham (quoted above) mentioned that the early Christians rested on "Saturday." There is nothing about adding Friday night to the Sabbath rest. Hence, history confirms Sabbath is Saturday only. And Gen. 1:5 proves this means the daylight period.
A Holy Assembly / Holy Convocation: Is Church-Assembly or Simply Private "Holy" Rest Required?
The Sabbath Command in Leviticus (unlike in Exodus 20:8) refers to a holy assembly or in some translations a "holy convocation."
3six days is work done, and in the seventh day [is] a sabbath of rest, a holy convocation [or assembly] ye do no work; it [is] a sabbath to Jehovah [sic: Yahweh] in all your dwellings. (Lev. 23:3.)(KJV)
Some explain the word meaning at issue as follows: "The original Hebrew word that is translated as 'convocation' is (pronounced) mik-raw means a called assembly." (Wayne Blank, "Convocation.")
But at least two translations are "holy assembly" - NIV, Holman, Cfr. "holy convocation" NASB, ESV, KJV, YLT. See Bible Hub link.
Does this mean by our rest we are involved in a holy assembly de facto? Or is this an independent obligation to call a meeting with others on Sabbath? After all, when the command to obey Sabbath is given in Exodus 20:8 and elsewhere, it includes no command about a Holy Convocation / Assembly.
Paul Kroll at Grace Communion Ministries did a thorough article on this issue, and concluded Leviticus 23:3 means one's rest on Sabbath is one's holy assembly before God. See this link. His explanation is:
The essence of Sabbath-keeping was physical rest. InExodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15, the Sabbath command specifies rest from labor as the way to keep the day “holy.” There is no mention of going to a worship service each Sabbath. Other passages in the Old Testament also define the Sabbath by rest, not by attendance at worship services. See Exodus 31:12-17, Numbers 15:32, Nehemiah 13:15-22 and Jeremiah 17:19-27. The latter two passages, though they refer to Jerusalem, do not mention anything about failure to attend worship services or “sacred assemblies,” but only work on the Sabbath as a desecration of this day.
Paul Kroll concludes that therefore Leviticus 23:3 would be anomolous:
It would be strange, then, to have one phrase in Leviticus 23:3 refer to a weekly worship service commanded for all Israel, and then claim that this was just as important as resting as a way to keep the Sabbath. It would be a mistake to assume such a teaching from a single and vague phrase in one verse when the entire witness of the Old Testament does not mention worship service attendance in conjunction with the Sabbath.
Paul Kroll then concludes that one's rest was one's sacred assembly -- the rest itself is a form of assembly:
Let us look at Leviticus 23:3 directly: “There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work;wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord.” The verse emphasizes rest.
Since the passage is about resting and not working, it seems that the expression “day of sacred assembly” is a parallel to “Sabbath to the Lord” and refers not so much to official communal worship on the Sabbath but to the day itself as being a “sacred assembly.”
The phrase “day of sacred assembly” can be understood as a “sacred day of celebration” or a “sacred occasion,” as well as a “sacred assembly” or convocation. The weekly Sabbath, as well as the annual festivals, were occasions to worship and praise God for the abundance of his physical blessings and for saving Israel from bondage in Egypt. But this worship and praise could be given to God in the Israelites’ participation in rest itself (thus experiencing the blessings of Yahweh through rest), as well as in contemplation and conversation at home.
By resting from their labor and self-interests on the weekly Sabbath, the Israelites were presenting themselves before God through rest. Resting was a way of being in the presence of God and fulfilling his sacred purpose. The only people who were commanded to come to the Temple for worship were the Levites and priests. On behalf of the entire nation, they performed the prescribed ceremonies. There was no command for people to watch them, or for them to teach the people. It was simply not possible for very many people to be there.
My instincts tells me this is correct for three reasons:
1. It is not restful to have to get up, go to Church, and worship. This activity conflicts with the idea of taking a day off.
2. We should not put a burden from the Law on people without very good reason. The fact that the majority of times the Sabbath command is given -- six times -- without the command of a "holy assembly" -- suggests to me that it is simply synonymous with the concept of rest on Sabbath.
Even so, the term "holy assembly" still has meaning for your rest time. You should not use your rest for any unholy activity. It is sacred time.
What If A Sacred Meeting Is Meant Instead?
Assuming otherwise, and assembly means a meeting, what is required for a meeting if required in Leviticus 23:3? One commentator says it is simple:
"We should meet and worship with others." ("How do we keep the Sabbath.")
I would say it is more. Jesus says "where two or tree are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20.)
Where would this be? Jesus said the Temple would soon be no more, and "God is a spirit" (who can be anywhere in Spirit), and God then wants a particular kind of worshipper rather than a place of worship:
21Jesus saith to her, `Woman, believe me, that there doth come an hour, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father;
22ye worship what ye have not known; we worship what we have known, because the salvation is of the Jews;
23but, there cometh an hour, and it now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father also doth seek such to worship him;
24God [is] a Spirit, and those worshipping Him, in spirit and truth it doth behove to worship.' (John 4:21-24.)
Thus, once the Temple would be gone, a meeting with other believers would be at least 2 persons meeting in God's name to pray and worship. Anywhere. God is a Spirit, and can be with us even in a small assembly anywhere. After the Temple would be gone, there is no applicable regulation as to a place or duration or even an order of worship. The early church predominantly met in open fields or in homes. See our page "Church Structure." Furthermore, there is no command to meet with as many people as possible. A meeting in your home with your spouse / children / a friend complies with the Sabbath command now that the Temple is gone. As long as you are truly worshipping God.
What if you live where you can find no other believers? How do you comply with a meeting requirement? I believe that Jesus taught even when you are one by yourself and pray in secret, that the Father still hears and still answers. (Matt 6:6, pray in secret, and the Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.) Also, in the Original Gospel of Matthew reconstructed by Rives, we read: "Wherever there are two, they are not without God. And wherever there is one alone, I say I am with him." (Matt 18:20, OGM.)
Hence, if you alone are worshipping, is that a holy meeting? I don't see why not. Of course, I would recommend a convocation of at least one other as your aim. This can be with your spouse or child, as long as you pray in spirit and truth, and worship God with praise.
Incidentally, there is no barrier to also worshipping on Sunday. You can do that too. God never says no to more time with us. We can celebrate this as the day of Jesus / Yahshua's resurrection.
What is Worship?
Assuming again that Sabbath is not just rest, but a day of worship in a meeting, how do we do worship? This answer can apply to the Lord's Day instead or in addition, depending on what the Holy Spirit has taught you is the answer regarding Leviticus 23:3.
Jesus with His disciples went away to quiet outdoor places to pray and sing psalms. Jesus in praying fell on His face -- meaning prostrating himself on the ground. He prayed to the Father in the hearing of His disciples, but apparently it was a private personal prayer.
What should we do? Should we follow Jesus' example?
Ron Owens in an article "Worship Service: A Hindrance or a Highway for Revival" explains what is Biblical worship and that we are not practicing it by-and-large:
The primary word used in the Old Testament for worship is the Hebrew word shachah. In each of its 170 uses, it has the same meaning: to prostrate oneself, to bow down or stoop. In the New Testament, the Greek word for worship, proskuneo, has virtually the same meaning: to crouch, prostrate oneself, to kiss the hand, do reverence, to adore.
Examples from Scripture reveal:
And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, (Genesis 17:3)
And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter unto his son. (Genesis 24:48)
And he said, Nay; but [as] captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? (Joshua 5:14)
And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them. (Numbers 20:6)
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; (Psalms 95:6)
And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelations 7:11-12)
And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou [wilt]. (Matthew 26:39)
Ironically, worship is never done that way in any modern church or assembly:
Today, we see very little of this attitude of stooping, of humbling oneself in worship. Instead, it seems the church is spending an inordinate amount of time standing and celebrating. (Ron Owens, id.)
In private worship, I suggest you kneel and even bow forward during prayer. If the church you attend does not actually worship God except by the gesture of words, God already said 'they worship me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.' So perhaps you should find a church that does worship God in a truer sense -- by prostrating yourself while praying. So perhaps start worshipping in your own home where you have no one restricting your worship. There is no rule it must take place in a hall called 'church.' See our article on "Jesus' Words on Church Structure."
And if you wish some psalms (songs) to sing, there are some contemporary songs that are great. I collect my recommendations at this list-link.
For those Christians who obey God's command to rest on Sabbath, here is a Sabbath meditation where God attaches a promise to a Sabbath rest focused upon Him:
"If thou turn away thy foot [on] the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure...not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: [that] thou shalt delight in Yahweh...I will make thee to ride upon the high places of the earth; and I will feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of Yahweh hath spoken it." (Isaiah 58:13-14.)
Also, remember this verse:
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3.)
Do Good On The Sabbath!
Follow Jesus' example and do good on the sabbath. Perhaps do a mitzvot -- a good deed.
Justin Martyr in 165 AD wrote in First Apology that weekly, "we remind each other of his duty, and the rich relieve the poor, and upon such charitable accounts we visit some or other every day." (First Apology LXXXVI at page 91.) "But the wealthy and the willing, for everyone is at liberty to contribute as they think fitting, [make a collection], and this collection is deposited with the bishop, and out of this he relieves the widow and the orphan, and such as are reduced to want, by sickness or any other cause, and such as are in bonds, and strangers that come from afar...." Id., at 94.
In conformance with Jesus's commands and the example of the early church, on each sabbath perhaps send a donation to orphans if not visit and care for them in your personal ministry. (I have no affiliation with any of the organizations I recommend below.)
A most deserving ministry is New Life Nicaragua. Watch the video, and learn the story of the family that started it.
New Life Nicaragua
c/o Evangel Fellowship Intl.
PO Box 326
Conway, SC 29528
Its site explains:
This part is really important. Make your check payable to EFI. Please write on the memo line of your check how you want your money directed. For example, nutrition center or child sponsorship or leadership training etc..
One other in Nicaragua is Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (tax deductible for US Citizens) which runs Christian orphanages in several countries, e.g., Nicaragua, Haiti, El Salvador, etc. Here are images of the happy faces of the children they serve at this link.
The donation page, which takes a credit card is at http://www.nph.org/ws/help/donations.php?lang=en
Their mission statement is at http://www.nph.org/ws/about/mission.php?lang=en and it says:
Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos™ International is a Christian mission that strives to provide a permanent family and home for orphaned, abandoned and other at-risk children who live in conditions of extreme poverty. Our programs provide quality education, health care and spiritual formation with the goal of raising good Christians and productive members of their respective societies.
Another alternative, and one you can do by check with your bill pay, is Orphan Care International (a Christian organization) at http://www.warmblankets.org/ Their mailing address is:
Warm Blankets Orphan Care International
5105 Tollview Drive, Suite 155
Rolling Meadows, IL 60008
Another alternative which reaches to all poor in Roatan with life-changing water -- hopefully both spiritual and physical -- is Living Water 4 Roatan. That is a link to a donation. It is predominantly a Baptist ministry yet they are providing Spanish versions of the Bible which clearly contain our Lord Jesus' words. For news on their ministry, see News. Their operations appear centered in Colonia on the Island of Roatan, part of Honduras. Their WordPress news blog is at this link. When you hear how it started -- poor people were dying from bad drinking water, and walked long distances for clean water -- then you will appreciate the ministry of the couple that started this ministry. Their account of how it began is at this link.
Also consider helping widows. In the world, as of July 2010, there are estimated to be over 115 million women living in devastating poverty as a result of becoming widows. See this link.
Tips on Celebrating Sabbath
A Jewish website gives you some tips on Shabbat worship, and books to purchase as guides.
Certain Sabbath traditions among the Jews are good for us to utilize to remind us of its meaning. For example, the lighting of the candles reminds us of when God said "let there be light." So here is a Jewish webpage explaining that morning ritual on Sabbath. It then discusses the Sabbath ritual of sanctifying the day over a glass of wine. And the importance of sharing bread among your family.
Then there is the conclusion of Sabbath as night comes on the Sabbath day (daylight hours). The blessings and ritual that Jews follow which we can enrich our spiritual experience by copying is at this link. These are called Havdallah blessings which are two: a praise of God and blessings over the food and wine to prepare for dinner.
Jews typically begin Sabbath observance on Friday night -- which I believe began as a hedge around the Law rather than a principle of the Law about the duration of Sabbath. (I contend the Sabbath "day" is the daylight portion of what we call Saturday.) This is a good hedge. We can be mindful of Friday night to rest then too, from a valid hedging purpose.
On Friday night are blessings. They are usually spoken in Hebrew, which you can try to speak. You can listen or participate karaoke style with them with versions of the blessings online. Here is one link and here is another link -- the files are playable in Mp3 and downloadable as well. If you press "Printable version," it gives you the English equivalent to read yourself.
Incidentally, on the same page is a basic blessing of God to use when you thank God for the bread we eat:
Blessing God For the Bread
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam,
Hamotzi lechem min haaretz.
Our praise to You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of the universe,
Who brings forth bread from the earth. (URJ)
For more information on "blessings (grace) after the meal," see the topic on this link.
What About Doing Business With Non-Believers on Sabbath?
I address in this article whether doing business with a non-believer on Sabbath is a sin.
Jesus Did Not Abolish Sabbath
Some try to argue Jesus Himself violated Sabbath, and thus showed He abolished it. Rather, Jesus simply violated man-made rules about the Sabbath, and then used astonishment about this as a teaching moment of how to validly apply the Sabbath command. The article “Sabbath” in Anchor Bible Dictionary (ed. David N. Freedman) Vol. 5 at 855-56 explains:
“At times Jesus is interpreted to have abrogated or suspended the Sabbath commandment on the basis of controversies brought about by Sabbath healings and other acts. Careful analysis of the respective passages does not seem to give credence to this interpretation. The action of plucking ears of grain on the Sabbath by the disciples is particularly important in this matter. Jesus makes a foundational pronouncement...'The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27). The disciples’ act of plucking grain infringed against the rabbinic halakhah of minute casuistry in which it was forbidden to reap, thresh, winnow, and grind on the Sabbath....Jesus reforms the Sabbath and restores it to its rightful place as designed in creation, where the Sabbath is made for all mankind and not specifically for Israel, as claimed by normative Judaism...”
Further Research of All Views on Sabbath
William Armstrong, Is Saturday or Sunday The Christian Sabbath? : A Refutation of Sabattarianism (1880) -books.google.com - relying upon Paul, he argues Christianity abolished the original Sabbath.
"When Did Sunday Become the Christian Day of Worship?" (webpage of abcog) - defends Sunday as day Sabbath was transferred to.
Scott Nelson, What Day is the Sabbath (defense of Lunar sabbath view)
Lunar Sabbath Illusion (critique of Lunar sabbath view)