I’ve never heard of Seventh Day Baptists. How long have you been around?
Actually, we are over 350 years old. Seventh Day Baptists trace their origin to the mid-seventeenth century separatist movement in England. Emphasizing the importance of a Scriptural basis for doctrine and practice, some Baptists concluded that the keeping of the seventh day Sabbath was an inescapable requirement for biblical Christianity. In America, the first Seventh Day Baptist Church began when the study of the Scriptures caused others to come to the same conclusion and thus withdraw from their non-Sabbath keeping Baptist brethren in 1671. Though there were eventually leaders among the early Seventh Day Baptists, the movement was not founded upon the writings or leadership of any single person.
How are you related to Seventh Day Adventists?
There is a tendency for many people to confuse Seventh Day Baptists with the much larger, but also much younger Seventh-day Adventists. Although there is agreement in some areas, there are considerable differences in others, both historical and theological.Both SDAs and SDBs both observe the Biblical Sabbath, the seventh day of the week. Both are champions of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. Both denominations practice baptism of believers by immersion. However, there are distinct differences between the denominations, some of which are listed below:*Note: Because of the existence of movements within the SDA church today that interpret Ellen White’s writings differently, it is difficult to generalize SDA beliefs. The differences listed below are based upon the SDA Conference’s Statement of Belief. However, individual SDA churches may deviate from the beliefs listed below.
Seventh Day Baptists
Seventh Day Baptists hold to the historic Protestant principle that the Bible alone is the authoritative source of faith.Seventh Day Baptists hold to the congregational form of organization, by which the congregation as a whole has the final authority in decision-making. Each local church is autonomous with respect to the General Conference (which is a “conference” of churches, not an authority structure).Seventh Day Baptists agree with other Protestants that Christ’s atoning work was finished on the cross; that it alone, not our own works of righteousness, is the basis for salvation; and that salvation is by God’s grace and is received by faith. They believe that the gift of eternal life thus gained assures a future free from condemnation (John 5:24). Therefore, they deny that salvation depends upon a person’s confession of every individual sin, and they reject the unscriptural concept of an “investigative judgment.”Seventh Day Baptists approve of tithing, but do not make it obligatory. Instead, they teach that as faithful stewards of God’s creation, believers ought to give a fair proportion of their income, voluntarily, cheerfully and in the amount they have decided in their own hearts. This should be done as an act of worship, in response to God’s love and provision. Tithing is a model to consider, not a rule to obey.Seventh Day Baptists generally believe that, upon death, the body “falls asleep” (figuratively), but the spirits of the righteous go to be with Christ in the Father’s presence, and are not unconscious there. They believe that the redeemed will be given spiritual and glorified bodies at the resurrection.
Seventh Day Adventists
Seventh-day Adventists hold the Bible as the source of their faith, but also believe that Ellen G. White was an inspired prophetess, and that her writings and interpretations are to be received as authoritative in the church.Seventh-day Adventists hold to an Episcopal form of organization in which the power and many of the decisions flow from the top down.Seventh-day Adventists lay great stress on the “third angel’s message” ( Revelation 14:9-12). They consider that Christ entered a (literal) heavenly sanctuary in 1844 and that an “investigative judgment” of human lives is now going on in heaven. Thus the atoning work of Christ is unfinished. The practical consequences of this view are that believers are denied the assurance of their salvation and are left with the responsibility to establish their worthiness for it, by their efforts to identify and confess each individual sin and live a righteous life.Seventh-day Adventists hold tithing of income (for support of the ministry) to be obligatory, supplemented by offerings.Seventh-day Adventists teach that both the spirit and the body fall asleep in death, not to waken until Christ returns. The righteous are with Christ, but are (literally) unconscious.
What is the Sabbath?
The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week (Saturday). According to Genesis 2:3 (NIV), “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” The Sabbath begins with sunset on Friday evening and ends with sunset on Saturday evening. The Sabbath provides weekly relief from the “painful toil” (Gen. 3:17) of making a living, freeing us to find fellowship with God and refresh our spirits in a “day of rest.” For that reason it is a gift of God’s grace for mankind (“the Sabbath was made for man,” Mark 2:27), fulfilling the purpose of the blessing God pronounced upon it at Creation.The word Sabbath means “cease, desist, rest.” The Sabbath is a day for laying aside (“resting from” or “ceasing from”) the daily grind of labor in order to acknowledge our dependence on God for all we have, and to seek fellowship with God and his people. This is what it means to “keep the Sabbath holy.” God “made” the Sabbath holy, and we are to “keep” it holy–by devoting it to God and using its hours in accordance with his purposes for the day. Twenty-four hours of religious activity is certainly not necessary, but rather a consciousness of the special significance of the day, which we carry with us until sunset Saturday evening. Thus, it is Sabbath “all day,” just as on someone’s birthday, it’s their birthday “all day.”Most ordinary tasks of life (like mowing the lawn or doing the laundry) can easily be kept for another day, out of respect for God. Refusing to accept overtime hours at work on the Sabbath can be more difficult, but employers will often honor that conviction, if we take a stand on it and are willing to do extra work on other days (like Sunday). Calling the Sabbath “honorable” (Isa. 58:13) means honoring its holiness by yielding to God’s will that it be a day of rest (“even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest,” Ex. 34:21). Those who honor the LORD’s holy day will “find their joy in the LORD.”The symbolism of the seventh day reminds us of God as our Creator and as the Redeemer of his people (Deut. 5:14-15). The Sabbath is God’s invitation to take “time out,” echoing in our private thoughts and public worship, God’s own judgment that the Universe he has provided for us is, “very good” Gen. 1:31. It is a time for giving extra attention to our relationship with God. Keeping the Sabbath is a kind of personal sign between God and his people that he is their God (Ezek. 20:12,20). It is a day for “sacred assembly” (Lev. 23:3–i.e., church day). In many other ways the hours of the Sabbath may be dedicated to God, such as in the doing of good (Matt. 12:12, Mark 3:4). But it is also appropriate to just enjoy the relief from the daily grind which the Sabbath offers.
Isn’t the practice of observing the Sabbath a Jewish custom? I thought the Christian day of worship was Sunday, in honor of Christ’s resurrection.
The Sabbath was given at Creation (Gen. 2:3). God commanded its observance (Ex. 16:30) even before the law was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19). Since the Sabbath was given before the Jews and observed before the law of Moses, it can’t rightly be called Jewish. Furthermore, in Mark 2:27, Jesus said, “the Sabbath was made for man,” (i.e., mankind) not just Jews. When God gave the Ten Commandments, he commanded observance of the Sabbath, along with the honoring of father and mother, and the prohibition of things like murder and adultery. Though the Ten Commandments were first revealed to the Israelites, Christians have accepted them as universal moral principles that apply to us, too.However, due to the desire to abide by unscriptural church traditions, most Christians today reject the Fourth Commandment (“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”) or try to apply it to Sunday. It’s fine to worship God on any day of the week, but Scripture nowhere tells us to “forget” the Sabbath by no longer keeping it holy, nor does it tell us to observe Sunday in honor of the resurrection. It was not Sunday (the first day of the week) that God blessed and made holy, nor did he bless a “one day out of seven” sequence (any day we might choose). Scripture specifically says God blessed “the seventh day” of the week (Gen. 2:3).Sabbath rest carries the God-given symbolism of God’s own rest on the seventh day of Creation, which Sunday rest does not. Celebrating someone’s twenty-first birthday a month after that person’s actual day of birth would certainly be possible, but not nearly as meaningful! Likewise, it’s not nearly as meaningful to celebrate Sabbath rest on a day other than the one God specifically blessed and made holy, based on the symbolism of Creation.Since God even made observance of the seventh day one of his Ten Commandments, then substituting a man-made tradition for the God-given one is directly disobedient to God’s will. Rather than commend such a practice to his followers as “Christian,” Jesus repudiated it. Speaking of how another of the Ten Commandments was made to conform to man-made traditions, Jesus told those responsible: “Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? … You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition” (Matt. 15:3,6). Making Sunday into the “Christian Sabbath” replaces a God-given tradition with a man-made one. Even though this practice is widespread among Christians today, and is well-intentioned, turning from the seventh day dishonors God by breaking his command and nullifying his word. It also amounts to a sad neglect of a gift God gave to all mankind as a blessing.As to Sunday observance in honor of the resurrection, Jesus never taught such a practice. When teaching about the meaning of his resurrection, Jesus specified only that it would be “on the third day” (i.e., the third day after he was placed in the tomb–Matt. 16:21, Mark 8:31). What is important about the day of the resurrection is the fact that it would come after Jesus had lain in the grave for three days, not that it would be any particular day of the week. Jesus makes no effort to point out which day of the week his resurrection would fall on, nor do his apostles, when they teach about the resurrection, even after it had occurred.