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WinnFamilyPhotoWEBLisa Winn was raised in the Adventist school system and is a graduate of Pacific Union College. She became a born again Christian in 2007 upon thoroughly examining Adventist teachings and carefully studying the Bible. She lives in Yucaipa with her husband Jonathan and their two children, Daniel and Héloïse. They are members of Fellowship in the Pass Church in Beaumont, California.







Editor’s note: We introduce a new column in this issue, “Truly Adventist” by Lisa Winn. Lisa says she has discovered that many Adventists today are unfamiliar with the writings of Ellen White, and she wishes to re-acquaint them with the roots of their faith. This column is intended either to encourage Adventist readers to hold fast to their faith as directed by Mrs. White, or, if her directives seem oppressive and legalistic, to re-examine their beliefs and prayerfully peruse the rest of this publication.


The Sabbath is one of the pillars of the Seventh-day Adventist church. Ellen White says, “It means eternal salvation to keep the Sabbath holy unto the Lord.”1 One can easily conclude that to her the Sabbath is perhaps the most important commandment, “the center of the ten precepts”2; it is the “seal of God.”3 Furthermore, according to Mrs. White, keeping the Sabbath is the final test of God for his people:

Some will urge that the Lord is not so particular in his requirements… But here is just where the test is coming, whether we will honor the law of God above the requirements of men. This is what will distinguish between those who honor God and those who dishonor him. Here is where we are to prove our loyalty…he demands exact obedience.4

In fact, the Sabbath is such a defining doctrine for Adventists that it is included in the name of the organization. If people are convinced in their own minds that they should keep the Sabbath, but do not do so, they are in sin. Paul says, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). Ellen White adds, “Every deviation from right brings us into bondage and condemnation.5

Nevertheless, it is clear from her writings that Mrs. White truly desires the seventh day to be “a delight”6 for its keepers. “The Sabbath should be made so interesting to our families that its weekly return will be hailed with joy.”7 Imagine families, having freed themselves from everyday concerns, frolicking through fields whilst singing hymns, talking about God, and admiring His creation. Hopefully the remainder of this article will help lay out some guidelines for achieving this perfect Sabbath rest every week.

First, Sabbath must always be in the forefront of one’s mind: “None should permit themselves…to become so absorbed in their temporal interests, and so exhausted by their efforts for worldly gain, that on the Sabbath they have no strength or energy to give to the service of God. We are robbing the Lord when we unfit ourselves to worship Him upon His holy day.”8 Concurrently, honoring the Sabbath as God intended requires completion of every possible chore during the other six days of the week.9 The Sabbath-keeper must “jealously guard the edges of the Sabbath. Remember that every moment is consecrated, holy time.”10

Moreover, Sabbath, while a time for rest from worldly pursuits, should be a day given in full service to the Lord, not in napping or idling listlessly.11

It is displeasing to God for Sabbathkeepers to sleep during much of the Sabbath. They dishonor their Creator in so doing, and, by their example, say that the six days are too precious for them to spend in resting. They must make money, although it be by robbing themselves of needed sleep, which they make up by sleeping away holy time. They then excuse themselves by saying: “The Sabbath was given for a day of rest. I will not deprive myself of rest to attend meeting, for I need rest.” Such make a wrong use of the sanctified day.12

Therefore, part of one’s Sabbath preparation should be ensuring that one’s weekly schedule is not so hectic that there is no energy left for God on His holy day. On Sabbath, one should not nap in the pews13 but should actively participate and serve at church.14


Preparing for the Sabbath

Friday is traditionally known as “preparation day” for the Sabbath. Before the sun sets, all tasks should be meticulously completed. The children’s Sabbath clothes should be laid out in advance, “so that they can dress quietly, without any confusion or rushing about and hasty speeches.”15

See that all the clothing is in readiness and that all the cooking is done. Let the boots be blacked and the baths be taken. It is possible to do this. If you make it a rule you can do it. The Sabbath is not to be given to the repairing of garments, to the cooking of food, to pleasure seeking, or to any other worldly employment. Before the setting of the sun let all secular work be laid aside and all secular papers be put out of sight.16

In addition, one must be spiritually prepared as well: “All differences between brethren, whether in the family or in the church, should be put away. Let all bitterness and wrath and malice be expelled from the soul.”17 On Friday evening, open the Sabbath with a time of devotion: “Before the setting of the sun, let the members of the family assemble to read God’s Word, to sing and pray. There is need of reform here, for many have been remiss.”18


Observing the day

On Sabbath morning, the family is wise to rise early:

“If they rise late, there is confusion and bustle in preparing for breakfast and Sabbath school. There is hurrying, jostling, and impatience. Thus unholy feelings come into the home. The Sabbath, thus desecrated, becomes a weariness, and its coming is dreaded rather than loved.”19 

Later, at lunch, one must not over-indulge:

“We should not provide for the Sabbath a more liberal supply or a greater variety of food than for other days. Instead of this the food should be more simple, and less should be eaten, in order that the mind may be clear and vigorous to comprehend spiritual things. Overeating be fogs the brain…By overeating on the Sabbath, many have done more than they think to dishonor God.”20 

Also, mind your manners at the lunch table: “Come to the table without levity. Boisterous noise and contention should not be allowed any day of the week; but on the Sabbath all should observe quietness. No loud-toned commands should be heard at any time; but on the Sabbath it is entirely out of place.”21 Moreover, “The fourth commandment is virtually transgressed by conversing upon worldly things or by engaging in light and trifling conversation.”22 After the meal, “We would charge all not to wash their dishes on the Sabbath if this can possibly be avoided. God is dishonored by any unnecessary work done on His holy day.”23

Mrs. White encourages spending Sabbath time praying, reading Scripture or devotionals, or enjoying nature—God’s marvelous creation. She recommends that Sabbath outings be close to home, however: “If we desire the blessing promised to the obedient, we must observe the Sabbath more strictly. I fear that we often travel on this day when it might be avoided…we should be more careful about traveling on the boats or cars on this day.”24 While specific distance is not mentioned, she says elsewhere, “You should not rob God of one hour of holy time.”25

Also, do not let your children break the Sabbath: “Pleasure seeking, ball playing, swimming, was not a necessity, but a sinful neglect of the sacred day sanctified by Jehovah.”26 Play of any sort is forbidden. “When you suffer your children to play upon the Sabbath, God looks upon you as a commandment breaker. You transgress His Sabbath."27 Sabbath family time should focus on telling children about Jesus and “the reason for the institution of the Sabbath.”28

Sabbath should close with another time of devotion. As the sun sets, “let the voice of prayer and the hymn of praise mark the close of the sacred hours, and invite God’s presence through the cares of the week of labor.”29 

Clearly, it is impossible to keep the Sabbath if one does so only partially:

“It is the grossest presumption for mortal man to venture upon a compromise with the Almighty in order to secure his own petty, temporal interests. It is as ruthless a violation of the law to occasionally use the Sabbath for secular business as to entirely reject it; for it is making the Lord’s commandments a matter of convenience.”30

There are exceptions, of course. It is okay for doctors to work on the Sabbath in cases of emergency; however, if they routinely work on the Sabbath, they “do not honor God.”31 Mrs. White was also aware of the pressure on medical students. However, she exhorted them (and all students) not to study on the Sabbath: “Some have gone through the medical course and have remained true to principle. They would not continue their studies on the Sabbath, and they have proved that men may become qualified for the duties of a physician…”32


Dear Adventist

Remember, the world is watching you and judging you by how you live out your faith! “A partial observance of the Sabbath law is not accepted by the Lord and has a worse effect upon the minds of sinners than if you made no profession of being a Sabbathkeeper. They perceive that your life contradicts your belief, and lose faith in Christianity.”33 Remember also: “Every time you put your hands to labor on the Sabbath day, you virtually deny your faith.”34 As Adventists, you believe that you alone received the “Sabbath truth” after Christianity mysteriously lost it almost 2000 years ago. Remember, therefore, “No one who disregards the fourth commandment, after becoming enlightened concerning the claims of the Sabbath, can be held guiltless in the sight of God.”35 

Sabbath-keeping is non-negotiable for professing Adventists. These quotes from Mrs. White should clarify how one may live with integrity while being truly Adventist. †



  1. Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, p. 356.4.
  2. Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 75.4.
  3. Ibid., Vol. 8, p. 117.3.
  4. Counsels for the Church, p. 268.5 See also Ibid., p. 268.2.
  5. Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2, p. 702.
  6. Ibid., p. 584.2.
  7. Ibid., p. 585.1.
  8. Child Guidance, p. 530.1.
  9. Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2, p. 701.3.
  10. Ibid., Vol. 6, p. 356.1.
  11. Child Guidance, p. 530.1, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, p. 362.1.
  12. Counsels for the Church, p. 270.4.
  13. Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6., p. 361.4.
  14. Ibid., p. 362.2.
  15. Child Guidance, p. 528.4.
  16. Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6., p. 355.3.
  17. Ibid., p. 356.2.
  18. Child Guidance, p. 529.1.
  19. Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6., p. 357.1.
  20. Ibid., p. 357.2.
  21. Selected Messages, Bk. 3, p. 257.4.
  22. Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2, p. 702.1.
  23. Selected Messages, Bk. 3, p. 258.4.
  24. Counsels for the Church, p. 267.6.
  25. Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2, p. 701.3.
  26. Selected Messages, Bk. 3, p. 258.3.
  27. Ibid., p. 257.3.
  28. Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, p. 358.2.
  29. Child Guidance, p. 536.3.
  30. Counsels for the Church, p. 269.2.
  31. Counsels on Health, p. 368.2.
  32. Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, p. 447.3.
  33. Ibid., Vol. 4, p. 248.1.
  34. Ibid., p. 250.2.
  35. Ibid. p. 247.3.

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