From the desk of  ...  Preston H. Hazzard, Sr.  ... My Daily Blog    


Our Christian Faith
How is Jesus our Sabbath Rest?
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 7:45am

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Rest from your work one day a week, any day you choose.

MINI BIBLE STUDY FOR THE DAY
In the New Testament, nine of the Ten Commandments were repeated. But not #4. "Honor the Sabbath day".

You think He forgot it? Of course not. As Christians, we are no longer under the law of Moses. Go has given us a New Covenant.

Ten Commandments

  1. Have no other gods.
  2. Have no idols.
  3. Honor God's name.
  4. Honor the Sabbath day.
  5. Honor your parents.
  6. Do not murder.
  7. Do not commit adultery.
  8. Do not steal.
  9. Do not perjure yourself.
  10. Do not covet.

Mark 10:19You know the commandments, "DO NOT MURDER [#6], DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY [#7], DO NOT STEAL [#8], DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS [#9], Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.[#5]"

Luke 18:20  — You know the commandments, "DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY [#7], DO NOT MURDER [#6], DO NOT STEAL [#8], DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS [#9], HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER [#5]."

Romans 13:9  — For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY [#7], YOU SHALL NOT MURDER [#6], YOU SHALL NOT STEAL [#8], YOU SHALL NOT COVET [#10]," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."

The only commandment not repeated was to "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." (Exodus 20:8). The early Christians met on the first day of the week probably because:

  1. Sunday was the day of the Lord's resurrection.
  2. The six post-resurrection appearances were on Sunday.
  3. The Holy Spirit came on Sunday.

Revelation 1:10 called Sunday the Lord's Day. And, in Scripture, the number eight is always used to mean "new beginning," i.e. — eight people on the Ark, etc.

But more than anything, it's not what day you choose to rest that concerns God, it's why you do it in the first place.

"But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." — 1 Samuel 16:7


It is often claimed that “God instituted the Sabbath in Eden” because of the connection between the Sabbath and creation in Exodus 20:11. Although God's rest on the seventh day (Genesis 2:3) did foreshadow a future Sabbath law, there is no biblical record of the Sabbath before the children of Israel left the land of Egypt. Nowhere in Scripture is there any hint that Sabbath-keeping was practiced from Adam to Moses.

Some claim that a mandate by Constantine in A.D. 321 “changed” the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. The idea of a Sunday “Christian Sabbath” is unscriptural. There is one time the Sabbath is mentioned after Paul began to focus on the Gentiles.

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day — things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ." (Colossians 2:16-17).

For all Christians (Jews or Gentiles), the Jewish Sabbath was abolished at the cross.

"When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."  (Colossians 2:13-14).

In the Old Covenant, there was not one day set aside for worship. Sacrifices were made daily at the tabernacle / temple. The “worship” was continual. The idea that the Sabbath day is the God-ordained day of corporate worship is not biblical. OT Scriptures commanded against working on the Sabbath, but say nothing of the Sabbath being the ordained day for worship (Exodus 16:23-29; 31:14-16; 35:2-3; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Nehemiah 13:15-22; Jeremiah 17:21-27)

On what day did the early church meet for worship? Scripture never mentions any Sabbath (Saturday) gatherings by believers for fellowship or worship, except to preach Christ to the Jews. Paul went to the synagogue on the Sabbath because that is when and where people were assembled to hear discussions of Scripture. That is when and where he had a ready-made audience. He went to Jews first, and then to Gentiles, and the best way to preach to Jews would be to go to the synagogues on the day Jews were gathered there.

Paul would use any day of the week to preach about the Savior. His example shows liberty, and nothing about requirements. 

The apostles went to the temple on the Sabbath and preached in synagogues on the Sabbath, but they also met and preached on every other day of the week. Their example is not a command for Christians today.

Paul considered himself under the law of Christ, not under the law of the old covenant.

"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law."  (1 Corinthians 9:19-21).

He was free to observe old covenant customs when with Jews, and he was free to ignore them in other situations. Peter was free to “live like a Gentile,” and Paul was, too. Paul pointed this out to them.

"But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?"  (Galatians 2:14).

(Note: To any of my siblings still under the law in the Armstrongist churches, I would be happy to come anytime to preach the freedom we have as Christians. Call me to schedule a teaching time. ... phh)

Today, we are to obey the commands of Jesus (Matthew 28:20), and Jesus never commanded anyone to rest on the Sabbath.  However, there are clear passages that mention the first day of the week.

Christians have historically held their primary corporate worship services on Sundays, the first day of the week, in celebration of Christ’s resurrection, which occurred on a Sunday (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). It is important to understand, though, that Sunday is not the commanded day of corporate worship either. There is no explicit biblical command that either Saturday or Sunday be the day of worship. Scriptures such as Romans 14:5-6 and Colossians 2:16 give Christians freedom to observe a special day, or to observe every day as special. God’s desire is that we worship and serve Him continually, every day, not just on Saturday or Sunday.

The Word of God makes it quite clear that Sabbath observance was a special sign between God and Israel:The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested” (Exodus 31:16-17). Once the New Covenant was established by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the New Testament nowhere describes Christians setting aside the Sabbath day as the day of worship. The only Scriptures that describe Christians in any sense meeting on the Sabbath are in fact pointing to evangelistic efforts at Jewish synagogues, which met on the Sabbath day. Acts 3:2 records the early Christians meeting every day. The Bereans studied the Scriptures every day (Acts 17:11). Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2 both mention Christians meeting on the first day of the week. There is no evidence in the New Testament that the Apostles or the early Christians in any sense observed the Sabbath day as the prescribed day of worship.

The key to understanding how Jesus is our Sabbath rest is the Hebrew word sabat, which means “to rest or stop or cease from work.” The origin of the Sabbath goes back to Creation. After creating the heavens and the earth in six days, God “rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made” (Genesis 2:2). This doesn’t mean that God was tired and needed a rest. We know that God is omnipotent, literally “all-powerful.” He has all the power in the universe, He never tires, and His most arduous expenditure of energy does not diminish His power one bit. So, what does it mean that God rested on the seventh day? Simply that He stopped what He was doing. He ceased from His labors. This is important in understanding the establishment of the Sabbath day and the role of Christ as our Sabbath rest.

God used the example of His resting on the seventh day of Creation to establish the principle of the Sabbath day rest for His people. In Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15, God gave the Israelites the fourth of His Ten Commandments. They were to “remember” the Sabbath day and “keep it holy.” One day out of every seven, they were to rest from their labors and give the same day of rest to their servants and animals. This was not just a physical rest, but a cessation of laboring. Whatever work they were engaged in was to stop for a full day each week. The Sabbath day was established so the people would rest from their labors, only to begin again after a one-day rest.

The various elements of the Sabbath symbolized the coming of the Messiah, who would provide a permanent rest for His people. Once again the example of resting from our labors comes into play. With the establishment of the Old Testament Law, the Jews were constantly “laboring” to make themselves acceptable to God. Their labors included trying to obey a myriad of do’s and don’ts of the ceremonial law, the Temple law, the civil law, etc. Of course they couldn’t possibly keep all those laws, so God provided an array of sin offerings and sacrifices so they could come to Him for forgiveness and restore fellowship with Him, but only temporarily.

Just as they began their physical labors after a one-day rest, so, too, did they have to continue to offer sacrifices. Hebrews 10:1 tells us that the law “can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.

But these sacrifices were offered in anticipation of the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross, who ”after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right of God” (Hebrews 10:12). Just as He rested after performing the ultimate sacrifice, He sat down and rested—ceased from His labor of atonement because there was nothing more to be done, ever.

Because of what He did, we no longer have to “labor” in law-keeping in order to be justified in the sight of God. Jesus was sent so that we might rest in God and in what He has provided.

Another element of the Sabbath day rest which God instituted as a foreshadowing of our complete rest in Christ is that He blessed it, sanctified it, and made it holy. Here again we see the symbol of Christ as our Sabbath rest—the holy, perfect Son of God who sanctifies and makes holy all who believe in Him. God sanctified Christ, just as He sanctified the Sabbath day, and sent Him into the world (John 10:36) to be our sacrifice for sin. In Him we find complete rest from the labors of our self-effort, because He alone is holy and righteous.God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

We can now cease from our spiritual labors and rest in Him, not just one day a week, but always.

Jesus can be our Sabbath rest in part because He is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8). As God incarnate, He decides the true meaning of the Sabbath because He created it, and He is our Sabbath rest in the flesh. When the Pharisees criticized Him for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus reminded them that even they, sinful as they were, would not hesitate to pull a sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath. Because He came to seek and save His sheep who would hear His voice (John 10:3,27) and enter into the Sabbath rest He provided by paying for their sins, He could break the Sabbath rules. He told the Pharisees that people are more important than sheep and the salvation He provided was more important than rules. By saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), Jesus was restating the principle that the Sabbath rest was instituted to relieve man of his labors, just as He came to relieve us of our attempting to achieve salvation by our works. We no longer rest for only one day, but forever cease our laboring to attain God’s favor. Jesus is our rest from works now, just as He is the door to heaven, where we will rest in Him forever.

Hebrews 4 is the definitive passage regarding Jesus as our Sabbath rest. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts his readers to “enter in” to the Sabbath rest provided by Christ. After three chapters of telling them that Jesus is superior to the angels and that He is our Apostle and High Priest, he pleads with them to not harden their hearts against Him, as their fathers hardened their hearts against Jehovah in the wilderness. Because of their unbelief, God denied that generation access to the holy land, saying, “They shall not enter into My rest” (Hebrews 3:11). In the same way, the writer to the Hebrews begs them—and us—not to make the same mistake by rejecting God’s Sabbath rest in Jesus Christ. “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:9-11).

There is no other Sabbath rest besides Jesus. He alone satisfies the requirements of the Law, and He alone provides the sacrifice that atones for sin. He is God’s plan for us to cease from the labor of our own works. We dare not reject this one-and-only Way of salvation (John 14:6). God’s reaction to those who choose to reject His plan is seen in Numbers 15:32-35. A man was found gathering sticks on the Sabbath day, in spite of God’s plain commandment to cease from all labor on the Sabbath. This transgression was a known and willful sin, done with unblushing boldness in broad daylight, in open defiance of the divine authority. “And Jehovah said to Moses, ‘The man shall surely be put to death’” (v. 35).

So it will be to all who reject God’s provision for our Sabbath rest in Christ. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3).


Belief beyond proof is faith. Belief in spite of proof is folly.

Call or email me if you have questions.


Amen.

Pete, Sr.


Author & Webmaster: Preston H. Hazzard, Sr.
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