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Posts tagged ‘Biblical Sabbath’

Remember the Sabbath?.


by Dan Miller

In the “busyness” of modern life, I fear we have lost the rhythm between activity and rest. “I am so busy.” We say this as a badge of honor, as if our exhaustion were a trophy, and our ability to withstand 70 hour weeks a mark of real character. We convince ourselves that the busier we are, the more we are accomplishing and the more important we must be. Sunday services are interrupted with “important” texts and reminders of work and appointments – even that afternoon. But is this really the way it has to be? Does more activity really mean more accomplishment? To be unavailable to friends and family, to miss the sunsets and the full moons, to blast through all our obligations without time for taking a deep breath – this has become the model of a successful life.

Unfortunately, because we do not rest, we lose our way. Instead of BECOMING more, we are just DOING more. We base our value on what we can do, rather than on who we are. Are you making time for healthy “breathing” in your life? Our technologies make us available 24/7 to the demands of our work – if we allow it. If you exhale without having time to inhale, you will turn blue and pass out.

Embrace Sabbath days and times in your life. Wisdom, peace, creativity and contentment will grow in those times. Take a walk, give thanks for simple things, bless your children, take a bath with music and candles, turn off the telephone, pager, TV and computer – carve out those times for restoration and spiritual breathing.

Recently, on a Sunday night we had a violent storm here in Franklin, TN. Our power was out all day Monday. No Internet, no air conditioning, no TV or radio. So my wife Joanne, our son Jared and I spent the day cleaning up trees, talking to the neighbors and going out for lunch. An unexpected Sabbath.

I am fortunate to work in an environment where I see rabbits, guineas, woodpeckers, lightening, clouds, and neighbors. It’s difficult for me to find a refreshing pause in the midst of concrete, asphalt and honking horns. My work setting is the result of having a clear goal and a plan of action. I know what works for me. Have you been able to find the work that provides a balance of “being” and “doing?”

From the Bible:

“Remember to observe the Sabbath as a holy day. Six days a week are for your daily duties and your regular work, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest before the Lord your God. On that day you are to do no work of any kind, nor shall your son, daughter, or slaves – whether men or women – or your cattle of your house guests. For in six days the Lord made the heaven, earth, and sea, and everything in them and rested the seventh day; so He blessed the Sabbath day and set it aside for rest.” Exodus 20: 8-11 (TLB)

Direction for Today:

How can you unplug your “doing” and enhance your “being” today?

The sweet life…


“There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord.”
-Leviticus 23:3

Sabbath is a treasure. It’s mentioned in one of the Ten Commandments. Yet, the spirit of Sabbath, in a way, has been lost. Genesis chapter one tells us that even God rested on the seventh day. And did you know that the last day of that very week is the first day for all of humankind?

The day we rest is the beginning of our week. Yet, many of us think that, well, I work hard all week, and then the Sabbath (or the weekend) is my reward for hard work. But that is not at all how the week is laid out and that is not at all the concept of Sabbath.

Let me ask you this: What is the first day of the week? I’m hearing Monday. But that’s not true. Sunday is the first day of the week. Sunday, the Sabbath, is the way the week begins, not ends. Everything we do is meant to come from a place of rest, reflection, and connection with God.

We work hard, work hard, work hard, and then take whatever time is left over. We think that’s our reward for working hard. No. Begin with rest, begin with worship, begin with prayer, begin with reflection, and the rest of your week will be blessed. You’ll have a spirit of rest – not just on Sundays, but all week long. And you’ll be a kinder person, you’ll be a smarter person, you’ll be a happier person, and life will taste just so much sweeter.

Prayer: Dear Lord, why do I fight your perfect plan? One day of rest each week focusing only on you is not an inconvenience but a treasure. I will do my best to change my hurry-habit, slow down, and make one special day to rest in you. Amen.

Reflection: What would you change to spend more time resting in the Lord?.

By POSITIVE MINUTES.

A life-giving day…


By Bobby Schuller, Hour of Power Pastor

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God…”
– Exodus 20:8-10a

In many parts of the world, the importance of the Sabbath has diminished over the years. Many people view the Sabbath as our reward for a week of hard work. To some, this is Sunday, and to others, this is the weekend. So you work really hard, you toil, you struggle, and then you have the weekend.

The Christian worldview of Sabbath is that the first day of the week is Sunday. This is where your week begins with rest and reverence. Your work, then, comes out of this very special place of respite, reflection, worship, and prayer so that you’re energized and inspired to work for the purpose of glorifying God.

Those are two very different attitudes. One says that I’m going to work at a job I hate so that when the weekend comes around, I get my reward, which is to rest and play. The Christian view is that I won’t begin my week with work. I begin my week with rest, reflection, reverence, and prayer so that everything I do, morning to night, has a tinge of worship and sacredness to it. Everything I do is life giving.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I want my weekend, my Sunday, my Sabbath day to be only about worshipping and connecting with you. Amen.

Reflection: How do you spend your Sabbath day each week? How will you change what you’re currently doing after reading this devotion?

The Sabbath………….


He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. – Mark 2:27

The Sabbath was not made for man merely as an arbitrary law which he must observe. It is as much a law of his nature, or in harmony with his nature, as is the night which bids him cease his toil and seek rest and sleep. It was made for man’s physical nature. It has been proved many times that the body needs the Sabbath. Then it was made for man’s spiritual good, to give opportunity, not alone for physical rest, but for communion with God, when the noise of business and of toil has ceased. It was made for man to promote his welfare in every regard. All history proves that the Sabbath is a blessing wherever it is observed, and that its violation always brings loss and suffering.

Our Lord clearly showed by His example and teaching that the Sabbath is never meant to be a burden or to work oppressively. Though secular work is forbidden on the Sabbath, it is not a violation of the sacredness of the day for us to prepare food sufficient to meet the hunger of our bodies, or to lift out of a pit a beast that has fallen into it, or to heal a man who is sick. There is no great need in these days to say much on this side of the question. Not many people are now disposed to make the Sabbath a burden or a cruel yoke. The tendency is the other way.

At the same time it is well to understand just what our Lord taught on this subject. He never sought to make the Sabbath oppressive or a burden. Works of necessity are allowed, even though they may seem to violate the letter of the law. So also are works of mercy, works of benevolence. It will be hard, however, to get out of this great saying of our Lord any excuse for running railway trains, for keeping stores open, or for the hundredth part of the secular going-on that men want to bring in under the shield of Christ‘s teaching.

By Vine.


Bible In A Year: April 11th…

By Book Old Testament New Testament Proverbs & Psalms
1 Kings 16-18 Deuteronomy 15-16 Luke 13:31-14:14 Psalm 44:1-12

Is the Sabbath Still Required for Christians?.


EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an excerpt from 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law by Thomas R. Schreiner (Kregel Academic & Professional).

Believers today continue to dispute whether the Sabbath is required. The Sabbath was given to Israel as a covenant sign, and Israel was commanded to rest on the seventh day. We see elsewhere in the Old Testament that covenants have signs, so that the sign of the Noahic covenant is the rainbow (Gen. 9:8-17) and the sign of the Abrahamic covenant is circumcision (Gen. 17). The paradigm for the Sabbath was God’s rest on the seventh day of creation (Gen. 2:1-3). So, too, Israel was called upon to rest from work on the seventh day (Exod. 20:8-11; 31:12-17). What did it mean for Israel not to work on the Sabbath? Figure 5 lists the kinds of activities that were prohibited and permitted.

The Sabbath was certainly a day for social concern, for rest was mandated for all Israelites, including their children, slaves, and even animals (Deut. 5:14). It was also a day to honor and worship the Lord. Special burnt offerings were offered to the Lord on the Sabbath (Num. 28:9-10). Psalm 92 is a Sabbath song that voices praise to God for his steadfast love and faithfulness. Israel was called upon to observe the Sabbath in remembrance of the Lord’s work in delivering them as slaves from Egyptian bondage (Deut. 5:15). Thus, the Sabbath is tied to Israel’s covenant with the Lord, for it celebrates her liberation from slavery. The Sabbath, then, is the sign of the covenant between the Lord and Israel (Exod. 31:12-17; Ezek. 20:12-17). The Lord promised great blessing to those who observed the Sabbath (Isa. 56:2, 6; 58:13-14). Breaking the Sabbath command was no trivial matter, for the death penalty was inflicted upon those who intentionally violated it (Exod. 31:14-15; 35:2; Num. 15:32-36), though collecting manna on the Sabbath before the Mosaic law was codified did not warrant such a punishment (Exod. 16:22-30). Israel regularly violated the Sabbath—the sign of the covenant—and this is one of the reasons the people were sent into exile (Jer. 17:21-27; Ezek. 20:12-24).

FIGURE 5A: WORK PROHIBITED ON THE SABBATH 

Kindling a fire                  Exod. 35:3
Gathering manna              Exod. 16:23-29
Selling goods                   Neh. 10:31; 13:15-22
Bearing burdens              Jer. 17:19-27

FIGURE 5B: ACTIVITIES PERMITTED ON THE SABBATH 

Military campaigns          Josh. 6:15; 1 Kings 20:29; 2 Kings 3:9
Marriage feasts               Judg. 14:12-18
Dedication feasts            1 Kings 8:65; 2 Chron. 7:8-9
Visiting a man of God     2 Kings 4:23
Changing temple guards  2 Kings 11:5-9
Preparing showbread and putting it out   1 Chron. 9:32
Offering sacrifices           1 Chron. 23:31; Ezek. 46:4-5
Duties of priests and Levites  2 Kings 11:5-9; 2 Chron. 23:4, 8
Opening the east gate      Ezek. 46:1-3

During the Second Temple period, views of the Sabbath continued to de­velop. It is not my purpose here to conduct a complete study. Rather, a number of illustrations will be provided to illustrate how seriously Jews took the Sab­bath. The Sabbath was a day of feasting and therefore a day when fasting was not appropriate (Jdt. 8:6; 1 Macc. 1:39, 45). Initially, the Hasmoneans refused to fight on the Sabbath, but after they were defeated in battle they changed their minds and began to fight on the Sabbath (1 Macc. 2:32-41; cf. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 12.274, 276-277). The author of Jubilees propounds a rig­orous view of the Sabbath (Jubilees 50:6-13). He emphasizes that no work should be done, specifying a number of tasks that are prohibited (50:12-13). Fasting is prohibited since the Sabbath is a day for feasting (50:10, 12). Sexual relations with one’s wife also are prohibited (50:8), though offering the sacri­fices ordained in the law are permitted (50:10). Those who violate the Sabbath prescriptions should die (50:7, 13). The Sabbath is eternal, and even the angels keep it (2:17-24). Indeed, the angels kept the Sabbath in heaven before it was established on earth (2:30). All Jewish authors concur that God commanded Israel to literally rest, though it is not surprising that Philo thinks of it as well in terms of resting in God (Sobriety, 1:174) and in terms of having thoughts of God that are fitting (Special Laws, 2:260). Philo also explains the number seven symbolically (Moses, 2:210).

The Qumran community was quite strict regarding Sabbath observance, maintaining that the right interpretation must be followed (CD 6:18; 10:14-23). Even if an animal falls into a pit it should not be helped on the Sabbath (CD 11:13-14), something Jesus assumes is permissible when talking to the Pharisees (Matt. 12:11). In the Mishnah thirty-nine different types of work are prohibited on the Sabbath (m. Shabbat 7:2).

I do not believe the Sabbath is required for believers now that the new covenant has arrived in the person of Jesus Christ. I should say, first of all, that it is not my purpose to reiterate what I wrote about the Sabbath in the Gospels since the Sabbath texts were investigated there. Here it is my purpose to pull the threads together in terms of the validity of the Sabbath for today. Strictly speaking, Jesus does not clearly abolish the Sabbath, nor does he violate its stipulations. Yet the focus on regulations that is evident in Jubilees, Qumran, and in the Mishnah is absent in Jesus’ teaching. He reminded his hearers that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Some sectors of Judaism clearly had lost this perspective, so that the Sabbath had lost its humane dimension. They were so consumed with rules that they had forgotten mercy (Matt. 12:7). Jesus was grieved at the hardness of the Phari­sees’ hearts, for they lacked love for those suffering (Mark 3:5).

Jesus’ observance of the Sabbath does not constitute strong evidence for its continuation in the new covenant. His observance of the Sabbath makes excellent sense, for he lived under the Old Testament law. He was “born under the law” as Paul says (Gal. 4:4). On the other hand, a careful reading of the Gospel accounts intimates that the Sabbath will not continue to play a significant role. Jesus proclaims as the Son of Man that he is the “lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). The Sabbath does not rule over him, but he rules over the Sabbath. He is the new David, the Messiah, to whom the Sabbath and all the Old Testament Scriptures point (Matt. 12:3-4). Indeed, Jesus even claimed in John 5:17 that he, like his Father, works on the Sabbath. Working on the Sabbath, of course, is what the Old Testament prohibits, but Jesus claimed that he must work on the Sabbath since he is equal with God (John 5:18).

It is interesting to consider here the standpoint of the ruler of the syna­gogue in Luke 13:10-17. He argued that Jesus should heal on the other six days of the week and not on the Sabbath. On one level this advice seems quite reasonable, especially if the strict views of the Sabbath that were common in Judaism were correct. What is striking is that Jesus deliberately healed on the Sabbath. Healing is what he “ought” (dei) to do on the Sabbath day (Luke 13:16). It seems that he did so to demonstrate his superiority to the Sabbath and to hint that it is not in force forever. There may be a suggestion in Luke 4:16-21 that Jesus fulfills the Jubilee of the Old Testament (Lev. 25). The rest and joy anticipated in Jubilee is fulfilled in him, and hence the rest and feasting of the Sabbath find their climax in Jesus.

We would expect the Sabbath to no longer be in force since it was the covenant sign of the Mosaic covenant, and, as I have argued elsewhere in this book, it is clear that believers are no longer under the Sinai covenant. There­fore, they are no longer bound by the sign of the covenant either. The Sabbath, as a covenant sign, celebrated Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, but the Exodus points forward, according to New Testament writers, to redemption in Christ. Believers in Christ were not freed from Egypt, and hence the covenant sign of Israel does not apply to them.

It is clear in Paul’s letters that the Sabbath is not binding upon believers. In Colossians Paul identifies the Sabbath as a shadow along with requirements regarding foods, festivals, and the new moon (Col. 2:16-17). The Sabbath, in other words, points to Christ and is fulfilled in him. The word for “shadow” (skia) that Paul uses to describe the Sabbath is the same term the author of Hebrews used to describe Old Testament sacrifices. The law is only a “shadow (skia) of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities” (Heb. 10:1). The argument is remarkably similar to what we see in Colossians: both contrast elements of the law as a shadow with the “substance” (sōma, Col. 2:17) or the “form” (eikona, Heb. 10:1) found in Christ. Paul does not denigrate the Sabbath. He salutes its place in salvation history, for, like the Old Testament sacrifices, though not in precisely the same way, it prepared the way for Christ. I know of no one who thinks Old Testament sacrifices should be instituted today; and when we compare what Paul says about the Sabbath with such sacrifices, it seems right to conclude that he thinks the Sabbath is no longer binding.

Some argue, however, that “Sabbath” in Colossians 2:16 does not refer to the weekly Sabbaths but only to sabbatical years. But this is a rather des­perate expedient, for the most prominent day in the Jewish calendar was the weekly Sabbath. We know from secular sources that it was the observance of the weekly Sabbath that attracted the attention of Gentiles (Juvenal, Sat­ires 14.96-106; Tacitus, Histories 5.4). Perhaps sabbatical years are included here, but the weekly Sabbath should not be excluded, for it would naturally come to the mind of both Jewish and Gentile readers. What Paul says here is remarkable, for he lumps the Sabbath together with food laws, festivals like Passover, and new moons. All of these constitute shadows that anticipate the coming of Christ. Very few Christians think we must observe food laws, Passover, and new moons. But if this is the case, then it is difficult to see why the Sabbath should be observed since it is placed together with these other matters.

Another crucial text on the Sabbath is Romans 14:5: “One person es­teems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” In Romans 14:1-15:6 Paul mainly discusses food that some—almost certainly those influenced by Old Testament food laws—think is defiled. Paul clearly teaches, in contrast to Leviticus 11:1-44 and Deuteronomy 14:3-21, that all foods are clean (Rom. 14:14, 20) since a new era of redemptive history has dawned. In other words, Paul sides theologically with the strong in the argument, believing that all foods are clean. He is concerned, however, that the strong avoid injuring and damaging the weak. The strong must respect the opinions of the weak (Rom. 14:1) and avoid arguments with them. Apparently the weak were not insisting that food laws and the observance of days were necessary for salvation, for if that were the case they would be proclaiming another gospel (cf. Gal. 1:8-9; 2:3-5; 4:10; 5:2-6), and Paul would not tolerate their viewpoint. Probably the weak believed that one would be a stronger Christian if one kept food laws and observed days. The danger for the weak was that they would judge the strong (Rom. 14:3-4), and the danger for the strong was that they would de­spise the weak (Rom. 14:3, 10). In any case, the strong seem to have had the upper hand in the Roman congregations, for Paul was particularly concerned that they not damage the weak.

Nevertheless, a crucial point must not be overlooked. Even though Paul watches out for the consciences of the weak, he holds the viewpoint of the strong on both food laws and days. John Barclay rightly argues that Paul subtly (or not so discreetly!) undermines the theological standpoint of the weak since he argues that what one eats and what days one observes are a matter of no concern.1 The Old Testament, on the other hand, is clear on the matter. The foods one eats and the days one observes are ordained by God. He has given clear commands on both of these issues. Hence, Paul’s argument is that such laws are no longer valid since believers are not under the Mosaic covenant. Indeed, the freedom to believe that all days are alike surely includes the Sabbath, for the Sabbath naturally would spring to the mind of Jewish readers since they kept the Sabbath weekly.

Paul has no quarrel with those who desire to set aside the Sabbath as a special day, as long as they do not require it for salvation or insist that other believers agree with them. Those who esteem the Sabbath as a special day are to be honored for their point of view and should not be despised or ridiculed. Others, however, consider every day to be the same. They do not think that any day is more special than another. Those who think this way are not to be judged as unspiritual. Indeed, there is no doubt that Paul held this opinion, since he was strong in faith instead of being weak. It is crucial to notice what is being said here. If the notion that every day of the week is the same is accept­able, and if it is Paul’s opinion as well, then it follows that Sabbath regulations are no longer binding. The strong must not impose their convictions on the weak and should be charitable to those who hold a different opinion, but Paul clearly has undermined the authority of the Sabbath in principle, for he does not care whether someone observes one day as special. He leaves it entirely up to one’s personal opinion. But if the Sabbath of the Old Testament were still in force, Paul could never say this, for the Old Testament makes incredibly strong statements about those who violate the Sabbath, and the death penalty is even required in some instances. Paul is living under a different dispensa­tion, that is, a different covenant, for now he says it does not matter whether one observes one day out of seven as a Sabbath.

Some argue against what is defended here by appealing to the creation order. As noted above, the Sabbath for Israel is patterned after God’s creation of the world in seven days. What is instructive, however, is that the New Tes­tament never appeals to Creation to defend the Sabbath. Jesus appealed to the creation order to support his view that marriage is between one man and one woman for life (Mark 10:2-12). Paul grounded his opposition to women teaching or exercising authority over men in the creation order (1 Tim. 2:12-13), and homosexuality is prohibited because it is contrary to nature (Rom. 1:26-27), in essence, to God’s intention when he created men and women. Similarly, those who ban believers from eating certain foods and from mar­riage are wrong because both food and marriage are rooted in God’s good creation (1 Tim. 4:3-5). We see nothing similar with the Sabbath. Never does the New Testament ground it in the created order. Instead, we have very clear verses that say it is a “shadow” and that it does not matter whether believers observe it. So, how do we explain the appeal to creation with reference to the Sabbath? It is probably best to see creation as an analogy instead of as a ground. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant, and since the cov­enant has passed away, so has the covenant sign.

Now it does not follow from this that the Sabbath has no significance for believers. It is a shadow, as Paul said, of the substance that is now ours in Christ. The Sabbath’s role as a shadow is best explicated by Hebrews, even if Hebrews does not use the word for “shadow” in terms of the Sabbath. The author of Hebrews sees the Sabbath as foreshadowing the eschatological rest of the people of God (Heb. 4:1-10). A “Sabbath rest” still awaits God’s people (v. 9), and it will be fulfilled on the final day when believers rest from earthly labors. The Sabbath, then, points to the final rest of the people of God. But since there is an already-but-not-yet character to what Hebrews says about rest, should believers continue to practice the Sabbath as long as they are in the not-yet?2 I would answer in the negative, for the evidence we have in the New Testament points in the contrary direction. We remember that the Sab­bath is placed together with food laws and new moons and Passover in Colos­sians 2:16, but there is no reason to think that we should observe food laws, Passover, and new moons before the consummation. Paul’s argument is that believers now belong to the age to come and the requirements of the old cov­enant are no longer binding.

Does the Lord’s Day, that is, Christians worshiping on the first day of the week, constitute a fulfillment of the Sabbath? The references to the Lord’s Day in the New Testament are sparse. In Troas believers gathered “on the first day of the week . . . to break bread” and they heard a long message from Paul (Acts 20:7). Paul commands the Corinthians to set aside money for the poor “on the first day of every week” (1 Cor. 16:2). John heard a loud voice speaking to him “on the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). These scattered hints suggest that the early Christians at some point began to worship on the first day of the week. The practice probably has its roots in the resurrection of Jesus, for he appeared to his disciples “the first day of the week” (John 20:19). All the Synoptics emphasize that Jesus rose on the first day of the week, i.e., Sunday: “very early on the first day of the week” (Mark 16:2; cf. Matt. 28:1; Luke 24:1). The fact that each of the Gospels stresses that Jesus was raised on the first day of the week is striking. But we have no indication that the Lord’s Day func­tions as a fulfillment of the Sabbath. It is likely that gathering together on the Lord’s Day stems from the earliest church, for we see no debate on the issue in church history, which is quite unlikely if the practice originated in Gentile churches outside Israel. By way of contrast, we think of the intense debate in the first few centuries on the date of Easter. No such debate exists regarding the Lord’s Day.

The early roots of the Lord’s Day are verified by the universal practice of the Lord’s Day in Gentile churches in the second century.3 It is not surprising that many Jewish Christians continued to observe the Sabbath as well. One segment of the Ebionites practiced the Lord’s Day and the Sabbath. Their ob­servance of both is instructive, for it shows that the Lord’s Day was not viewed as the fulfillment of the Sabbath but as a separate day.

Most of the early church fathers did not practice or defend literal Sab­bath observance (cf.Diognetus 4:1) but interpreted the Sabbath eschatologi­cally and spiritually. They did not see the Lord’s Day as a replacement of the Sabbath but as a unique day. For instance, in the Epistle of Barnabas, the Sab­baths of Israel are contrasted with “the eighth day” (15:8), and the latter is described as “a beginning of another world.” Barnabas says that “we keep the eighth day” (which is Sunday), for it is “the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead” (15:9). The Lord’s Day was not viewed as a day in which be­lievers abstained from work, as was the case with the Sabbath. Instead, it was a day in which most believers were required to work, but they took time in the day to meet together in order to worship the Lord.4 The contrast between the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day is clear in Ignatius, when he says, “If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death” (To the Magnesians 9:1). Ignatius, writing about a.d. 110, specifically contrasts the Sabbath with the Lord’s Day, showing that he did not believe the latter replaced the former.5 Bauckham argues that the idea that the Lord’s day replaced the Sabbath is post-Constantinian. Luther saw rest as necessary but did not tie it to Sunday.6 A stricter interpretation of the Sabbath became more common with the Puritans, along with the Seventh-Day Baptists and later the Seventh-Day Adventists.7

SUMMARY

Believers are not obligated to observe the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant and the Sabbath as the covenant sign are no longer applicable now that the new covenant of Jesus Christ has come. Believers are called upon to honor and respect those who think the Sabbath is still mandatory for believers. But if one argues that the Sabbath is required for salvation, such a teaching is contrary to the gospel and should be resisted forcefully. In any case, Paul makes it clear in both Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16-17 that the Sabbath has passed away now that Christ has come. It is wise naturally for believers to rest, and hence one principle that could be derived from the Sabbath is that believers should regularly rest. But the New Testament does not specify when that rest should take place, nor does it set forth a period of time when that rest should occur. We must remember that the early Christians were required to work on Sundays. They worshiped the Lord on the Lord’s Day, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, but the early Christians did not believe the Lord’s Day fulfilled or replaced the Sab­bath. The Sabbath pointed toward eschatological rest in Christ, which be­lievers enjoy in part now and will enjoy fully on the Last Day.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS 

1. What is the strongest argument for continued observance of the Sabbath?

2. What evidence in Paul suggests that the Sabbath is no longer required?

3. How does Hebrews contribute to our theology of the Sabbath?

4. What is the relationship between the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day?

5. What is your view on observing the Sabbath today?

Footnotes:

1. John M. G. Barclay, “‘Do We Undermine the Law?’ A Study of Romans 14.1-15.6,” in Paul and the Mosaic Law, WUNT 89 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1996), 287-308.

2. So Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “A Sabbath Rest Still Awaits the People of God,” in Pressing To­ward the Mark: Essays Commemorating Fifty Years of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, ed. Charles G. Dennison and Richard C. Gamble (Philadelphia: The Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1986), 33-51. Gaffin argues that the rest is only eschatological. I support Andrew Lincoln’s view that it is of an already-but-not-yet character (Andrew T. Lincoln, “Sabbath, Rest, and Eschatology in the New Testament,” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Investigation, ed. D. A. Carson [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982], 197-220).

3. For a detailed discussion of some of the issues raised here, see R. J. Bauckham, “The Lord’s Day,” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Investigation, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 221-50; idem, “Sabbath and Sunday in the Post-Apostolic Church,” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, 257-69.

4. So Bauckham, “Sabbath and Sunday in the Post-Apostolic Church,” 274.

5. Cf. the concluding comments of Bauckham, “The Lord’s Day,” 240.

6. Martin Luther, “How Christians Should Regard Moses,” in Luther’s Works, vol. 35, Word and Sacrament, ed. Helmut T. Lehmann (general editor) and E. Theodore Bachman (Phil­adelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1960), 165.

7. Bauckham’s survey of history is immensely valuable. See Bauckham, “Sabbath and Sunday in the Post-Apostolic Church,” 251-98; idem, “Sabbath and Sunday in the Medieval Church in the West,” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, 299-309; idem, “Sabbath and Sunday in the Protestant Tradition,” in From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, 311-41.

Copyright 2010 Thomas R. Schreiner.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Kregel Publications
P.O. Box 2607
Grand Rapids, MI 49503.

By Thomas R. Schreiner

The World Rushes On.


You shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
Leviticus 23:21

Recommended Reading
Leviticus 23:1-8 ( http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus%2023:1-8&version=NKJV )

We can learn a lot about holidays (or holy days) from Leviticus 23, the chapter in which the Lord builds special festivals and feasts into the calendar of ancient Israel. These special days were for worship, for family, and for rest.

Listen to Today’s Radio Message ( http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/radio.aspx?tid=email_listenedevo )

It says: You shall do no work on it… You shall do no customary work… you shall do no customary work… You shall do no customary work… You shall have a Sabbath-rest… You shall do no customary work… and you shall do no work on that same day… It shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest… (v. 3, 7, 8, 21, 24, 25, 28, 31, 32) and so on throughout the chapter.

While there’s no way to avoid all the pressures of the Christmas season, it shouldn’t be a time of frenzied exhaustion. Sit down in advance and block out quiet zones. Leave some evenings for yourself. Sleep late one day. Go to bed early one night. Take time for tea or coffee with a good book. Stop working. Take time to be holy. Spend time in secret with Jesus alone.

Find rest this Christmas in the Prince of Peace.

Read-Thru-the-Bible
Revelation 6:1-7:17

By David Jeremiah.

Finding Rest for Your Soul.


relaxing woman
(© Invictus999/StockFreeImages.com)

Even in the maddening rush of the 21st century there is stillness available in Christ every day

Jesus said: “‘Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light'” (Matt. 11:28­-30, NIV).

Are you weary and burdened? The Father wants to lead you into His rest, just as He led Israel out of Egypt and into the land of rest (see Jer. 31:32).

He wants to teach you that sabbath is not a day of the week but a state of the soul. To understand the secret of living in a soul-sabbath, we need to examine three Hebrew concepts, which are ingredients of an uninterrupted inner tranquillity: sabbath, rest and peace.

The first mention of sabbath is in Genesis 2:1­3. In his book, The Five Books of Moses (Random House/Schocken Books), author and Hebrew scholar Everett Fox offered this translation:

“Thus were finished the heavens and the earth, with all of their array. God had finished, on the seventh day, his work that he had made, and then he ceased, on the seventh day, from all his work that he had made. God gave the seventh day his blessing, and he hallowed it, for on it he ceased from all his work, that by creating, God had made.”

The Hebrew word that Fox translated “ceased” is the word shabath. The word in English is “sabbath.”

In most of our translations, the word has been rendered “rest.” In Genesis 2:2, then, we find that God “sabbathed.”

Several words here describe how God sabbathed: “finished,” “ceased” and “hallowed.” Notice that Fox translated shabath as “ceased” rather than “rested.” This is truer to its meaning.

According to Spiros Zodhiates in his book The Complete Word Study Dictionary (AMB Publishers), the Hebrew word most often used for “rest” is the word menuha, which means a settled, deep stillness. Menuha is the sabbath-rest we seek.

At the first mention of shabath, we find that God completed His work of creating, and that He hallowed or sanctified the day because of its significance to Him. God’s rest, not humankind’s rest, identifies the Sabbath.

We can plausibly speculate with the ancient rabbis, who teach that on this first Sabbath God deliberately created for His people the gift of menuha–“rest.” We can be at rest because God did the work.

When He set Adam and Eve in the garden, the place was a finished work. It was complete–a land of rest.

God had another gift for His creation, the gift of shalom, a Hebrew word usually translated in English as “peace.” Zodhiates says shalom also means total well-being.

The term conveys wholeness and health in body and soul; to be complete. Shalom and shabath are related, and both suggest the meaning of “finished.”

Scripture records in Exodus 20:10­11, for example, that God rested on the seventh day because He was finished with all of His work. He sabbathed; He ceased. The word “sabbath” means to be finished, to have completed the work.

God created for six days, and on the seventh day He began a sabbath that was to last forever. God’s work has been in a finished state, completed since day seven.

When was the Lamb slain? Before the world began (see Rev. 13:8).

When was the kingdom prepared for believers? Before the world began (see Matt. 25:34). All of God’s work was finished, and so He sabbathed (see Gen. 2:3).

Yet Jesus stated, “‘My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working'” (John 5:17). At one level–the spiritual realm–God’s work is finished. The work that remains is to release the reality of His finished work in the material realm in the fullness of time (see 2 Tim. 1:9­10).

For example, grace was given to us before the beginning of time. But God revealed His grace in Christ’s coming to earth.

Sabbath Shadows
God’s finished work will be revealed on the earth at its appointed moment. But He has provided natural laws and principles in His Word that help us to interpret spiritual realities. Note these examples:

The Sabbath Day. God established the Sabbath, the seventh day of each week, to be set aside for rest from work and for delighting in the Lord. The Sabbath observance is a day on which His people are to mimic His rest.

We are to enter into peaceful tranquillity, the perpetual state of the Father. The observance of the Sabbath-rest is beneficial to the physical world and provides for its optimum functioning.

But the physical and mental rest of the Sabbath observance is only a shadow of the real rest and soul-sabbath that God has made available to His people. Again, sabbath is not ultimately a day of the week, but a state of the soul.

The Land of Rest. The next shadow-figure of sabbath-rest is the promised land. Earth began as a land of rest but became a place of labor, turmoil and death because of the entrance of sin.

When God promised His people a land of their own, He called it a land of rest (menuha). Part of the gift of land was the gift of rest. “Come into Canaan. Here, I will give you rest,” is essentially the invitation of Yahweh to His people (see Deut. 12:8­10).

The promised land, the land of Canaan, the homeland, was to be a land of physical and soul rest. But when the nation of Israel refused to enter the land because of fear, God said of them: “‘For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known My ways.’ So I declared on oath in My anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest'” (Ps. 95:10­11).

Thus, we have sabbath (God’s rest), celebrated and remembered by a weekly observance and represented by a land. Sabbath is God’s rest into which His people may enter.

Canaan in the material realm is a geographical location; in the spiritual realm, it is Jesus Himself. The promised land is the shadow of the Promised One.

The writer of Hebrews connected these pictures of rest, making them one thought: sabbath, Canaan, God’s rest, and Jesus (see 3:16-4:10). He reminded his readers of “the rebellion” or “the testing” when the Israelites complained against God and Moses because there was no water. Having seen God provide miraculously for their every single need, they still did not trust God to meet their new needs as they arose.

God swore that this generation would never enter His rest (Canaan). The Israelites did not experience the rest of Canaan because they trusted their own perceptions more than they trusted God’s Word.

In Hebrews 3:7-19 4:11, the author moves the analogy to the present, in essence warning readers: Don’t let the same thing happen to you. You can experience Christ (the real Canaan) if you operate in faith as need enters your life.

The same good news of a promised rest has been given to us. The Israelites’ promise was Canaan; our promise is Jesus.

Just as the Israelites could enter Canaan, we can enter God’s rest. In fact, those who have believed have entered the promised land, the place of rest: Jesus (see Heb. 4:1­11).

God’s own eternal sabbath, based on His finished work, was pictured by Canaan. Jesus is Canaan. Jesus is sabbath. Jesus is rest.

What Sabbath Means for Us
The purpose of the weekly Sabbath observance was to stop everything else and take delight in the Lord. The people of God were to have no other purpose or thought except to enjoy His presence and to give Him pleasure.

I want to challenge you to let your daily time with the Lord be a Sabbath pause, a time to celebrate the relationship you have with Him. The soul-sabbath that He has provided for you in Christ is His sign to you of how deep His love is for you. Let the daily Sabbath pause be your sign to Him of how much you love Him.

You should design your Sabbath pauses according to what is conducive to worship for you. Essentials are your Bible, a prayer journal and a writing utensil.

One of the benefits of a private Sabbath pause is that you can be completely uninhibited in your worship style. Perhaps you will find it refreshing to physically assume some of the following scriptural postures of worship:

Spend this time opening your life fully to the Father. Let these be moments of delighting in the Lord and celebrating His finished work.

Daily Enter His Rest
As you begin your daily sabbath observance, think through how your time will be structured. Each day may flow differently, but I would propose the following structure as a springboard:

Delight. Begin by focusing on the joyful, exuberant and passionate relationship you have with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Sabbath is a sign between you of mutual delight (see Is. 61:10;Zeph. 3:17). His delight in you will cause you to delight in Him.

Discover. “Learn from Me,” Jesus said. As you refresh yourself in His presence, seeking Him and calling to Him, He will announce and explain to you things that were previously hidden from you (seeJer. 33:3).

Distill. As you end your Sabbath pause, take the time to distill the essence of what God has spoken to you. You can count on the fact that God sends His living, active Word into your life and that He has given it an assignment that will be fulfilled in you (Is. 55:10-11).

Your goal is to live in a soul-sabbath. More than an absence of activity, entering into His rest (menuha) means to be a stable, established, composed, quiet, still, tranquil soul.

Sabbath means living our lives in absolute surrender and total trust in what Christ has already done. Not only is the salvation work finished in Him, but every need that comes into our lives has already been provided for; every dilemma has already been resolved; every question has already been answered.

We simply have to place our lives in the flow of His provision. Simply abide in Christ. Simply live where the power is operating.

Faith-born obedience puts us in the land where the soul has continual sabbath-rest. Hear Him say: “Come to Me. You will find rest for your souls.”

Sabbath rest is the promised land where a continual, uninterrupted sabbath awaits you. This is your destiny; it belongs to you. The more you learn of Jesus, the easier it will be to rest in Him.


Jennifer Kennedy Dean is an author and the founder and executive director of The Praying Life Foundation.

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