THE SABBATH UNDER CROSSFIRE #13
Continued from previous page:
3. The Sabbath in John
In John's Gospel, the relationship between the Sabbath and
Christ's work of salvation is alluded to in two Sabbath miracles:
the healing of the paralytic (John 5:1-18) and of the blind man
(John 9:1-41). The two episodes are examined together since they
are substantially similar. Both healed men had been chronically
ill: one an invalid for 38 years (John 5:5) and the other blind
from birth (John 9:2). In both instances, Christ told the men to
act. To the paralyzed man He said, "Rise, take up your pallet,
and walk" (John 5:8); to the blind man, "Go, wash in the pool of
Siloam" (John 9:7). Both of these actions represent breaking
rabbinical Sabbath laws, and thus both are used by Pharisees to
charge Christ with Sabbath-breaking (John 5:10,16; 9:14-16). In
both instances, Christ repudiated such a charge by arguing that
His works of salvation are not precluded but rather contemplated
by the Sabbath commandment (John 5:17; 7:23; 9:4). Christ's
justification is expressed especially through a memorable
statement: "My Father is working until now and I am working"
(John 5:17; cf. 9:4).
Negation or Clarification of the Sabbath?
What did Christ mean when He formally defended Himself
against the charge of Sabbathbreaking by appealing to the
"working until now" of His Father? Did He use the example of His
Father to rescind the obligation of Sabbathkeeping both for
Himself and for His followers or to clarify its true nature and
meaning? To put it bluntly, does Christ's statement represent a
negation or a clarification of the Sabbath law?
In a previous study I showed that the "working until now" of
the Father and of the Son has historically received three basic
interpretations: (1) continuous creation, (2) continuous care,
and (3) redemptive activities. 66 The exponents of these three
views basically agree in regarding Christ's pronouncement as an
implicit (for some, explicit) annulment of the Sabbath
commandment. Does such a conclusion reflect the legitimate
meaning of the passage or rather arbitrary assumptions which have
been read into the passage? To answer this question and to
understand the significance of Christ's saying, we briefly
examine the role of the adverb "until now" - heos arti, the
meaning of the verb "is working"--ergazetai, and the theological
implications of the passage.
The Adverb "Until Now."
Traditionally, the adverbial phrase "until now" has been
interpreted as the continuous working of God (whether it be in
creation, preservation, or redemption) which allegedly overrides
or rescinds the Sabbath law. But the adverb itself ("until"),
especially as used in Greek in its emphatic position before the
verb, presupposes not constancy but culmination. The latter is
brought out by some translators through the use of the emphatic
form "even until now." 67
This adverbial phrase presupposes a beginning (terminus a
quo) and an end (terminus ad quem). The former is apparently the
initial creation Sabbath (Gen 2:2-3) and the latter the final
Sabbath rest envisaged in a similar Sabbath pronouncement as the
"night ... when no one can work" (9:4). What Jesus is saying,
then, is that though God rested on the Sabbath at the completion
of creation, because of sin He has been "working until now" to
bring the promised Sabbath rest to fruition.
The Verb "Is Working."
The meaning of the verb "is working" until now of the Father
is clarified by John's references to the working and works of God
which are repeatedly and explicitly identified, not with a
continuous divine creation nor with a constant maintenance of the
universe, but with the saving mission of Christ.
Jesus explicitly states: "This is the work of God, that you
believe in him whom he has sent" (John 6:29). And again, "If I am
not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if
I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works,
that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I
am in the Father" (John 10:37,38; cf. 4:34; 14:11; 15:24;).
The redemptive nature of the works of God is evident in the
healing of the blind man since the act is explicitly described as
the manifestation of "the works of God" (John 9:3). This means
then that God ended on the Sabbath His works of creation but not
His working, in general. Because of sin, He has been engaged in
the work of redemption "until now." To use the words of A. T.
Lincoln, one might say, "As regards the work of creation God's
rest was final, but as that rest was meant for humanity to enjoy,
when it was disturbed by sin, God worked in history to accomplish
his original purpose." 68
Christ appeals to the "working" of His Father not to nullify
but to clarify the function of the Sabbath. To understand
Christ's defense, one must remember that the Sabbath is linked
both to creation (Gen 2:2-3; Ex 20:11) and redemption (Deut
5:15). While by interrupting all secular activities the Israelite
was remembering the Creator-God, by acting mercifully toward
fellow-beings he was imitating the Redeemer-God. This was true
not only in the life of the people, in general, who on the
Sabbath were to be compassionate toward the less fortunate, but
especially in the service of the priest who could legitimately
perform on the Sabbath works forbidden to other Israelites,
because such works had a redemptive function.
On the basis of this theology of the Sabbath admitted by the
Jews, Christ defends the legality of the "working" that He and
His Father perform on the Sabbath. In John, Christ appeals to the
example of circumcision to silence the echo of the controversy
over the healing of the paralytic (John 7:22-24). The Lord argues
that if it is legitimate on the Sabbath for the priests to care
for one small part of man's body (according to rabbinic
reckoning, circumcision involved one of man's 248 members) 69 in
order to extend to the newborn child the salvation of the
covenant, 70 there is no reason to be "angry" with Him for
restoring on that day the "whole body of man" (John 7:23).
For Christ, the Sabbath is the day to work for the
redemption of the whole man. This is borne out by the fact that
in both healings, Christ looked for the healed men on the same
day and, having found them, He ministered to their spiritual need
(John 5:14; 9:35-38). Christ's opponents cannot perceive the
redemptive nature of His Sabbath ministry because they "judge by
appearances" (John 7:24). For them, the pallet and the clay are
more important than the social reunion (5:10) and the restoration
of sight (John 9:14) which those objects symbolized. It was
necessary therefore for Christ to act against prevailing
misconceptions in order to restore the Sabbath to its positive
In the Sabbath healing of the blind man recorded in John 9,
Christ extends to His followers the invitation to become links of
the same redemptive chain, saying: "We must work the works of him
who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work"
(v.4). The "night" apparently refers to the conclusion of the
history of salvation, a conclusion which we found implied in the
adverbial phrase "until now." Such a conclusion of divine and
human redemptive activity would usher in the final Sabbath of
which the creation Sabbath was a prototype.
To bring about that final Sabbath, the Godhead "is working"
for our salvation (John 5:17); but "we must work" to extend it to
others (John 9:4).
The foregoing considerations indicate that the two Sabbath
healings reported by John substantiate the redemptive meaning of
the Sabbath we found earlier in Luke and Matthew--namely, a time
to experience and share the blessings of salvation accomplished
4. The Sabbath in Hebrews
The redemptive meaning of the Sabbath we found in the
Gospels is reflected in Hebrews 4:1-11 where the author draws
upon existing eschatological understandings of the Sabbath rest
to relate God's rest of the seventh day of creation (Heb 4:4) to
all the rest and peace God intends to confer on His people. The
discussion of the Sabbath in Hebrews is crucial to our study
because it reveals how Sabbathkeeping was understood and
experienced by the New Testament church.
In Chapter 3, we examined how the Sabbath in Hebrews relates
to the discussion about the Old and New Covenants. At this
juncture, our concern is to establish if the meaning of
Sabbathkeeping in Hebrews reflects the same redemptive meaning of
the Sabbath we have found in the Gospels.
The relationship between the Sabbath and the Savior is
established by the author of Hebrews by linking together Genesis
2:2 with Psalm 95:7,11. By means of these two texts the writer of
Hebrews explains that the Sabbath rest offered at creation (Heb
4:4) was not exhausted when the Israelites under Joshua found a
resting place in Canaan, since God offered again His rest "long
afterwards" through David (Heb 4:7; cf. Ps 95:7). Consequently,
God's promised Sabbath rest still awaited a fuller realization
which has dawned with the coming of Christ (Heb 4:9). It is by
believing in Jesus Christ that God's people can at last
experience ("enter"--Heb 4:3,10,11) the "good news" of God's rest
promised on the "seventh day" of creation (Heb 4:4).
Literal or Figurative Sabbathkeeping?
What inference can be legitimately drawn from this passage
regarding the actual observance and understanding of the Sabbath
among the recipients of Hebrews? The position of the majority of
commentators is that this passage provides no indication that
these "Hebrew" Christians actually observed the Sabbath or that
the author intended to give a Christian interpretation to such an
observance. We find this to be the position of Ratzlaff who
submits five reasons against a literal interpretation of
"sabbatismos--Sabbathkeeping" (Heb 4:9). Since we have already
dealt with Ratzlaff s reasons in chapter 3, at this juncture we
wish to consider three other basic reasons advanced to support a
figurative interpretation of the Sabbath rest in Hebrews.
First, some argue that since the author of Hebrews discusses
not the actual observance of the Sabbath but the permanence and
the fulfillment of its rest through the Christ-event, no
inference can be drawn regarding its literal observance.
Second, some point out that since "the Sabbath rest that
remains for the people of God" (Heb 4:9) is a future realization,
the exhortation to enter God's rest (Heb 4:10, 11) has no
implication for the present observance of the day.
Third, some assume that since the author of Hebrews in a
number of instances indicates that, with the coming of Christ,
certain Old Covenant institutions were made "obsolete" (Heb 8:13;
7:11-9:28), the Sabbath was presumably among those "obsolete"
None of these arguments are convincing. The first argument
fails to recognize that the recipients of the Epistle (whether
Gentiles or Jewish-Christians) were so attracted to Jewish
liturgy (of which the Sabbath was a fundamental part) that it was
unnecessary for the author to discuss or to encourage its actual
observance. What those "Hebrew" Christians actually needed,
tempted as they were to turn back to Judaism 73 was to
understand the meaning of Sabbath observance in the light of
With regards to the second argument, one can hardly say that
in Hebrews the Sabbath rest is viewed primarily as a future
benefit, unrelated to the present observance of the day. The
Sabbath rest that "remains for the people of God" (Heb 4:9) is
presented primarily as a present experience into which those "who
have believed are entering" (Heb 4:3). The verb "are entering"
(Heb 4:3) is in the present tense and, in Greek, is placed first
in the sentence to stress the present reality of this "rest"
experience. The same is true of the verb "remains" (Heb 4:9). If
taken out of context, it could imply a future prospect; but in
its present context, it refers back to the time of Joshua (Heb
4:8) in order to emphasize the present permanence of the Sabbath
rest for God's people.
Obsolete or Remaining?
This leads us to the third argument, which maintains that
the Sabbath is an Old Testament shadow or type of the salvation
rest which Christ has fulfilled and, consequently, its function
terminated with His coming.
Does Hebrews teach that the Sabbath, like the temple and its
services, lived out its function with the coming of Christ? Or
did the Sabbath acquire fresh meaning and function with His
coming? Our study of the Sabbath material of the Gospels shows
that Christ fulfilled the typological and eschatological
Messianic Sabbath rest and release, not by annulling the actual
observance of the day, but by making it a time to experience and
share His accomplished salvation.
Let us now look at what Hebrews has to say on this point.
There is no question that the author clearly teaches that
Christ's coming has brought about "a decisive discontinuity" with
the sacrifical system of the Old Covenant. In chapters 7 to 10,
the writer of Hebrews explains at great length how Christ's
atoning sacrifice and subsequent heavenly ministry have replaced
completely the typological ("copy and shadow"-Heb 8:5) function
of the levitical priesthood and its Temple. These services Christ
"abolished" (Heb 10:9). Thus they are "obsolete" and "ready to
vanish away" (Heb 8:13). But, does the writer of Hebrews place
the Sabbath in the same category, viewing it as one of the
"obsolete" Old Covenant institutions? This is indeed the
conclusion that many have drawn, but it can hardly be supported
by a careful study of the passage.
The "sabbatismos-Sabbath rest" is explicitly and
emphatically presented, not as being "obsolete" like the Temple
and its services, but as being a divine benefit that still
"remains" (Heb 4:9). We noted in Chapter 3 that the verb
"remains--apoleipetai" is a present passive tense which literally
translated means "has been left behind." Thus, literally
translated, Hebrews 4:9 reads as follows: "So then a
Sabbath-keeping has been left behind for the people of God."
The contrast between the Sabbath and the sanctuary services is
obvious. While the latter are "obsolete," the former is "left
behind" and, therefore, is still relevant. A similar contrast is
found in the Gospel of Matthew. There the rending of the Temple
curtain in conjunction with Christ's death (Matt 27:51) indicates
the termination of the Temple services. On the other hand,
Christ's warning about the possibility that the future flight out
of the city might occur on a Sabbath (Matt 24:20) takes for
granted the permanence of its observance.
The exhortation given in verse 11 to "strive to enter that
rest" provides an additional indication of the permanence of the
Sabbath. The fact that one must make an effort "to enter that
rest" implies that the "rest" experience of the Sabbath is not
exhausted in the present but has a future realization also. This
Christian view of the Sabbath rest as representing not only a
present but also a future "rest" experience reflects to a large
extent what we have already found in the Old Testament and in
later Jewish literature. There we noted that the Sabbath was
understood not only as a present experience of personal rest and
liberation from social injustices but also as the anticipation of
the future rest and peace to be realized by the Messiah. Thus, in
his own way, the author of Hebrews reaffirms the Old Testament
understanding of the Sabbath in a fresh Christian settingnamely,
a day to experience the present rest of salvation while looking
forward to the future and final rest in the heavenly Canaan.
Literal or Spiritual Sabbathkeeping?
What is the nature of the "Sabbath rest" that is still
outstanding for God's people (4:9)? Is the writer thinking of a
literal or spiritual type of Sabbathkeeping? The passage provides
two important indications that support a literal understanding of
Sabbathkeeping as a faith response to God. Since we have already
discussed at some length both of these indications in Chapter 3,
we only briefly mention them in this context.
The first indication is the usage of the term "sabbatismos-
Sabbathkeeping" found in Hebrews 4:9. Though the term occurs only
in Hebrews 4:9 in the New Testament, it is used in secular and
Christian literature as a technical term for literal
Sabbathkeeping? 74 Consequently, the usage of
"sabbatismos-Sabbathkeeping" in verse 9 makes it abundantly clear
that the writer of Hebrews is thinking of a literal Sabbath
The second indication is the description of the Sabbath rest
as cessation from work which is found in verse 10: "For whoever
enters God's rest also ceases from his labors as God did from
his" (Heb 4:10). Historically, the majority of commentators have
interpreted the cessation from work of Hebrews 4:10 in a
figurative sense, as "abstention from servile work," meaning
sinful activities. 76 Thus, Christian Sabbathkeeping means not
the interruption of daily work on the seventh day but the
abstention from sinful acts at all times.
In support of this view, appeal is made to Hebrews'
reference to "dead works" (Heb 6:1; 9:14). Such a concept,
however, cannot be read back into Hebrews 4:10 where a comparison
is made between the divine and the human cessation from "works."
It would be absurd to think that God ceased from "sinful deeds."
The point of the analogy, as indicated in Chapter 3, is simply
that as God ceased on the seventh day from His creation work, so
believers are to cease on the same day from their labors.
This is a simple statement of the nature of Sabbathkeeping
which essentially involves cessation from works.
The Meaning of Sabbathkeeping.
Is the author of Hebrews merely encouraging his readers to
interrupt their secular activities on the Sabbath? Considering
the concern of the writer to counteract the tendency of his
readers to adopt Jewish liturgical customs as a means to gain
access to God, he could hardly have emphasized solely the
physical "cessation" aspect of Sabbathkeeping. This aspect yields
only a negative idea of rest, one which would only serve to
encourage existing Judaizing tendencies. Obviously, then, the
author attributes a deeper meaning to the act of resting on the
The deeper meaning can be seen in the antithesis the author
makes between those who failed to enter into God's rest because
of "unbelief-apeitheias" (Heb 4:6,11) - that is, faithlessness
which results in disobedience - and those who enter it by "faith-
pistei" (Heb 4:2,3) - that is, faithfulness that results in
The act of resting on the Sabbath for the author of Hebrews
is not merely a routine ritual (cf. "sacrifice"--Matt 12:7), but
rather a faithresponse to God. Such a response entails not the
hardening of one's heart (Heb 4:7) but the making of oneself
available to "hear his voice" (Heb 4:7). It means experiencing
God's salvation rest not by works but by faith, not by doing but
by being saved through faith (Heb 4:2,3,11). On the Sabbath, as
John Calvin aptly expresses it, believers are "to cease from
their work to allow God to work in them." 77
The Sabbath rest that remains for the people of God (4:9) is
not a mere day of idleness, for the author of Hebrews, but rather
an opportunity renewed every week to enter God's rest - to free
oneself from the cares of work in order to experience freely by
faith God's creation and redemption rest. The Sabbath experience
of the blessings of salvation is not exhausted in the present,
since the author exhorts his readers to "strive to enter that
rest" (Heb 4:11). This dimension of the future Sabbath rest shows
that Sabbathkeeping in Hebrews expresses the tension between the
"already" and the "not yet," between the present experience of
salvation and its eschatological consummation in the heavenly
This expanded interpretation of Sabbathkeeping in the light
of the Christ event was apparently designed to wean Christians
away from a too materialistic understanding of its observance. To
achieve this objective, the author of Hebrews on the one hand
reassures his readers of the permanence of the blessings
contemplated by the Sabbath rest and, on the other hand, explains
that the nature of these blessings consists in experiencing both
a present salvation-rest and the future restoration-rest which
God offers to those "who have believed" (Heb 4:3).
It is evident that for the author of Hebrews, the
Sabbathkeeping that remains for New Covenant Christians is not
only a physical experience of cessation from work on the seventh
day, but also a faith response, a yes "today" response to God. As
Karl Barth eloquently explains it, the act of resting on Sabbath
is an act of resignation to our human efforts to achieve
salvation in order "to allow the omnipotent grace of God to have
the first and last word at every point." 78
Hebrews' interpretation of the Sabbath rest reflects to a large
extent the redemptive understanding of the day we found earlier
in the Gospels. Christ's great promise to have come to offer the
expected sabbatical "release" (Luke 4:18) and "rest" (Matt 11:28)
represents the core of the "Sabbath rest" available "today" to
God's people (Heb 4:7, 9). Similarly, Christ's assurance that He
and His Father are "working until now" (John 5:17) to realize the
final Sabbath rest is reflected in the exhortation to "strive to
enter that rest" (Heb 4:1).
The fact that Hebrews 4 reflects the gospel understanding of
the Sabbath as a time to experience the blessings of salvation,
which will be fully realized at the end of our earthly
pilgrimage, shows that the Sabbath was understood in the
Apostolic Church as a time to celebrate God's creative and
How did New Testament believers observe the Sabbath in the
light of its expanded redemptive meaning derived from Christ's
ministry? Initially, most Christians attended Sabbath services at
the Jewish synagogue (Acts 13:14,43,44; 17:2; 18:4). Gradually,
however, Christians established their own places of worship.
Matthew suggests that the process of separation had already begun
at the time of his writing, because he speaks of Christ entering
"their synagogue" (Matt 12:9). The pronoun "their" suggests that
the Matthean community as a whole no longer shared in Sabbath
services at the Jewish synagogue by the time the Gospel was
written. Presumably, they had organized their own meeting places
of worship by then.
5. The Manner of Sabbathkeeping
The distinction in Sabbathkeeping between Christian and
Jewish communities soon became not only topological but also
theological. The various Sabbath pericopes reported in the
Gospels reflect the existence of an ongoing controversy between
the Christian congregations and the Jewish synagogues which, in
some cases, may have been located across the street from one
another. The controversy centered primarily on the manner of
Sabbathkeeping in the light of Christ's teachings and example.
Was the day to be observed primarily as "sacrifice," that is, as
an outward fulfillment of the Sabbath law? Or was the Sabbath to
be observed as "mercy," that is, as an occasion to show
compassion and do good to those in need? (Matt 12:7).
A Day to Do Good.
To defend the Christian understanding of Sabbathkeeping as a
day to celebrate Messianic redemption by showing "mercy" and
doing "good" to those in need, the Evangelists appeal to the
example and teaching of Jesus. For example, in the healing of the
crippled woman, Luke contrasts two different concepts of
Sabbathkeeping: that of the ruler of the synagogue versus that of
Christ. For the ruler, the Sabbath consisted of rules to obey
rather than people to love (Luke 13:14). For Christ, the Sabbath
was a day to bring physical and spiritual liberation to needy
people (Luke 13:12, 16).
Christ challenged the Ruler's misconception by appealing to
the accepted customs of watering animals on the Sabbath. If the
daily needs of animals could be met on the Sabbath, how much more
the needs of "a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen
years"! Shouldn't she "be loosed from this bond on the sabbath
day?" (Luke 13:16).
This humanitarian understanding of the Sabbath is also
expressed in the episode of the healing of the man with the
withered hand, reported by all the three Synoptics (Mark 3:1-6;
Matt 12:9-14; Luke 6:6-11). In this instance, Jesus responds to
the testing question posed by a deputation of Scribes and
Pharisees regarding the legitimacy of healing on the Sabbath by
asking a question of principle: "Is it lawful on the sabbath, to
do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?" (Mark 3:4; Luke
It is noteworthy that in both Mark and Luke, Christ
substitutes for the verb "to heal" (therapeuein), used in the
question, the verbs "to do good" (agathopoiein) and "to save"
(sozein). The reason for this change is Christ's concern to
include not one type but all kinds of benevolent activities
within the intention of the Sabbath commandment. Such a broad
interpretation of the function of the Sabbath finds no parallel
in rabbinic concessions.
A Day of Benevolent Service.
According to Matthew, Christ illustrated the principle of
Sabbathkeeping as a time of benevolent service by adding a second
question that contains a concrete example: "What man of you, if
he has one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath, will not
lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man
than a sheep!" (Matt 12:11-12). Both by the question of principle
and by its illustration, Christ reveals the original value of the
Sabbath as a day to honor God by showing concern and compassion
for others. The believer who on the Sabbath experiences the
blessing of salvation automatically is moved "to save" and not
"to kill" others.
Christ's accusers, by failing to show concern for the
physical and spiritual well-being of others on the Sabbath,
revealed their defective understanding and experience of God's
Holy Day. Rather than celebrating God's goodness on the Sabbath
by being involved in a saving ministry, they engaged in
destructive efforts, looking for faults and devising methods to
kill Christ (Mark 3:2-6).
The new Christian understanding of the Sabbath as a time of
active, loving service to needy souls, rather than of passive
idleness, represents a radical departure from contemporary Jewish
Sabbathkeeping. This is attested to also in an early document
known as the "Epistle to Diognetus" (dates between A.D. 130-200),
where the Jews are charged with "speaking falsely of God" because
they claim that "He [God] forbade us [Christians] to do what is
good on the Sabbath-day - how is not this impious?" 79 This
positive humanitarian understanding of Sabbathkeeping is rooted
in Christ's fulfillment of the redemptive typology of the
Sabbath, which is brought out in the Gospels.
The preceding study of the relationship between the Sabbath
and the Savior shows that both in the Old and New Testaments the
Sabbath is closely linked to Christ's redemptive mission. In the
Old Testament, various themes - such as Sabbath peace and
prosperity, the Sabbath rest, the Sabbath liberation, and the
sabbatical structure of time - indicate that, in Old Testament
times, the weekly and annual Sabbaths served to epitomize and
nourish the hope of Messianic redemption.
In the New Testament, the coming of Christ is seen as the
actualization, the realization of the redemptive typology of the
Sabbath. Through His redemptive mission, Christ offers to
believers the expected sabbatical "release" (Luke 4:18) and
"rest" (Matt 11:28). In the light of the Cross, the Sabbath
memorializes not only God's creative but also His redemptive
accomplishments for mankind. Thus, "the Sabbath rest that remains
for the people of God" (Heb 4:9) is not only a physical cessation
from work to commemorate God's perfect creation, but also a
spiritual entering into God's rest (Heb 4:10) made possible
through Christ's complete redemption. The physical act of resting
becomes the means through which believers experience the
spiritual rest. We cease from our daily work on the Sabbath to
allow God to work in us more freely and fully.
In the New Testament, the Sabbath is not nullified but
clarified and amplified by Christ's teaching and saving ministry.
Viewing the rest and redemption typified by the Old Testament
Sabbath as realized by Christ's redemptive mission, New Testament
believers regarded Sabbathkeeping as a day to celebrate and
experience the Messianic redemption-rest by showing "mercy" and
doing "good" to those in need. This means that for believers
today, the Sabbath is the day to celebrate not only God's
creation by resting, but also Christ's redemption by acting
mercifully toward others.
In an age when the forces of chaos and disorder increasingly
appear to prevail - when injustice, greed, violence, corruption,
crime, suffering, and death seem to dominate - God through the
Sabbath reassures His people that these destructive forces will
not triumph because "there remains a sabbath rest for the people
of God" (Heb 4:9). Through the Sabbath, God reassures us that He
is in control of this world, working out His ultimate purpose.
God tells us that He conquered chaos at creation, that He has
liberated His people from the bonds of sin and death through the
saving mission of His Son, and that He "is working until now"
(John 5:17) in order to establish a New World where "from sabbath
to sabbath all flesh shall come to worship before God" (Is
66:23). In that final Sabbath, as eloquently expressed by
Augustine, "we shall rest and see, see and love, love and
The second half on Bacchiocchi's book "The Sabbath under
Crossfire" is already uploaded to this Website under "Paul and
Notes to chapter 4 are on the next page.
It is mind-blowing how many arguments people come up with to "do
away with" the FOURTH commandment. I think Samuele Bacchiocchi
and myself have answered just about all of them in the studies
under the Sabbath question on this Website. The 7th day Sabbath
was sanctified and holy from the beginning in the work God did to
create the present world in its physical state. The Sabbaths of
the Lord were a very important part of the type of the Kingdom of
God on earth under the nation of Israel. Jesus in His life time
on earth made it a custom to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath.
He upheld the Sabbath, gave not one word that it was ever going
to be abolished in this New Covenant age. Not one single verse in
the NT says the 4th commandment is abolished or changed from the
7th day to the 1st day of the week. There was never any
"ministerial conference" (like for the issue of physical
circumcision - Acts 15) to debate or officially render the 7th
day Sabbath as obsolete or taken out of the list of the Ten
Commandments or changed to the 1st day of the week.
Those who sit up nights dreaming up ideas to teach people that
the 7th day Sabbath is NOT to be obeyed by Christians today, are
very much in danger of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-20 and
will be on the outside looking in and saying, "But we did this in
your name, and we did works in your name." And Jeuss will look at
them and say, "I do not know you; depart from me you workers of
lawlessness (as the Greek is) - Mat.7:21-23.
You can soon find the Bible definitions of "law" -
"righteousness" - "sin" - "commandments" - "unrighteousness" -
"lawlessness" - by taking some time with Strong's Concordance of
the Bible and looking up every place in the Bible where those
words can be found. Now that is real Bible study work. Why not
put down and stop reading the books on "How to Study the Bible"
by this guy and that fellow, and just do some simple old
fashioned Bible study as mentioned above.
For those with a mind of a child, the fourth commandment is still
a part of the great Ten Commandments, simple to read, and
understand, and obey. But the carnal mind just does not want to
give up 24 hours to God and working the work of the Sabbath. The
carnal mind wants every single minute of every single day, every
single day of the week, to itself, to do what it wants to do.
I pray you will overcome your carnal mind and let the mind of
Christ be in you (Philip.2:5).
For the notes of Bacchiocchi's chapter 4 see the next page.
Keith Hunt (September 2009)