Quotes about Sabbath
First, the seventh-day commemoration in Gen. 2:3 and Israel’s Sabbath ordinance is transferred to the first day of the week because of Christ’s resurrection. Second, Israel’s way of observing the Sabbath, with all its detailed requirements, falls away, and there is a return to the creational mandate. The observance of this mandate is a day of commemoration of God’s creative rest, a celebration that Christ has entered that rest, that believers have begun to enter such rest, and a pointing forward to believers completely entering that rest. Third, Christ’s coming fulfills Israel’s unique Sabbath commandment, since He is Israel’s Messiah, accomplishing Israel’s end-time exodus and representing true Israel and the end-time temple.
When certain days are represented as holy in themselves, when one day is distinguished from another on religious grounds, when holy days are reckoned a part of divine worship, then days are improperly observed… When we, in the present age, make a distinction of days, we do not represent them as necessary, and thus lay a snare for the conscience; we do not reckon one day to be more holy than another; we do not make days to be the same thing with religion and the worship of God; but merely attend to the preservation of order and harmony. The observance of days among us is a free service, and void of all superstition.
The external observance of the Sabbath rest is a Jewish ceremonial ordinance and no longer binding on Christians. Sabbatarians surpass the Jews three times over in a crass and carnal Sabbatarian superstition.
We should rest in Christ alone for our salvation. But along with that there is still an abiding principle that we ought to worship on the Lord’s Day and trust God enough to have a weekly routine where we cease from our normal labors… He made the Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). God gives us Sabbath as a gift; it’s an island of get-to in a sea of have-to. He also offers us Sabbath as a test; it’s an opportunity to trust God’s work more than our own. When I go weeks without taking adequate time off, I may or may not be disobeying the fourth commandment, but I’m certainly too convinced of my own importance and more than a little foolish. If my goal is God-glorifying productivity over a lifetime of hard work, there are few things I need more than a regular rhythm of rest.
Genesis 2 does not tell us much more about the significance of this seventh day. But as we learn more about it from Scripture we realize that the “rest” involved was not a lazy rest. Rather, it was intended to be a day when the working man could enjoy the Creator as well as the creation. He could devote himself more directly to fellowship with God and the worship of His Name. This “sabbath,” or “rest-day,” was a further special blessing which God gave to man so he would be refreshed and strengthened, encouraged and heartened by contemplating all that God had done and stimulated to worship God in response.
The Sabbath is the first commandment given to Israel, being issued before she gets to Mount Sinai (Ex. 16:22-30); and it is the last commandment given for the people before Moses returns to them from atop the mountain (Ex. 31:12-17). Like bookends, the command to keep the Sabbath secures the content of God’s relationship with Israel.
The Sabbath itself is not eternal, but was a sign of the Mosaic covenant. Exodus 31:13-17 designates the day as a “sign between Me and you throughout your generations.” As such, it is given to a specific people for a specific time to remind them of a specific covenant – the Mosaic one. When that covenant is replaced with a new one, the sign that pointed to it – the Sabbath – no longer applies. True, the “sign” is said to be “forever,” but…“forever” does not necessarily mean “eternal,” but forever until fulfilled. For example, various other elements of the Mosaic law were spoken of as permanent – including the administration of the tabernacle, animals sacrifices, and the priesthood. All these were fulfilled in Christ.
In the new covenant, the Sabbath isn’t transferred from Sabbath to Sunday – a move for which there is scant biblical or historical evidence. Rather, Sunday functions as a new day of worship to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus who not only fulfilled the penalty of the law, but also its righteous demands.
If Sunday were anywhere made holy merely for the day’s sake or its observance set on a Jewish foundation, “Then I order you to walk on it, to ride on it, to dance on it, to feast on it, to do anything that shall remove this encroachment on Christian Liberty.”
[The Sabbath] is the only one of the Ten Commandments that is nonmoral and purely ceremonial; and it was unique to the Old Covenant and to Israel. The other nine commandments, on the other hand, pertain to moral and spiritual absolutes and are repeated and expanded upon many places in the New Testament. But Sabbath observance is never recommended to Christians, much less given as a command in the New Testament.
[Jesus] proclaimed, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). It was an offer of an abiding Sabbath rest. He was the fulfillment of all the Sabbaths pictured. And we don’t need the picture if we have the reality. Sabbaths are no more a part of the New Covenant than animal sacrifices are.
The Sabbath purpose was purely symbolic. In the same way that the sacrificial system with all its spotless lambs and slain bullocks and blood sacrifices symbolized the atonement Christ made on the cross, the Sabbath system symbolized the true rest and true worship for the people of God to be found through the Messiah. The Sabbath system pointed to a time when God’s people would unite in holy convocation, a spiritual liberating of captives and setting free of slaves – a real cessation of labor. It looked forward to the coming of the New Covenant.
God wants us to follow a recurring pattern of intense work and then rest, intense work and then rest, and so forth. Whatever view one takes of the Sabbath, surely the six days of work and the one day of rest embedded in the creation remain relevant in some sense. Any routine of life that is unsustainable long-term cannot be of God. He calls us to work. But he also calls us to rest, in order to work most fruitfully. What sets us apart is this. We rest, in order to work; we do not work, in order to rest. We who believe the gospel are not living for the weekend, but for The End. In the meantime, we figure out rhythms of life that make fruitful labor sustainable.
The very concept of “the weekend” is unbiblical. It turns Sunday into a second Saturday. Home Depot may gain, but we lose. It turns Sunday into the day we catch up on the stuff we were too lazy or disorganized to do on Saturday. It also turns Sunday into a day to ramp up for work or school on Monday. It hollows out not only Sunday but our whole week, because it marginalizes God and church and sermons and all the other vital things that happen in our lives only when we make the vital things also the central things. If we accept the world’s concept of “the weekend,” we inevitably end up “fitting God in” rather than centering the practical reality of our every week around Him. We trivialize Him, even as we allow secondary things to hijack the sacred place of centrality, we live soul-exhausted lives, and then we wonder why God isn’t more real to us, why church isn’t “working” for us, why we’re grumpy, and so forth.
By Sabbath…we are to understand the Lord Jesus only, Who Alone is the Sabbath or Rest of Believers under the Gospel. And to keep this Sabbath from polluting it, is to believe in Him only unto righteousness. For to do any work, I mean to seek righteousness, or peace, or reconciliation with God by any work, is to pollute this Sabbath or this Rest; by Whom Alone, such as believe in Him, do and shall enjoy a glorious, an everlasting rest (Robert Garner).
Do not tell me that there is no rest for us till we get to heaven. We who have believed in Jesus enter into rest even now. Why should we not do so? Our salvation is complete. The robe of righteousness in which we are clad is finished. The atonement for our sins is fully made. We are reconciled to God, beloved of the Father, preserved by His grace, and supplied by His providence with all that we need. We carry all our burdens to Him and leave them at His feet. We spend our lives in His service, and we find His ways to be ways of pleasantness, and His paths to be paths of peace. Oh, yes, we have found rest unto our souls! I recollect the first day that I ever rested in Christ, and I did rest that day. And so will all of you who trust in Jesus as I trusted in Him.
[Like] all the ancient Mosaic institutions, the Sabbath has reached its fulfillment in Christ (Col. 2:17; Heb. 4), and it is by trusting in Him that we preserve its significance today.
The sign and seal of the Old Covenant has given way to the reality of Christ in the New Covenant (Matt. 26:28). The Sabbath no longer has significance as a day; its significance is in that to which it pointed – in Him who gives rest (Matt. 11:28) and in Whom we have ceased from our works (Heb. 4:10). For those who rest in Christ, every day is a Sabbath (cf. Rom. 14:5).