“Keep My Sabbaths and Stand in Awe!”

(Leviticus 26:2)

Without making a judgment on whether modern Christians ought to formally observe the Sabbath on Friday/Saturday or Sunday we present below some observations on the word “sabbath” in the Bible. (The word “sabbath” occurs 170 times in the Bible.)

“Sabbath” under the Law

The first occurrence is in the context of the heavenly supplied manna at Exodus 16:23-26 --

At that he said to them: "It is what Jehovah has spoken. Tomorrow there will be a sabbath observance of a holy sabbath to Jehovah. What you can bake, bake, and what you can boil, boil, and all the surplus that there is save it up for you as something to be kept until the morning." Accordingly they saved it up until the morning, just as Moses had commanded; and it did not stink nor did maggots develop in it. Then Moses said: "Eat it today, because today is a sabbath to Jehovah. Today you will not find it in the field. Six days you will pick it up, but on the seventh day is a sabbath. On it none will form. (NWT)

The Hebrew word here is sabbath [ שבת ] and many scholars feel it is rooted in sabat, or, “rest” (intermission). “Sabbath” occurs 21 times in the Book of Exodus. In the other Books of Moses, “sabbath” occurs as follows: Leviticus 17 times; Numbers, 6 times; Deuteronomy, only 3 times. The word does not occur in the entire period of the judges of Israel. It occurs only a few times in all the period of the kings of Israel: 2 Kings, 6 times; 1 Chronicles, 2 times; 2 Chronicles, 4 times. The word occurs 13 times in the Book of Nehemiah. In all the Law of Moses no other commandment is given such strong emphasis as the sabbath.

“Sabbath” occurs only once in the entire book of Psalms and this in a superscription. (Psalm 92:0) “Sabbath” is completely missing from the Book of Proverbs. The word occurs thus in the Prophets: Isaiah, 7; Jeremiah, 7; Lamentations, 1; Ezekiel, 1; Hosea, 1; Amos, 1. Some of these are considered below. The “sabbath” is lacking from the bulk of the prophets, and particularly note-worthy it is absent in the Prophet Daniel.

Of course, the sabbath appears as part of the Ten Words (or, Commandments) at Exodus 20:8-11 --

"Remembering the sabbath day to hold it sacred, you are to render service and you must do all your work six days. But the seventh day is a sabbath to Jehovah your God. You must not do any work, you nor your son nor your daughter, your slave man nor your slave girl nor your domestic animal nor your alien resident who is inside your gates. For in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything that is in them, and he proceeded to rest on the seventh day. That is why Jehovah blessed the sabbath day and proceeded to make it sacred.

It is observed that the reason given here for the sabbath is the creation example. In contrast to this the form Deuteronomy 5:12-15 adds another reason: deliverance from Egypt --

Keeping the sabbath day to hold it sacred, just as Jehovah your God commanded you, you are to render service and you must do all your work six days. But the seventh day is a sabbath to Jehovah your God. You must not do any work, you nor your son nor your daughter nor your slave man nor your slave girl nor your bull nor your ass nor any domestic animal of yours nor your alien resident who is inside your gates, in order that your slave man and your slave girl may rest the same as you. And you must remember that you became a slave in the land of Egypt and Jehovah your God proceeded to bring you out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That is why Jehovah your God commanded you to carry on the sabbath day.

The sabbath was to be a “sign” (much like circumcision) between Yahweh and fleshly Israel. Exodus 31:17 has the divine pronouncement, “Between me and the sons of Israel it is a sign to time indefinite [NJB: forever; JPS: for all time; LXX: aionios, perpetual], because in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day he rested and proceeded to refresh himself.” Thus, the sabbath is a cessation or interruption of work with the result of “refreshment.”

“Sabbath” in the Prophets

Consider some of the pronouncements in the Prophets which include the sabbath.

Sabbath and Badness (Isaiah 56:2)

Happy is the mortal man that does this, and the son of mankind that lays hold of it, keeping the sabbath in order not to profane it, and keeping his hand in order not to do any kind of badness.

It seems evident that a sabbath observance which includes “any kind of badness” is nullified according to the inspired prophet.

Sabbath and Self-Sacrifice (Isaiah 58:13, 14)

If in view of the sabbath you will turn back your foot as regards doing your own delights on my holy day, and will actually call the sabbath an exquisite delight, a holy [day] of Jehovah, one being glorified, and will actually glorify it rather than doing your own ways, rather than finding what delights you and speaking a word; you will in that case find your exquisite delight in Jehovah

Those observing the sabbath must sacrifice their own “delights” or “ways” but rather focus on Yahweh, perhaps looking forward to Hebrews chapter 3.

Sabbath and the New Earth (Isaiah 66:23)

“And it will certainly occur that from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath all flesh will come in to bow down before me,” Jehovah has said.

Many would interpret this context regarding the “new earth” to indicate the sabbath observance would continue into the Thousand Year reign of Lord Messiah. However, others would render the phrases as, “from month to month and week to week.” (NWT)

In his multi-chaptered vision of a new Temple, Ezekiel mentions the sabbath at Ezekiel 46:1, 4, 12 (compare Revelation 40:2; 47:1-12; 48:31-35) --

As regards the gate of the inner courtyard that is facing east, it should continue shut for the six workdays, and on the sabbath day it should be opened, and on the day of the new moon it should be opened. ... And the whole burnt offering that the chieftain should present to Jehovah on the sabbath day should be six sound male lambs and a sound ram. ... And in case the chieftain should provide as a voluntary offering a whole burnt offering, or communion sacrifices as a voluntary offering to Jehovah, one must also open to him the gate that is facing east, and he must provide his whole burnt offering and his communion sacrifices just as he does on the sabbath day. And he must go out, and one must shut the gate after his going out.

That some festival days are included in prophetic contexts which surely bear on the millennium of Lord Messiah is seen in Zechariah 14:16, 17 --

And it must occur [that], as regards everyone who is left remaining out of all the nations that are coming against Jerusalem, they must also go up from year to year to bow down to the King, Jehovah of armies, and to celebrate the festival of the booths. And it must occur that, as regards anyone that does not come up out of the families of the earth to Jerusalem to bow down to the King, Jehovah of armies, even upon them no pouring rain will occur.

The sabbath was much involved in the Pentecostal celebration. (Leviticus 23:34, 35) The verses in Zechariah chapter 14 are allude to in Revelation chapters 21 and 22. (Revelation 21:23 = Zechariah 14:8; Revelation 21:24 KJV = Zechariah 14:16; Revelation 22:1 = Zechariah 14:11) It may not be unreasonable to conclude that this annual festival of booths during the Thousand Years would also include the sabbath.

Sabbath to Cease

On the other hand there are intimations that the sabbath and other observances are to cease. Hosea 2:11 predicts, “And I shall certainly cause all her exultation, her festival, her new moon and her sabbath and her every festal season to cease.” (Perhaps looking forwrd to Colossians 2:16)

“Sabbath” and the Nazarene

The word “sabbath” (Greek = sabbasin, sabbato) occurs in the all the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 11 times each; and, in John, 19 times. These deal with the teaching activity of the Nazarene on certain sabbath days as well as criticism from his opposers for failing to observe it as they traditionally did. Indeed, most occurrences of the word fall into three categories: the question of healing on the sabbath (Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11; 13:10-17; John 5:1-9, 16, 17; 7:22; 9:14-16), accusations of breaking the sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-26; Luke 6:1-5), and Jesus teaching on the sabbath (Mark 1:21; 6:2; Luke 4:16, 31; 6:6).

In this context the Nazarene makes two important points about the sabbath. Consider Mark 2:27, 28, “So he went on to say to them: ‘The sabbath came into existence for the sake of man, and not man for the sake of the sabbath; hence the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath." (Matthew 12:1-8) The Nazarene gives a reason different from Exodus and Deuteronomy. The sabbath is for the good of humankind (anthropos). Some would use this to expand the sabbath’s benefits to go beyond just the Jews and include all mankind. Others feel that is going too far. Also, Jesus as “the Son of man” (Daniel 7:13; Psalm 8:4, 5) states he as Messiah is the master of the seventh day and may therefore choose to do this or that on the sabbath without violating Jewish regulations.

Regarding this observation the work Dictionary of New Testament Theology comments: “It would then imply that the ordinance was no merely for Israel, but had a pre-Israelite, world-wide, humanitarian, implication. ... In other words, (Jesus) has authority to decide about (the sabbath’s) observance. Far from suggesting that, though a benefit to man, it was to be annulled, it would suggest that the manner of its observance was under the control of Christ himself.” (Volume 3, page 410)

Mark 2:27 reads: “The sabbath came to be for the sake of man.” This word “man” is from the Greek anthropon and can imply “mankind” (humankind). (Romans 5:12) However, it may not need this wide of an application. For Paul, in the context of speaking for corporate Israel, speaks of himself as a miserable anthropos. (Romans 7:9, 10, 24) And, he calls the Jew anthope at Romans 2:3. Therefore, one not necessarily draw the conclusion that “man” at Mark 2:27 means all mankind. Since the sabbath was a sign regarding fleshly Israel it may just well be Jesus means, “The sabbath came to be for (Jewish) men.”

“Sabbath” and the Early Church

“Sabbath” occurs more rarely in the inspired writings of the disciples than one might have suspected. It is completely lacking in most of Paul’s letters, save two, Colossians (1) and Hebrews (1). It is missing from Peter, James, Jude, and John. The word does not appear in the Book of Revelation.

First, consider the “sabbath” in the Acts of the Apostles. As one might expect at this early stage with its strong Jewish influence, we find Paul using the synagogue to evangelize. (Acts 13:14-16, 42-44; 16:13; 18:4) There is nothing in Acts to suggest that Christians kept observing the sabbath in a formal manner.

Also, the sabbath observance is missing from the first church-wide letter of dogma to the Gentile Christians. Consider the following issue of circumcision and observance of the Law of Moses because of the problem of the flood of Gentiles into the Jesus movement. Review here Acts 15:1, 2, 4-7, 10, 11, 19-21 --

And certain men came down from Ju·de'a and began to teach the brothers: "Unless you get circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” But when there had occurred no little dissension and disputing by Paul and Bar'na·bas with them, they arranged for Paul and Bar'na·bas and some others of them to go up to the apostles and older men in Jerusalem regarding this dispute. On arriving in Jerusalem they were kindly received by the congregation and the apostles and the older men, and they recounted the many things God had done by means of them. Yet, some of those of the sect of the Pharisees that had believed rose up from their seats and said: "It is necessary to circumcise them and charge them to observe the law of Moses." And the apostles and the older men gathered together to see about this affair. Now when much disputing had taken place, Peter rose, ... “Now, therefore, why are you making a test of God by imposing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our forefathers nor we were capable of bearing? On the contrary, we trust to get saved through the undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus in the same way as those people also." (James then concludes), “Hence my decision is not to trouble those from the nations who are turning to God, but to write them to abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. For from ancient times Moses has had in city after city those who preach him, because he is read aloud in the synagogues on every sabbath."

It seems strange that in this consideration the Gentiles are not told to “remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” The letter carried to the small churches by Paul is called dogmata in Acts 16:4. James states that Moses (including the Law) has been read in synagogues throughout the cities of the world. Likely he means that even Gentiles may be familiar with Jewish law. His opportunity to enjoin sabbath-keeping on Gentile peoples who knew no such observance is missed completely. Unless, it was already no longer held in such high esteem.

When we look to the inspired disciples of the Nazarene we find the sabbath almost completely lacking. Indeed, there are only three locations in Paul’s epistles where the sabbath is mentioned. Consider these:

At Galatians 4:10 worries that he has labored in their behalf for no reason, because, “You (Galatians) are scrupulous in observing days and months and years and seasons.” Though the sabbath is not directly mentioned here, many would include it in the phrase, “observing days.” In Galatians (as well as Philippians) Paul is fighting to protect the church against what we observed in Acts 15:1, 2. It seems strange in this context he would not clarify what he means by “observing days” if in fact the Christians did observe a particular day.

Again in Colossians 2:16, 17 Paul exhorts the church: “Therefore let no man judge you in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath; for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ.” Again, it seems unusual that Paul would not clarify or qualify himself when here speaking of the “sabbath” if the Christians were keeping the seventh day. Though some would read these verses differently the qualifier that the “sabbath” is but a “shadow” would seem to cast it in a Jewish light as something that is no longer practiced.

Colossians 2:14 is worthy of particular note: “(God) wiped out the handwritten decrees of dogmas which opposed us by nailing to the cross.” Some see this “handwritten dogma” as the Ten Commandments and others view the phrase to mean that log that God keeps on all humans. The later view seems to contradict Revelation 20:12-14 which shows mankind being judged by their personal logs. Also both Jesus and Paul teach even the Saints must render an account for what they had done in this life. (Matthew 12:36, 37; John 5:29; 2 Corinthians 5:10)

We ask: what was it in the Law of Moses that was particularly singled out as something writing by hand, that is, the hand of God? Consider the Ten Commandments: Now as soon as he had finished speaking with him on Mount Si'nai he proceeded to give Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone written [LXX: gegrammenas] on by God's finger.” (Exodus 31:18) And, also: “For you are shown to be a letter of Christ written [Greek, engegrammene] by us as ministers, inscribed not with ink [as copies of the Ten Commandments] but with spirit of a living God, not on stone tablets, but on fleshly tablets, on hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:3) Thus, the “dogmas” of the Ten Commandments were nailed to the cross and wiped out.

We believe Paul writes in Hebrews 3:6-4:13 when he says,

We are the house [Temple = Hebrews 3:4; Numbers 12:7 LXX; 1 Corinthians 3:16] of that One [YHWH], if we make fast our hold on our freeness of speech and our boasting over the [heavenly > Hebrews 3:1] hope firm to the end. For this reason, just as the holy spirit says:

"Today if you people listen to his own voice, do not harden your hearts as on the occasion of causing bitter anger, as in the day of making the test in the wilderness, in which your forefathers made a test of me with a trial, and yet they had seen my works for forty years. For this reason I became disgusted with this generation and said, [Psalm 95:7-11]

‘They always go astray in their hearts, and they themselves have not come to know my ways.' [Numbers 14:21-23]

So I swore in my anger,

'They shall not enter into my rest.'

Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God; but keep on exhorting one another each day, as long as it may be called ‘Today,’ for fear any one of you should become hardened by the deceptive power of sin. For we actually become partakers [Hebrews 3:1] of the Christ only if we make fast our hold on the confidence we had at the beginning firm to the end, while it is being said:

‘Today if you people listen to his own voice, do not harden your hearts as on the occasion of causing bitter anger.’ [Numbers

For who were they that heard and yet provoked to bitter anger? Did not, in fact, all do so who went out of Egypt under Moses? Moreover, with whom did [God] become disgusted for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? But to whom did he swear that they should not enter into his rest except to those who acted disobediently? So we see that they could not enter in because of lack of faith. Therefore, since a promise is left of entering into his rest, let us fear that sometime someone of you may seem to have fallen short of it. For we have had the good news declared to us also, even as they also had; but the word which was heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who did hear. For we who have exercised faith do enter into the rest, just as he has said:

‘So I swore in my anger, “They shall not enter into my rest,”

although his works were finished from the founding of the world. For in one place He has said of the seventh day as follows:

"And God rested on the seventh day from all his works,"

and again in this place:

‘They shall not enter into my rest.’

Since, therefore, it remains for some to enter into it, and those to whom the good news was first declared did not enter in because of disobedience, he again marks off a certain day by saying after so long a time in David's [psalm] "Today"; just as it has been said above:

"Today if you people listen to his own voice, do not harden your hearts."

For if Joshua had led them into a place of rest, [God] would not afterward have spoken of another day. So there remains a sabbath resting for the people of God. For the man that has entered into [God's] rest has also himself rested from his own works, just as God did from his own. Let us therefore do our utmost to enter into that rest, for fear anyone should fall in the same pattern of disobedience. For the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and [their] marrow, and [is] able to discern thoughts and intentions of [the] heart. And there is not a creation that is not manifest to his sight, but all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting.

It seems Paul speaks of a future Messianic “rest” or describes the daily Christian walk to be within a spiritual sabbath of self-sacrifice. If Paul were a sabbath-keeping Christian it seems strange he would not take this opportunity to clearly state this important commandment right here in this context.

“The first day of the week”

Now, is Sunday somehow shown to be a special day for religious observance in the form of refusing to work, or fasting, or some other devotions? Let us look at the phrase “first day.”

It is clear the “first day” was of some importance. It first appears as that moment when earthly creation began. Genesis 1:5 gives the historical record: “And God began calling the light Day, but the darkness he called Night. And there came to be evening and there came to be morning, a first day.” This creative event places a wondrous note to the “first day.” Though this need not prove to be Sunday but merely the “first day” of God’s forming earth in the succession of six creative days.

Even in the Law of Moses the “first day” is noted as important. (Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:7, 35, 39; Numbers 28:18)

However, clearly the most important association regarding the “first day” is the resurrection of the Nazarene. All four Gospels make it clear it was on Sunday morn. (Matthew 28:1;Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1; John 20:1) Many feel this alone justifies Christians considering Sunday as a new sabbath day.

The term “first day” occurs only twice in regard to the early church. Let us consider these.

The first is Acts 20:7, “On the first day of the week (Greek, te mia ton sabbaton = “on one of the sabbaths”; compare John 20:1 [NOTE: also some languages allow for such a plural without meaning anything in particular.]) when we meet to break bread Paul began a discourse.” The context is that of the annual Jewish Passover and this day became a “sabbath” of its own. Thus, Sunday could be a “sabbath.” Some think the historian Luke is alluding to the Lord’s Supper, an evening meal, in which “he continues discoursing until midnight.” It would seem to indicate this is not a morning worship but a supper during which Paul begins to teach with the result a man falls out of the window and dies.

The other use of “first day” is in 1 Corinthians 16:2, “Every first day of the week [mian sabbatou] let each of you at his own house set something aside in store as he may be prospering.” First, it is clear Paul does not tell them to give a donation at church on Sunday, giving the impression such was not the case. If Paul formally observed the sabbath it would seem he might have said the above and related it to Friday/Saturday.

So, we can see the “first day” is of great significance in the Bible also. We sit astride two days: Saturday and Sunday. Some viewing one as something to observe, while others another day. What judgment are we to make on these matters.

Conclusion

The Hebrew prophet Jeremiah foretold something of important note. Something to influence real Jews to come (Romans 2:28, 29; 9:6) -- as well as Gentiles, as it has turned out. Consider Jeremiah 31:31-34 --

"Look! There are days coming," is the utterance of Jehovah, "and I will conclude with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant; not one like the covenant that I concluded with their forefathers in the day of my taking hold of their hand to bring them forth out of the land of Egypt, which covenant of mine they themselves broke, although I myself had husbandly ownership of them,” is the utterance of Jehovah. “For this is the covenant that I shall conclude with the house of Israel after those days,” is the utterance of Jehovah. "I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people. And they will no more teach each one his companion and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know Jehovah!’ for they will all of them know me, from the least one of them even to the greatest one of them," is the utterance of Jehovah. “For I shall forgive their error, and their sin I shall remember no more.”

What does the prophet mean when he predicts that God will “put His Law in them, and I will write the Law in their hearts”? We have an inspired answer in the apostle Paul. Note how he writes to both Gentiles and Jews --

You yourselves are our letter, inscribed on our hearts and known and being read by all mankind. For you are shown to be a letter of Christ written by us as ministers, inscribed not with ink but with spirit of a living God, not on stone tablets [like the Ten Commandments], but on fleshly tablets, on hearts [Jeremiah 31:31-35]. ... God ... has indeed adequately qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant, not of a written code [that on stone], but of spirit; for the written code [that on stone] condemns to death, but the spirit makes alive.

Moreover, if the code which administers death and which was engraved in letters in stones [Ten Commandments] came about in a glory, so that the sons of Israel could not gaze intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, [a glory] that was to be done away with, why should not the administering of the spirit be much more with glory? For if the code [written in stone] administering condemnation was glorious, much more does the administering of righteousness [through the new covenant] abound with glory. In fact, even that which has once been made glorious [the Ten Commandments] has been stripped of glory in this respect, because of the glory [of the New Covenant] that excels it. For if that which was [written on stone] (was) to be done away with was brought in with glory, much more would that which remains [New Covenant] be with glory.” (2 Corinthians 3:2-11)

And now also Hebrews 8:7-13; 10:1, 15-18 --

For if that first covenant had been faultless, no place would have been sought for a second; for He does find fault with the [Israelite] people when He says [Jeremiah 31:31-35]:

“Look! There are days coming,” says Jehovah, “and I will conclude with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant; not according to the covenant [with its Ten Commandments] that I made with their forefathers in [the] day of my taking hold of their hand to bring them forth out of the land of Egypt, because they did not continue in my covenant [including sabbath disobedience], so that I stopped caring for them,” says Jehovah. “For this is the covenant that I shall covenant with the house of Israel [Romans 2:28, 29; 9:6; Galatians 6:15] after those days,” says Jehovah. “I will put my laws [including the Fourth Commandment] in their mind, and in their hearts I shall write them. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people.

And they will by no means teach each one his fellow citizen and each one his brother, saying: “Know Jehovah!” For they will all know me, from [the] least one to [the] greatest one of them. For I shall be merciful to their unrighteous deeds, and I shall by no means call their sins to mind anymore.”

In His saying “a new covenant” He has made the former one obsolete. Now that [Law Covenant] is made obsolete and growing old is near to vanishing away. ... For the Law has a shadow of the good things to come. ... Moreover, the holy spirit also bears witness to us, for after it has said [Jeremiah 31:31, 32]:

“This is the covenant that I shall covenant toward them after those days,” says Jehovah. “I will put my laws in their hearts, and in their minds I shall write them,” [it says afterwards:] “And I shall by no means call their sins and their lawless deeds to mind anymore.”

Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.

The principle of conscience that Paul is getting at -- the heart and mind -- he makes clear in Romans 2:13-16 --

For the [Jewish] hearers of law are not the ones righteous before God, but the [Jewish] doers of law will be declared righteous. For whenever people of the nations that do not have [God’s] law do by nature the things of the law, these people, although not having law, are a law to themselves. They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts [Jeremiah 31;31-35], while their conscience is bearing witness with them and, between their own thoughts, they are being accused or even excused. This will be in the day when God through Christ Jesus judges the secret things of mankind, according to the good news I declare.

It seems fair to conclude from the above that the Law Covenant, including the Ten Commandments written in stone, passed away and God’s New Covenant was written on the hearts and minds of the disciples of the Nazarene. So, spiritual Israelites were as dead to the Law including the Ten Commandments. (Romans 7:1-4, 7; 10:1) However, we may interpret this to mean that the principles behind all the Law, including the Ten Commandments, would be engraved on genuine hearts with its conscience, so that one is no longer guided by the letter of the Law, but the spirit of it. (2 Corinthians 3:6) This would include the Fourth Commandment regarding the spirit of the Sabbath. For as Paul says there is a “rest for the people of God.” Such who are truly devoted to the Lord Messiah observe as it were a daily sabbath in which they no longer work for just themselves but Him who has yet to pronounce the seventh creative day “good.”

There is one final text from Paul which sheds much light on this conflict between those who wish to single out one day while others observe every day as a spiritual Sabbath to God. Consider Romans 14:4-10, 12-14, 16-19 --

Who are you to judge the house servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for the Lord can make him stand. One [man] judges one day [Sabbath?] as above another; another [man] judges one day as all others; let each [man] be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day observes it to the Lord. ... None of us, in fact, lives with regard to himself only, and no one dies with regard to himself only; for both if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore both if we live and if we die, we belong to the Lord. For to this end Christ died and came to life again, that he might be Lord over both the dead and the living. ... But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you also look down on your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. So, then, each of us will render an account for himself to God. Therefore let us not be judging one another any longer, but rather make this your decision, not to put before a brother a stumbling block or a cause for tripping. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is defiled in itself; only where a man considers something to be defiled, to him it is defiled. Do not, therefore, let the good you people do be spoken of with injury to you. For the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but [means] righteousness and peace and joy with holy spirit. For he who in this regard slaves for Christ is acceptable to God and has approval with men. So, then, let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.

If Paul were a strict sabbath observer who felt the Fourth Commandment was binding on Christians, indeed, was a matter of salvation, would he have written the above. For he gives the strong impression that there is a degree of freedom in choosing one day above another. He leaves the option open wide for those who have “entered God’s rest day” and therefore view every day as something of a Sabbath rest from selfish labor.

The principles behind the sabbath law in the Ten Commandments are written in the hearts and minds of all Spiritual Jews in the New Covenant. The very idea of resting so that one may be able to help neighbor and share in transcendental meditation about “the magnificent things of God,” is imbedded -- engraved, if you will -- upon every true Christian’s heart and mind. This kind of “sabbath” -- a selfless life patterned after Jesus Christ, Lord of the Sabbath -- is reflected in the daily walk of Friends of the Nazarene. Even as Paul writes:

But whenever (one) turns toward the Lord (Messiah), the (blinding) veil is lifted up and away. For the Lord (Messiah)is a spirit and where the Pneuma of the Lord is, there is freedom. With uncovered faces all of us reflect like mirrors the Lord’s glory and in his very image we are being transformed from one glory into another glory even from a spiritual Lord. .. For the God is the One who said [on the First Day], ‘Out of darkness light will gleam,’ and He has shone on our hearts with the illumination of that knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 3:16-18; 4:6)

In that freedom our Lord Messiah has given us we repeat the spirit of God’s law:

“Keep My sabbaths and stand in awe!”

Friends of the Nazarene Publishing

Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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