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Why keep the Sabbath

God blessed the Sabbath (placed a special benefit on it. What else could the word blessed imply?). God sanctified the Sabbath (set it apart for a holy purpose). All this was done from the seventh day of creation. (Genesis 2:2,3).

This day was set apart for a holy purpose from the first week of this earth's existence. This was God's purpose in including it in the week. Apart from this purpose there would have been no seventh day. The week would have had only six days.

Notice also that God blessed this day only BECAUSE He had rested on it. Read Genesis 2:2,3 carefully. He established the day as a set apart day because of the experience which He had enjoyed (with Adam and Eve?) on that day. The idea that it was the start of a rest which has continued up until now (or until the introduction of sin) is contradicted by Scripture. It was a single day's rest as the following verse proves.

It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. (Exo 31:17)

Notice what it says. God rested (finished action) and was refreshed (also a finished action). Some say the word rested signifies that He began to rest and that there is no evidence that He ever went back to work. But notice the second part of the phrase, and was refreshed. It does not say He is being refreshed, but that He WAS refreshed by His experience of rest. Both the rest and the refreshing were concluded experiences. Of course there is a great truth embedded in this passage because we know that God cannot be tired, yet He was refreshed. But the point is, the verse shows that the rest of God was a finished action which took place on a single 24 hour day.

In fact, Exodus 20:8-11 also shows clearly that God's rest was a single 24 hour day. It says,

“Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Exo 20:9-11)

Here we see that the seventh day is GOD'S Sabbath. Therefore man is commanded to keep it holy. Why is it God's Sabbath? Because God rested on that day. It is God's rest. Which day must man keep holy? The same day on which God rested. God blessed it and hallowed it (made it holy). When did God do this? Back there during the first week of Creation. It was the same day on which God had rested and which he had blessed which God commanded man to keep holy.

Notice also that this means that from the time of the first seventh day, every subsequent seventh day was also blessed and hallowed. It matters not whether or not anybody had ever kept it holy before the Israelites. It was blessed and hallowed from creation week and all the world should have treated it as a hallowed and blessed day. God gave it to the Israelites when they became His people, but it had already been blessed and hallowed long before, from the time when God had rested on it and been refreshed. Therefore God tells the Israelites to keep it holy BECAUSE it had been blessed 2000 years before.

The truth is, we cannot of ourselves determine what is morally right or wrong. We must modify our understanding on the basis of what God's word reveals. This will lead us to a true and balanced understanding of salvation and of the will of God. If my understanding of righteousness by faith leads me to contradict something which is clearly taught in the word of God, then I know that my concept must be faulty, because it cannot be that it is the word of God which is wrong.

It is true that the Sabbath was later given a typical meaning. It became a type of the rest which we enter in Christ and a type of the millennial rest. However, this does not mean that it has no intrinsic value in itself. The types and shadows were only instituted AFTER sin came into the world. Before that they would have had no value or meaning. However, the Sabbath was blessed and set apart before sin came into the world and this demonstrates that it is a part of God's perfect plan for mankind and which has value above and beyond the typical meaning.

The Sabbath was included in the ten commandments. These were deliberately separated by God Himself from all the other laws. This Sabbath commandment was included with others which, reason can only define as being moral laws. These laws are limited expressions of greater truths, but they are eternal expressions nevertheless. It is true that the law of God is deeper and more comprehensive than those ten rules describe, but the fact is, that the greater understanding of the law does not overthrow the requirement of the limited understanding. It includes and goes beyond the limitations of what was written on stone. For example, the command, “thou shalt not kill,” means far more than that we should not remove the life of another person. Jesus said if we even hate our brother we are guilty. Does this mean that we are free to take his life as long as we do not hate him? Of course not. The command includes what it states in the ten laws, but it goes deeper than that. Likewise, the fact that true Sabbath keeping embraces more than just abstinence from work on the Seventh day, does not mean that it does not include the observance of that day as a day set apart for the purpose of worship.

God gave the law, according to Paul, so that sin by the commandment could become exceedingly sinful (Romans 7:13). It was so that the offence might abound (Romans 6:20). It was to be our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). The law was not made for a righteous person but for those who commit sin (1 Tim. 1:9). The question is, did God present an artificial standard of righteousness to convict man of his sinfulness? Did He create and hold up before man a standard which did not describe genuine righteousness? Did He deceive us into thinking that this was what was required when it was not really so? Does this make sense? If the law is made for sinners, but not for the righteous, then is the standard of righteousness something to be desired when we are sinners, but to be cast aside when we become Christians? Does God have two different concepts of right and wrong, one for the sinner and one for the saint? Can you see my point?

The sinner's concept of the law is necessarily limited. He is incapable of understanding the deeper implications of the law. However, God gives him enough to see that he is utterly at fault and helpless to help himself. His desire to keep that law is not a desire to attain to a false standard. It is a desire to attain to a standard presented by God Himself. When he becomes a Christian, he sees more fully what is implied by that law, but he does not now set out to live contrary to any part of that law.

Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. (Rom 3:31)

To do this would be to become a stumbling block to sinners who still have only that law as their concept of right and wrong.

Here is the critical question: Now that we are in Christ, our instinct is to do good. Our natures have changed. We do good without even trying to do so. But, do we still need education as to what is the will of God in terms of what is morally right and wrong? Do we immediately come to a perfect understanding of what is morally right or does God still need to teach us by His word? Does the indwelling presence of the holy spirit mean that we automatically know what God requires or does that spirit still need to teach us God's will through the word of God? I think the word of God makes it plain that the born again Christian still needs to be guided by the word of God.

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.” (John 16:13)

This is why even Paul gives so many commands in his letters. People are transformed and led by the spirit, but they still need to be guided into an understanding of God's will through the word.

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