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by Arthur W. Pink
It is manifest that we Christians must make the most of the Sabbath in our homes and in our churches, if at least we mean to conserve it in our cities and in our states. So soon as we become careless and indifferent about it, the one reason for the selection of the first day of the week rather than any other, for the day of periodic rest, will disappear. If there had been no Ark of the Covenant in the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle, there would have been no outer covering of curtains round the tabernacle court. And so soon as in the holy of holies of the church, the Sabbath is disregarded, the curtain of legislation that encloses its outer court of rest will be removed.
The responsibility rests on us, therefore. We are in the Thermopylae of this conflict to stem the incursions of the enemy that would take it from us; and we are to do so, not so much by weapons of legislation as by our own earnest and holy Sabbath-keeping. Our conduct here will do more even than our words. Let us make the day the happiest of the week in all our homes. Let us prize it for its intellectual and spiritual stimulus in the house of God, as well as for its physical rest. Let us avoid all traveling for business or driving for amusement in its sacred hours. Let us regard it, not as a restraint to be chafed under, but as a precious gift to be religiously guarded from all sacrilegious hands, and then we shall have nothing to fear from any influences in the land.
-- William M. Taylor
The first day of the week becomes henceforth the Christian Sabbath, because on that day the Lord Jesus entered into the Redemption rest, even as the Father on the seventh day had entered into the Creation rest. Very plainly is this set forth in Hebrews 4: 10.
-- A. J GordonThe present neglect of the Sabbath by many church members imperils the very existence of the Church as well as the Sabbath. When Sabbath observance declines the Church declines. When it dies, the Church will be buried in the same grave.
-- Wilbur F. Crafts
THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH
Is there such a thing as a Christian "Sabbath"? Some of the leading Bible teachers of the day answer emphatically, There is not. They say that such an expression is a contradiction in terms. They challenge us to find the words anywhere in the Bible. And because this cannot be done, many people rashly conclude that there is no such thing as a Christian Sabbath. And yet, these same people speak frequently of "Christian baptism." What will happen when we declare that nowhere in the Bible is that expression to be found! Will that prove there is no such thing as Christian baptism? In like manner, we read nowhere in the New Testament of the Christian dispensation, of the Christian life, or of the Christian anything. The fact is that the word "Christian" as an adjective is never used once in God's Word. Therefore, the absence of such an expression as "the Christian Sabbath" proves nothing, one way or the other.
But if "the Christian Sabbath" is a non-scriptural expression are we justified in using it? Does not the fact that man has coined the term prove, or at least go far to show, that that for which it stands is also a human invention? Not necessarily. "Christian baptism" is a non-scriptural term, but does this forbid our use of it? Certainly not. How, then, are we to decide on such matters? Is each man to be a law unto himself? Is it to be left to an arbitrary decision? Surely not, What, then, is the principle which is to determine the legitimacy of such non-scriptural expressions? Plainly it is this: Does the thing which we designate "Christian" have an objective existence in the New Testament? We speak of "the Holy Trinity," of "the Divine Incarnation," of "the substitutionary work of Christ," yet none of these expressions are found in Scripture.- Nevertheless, the realities are; and it is this which justifies our use of them. To speak of Christian baptism is perfectly in order, because the New Testament describes baptisms, under Divine authority, after the Christian dispensation had commenced.
Our inquiry, then, narrows itself down to this: Does God require His people to keep a "Sabbath" during this Christian dispensation? If He does, then such a Sabbath is, necessarily, a Christian Sabbath. If He does not, then that is the end of the matter. The issue is very simple. It is not an academical one, where a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek are essential to the settlement of it. It is not a matter of terms at all, and those who seek to make it such are simply evading the real issue. Nor does our fundamental inquiry concern which particular day of the week is to be set apart for rest and worship, though that phase of our subject will be carefully examined in its proper place. No, we repeat, it is simply a question as to whether or not God requires those living today to keep the Sabbath holy. And those who have read carefully our booklet "The Saint and the Law," ought to have no difficulty in anticipating the scriptural answer.
The question as to whether or not God requires those living today to keep the Sabbath day holy is only a part of a larger question, namely, Has the moral Law of God been abolished, or is it still in force? Are the Ten Commandments now binding on all who live during this Christian dispensation? In our booklet above referred to we have shown that God still imposes the obligation of conformity to the demands of His moral Law on all rational creatures, inasmuch as that Law has never been revoked. Hence, it follows that the keeping of the Sabbath is still a moral obligation resting on all alive on earth today, for the fourth of those commandments expressly says, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." There is only one possible way by which our previous arguments on the perpetuity of the Law, now applied to the Christian Sabbath, could be overthrown; and that is by pointing to some verse in the New Testament in which we read that the fourth commandment of the Decalogue has been repealed. And this we confidently affirm cannot be done. The New Testament may be read diligently from cover to cover, but it will be searched in vain to find one single categorical declaration that the Sabbath Law has been abrogated. As, then, the fourth commandment has not been repealed, and as the New Testament teaches explicitly, again and again, that the moral Law is binding on Christians, then it follows of invincible necessity that there is a "Christian Sabbath," and that Christians are under bonds to keep it holy.
And right here we might rest our case, fully assured that none can successfully assail it from Scripture. But as the New Testament does not leave the matter at the point we have now reached, neither shall we. We propose, therefore, to show that not only does the New Testament contain no word which declares the Sabbath has been abolished, but that it does teach, the Sabbath remains for this dispensation. But before examining the New Testament Scriptures, we shall go first to the Old Testament, principally for the purpose of showing how entirely erroneous are the oft-made assertions that the Sabbath was never designed for any but Israelites and that the Sabbath Law was first promulgated at Sinai.
I. THE INSTITUTION OF THE SABBATH.
"And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made" (Gen. 2:2, 3). This passage records the institution of the Sabbath. Lest any should wish to cavil because the word "Sabbath" is not found in Gen. 2:2, 3, we call attention to the fact that in Ex. 20:11 Jehovah Himself expressly terms that first "seventh day" the "Sabbath day": "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."
The second chapter of Genesis opens with the words, "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them." And then, the very next thing we read of is the institution of the Sabbath rest. Thus ' to institute the Sabbath was God's first act after the earth had been made fit for human habitation Let us now point out four things in connection with this first scripture in which the Sabbath is referred to.
1. The primal Sabbath was a rest day. Emphasis is laid upon this feature by the repetition in thought which is found in the two parts of Gen. 2:2. First, on the seventh day "God ended His work which He had made;" second, "And He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made." Therefore the prime element and basic truth connected with the Sabbath is rest. Before raising the question as to why God "rested," let us offer a few words upon the nature of His rest.
It has been said repeatedly by a certain class of expositors, that this rest of God consisted of His satisfaction in the work of His hands; that it was God looking out in complacency over His fair creation. But, we are told, that this "rest" of God did not last for long: it was rudely broken by the entrance of sin, and ever since man fell God has been "working": John 5:17 being appealed to in proof. That such a definition of the ('rest" of God in Gen. 2:2 should have been received by a large number of the Lord's people, only goes to show how few of them ever do much thinking or studying for themselves. It also proves how the most puerile interpretations of Scripture are likely to be accepted, providing they are made by reputable teachers, who on other matters are worthy of respect. Finally, it demonstrates what a real need there is for every one of us to humbly, prayerfully, and diligently bring everything we read and hear to a rigid examination in the light of Holy Scripture.
That God's "rest" in Gen. 2:2 was not the complacence of the Creator prior to the entrance of sin, is unequivocally evidenced by the fact that Satan had fallen before the time contemplated in that verse. How could God look abroad upon creation with Divine contentment when the highest creature of all had become the basest and blackest of sinners? How could God find satisfaction in all the works of His hands when the anointed cherub had apostatized, and in his rebellion had dragged down with him "the third part" of the angels (Rev. 12:4)? No; this is manifestly untenable. Some other definition of God's "rest" must therefore be sought.
Now we need to pay very close attention to the exact wording here (as everywhere). Gen. 2:2 does not say (nor does Ex. 20:10) that God rested from all work, for that was not true. Gen. 2:2 is careful to say, "On the seventh day God ended His work which He had made," and "He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made." And this brings out and calls attention to the basic feature and primal element in the Sabbath: it is a resting from the activities commonly pursued during the six working days. But the Sabbath day is not appointed as a day for the cessation of all activities-to remain in bed and sleep through that day would not be spending the Sabbath as God requires it to be spent. What particular works are required and are permissible, we shall show later; but what we now press upon the reader is the fact that, according to Gen. 2:2, the Sabbath rest consists of resting from the labors of the working week.
Gen. 2:2 does not state that on the seventh day God did no work, for, as we have said, that would not have been true. God did work on the seventh day, though His activities on the seventh day were of a different nature from the ones in which He had been engaged during the preceding days. And herein we see not only the marvelous accuracy of Scripture, but the perfect example God here set before His creatures, for as we shall yet see there are works suited to the Sabbath. For God to have ceased all work on that first seventh day in human history, would have meant the total destruction of all creation. God's providential working could not cease, or no provision would be made for the supply of His creatures' wants. "All things" needed to be "upheld" or they would have passed back into non-entity.
Let us fix it firmly in our minds that rest is not inertia. The Lord Jesus has entered into "rest" (Heb. 4: 10), yet is He not inactive, for He ever liveth "to make intercession." And when the saints shall enter their eternal rest, they shall not be inactive, for it is written, "And His servants shall serve Him" (Rev. 22:3). So here with God. His rest on that first day was not a rest of total inactivity. He rested from the work of creation and restoration, but He then began (and has never ceased) the work of Providence-the providing of supplies for His myriad creatures.
But now the question arises, Why did God rest on the seventh day? Why did He so order it that all the works, recorded in Gen.1 were completed in six days, and that then He rested? Certainly it was not because the Creator needed rest, for "the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary" (Isa. 40:28)). Why, then, did He "rest," and why is it so recorded on the top of the second page of Holy Writ? Surely there can be only one answer: As an example for man! Nor is this answer merely a logical or plausible inference of ours. It rests on Divine authority. It is based directly upon the words of none other than the Son of God, for He expressly declared, "The Sabbath was made for man" (Mark 2:27): made not for God, but for man. Nothing could be plainer, nothing simpler, nothing more unequivocal.
2. The next thing that we would carefully note in this initial reference to the Sabbath is, that Gen. 2:3 tells us this day was blessed by God: "And God blessed the seventh day." The reason why God blessed the seventh day was not because it was the seventh, but because "in it He had rested." Hence, when the Sabbath law was written upon the tables of stone, God did not say, "Remember the seventh day to keep it holy," but, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." And again, He did not say, "He blessed the seventh day and hallowed it" but "He blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it."
But why should He? Why single out the seventh day thus? Young's Concordance defines the Hebrew word for "blessed" here as "to declare blessed." But why should God have "declared" the seventh day blessed for there is no hint that He pronounced any of the other days blessed. Surely it was not for the mere day's sake. Only one other alternative remains: God declared the seventh day blessed because it was the Sabbath day, and because He would have every reader of His Word know, right at the beginning, that special Divine blessing marks its observance. This at once refutes a modern heresy and removes an aspersion which many cast upon God. The Sabbath was not appointed to bring man into bondage. It was not designed to be a burden, but a blessing! And if history demonstrates anything, it demonstrates beyond a peradventure that the family or nation which has kept the Sabbath day holy, has been markedly blest of God; and contrariwise, that the family or nation which has desecrated the Sabbath, has been curst of God. Explain it as we may, the fact remains.
3. Gen. 2:3 teaches us that the Sabbath was a day set apart for sacred use. This comes out plainly in the words, "And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it"----'And God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it" (R. V.). The prime meaning (according to its scriptural usage) of the Heb. word rendered "sanctified" and "hallowed," is "to set apart for a sacred use." This shows that here in Gen. 2:3 we have something more than a historical reference to the resting of God on the seventh day, and something more, even, than God setting an example before His creatures. The fact that we are told God "sanctified" it, proves conclusively that here we have the original institution of the Sabbath, the Divine appointment of it for man's use and observance. As exemplified by the Creator Himself, the Sabbath day is separated from the six preceding days of manual labor.
4. Let us call attention to a notable omission in Gen. 2:3. If the reader will turn to Gen. I he will find that at the close of each of the six working days the Holy Spirit says "And the evening and the morning were," etc. -see Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31. But here in Gen. 2:2, 3 we do not read, "And the evening and the morning were the seventh day;" nor are we told what took place in the eighth day. In other words, the Holy Spirit has not mentioned the ending of the "seventh day." Why is this? There is a reason for every omission in Scripture, a Divine reason: and there is a reason why the Holy Spirit omitted the usual formula at the close of the seventh day. We suggest that this omission is a silent but most significant intimation that the observance of the Sabbath never would end-it was to be perpetuated as long as time should last.
Before we proceed further, let it be said that Gen. 2 contains nothing whatever which enables us to determine which day of our week this primal "seventh day" was. We have absolutely no means of knowing whether that original seventh day fell on a Saturday, a Sunday, or any other day of the week; for the simple reason that we are quite unable to ascertain on which day that first week began. All we do know, and it is all which is necessary for us to know, is, that the seventh day was the day which followed six days of manual work. As to which day of the week is the Christian Sabbath will be considered later.
Ere passing from Gen. 2 let us duly weigh the fact that this notice of the Divine institution of the Sabbath is placed almost at the very beginning of Holy Writ. Nothing takes precedence save the brief announcement in the first two verses of Gen. 1 and the description of the six days' work of creation and restoration. This at once impresses us with the great importance which God Himself places upon the Sabbath and its observance. Before a single page of human history is chronicled, before a single act of Adam is described, the Holy Spirit places before us the institution of the Sabbath Does not this signify, plainly, that the observance of the Sabbath-the sanctifying of a seventh day-is a primary duty! Moreover, are we not thereby plainly warned that failure to keep the Sabbath day holy is a sin of the first magnitude! Let us consider next,
II. THE PRIMITIVE OBSERVANCE OF THE SABBATH.
By the primitive observance of the Sabbath we refer to the recognition and keeping of a Sabbath before the formal proclamation of the Decalogue at Sinai. It is frequently asserted that the Sabbath Law originated at the time when Jehovah wrote the Ten Commandments on the two tables of stone. But as we have already shown, this is an error. The Sabbath was instituted before the fall. It is one of the two things (the marriage tie and the Sabbath) which come to us out of Eden. But in this second section we are to discuss the primitive observance of the Sabbath.
Is there any inspired record of men keeping the Sabbath before Israel reached Sinai? In seeking an answer to this, we have to turn to the book of Genesis and the first eighteen chapters of Exodus, and ere we consult them, it is well to remember their general character. No less than twenty-five hundred years of human history are covered by those first sixty-eight chapters of the Bible. Thus it is evident at once that the Holy Spirit has seen fit to give us little more than a fragmentary account of what transpired during the infancy of our race. Therefore, we must not expect to find here anything more than a few references to the Sabbath, and these of the briefest nature. The same will apply to almost any other theme. If we confined ourself to the first sixty-eight chapters of the Bible, and took up the study of the Person of the Holy Spirit, the light possessed by believers on what lies beyond death, the subject of prayer, angels, temperance, or any other moral virtue, while we should find something said about each of these subjects, we should not find very much, in fact, little more than hints and occasional notices. So it is in connection with the Sabbath. There are unmistakable references to the Sabbath, but they are few in number and incidental in character.
1. We ask the reader to turn to Gen. 4:3 and note thoughtfully the marginal reading-which, as usual, is to be preferred to the reading in the text. "And at the end of days it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord." Here the Holy Spirit has seen well to call our attention to the time when Cain (and Abel likewise: see Gen. 4:4, "And Abel he also," etc.) brought his offering to the Lord. The bringing of offerings by Cain and Abel was the formal recognition of God. It was an act of worship. Now, why has the Holy Spirit told us that the sons of Adam and Eve worshipped God at "the end of days," if it is not to intimate that they worshipped at the Divinely appointed season? And when was that? What is signified by "the end of days?" Surely the unprejudiced reader who comes to the Scriptures in childlike simplicity, desiring to learn the mind of God, will form only one conception here. Surely he will naturally say, Why, the end of days must be the end of the week, and that, of course, is the Sabbath. Very ingenious, says the objector; but altogether lacking in proof. Not so, is our reply; for in this article we shall not base our appeal upon anything that is not backed up by clear Scripture proof.
What is meant by "the end of days?" We have suggested above, that it signifies the end of the week, that is, the end of the work-days. How can this be proven? In a very simple way: by an appeal to the context. If the first three chapters of Genesis be read through, it will be found they mention one "end" and one only, and that is in Gen. 2:2. There we read, "And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made." Thus the only "ending" referred to in the context is the ending of the six days' work. Now, as Scripture ever interprets Scripture, as it defines its terms by the way they are used in other passages, and as the law of the context is what ever fixes the meaning of any given clause, so here in Gen. 4:3; the "end of days" means, and can only mean, the end of the working week; therefore, it was on the Sabbath day, that Cain and Abel, according to Divine appointment, brought their offerings to the Lord as an expression of their worship. We say by Divine appointment, and we appeal to Heb. 11:4 in proof. It was "by faith" that Abel offered unto God, and as faith "cometh by hearing" (Rom. 10:17), Abel must have heard what God required and when He required this formal recognition and worship of Himself.
Here, then, in Gen. 4:3 we have a scripture which proves four things: first, that previously to the days of Cain and Abel a Sabbath had been instituted. Second, that this Sabbath came at the end of a week of work. Third, that it was recognized by the sons of Adam and Eve. Fourth, that it was set apart for sacred use, namely, the worship of God.
2. We turn next to Gen. 5:29: "And he called his son Noah (rest), saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed." Let it be said that we do not base any argument on this verse, nor do we adduce it as one of our proof texts for the primitive observance of the Sabbath. We simply call attention to it as scripture of interest in this connection; though personally, the writer regards it as one of significance and as one that contains more than a hint that there was a Sabbath instituted and recognized long before the time of Moses.
The verse just quoted above gives us the reason why Lamech named his son "Noah." The fact that the Holy Spirit has recorded this at all at once shows there must be some good reason for it. Names were not given in those early days at the idle caprice of the parents. They were pregnant with meaning; they were frequently given under Divine guidance, and they often memorialized some event of importance. Plainly this was so in our present instance. Lamech belonged to the godly line. He was the son of Methuselah (whose name was certainly given under Divine impulse*); the grandson of Enoch. Now Lamech called his son Noah, which means rest, and his avowed reason for thus naming him was, "This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands." In the light of Gen. 2:2, 3 is not this profoundly suggestive? Was there not here a reference to the weekly Sabbath? Did not Lamech, in the name given his son, express his gratitude to the great Creator for having provided a weekly Sabbath, as a rest from "work" and "toil! " It was a pious heart looking forward to the Rest of which the weekly Sabbath was both the type and pledge.
* [See the author's article in "Gleanings in Genesis."]
3. "And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth" (Gen. 7: 10, margin). This verse records the beginning of the great deluge. It is all the more noteworthy because in the next verse we read, "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, in the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up and the windows of heaven were opened." Now surely the Holy Spirit has some good reason for giving us both of these time-marks. He tells us that the flood commenced in the six hundredth year of Noah's life, which was on the seventeenth day of the second month. This is clearly an historic reference. Nothing could be more definite. Why, then, has He also told us, first, that the waters of the flood were on the earth "on the seventh day?" Clearly, because the reference here is a moral one. It is an explanatory word. It gives us to see one of the reasons, perhaps one of the chief ones, why God visited the earth in such sore judgment. And it conveys a solemn message to us. The flood began on the Sabbath day. Is not the inference inescapable. Is there not only one conclusion we can possibly draw from this? Was it not an act of, what men term, poetic justice? Or, to use a figure of Scripture, were not the antediluvians now commencing to reap what they had sown? Without a doubt, they had flouted the Sabbath institution, as they had every other law of God. They had desecrated the holy day. Therefore, when God visited them in judgment, it was on the Sabbath day that the flood commenced!!
4. "And he stayed yet other seven days . . . . and he stayed yet other seven days" (Gen. 8:10, 12). These references (and to them may be added Gen. 29:27) afford further proof that back in Noah's days the division of time into weeks was a recognized custom. This fact has not received the attention it deserves. How was it, why was it, and when originated this division of time? We quote here from the late Dr. B. H. Carroll, President of the S. W. Baptist Seminary:--
" I ask you to notice this strange historical fact, that for all other divisions of time we have a reason in the motions of the heavenly bodies. The revolution of the earth around the sun marks the division of time into years. The moon's revolution around the earth gives us the month. The day comes from the revolution of the earth upon its axis. But from what suggestion of nature do you get the division of time into weeks? It is a positive and arbitrary division. It is based on authority. The chronicles of the ages record its recognition. But how did it originate?
"Here in the oldest book, in the first account of man, you will find its origin and purpose. Noah twice recognized it in the ark, when he waited seven days each time to send out his dove. Jacob in the days of his courtship, found it prevalent when he looked for satisfaction in the laughing eyes of Rachel, and the stern father said, 'Fulfill her week.' Why a week? How did he get it? It was God's division of time."
Yes, it was God's division of time; and there is only one way of accounting for it, and that is, the Maker of man set apart one seventh of his days for the worship of the Lord Almighty. And while time shall last-and it shall never end this will not be changed. Even when this earth has passed away, and there has been created the new earth, wherein righteousness shall dwell, and in which no trace of sin shall be found, the same division of time into weeks will obtain (Isa. 66:23, 24).
5. We ask the reader to turn now to Ex. 16, from which we may learn several things of importance concerning the Sabbath. This chapter records the sending of the manna, as Israel's daily food while they were in the wilderness. Ex. 16 treats of a point in Israel's history prior to their arrival at Sinai. This cannot be gainsaid. And yet, in this very chapter, the Sabbath is expressly mentioned!
Look first at vv. 4 and 5: "Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in My law or no. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily." These verses plainly anticipate what is said later in vv. 22 and 23. God was about to give Israel a daily supply of manna. But on the sixth day the supply would be a double one-"twice as much"--because on the seventh day none would be sent. In this respect Ex. 16 is parallel with Gen. 2:2, 3, inasmuch as once more God condescends to be the Examplar of His people. Jehovah evidenced His respect for the Sabbath, by withholding the manna on that day. "We may here observe that three miracles in honor of the Sabbath, and to secure it against desecration, were wrought every week before the promulgation of the Law at Sinai. Double the quantity of manna fell on the sixth day. None fell on the Sabbath. The manna preserved for that day did not corrupt" (Robert Haldane).
In the second place, observe carefully God's avowed purpose in thus withholding manna from Israel on the seventh day. His express design was, "to prove them, whether they will walk in My law, or no." And mark it, this was said to Moses before they had reached Sinai! There was, then, a "Law" of God in existence before the Ten Commandments were inscribed on the tables of stone! And, unequivocally, the observance of the Sabbath was part of that Law! In no other way can these words of God to Moses be explained. How this exposes the widely received error of our day, that the Ten Commandments were given at Sinai for the first time, is evident-see Gen. 18:19 and 26:5.
In the third place, let us ponder v. 23: "And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye shall bake today, -and seethe that which ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning." Note, Moses did not say, "This is that which the Lord will say," but "This is that which the Lord hath said." What was it, then, that the Lord had said? This: "Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord." These words repeat the three primal features of the Sabbath: first, it is designed for "rest;" second, it is "holy"--set apart from the six working days; third, it is to be kept "unto the Lord-" that is, it is a day for Divine worship.
In the fourth place, note carefully vv. 27 and 28: "And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep My commandments and My laws?" Here we have illustrated the universal rebellion of the human heart. Here we have exemplified the common tendency to desecrate God's holy day. Even after the most explicit instructions to rest on the seventh day (v. 23), some of the people went out "for to gather." And mark God's response-"How long refuse ye to keep. My commandments and My laws?" This was not the first time Israel had profaned the Sabbath. The words "How long' prove this! They also confirm what we said above on v. 4: "long" before Sinai was reached. Israel had God's "commandments" and "laws!" Jehovah Himself says so, and the man who denies, no matter what his standing or reputation, is guilty of the awful sin of making God a liar. "How long refuse ye" looks back to the wicked conduct of Israel while in Egypt. Let the reader consult Lev. 17:7; Josh. 24:14; Ezek. 20:8.
Finally, observe how v. 29 supplies one more proof that Sabbath-observance was no new thing at this time: "See, for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore He giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye ever v man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." Mark the careful distinction observed in the verbs here: "The Lord hath given you the Sabbath, therefore He giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days." What excuseless ignorance, then, is betrayed by those who affirm that the Sabbath was first instituted at Sinai. It is either ignorance or wilful perversion of the Scriptures, and charity requires us to conclude that it must surely be the former.
III. THE SABBATH DURING THE MOSAIC ECONOMY.
1. "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, 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" (Ex. 20:8-11). These words form part of the Decalogue, and, as shown in our booklet "The Saint and the Law," that Decalogue is lastingly binding on every member of the human race. Before commenting upon the fourth commandment let us first offer a few brief remarks upon the Decalogue as a whole.
*[Neither here, nor elsewhere in Scripture, did God command anyone to hallow or keep as a Sabbath "the seventh day of the week;' but only that day which followed the "six" of labor and work; so that this fourth commandment, as much as the other nine, is binding on its today. 0 the minute accuracy and perfection of Holy Writl]
In the first place, let the reader note carefully the words with which Exodus 20 opens: "And God spake all these words." Observe it is not "The Lord spake all these words," but "God spake." This is the more noticeable because in the very next verse He says, "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt," etc. Now the Divine titles are not used loosely, nor are they employed alternately for the purpose of variation. Each one possesses a definite and distinct signification. "God" is the creatorial title (see Gen. 1: 1). "Lord" is God in covenant relationship, that is why it is "Lord God" all through Gen. 2. In Gen. I it is God in connection with His creatures. In Gen. 2 it is the Lord God in connection with Adam, with whom He had entered into a covenant-see Hosea 6:7, margin. The fact, then, that Ex. 20 opens with "And God spake all these words," etc., proves conclusively that the Ten Commandments were not and are not designed solely for Israel (the covenant people), but for all mankind. The use of the title "God" in Ex. 20:1 is the more forceful because in vv. 2, 5, 7, 10, 11, 12 "the Lord" is named, and named there because Jehovah was Israel's covenant God.
In the second place, the Ten Commandments, and they alone, of all the laws Jehovah gave to Israel, were promulgated by the voice of God, amid the most solemn manifestations and tokens of the Divine presence and majesty.
In the third place, the Ten Commandments, and they alone, of all Jehovah's statutes to Israel, were written directly by the finger of God, written upon tables of stone; and written thus to denote their lasting and imperishable nature.
In the fourth place, the Ten Commandments were further distinguished from all those laws which had merely a local application to Israel, by the fact that they alone were laid up in the ark. A tabernacle was prepared by the special direction of God, and within it an ark was placed, in which the two tables of the Law were deposited. The ark, formed of the most durable wood, was overlaid with, gold, within and without. Over it was placed the mercy-seat, which became the throne of Jehovah in the midst of His people. Not until the tabernacle had been erected, and the Law placed in the ark, did Jehovah take up His abode in Israel's midst. Thus did the Lord signify to Israel that the moral Law was the basis of all His governmental dealings with them.
"The fourth commandment is closely connected with the other commandments. But so far from having any Jewish origin, it is the first and only commandment announced in the opening of the sacred record, and was imposed on our first parents in their state of uprightness and innocence. It thus stands in a peculiar manner at the head of all the commandments, and involves in its breach the abandonment equally of the first and second tables of the decalogue. It is placed at the end of the first table, as the tenth is at the end of the second, as the safeguard of all the rest. It stands between the two tables of our duty to God and our duty to man, as the great foundation and cornerstone binding both together-its observance supporting and conducing to our obedience to the whole" (Robert Haldane).
A few words now concerning the fourth commandment itself. The commandment opens with the word "Remember." This intimates two things: first, this commandment was not here given for the first time-the word "remember" looks back to Gen. 2:2, 3; second, there is more danger of forgetting this commandment than any of the ten. Then follows a description of how the Sabbath is to be kept: in it no work is to be done. This is not to be taken absolutely, but is modified by other scriptures. What works are permissible we shall see later. In v. 11 a reason is given why the Sabbath must be kept holy: it memorializes God's work of creation. It recognizes Him as earth's Proprietor and owns Him as man's Sovereign.
2. The next time the Sabbath is mentioned is in Ex. 31:13, 14. "Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily My sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people." Two things are to be noted here. First, the Sabbath was God's appointed "sign" between Himself and Israel throughout their generations. The meaning of this is very simple. At the time when God entered into covenant relations with Israel, all other nations had been given up by God (Rom. 1). Not liking to retain Him in their knowledge, they had abandoned themselves to idolatry. For this cause, God had given them up to a reprobate mind. The heathen nations, therefore, kept no Sabbath, and, by this time, in all probability knew not that their Creator required them to. But to Israel, God had made known His laws. He had favored them with a written revelation of His will. He had blessed them in many other ways. And now He tells them the "sign" or "token" (as the Hebrew word is frequently rendered) that they were His people-a people separated from all others (note "sanctify you" in v. 13)-would be their observance of His Sabbath. Thus, by singling out from all of the Ten Commandments the fourth, and making obedience to it the "sign" of Israel's privileged relation to Jehovah,-God once more signified (as in Gen. 2, and Ex. 16) the supreme importance He attaches to the keeping holy of the seventh day!
The second point we would note in this passage from Ex. 31 is, that God here attached the death penalty to the desecration of the Sabbath. Now in connection with this there are several things which need to be carefully borne in mind. First, this was not a part of the Decalogue, which, as we have seen, is binding on all men. Second, this death penalty was attached to the Sabbath only as that Sabbath was a "sign" between Jehovah and Israel! Third, this death penalty, therefore, is not a part of the moral Law proper, and consequently, does not apply to Gentiles or Christians who are guilty of disobedience to the fourth commandment. To show that this is no invention of ours to dispose of a difficulty, we ask the reader to note carefully the contents of Lev. 20:10: "And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." Now, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" was one of the Ten Commandments engraven upon the tables of stone, but no death penalty was attached to it there. That it was so here shows, again, that this was peculiar to Israel. "Marriage was an ordinance of God from the beginning, coeval with that of the sanctification of the seventh day; but marriage had some peculiarities among the Jews such as the marrying the brother's wife, which is done away. Shall we say, because these peculiarities are done away, that the ordinance of marriage which was established in the garden of Eden, is also done away?" (Robert Haldane). Once it is clearly perceived that it is not the Mosaic Law which is binding on men today, but the moral Law, inscribed on the tables of stone, many (if not all) difficulties will vanish like mists before the sun.
There is no need for us to examine now every scripture in the Old Testament where the Sabbath is mentioned, for most of the references pertain to that which was peculiar to Israel. What we are here concerned with is the Sabbath as an intrinsic part of God's moral Law, which is of perpetual force and binding upon all. We shall, therefore, confine ourselves to passages bearing more or less directly on our present inquiry.
3. "Thou camest down also upon Mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments: And madest known unto them Thy holy Sabbath" (Neh. 9:13, 14). These words formed part of Nehemiah's address to the remnant of the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon. Here Nehemiah reviews Jehovah's past dealings with their fathers. Observe closely a distinction with he drew between the Sabbatic Law and the other laws. He says, "Thou . . . gavest them right judgments, and true laws," etc.; and then declares, "And madest known unto them Thy holy Sabbath." This supplies us with another proof that the Sabbath was not newly appointed when promulgated at Sinai. It proves that the Sabbath had been previously instituted, or why distinguish it thus from the commandments "God gave" at Sinai? It shows there was a need for God to say, "Remember the Sabbath day." It evidences the fact that the Sabbath had been forgotten, yea, lost to Israel, during their four hundred year sojourn in Egypt. It reveals the fact that God now restored to Israel their full knowledge of it.
It is indeed a sad commentary on human nature to read in this same book of Nehemiah the lack of respect some of those Israelites paid to the fourth commandment. "In those days, saw I in Judah some treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre there also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the Sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that you do, and profane the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the Sabbath" (13:15-18).
As we pass along, it is interesting to note that the inscription to Psa. 92 is, "A Song for the Sabbath Day." It contains instruction upon the way in which we should occupy ourselves on the holy Sabbath.
4. "Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil" (Isa. 56:2). Here the Lord pronounces the man "blessed" that polluteth not His holy day. Therefore, by necessary implication, the one who defiles it is cursed.
5. "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day,-and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the, mouth of the Lord hath spoken it" (Isa. 58:13, 14). Notice carefully the words, "Call the Sabbath a delight." How this rebukes the blasphemies of men, who, today, speak of the Sabbath as a yoke of bondage, a burden grievous to be borne!
IV. CHRIST AND THE SABBATH.
What attitude did the incarnate Son of God take to the Sabbath? How did He act in regard to it, and what was His teaching concerning it? We answer, unhesitatingly, He honored it; He kept it; He upheld its claims upon men. First, He was Himself "made under the Law" (Gal. 4:4); therefore, did He keep it perfectly, in thought and word and deed. Second, nowhere did Christ so much as hint at the repeal of the Sabbath, instead, He expressly declared, "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matt. 5:17). Thus, did He "magnify the Law and make it honorable" (Isa. 42:21). But to consider His attitude to the Sabbath in detail:
1. "And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day" (Luke 4:16). This is the first passage, chronologically. It casts light on the pre-ministerial life of Christ. It shows that before He entered upon His great mission, that it had been His custom to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath day. Therefore, it informs us how Christ had been wont to spend the Sabbath during those quiet years in Nazareth, before His public work commenced. It proves that He honored the Sabbath. And mark it carefully, this is recorded not in Matthew, the distinctively Jewish Gospel; but in Luke, the distinctively Gentile Gospel. Not simply as "Son of David" did He honor the Sabbath, but as "Son of man." Nor was it only during His official ministry as the Minister of the Circumcision, that He thus observed the Sabbath; but before He presented Himself to Israel as their Messiah. Another clear intimation is this that the Sabbath is binding not only upon Jews, but upon all men!
2. "At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn-, and His disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto Him, Behold, Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day" (Matt. 12:1, 2). This is one of several passages which record the criticism which the Saviour encountered from His enemies. And it is instructive and important to note the different answers He gave in self-vindication. Here, He reminded His detractors that the Scriptures furnished examples-in the case of David and of the priests in the Temple-that works of necessity were permissible. Those works which are required in order to supply real human wants are not a violation of the Sabbath law. Similarly, in Matt. 12:11, 12 we read, "And He said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days." These words of the Son of God affirm that works of mercy performed on the Sabbath day are "lawful."
Thus, we have scriptural authority for saying that, the words "In it thou shalt not do any work" in Ex. 20: 10, are not to be taken absolutely, but are to be understood in the light of these qualifications of Christ. All works which are not works of mercy and works of absolute necessity for man's wellbeing are Divinely forbidden. But those acts which are essential for the good of ourselves and others, are sanctioned by the example and teaching of the Law-giver Himself. In the application of these two qualifications to our lives, each one must seek Divine guidance for himself. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God" (James 1:5). Works done in the seeking of pleasure are plainly sinful. Cooking food on Sunday is unnecessary, and is, therefore, a breach of the Sabbatic law. Traveling in trains or on street cars is not an absolute necessity, and hence, when used on the Sabbath, is wrong. Writing business letters on Sunday-no matter how important-is a desecration of the Lord's day. The reading of Sunday newspapers is a "polluting" of the Sabbath. But there is no need to enter further into details.
3. "He said unto them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27, 28). There are three points in this passage we desire to emphasize. First, our Lord declares, "The Sabbath was made for man." This at once refutes those who say that the Sabbath was designed for none but Israel. The Sabbath was made for man's blessing. The Sabbath was made for man, that he might be a man in the highest sense of the word-something nobler than a beast of burden; something more than a cash register. The Sabbath was made for man because he needed it: his body needs it, his soul needs it. "His mind is finite; his body mortal. His powers of endurance and of persistent application are limited. He cannot work unceasingly. * He needs regular periods of rest for his body and his mind. He must also have stated periods for enjoying and worshiping God, that his soul may be fed and nourished" (Dr. Carroll).
In the second place, note well the force of the "therefore" -"Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath." It signifies that since the Sabbath is made not merely for Israel, but for man, that consequently "the Son of Man," not "the Son of David," is it's Lord. Because Jesus was more than a Jew, because in becoming incarnate He touched all humanity, then, as "Son of man" He is "Lord also" of the Sabbath.
In the third place, mark how Christ here speaks of Himself in relation to the Sabbath. He says that He is "Lord," not the "Destroyer" of the Sabbath but "Lord of the Sabbath." He is not the Repealer or the Abolisher of the Sabbath, but its Sovereign. He is its "Lord" because He instituted it-John 1:1-3 proves this: He was the Creator. As the Creator, then, He instituted the Sabbath "for man," that is, for his benefit, to be a blessing to him. And this supplies another unanswerable argument which proves that the Sabbath originated not at Sinai, but in Eden. We may state it thus: The Sabbath was made for man: it was made for man because he needed it: therefore, it would have been unmerciful if the Maker of man had withheld it for twenty-five hundred years! This argument may be avoided, but it cannot be answered.
4. "But pray that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day" (Matt. 24:20). These words were uttered by Christ at the close of His public ministry. "The earliest possible period to which this direction can refer, is the siege of Jerusalem-a period at least forty years after the ascension of Christ, that is, after the full establishment of the Gospel dispensation, and after 'the Gospel of the kingdom had been preached in all the world for a witness unto a nations' (v. 14 and cf. Col. 1:6). At such an advanced period in the Gospel age, and in a season, too, of unparalleled distress, the disciples were, by the direction of their Lord, to make it a matter of special prayer that they might not need to take their flight on the Sabbath day. . . . It is impossible to entertain due respect to Christ as an infallible teacher, without admitting it to be His clear intention in this passage, that the weekly Sabbath should continue after the Gospel dispensation was fully set up" (F. Fairbairn).
V. CHRISTIANIZATION OF THE SABBATH.
It should be apparent that the particular day of the week on which the Sabbath is to be observed, resolves itself into what Covenant we do walk under before God. If the Sinaitic covenant has been disannulled, then of necessity the Day of rest has been changed. On the other hand, to insist that the Sabbath as given to the Jews is not abolished, requires us to perpetuate the whole system of Mosaic ordinances which stood on the same bottom with it. That this is not simply an inference or dogmatic assertion of ours, that it is actually a scriptural proposition, is clear from the whole argument of Heb. 7-10. "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law" (Heb. 7:12). "The covenant being changed, the rest which was the end of it being changed, and the way of entering into God's rest being changed, a change of the day of rest must of necessity thereon ensue" (John Owen). With these introductory remarks we now proceed to offer proofs for the first day of the week being the Christian Sabbath.
First, it was plainly adumbrated in O. T. times. This change in the weekly Day of rest from the last to the first day of the week, that is, from the seventh to the eighth, as everything pertaining to the Christian era, was intimated under various types and shadows. The work of creation was finished in six days, and on the seventh God rested from His work, which completed a week, or the first series of time. The eighth day, then, was the first of a new series, and on that day Christ rose as the Head of a new creation. The eighth day is accordingly signalized in the O. T., pointing in a manner the most express to the day when Christ entered into His rest, and when in commemoration thereof His people are to rest.
Circumcision was to be administered unto children on the eighth day (Gen. 17:12). On the eighth day, but not before, animals were accepted in sacrifice (Lev. 22:27). On the eighth the consecration of Aaron as high priest, and his sons, after various ceremonies, was completed (Lev. 9:1). On the eighth was the cleansing from issues, emblematic also of sin (Lev. 15:29). On the eighth day atonement was made for the Nazarite who was defiled (Num. 6:10). When the sheaf of the first fruits was brought to the priest, it was to be accepted on the eighth day (Lev. 23:11)--a distinctive type of the resurrection of Christ. The eighth day was sanctified at the dedication of the Temple (2 Chron. 7:9), and in its sanctification at the time of Hezekiah (2 Chron. 29:17).
Now can any spiritual mind suppose for a moment that this repeated signalization of the eighth day, in connection with the most solemn services of God's ancient people and in a manner so conspicuous, was without a special purpose? Did not the wisdom of God single out that day for some very important end? intimating thereby an antitypical new beginning? The eighth day corresponds with the first day of the week, on which according to all those appointments, Christ was received as the Firstborn from the dead, His sacrifice accepted, and on which, as the great High Priest He was "consecrated for evermore," having made atonement for His people, by which they are cleansed from all sin. That purpose of God is fully developed in the N. T., where He who is Lord of the Sabbath, without in the slightest degree changing the obligation to observe a seventh day, appropriated to Himself the first instead of the last day of the week.
Second, this change is clearly intimated by what is recorded of the first day in the N. T. The alteration in the day of Sabbath rest and worship was emphasized by Christ's personal visitations to His assembled disciples on the first of the week. After His appearing to the travelers to Emmaus, the Saviour was seen no more until His mysterious and blessed manifestation in the upper room. "Then the same day at evening, being the first of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you" (John 20:19). What is the Holy Spirit's object here in mentioning the particular day of the week? Was it not to inform us that this is now a particular day? Jews would understand at once what was signified by the notice that a religious "assembly" occurred on the seventh day, and Christians are to equally understand what is denoted by such an allusion to the first day.
The next detail to be noticed in the above passage is "the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews." What is indicated by those Words? Let it be remembered that the Lord had already "opened their understandings that they might understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45), which must mean that, in a measure at least, they now knew the types had given place to the reality. We also know that "He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs" (Acts 1:2, 3). What other conclusion, then, can be drawn, but that the disciples now observed the Sabbath on the first day of the week, and that they therefore took the precaution of fastening the doors because they knew how incensed the Jews would be for their departure from the ancient observance of the Sabbath on the seventh day?
Thomas was absent on the above occasion, and when he learned of its marvels, expressed strong unbelief. Throughout the week the Lord Jesus did not re-appear. But when the disciples assembled again on the first day of the next week, Thomas being present with them, He stood once more in their midst and said, "Peace be unto you" (John 20:26). Is there nothing marked by that interval of time? His other interviews with them are not thus dated! Surely. the fact that Christ was not seen by His disciples for a whole week, and that He then appeared to them again on the first day when they met for special worship, clearly signifies His definite sanction of this as the appointed day of meeting with His disciples. And is not this most expressly confirmed by the Holy Spirit's advent at Pentecost? Most assuredly the Spirit's descent on the first day of the week crowned this ordinance and ratified the newly-instituted Christian Sabbath.
Third, the first day of the week was celebrated by the early Church. That this was how the apostles understood the matter appears from their custom, for they assembled together for the breaking of bread and the preaching of the Word "on the first day of the week" (Acts 20:7). Are we not compelled to conclude that what the apostles did, and what the churches did under their supervision, must have been done in accord with the revealed will of their Divine Master? But it will be objected, If God requires the Sabbath to be duly observed on the first day of the week during this Christian dispensation, why has He not given a definite command through His apostles to that effect in the Epistles? To this question we make three replies. In the first place, it savors strongly of impiety: a taking it upon ourselves to say how God is to make known His pleasure to us-He has other ways of declaring His will besides through express precepts.
In the second place, such a question loses sight altogether of the situation in which many of the early Christians found themselves-a situation very different from that which generally obtains today. In the first generation of the Christian era it was quite impossible for the Sabbath to be kept with the same sacred strictness with which the Jewish Sabbath had been observed. So long as the Christian Church was confined to the boundaries of Palestine, and its members were made up of Jewish believers and proselytes, as it was for some time, it was required of all the converts to continue in an exact observance of the Jewish Sabbath in compliance with the law of the land. They did, in addition, observe the Lord's day so far as that was possible privately; but they had it not in their power to render the first day one of holy rest for all their fellows.
When the Christian Church enlarged her borders and converts from the Gentiles were added thereto, the Christian Sabbath had to encounter most formidable obstacles and was met by almost constant opposition. Let it also be carefully borne in mind that many of the early Gentile converts were the slaves of heathen masters, and it will at once appear how impossible it was for the Church to secure anything approaching Sabbath observance, so far as that implies the setting apart of the first day from all secular interests and the devoting of it solely unto Divine worship. It was therefore most merciful on God's part to lay not upon them a burden which they could not have borne. Nevertheless there is clear evidence that those early Christians devoted at least a part of the first day to special worship so far as their distressed and persecuted state rendered possible.
But in the third place we ask, Is it true that no Divine command for the sanctification of the first day is to be found in the Epistles? And we reply, No, it is not. "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come" (I Cor. 16:1, 2). "1 have given order" is certainly the language of authority, and cannot be regarded as anything less than an apostolic command. It is to be duly noted that Paul "gave order" concerning not only the principle of systematic Christian giving (for the relief of indigent saints), but also stipulated the time when such collections were to be made, that being appointed for "the first day of the week." Nor was such a regulation peculiar to the church at Corinth, as is intimated by his "so I teach everywhere in every church" (4:17), "so ordain I in all the churches" (7:17). Moreover, he expressly tells us "the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (I Cor. 14:27).
"In view of this important verse, we may remark: there is here clear proof that the first day of the week was observed by the church at Corinth as holy time. If it was not, there can have been no propriety in selecting that day in preference to any other in which to make the collection. It was the day which was set apart to the duties of religion, and therefore an appropriate day for the exercise of charity and the bestowment of alms. There can have been no reason why this day should have been designated except that it was a day set apart to religion, and therefore deemed a proper day for the exercise of benevolence towards others. This order extended also to the churches in Galatia, proving also that the first day of the week was observed by them, and was regarded as a day proper for the exercise of charity towards the poor and afflicted. And if the first day of the week was observed, by apostolic authority, in those churches, it is morally certain that it was observed by others. This consideration, therefore, demonstrates that it was the custom to observe this day, and that it was observed by the authority of the early founders of Christianity" (A. Barnes).
It is abundantly clear, then, from this passage that, the first day of the week was by Divine authority appointed for Divine worship, for this "collection" was an act of Christian fellowship. Ere passing on, it should be pointed out that the Greek which is here rendered "the first (day) of the week" is the very same expression that is employed by the four Evangelists in connection with the resurrection of Christ (Matt. 28: 1; Mark 16: 1; Luke 24: 1; John 10: 1), also in John 20:19 when He appeared to the disciples in the upper room. The word used is "Sabbaton," which means both "week" and "Sabbaths." Literally, then, it reads "the first of the Sabbaths," the Holy Spirit using this particular term to denote the beginning of a new series. Thus we need not have the slightest hesitation in speaking of "The Christian Sabbath."
The Christian Sabbath was most strikingly honored by Christ Himself in His glorious appearing on the Isle of Patmos and the prophetic revelation which He there made to His servant John. In narrating the wondrous visions which he there received, the apostle describes the time when they were given to him as "on the Lord's day" (Rev. 1: 10). Now all the days of the week are the Lord's, but that one of them should be singled out and thus designated to distinguish it from the others, shows that this day is His in a peculiar sense, as specially devoted to His honour. It is called "the Lord's day" for precisely the same reason that the holy feast is called "the Lord's supper" (I Cor. 11:20)-the one as a memorial of His death, the other of His resurrection. This particular designation supplies further proof that He is "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28).
From the beginning God determined that the ruination of the old creation should be followed by the producing of a new creation, with a new law of that creation, a new covenant, and a new Sabbath rest, unto His own glory by Jesus Christ. The renovation of all things by the Mediator was Divinely foretold (Acts 3:21); it was to be a "time of reformation" (Heb. 9: 10). From the Epistles we learn that this renovation of all things has been accomplished by Christ: "old things are passed away," etc. (2 Cor. 5:17)-the old covenant, the old order of worship, the Judaical Sabbath. "That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, which are in heaven and which are on earth; in him" (Eph. 1:10); only those things pertaining to the Mosaic economy remain which are useful to our living unto God, and they abide not on their old foundation, but on a new disposition of them in Christ: cf. I Cor. 9:21.
Thus it is with the Holy Sabbath: it remains, yet it has undergone a decided renovation. As the incarnation of God's Son affected the chronology of the world (for all civilized time is, by common consent, dated from the year of His birth), so His death and resurrection terminated the old covenant and ratified the new, and this necessarily resulted in a change of the weekly day of rest.
Fourth, this change is explicitly taught in Heb. 4. "For if Joshua had given them rest then would he not afterward (through David) have spoken of another day" (v. 8). What this other "day" is, may be unequivocally ascertained from the context: it is the Holy Sabbath-"God did rest the seventh day from all his work" (v. 4). So too immediately after mentioning "another day" (that is, another or different one from the "seventh") the apostle went on to say, "There remaineth therefore a Sabbath-keeping to the people of God" (v. 9). In proof of this and also to identify this "another day" he declared, "For he (not 'they,' but 'he,' which is Christ) that is entered into his re,,t, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his" (v. 10).
What has just been pointed out is quite simple and easy to understand, but in order to grasp the force of the apostle's argument we need to gird up the loins of our minds and attend very closely to his chain of reasoning. First, we must observe that here in chap. 4 he is continuing what he had said in chap. 3. There he gave an exhortation unto faith, obedience and perseverance (3:1-6), and this he enforced by a quotation from Psa. 95, which contained a pointed exhortation and a solemn warning taken from the case of those who fell under Divine wrath because they were guilty of the sin contrary to the duties of faith, obedience, and perseverance (3: 7-11 ). This he at once follows by making application of the warning unto the Hebrews, and by expounding certain expressions in this quotation which he had made from the Psalmist (3:12-18).
Because the words of Psa. 95 contain not only a warning applicable to N. T. saints, and more especially because those words also had interwoven in them a prophecy (note "promise" in 4: 1) concerning the rest of God in Christ by the Gospel and our duty thereon, Paul proceeded to enlarge upon and confirm his exhortation in 3:12, 13, still using the language of Psa. 95 for that end. First, he propounds the duty which he aimed to press on the Hebrews (4:1, 2). Second, he established the foundation of his exhortation, by showing that the "rest" mentioned by David was still future when he wrote Psa. 95 (v. 3). Third, he enters into a careful discussion of and differentiates between the various "rests" of God (vv. 4-10). Fourth, he concludes by returning to and repeating his original exhortation (v. 11).
Let it be clearly grasped that the apostle's design in Heb. 4:4-11 was to confirm what he had laid down in vv. 1-3, which we paraphrase thus: There is under the Gospel a promise of entering into the rest of God, left or remaining unto believers, and they do enter into that rest by mixing the promise of it with faith. It was the more necessary to press this upon the Hebrews: that notwithstanding their ancient and present enjoyment of the land of Canaan, yet their fathers fell short of entering into God's rest because of their unbelief, and that now they (their children) were under a new trial or test, a new rest being proposed unto them in the promise. This he proves by a testimony out of Psa. 95, whereof he had previously treated in Heb. 3.
Now the application of Psa. 95 to the case of the Hebrews was liable to a serious objection: the "rest" mentioned there by David seemed to be one long since past. If that were the case, then these Hebrews could have no new or fresh concern in it, and therefore could be in no danger of coming short of it. It was to remove such an objection, and to confirm what he had previously advanced, that the apostle occupied himself in what follows, and this he does by a direct appeal to Psa. 95, showing from the proper signification of its words, from the time when it was written, and from the persons there addressed, that no other "rest" was there intended than what was here being proposed by him unto them, namely, the rest of God and His people in the Gospel.
The general argument insisted upon by the apostle to support his design and to establish his purpose, consists in an enumeration of all the various "rests" of God and His people mentioned in the 0. T. From the consideration of them all, he proves that no other rest could be intended by the language of David in Psa. 95 than the rest of the Gospel, whereinto all who believe do now enter. This he arrives at, most logically, by a process of elimination. First, the "rest" "promised" (4:1) in Psa. 95 was neither the rest of God from the works of creation, nor the Sabbath rest which ensued thereon (4:4-6). Second, nor was it the rest of Canaan, which Joshua brought the people into (4:7, 8). No, it was a spiritual rest which remained or subsisted for believers to enjoy now (vv. 8-10).
"For if Joshua had given them rest, then would He not afterward have spoken of another day" (v. 8). In this verse the apostle removes a possible objection and gives further confirmation of his argument, by a particular application of it unto the point before him. That which he still insists upon is, his principal assertion from the words of David, namely, the rest prepared and proposed in the Gospel unto believers. To this the Hebrews might object: Although the people who came out of Egypt entered not into the promised rest of God, yet the next generation did so under Joshua-why then propose this rest unto us, and warn against our danger of missing it? This objection is conclusively set aside by showing that God in David proposed "another day" of rest unto Israel centuries after Joshua, and as no new Sabbath was appointed in David's time, his words must be understood prophetically. Hence there was a rest proposed unto the Hebrews (and so us) and "another day" to memorialize it.
"There remaineth therefore a keeping of a Sabbath unto the people of God" (v. 9). The apostle here shows, in a brief summary, what had been conclusively established in his whole disquisition: three things indubitably followed. First, that a Divine and spiritual rest remains for the people of God to enter into and enjoy with Him. Second, that a Sabbath day to memorialize it, and be a means of entering into that rest, abides under the Gospel. Third, that it must of necessity be "another day," a different one from that which obtained under the old covenant. It is to be duly noted that the apostle did not say "there awaiteth" or "there is yet to be a Sabbath keeping," but "there remaineth." The reference is not to something future, but what is present. This word is used in the same sense when applied negatively to the system of sacrifices: "There remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" (Heb. 10:26). How striking that this occurs in Hebrews! The Levitical priesthood has been set aside, the temple is no more. Judaism is abolished; but a Sabbath remains!
We wish to call special attention to the fact that in v. 9 Paul again deliberately changed his terms. The word for "rest" here in v. 9 is an entirely different one from that used in vv. 1, 3, 5, 8, 10. It is "sabbatismos" which speaks for itself: the R. V. has "There remaineth therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God." It was a word coined by the apostle to express the whole sense of that with which he was treating: that is, to denote both the rest itself and the appointment of "another day" as a token of it-it signifies our rest in God and the Day which is the pledge of it. And this Sabbatismos remaineth-the word "remaineth" signifies to be left after others have been withdrawn (as the primitive and Judaical Sabbaths have), to continue unchanged, as the Christian Sabbath will unto the end of the world. Here, then, is a plain, positive, unequivocal declaration by the Spirit of God: "there remaineth therefore a Sabbath keeping." Nothing could be simpler, nothing less ambiguous, for this is addressed to the "holy brethren partakers of the heavenly calling" (3:1). Hence, we solemnly and emphatically declare that the man who says there is no Christian Sabbath takes direct issue with the N. T. Scriptures.
"There remaineth therefore a keeping of a Sabbath to the people of God." In this and the following verse the apostle evidences the perfect analogy between the several rests of God and His people discoursed of in this chapter. First, at the beginning there was the creative work of God and His resting therefrom, which made way for a rest for His creatures in Himself and His worship by the contemplation of the works which He had made, and a day was specially assigned for that purpose: that was the primitive Sabbatismos. Second, there was a great work of God in bringing Israel out of Egypt and the establishing of His people in Canaan, which made way for their entering into His rest and worship, a Sabbath day being appointed to express both the one and the other: this was the Mosaic Sabbatismos.
So now, under the Gospel, there is a Sabbatismos comprised of all these. As we shall see there was another and greater work of God, and a rest of His own ensued thereon. On that work is founded the promise of rest spiritual and eternal to those who do believe, and the determination of a new day expressive of the one and the other. This is the Christian Sabbatismos. That the redemptive work of Christ has not only secured this spiritual rest to His people, but has also necessitated and resulted in a new Sabbath day to celebrate it, appears from two things in the apostle's discourse. First, by referring to our Gospel rest by the name of DAY (v. 8). Second, from his coining of this term "Sabbatismos" to express both our spiritual rest and the Sabbath-keeping which memorializes the same.
"For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works as God did from his" (v. 10). Plain and simple as these words are, yet they have been grievously wrested by most of the commentators. They are generally regarded and referring to believers entering into the rest of God, through their believing of the Gospel. But there are two considerations which expose the error of this view. First, the verse does not read, "they who enter into his rest" but "he that is entered into." Second, if the reference was to believers what are the "works" from which they cease? Their sins, say some; their legalistic efforts to win God's approval, say others; their sorrows and sufferings, from which they shall rest in Heaven, say yet others. But how could they be said to rest from such works "AS God from His" own? It is utterly impossible to satisfactorily answer such a question. No, the verse speaks not of believers, but of Christ.
"For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his." There the apostle concludes his argument by declaring that the "rest" which remains for believers to enter into (4:3), and the new day appointed by God for this dispensation (4:9), have a new and special foundation, which the previous rests and days had no interest or concern in, namely, that the Author of it ceased from His own works and entered into His rest. Proofs that this verse refers to Christ are many. First, its opening "For," which denotes that the apostle now indicates whence it is there is a new Sabbatismos remaining for the people of God. He had before shown there could be no such rest but what was founded upon the works of God. Such a foundation this new rest must have, and doth have. It is the work of Him by whom the Church is builded: 3:3, 4.
Second, the change of number in the pronoun from the plural to the singular intimates the same thing. In vv. I and 3 the apostle had used "us" and "we," but here "he that is entered." This is the more noticeable because in the verse immediately preceding he had mentioned "the people of God." That it is not them who are here in view further appears from the fact that they never cease from their works while left in this world. No other reason can possibly be given for this change of number except that a single person is here expressed. Third, note it is not simply said of this person that "he that is entered into rest" (as in vv. 3 and 8), but "into his rest" absolutely. God spoke of "My rest-.' here He mentions "his rest'--Christ's rest!
Well, then, may we with the utmost confidence exclaim with the Psalmist, "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it" (118:24). "We observe the day as henceforth our true Sabbath, a day made and ordained of God, for the perpetual remembrance of the achievements of our Redeemer" (C. H. Spurgeon). It should be pointed out that the passage we have last quoted is part of a remarkable prophecy, which set forth both the humiliation and exaltation of the Lord Jesus-"the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow." The passage is quoted in the N. T. no less than six times, being expressly applied to the Saviour. First, He is seen as "the Stone which the builders refused," and then as "become the head of the corner" (v. 22).
And how could that "Stone," contemptuously trodden underfoot by men, become "the head of the corner?" How indeed except by being raised! It was by His triumph over death that Christ became the Head of the corner-a "corner" is when two walls meet together, and in resurrection Christ became Head of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles' The Psalmist added, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes" (v. 23). And then follows "This is the day which the Lord hath made." What could be clearer? How perfectly it accords with Heb. 4:9, 101 That "day " was Divinely "made" to memorialize Christ's victory over the grave: God has "made it remarkable, made it holy, hah distinguished it from all other days: it is therefore called the Lord's day, because it bears His image and superscription" (Matt. Henry).
And so it is:.the Christian Sabbath is specifically designated "the Lord's day" in Rev. 1:10. It is called such, because it owes its pre-eminence to the Lord's institution and authority. By taking to Himself the title of "the Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28), Christ clearly intimated His authority to determine which day of the week a Sabbath rest was to be observed by His people, and by ceasing from His works and entering into His rest on the first day of the week, He has "limited" this one for us. Those who are determined to close their eyes to all this evidence and get rid of the first-day Sabbath at any price, wrest these words in Rev. 1: 10 by saying they signify "the Day of the Lord-when He comes in judgment. But the immediate context is dead against them: all that follows from 1:10 to the end of chap. 3 shows that this opening vision respected present and not future things. Moreover, the Greek is different from 2 Pet. 3:10! "The Lord's supper" (1 Cor. 11:21) memorializes His death; "the Lord's day" celebrates His resurrection.
A brief word on v. 11 must suffice: "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any of you fall after the same example of unbelief." Here the apostle returns to his main exhortation and therefore uses the word ("Katapausis") employed in vv. 1, 3, to which we refer the reader-thus vv. 4-10 are an explanatory parenthesis. The "fear" of v. 1 is not that of dread or doubt, but of reverential respect unto the Divine threatenings and promises, such as would move its possessors to heed the one and inherit the other. The utmost of our endeavors and efforts are required in order to our obtaining an entrance into the rest of Christ (v. 11). We are to "labour" or give the greatest possible diligence thereto (cf. John 6:27). To mortify sin, deny self, cut off right hands, endure all sorts of afflictions and persecutions, are painful, difficult, and attended with many hardships. The future state of Christians is one wholly of rest, but his present state is a mixed one: partly of rest, partly of labour-labour against sin, rest in the love and grace of God.
Having traced through Scripture the original institution of the Sabbath in Eden, the brief but plain intimations of its observance by the patriarchs, its solemn renewal at Sinai and incorporation into the Moral Law, its being honored by Christ and freed from pharisaical additions, its Christianization, it only remains for us to state in a few words its importance, design, and value. The Sabbath is a memorial of Divine creation. It denotes that God is the sovereign Lord of our time, which is to be used and improved by us as He has specified in the Fourth Commandment. It is a commemoration of Christ's resurrection and a foresadowing of our Eternal Rest from sin. It is designed to preserve us from becoming wholly absorbed with the things of time and sense. It is a signal means of grace for the promotion of the spiritual life. In proportion as it is kept holy, godliness prospers. A due observance thereof lies at the foundation of a nation's happiness and prosperity. "Blessed is the man that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it" (Isa. 66:2).
Here is a summary of the reasons why Christians should observe the Sabbath on the first day of the week. First, because that day was clearly anticipated by O. T. typology-- striking things connected with "the eighth day." Second, because the New Covenant necessitated a new Day of rest to signify the old covenant was abrogated. Third, because the honour and glory of Christ required it: on the day especially appointed for Divine worship, God would now have us occupied with His risen and exalted Son. Fourth, His own example bears witness thereto: His repeated meetings with His disciples (John 19) and His sending the Spirit on that day (Acts 2:1) set His imprimatur upon it. Fifth, because the early Church so celebrated it (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2): there is not a single recorded instance in the N. T. of the saints meeting together for worship, after Christ's resurrection on any other day but on the first of the week! Sixth, because we are expressly told that God has "limited" or determined "another day" (Heb. 4:9) than the old one, and that, because that Christ then rose from the dead (v. 10). Seventh, because we are Divinely assured that, in view of the raising up of the rejected Stone to be the head of the corner. "This is the day which the Lord hath made" (Psa. 118:24), and therefore is it called "the Lord's day" in the N. T. (Rev. 1:10).
It is true that though death was the Divinely ordained penalty for the
Israelite who polluted the Sabbath, it is not threatened against us today;
nevertheless, let not any proud rebel suppose he shall escape the anger
of his offended Creator. Gal. 6: 7 applies here with its full solemn force:
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that
shall he also reap." No, God is not mocked. He has commanded man
to spend one day out of each seven in rest from all unnecessary work. and
if he disobeys, God will make him rest, rest on a bed of sickness.
and if that does not suffice, rest in death!
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