Understanding the True Sabbath Rest in Christ
For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath. Matt12:8
Is the forth Commandment still in force as meaning a literal observance of a Day, specifically beginning Friday at sunset to Saturday evening? This question has divided Christians for centuries and today is no exception with many sincere devotees being taken captive by the Jewish Roots movement and returning to the observances of rituals, Days new moons and dietary laws. Of course it was the Roman Church under Constantine that first enforced Sunday as the observance day around 321AD, he (Constantine) being a Sun worshipper, (not Son of God) obviously choose Sun-Day (dies solis) as homage to his god. Most of professed Christianity adopted the Sunday observance as their traditional day by the forth century and with the exception of the devoted Sabbatarians, Seven Day Adventist, Latter Day Saints, (perhaps some 'Christian cults) today, Sunday is still the accepted tradition.
Since Christianity originated with the Jews the earliest evidence of observance days is in favor of the Friday-Saturday tradition that fell in line with the Jewish lunar calendar. But when more and more Gentiles came into the faith the question of Jewish rituals and observances became an issue. Many Jewish Christians felt it was necessary for the Gentile converts to be circumcised and keep the rituals as we see discussed by Paul in the book of Galatians. The issue finally reached a climax at the first Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts15, some time after Paul and Barnabas returned from their mission to the Gentiles in Samaria and Phoenicia. Peter had also been shown a vision concerning the Gentiles that resulted in his visit to Cornelius, the Roman Centurion's household in Acts10. He testified at the Council that God made no distinction between the Jews and Gentiles, but purified their hearts by faith when they repented and believed and went on to say why should we then put a yoke on their neck even our fathers were able to bear. Paul and Barnabas also testified how God had worked mightily in their ministry to the Gentiles. As a result James the Just (the half brother of Christ, apparently converted some time after the Lord's resurrection) declared that the Gentile converts should not be burdened with Jewish rituals, but focus on abstaining form immorality and living a holy life in Christ. (the mention of 'things strangled, and blood' in Acts15 was specifically in light of abstaining from anything associated with idolatrous worship which the Jews abhorred, therefore the Gentiles Christians also should stay clear of it)
Following these decrees historical evidence reveals that the Gentile assemblies were at liberty from the keeping of the Jewish Sabbath and the rituals. Some continued to observe them, even circumcision, others argued over which Apostle was Chief over the others in Jerusalem and then held their Epistles in more high regard over the others. Also some Jewish Christians still refused to worship with the Gentiles because of their lack of aberrance to Jewish customs. But by the forth century, with the twenty seven books of NT completed and canonized as Scripture, the assemblies were either keeping a Day of their own choosing or falling in line with Rome as it gained preeminence over the Empire. Historically up through the Reformation and beyond Sunday has been the chosen day in the greater part of professed Christianity, in the East and West. But the battle wages on, today it seems more so than ever and the keeping of the Sabbath Day (forth commandment) has become a means of Justifying self to many who have embraced the Hebrew Roots movement and they will readily condemn others who deny it. But what can we learn from the Scriptures as to the true meaning of REST in Christ.
The simple truth is, the Rest is in Christ Jesus, abiding in the
Vine, is the Sabbath. In other words; Jesus is all of Levities 23,
(The feast days) He is the Pass Over, the Feast of Tabernacles, the Day of
Atonement, and the Sabbath. He is our 24/7 Passover and Sabbath Rest.
There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. Heb4:9-11, 'For indeed Christ our Passover, was sacrificed for us' 1Cor5:7
What kind of Rest could this be speaking about if the rituals and ceremonies remain in effect? What kind of 'works' have we ceased from in Christ … surely not diligence and obedience … but our works of rebellion done in an attempt to justify ourselves by keeping traditions. (in the Church sense these are: 'sinners prayer, baptism, if I say I have no sin, sin daily, sin nature, never cease from sin) In Christ we have ceased from sin (rebellion) been cleansed and purged for present service and are ever vigilant to serve Him acceptably with reverence and godly fear. If keeping a DAY could produce cleansed and purified Saints, Steadfast to the end, where are they, the professed Churches have been keeping Days, festivals, traditions, sacraments for centuries and are rotten to the core! Just as Scripture says:
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations 'Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle, which all concern things which perish with the using according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. Col2:16-23
the literal Sabbath
day in the old covenant was a feast day, just as the Passover and the
Feast of Tabernacles, etc. But Paul tells us in Colossians 2 that these
were mere shadows of better things to come pointing to our Lord Jesus Christ the
fulfillment of all the holydays. Fighting over these things as to how they shall
be observed has no advantage against the indulgence of the flesh. If you desire
to keep them, do so, but as a matter of conscience, allowing others the same
One person esteems one
day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced
in his own mind. Rom14:5
they are not a matter of Justification and unless your heart has been
circumcised (old man of sin put to death in repentance, Rom2:25-29, Col2:11-12,
3:5) observances are meaningless! You can even take of the Lord's supper to your
own ruin if your heart is not clear of sin, 1Cor11:28-29
Just as Paul said: 'He that is justified by the Law has fallen from grace, Gal5:4, WHY, because these things are a Shadow, but the Substance (fulfillment) is in Christ. A shadow has not life, only in the Son is there life! 1Jh5:12. It is when they seek to Justify themselves by these traditions that it becomes legalism and they are always ready to condemn others for not keeping them. Paul says we are at liberty concerning Days, moons, seasons, Gal4:10, and its in vain to enforce them on others. Our Sabbath Rest is in Christ, the Day we choose to gather, worship and fellowship is not important, its our time of guilt free relaxation in the Lord focused on edification, spiritual communion and digging deep into His Word. Its where we are strengthened, encouraged and lifted up to face the ongoing battle. Our diligence in doing well doth never cease, we abide in Him 24/7, in the peace that passes understanding. I've seen those robbed of this Rest in Christ, this assurance of His cleaning blood, striving to keep days, rituals, new moons, and they are miserable and unsure their witness is pleasing unto God. We see this in Mary and Martha, Lk10:41-42, the Lord said to Martha: 'thou art troubled about many things (as the treadmill of religion) But Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her', 'REST in Christ, Lk1:38-42.
Those fighting over Days and rituals don't understand true redemption in Christ. That the law is now written on our hearts and established therein through steadfast faith and obedience in Him, Rom3:30-31 we are no longer under the bond woman Hagar. His yoke is easy and burden light, commandments not burdensome, Matt11:29-30, 1Jh5:3. In Him we are of the free woman Sarah and no longer under the law of sin and death. Having all things established in the heart of circumcision we fulfill all the righteousness of the law through Christ. As long as we are abiding in obedience to Him we are therefore not under the condemnation of sin and death. This is the Sabbath rest in Christ and all Ten Commandment and the NT magnification of them are being kept therein.
It's interesting that 9 of the 10 commandments are covered several times in the NT epistles, Rom1:29-31, Rev21:8, Gal5:19-21, Rom3:19, 2Tim3:2-4, etc. However it never speaks of the Sabbath. Why is that? NOT because it is still in force and can't be changed as the Hebrew Roots people claim, but because departing from our works of iniquity and keeping the moral law established in our hearts (walking after the Spirit) we are automatically entered into His rest. (Translated into the kingdom of His dear Son as faithful believers in Christ Jesus, Col1:13-14) The Sabbath pointed to our spiritual Rest in Christ, Col2:16-17, we no longer need a Shadow, we have HIM! The first Sabbath in the bible (the seventh day God rested) had no end like the first six days of creation did. It is a type of eternal rest. All of the first days had a beginning and an end but not the seventh day, Genesis 2:1-4. this is a typology of Hebrews 3-4, we are to be ever diligent:
Heb4:11 'Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest,
(strive to enter the straight gate) lest anyone
fall according to the same example of disobedience. (for
many I say to you will seek to enter and not be able, Lk13:24)
Heb3:11 'So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.
Although the early Jewish Christians kept the Sabbath, they were never under
obligation to it, 'He says a new covenant', He has made
the first obsolete' Heb8:13, 'He takes away the
first that He may establish the second', Heb10:9. Paul seems to have
understood this better than the others since its his Epistles that cover the
issue. (that's also why the Hebrew Roots people attack him as a false teacher
today) Returning to the Lev23 requirement is keeping ALL the Sabbath
ordnances, not picking and choosing what you prefer for various reasons.
(Gal3:12, Lev18:5) Those who cry Torah, know not what they are saying,
Christians are under Grace not the Law (in the sense of keeping rituals) Paul
tells us in Galatians that the
Law was only added to the Hebrew children because of disobedience in the
wilderness, (Gal3:19) therefore a 12 day trek turned into 40 years. All God
expected when Moses led them out of Egypt was for them to live by faith like
Abraham did. Because they did not, the
Law from Sinai was brought down. Abraham, who lived and walked by faith 24/7,
was not under a literal Sabbath day law and we
as his children by faith are not either. We have liberty to walk in the Spirit
and be in the Lords' Sabbath all the days of our lives. Keeping Days and
traditions is a matter of consciences, not commandment, the Jewish Christians
felt they were obligated to maintain their traditions (Sabbath observances,
Passover etc) but they were always busy with the Lord's work on these days. They
entered the Synagogues on the Sabbath, listened to the reading of the Scriptures
and then reasoned with the Jews from the Scriptures proving Jesus was their
Messiah. (Acts13:14, 17:1) The Church (gospel age) itself began on the Day of
Pentecost which fell on the morrow of the OT Sabbath day, so technically the
Church started its first Sabbath on the day after the Jewish Sabbath and of
course this day has NEVER ended as we are currently in the Gospel age
experiencing our Sabbath rest in Christ--diligently gong about doing the work of
the Kingdom. This is why there is no specific command anywhere in the Epistles
about keeping a certain Day, but we do see a continuum of worship, praise,
obedience throughout the entirely of the gospel age of grace.
'And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, (the hearts of the believers) and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts2:46-47
If we look at Matthew 12 we see that the Levite priests were not required to keep the Sabbath day like the rest of the Jews. Why? Because they were a 24/7 priesthood serving God, Rev1:6 says the Saints are now kings and priests unto the Lord, Peter calls them a royal priesthood, a holy nation, showing forth praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light, 1Pet1:9, Always offering up sacrifices of love to the Lord daily as our REASONABLE service, Rom12:1-2. In the Matthew passage Jesus is explaining this to the Jews:
Matt12:1-8 'At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
The Temple is now in us, the Spiritual house of the Lord,
Acts7:48-50, Jh4:20-24, 1Cor3:16, as His Royal Priesthood we are now at liberty
to worship Him in spirit and truth 24/7, in the temple (of our hearts) not made
with hands. Jesus said: The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the
sabbath, Mk2;27 the Rest was made for man, not the observance of days.
The rituals were of no value to the Jews, why would they suddenly become
necessary to us.
Paul Contrasts the 'Two types of law' in Gal3:1-12
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them. But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith. Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them
The law of faith, Rom3:27, that works by love, Gal5:6, Purifies the heart of sin by obedience to the truth, 1Pet1:22 and upholds the moral law, Rom3:31. The many 'Works' of the law, ritual, ceremony, observances, could Justify no one, because it could not purify the heart of sin or purge the conscience of dead works, therefore going back to the keeping of days, months, times, seasons is in vain, Gal4:10-11. The problem most professed Christians have, including the Hebrew Roots crowd is understanding that the Law of Moses, works of the law, referred to in Scripture is always speaking of observances, ordnances, ritual sacrifice in an attempt to justify self, NOT the Moral Code God requires the faithful to Walk in, called the 'Righteous requirements of the law, Rom8:4, the Royal Law, Js2:8, the Loving God on which hangs all the law and prophets, Matt22:37-40, the doing no harm to our neighbor, Rom13:10. Christians doing this live Holy everyday, not merely on some Sabbath, new moon or festival day, as rituals cannot remit sin, neither can they Purify the heart of it. The professed Church gains nothing by observing their Sunday worship or any other 'service they may have for that matter, if you're not 'all in' for Christ every day why bother giving Him 1/7 of your week in a church, its utter hypocrisy, just like the Jews who argued with Christ about ritual. God hates your pretense, just as John the Baptist said, you enter the Kingdom through repentance and faith proven by deeds. Not ceremony or ritual (water baptism, church membership, keeping Sabbaths) those pressing into the Kingdom (Striving, Lk13:24) are doing so by Obeying Christ and leaving the world behind.
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force! Mat11:12
by Mike D