What does “the Sabbath” mean for a Christian?
By: Paul Thompson.
Perhaps the most important biblical passage about the sabbath is the following saying of Jesus: “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)
These words of Jesus were spoken in response to the criticism of the Pharisees, who saw Jesus’ disciples plucking ears of corn on the sabbath. In response, Jesus reminds them of how David, His type, went into the house of God and took the shewbread for himself and his followers. And then He says the foregoing words, with which He reminds us that all power of such things is in His hands alone (see Matthew 28:18), even the disposal of the sabbath day, which was made for man. Made for man! By these words he shows us that the setting up of the seventh day for man to keep did not precede man, nor was it to be man’s fate to observe the seventh day for ever, but to observe Him as its Lord.
But surely God instituted the seventh day as a day of rest, as soon as he had done His work of creation?
Let us look at what the Bible says: “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.” (Genesis 2:2,3)
Clearly God rested from His labours on THAT day and sanctified THAT day.
But every thing that God had made was good, and when he made Adam and Eve, and the garden of Eden, and the abundant fruits of the garden for Adam and Eve to pick from the trees as they passed, all that was good. And so where was the labour that Adam and Eve did in Eden? Every day was alike to them, and was good because all that the Lord had made was good. And Eden was God’s garden, where He came and spoke to His created man and woman.
He gave Adam one commandment, and this was not about the keeping of days: “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:16,17).
In Eden there was no labour from which to rest, and so we see plainly that Jesus’ words were right, that man was not made for the sabbath. Man was not made to labour and then to rest, but to dwell in God’s presence, in God’s garden. But Adam disobeyed God’s commandment, and was cast out of Eden, with Eve; and God said to him, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (Genesis 3:19), which shows where man’s labour began.
So when is it recorded first that God gave a day to keep? Not until after many generations of man had come and gone, not until long after God had swept away all He had created, save what Noah took into the ark with him, not until after the days of Abraham the patriarch, with whom He established His covenant, and the sign of circumcision (which was the sign of the old covenant). Not until after the days of Jacob and Joseph and the days of slavery in Egypt. So all these generations of men were not made to keep the sabbath.
The first record of God’s commanding a day to be kept was when He spoke to Moses about the first Passover, “And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.” (Exodus 12:14) This day was given unto the Children of Israel, under the Law.
When is the word “sabbath” first recorded? When is it first recorded that God commanded the seventh day of the week to be kept? Well, it was certainly not until many, many generations had passed since the fall of mankind, and it was plain that mankind needed outward observations and commandments to draw their attention back to God, one of which was to regard every seventh day as a day of rest, sanctified by God – just as He had sanctified that seventh day of creation, when He rested.
Significantly, it is first heard from the mouth of Moses, another of Christ’s types, at the time when the Children of Israel first received the outward manna, the outward bread from heaven, in the wilderness. Moses instructs them to gather manna for six days, including double the amount on the sixth, the seventh being “the holy sabbath unto the LORD” (Exodus 16:23). Men have inferred from that statement that the sabbath had been instituted before that time; that this may have been so I do not deny, but there is still nothing in scripture to say that it was so from before the creation of man, or that it was so in Eden before man’s labour ever began, or to fix any point during the generations before Moses. For to fix it first would mean that man was made for the sabbath, which is in opposition to the words of Christ.
That was the first mention of the word “sabbath”, which means a rest, from the mouth of a prophet. The first time we hear of it direct from God is upon Mount Sinai in Exodus 20:8. Surely it is the case that God could see that even in the case of the people with whose father Abraham He had entered into a covenant and given His sign, they were a sinful, fallen, and backsliding people, for even as He gave Moses the words of the commandments, they had forgotten Him and made an idol of a golden calf for themselves. [“ Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:19-29) ].
So this is the real beginning of the sabbath for the Children of Israel, and so we see that the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath, which agrees with the words of Jesus Christ.
But what is the sabbath now to a Christian? Is it still the seventh day of the week, under the old covenant? Or the first? Or some other day?
It can be seen not to be the seventh, because the early church was made up of Jews and gentiles, some of whom went into the temple or the synagogue still on the seventh day, and some did not, and generally gentile converts were not required to adopt outward signs of Jewishness.
Was it then, as some insist, replaced by the first day of the week? We know that Christ’s resurrection was proclaimed on the first day of the week, and that the disciples came together to break bread on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), or did so at least on a particular recorded occasion, and that Paul directed the church at Corinth to make collections for the saints every first day (1 Corinthians 16:1,2), but there is no mention of there being instituted a sabbath on the first day, as anti-type of the sabbath on the seventh. Nor is there any other day mentioned.
So we must look for some other anti-type to the sabbath of the seventh day, for we know that the laws which God once wrote on tablets of stone outwardly, He has replaced with laws more perfect written inwardly on our hearts. So if there was a rest according to the day of the week for his outward Children of Israel, there must be a greater rest for his spiritual Children of Israel. So we must look elsewhere than to the observation of days [“For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” (Hebrews 4:4-11)].
Let us look at some examples of how Christ applies the word to Himself:
“Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.” (Matthew 12:3-8)
Jesus is saying much more than that He is to be allowed to do what David did, as His type. “In this place is one greater than the temple” – in that place was one in whom God dwelt in fullness! “The Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” – and so is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, that “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” (Isaiah 9:7).
“And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. 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. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.” (Matthew 12:10-13)
If the Lord of the sabbath sees fit, He will work or do any thing upon the seventh day of the week; which is to say He will do His spiritual, healing ministry upon us on any day He chooses, whether that is an outward sabbath after the custom of the world, or not.
“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), in which words Christ confirms what we have already seen.
“The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.” (Luke 13:15-17), in which we see the people rejoicing to see the outward sabbath broken by Christ’s healing of a daughter of Abraham, showing that He may work upon any day, towards the loosing of Satan’s bonds!
“My Father worketh hitherto, and I work,” saith Christ in John 5:17, upon a seventh day.
The account continues: “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth: and he will show him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:18-47) – passage reproduced in full, to show the fullness of Christ, Lord of the sabbath day, who being equal of God works on the sabbath day!
John 7:14-29 “Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is. Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.” (Mark these words – “because I have made a man every whit whole”!)
And Jesus makes a man to see on the seventh day of the week (John 9:14), of which miracle the man did testify, and said in answer to the accusations of the Pharisees, “Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25), which shows that those in whom Christ works will testify that He works on the seventh day as on any, and His works are real and substantial!
What good was the seventh day of the week to those of whom it was written, after Christ’s death and resurrection: “For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.” (Acts 13:17)
Here Paul writes to the Colossians: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” Now, if they were all to keep days, would he not have commanded them, in the name of Christ? But Paul knew such observances to be the shadow, of which Jesus Christ is the body or substance. And he writes thus to the Romans: “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” So if all were to esteem one day above another, would he not have commanded it?
Christ Himself says the following: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Here the Lord of the sabbath Himself promises rest from labour, and continues v29, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Mark –rest unto your souls!
The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, “We which have believed do enter into rest.” And also, “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.” (see chapter 4)
Christ saith: “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56). And, “whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:26). And again, “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20). And He commands his disciples, “Abide in me, and I in you” (John 15:2).
And He continues thus: “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” (John 15:7-11)
He saith also, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). And, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21), and in verse 23, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.”
Here is the testimony of Paul on Mars Hill: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). And he writes to the Corinthians thus of God and Christ: “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him,” (1 Corinthians 8:6), and again to them thus: “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God,” (2 Corinthians 1:20,21).
Paul writes further: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4), and what a marvelous writing this is! It shows that the Truth has been revealed to Paul that those who are born anew in Christ have fulfilled what man was destined to do, which is to dwell in God’s peaceful kingdom. Paul, who had observed the seventh day of the week all his life, as a devout Jew, has been blessed to see the substance of that outward shadow!
Paul writes to the Colossians: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him,” (ch2, v6), “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” (v9), “And ye are complete in him,” (v10).
For those who are in Christ, He is their true Sabbath Rest, not simply on the evidence of all this scripture, but also and principally by the Power of the everlasting Gospel, and by the Law of Christ which He writes on their hearts by His Holy Spirit.
John witnesses to this: “But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked,” (1 John 2:5,6), and “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him,” (1 John 2:27,28), and “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not,” (1 John 3:6), and “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us,” (1 John 3:24), and “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God,” (1 John 4:15), and “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)
So, by all the foregoing we see that Jesus Christ, the Lord of the sabbath, promises that all who eat His flesh and drink His blood dwell in the Lord of the sabbath, and the Lord of the sabbath dwells in them, and they shall never die. They shall know that the Lord of the sabbath is in the Father, that they are in the Lord of the sabbath, and the Lord of the sabbath is in them. He commands them to live in the Lord of the sabbath, and says that His joy will remain in them and be full, and that they will have peace! He prays that they will be in Him and in the Father, and be made perfect in one. The perfection of the Lord of the sabbath, by whom all things were made, is perfection in rest.
Paul, the Apostle most surely qualified to proclaim the Good News, confessed that he and his yokefellows lived, and moved, and had their being in the Lord of the sabbath. So they knew their rest in Him at all times, because they lived, and moved, and had their whole being in Him, who was Himself their Rest. And he testified that they were in the Lord of the sabbath and made by Him.
Paul advises the church members to walk in the Lord of the sabbath, and tells them that they are rooted and built up in the Lord of the sabbath, and complete in Him. For those who are in Christ, He is their true Sabbath Rest.
John’s testimony is marvelous, showing that by having received the anointing of the Lord of the sabbath, we need not that any man teach us, and thus need not go to the synagogue at some appointed hour on some appointed day, so that a man might read the scrolls to us and expound upon their meaning! Why? – because the Lord of the sabbath teaches! And that whoever keeps the commandments of the Lord of the sabbath, which are written inwardly, dwells in the Lord of the sabbath. And that whoever lives in the Lord of the sabbath does not sin, but rests, just as in Eden before Adam fell there was no sin and no labour!
Is there any more that these witnesses from the first days of the church can say, or to which I can say amen, that can be understood any other way, than:
The sabbath to a Christian is his whole life of faith, in which he rests, in Christ the Lord of the sabbath, from all the works of the hands of man. It is no more a day of the week, for which man was not made, because man was made to dwell with God.
Jesus Christ, the Lord of the sabbath, is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. Thus we who dwell in Him, and He in us, knew Him yesterday to be the Lord of the sabbath; we know Him today to be the Lord of the sabbath; and we will know Him tomorrow and every day to be the Lord of the sabbath, in whom we live, and move, and have our being, and have our peace, rest, and perfection.
And so it may be seen that those who know this Sabbath under the New Covenant are the true keepers of it, and the true keepers of His spiritual commandments, and thereby His friends.
Amen, amen, amen.
In which some common observations and objections are answered
OBJECTED that there is only one sabbath mentioned in scripture, and that is to be a day of the week.
ANSWERED that there is a meaning of things in scripture which can be appreciated by the natural intelligence of man. It is by and from this appreciation that we first come to know outwardly the law and the prophets, the histories and psalms, the stories of Jesus, the church of the apostles’ day, and the revelations of the last days. This outward appreciation is valuable as far as it goes, but it only goes so far. Many people sit down in this outward knowledge, and make it their be-all and end-all.
There is a spiritual appreciation, revealed in the measure He wills, to His babes, and hidden from those who sit down in man’s natural intelligence.
Thus they begin – and in time come to bear witness in fullness – to show His kingdom to the world, in everything they say and do. In this way they cease from the works of the hand of man, and show forth the rest that is in Jesus Christ – the rest that is Jesus Christ. That is their Sabbath, and that is how they keep and observe their Sabbath.
It can be seen to be a fulfilling of the Sabbath which was no more than a day for the outward Children of Israel, which was a sign for the outward Children of Israel (see Ezekiel chapter 20), but we show forth the fullness of the Body which is Christ.
OBJECTED that the sabbath is plainly a day on which no work is to be done.
ANSWERED that in certain families where such is the practice, the essential tasks of the day are performed by a “Shabbas goy” (ie a “Seventh-day gentile”, or person not of their persuasion). Thus in order not to break their own calendar sabbath, they have someone to break it for them! This is a strange, worldly custom, and shows how outward rules are strained in the keeping! Do objectors imagine that such a practice is now the command of Christ?
OBJECTED by other folk, that a sabbath is nowadays to be understood as no more than the day on which people habitually go to their place of worship.
ANSWERED that if custom has given the word “no more than” that meaning, then custom is vain. For being “no more than” that, it is much less than its meaning in scripture. To take away from the meaning of scripture, being the same as adding a different meaning to scripture, is clearly wrong. We do not, and you should not, use the word in that way.
OBJECTED that to say that Christ broke the Sabbath is to call Him a sinner.
ANSWERED that this was not said anywhere by me! He knew no sin, He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, and in Him is no sin! He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin! This is what the Bible says, and this is what I believe, and clearly declare; and I maintain that nothing I have written contradicts that.
Now, most certainly Jesus’ enemies accused Him of breaking the Sabbath. Why? Well, apart from being His enemies, it was based on what they saw Him do on that day, and the way His disciples plucked ears of wheat on that day. Plainly He worked ! And He never denied what He did. He never denied the material facts. They saw Him and His followers do what they considered to be breaking the Sabbath and working on the Seventh day of the week, and He never contradicted them, or tried to argue that He had done anything other than what they had seen Him do! And whilst His enemies grew angrier at this, it cannot be denied that “all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.” And I too rejoice with them for all the work and the glorious things that were done by Him, none of which were sin. Which goes to prove false the assertion that I called Christ a sinner!
Christ’s enemies accused Him of being a sinner, and tried to get other witnesses to call Him a sinner – they did not, and I do not! Instead I bear the same witness as the man to whom He restored sight – “ Whereas once I was blind, now I see.” His enemies wanted witnesses of His “crime” – what they got was witnesses of His power! His enemies wanted a legalistic answer to their legalistic charges – what they got from witnesses were answers of faith, and what they got from Him were answers of power. Not denials ! Your shall have answers of faith from me – Christ did what He did, Halleluiah!
OBJECTED that to say we shall no longer keep a day of the week is to give license to break commandments.
ANSWERED that this was nowhere said by me. No, we must keep them in Christ, as I have constantly believed and asserted.
The commandments given by God to Moses were for the outward Children of Israel, who were fallen men and women, as we have seen. They were to be kept under the commandments upon the tables of stone, and in fear of punishment, because the people’s fallen nature disposed them to break them.
Let us take two or three of them, and compare them to Christ’s teaching, and show how we keep them in Christ.
“Thou shalt not kill.” This commandment is widely understood by the world to mean that “thou shalt not murder”, for the world blithely goes to war, carries out abortions, executes criminals &c, but maintains a legal interdiction on what it perceives as “murder”; and in “Christian” countries it cites this commandment in support of its view. And indeed, to murder is evil, and sinful.
Here are some words of Christ’s: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire………Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” [from Matthew 5]
Now, when I was young, I read the sermon on the mount many times, and for those many times I had not been able by my own reason and intellect to penetrate what are widely known as “Christ’s hard sayings” or “Christ’s impossible teachings”; but one day as I read them I experienced an opening and a teaching from the Lord Himself. Well, as long as the words in the 5th chapter of Matthew remained closed to me, I was in the state of the outward Children of Israel, and under the law written upon the stone tables, commanded against my nature not to kill! And to me these teachings of Jesus remained unopened and unfathomable. I recall when I was an infant I asked my dear mother, “If we are a Christian country, and Jesus says to turn the other cheek, why do we go to war?” The question troubled her, and she gave me as honest an answer as she could, to the effect that Jesus’ teachings were ideals which we try to live up to, but in times of dire emergency, such as attack by an enemy, we have to lay them aside, and take them up again later. I must admit that at the time I was myself troubled by her answer, even though it was decades before I received an answer from the Lord Himself!
Here was the problem – how were we supposed to obey these things? At a pinch, our conscience and our fear of punishment would hold us back from killing someone, but how could we stop ourselves from feeling enmity? How could we patiently let an aggressor hit us twice? It was impossible! Why did Christ ask such things of us, if they were impossible?
Later I began to see Christ for who He really was – not simply the chief character in my Bible-class stories, not simply someone about whom we sung hymns at school, not simply the Son of God in some titular way, not simply a sacrifice (oh, but how powerfully He was!), not simply an absentee Judge who would return one day to a world incapable of being saved from out of sin. But the Light of the world, which darkness could not blot out – see the first chapter of the gospel according to John.
His spiritual ministry is as law-giver, but not as doler-out of impossible laws. It is He who gives the power and who is the Power to obey them. Thus to live in Him, and to have one’s eye upon Him is to be healed and cleansed from enmity.
Thus we see the abolition (there is no available euphemism for this!) [ See Ephesians 2:14-18] of the old dispensation, and of the keeping of an outward commandment in fear of punishment and against our nature; and instead, in Christ, we have the new dispensation – the law of love and everlasting life replacing the law of sin and death – in which we are grafted into Christ the Vine, and partake of His nature, and thus keep the commandment that He gives, when He says, “But I say unto you……….”!
“Thou shalt not steal”, which I shall deal with alongside “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house &c”. The same argument applies to these commandments as to the foregoing. They were laid upon a people made up of fallen mankind, who were disposed not only to covet each other’s material possessions, but to take them.
But hear Christ’s “hard teaching: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
Need I say more? Thus again we see the abolition (there is no available euphemism for this!) of the old dispensation, and of the keeping of an outward commandment in fear of punishment and against our nature; and instead, in Christ, we have the new dispensation – the law of love and everlasting life replacing the law of sin and death – in which we are grafted into Christ the Vine, and partake of His nature, and thus keep the commandment that He gives, when He says, “Take no thought……….”!
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me” – this is the God whom, in Christ and in His new dispensation, we can now call “Father”! Thus we see the abolition (again there can be no euphemism – see Ephesians 2:15, the word in Greek means to break up or to annul) of old interdicts upon our nature which will build up idols, and the coming in of the new dispensation in which, in Christ, we know our heavenly Father. And thus we keep the commandment that Christ gives, when He teaches us in what spirit to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven…….”!
So the assertion that I say we are to disobey commandments is seen to have no ground!
For I am of the church of which Jesus Christ is the inward law-giver, the sole, eternal, ever-present, living, effective Head, and we are the keepers of His commandments – not the disobeyers – and we keep the Sabbath as I have previously testified, which is the rest for which man was made, according to His word! And thus we are His friends, and rightly called His friends, keeping His commandments as we are obliged to – which answers everything which thee has said!
OBJECTED that even granted a deeper, spiritual meaning to commandments, as given by Christ, we are not freed by His commandments to break the older ones. For example, we are enabled to love our enemies, but this does not give us the license to kill them; we are enabled to overcome materialism, to take no heed for tomorrow and no longer to covet things, but this does not give us license to steal them. Similarly we are come to know Christ as our Rest, but this does not give us license to break the weekly Sabbath.
ANSWERED that such a view shows a misunderstanding of the commandments and what they were for, and a misunderstanding of what Christ truly works in us. The commandments in stone were there to restrain people from doing what they were naturally disposed to do, in their fallen nature, and the law was to inflict punishment upon them for breaking them. When we are given the power to love our enemies, then the possibility of killing them no longer exists – what purpose is served then by reiterating the outward law? Christ has fulfilled that commandment, by His perfecting work. Similarly, when we are given the power to take no heed what we shall wear or eat, the possibility of covetousness and theft no longer exist – what purpose is served by reiterating the outward law? Christ has fulfilled that commandment, by His perfecting work.
What purpose was served by the outward Children of Israel commemorating the day on which God rested from His creation? Why, as follows: in their fallen nature they were disposed to forget Him, so He gave them a day in which they refrained from physical labour, and in which they were supposed to recall Him to their minds.
When Christ is with His people, the new and spiritual Children of Israel, He is with them constantly, the means by which they have access to the Father constantly. By His power, they can never neglect nor forget God, because they dwell with Him constantly. When we are given this Grace to live with God, and the power never to let Him slip from our minds, the necessity of recalling Him at some specific time no longer exists – what purpose is served by reiterating the outward law? Christ has fulfilled that commandment, by His perfecting work.
As I have shown, Christ Himself is our Sabbath. To argue for Him as our Sabbath and to argue for the keeping of a day in addition is to say one of two things. Firstly that there are two sabbaths, which is plainly not so, or secondly that in the new dispensation God is not recalled to our mind after all, which also is plainly not so.
OBJECTED that if Christ intended to command us no longer to keep a day of the week, He would have plainly preached this during His mortal ministry.
ANSWERED that this is one of the simplest points of basic theology. At the time of His mortal ministry He was fulfilling the old dispensation, but it was not yet fulfilled. The new dispensation was not yet given, and not to be given until the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in the upper room. This same Holy Spirit which God and Christ sent to them and sends now to His Church, was to lead them “into all truth”, and in the unity of that Holy Spirit they were to be led into the truth of their Rest in Christ.