Category: Creation, Word: SABBATH
September 11, 2015 | by: Kendell Easley, prepared by Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments
Posted in: 52 Words
Then He [Jesus] told them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)
DEFINITION: Sabbath (Hebrew shabbat) means rest. It refers in particular to resting on the seventh day of the week in obedience to the fourth of the Ten Commandments.
The creation account concluded with God’s rest on the seventh day (Gen 2:2). This of course was not because He was tired but evidently because it commemorated the completion of His creative activity. The first account of humans resting on the seventh day of the week is found in Exodus 16:20-31. This established the pattern later set forth in the Law of Moses (Deut 5:12-15). As a sign of God’s covenant with Israel made at Mt. Sinai, the Sabbath became a great preaching topic for later prophets. Israelites who worked on the seventh day were showing their rejection of the terms of the covenant (Isa 56:2-6; Jer 17:21-27). After the Babylonian Captivity, the Jewish gathering for worship in synagogues occurred on the seventh day of the week, but the Sabbath still retained its focus as a day of rest.
By the time of Jesus, rabbis had gone to great lengths to define the kinds of activities that were permitted on the Sabbath. Indeed, Jesus infuriated some of the Jewish leaders by doing acts of mercy (healing) on the Sabbath. He insisted that He was Lord of the Sabbath and could therefore determine what Sabbath activity was appropriate (Mk 2:23-26).
After Jesus’ resurrection, the first day of the week was immediately established as the right weekday for worshiping the Lord (Jn 20:1,19,26; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2). Nevertheless, Jewish believers continued to rest on the Sabbath. A tiny minority of Gentile believers have continued the practice of worshiping and resting on Saturday, notably Seventh Day Adventists.
Within Christian history, debate has swirled around the issue of whether worship on the first day of the week should also include rest from labor. The English Puritans especially answered with a strong yes. Their teaching influenced North American Christianity for hundreds of years, with most businesses closed on Sundays, but in recent decades the practical answer has been no. (Ask most any minister or church staff member whether they rest on Sunday.)
Some have argued that the Fourth Commandment with its emphasis on rest has completely been fulfilled in Christ and has no direct bearing on today’s believers. The point to Colossians 2:16 and Hebrews 4 as evidence. Others believe that the point of the commandment is that one must rest one day a week, but which day is open for personal choice. Perhaps all agree that having a regular day for rest and “recharging” is desirable. Yet there remain major differences in the way Christians interpret the biblical teaching about the Sabbath. The larger issue is to remember that Jesus promised rest for the weary (Mt 11:28). “Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall in the same pattern of disobedience” (Heb 4:11).
REFLECTION: Does your life reflect to any degree one day a week in which you worship and rest? What do you believe about the ongoing validity of the Fourth Commandment?
PRAYER: Dear Lord of the Sabbath, You have provided rest for my soul, and long ago you provided rest for the weary bodies by giving the Sabbath. Help me honor You in the very ways I rest my body, and thank You for the heavenly rest of the saints already in Your presence. Amen.
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.