Summary: God gave us the Sabbath for our good. We need to rediscover what is lost when Sabbath is neglected or broken. There is a blessing for us that God has given when we set asside our legalism and simply hear His word on this matter.
The word “Sabbath” occurs 62 times in the New Testament in the NASV. How many times do you think it occurs in the Old Testament (which is about 3 times the length of the New)? 114 times.
Most of the New Testament occurrences are in the gospels. Jesus, early on, begins facing opposition from the Jewish leaders because of the things he does on the Sabbath. Mark 2:21-3:6 shows us how Jesus enemies decided to kill him after he healed a man on the Sabbath right there in front of them and right in the synagogue.
Jesus boldly said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” And, “The Son of man is Lord even over the Sabbath.”
Today we are so far removed from this entire discussion. We live in a 24 hour a day, seven day a week, 365 day a year culture of convenience so that when I need to buy something, or go out to eat… breaking the Sabbath is the last thing I think about. In our world the Sabbath is forgotten and foreign. Have we taken this too far? Would you like to know what God says about it?
Jesus words in Matthew and Mark about the Sabbath are used to justify practices that they were never intended to justify. Jesus’ point was not that we should all abandon the practice of Sabbath keeping, but that Sabbath keeping was intended for the good of man as a God ordained rhythm of life. The Sabbath was never intended to hinder our relationship with God, but to enhance it! Jesus was not saying that Sabbath is now an extinct Old Testament regulation. What Jesus was doing was showing the true and God ordained purpose and meaning of the Sabbath.
When Jesus was asked about marriage, he went back to Genesis 1-2. Jesus used the Old Testament to teach and prove God’s true and ordained purpose and meaning for many things. Perhaps we would be wise to return to Genesis to open our discussion about the meaning and message of God concerning the Sabbath.
Let me set this up. First: The witness of Genesis predates the Law of Moses. When Paul wanted to prove that circumcision was unnecessary to Christians, we read in Romans 4 that he doesn’t argue that the Old Testament is invalid, but that the promise of righteousness was given to Abraham before he was circumcised. (This is a chronological argment). This information came from Genesis. In other words, what Genesis said about receiving righteousness through faith as God gave it to Abraham is how we as Christians know that we are not saved by keeping the Law of Moses (particularly concerning circumcision) but by trusting in God and following Him in faith like Abraham did. Galatians 3-4 will also make this point clear.
Second: "Rightly dividing the word of truth" does not mean ignoring all God said in the Bible up to Matthew. 2 Tim. 3:16-17 states clearly that ALL scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching and instruction so that we may be complete. And as Paul said in 1 Tim. 1:8, “The law is good if one uses it lawfully.” None other than Jesus himself said (referring to the law and prophets), “Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” So, Yes Virginia, there is a word from God for us in Genesis.
No part of the Bible has been more debated and disbelieved than the early chapters of Genesis. Yet they set forth principles and state truths that are the foundation and fabric of much of the rest of the Bible. Early Genesis gives us the divine order in the creation and origin of all things, human dignity (made in God’s image and likeness), God’s authority, power and wisdom, the divine and human relationship, marriage, procreation, entrance of evil and sin, disruption of relationship between God and man, the curse, death, pain, bloodshed, worship with sacrifice, etc. Genesis is a gold mine of revelation and instruction just as applicable today as ever.
It is here in the very beginning that we have the first mention of Sabbath. You are probably so familiar with it that it is easy to hit it and move on without much thought. I want to invite you to look at this again with me: Genesis 1:31-2:3. Listen to it. Ask yourself, “Is there any message from God for me here?”
Genesis 1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 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.