What or Who is the Sabbath For? Does it Still Matter to Christians Today?
“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” Exodus 20:8-11 The Sabbath is a symbol to us of God’s Sovereignty and Lordship.
The Sabbath was a practice and a tradition for many Jews from the Exodus. In Jesus’ time and through today, it was and is a weekly celebration of rest and worship. It commences on Friday evening, lasting through Saturday evening (many Christians now observe a Sabbath day of rest on Sunday, when most Christian churches meet). The Sabbath was instituted at the creation of the world by God himself, on the seventh day. Sabbath was also acknowledged at the temple meeting (tent of the Ark) before the Temple of Solomon was built, and then centuries later in the temple, and now in Synagogues, churches and homes.
The Sabbath is a reminder of the redemption to come for the people under the Law, that points to the redemption that we now have in the work of Christ (Deuteronomy 5:12).
The Jewish Law had strict guidelines about the Sabbath–how it was to be observed and not violated. These laws were an instruction manual, to lead the people to understand, know and trust God. Unfortunately, in Jesus’ time, the religious leaders corrupted the law by adding so many additional ordinances that people became exhausted and distracted from God himself. These extra laws became restrictions from true fellowship and worship and, ironically, violated God’s law and intention. This is why Jesus challenged them and pointed them and us back to the original purpose of the law (Matthew 12:1-8).
In the early church, many new Jewish Christians still kept the same festivals and religious observances. This was not bad, but like the Pharisees they escaped from, they were using the Sabbath for purposes of manipulation, seeking faith and assurance from rites and ordinances. Some were adding in extras such as fasting on the Sabbath to prove their spiritual superiority. So Paul responded to them, to remind them of the Gospel, that they are now free from such bondage (Acts 20:7; Romans 14:5-6; Colossians 2:16-23).
Jesus and Paul both point us back to the Sabbath, in order to rest in God’s sovereignty and worship his Lordship.
God desires us to truly, sincerely, and lovingly worship him, but when we do it out of obligation or routine, it becomes meaningless. Paul reinforced the necessity of knowing who Christ is and what he has done so we can hold onto the truth. He wanted to make it clear to his audience that Jesus is sufficient for salvation and daily life – no added ingredients are needed.
The Sabbath points us to our worship of Christ, which must be sacred, heartfelt, and genuine, not an afterthought, routine, whim or series of meaningless rituals.
Real worship is respect and reverence for our Lord God, the way he instituted it. That way, we can truly rest in him, not adding in our baggage or rules. True worship is from our hearts, and Sabbath rest helps us to center our hearts around God.
Do you honor the Sabbath in your life? How has a day of rest and worship altered your view of God or helped your faith to grow?
Check out an earlier post by Richard here.