ACTIONS TO IMPROVE KEEPING THE SABBATH
“The offence of Sabbath-breaking was one for which there could be no excuse….Transgression of it was therefore a presumptuous sin, and was punished accordingly” Barnes’ Notes (ref#16, [Numbers 15:32]).
“In those days I saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. People from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah. I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, ‘What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day? Didn’t your ancestors do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity on us and on this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath’” (Nehemiah 13:15-18 NIV).
“The desecration of the Sabbath is first brought into prominence among the sins of the Jewish people by Jeremiah (Jer 17:21-27). It could not but have gained ground during the captivity, when foreign masters would not have allowed the cessation of labor for one day in seven. On the return from the captivity, the sabbatical rest appears to have been one of the institutions most difficult to re-establish” Barnes’ Notes (ref#16, [Neh 13:15]).
“When evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day. Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem. But I warned them and said, “Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will arrest you.” From that time on they no longer came on the Sabbath. Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy….” (Neh 13:19-22 NIV).
Nehemiah “not only expressed his own dislike of it, but endeavored to convince them that it was a great sin….Those that are jealous for the honor of God cannot bear to see his Sabbath profaned” Matthew Henry (ref#18, [Neh 13:15-22]).
“If reformers will but put on resolution, more may be done towards the breaking of bad customs than they can imagine” Matthew Henry (ref#18, [Neh 13:15-22]). Are we willing to be reformers? Will we vow to not buy or sell on the Sabbath? Can we convince our local church to make that vow? Other churches? Our government representatives?
WHY DO CHRISTIANS WORSHIP TOGETHER ON SUNDAY?
I cannot say this any better than John Piper:
THE SABBATH – A WAY OF WITNESS AND BLESSING
“The purifying, uplifting effect of the Christian Sabbath is indispensable if the Christian witness is to be maintained” C. E. Hunter (ref#171).
“By a strict observance of the Sabbath, the face of religion is kept up in the world. If it were not for the Sabbath, there would be but little public and visible appearance of serving, worshipping, and reverencing the supreme and invisible Being” Jonathan Edwards (ref#186).
GOD is honored by our keeping the Sabbath (Isa 58:13). Therefore we should, above all things glorify our GOD and King in this way.
Since GOD has ordained we keep His Sabbath it makes sense that He pays particular attention to those who obey Him:
“He stands ready then especially to hear prayers, to accept of religious services, to meet His people, to manifest Himself to them, to give His Holy Spirit and blessing to those who diligently and conscientiously sanctify it” Jonathan Edwards (ref#186).
WE CAN BE HOLY AND ALSO HAPPY
“…remembering the Sabbath by keeping it holy is integral to…life as the people who are sanctified or ‘made holy’) by the Lord…” ESV Study Bible, (ref#125, p 196, [Ex 31:12-17]).
“…He [GOD] cannot compromise His holiness the least bit. His goal is to conform us to the likeness of His Son, and Jesus was completely without sin…(Heb 4:15)…we cannot…keep these commitments perfectly, but keeping them perfectly should at least be our aim” Jerry Bridges (ref#192, p160).
“…men will never worship God with a sincere heart, or be roused to fear and obey Him with sufficient zeal until they properly understand how much they are indebted to His mercy…” John Calvin (ref#192, p161).
“…it is the continual reminding of ourselves of His grace and mercy that provides the only enduring motivation to sustain such a commitment and keep it from becoming oppressive. That is why we must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday” Jerry Bridges (ref#192, p162).
“Many contemporary Christians seem to think that if they don’t study their Bibles, if they don’t familiarize themselves with the standards and principles God has given in the Bible, they will not be responsible for their sins committed in ignorance. Not so!…we had better become careful students of the revealed Word of God, for it is disobedience to His word that constitutes sin” Bob Deffinbaugh (ref#196).
Again, we can be roused to fear and obedience by recounting His grace and mercy as we conclude He keeps us because we cannot keep ourselves. Therefore a great Sabbath exercise is to list present sins then list the ways CHRIST pours out grace and mercy.
“We are being influenced by the forces of sinful society or we are being influenced by the word of GOD. There is no third option” Jerry Bridges (ref#192, p168).
ASKING AGAIN FOR THE SPIRIT
Am reading notes about the Sabbath again and realizing that I have slipped in my determination to keep it holy. It’s a little discouraging. It certainly tells me that I cannot order my days in any spiritually productive way.
As with most everything, I must drop to my knees to tell GOD once again that I have failed—failed to be led by His HOLY SPIRIT. Once again He proves to me that there are too many opportunities in earthly living for me to choose what is good for me and glorifying to Him.
I may establish a righteous pattern but it never is set in concrete. Autopilot kicks in without my notice and before I realize the righteous pattern has morphed. Life is too fluid for me. So GOD spends a lot of time calling me back to Himself.
Reviewing, rehearsing, remembering is so necessary. But even knowing and striving to accomplish spiritual renewing is impossible. May I never accept personal pride in all my routines of renewing myself, for such does not keep me in my FATHER’s will.
Nothing keeps me in my FATHER’s will but my FATHER. His HOLY SPIRIT knows the way I should go. Not only do I need help from Him for my inadequacies I know, but for all I can never think of.
SPIRIT, I thank You for Your surprising words in my life. You tell me remarkable secrets I do not know (Jer 33:3). So, how long has it been since I asked for the FATHER for the SPIRIT (Luke 11:13)?
As far as keeping the Sabbath goes, it is not that I have forgotten about keeping it holy; I review what I know the dawn of each Sunday. The problem is that I’ve forgotten some things and the things I do remember I have ceased purposeful preparation. The slide into disobedience is so slow I don’t notice—I don’t notice until I am reminded again.
FATHER, thank You for reminding me today. I sat at the table and spread out my gathered notes with the goal of organizing them so I might write out more blog posts on the Sabbath. You have allowed me to organize but also You have been kind enough to dispatch Your SPIRIT to remind me of my slipping.
What a great GOD You are! It’s all-praise. How the culmination of all events leads to all-praise. The keys of the piano are not the only place I can praise You. The keys of this computer can draw me to it, too.
THE SABBATH – TO REVIVE THE SOUL
“The Sabbath is given as a gift to man (for…spiritual refreshment)” ESV Study Bible (ref#125, p1897 [Mark 2:27-28]). “’The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath’ (Mar 2:27). It was made for the profit and for the comfort of our souls” Jonathan Edwards (ref#186).
“…there must be a special day set apart; there must be a regularly recurring time for examining the state of our souls; there must be a day to test and prove us, whether we are prepared for an eternal heaven. Take away a man’s Sabbath, and his religion soon comes to nothing” Bishop J. C. Ryle (ref#167). “It is but a few steps from ‘no Sabbath’ to ‘no God’—J. C. Ryle” (ref#185).
“…our Lord only asks that this day be spent in hearing his Word, in offering common prayers, in confessing our faith, and in observing the sacraments…And when we have spent Sunday in praising and glorifying the name of God and in meditating on his works, then, throughout the rest of the week, we should show that we have benefited from it” John Calvin (ref#168).
God’s objective in commanding this day of rest is for the development of our spiritual nature. Therefore, it is a day set apart from even our words and thoughts about our worldly employments and recreations [Westminster Confession of Faith] Alistair Begg (ref#165, Series: Pathway to Freedom, Sermon#: 1693, “Holy Day or Holiday?” Part Two, October 31, 1993). Can you imagine speaking only about spiritual things before and after the church service?
The Sabbath rest is to remind myself that GOD rested after He ceased the work of creation, and JESUS rested after He ceased the work of redemption. These two facts should be the subjects I attend to on Sundays. But the “rest” the Hebrew’s writer speaks of is a daily rest.
“For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His” (Heb 4:10 NASB).
Since I believe CHRIST JESUS has given what GOD requires from me, I enter into rest (ref#15, [Heb 4:10]). My experience of rest is ceasing from my own works of righteousness, and from the burdensome works of the law (ref#18, [Heb 4:10]).
Since CHRIST impresses the FATHER I don’t have to impress the FATHER. Resting in CHRIST is a state of happiness. My salvation does not depend on my continuing work of being righteous!
“Externally, that meant ceasing from his ordinary tasks in order to meet with God. Internally, it involved ceasing from all self-sufficiency in order to rest in God’s grace” Sinclair Ferguson (ref#193).
Yet, I need to keep myself abreast of situations that threaten my rest. Situations continually rise to steal what GOD freely gives me through CHRIST. Happiness disappears when I lose fellowship with my LORD and default back to trying in my own strength to be righteous.
Impress upon me that if I don’t rehearse the Gospel I will fall back into burdensome works and be void of rest. I know preaching the gospel to myself each day will equip me with more boldness to believe what GOD says. I’ll recognize and benefit more from His grace and be more willing to embrace His commands (ref#60, p52). By reveling in CHRIST I retain my fellowship with GOD and find my rest! As I rehearse the Gospel, “give me that rest without rest, the rest of ceaseless praise” The Valley of Vision (ref#76, p172).
“…we must praise God – in the morning and every night, not only on Sabbath days, but every day; it is that which the duty of every day requires. We must praise God, not only in public assemblies, but in secret, and in our families, showing forth, to ourselves and those about us, his lovingkindness and faithfulness” Matthew Henry (ref#18, [Ps 92:1-6]).
SATURDAY EVENING WORSHIP: SUNDAY EVENING WORSHIP
Let’s start with the one established in the 1520’s. “Until recent decades, the second service was an essential part of the Lord’s Day observance…” Jon D. Payne (ref#170). More meetings were established on Sunday so Christians would hear more of the Word of GOD.
“Having not one but two (and sometimes three) public services on the Lord’s Day reinforces belief in the power, efficacy, and sufficiency of the ordinary means of grace to save, sanctify, and comfort God’s elect. On the sacred day that God set apart for sacred worship and the building up of his church, why wouldn’t we want more—rather than less—preaching, singing of the psalms and hymns, prayer, participation in the sacraments, and corporate worship and fellowship” Jon D. Payne (ref#170)?
“By attending morning and evening worship…We will hear an additional fifty-two carefully prepared expository sermons,…sing hundreds more psalms and hymns, and pray myriad more prayers” Jon D. Payne (ref#170).
“Faithful attendance to both morning and evening worship bookends this special day with God-centered worship and helps us not to turn the rest of the Lord’s Day into something God never intended. Evening worship guards the Lord’s Day from becoming just like any other day of the week” Jon D. Payne (ref#170).
So, what about the Saturday evening service? How can we have the audacity to offer a Lord’s-Day service on Saturday? We can because JESUS CHRIST is Lord of the Sabbath.
“If Jesus were here today, he would say something like this: ‘If priests in the temple and pastors in the Christian church are permitted to work 16 hours on the usual day of rest, then the saints are permitted to worship one hour the day before. The Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. Come, learn what it means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’
“He would send us to consult the words of his apostle in Romans 14:5, ‘One man judges one day above another, while another man judges all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind.’ We can take this to imply that some think that all days qualify for the Sabbath. Some think that only Saturday qualifies. Others only Sunday. Do not condemn one another over these disagreements. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind” John Piper (ref#169).
If you attend Saturday night services, are you fully convinced in your own mind that this is the service you should attend? Remember, if you think it is a sin, it is a sin (James 4:17). John Piper, the author of the last quote also says, Saturday worship is NOT a replacement for Sunday Sabbath keeping (ref#169).
SABBATH BECOMES THE LORD’S DAY
“…there is no commandment in the Ten Commandments that says the Israelites were to keep the seventh day of the week….What God really commanded through Moses was: ‘Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God’ “ (Exodus 20:9-10) R. A. Torrey (ref#30, p154).
“first day of the week. A Jewish expression for Sunday, and similar to the phrase used in the Gospels to describe the day of the week on which Jesus rose from the dead (Matt 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). This shows that Christians gathered for worship on Sunday, not Saturday (cf Acts 20:7; Rev 1:10), in order to acknowledge the crucial importance of Christ’s resurrection” ESV Study Bible (ref#125, p2216, [1 Cor 16:2]).
“…the Jewish holy day was abolished; and as a thing necessary to retain decency, order, and peace in the church, another day was appointed for that purpose” John Calvin (ref#187).
“Christ having risen from the dead always met his disciples on this day. And afterwards, the apostles and the churches were accustomed to come together on this day, “to break bread,” that is to celebrate the Lord’s supper. And when the apostle wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians, it was already established as a custom, not only in the church of Corinth, but in the churches of Macedonia and Galatia, that their contributions for the poor, should be collected on this day. From the apostolical practice, we rightly infer the divine authority for this change. So generally was the first day of the week observed, in commemoration of Christ’s resurrection, and for the celebration of religious worship, that in the times of the apostles, it had obtained the significant denomination of the Lord’s Day” Archibald Alexander (ref#175).
So, to Christians the first day of the week, Sunday, is the official Lord’s Day.
THE SABBATH – A UNIVERSAL OBLIGATION
“The law of the Sabbath was constituted a memorial of creation: and hence, the reason…must be considered as demonstrating its universal obligation. It is not a reason applicable to any one age, or to one class of men more than to another” JFB Commentary (ref#17, [Exod 20:8-11]).
Keeping the Sabbath is not just a Jewish law; Exod 20:10 mentions that even sojourners who are staying with a Jewish family are expected to participate in Sabbath activities. Therefore it is a “universal institution…given to Adam, the father of all mankind” JFB Commentary (ref#17, [Exod 20:8-11]).
As time moved on and GOD unfolded more and more of His redemption plans we find the Apostle Paul defining a new seventh-day Sabbath experience:
“The apostle Paul explicitly taught that a Christian should not allow himself to be judged in regard to the Jewish Sabbath, and that the Jewish Sabbath belongs with other Jewish observances concerning meat, and drink, holy days, new moons, and so forth (Colossians 2:16). These were the “shadow of things to come,” but the substance is in Christ (v. 17)” (ref#30, p155).
“…the Jewish Sabbath was not changed to the Lord’s Day. While both the Jewish Sabbath and the Lord’s Day are a literal keeping of the fourth commandment, they are not the same day, and they do not stand for the same idea. One belongs to the old creation, the other to the new. (See 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Hebrews 9:11.)” (ref#30, pa55).
“…the observance of the Sabbath is…the hem and hedge of the whole law” Matthew Henry (ref#18, [Exod 31:12-18]).