Fall 1999 Newsletter: Three Sabbaths
Publish date:
The Lord’s Sabbath – The Jewish Sabbath – The Papal Sabbath

One can in truth speak of Sabbaths in the plural only as one can speak of many gods. 

There is no God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth; as there are gods many, and lords many; yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through Him (1 Corinthians 8:4-6)

So, though there be various Sabbaths, so called, there is but one true Sabbath, the Sabbath of the Lord.

The Lord’s Sabbath
The word Sabbath means “rest.” When the Hebrews used the word Sabbath, It conveyed the same idea to them that the word “rest” does to us. The fourth commandment, then, says to us:

Remember the [rest] day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the [rest] of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gate; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the [rest] day and hallowed it (Exodus 20:8-11).

We must not make the mistake of assuming the Lord’s rest is what we are accustomed to call rest. God is not human. We should rather learn from God’s rest what rest really is. God’s rest is not mere physical rest from weariness. This we know from two facts:
1) God is Spirit (John 4:24). 

Not a spirit, as though He were one of many; but He is Spirit, as it is rendered in the margin of the Revised Version.

2) The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary (Isaiah 40:28).

The Lord therefore did not rest because He was tired, and His rest is not physical, but spiritual, since He is Spirit. “They that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).

God rested not because He was weary, but because His work was finished. When work is finished, and is well done, nothing but rest remains. In six days God finished His work, and as He surveyed it, He pronounced it “very good.” There was no flaw in it. It was without fault before him. Therefore since God’s work was well done at the close of the sixth day, “He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.” He had no sad reflections, no regrets. His rest was not marred, as what man calls rest so often is, by any such thought as:
“Tomorrow I must go at that work again”
“I wish I had done this portion a little differently”

“If I could do that over again, I could make an improvement”
 “That last day’s work was so bad that I can not bear to look at it"

Every portion of the work, even the creation of man and woman, was perfect as it was possible for it to be, and God took pure delight in contemplating the work from which He was resting, because it was complete and perfect.

This is the rest He offers to us. It is not something He imposes on us, but which He in everlasting love and kindness gives to us. Rest is not a task that is laid on us. It is not a burden. They who look upon the Sabbath as a burden have no idea of what the Sabbath of the Lord is. It is rest, perfect unalloyed rest.

Jesus Christ is the One by whom the worlds were made, “for in Him were all things created, in the heavens, and upon the earth,” therefore He is the One who offers us this rest. To every soul He cries, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The rest is found in Him, because in Him the works of God are completed.

In Him is the new creation, and if we are in Him, we are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). On the cross Jesus cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30), thus showing that in His cross we find that perfect rest that comes alone from the finished work of the Lord.

This rest is gained by faith. “We which believe do enter rest” (Hebrews 4:3). By faith we have the finished, perfect work of the Lord as our own. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent” (John 6:29). Believing Him means receiving Him; and since in Him the works of God are complete, it follows that by believing on Him we find rest.

The rest that Jesus gives is rest from sin. The heavy-laden He calls to Himself are those who are burdened with the weight of their sins. We are all burdened, “for all have sinned” (Romans 3:23).

Our best works are utterly worthless. Christ will have a people who are “zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14-15); but the good works must be those God Himself has wrought for us in Christ. Only His work is enduring. “His work is honorable and glorious; and is righteousness endureth forever” (Psalm 111:3).

Therefore, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before prepared that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

It is “not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to His mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” (Titus 3:5-6).

It is by the works of God, therefore, that we are saved, and not by our own. Good works there are in abundance, and they are for us too, but through no work of our own, solely through the perfect work of God in Jesus Christ. If the works were our own, then the rest would be our own; but God gives us His rest. “He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered” (Psalm 111:4), or literally, “He hath made a memorial for His wondrous works.” That memorial is the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3), the day on which He rested from all His works.

That day He has blessed sanctified, made holy. Its holiness has never departed from it, for “whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever” (Ecclesiastes 3:14). No matter what we do nor how we regard the day, its holiness remains.

“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9), and the seventh day, which God forever declares to be His rest, is that by which He makes known to us the perfection of His rest, because it calls us to contemplate a finished and perfect new creation. It reveals to us the everlasting God, the unwearied, almighty Creator, who has wrought and laid up great goodness for them that trust in Him before the sons of men (Psalm 31:19).

It reminds us that we are “complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:10). It tells us that although we have sinned and brought the curse on God’s perfect Creation, the cross of Christ bears the curse and restores and perpetuates the perfect work of God, so that through it we may stand without fault before the throne of God, just as when Adam was first made. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

The Jewish Sabbath

There is such thing as “the Jewish Sabbath,” or the Sabbath of the Jews, but it is a far different thing from the Sabbath of the Lord. Many people imagine that if they observe the seventh day, they are keeping the Jewish Sabbath; but that does not at all follow. We cannot keep the Jewish Sabbath if we are keeping the Sabbath “according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56; Romans 16:26). There is the same difference between the Jewish Sabbath and the Sabbath of the Lord that there is between humanity and God. Let us explain:

“The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord” (Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 5:14), but we have seen that the Lord’s rest is spiritual rest, which the seventh day commemorates. It is possible to cease physical toil on the seventh day of the week, and not keep the Sabbath of the Lord. If we stop work on Friday evening at sunset, and abstain from all labor until the next day at sunset, merely as a form of worship, and in order that we may be physically better able to go at our work again, or with the thought that we are thereby discharging a duty, and gaining the favor of God, that is not keeping the Sabbath of the Lord.

To keep the Sabbath of the Lord is to delight in the Lord (Isaiah 58:14). Those who do not delight themselves in the Lord do not keep His Sabbath, no matter when they abstain from labor.

It is absolutely impossible for one who is not a Christian to keep the Lord’s Sabbath; for, as we have seen, God’s rest comes only from His perfect work, which is found only in Christ. “We which believe do enter into rest” (Hebrews 4:3). Therefore no Jew, so called, as distinguished from a believer in Christ, keeps the Sabbath of the Lord, even though he apparently rests on the seventh day of the week. His rest is his own rest, and not the rest of the Lord.

Do you see the difference? The Jewish Sabbath falls on the same day of the week as the Sabbath of the Lord, but it is not by any means the same thing. It represents only the person. Instead of being the sign of justification by faith in the work of the Lord, it is the sign of self-righteousness, as indicated by the question the Jews asked of Jesus in John 6:28: “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” They counted their own works equal to God’s works. Their obedience was not the obedience of faith, but only of form. From such a Sabbath may the Lord deliver us.

The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, but let us beware of making it a mere caricature of rest. Let us take it for what it is: the rest of the Lord.

The Papal Sabbath

This is something entirely different from the Sabbath of the Jews, and infinitely different from the Sabbath of the Lord. The Sabbath of the Lord is the acceptance of God’s own works, and rest in them alone, allowing Him to work both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

The Jewish Sabbath represents the vain attempt of zealous and self-confident humanity to do the works which God Himself does, and which God alone can do.

The Pope’s Sabbath signifies the substitution of our work for God’s work, as being not only as good, but even better. It dispenses with the form of the commandment of the Lord. Let us see how this is.

We have seen the Jew’s Sabbath is the observing of the form of the Lord’s Sabbath, without the substance, which can come only by faith. It falls on the same day, but it is humanity’s Sabbath not the Lord’s. The papal Sabbath has nothing in common with the Sabbath of the Lord, not even in form, but utterly repudiates it. Thus a Roman Catholic Book entitled A Sure Way to Find Out the True Religion says, "The keeping holy of the Sunday is a thing absolutely necessary to salvation; and yet this is nowhere but down in the Bible; on the contrary, the Bible says, ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy’ (Exodus 20:8), which is Saturday, and not Sunday; therefore the Bible does not contain all things necessary to salvation” (emphasis added).

This is only one out of many similar citations that might be given, but is sufficient to show that in the observance of Sunday the Catholic Church deliberately sets itself above the Word of the Lord. It has placed its Sabbath on an entirely different day from the Sabbath of the Lord, a day which even God Himself could not possibly have made His Sabbath, since on it He began His work. This was done in order to emphasize papal claims to be above God. It would teach humankind that they are to obey the Church rather than God.

Notice that the citation speaks about necessity of “keeping holy the Sunday.” But God has not made the Sunday holy. In fact, the Bible knows nothing about such a day. It does know the first day of the week, which it calls a working day, but the Sunday was made in Rome.

The only day that God has ever spoken of as holy is the seventh day of the week. That day He Himself has made holy, and all He asks of us is to keep it holy. But since God has not made the Sunday holy, if someone is to keep it holy, that person must make it holy. All the sacredness that Sunday has was given to it by people, not God. 

The Sunday Sabbath, therefore, stands as the sign of humanity’s pretended power to make things holy. For if humankind can make one thing holy, it is evident that we can make anything holy. If a man can make and keep a day holy, then that man can make and keep himself holy. The papal Sabbath is thus the sign of the Pope’s claims to take the place of the Lord as the sanctifier of sinners.

Take notice that this is said of the Papal Sunday, and not of all those who regard it as a holy day. There are thousands who are keeping the papal day, honestly supposing it to be the Sabbath of the Lord. Such, of course, believe in justification by faith, although they unwittingly observe the sign of justification by works.

It is for the benefit of such people that this article is written, that they may be wholly consistent in their profession of faith. We are dealing with facts, and the facts are that the Lord’s Sabbath is justification by faith; the papal Sabbath means justification by humanity’s own works. On which side will you stand?

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