Keeping The Sabbath

(John 5:18)

This scripture is a difficult one to deal with and I have spent more time thinking about this one than many others that I have written about. It is only one verse, but it can be puzzling and I have prayed about it to try and understand what the Lord is saying here.communion 2

It’s not that I don’t know what He is saying in the scripture, nor my understanding of the issues involved. But it has been playing on my mind because there are deep and significant ramifications regarding this scripture that could be easily glossed over and missed if we are not careful. And that is not something I want to do. So let us look at the scripture and see what is going on here.

Law of the Sabbath

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments by which the children of Israel were to live. The fourth of those commandments pertained to keeping the Sabbath holy to worship the Lord and to rest from labours. No person was to carry out work on the Sabbath, and even the preparation of food was to be done the previous day.

Now this scripture in John 5:18 says, “This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God.”

The Jews accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath because he worked on that day. However He had previously said in verse 17, “My Father is working still, and I am working.” And yet we know that Jesus did not sin for He could not have been the perfect sacrifice if he had sinned. But if it is true that He did work on the Sabbath contrary to the Law in the fourth commandment, then it would have been considered a sin. Thus a confusing issue!

Equal With God?

The second thing they accused Jesus of was when He called himself the Son of God. When he referenced His Father as he did in verse 17, then the Jews said He was claiming to be an equal with God, and any man who spoke in such a way was committing the sin of blasphemy.

But in fact we know that Jesus did not sin for he always spoke the truth. He did not claim to be equal with God, but He was indeed the Son of God. And furthermore we see from the first chapter of John that Jesus was the Word and there was nothing made in all of Creation that did not occur without His word of authority, for all things were made through Him.

So He could truthfully claim to be the Son of God and to be God if he so chose for he was and is God the Son. And if he was and is the Son of God and he is God, then it is not blasphemy to call himself God for that is his position and his right.

Working on the Sabbath

Now as for working on the Sabbath and the question whether this was sin for Jesus. First we must remember that Jesus said elsewhere that “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) In fact all of the law was made for man to guide him and give him wisdom and understanding between right and wrong. But the Sabbath moreso because it was given to man for a day of worship as well as rest and recuperation.

God knew man needed rest and that he could not work all day, every day. So He arranged for man to have a break, as well as the animals and beasts of burden employed by man for work purposes. We rest so that our bodies and minds can be refreshed and recuperate. We also have our spirits refreshed on the Sabbath through worshiping the Lord so that we can remember to give Him glory for all he has done in our lives.

On another occasion where the Lord healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath He said, “Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4) Clearly it is right to do good and Jesus was showing that if a man has been bound with sickness, infirmity or other evils, then it is more than appropriate for him to be released of these things on the Sabbath.

Who is the Law for?

Now the Law of Moses was given to Israel and it was for all of the people so that they could live well. The Law was given to man as an interim control because of mankind’s sin. We see Paul write in Galatians, “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made.” (Galatians 3:19) It was because of man’s transgressions that the law was added. If man had not sinned there would have been no need for the law. But the law was given until we could receive the truth of the gospel by faith.

Again we see Paul say this in Galatians 3:22-25,

22 But the scripture consigned all things to sin, that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
23 Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed.
24 So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith.
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian

In this we see that the law was given to man. It exists for the purpose of teaching, guiding and ultimately judging man. The Sabbath as one of the Laws was given to and relates to man, it does not relate to the spiritual realm.

God is not under the Law. The Holy Spirit is not under the Law of Moses either for they are not descendants of the children of Israel and they are not men.

Who Was Working?

Now this raises an interesting question. Who did the actual work of healing on these people on the Sabbath? Who does all of the working associated with any of the miraculous acts that the Lord did? Also who did the miracles that were performed by the Apostles in their ministries?

It was all done by the power of God and the working of the Holy Spirit. And as we have just seen the Holy Spirit is not confined under the Law because the Holy Spirit is not flesh and blood but is the spirit of God. So the Holy Spirit is not confined by the Law of the Sabbath as the children of Israel were. Thus He could legitimately work and do the miracles of healing on the Sabbath without any question of sin occurring for sin is the breaking of the law, and the Holy Spirit cannot break a law that He is not under!

As for God performing the work of healing and the miraculous gifts, note at the end of Mark 16:20 where he writes about those who spread the gospel to the world, “And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.” So it is the Lord who confirms the message by the signs and miracles to show that the word is the truth. It is not a man doing these works for they are the works of God, and God is not bound by the laws of the Sabbath.

To emphasise this point Jesus said back in John 5:17, “My Father is working still, and I am working.” He is showing that the works being done are being done by the Father, and He is not bound by the Law of the Sabbath. Jesus again emphasises this point saying, “…so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:28)

What About Today?

An excellent question! Are we bound by the Law of the Sabbath today? Well I have stated that the law was binding only on mankind but not on the spiritual realm. It is also binding only on man while he is alive. When a man dies he is no longer under the law. These are not my words but Paul who said, “Do you not know, brethren–for I am speaking to those who know the law–that the law is binding on a person only during his life?” (Romans 7:1) So when a person dies the law is no longer binding upon them.

Now we who have been baptised in water have been baptised into the death of Jesus Christ. We have taken on Jesus’ death as if it were our own and by so doing we too have died with Christ. As Paul wrote, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3) He further adds in Romans 7:4, “Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ.” So if we have died to the Law through Christ we are no longer under the law, including the law of the Sabbath, but we now live our lives in obedience to Christ, seeking to do what is right not because of the law but because that is how Jesus Christ wants us to live. As Paul said, “But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” (Romans 7:6)

This is then true freedom in Jesus Christ. We are set free from sin through his sacrifice and we are set free from law through baptism so that we can live in the free gift of righteousness through His grace and stand before God. We are not under law, but we do not despise it or ignore it for in it God showed us right from wrong. There is great wisdom in the law, but we cannot become righteous through it. Righteousness is only possible through the grace of God and faith in Jesus Christ.

There is much, much more that I could add to this post, but it is getting too long as it is. I urge you if you wish to discuss this, add a comment or send me an email. You can be sure this will be covered in more depth when I get into Romans and Galatians, but if you wish to discover more now check out my free eBook on The Foundation Teachings of Christianity.

(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Marcus Buckner)

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2 Replies to “Keeping The Sabbath”

  1. Dear brother John,

    The law of the sabbath was given to the house of Israel under the Leviticus priesthood. The constitutional rules, statutes were adjoined to the law given to Moses to help in running a country.

    You will find in Leviticus what the Israelites could eat and what not to eat which also included work related rest day such as the sabbath much like what we have now that we call the weekends. We now receive two days of rather than the one day off as a rest day. The statutes also included a taxation system called the Tith. The Tith consisted of 10% components and possibly 5% that added up to 40%. So much like today where we pay 40 % tax.

    The levitical priesthood being changed to that of Melkezedec under Christ we no longer run a constitution like the ancient Israelites did, but rather being transformed from carnal afte the flesh faithful to spiritual (born again) faithful we no longer follow the statutes of Leviticus.

    However the law of the sabbath still applies but rather than physically on the flesh application, it is now uplifted to aporitual in application. As we sup with Christ’s Holy Spirit in our narrow walk towards sanctification we are observing the sabbath by tabernackling/supping with the Lord in Spirit. The Holy Spirit sent on Pentecost is the Lord of the Sabbath that will resurrect us and give us true rest after we put aside our bodies. Observing the Sabbath is therefore supping with Christ’s Holy Spirit and thereby in our day to day walk with God by Faith we are observing the Sabbath spiritually as we now no longer have confidence in flesh as we consider it being crucified with Christ but rather we follow where the Holy Spirit of Christ instructs us to go.

    We see the law of the sabbath being uplifted spiritually in application. We no longer observe a created 24 hour day which ever day that may be, for we observe and tabernacle with the Lord of the Sabbath having being reconciled by Christ with the heavenly Father and given direct access to the throne room of God by fasting, prayers and supplication. In essence we observe the Creator in our day to day walk and not the creation for the created daily sabbath as Jesus rightfully stated was made for man so that he rested. Imagine working seven days a week, as you can see God is no slave driver and understands that man physically needed to rest by even giving him one complete year off every sabbatical year. How merciful is the Hod of Abraham, Isaac and Israel.

    Remember Christ’s response in John 4:23-24 to the summeritan women saying that her fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
    But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

    This is what Christ says in revelation that I stand at the door and knock and if you open the door of your heart I will come and sup with you in spirit. But this is not the only place that it states that we must be born again and worship in spirit.

    In Zechariah 14:16-21
    16 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. 17 And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. 18 And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. 19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. 20 In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. 21 Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts.

    Here Jerusalem is a fence less spiritual city occupied by born again in spirit faithful. The faithful will even go to spiritual Jerusalem (city of peace remember the God the Holy Spirit gives us peace and rest) to worship Christ. Who ever doesn’t worship the Lord of the sabbath in spirit shall have no Rain (salvation). The family of Egypt are idolaters who if they don’t repent and go up to worship the Lord they will have no salvation. The spiritual feast of tabernacles is the daily walk by faith with God and supping with Christ’s Holy Spirit. The Lord’s house that is built without human hands that represent the born again faithful shall be sanctified and made Holy by God the Holy Spirit. Symbolism used here is bowls and cups of the Lord’s house being the congregation of believers who a born again in spirit. The sacrifices are the witnessing, fasting, prayers and supplication and martyrdom of the saints as the symbolic two global witnesses that started from the first saint Stephen right up the last just before Christ’s triumphant return. In the Lord’s house no Canaanite (merchant) shall be allowed in the Lord’s spiritual house, because they will not be sanctified and will have no rain (Holy Anointing as sons of the living God). Christ said it is virtually impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, because a rich man by nature of his day to day business is a Canaanite (merchant) whether directly or indirectly.

    1. Hi Sargon,
      Thanks for your comment. You raise some interesting points worth looking into more deeply.
      I have long looked at the similarities of the events and processes under the Old Covenant and their relation to the New Covenant as precursors of the way of truth. It is an interesting studt that all should consider at some time.
      Thanks again.

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