| "Come out of her my people" - Jesus Christ
THE SABBATH OF THE NEW COVENANT
|THE SABBATH OF THE NEW COVENANT
Hebrews 8:10-13 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
Today I wish to speak of the New Covenant and its relationship to the Law of God and the Sabbath Command in particular.
First I want us to realize that there is indeed a New Covenant. This Covenant was prophesied to come in the Book of Jeremiah, which is quoted here in Hebrews. And if there is a New Covenant that has come, then the Old Covenant has passed away. And we are plainly told this through out the New Testament [2nd Corinthians 3:8-13, Galatians 3:17-19].
THE HEART OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
The Ten Commandments, which were written upon two tables of stone, make up the very heart of the Old Covenant [See Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 4:13, 9:11, 1st Kings 8:9,21, Hebrews 9:4].
Now this Covenant which the writer of Hebrews called “Old” was made specifically with the Children of Israel and no one else [Malachi 4:4, Psalms 147:19-20]. For a Gentile to enter into this Covenant he had to become a Jew. He had to be circumcised, ceremonially washed, and then he had to agree, under oath, to follow the 613 laws of this covenant literally.
In Galatians Chapter Four Paul warned the Christians against attempting to put themselves under the Old Covenant, which he likened to bondage [Galatians 4:21-22, 30-31]. In fact Peter during the Jerusalem Council called this Old Covenant a “Yoke” of Bondage [Acts 15:10, Galatians 5:1], that even the Jews could not bear.
THE TERMS OF THE NEW COVENANT
Now let us consider for a moment the terms of this New Covenant. According to Hebrews 8:10-13:
#1. God promises that he will forgive and forget the iniquities of the people who enter this Covenant.
#2. God promises to be a personal GOD to those who enter this Covenant, all that enter it shall know him personally.
#3. God promises to write his Laws upon the hearts and minds of those who enter this Covenant with him.
Now we know that we Christians, who have entered this Covenant by faith in Christ, receive the forgiveness of sins through the Blood of Jesus. We also know that we enter into a personal relationship with GOD through the Spirit of his Christ his Son, by which we are able to cry out, Abba Father. We also know that it is the Holy Spirit that writes upon our hearts the Law of GOD, and teaches us wrong from right.
You see in the Old Covenant the Finger of GOD, which is a synonym for the Spirit of GOD, wrote the Law of GOD on stone, and the law was given outwardly to the Children of Israel. Though the Law was holy, just and good; it served only as a ministration of death under the Old Covenant, for it could only condemned the sinfulness of the people [2nd Corinthians 3:7].
But under the New Covenant God doesn’t give tablets of Stone, he gives the Spirit of GOD, the finger of GOD, to those who believe upon Christ, and that Spirit writes upon our hearts the Law of GOD, and actually empowers the believer to obey it. This is explained well in Romans chapter eight.
Romans 8:1-4 ¶ There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness [the righteous requirements ]of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
“The Law” here does not refer only to the Ten Commandments, but includes every part of the ‘Law’. Though the Christian is not under the “Old Covenant”, the righteous commands of the Law is written upon the hearts of the believer by the Spirit, and if he walks in the Spirit, that is if he puts himself under the control and influence of the Spirit he will fulfill the righteous requirements of the Old Law.
Now let me sum up what we have taught thus far.
#1. The Christian is under the New Covenant.
#2. The Old Covenant is passed away.
#3. Yet the Christian, if he walks in the Spirit will fulfill the Righteous Requirements of the Law.
THE LAW IS TO BE READ SPIRITUALLY
2nd Timothy 3:15-17 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Now here is a point we must understand. Though the Law as a Covenant has been done away, the “Law” as Scripture remain. And as Scripture it is useful for teaching, for reproving, for correcting and instructing in righteousness. And as Paul elsewhere writes, these Scriptures were written for our “Admonition” and for our “Learning” [see Romans 15:4, 1st Corinthians 10:11].
Christians are commanded to search and study these Scriptures, but not in the carnal way a Jew would, who rejects Christ and holds to the Old Covenant; but rather we are to be in search of Christ, and a better knowledge of him, for these Scriptures testify of Christ [John 5:39]. The Torah is Spiritual [Romans 7:14], it is spiritually written and it must be Spiritually discerned. The Carnal Jew, or the Carnal man in general cannot discern the true spiritual intent of the Law, because there is a veil over their hearts, but that veil is taken away in Christ, by the Spirit [1st Corinthians 2:13-14, 2nd Corinthians 3:14].
THE SPIRITUAL TEACHINGS OF THE LAW
When a Christian reads in the Law about the Passover Lamb being without spot and blemish, and its blood being applied to the door posts of the house so that the death angel passes over that household, what does he see? The Christian sees Jesus Christ, the one without sin, who became sin for us, and who shed his blood and suffered our death, so that the Justice of God might be satisfied, and that the wrath of GOD and damnation might Passover us! As Paul wrote, “Jesus our Passover is sacrificed for us” [1st Corinthians 5:7].
When you read the ordinances concerning the ancient priesthood, what do you see? You see Christ. The Priesthood pictures Christ as our High Priest, the lone mediator between GOD and man, who ever lives to make intercession for us.
In the same way the Ark of the Covenant pictures Christ, in whose heart is the law of God, who is a priest forever after the order of Melchisedek. And who is the bread that came down from heaven to give life unto the world.
The Temple is a picture of the Body of Christ, where dwells the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And divine services pictures Christ’s work in the heavenly places for his people.
EXAMPLE OF CIRCUMCISION
Now I want to consider specifically the Command of Circumcision that was given in the Old Testament. Consider the following verses:
Colossians 2:9-12 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
And in another place Paul wrote:
Romans 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Here is a perfect example to help us understand the Spiritual intent of the Law. Circumcision was given to Abraham as a “sign” between him and GOD. It was a sign and ‘seal’ of the Abrahamic Covenant [Romans 4:11]. It was given 430 years before the Ten Commandments and the Law was given at Mount Sinai. The Command of Circumcision was included in the Covenant that God made with Israel. All the Patriarchs and Prophets were circumcised. Jesus and his Apostles were all circumcised; because they were Jews who were born under the law.
But this carnal command that was a sign to the Jews of the Old Covenant, was in reality a shadow of Christ’s work in the New Covenant. What does this sign teach us? It teaches the Christian that Jesus Christ, through his Spirit will circumcise the hearts of all who believe upon him. Believers in Christ receive a Spiritual Circumcision where the hardness of their hearts is removed, and they become obedient to the will of GOD.
You will also notice from the reading of the New Testament that the Christian is not to attempt to put themselves under the yoke and burden of these ‘laws’. The only ones who had to fulfill these ‘signs’ physically were those who were under this covenant [Galatians 5:2-3]. Jesus Christ fulfills these laws spiritually in the heart of the believer.
Here is the principle that we learn from this. Old Covenant ‘signs’ are in reality ‘shadows’ that teach us New Testament realities that are always fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The ‘Sign Commands’ are not without significance and purpose, for they speak to Christians about their experience in the reality of Christ.
THE SABBATH COMMAND IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Now I want to turn our attention to the Sabbath Command found in the Decalogue and in other parts of the Old Covenant. I am not one of those who believe that men should keep Nine of the Ten Commandments, but leave the Fourth Commandment undone, as if it was insignificant. Christ did not come to do that, he came to fulfill the Law, and to cause us, by his Spirit, to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. The Ten Commandments are quoted through out the New Testament as an authoritative document [Ephesians 6:2]. The early Church had a great respect for the Ten Commandments and felt they were binding principles for the Christian. Here is one example:
Irenaeus [170 AD]“[During the Exodus] the Lord Himself did speak in His own person to all alike the words of the Decalogue; and therefore, in like manner, do they remain permanently with us... “From the beginning He had implanted in mankind, that is, by means of the Decalogue (which, if any one does not observe, he has no salvation)...” – Against Heresies
Yet we must remember that the Ten Commandments as the “Old Covenant” is done away; but as Scriptures, and righteous principles they remain; but they must be read with New Covenant eyes, that is they are to be Spiritually understood and spiritually applied to the believer. Here is an example: The Ten Commandments state: “Thou Shalt not Commit Adultery”. But Christ applied this Spiritually, even to the heart, when he said, “He that looks upon a woman to lust after her commits adultery in his heart”.
You see how the Command and the Principle remains, but that it is magnified and applied spiritually to the follower of Christ? This is especially true of the Sabbath Commandment.
THE SABBATH IS A SIGN
First we must realize that the Sabbath Command was given to the Nation of Israel as a ‘sign’ between them and God.
Nehemiah 9:14 And [you God] madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:
Ezekiel 20:12 Moreover also I gave them [Israel] my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.
Exodus 31:13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you.
God never commanded anyone else to keep the Sabbath but the Jews. God never condemned any other nation for breaking the Sabbath, just as he never condemned a Gentile for not being circumcised. As far as we have record, no one was commanded to observe the Seventh Day Sabbath until Moses lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt [Exodus 16]. We must also remember that a ‘sign’ command cannot be a moral precept. Signs are rather ritualistic commands that distinguishes one group of people from another.
FROM SIGN TO SHADOW.
Now the principle we learned from our look at circumcision is that an Old Testament sign when studied spiritually becomes a shadow of Christ and his work in us. Many people find it hard to believe that the Sabbath Command was in reality a shadow of Jesus Christ and his Spiritual work in us. But here is positive proof:
Colossians 2:16-17 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Paul plainly calls the Sabbath a “Shadow of things to come”. Some will argue that ‘sabbath days’ here does not refer to the Seventh Day Sabbath because it is plural [sabbath days], and thus must refer to the yearly feast days of the Jews; but this is not so. The exact Greek word [sabbaton] is used eleven times in the New Testament and each time it refers specifically to the weekly Sabbath. [Look at Acts 13:14 and Luke 4:16 for an example].
Secondly, it should also be noted that any time Sabbaths and New Moons are mentioned together in the Bible the ‘Sabbaths’ are always in reference to the Seventh Day [Ezekiel 45:17, Hosea 2:11, Nehemiah 10:33].
Thirdly, Paul had already made reference to the “feast days” when he said, “holy day”, for in the Greek it literally means “feast days”, and it would had been redundant for him to repeat himself.
THE BODY IS CHRIST
Thus we see that the Sabbath Command was a ‘sign’ for the Jew, and it is a shadow for us; but a shadow of what? We are told by Paul that the “Body is Christ”. That is Christ is the real substance that the shadow points to. Now I want to explain how the Sabbath is a shadow of Christ and Christ’s work in us.
#1. Christ is our rest. He invites all men saying: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28 ” Christ gives them who come to him spiritual rest. He gives them peace in their conscience, ease of mind and tranquillity of soul through the application of his pardoning grace. He let’s them rest in salvation, and so that they can cease forever in trying to earn right standing with God, for their justification is freely given to them. Christ let’s men rest from their burden of sin, for he lifts it off of them, and places it upon his own shoulders.
#2. Christ fulfills the Sabbath in us. “For we which have believed do enter into rest...” – Hebrews 4:3. Christ taught [by word and by example] that the great principle of the Sabbath command was not idleness; but rather resting from evil and doing that which is good [Matthew 12:12]. Now consider how he fulfills the principle of the Sabbath in us.
A. The Christian who walks in the Spirit, being dead to sin in Christ, does not perform the works of the flesh. These are the works that God forbids every day [Galatians 5:18-21].
B. The Christian who walks in the Spirit ceases to speak his own sinful words, and ceases to do his own sinful pleasures; and delights in holiness every day [Isaiah 58:13, 1st Peter 3:10, Ephesians 4:24].
C. The Christian who walks in the Spirit worships God at his temple [our Body is the Temple of the Holy Ghost] every day [1st Corinthians 6:19].
D. What ever work or labor that a Christian performs he does it to the glory of God as if he was working for Christ himself [1st Corinthians 10:31, Ephesians 6:5].
This is how the Sabbath Command was interpreted by the early Church. Remember Irenaeus who so upheld the Decalogue? This is how he explained the Sabbath Command:
Irenaeus 170 AD: Moreover, we learn from the Scripture itself, that God gave circumcision, not as the completer of righteousness, but as a sign, that the race of Abraham might continue recognizable.... This same does Ezekiel the prophet say with regard to the Sabbaths... These things, then, were given for a sign; but the signs were not unsymbolical, that is, neither unmeaning nor to no purpose, inasmuch as they were given by a wise Artist... the Sabbaths taught that we should continue day by day in God’s service. “For we have been counted,” says the Apostle Paul, “all the day long as sheep for the slaughter;” that is, consecrated [to God], and ministering continually to our faith, and persevering in it, and abstaining from all avarice, and not acquiring or possessing treasures upon earth.”
Irenaeus was not alone in this teaching, but the other prominent writers of his time taught the same doctrine; which we shall prove by the following quotes:
Ignatius [107 AD] – "Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them." Ignatius - To the Magnesians chapter 9 (about 107 AD)
150 AD Justin Martyr: “The new law requires you to keep perpetual sabbath, and you, because you are idle for one day, suppose you are pious, not discerning why this has been commanded you: and if you eat unleavened bread, you say the will of God has been fulfilled. The Lord our God does not take pleasure in such observances: if there is any perjured person or a thief among you, let him cease to be so; if any adulterer, let him repent; then he has kept the sweet and true sabbaths of God. If any one has impure hands, let him wash and be pure....” – Justin against Trypho chapter 12 and 23
Tertullian 220 AD: “we (Christians) understand that we still more ought to observe a sabbath from all “servile work” always, and not only every seventh day, but through all time”
#3. The Sabbath is a shadow of the Christian’s eternal rest in Christ. Hebrews 4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest [Sabbath rest] to the people of God..
According to the Book of Hebrews the Sabbath also pictures the future eternal rest for the Christian in the Kingdom of God. The Bible teaches that in the Eternal Kingdom there will be “no night there”, that the “Sun shall no more go down”, “But it shall be one day” [Revelation 22:5, Isaiah 60:20, Zechariah 14:7].
The Sabbath is a shadow of ‘Heaven’, our eternal rest in Christ, which is likened to an unending day, a wonderful/eternal Rest in Paradise. Where the Christian shall be free from all physical pain and suffering and toils. This again is the ancient view of the Church, as seen by the following quotes:
Irenaeus 170 AD: “Moreover, the Sabbath of God (requietio Dei), that is, the kingdom, was, as it were, indicated by created things; in which [kingdom], the man who shall have persevered in serving God (Deo assistere) shall, in a state of rest, partake of God’s table.... These are [to take place] in the times of the kingdom, that is, upon the seventh day, which has been sanctified, in which God rested from all the works which He created, which is the true Sabbath of the righteous, which they shall not be engaged in any earthly occupation; but shall have a table at hand prepared for them by God, supplying them with all sorts of dishes.”
Hippolytus 210 AD “For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they “shall reign with Christ,” when He comes from heaven, as John says in his Apocalypse: for “a day with the Lord is as a thousand years.” Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6,000 years must be fulfilled.””
THE ORIGINAL SABBATH – REMEMBER.
Hebrews 4:3-4 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.
According to this verse the “works of God” were finished from the foundation of the world, but men have refused to enter that rest. What does this mean? What was finished?
It should be noted that in Genesis Two we read of the original Sabbath. God worked for six days in creating the heavens and the earth and then rested the seventh day. Please notice that each previous day of creation ended with the saying, “And the evening and the morning...”. But the Seventh does not end this way. I suggest to you that the original Sabbath was not a twenty-four hour period, but was made to last for eternity. God intended it to be an unending day of bliss for man in paradise. It was ‘heaven on earth’. But man did not continue in this state, but rather he sinned and fell. That primordial Sabbath thus ended, and God began the work of redeeming fallen man. As Jesus said: “ But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” – John 5:17
And so we see that the ancient Sabbath command served as a reminder to Israel of Paradise lost. But we Christians see it as symbolic of Paradise gained through Christ.
BUT IS IT BIBLICAL?
The Question Is: Do we have a clear Biblical precedent that early Christians observed a perpetual Sabbath? That is they treated every day as holy, and regarded every day unto the Lord? We most certainly do. It is given in the following verse:
Romans 14:5 One man regardeth one day to be above another: another regardeth every day alike. Let each man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Roman Church, which was a mixture of both Jewish and Gentile believers. Most of the Jewish believers continued to rest on the Seventh Day as were their custom, while the majority of Gentile believers treated every day alike, and holy unto the Lord.
The Apostle Paul condemns neither, but leaves every man free in his own mind. Now this should forever settle the question of a weekly holy day, be it Saturday or Sunday. For if the Christian was obligated to observe a certain day of the week above the other six, Paul could not had given men such freedom. He would have had to condemn the one who treated every day the same for breaking a clear Apostolic command. But there is no rebuke here, for there is no obligation on the Christian to observe a particular day and the passage cannot be understood any other way.
Just as circumcision is fulfilled by Christ in the heart of the Believer, the Sabbath is also. Those who ‘rest’ in Christ, keep the Spiritual Sabbath, and fulfill the law of God. And cannot be judged as “Sabbath Breakers”. What we should do is obey the doctrine of Paul and cease to condemn one another over the subject of ‘days’ [Romans 14:10-13].
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