THE SABBATH AND THE GOSPEL
Transcript of the sermon “The Sabbath and the Gospel” by Slawomir Gromadzki
Hebrews 4: 9 – 10: “There remains, then, a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also ceased from his own works, just as God did from his.”
In the 14th chapter of the book of Revelation we read about the three angels’ message. It is the message that is to be proclaimed today all over the world by true followers of Jesus.
Revelation 14:6-10 (NKJV)
6 Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth…
7 saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
Please notice that the words, “made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” are taken by inspired John from the fourth commandment of the Dekalog (Exodus 20:8-11) in which God himself says, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy…”. Since in Rev 14:7 John quotes the fourth commandment here, it means that the truth about the Sabbath is included in the three angels’ message!
8 And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine…”
9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand,
10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God…
Look at verse 6 please and tell me what according to this verse should be the foundation of the three angels’ message?
The common ground of all the messages should be the everlasting gospel. It is so because the first angel has the everlasting gospel.
But, please notice also that the second and third angels don’t go separately but they follow the first one:
The Greek word translated here as “followed” also means “to accompany” or “to join.” So, it is obvious that those three angels go together and that the foundation of all the messages is what? The common ground of those three messages is the everlasting gospel or the truth about salvation by faith in Jesus.
It means that if we don’t present the truth about the Sabbath (which is part of the three angels’ message), in the light of the gospel, do we present it correctly? No!
If we proclaim the truth about the Sabbath only in the light of the law, this is the reason our sincere brothers and sisters from Evangelical Churches are still not willing to accept it.
Unfortunately, I know only one Adventist pastor and theologian (Jack Sequeira), who always presents the truth on Sabbath in the light of the Gospel.
Not long ago I could listen to him again in the Central London Church where he said that one day certain Pentecostal pastor asked him, “How it is possible brother that you preach the gospel truth so wonderfully and at the same time you keep the Sabbath?” To this question, pastor Sequeira replied, “Do you want me to answer your question privately or in front of all your congregation?” And he was asked to present a series of Bible studies on the Sabbath in front of 800 members of the biggest Pentecostal church in Addis Ababa, proving that the Sabbath is Gods seal of righteousness by faith and memorial of the gospel. As a result of that the whole Pentecostal congregation (800 members) started to keep the fourth commandment and they also changed their name to the Seventh Day Pentecostal Church!
Ok. Now. First of all, we must keep in mind that the Hebrew word „Sabbath” literally means „rest”. It is very interesting that salvation through faith in Christ is also described in the New Testament by the same word “rest”.
The second important fact concerning the Sabbath we will find if we answer a very simple question: When the Sabbath was given to mankind? It was given before the fall or after the fall? It was given before the fall. What does it mean? It means that if, Adam and Eve didn’t fall, would we still be keeping God’s Sabbath as a day of rest today? Yes, there is no doubt we would, because it was given before the fall as a sign of an everlasting covenant!
The next fact we should be aware of is that the first thing we discover about Sabbath in the Old Testament, is that it doesn’t belong to man but to who? It belongs to God.
Exodus 20:10 “…the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.”
In Exodus 31:13, God says: “…my Sabbaths ye shall keep.”
Isaiah 58:13: “…my holy day . . . the holy of the Lord.”
So, knowing that the Sabbath belongs only to God, it is unbiblical to label it as the Jewish Sabbath, as many Christians do.
Yes, the Sabbath was made for man, but it does not belong to any man including Jews or Seventh-day Adventists. It belongs to God and it is His holy day!
I know certain brother who was once accused by one of the evangelical ministers of keeping the Jewish Sabbath, so he said to him, “Show me one text, where the Bible says that the Sabbath belongs to the Jews.” Well, after four or five months this evangelical minister looking quite embarrassed came and had to confess that he couldn’t find even one text to prove his point. So, the Adventist pastor said to him, “Brother, please, don’t you ever accuse me of keeping the Jewish Sabbath. I am not keeping the Jewish Sabbath. I am not keeping the Adventist Sabbath either. I am keeping God’s Sabbath. And I keep it under the new covenant (not in order to be saved by observing it but because we are already saved by Jesus).”
Having established the fact, that the Sabbath was God’s day of rest; now we must ask, why, does the almighty God, who never gets tired set aside the seventh day as His special day of rest?
The answer is found in Genesis 2: 1, 2. We read here that God, or Christ (because God created us through Christ) rested because His work of creation was completed, perfect and finished.
Genesis 2: 1-3 (NIV):
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.
3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Here is what a certain scholar by the name of Sessler wrote about it: “Why did God rest? He rested because what He created was absolutely perfect. It could not possibly be improved on. His creation was finished, brilliant, matchless and perfect.”
Please, try to remember what I will tell you now because it is extremely important as far as the true meaning of the Sabbath is concerned:
When Christ created Adam and us in Him He finished the work of creation at the end of which day? At the end of the six day.
And after He created this world and us in Adam Christ rested on the Sabbath.
Why He rested?
He rested because what He created was finished and perfect.
Did we help God in Adam to create the world? No.
What was our part, what did we do in Adam who was our representative (the Hebrew word “Adam” means “Human Kind“)?
We just began our existence in Adam on the Sabbath accepting the gift of finished and perfect creation and eternal life!
And now, it is extremely interesting that the same principle which we see in the creation we can apply also to the redemption:
In Romans 5:17 we read that, “In Christ we are a new creation“. When Jesus created the new humankind in Himself, or when He redeemed us?
He did it also at the end of the sixth day on the cross, when He cried out, “It is finished!” And, when His work of the new creation of humankind was finished, what did He do? He rested. Why did He rest?
He rested because His work of redemption was also finished and perfect, and that was the reason why on the cross He cried out “It is finished”.
Now please notice how Sessler, applied this fact to the gospel: “The cross of Christ so thoroughly, effectively, and completely accomplished what we need for salvation that there is nothing we can add to it, no matter how hard we try we cannot possibly make ourselves more acceptable to God. There is nothing we can add to our salvation.”
In other words, the salvation that God prepared in Christ, like creation was also perfect.
Did we help Jesus to redeem us?
No. Jesus did it all by Himself as our Representative.
What then was our part? What did we do?
We just accepted the gift of finished and perfect salvation and eternal life on Sabbath resting in Jesus in the tomb! (Please study articles about the “In Christ Motif” to understand this most important Biblical idea).
After resting in Jesus on the Sabbath what happened the next day on Sunday?
We resurrected in Jesus, not to rest but to work.
Well, in the light of what we have just said, what then is the true meaning of the Sabbath?
It is obvious now, that the Sabbath is to point to the perfect and finished salvation to which we can’t add anything!
So, by keeping the Sabbath holy, we manifest that we accepted this finished and perfect salvation and that we at last ceased from our own works.
And this is exactly what the apostle Paul meant in Hebrews 4: 9-10:
9 There remains, then, a Sabbath rest for the people of God;
10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also ceased from his own works.
Unfortunately, we can hear on 3abn or the Hope Channel our preachers who use this text to prove that Christians are still obliged to keep the Sabbath under the new covenant. But we can’t use this text to prove it because when we read the context, we see that in chapter four Paul is speaking about the Jews who didn’t accept salvation in Christ. So, in verse 9, he says that this salvation through faith in Christ (which is represented here by Sabbath rest) still “remains” for them as something they need to experience and accept. In v 10 he explains that in order to accept the rest or salvation in Christ they have to “cease from their own works” of the law or from legalism.
It means that if we accept God’s rest, if we accept the perfect and finished salvation accomplished by God, then we also cease from our own works because the Sabbath points to the already accomplished by Christ’s salvation (rest) which can be ours only through faith.
But, from what kind of works do we need to cease?
Before accepting the perfect salvation from Jesus we tried to work very hard in order to save ourselves through our own so-called “good” deeds, and because of this, we couldn’t find rest. But now, because at last we are resting in Jesus, we have peace and joy we ceased from trying to save ourselves through our own good works.
But does it mean that we are not supposed to work now?
Of course, we should work, and the same apostle Paul wrote that now we aim in good works.
But the difference is that now we never do it in order to be saved but because we are resting in the finished and perfect salvation accomplished by Jesus of which Sabbath is the memorial.
It means also that we should never ever try to keep the Sabbath in order to be saved because it would contradict the true meaning of the Sabbath. In my favourite commentary on the book of Hebrews by Jack Sequeira, I found a very significant statement I would like to share with you now:
“When we make Sabbath keeping a requirement for salvation, we are not really entering into God’s rest, which points to perfect and finished salvation, but we have turned His Sabbath into salvation by works, the very opposite of what the Sabbath was intended for.
And since by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight, such Sabbath keeping becomes meaningless!
People who try to go to heaven by their own works are heavy-laden. They have no peace. There are many Adventists who are in this category. They have no peace, no joy, no assurance because they are not sure they’ll make it.
(Now, listen to this carefully) Therefore their Sabbath keeping is a lie!!! They are not resting. They are not enjoying the Sabbath. It is a necessary requirement to them, a burden. They think, what time is Sabbath over so we can enjoy doing what we want to.”
You see, the Jews like many of us didn’t see in the Sabbath the truth about the gospel. To them, the Sabbath was just “dos and don’ts.” There are 69 rules in the Jewish Mishnah, on how to keep the Sabbath. Some of them are ridiculous. For example, you could never carry a ladder on Sabbath. But if you dragged it you were not breaking the Sabbath. They had rules like that.
I was told recently that today those rules are sometimes even more ridiculous. For instance, today if you are an orthodox Jew, you can’t turn on the TV on Sabbath, but if you use an automatic timer which turns your TV instead of you it is not a sin to watch TV on Sabbath.
We may laugh at the Jewish way of keeping the Sabbath but to be honest, sometimes we make similar rules. For example, in Scandinavian countries, you are allowed to swim, but playing football on Sabbath is considered to be a sin. In Italy however, you can’t swim on Sabbath but you are allowed to play football. But in America playing football is considered to be sin while it is allowed to travel on the Sabbath, which in turn is a sin in Africa, and so on.
In Deuteronomy 5:15, God himself gives the reason why He wants us to rest on the Sabbath:
15 Remember (The Hebrew word “zakar” translated here as “remember” literally means to engrave in the memory and seal. So it means that what God wants to tell us now concerning the Sabbath is extremely important.)
15 Remember (or engrave in your memory and seal it) that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. (NIV)
What was the reason God wanted Israel to rest on the Sabbath?
Because He gave them freedom from slavery!
And it is exactly the same reason God wants us today to rest on the Sabbath.
He says to you and me: “Remember (or, engrave in your memory and seal it) that you were condemned to death slave of sin (because Egypt in the Bible is the symbol of sin), and that the Lord your God brought you out of that slavery of sin and death with a mighty hand and an outstretched on the cross arm. Therefore (this is the reason) the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”
God gave us the Sabbath so that we may remember that in Jesus, He gave us freedom from slavery of sin and death.
Knowing the true meaning of the Sabbath we can now easily understand why Jesus loved setting sinners free from the slavery of sin and death especially on what day? Sunday? No, He loved to do it, especially on the Sabbath day. For example, in Luke 13:12-16, we read about a woman who had been enslaved by Satan for eighteen years. In verse 12 we read that: “When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity’ (slavery).”
But because Jesus set her free on Sabbath, the hypocritical Jews condemned Him. What did He answer them?
Luke 13: 15 – 16 (NIV): The Lord answered, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?
Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day?”
Why did Jesus suggest that the woman should have been set free from Satan’s slavery, especially on the Sabbath day?
– Because the Sabbath is the memorial of the gospel of freedom!!!
Let me read for you now the final quote, which is derived from my favourite commentary to the book of Hebrews written by Jack Sequeira:
“We must never separate the Sabbath from Christ our Righteousness because it is the Lord of the Sabbath that makes the day important. Without the Lord of the day, the day itself becomes meaningless.
There are today many sincere Christians who are fully resting in Christ but are Sunday keepers. They keep the wrong day for the right reason. Likewise, there are many sincere Sabbath keepers who think their Sabbath keeping will save them. They are keeping the right day for the wrong reason. Both need to be corrected by the Holy Spirit, who is to lead us into all truth.
Before the second coming of Jesus all who come under the banner of Christ will finally worship the Lord of the Sabbath and their Sabbath keeping will be the outward sign or the seal of the righteousness they have already received by faith. I
n contrast, Sunday as the Mark of the Beast will represent human attempts to earn salvation through works. In this way, accepting Sunday and deliberately rejecting the Sabbath, will become an outward expression of rejecting the salvation by faith in Jesus.”
“We had twenty two Adventist students at one of the universities in Ethiopia. And those students were told that they would have to take an exam in zoology on the Sabbath. So, because of that, they asked me if I would speak to the zoology professor on their behalf. The problem was that the zoology professor was known as a very tough and stubborn German teacher.
So, I said to those students, ‘Before I go and speak to him, I want to ask you a question: If he does not agree to postpone your exam will you take the exam on Sabbath? If you say ‘Yes’ I’m not going to speak to him for you. I will go to him only if you give me your word that you will not take the exam even if he won’t agree to change the date of your exam.
Now, in Africa, only the cream of the crop goes to university. So, any person who gives up university is regarded in Africa as the greatest fool in the world. Therefore, because of this, they said, ‘Boy, this is tough.” And they decided to spend three days in fasting and prayer. After those three days, only five of them came back to me. Out of those twenty-two young Adventist students, only five said to me, ‘We are willing to deprive ourselves of a university education, but we will not let our Lord down.’ The rest said, ‘It is too much of a sacrifice.’
So, I went to the professor for those five students. I tried to explain to him why they can’t have the exam on the Sabbath, but he stopped me and said, ‘You don’t need to explain. I come from Darmstadt where we have lots of Adventists. I know your policy. They can have the exam on Sunday. No trouble at all.’
I don’t know what was behind the professor, but all those five students passed with flying colours. The others failed. Whether the professor did it deliberately or not I don’t know, but he never penalized those five who decided to not break the fourth commandment regardless of the consequences.
And later this Sunday keeping professor said to me, ‘I wish we had students that were as loyal to Christ as these five’.”
Well, we know that soon we are going to face the same test. The devil will do his best to force us to stop keeping the Sabbath because he hates the truth which is hidden in the Sabbath. Who among us will pass the great final test? The answer is found in Revelation 7:13-17 (NASV):
13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?”
14 I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 For this reason, they are before the throne of God…
17 The Lamb will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
Who will pass the final great persecution and the Sabbath test?
Only those “who are clothed in the white robes (of Christ’s righteousness) and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”.
Only those who at last “ceased from their own works” and accepted God’s perfect and finished salvation to which Sabbath points.
- SABBATH-KEEPING BEES & SABBATH INSTINCT
- TWO KEY EVANGELICAL ARGUMENTS AGAINST SABBATH
- SABBATH AND THE GOSPEL BY JACK SEQUEIRA (VIDEO)
THE SABBATH REST
By Jack Sequeira
The Sabbath is more than a day of physical and mental relaxation. It is even more than the day on which we worship. The Sabbath has a definite redemptive significance—a distinct connection with the everlasting gospel.
The New Testament often uses the word rest to describe the good news of salvation realized in the holy history of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 11:28; Hebrews 4:2, 3). Ever since the Fall, this promised saving rest in Christ has been linked with the Sabbath. That is why the major feast days in the Old Testament were designated as Sabbath days of rest—they pointed ahead to the Messiah and His redemptive activity.
The Significance of the Sabbath to God
The word sabbath means “rest,” and the first thing we discover about it in the Old Testament is that the Sabbath day belongs to God. He calls it “my holy day” (Isaiah 58:13); “my sabbaths” (Exodus 31:13). “The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God” (Exodus 20:10). Since the Sabbath clearly belongs to God, it is unscriptural to refer to it as the “Jewish Sabbath.” Yes, it was made for man (see Mark 2:27), but it does not belong to man—Jew or Gentile. It belongs to God.
The next logical question is: Why would an almighty God, who obviously doesn’t need to rest, set aside the seventh day as His special day of rest? Scripture’s answer to this question is that God set aside this Sabbath day, this day of rest, to signify His perfect and finished work of creation (see Genesis 1:31; 2:1-3; Hebrews 4:4). This fact becomes extremely important to our understanding of the gospel.
We must keep in mind that this Sabbath is God’s seventh day, not ours. God took six days to create everything that goes to make up our planet. Then He set aside (sanctified) the seventh day as His Sabbath (see Exodus 20:11). Adam and Eve were created at the very end of the sixth day (see Genesis 1:26-31). Therefore, God’s seventh-day Sabbath was actually mankind’s first whole day. Let me explain why I believe this is important, especially when we consider the Sabbath in light of our redemption in Christ.
God worked for six days in creating this world. Only when His work was perfect and complete did He rest (see Genesis 2:1-3). Adam and Eve, on the other hand, did not begin by working; they spent their first whole day of life resting on God’s Sabbath. Only after they had “entered” into God’s rest did they follow it with six days of work. Mankind began by first receiving God’s handiwork as an entirely free gift, and only then could humanity enjoy His creation during the rest of the week.
Like creation, salvation begins, not by doing something, but by resting in the perfect, finished work Jesus accomplished in His doing and dying. Just as Adam and Eve spent their first day in Sabbath rest before taking up their work, we can enjoy the blessings of salvation only by first resting in the completed righteousness Jesus has provided. From this perspective, the Sabbath rest becomes the very foundation of the glorious truth of righteousness by faith.
When He set apart, or sanctified, the Sabbath, God was entering into an everlasting covenant relationship with mankind—a relationship in which men and women were always to be dependent on Him. Thus, when Adam and Eve sinned, choosing to be self-dependent rather than God-dependent, they broke this God-given covenant. One result was that they forfeited the true rest that the Sabbath symbolized. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (Genesis 3:19). But Jesus came into this world for the express purpose of restoring this rest that mankind lost at the Fall (see Matthew 11:28). In doing this, He restored the significance of the Sabbath. In order to receive the good news of salvation, we must return to this fundamental principle of Sabbath rest that was given to our first parents.
The New Testament makes it clear that Jesus Christ was the agent through whom God accomplished both creation (see John 1:3; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 3:14) and redemption (see John 3:16, 17; Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Galatians 3:13; Colossians 1:14; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:12; 1 Peter 1:18; Revelation 5:9). Just as Christ finished creation at the end of the sixth day and rested the seventh, so He also finished redemption on the cross on the sixth day and rested in the tomb the seventh day (see John 17:4; 19:30).
Further, Christ’s work of restoration, which will be realized at the end of His heavenly ministry (see 1 Corinthians 15:24-26; Hebrews 2:13), is also linked with the Sabbath (see Isaiah 66:22, 23). His work of restoration will be a perfect, finished work as were creation and redemption. So the Sabbath has a threefold significance to us—creation, redemption, and restoration.
Because Christ is our Creator, Redeemer, and Restorer, He has the perfect right to claim the title “Lord of the Sabbath day” (see Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5; Revelation 1:10). When the Jewish nation rejected Him as the Messiah, their Sabbath keeping lost its meaning. That is why Hebrews says, “There remaineth therefore a rest [sabbatismos, a “sabbath-keeping rest”] to the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). Any Sabbath keeping that is not motivated by a faith response to Christ’s perfect atonement on the cross is a sham and still belongs to the old covenant of salvation by works.
The significance of the Sabbath to man
God created the world through Christ for our benefit. We made no contribution to creation; we only received it as a gift of God. Although the Sabbath belongs to God, as we have seen, He made it, like the world, for our benefit (see Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:12; Mark 2:27). God set apart, or sanctified, the Sabbath rest to remind us that He is our loving provider and that we are dependent on Him for all our needs.
It’s significant that God made this Sabbath covenant with mankind before the Fall. So, had Adam and Eve never sinned, we would still be keeping God’s Sabbath as a day of rest. When sin entered the world, however, it destroyed God’s original significance for Sabbath rest. Sin is rebellion against our dependence on God and a demand to be dependent only on self (see Romans 1:21; Philippians 2:21). Therefore, when sin separated us from God (see Isaiah 59:2), the Sabbath could no longer have the same significance for us. Mankind had to introduce his own rest day, Sunday. Unlike God’s rest day, however, man’s substitute day does not point to a perfect, finished work—either of creation or redemption. This fact is very important in light of the final showdown that will occur in the great controversy between salvation by faith, symbolized by God’s Sabbath, versus salvation by works, symbolized by man’s Sunday.
At the cross, Jesus Christ accomplished a perfect, finished redemption on the sixth day, just as He had completed a perfect work of creation at the end of the sixth day (see Luke 23:54). In this way He restored the Sabbath rest that He had given at Eden and that had been marred by sin. Now, all who receive the gospel by faith once again enter into God’s saving rest, of which the Sabbath is a sign (see Hebrews 4:2, 3; cf. Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:12; Isaiah 58:13, 14). In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ clearly taught that if we first seek His kingdom and His righteousness (which is by faith), all our needs will be supplied (see Matthew 6:33).
In other words, the gospel has made a way of escape for us from self-dependence, which is the source of all our problems, to God-dependence, which is the source of all our joy and happiness. But one thing is sure—we cannot serve two masters; we cannot serve self and God (Matthew 6:24-34). When we enter into God’s rest, His day of rest must become our day of rest. This is the outward sign that we have chosen to live by faith alone. Keeping the Sabbath from this motivation of faith is true Sabbath keeping.
The law and the Sabbath
Before we can consider the Sabbath in relationship to God’s law, we must first remind ourselves that God never gave the law as a means of salvation (see Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16). This is the error the Jews made, the error of the old covenant that ended in miserable failure (see Romans 9:30-33; Hebrews 8:7-11). Therefore, anyone who keeps God’s Sabbath in order to be saved is repeating the mistake of the Jews and is perverting the very purpose of the Sabbath rest. When we make Sabbath keeping a requirement for salvation, we are not entering rest at all. We are not pointing to a finished, complete salvation. Instead, we are turning the Sabbath into the very opposite of what God intended it to be; we are making it into a means of salvation by works. Such Sabbath keeping is meaningless.
How, then, should a Christian, who has been saved by grace through faith alone, keep the Sabbath?
The New Testament, especially the apostle Paul, clearly teaches that God never gave His law as a method of salvation. In fact, before God gave the Jews His law on Mount Sinai, He stated, “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:2). God first redeemed Israel and then gave the Israelites His law. Moses applied this principle specifically to Sabbath keeping (see Deuteronomy 5:15). Yet although God did not give us the law as a means of salvation, He certainly wants us to consider His law to be the standard for Christian living (see Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13, 14; 1 John 5:1-3; 2 John 6).
The true motivation for keeping the law, Jesus said, was love (see Matthew 22:36-40; John 14:15). The Old Testament agreed (see Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). Yet we cannot generate this love out of our own sinful natures, because it is the agape love, the self-sacrificing love, that originates with God. Therefore, God gives us this agape love as His gift to us through His Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12:31; 13:13). He doesn’t give us this love so that it will flow back to Him; that would make God Himself self-centered! Rather, He gives us this unselfish love so that we can reflect it toward others as evidence of the saving power of the gospel over self (see John 13:34, 35; Romans 5:5; 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15). This is what it means to have the law written on our hearts (see Hebrews 8:10).
The first four of God’s Ten Commandments have to do with our relationship to Him; the last six deal with our relationships with our neighbors. Since agape “seeketh not her own” (1 Corinthians 13:5), how do we obey the first four commandments without making God self-centered? We do so by remembering that the only way we can obey is through faith. As we obey the first four commandments by faith, the result is the new-birth experience, and with this experience comes the gift of agape love that enables us to keep the last six commandments of love for our neighbors.
The New Testament has little to say about our obeying the first four commandments, because all God wants from us, in regard to our relationship with Him, is faith (see John 6:28, 29; Hebrews 11:6; 1 John 3:23). He wants us to have a faith that is motivated by a heart appreciation for His supreme gift of love, Jesus Christ (see Galatians 5:6). So the only way we can acceptably keep the fourth commandment, the Sabbath commandment, is by faith—entering by faith into God’s rest. The Sabbath becomes, in this context, the seal of righteousness by faith.
The Sabbath-Sunday controversy
The real issue is not the one we usually think of—Sabbath keeping versus Sunday keeping. Many sincere Sunday-keeping Christians today are fully resting in Christ for salvation. They are keeping the wrong day but for the right reason. Likewise, many sincere Sabbath-keeping Christians do so because they think their Sabbath keeping will save them. They are keeping the right day for the wrong reason. Both need to be corrected, and if we let Him, the Holy Spirit will do this as He guides us into all truth (see John 16:13).
When the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations (see Matthew 24:14), it will polarize the human race into only two camps—believers and unbelievers (see 1 John 5:19). There will be only those who are fully resting in Christ and those who have ultimately rejected Him. In the end time, all who come under the banner of Christ will worship the Lord of the Sabbath; their Sabbath keeping will be the outward sign or seal of the righteousness they have already received by faith, just as Abraham’s circumcision was “a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised” (Romans 4:11).
In the end time, those who have deliberately turned their backs on God’s free gift of salvation in Christ will worship the dragon that gives power to the beast (see Revelation 13:3,4). They will exalt Sunday as man’s day of rest in defiance of God’s rest day. The issue, then, in the final conflict will not be between two groups of Christians, or even between two rest days, but between two opposing methods of salvation. The conflict will be between the seventh-day Sabbath, signifying salvation by faith alone, and Sunday, signifying salvation by human effort.
The fundamental issue throughout Scripture is salvation by faith versus salvation by works. At the heart of the Bible message is salvation by grace made effective through faith alone (see Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8, 9; Hebrews 10:38, 39; Hebrews 11:1-40). At the heart of every false religion is salvation by works. In ancient times, Sunday became not only man’s day of physical and mental rest, but above all it symbolized his day of spiritual rest and worship based on the pagan belief that the sun was the chief of gods. This became prominent in the Roman Empire of Christ’s day. Hence, at its very foundation, Sunday rest is a pagan institution representing self-righteousness in contradiction to God’s Sabbath, the sign of righteousness by faith. These two opposing concepts of salvation have been in conflict since the Fall and can never be reconciled.
When the true gospel of righteousness by faith will be fully recovered and preached in all the world for a witness, every person will have to make a choice—either for or against Christ (see Deuteronomy 30:19, 20; Joshua 24:13-15; Romans 9:30-33; Philippians 3:3-9). At that time, the Sabbath will become God’s seal, representing righteousness by faith. Sunday keeping, in contrast, will represent the mark of the beast, signifying mankind’s rejection of God’s saving grace in Christ (see Revelation 14:10,11). When laws legally establishing Sunday worship are enacted, it will indicate the world’s deliberate and ultimate rejection of God’s loving offer of salvation through His Son.
This is the “abomination of desolation” of which Christ spoke (Matthew 24:15). Those who will then insist on Sunday rest in willful opposition to God’s Sabbath will receive the plagues, God’s wrath poured out without mixture (see Revelation 14:9-11). In contrast, those who will stubbornly cling to the seventh-day Sabbath will manifest a faith in God that is unshakable. They will go through the great time of trouble and wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb (see Revelation 7:14).
Because even so many Christians still have confused ideas about salvation, the true nature of the controversy between God’s Sabbath and man’s Sunday is also not clearly understood. But when the two opposing methods of salvation come clearly into focus, then the true importance of the Sabbath will also be clearly seen. At that time Sabbath keeping will become a test of faith.
At that time, may God give each of us the grace and courage to stand for truth. “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (Revelation 22:20, 21).
- The Sabbath is more than a day of physical and mental rest. It is more even than a day of worship. The Sabbath has a redemptive significance, a distinct connection with the gospel.
- God set aside the Sabbath as a day of rest to signify His perfect and finished work of creation (see Genesis 1:31; 2:1-3; Hebrews 4:4). God rested only when His work “was perfect and complete. Adam and Eve, on the other hand, spent their first whole day of life resting on God’s Sabbath. Only then did they take up their work.
- Like creation, salvation begins by resting in the perfect, finished work of Christ—not by doing something.
- Just as Christ finished creation at the end of the sixth day and rested on the seventh, so He also finished redemption on the cross on the sixth day and rested in the tomb on the seventh day.
- When sin came into the world, it destroyed God’s original significance for Sabbath rest. Humanity rebelled against God and demanded to depend only on self. Mankind introduced his own rest day—Sunday. But his substitute could not point to a finished, perfect work—either of creation or redemption.
- The final showdown in the great controversy will take place between salvation by faith (symbolized by God’s Sabbath) and salvation by works (symbolized by man’s Sunday).
- All who receive the gospel by faith once again enter into God’s saving rest, of which the Sabbath is a sign (see Hebrews 4:2, 3; cf. Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:12; Isaiah 58:13, 14).
- Anyone who is keeping the Sabbath in order to be saved is perverting the very nature of Sabbath rest. If we make Sabbath keeping a requirement for being saved, we are not entering into rest. We are not pointing to a finished, perfect work. We are making the Sabbath into a means of salvation by works—a burden.
- In the final conflict, the issue will not be between two groups of Christians, or even between two rest days, but between two opposing methods of salvation. The conflict will be between the seventh-day Sabbath, signifying salvation by faith alone, and Sunday, signifying salvation by human effort.
- When the two opposing methods of salvation come clearly into focus, the true importance of the Sabbath will also be clearly seen. At that time, Sabbath keeping will become a test of faith.