Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Sabbath

Over on Ed Brayton's blog, a commenter has posted a familiar "gotcha".  In discussing how we ignore certain parts of the bible (in some cases: true dat) s(he) writes:
Very few Christians (except for `Seventh-Day’ churches) keep (or even recognize the Sabbath). If one can’t even get the Commandments right
As I commented there, it is hard to believe that someone would post this tiresome canard, yet again, with a "here is a pearl of wisdom that you might never have considered!" attitude.

There are many reasons why our church day (Sunday) does not mean that we are in violation of God's law.

There are practical reasons, e..g., It is legitimate that we interpret the commands for a set-aside-day as one-day-in-seven, not tied to an arbitrary "7th" day.

There are precedents, e.g., Jesus violated a (too strict) interpretation of Sabbath rules and rebuked his critics by announcing that "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).

There are textual reasons, e.g., the 4th commandment is not repeated in the New Testament. (I don't find that argument compelling at all, but there it is.)

Finally, and most importantly, there are theological reasons. Primarily there is the view that the Old Testament is literally filled with types and foreshadowings. Like Plato's cave, we are given glimpses of the truth which are clarified by further revelation in the New Testament. One of those types is the Sabbath. It tells us that there will be a time of work that ends in a rest. Well, there has been a time of work. And now we are in that rest. Sunday is not the Sabbath--it's the day we go to church. It is (perhaps) perfectly reasonable to treat it is a set-aside (holy) manner, but it is not the Sabbath of the OT. (It is perhaps even more reasonable to treat all days like Sunday, but not Sunday like all days.)

But the Sabbath of the OT is not done-away with. Nope. In fact, it pointed to a greater Sabbath rest that we now enjoy forever. In Hebrews we read:

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
“So I declared on oath in my anger,
    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.” And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”
Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.”

The implication is clear: the Sabbath of the Old Testament pointed to (was a type of) the ultimate Sabbath, the rest enjoyed by those in Christ.The Sabbath as practiced by the Old Testament saints is gone as far as Christians are concerned.

  • The Old Testament had a priesthood (Aaron). The New Testament has a new and better priesthood (Jesus).
  • The Old Testament had a rinse-and-repeat sacrificial system pointing to atonement. The New Testament has a new and better once-for-all sacrifice achieving atonement.
  • The Old Testament had a Law (Moses'). The New Testament has a new and better Law (Jesus', via the Sermon on the Mount).
  • The Old Testament had  a covenant. The New Testament has a new and better covenant.
  • The Old Testament had  a Sabbath. The New Testament has a new and better Sabbath.

And so it goes.

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