The Sabbath is a special time. When I was very young, it was the day when the family was all together. No doubt there were times that I wished the Sabbath day would end because my parents restricted what I could do on the Sabbath. When I was in college, it was a great day to spend with my girlfriend and not have to study. In law school and thereafter in life, it was a wonderful time to rest without guilt. Normally, I've got things to do and deadlines to meet. But, since I believe that working on Sabbath is a sin, it was a guilt-free rest. What is the Biblical basis for taking the Sabbath seriously? How should we view the Sabbath? Let's dive into our Bibles and find out!
Key Thought: Christ came to magnify the Sabbath as the symbol of Creation and of Redemption.
1. Have a volunteer read Exodus 20:8-11.
a. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
b. Why does the commandment also tell us to work six days? Can a person be guilty of breaking this commandment by not working the other six days?
c. Personal Application: What makes the Sabbath a day of delight and rest for you? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your relatives states: Wasn’t the Old Testament law and the Sabbath given for the Jews, and grace and mercy and the law of love given to the New Testament church? How would you respond to your relative?
2. Have a volunteer read Mark 2:27,28.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
b. How do you feel about sleeping in on Sabbath morning and missing church? Is 3ABN TV church a viable option?
c. Personal Application: What kind of things can you do on the Sabbath that you can’t do as easily on the other days of the week? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your neighbors states, If the Sabbath was made for man, doesn’t that mean we are in control of it? That we can choose to do or not do what we want on the Sabbath? How would you respond to your neighbor?
3. Have a volunteer read John 5:1-9.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. Why did Jesus opponents accuse Him of Sabbath-breaking? Did He break the Sabbath?
c. Personal Application: What is your Sabbath-keeping experience? Is it a day of rest and freedom, or a day of bondage and stress? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: One of your friends states, Since Jesus healed on the Sabbath, does that mean it’s okay for medical workers to work on Sabbath as part of their regular shifts? How would you respond to your friend?
4. Have a volunteer read Luke 13:10-17.
a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
b. Why did Jesus take the opportunity to relieve suffering on the Sabbath?
c. Personal Application: What acts of kindness and type of physical relief can we provide for others on the Sabbath? Share your thoughts.
d. Case Study: Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.
(Note: Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared. MH p. 149.)
According to Colossians 1:16and Hebrews 1:2, the pre-incarnate Christ was directly involved in the creation process. These texts declare that all created things came into existence through Him. Paul further expresses that Christ had a part in creating invisible things (Col. 1:16-17), which would, of course, include the Sabbath. Although Christ was central in the creative process, when He was transformed into human flesh, He subjected Himself to His Father’s commandments (John 15:10). As earlier lessons showed, Jesus was opposed to certain traditions and used every opportunity to correct religious behavior that was not grounded in the will of God. If Jesus had intended to abolish the Sabbath commandment, He had plenty of opportunities to do just that.
Most of the Sabbath texts in the Old Testament speak of the Sabbath as a day of rest. The understanding of rest in many modern languages may lead some to believe that the Sabbath should be spent sleeping and generally relaxing. While we can definitely enjoy these activities on the Sabbath, the true meaning of rest is cessation, stop, or pause. The Sabbath is a time when we can take a break from the routine labor of the first six days and spend special time with the Creator.
By the time of Christ, the Jews were holding a weekly divine worship service on the Sabbath (see Luke 4:16). Those who lived in Jerusalem would attend special prayer services in the temple, where the liturgy was different from what it was on the other days of the week. Jews who lived in other parts of the world developed the synagogue as a place of social gathering and worship. On Sabbaths, as long as a minimum of ten males was present (a minyan), a divine worship service could take place.
What do the following texts inform us about Sabbath keeping among the earliest Christians? What does this tell us about those who claim the Sabbath was changed to Sunday in honor of the resurrection? Acts 13:14, 42, 44; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4; Heb. 4:9.
Given their Jewish roots, it was only natural for early Christians to worship on the day prescribed in the Old Testament. Yet, almost twenty years after the ascension of Jesus, it was still Paul’s custom to attend a synagogue on the Sabbath (Acts 17:2). Thus, no biblical evidence shows that the first Christians kept Sunday instead of Sabbath.
Christ and the Sabbath
Commentary for the May 3, 2014 Sabbath School Lesson
http://www.visitstillwaters.com/sabbathcartoon.jpg“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Exodus 20:8-11, NIV
The Seventh-day Sabbath, a day commonly referred to as Saturday by non-sabbatarians is a foundational dogma of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[i] This is in spite of the historical evidence that William Miller’s advent movement from which the denomination arose was not sabbatarian. Not until approximately five years after the Great Disappointment of 1844 did the doctrine find enough acceptance among a group of former Millerites to be published in their official church paper, “The Present Truth,” predecessor to the “Advent Review” of today. The original impetus brought to bear on the fledgling flock by Joseph Bates appears to have originated from the Seventh Day Baptists, a denomination founded approximately two centuries earlier,[ii] in the person of Rachel Oakes, who convinced a Millerite Methodist preacher named Frederick Wheeler. Wheeler in turn shared that message with Mr Bates.
That the doctrine should become deeply imbedded within denominational theology perhaps should not be surprising since this was 14 years before the denomination officially organized in 1863. By then it had overcome any dissent to become common practice. During this interlude, such issues as when the Sabbath commences were ironed out. Some, Joseph Bates among them, advocated that Sabbath should be from 6 PM to 6 PM. Others took the Seventh Day Baptist position that it went from sundown to sundown. Ellen and James White apparently sided with Bates initially and then by 1847 came to support the other position.[iii] The seventh-day Sabbath became so integrated with Adventist belief that references to it in Ellen White’s published works run to several pages in the index to those writings.
So why, if it is such a fundamental teaching, do so many denominations attend church on Sunday as opposed to Saturday. Adventists have developed a rather involved theology to explain this. Like some other Christians they see a spiritual battle raging between Christ and Satan for the hearts and minds of men. However, they see that battle as focusing on a vast conspiracy to replace the true seventh-day Sabbath with a spurious substitute. This is so strongly felt that it is at times identified as THE true mark of who will and who will not be saved when Jesus returns, with the Sabbath being God’s seal, and the alternate day being the Mark of the Beast referred to in Revelation, chapter thirteen. Perhaps it is because of this conspiratorial tone that often permeates the evangelism of Adventism that so many parishioners seem to be caught up in one conspiracy theory after another, as though it were a matter of faith to constantly be seeking conspiracies to expose.
As part of the conspiracy, Constantine’s fourth century decree establishing the “venerable day of the Sun”[iv] as a holy day is often cited as evidence of collusion between the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church to supplant the proper day of worship. This became a fundamental part of Seventh-day Adventism. Over the decades it grew to become an eventual belief in a vast involved conspiracy headed by the Roman Catholic Church which was held to be the embodiment of much of the evil of the Roman Empire. As a result, the denomination has been felt to be anti-Catholic in much the same hostile way that some people are anti-Semitic. To be sure, there are some within the denomination that are perhaps rabidly so, seeing Jesuits behind every tree and bush. While the majority of Seventh-day Adventists do not engage in anti-Catholic vitriol, denominational publications like “The Great Controversy,” by Ellen White continue to be published. However, some see the book as so anti-Catholic that versions made available to the wider public are sometimes edited to tone down such rhetoric.
It has not helped diffuse the conspiracy theorists when older Catholic catechisms for converts asserted that the Catholic Church arbitrarily changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday.[v] Is this true? Did the Roman Catholic Church seek to subvert a biblical day of worship? Perhaps not, in spite of what the Catholics themselves have said. Maybe the impetus for change occurred much earlier and the decree of Constantine was merely the political recognition and accommodation of a status quo already pretty much accomplished.
Some feel that the earliest challenges to Sabbath observance happened during the late first century, CE, only decades after Christ’s resurrection. Ignatius, the third bishop of Antioch wrote against the keeping of the Sabbath.[vi] Possibly the latest date for his death is 117 CE. His birth shortly after Christ’s death makes it possible and even likely that he personally met one or more of the Apostles. As might be expected, apologists for sabbatarianism dispute that interpretation of his Koine Greek epistle. However, the nature of apologetics is not to search for truth but rather to assume truth is already found and defend it. Theologians on the other hand are more like Mulder on the television series “The X Files” and believe the full truth is still out there awaiting discovery.
A Seventh Day Baptist apologist, Bob Thiel, PhD, advances a typical explanation of why what Ignatius wrote does not challenge sabbatarianism.[vii] Because the epistle does not use the Greek word for “day,” Dr Thiel maintains it could not be referring to an alternate day of worship. He maintains that the insertion of the word “day” by the translators is inappropriate and that is alters the meaning. However, he is left to explain the clear writing against Sabbath observance in the passage. He does so by committing the sin he so vehemently condemns in the translators by inserting his own word into the text, “judaically.” In doing so he argues that Ignatius was not against the seventh-day Sabbath. He was only against keeping it like the Jews did. This may be a means to ignore early Christian anti-sabbatarianism, but it is a slim thread to cling to when considering the historical context.
First century Christianity was split between the Jewish Christians and the Hellenic Christians. Both competed for authority within the Judaism and the sect of Jesus within that religious system. After the first revolt, the Jewish state was placed under the jurisdiction of Syria. The Jews naturally chaffed at losing control of their country and eventually revolted again. While Jewish Christians may have been sympathetic to this antipathy toward Rome and its Syrian proxy, the Hellenic Christians may have felt differently with a more accommodating attitude toward their Syrian overlords. During this time, Antioch in Syria became an important Christian center for missionary activity. Paul, Silas, Barnabus, Peter all worked in Antioch.
As hostility toward Rome grew in Jerusalem and Judea, perhaps those more aligned with the church in Antioch sought to distance themselves from that activity. By the time of Bar Kochba’s revolt, the fissures of that separation had become deep and was no doubt made even deeper by Kochba’s claim to be the Messiah, something unacceptable to the Christians, especially those who had no common religious tie to Bar Kochba as the Jews might have.[viii] Perhaps after the first revolt in 70 CE and certainly after the second one in 132 CE when all Jews were banned from Jerusalem, Christians sought to avoid anything that would identify them as Jews. Sabbatarianism is arguably one of the more obvious practices of Jewish worshippers. Rather than being an evil conspiracy, abandonment of Sabbath observance may have simply been a practical matter. Theological justification for doing so may have been found in Paul’s argument for abandoning circumcision. After all if one everlasting covenant was done away with at the cross, why not another?
So does the Sabbath have any significance today? It depends on how far one is on the continuum of biblical literalism. Those who see more metaphor and principles of intent in the Bible may not feel that it is relevant. Those who see the Bible as a set of rules to follow to be saved will perhaps feel that it is extremely relevant. However, even among such literalists there is a certain amount of picking and choosing as to which rules to follow. For instance, some will follow the rules regarding food purity in Leviticus, chapter eleven, but ignore the purity laws surrounding birth and menses.[ix] Others will ignore circumcision but advocate keeping the required religious feasts.
Nonetheless, if one is to be biblically literal, the Sabbath is more to be seen as a command than the observance of Sunday might be. Will it be THE marker that separates the saved from the lost? If so we might have to admit that secular Jews who observe Sabbath would have an edge over Christians who do not. That may not be the case. However, there is also little likelihood that observing Sunday will save us either. Those who observe it with understanding will say that it is about the deeper relationship to the resurrection that makes it important. But the Seventh-day Sabbath also offers a deeper relationship to the Creation that many may be missing by ignoring its observance. Maybe we should be open to both perspectives and the unique richness they each offer.
[i] “Seventh-day Adventist Church,” http://www.wikipedia.org
[ii] “Seventh Day Baptists,” http://www.wikipedia.org
[iii] Anderson, Dirk; “The Sabbath Confusion,” http://www.ellenwhiteexposed.com/sabbath6pm.htm
[iv] dies Solis, March 7, 321, CE
[v] Geiermann, Rev. Peter, C.SS.R.; “Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine,” pg 50, (1946)
[vi] Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Magnesians, 10:1-3
[vii] Thiel, Bob PhD; “The Didache, Ignatius, and the Sabbath,” http://www.cogwriter.com/ignatius.htm
[viii] Encyclopedia Britannica, p. 167, Vol. 13, 14th ed.
[ix] Leviticus 12:2
"Christ and the Sabbath"
May 3, 2014
Texts: Genesis 2:1-3; Hebrews 1:1-3; Acts 13:14; Mark 2:23-28; John 5:1- 9; Isaiah 65:17
Did you know that the United States is the only advanced economy that does not require employers to provide paid vacation time for their employees? Employers in Denmark, Finland, France, Norway, and Sweden are required by law to give their employees 25 paid days off. Germany requires the most paid vacation days--30 days each year!
The "No-Vacation Nation Revisited" report was released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research in 2013, and cited in Forbes.com. The researchers looked at the international labor laws of 21 wealthy nations. The findings revealed that "almost 1-in-4 Americans do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays."1
Workers [in the United States] have no statutory right to paid vacations.
The sum of the average paid vacation and paid holidays provided to workers in the private sector--16 in total--would not meet even the minimum required by law in 19 other wealthy countries, the report notes.
The lack of paid vacation and paid holidays is particularly acute for low-wage workers, part-time workers, and employees of small businesses. Workers in small businesses are less likely to have any paid vacation (69 percent) than those in medium and large establishments (86 percent); only 49 percent of low-wage workers have paid vacation, compared to 90 percent of high-wage workers; part-time workers are far less likely to have paid vacations (35 percent) than full-time workers (91 percent).
The gap between paid time off in the United States and the rest of the world is even larger when legal holidays are included. U.S. law does not guarantee any paid holidays, but most wealthy countries provide between 5 and 13 per year, in addition to paid vacation days.2
Job related stress including burn-out, depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses is rampant in America. The fact that Americans find little time for rest and relaxation seems normal.
After the six days it took to create a perfect earth, even the Divine took a day to rest. Scripture passages in Genesis 2:2 and Hebrews 4:4 remind us that on the seventh day [of the creation week] God rested from all work.
We don't have to rely on government law to take time off from work. The creation of a vacation-from-work-day each week to rest and commune with our Creator is a gift from God that we have the choice to accept every Saturday. The work-rest rhythm is how our bodies were designed to best function.
Since the seventh-day Sabbath is part of Christ's Law, the Ten Commandments, why is it not more widely observed today? Fifty historians and theologians answer that question in a DVD series titled, "The Seventh Day: Revelations from the Lost Pages of History." Why not watch the series trailer now and perhaps recommend the website transcripts or DVD series to your study group?
05: Christ and the Sabbath – Thought Starters
Posted: 30 Apr 2014 08:30 AM PDT
See more posts by Joyce Griffith
[Thought questions for Christ and the Sabbath April 29, 2014]
1. Introduction. Do you know someone who keeps the first day (Sunday) the same way Adventists keep (or believe we should keep) the seventh day (Saturday) as the Sabbath? Have customs and traditions other than those concerning which the day of the week is Sabbath caused changes in Sabbath worship? On what day of the week do you start looking forward to the Sabbath? Why do you think most people worship on Sunday? Why don’t they see things the way we do? Have they disqualified themselves for salvation? (Be careful with your answer!)GoodSalt.com-lwjas0404
3. The Jewish Sabbath. About how many years went by from the Creation of the world until the Jewish nation was established? How long did the Jewish nation remain a major geographic and political entity? How long has it been since most Christians started worshipping on Sunday? Why doesn’t the length of time Sabbath has been observed on the seventh day seem to impress Christians of other faiths? What can you say to your Sunday-keeping friends when they talk about Saturday as the “Jewish Sabbath”?
4. Rest and Worship. How much time on an ideal Sabbath should we spend (1) attending church; (2) praying and reading Scripture; (3) enjoying “outdoor” nature time? Does it matter? Have you ever been sick or recovering from an injury and weren’t able to attend church on Sabbath? How did you feel about missing church? What are your favorite worship activities? You can watch church on your computer, so why go to church at all? How important is fellowship in the weekly worship cycle? What about visiting those who can’t get out?
5. Enjoyment. How can we keep Sabbath holy and still have a good time on this day of rest and gladness? What can we do to help our children enjoy a happy time on Sabbath? Then there are the adolescent years. At some point should we as parents back away from rules and regulations for Sabbath? How would you feel if younger members of your church prepared food to share on Sabbath in a blighted neighborhood not far from where you live? What about getting together to make music appropriate for Sabbath? Does that mean slow and steady? No drums?
6. Healing. What did Jesus think about taking the time and effort to offer healing to the sick or injured on the Sabbath? Are you comfortable with healthcare professionals who provide care on Sabbath such as in a hospital or a facility for the bed-bound patients? Is there anything you can do if you’re not a trained care provider to make Sabbath special for these people? Can your smile and kind words make a difference?
7. A New Creation. How are creation and restoration related? What does Sabbath have to do with each of these concepts? Can you truly keep the Sabbath without giving thanks for God’s magnificent power in creating us and the world where we live? Before the “new earth” is created, do you ever wonder how we can keep the weekly seventh-day Sabbath in heaven where there is no sun? What will be the biggest blessing of eternal life? Will we learn everything throughout eternity that there is to know about God’s power and love?
1.Look at the Ellen G. White statement in Friday’s study, a fuller rendition of the reference used in the introduction to this quarter. How does the Sabbath and what has happened to the Sabbath in Christendom help us to understand Satan’s attack on the law of God?
2.In the following texts (Mark 3:2, Luke 13:14, John 5:18, 9:16) Jesus is charged with breaking the Sabbath. Review Exodus 20:8-11 and evaluate the merit of this charge. What do you say to those who claim that these passages provide evidence that Jesus broke the Sabbath?
3.In class go over your answer to the final question at the end of Tuesday’s lesson. That is, what are some things that the Sabbath frees you up to do that on other days of the week you might not be able to do because of worldly obligations?
4.Review your own Sabbath experience. Is the Sabbath for you a day of liberation, rest, and freedom or a day of foreboding, bondage, and stress? How can you learn to enjoy the Sabbath, to make it a delight, as we are told to do in this verse: If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words (Isa. 58:13)?
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