Lesson 2

The Sabbath

(Genesis 1-2, Exodus 20, Micah 6:8)
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Introduction: The Lord's Day? The Sabbath? Does God call on us to rest one day of the week? If He does, does it matter which one? Speaking of "one," should we being keeping all days "holy?" Maybe all our time is now holy because we now live in the "Sabbath rest" era of history? What, exactly, does God require of us? Is this issue a "pillar" of Christian faith? We will spend this week and the next two looking at this interesting issue of the Sabbath. Let's jump in to see what God has to say!

  1. Creation

    1. Let's read Genesis 1:1. Of all the things that God wrote about in the Bible, why did He start out with this message? (It defines our relationship to God. It teaches us who He is (our Creator) and who we are (His Creation).

      1. Last week we spoke of "righteousness by attitude." What changes in your attitude if you know that God created you?


      1. Imagine getting hit in the head and forgetting your parents and your childhood. Then imagine that your parents found you and told you who they were and told you about your childhood. What impact would that have on your thinking? (You would feel like you knew your "place" in the world again.)

    1. Is believing God is our Creator a "pillar of faith" for Christians? Does it properly set our "place" in the world? (Not only did God start out with the message that He is our Creator, but Creation affects our relationship with Him in the most fundamental way. Creation says God has the power, and He exercised His power, to make us as we were in Eden. Evolution says there is no God, or, if there is, He does not have (or did not exercise) His power. God merely found us! We were already made by chance.)

      1. Consider the difference in your attitude in these two situations:


        1. Your parents were able, by manipulating your genetic code, to select every one of your characteristics?

        2. Your "parents" found you toddling along by the side of the road and decided to take you home with them because they had a large farm and needed all the workers they could get?

          1. How would your attitude be different?

  1. Creation Memorial

    1. Read Genesis 2:1-3. Why does the Bible say that God made the seventh day holy? Because He was a tired God? (No! The rest is keyed to His Creation! Sabbath is God's memorial to His creation of the "heavens and the earth" -- including the creation of us!)

      1. We have all sorts of memorials in the Bible and elsewhere. Normally, they are "things" that we look at to remind us of something in the past. Do you know of any "time" memorial like the Sabbath? (Birthdays, Anniversaries, Holidays.)

      2. How important is it that others remember your birthday on the exact day that you were born? How about being off by a week? A month? Six months? What about forgetting it altogether?

      3. Assume that you are married for the second time. Your spouse has a hard time remembering things - but he (she) remembers perfectly the birthday of his (her) first spouse. Since it is a real pain to try to remember your actual birthday, would it be OK with you to celebrate your birthday on the actual birthday of your spouse's first husband (wife)? Would that please you? To make life easier for him (her), what if he (she) just started calling you by the name of his (her) first spouse?

      4. If God commands us to keep a specific period of time as a memorial to His work as Creator, does He care if we change it?

        1. Do you think it makes a difference if God's position as Creator is already heavily under attack?

        2. Why do you think God's authority as Creator is under attack? (Consider two pictures. In the one we were created perfect, sinned, got worse and are saved now only by God. In the second, we started from nothing, and steadily got better, and are now secure in the knowledge that we are the best mankind has ever been. Is it any wonder that believing in Creation is inconsistent with man's arrogance and pride?)

    2. Read Exodus 20:8-11. What reason does God give for keeping the seventh day holy? (Creation! God says again that it is a memorial to His Creation.)

      1. I have a friend who says that God resting on Sabbath after Creation cannot be that important because there is no reference to it between the Creation week and the giving of the Ten Commandments. Is that true?

        1. Look at Exodus 20:8 again. When God says "remember," is He saying, "let me remind you of something you already know?" Or, is He saying, "remember to do this in the future?" (There are two clues to this. First, God gives a past event as the reason for remembering. Second, read Exodus 16:23-27. God gave Manna to the people for them to eat before they were given the Ten Commandments. Even in the giving of food God did not have them collecting it on the seventh day because the holiness of the Sabbath.)

    3. Read Exodus 31:13&17. In verse 17 God repeats that the Sabbath is keyed to creation. However, in verse 13 He introduces a new concept as the basis for Sabbath-keeping. What is it? (Salvation! God tells us that the Sabbath is a memorial not only to the fact that He created us, but that He recreates us.)

  2. Sabbath Significance?

    1. Exodus 31:13 says "Say to the Israelites... observe my Sabbaths." Is this a command only to the Jews? All of the texts that we have looked at so far are found in the Old Testament.

      1. If you said, "yes," does that mean that the entire 10 Commandments were meant only for the Jews?

    2. Read Isaiah 56:1-2, 6-7. When Isaiah speaks of the Sabbath, does he limit it to Jews? (No. Verse 6 specifically refers to "foreigners" and worshiping (v.7) in a "house of prayer for all nations.)

    3. Are there any texts in the New Testament that refer to Sabbath-keeping by Jesus and His disciples? (Read Mark 2:27-28; Mark 1:21; Mark 6:2; Luke 4:31; Acts 16:13; Acts 17:2. There is not a single text anywhere in the Bible that refers to anything other than worship on the seventh day. Jesus and the disciples all worshiped on Sabbath.)

    4. We have discussed the origin of Sabbath worship, we have discussed its significance (in terms of Creation and redemption), we have shown that Jesus and His disciples worshiped on Sabbath. Does it really matter what day we worship? Will any day do?

      1. Read Micah 6:8. When God says, "Listen up, I am going to tell you what I require of you," I am going to listen. What does God say He requires? (Among other things, He calls for us to "humbly walk" with Him.)

        1. If God tells us to keep a specific day holy, and we decide that we will just pick another day because it is more convenient or more popular, are we "humbly" walking with God? Or is this just the same sort of arrogance that causes people to reject God's Creation account?

          1. If you are going to worship on one day, why not choose the day God specified? What reason is there for ignoring God's command?

      2. What about keeping all days holy? Can we say that it doesn't matter because we keep all days holy? (If you think you are keeping all days holy, you don't understand what it means to keep a day holy. Exodus 20:9-10 makes a distinction between the Sabbath and the other six days. God calls on us to get our labor done on the other days. Therefore, it would be impossible to keep all days "holy.")

  3. Sabbath Fulfilled or Abrogated?

    1. Years ago I was driving a brand-new black Firebird car at high speed along a road that passed through a very rough area. The Firebird had just been redesigned and this was a loaded and very "hot" car. It was Saturday, I was alone in the car, and I was headed to church. In the distance I saw a hitch-hiker and immediately made up my mind I was not picking him up because he was in this rough area, he looked dangerous, and I was driving a valuable machine. As I passed in a blur, I noticed he was carrying a Bible. Jamming on the brakes, I backed up and asked him what he was doing with a Bible. He said he was headed to church. (The same church I was going to -- but I did not tell him.) He got in and I started to harass him about going to church on Saturday and challenge him about his knowledge of the Bible. I pointed him to Colossians 2:16-17. Let's read this text.

      1. Does this text say that Sabbath worship has been fulfilled by Jesus?

      2. Does this text teach that no one is to be judged by their day of worship? (None of the commentaries that I consulted (on this text) said that it refers to the weekly Sabbath. Instead, several very prominent commentators (Adam Clarke ("There is no intimation here that the Sabbath was done away, or that its moral use was superceded by the introduction of Christianity"); Jamieson, Fausset and Brown ("The weekly Sabbath is permanent, having been instituted in Paradise long before the Mosaic law."); and, Barnes Notes("[T]here is not the slightest reason to believe that [Paul] meant to teach that one of the ten commandments had ceased to be binding on mankind."). Instead, all three suggest that Greek word for "Sabbath" here is plural, thus referring to the "Sabbaths" that were part of the Jewish festivals which pointed to the Messiah coming. Matthew Henry also says Paul is referring to the "ceremonial law" (as opposed to the 10 Commandments). Note the lack of bias here: none of these commentators advocate seventh-day Sabbaths. Indeed, J,F&B advocates a "first-day Sabbath." Therefore, this text does not say that Sabbath worship has been abrogated or fulfilled by Jesus.)

    2. Read Hebrews 4:9-10. There are some recent writers who suggest, based on this chapter of Hebrews, that "this side of the cross" "Sabbath rest" refers to our salvation and no longer refers to a specific day. If this is true, what impact would it have on Sabbath-keeping? (It is common in the Bible for a principle to have more than one application. Assuming that we have now entered the "Sabbath rest" era of Christianity, does not allow us to ignore God's command when it comes to choosing which day we will worship each week. If anything, the weekly Sabbath is a reminder of our salvation and our "Sabbath rest" era!)

    3. Friend, this lesson may challenge some of your long-held beliefs. It may create certain practical problems in your life. God calls us to humbly walk with Him. Will you put aside your prejudices and preconceived ideas and agree to walk with Him as He has expressed His will in His commandments?

  4. Next Week: The Sabbath - The Sign of Our Relationship With God. (We will continue to look at the subject of the Sabbath and Jesus' comments on how it should be kept in the next two weeks.)

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