We got this letter from a site reader:
Enjoying the authentic approach and bold commentary. I was led to your sight through mary baxter. Anyway I appreciate the ministry and am happy to have found such a thorough site. Check out this article on the Sabbath. It endorses keeping any day:
I read parts of your article on the Sabbath. D.A. Carson is a scholarly dude! haha, thanks for your time, let me know if you read the article, id love to hear your interpretation!
The author of the article, Ken Puls, is in contradiction. But let’s start with where he is right (by the way, I don’t see that Ken endorses keeping any day. In his article, he says: “It is because of Christ’s finished work that the established day of worship and rest has shifted to the first day of the week.”).
One and Two, he acknowledges that the Sabbath is not just a part of the Old Covenant, and he includes the Fourth Commandment as part of God’s moral Law intended for all mankind from the very beginning. In these two matters, he is absolutely right. He quotes a question and replies to it:
“In light of Christ’s fulfillment of the Sabbath and the presence of this commandment here in this passage, is the Sabbath part of the Old Covenant that has ‘grown old and vanished away’ (Hebrews 8:13)?
To this I would answer, ‘No.’ This is part of God’s moral law that He established at creation and intended for all mankind—not just for Israel under the Old Covenant. The Sabbath is a gift of God made for man.”
Three, he rightly acknowledges that the Sabbath Commandment is a representation of God’s character:
“We see the Sabbath displayed at creation and throughout human history because it is rooted in the character and nature of God revealed in His Word. God rested on the 7th day.”
Of course, all the Commandments are rooted in God’s character and nature. And if God is creating man in His image, we shall be like Him. If like Him, His Law will constitute our nature, our nature will reflect His Law, and we will rest as He rested from the beginning. Ken says:
“And as His image-bearers, this moral practice of work and rest should be reflected in our lives as well.”
One must conclude that by God’s nature, He still rests on the Sabbath, the seventh day. By our nature, made in His image, we will continue to rest with Him on the Sabbath. Since God doesn’t change, we won’t change, because we’ll be as He.
Four, Ken acknowledges that man needs to rest for many and varied reasons. That fact hasn’t changed since creation or since Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension. It hasn’t changed since giving us His Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, or since completion of the Bible canon, or at any other time in history to this day.
Five, while posing a question and answering it, he lastly acknowledges that we are obligated to keep the Sabbath:
“In light of Christ’s fulfillment of the Sabbath, do we have an obligation to the Sabbath as believers in Christ? I would answer this question ‘Yes’ for four reasons. First, the moral obligation to honor God with our time remains. The Sabbath is a positive command and an abiding moral principle that teaches us to trust God and honor Him with our time.” He adds: “Second, the command to rest still remains.”
Right on! If the Law is an expression of God’s nature, and He is eternal and never changes, then how can the command to rest cease, while He remains?
All Ten Commandments are in force. Disregard or change one, and you do so to all:
“For whoever shall keep the whole Law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10 MKJV).
This is where Ken goes wrong. He says (emphasis mine): “All of history points to Christ. The Old Testament was always looking forward to what He would accomplish as Messiah and Redeemer. And when, in the fullness of time, He came and finished His marvelous work of redemption through His death and burial and resurrection, the completion of His work and the entrance into His rest has refocused the day. It is because of Christ’s finished work that the established day of worship and rest has shifted to the first day of the week.”
Concerning these words, I say, “Says who? Ken Puls? It certainly isn’t God!” We don’t find the faintest support in Scripture for this conclusion, and we don’t find it anywhere else but from pagan-influenced theological “church fathers” who have made God’s Word null and void by their traditions and heathen customs. So who are we to believe? We know:
“If some did not believe, will not their unbelief nullify the faith of God? Let it not be! But let God be true, and every man a liar; as it is written, ‘That You might be justified in Your sayings, and will overcome when You are judged’” (Romans 3:3-4 MKJV).
There are a few points for Ken to ponder. He says (referring to Hebrews 4:9 -”So then there remains a rest to the people of God.”), “The word here in verse 9 is sabbatismo; sabbatismos (derived from a transliteration of the Hebrew word for Sabbath). It means ‘Sabbath-keeping.’ There remains a Sabbath-keeping for the people of God. This is not just a theological understanding or ackowledgment that our rest is in Christ, it is a practical demonstration in the way we schedule and use our time that we are committed to Him.”
One, it is certain Ken claims there must be a day of the week to be kept. He is right.
Two, unless the saints the Hebrews writer addressed were lawless, they were keeping the Sabbath that God granted at creation, none other than the day upon which He rested, that being the seventh.
Three, the Hebrew saints knew the Law was inviolable and unchanging. We know this because Jesus said:
“For truly I say to you, Till the heaven and the earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall in any way pass from the Law until all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18 MKJV).
The Hebrews writer gave no indication he was addressing those who were negligent and carnal in their walk with God, as were the Corinthians for a time, and they were most certainly aware of the Sabbath day, so he couldn’t have been trying to tell them to keep it when he said, “There remains a Sabbath-keeping for the people of God.”
Four, the Hebrews writer wasn’t speaking of keeping a particular day of the week, or he would have said so. He was speaking of a spiritual reality that must occur within the soul of every spiritual pilgrim.
There were three solemn Feasts in a year that the Israelites were required to observe – Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Those Feasts signified the following development of the spiritual pilgrim:
Those who have experienced repentance, as represented by the Feast of Passover, must go on to experience the Feast of Pentecost; that is, they must receive the Spirit.
Those who have received the Spirit go on to experience the third and final Feast, that being the Feast of Tabernacles. That third Feast represents the internal rest of which the Hebrews writer talked about to those who had yet to experience it. His words were not only for those to whom he wrote in his day, but also for us today.
Ken assumes the Hebrews writer was speaking of a day of the week to be kept as the Sabbath, namely the first day of the week. He has no grounds or right to make that assumption. He makes it because he hasn’t entered into that rest to which the Hebrews writer refers, and which rest the writer urged believers to labor to enter:
“Therefore let us labor to enter into that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of unbelief” (Hebrews 4:11 MKJV).
One may suppose Ken is aware of the true rest of which the Hebrews writer speaks, because he wrote:
“This is not just a theological understanding or acknowledgment that our rest is in Christ….”
But if Ken were right that the rest in Hebrews refers more specifically to the weekly Sabbath, then why did the writer speak in the following terms?:
“For if Joshua had given them rest [a man who had lived nearly a millennia and a half before the Hebrews writer’s day], then [God] would not afterward have spoken of another day. So then there remains a rest to the people of God. For he who has entered into his rest, he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from His [this cessation from ‘his own works’ speaks not of a simple one-day rest in seven each week, but of a perpetual inner state of being]. Therefore let us labor to enter into that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of unbelief” (Hebrews 4:8-11 MKJV).
Must one labor to keep a day? No, the writer speaks of the intensity and tenacity of soul required to enter into a blessed spiritual state of God that he had not yet known through the faith of Christ.
Many speak of a rest in Christ, yet have never entered it, the rest being nothing more to them than a “theological understanding.” They have no idea of the reality. Or they experienced the rest that naturally comes with repentance, after having been in the turmoil of the world, and they experienced a new level of rest when receiving the Spirit. But rare is the one who speaks of entering the final rest of the Feast of Tabernacles, the overcoming to the end, as stipulated to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.
It took 22 months from the time I was granted the gift of repentance to the time I received the Spirit. For my wife, it was about 3½ years. For others, receiving the Spirit has been nearly simultaneous with repentance, as with Cornelius and the Gentiles (Acts 10), or within a few days, as with Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9), and for still others, many more years, as with the Ephesian disciples (Acts 19).
But it took over 25 years for me to progress from the Feast of Pentecost to the Feast of Tabernacles and, thus, enter rest. I call that rest “the fourth dimension.” Read The Three Degrees.
Let’s touch on the Sabbath Commandment’s moral quality. Some will say, “I can understand where it is immoral to kill or steal or commit adultery, but how can not keeping the Sabbath be immoral? Who am I hurting?”
Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will reveal Myself to him” (John 14:21 MKJV).
Consider this: We all need rest. I have seen those who have worked seven days a week for months at a time. They are de-energized, dull, and dozy. So being tired, one drives home, falls asleep at the wheel, and kills someone as a result. Had he kept the Sabbath, it could have been a story with a better ending.
So is it moral to get rest or not? One who isn’t rested robs his employer, fellow workers, friends and family; his production is lacking, he is accident-prone, in a grumpy mood… the list goes on. You better believe keeping the Sabbath is a moral matter, not to mention the fact of setting aside that day of the week to tend to spiritual matters more fully.
“And Jesus answered him, saying, ‘It is written that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word of God’” (Luke 4:4 MKJV).
All Ten Commandments are moral. Jesus didn’t omit, nullify, or change any of the Commandments that were brought forth by Moses, and the new one He mentioned was the Ten summed up in the word “love.” Love is all about morality. If you love God and mankind, you will keep the Law of God. If you don’t love Him, you won’t.
If you keep the Laws of Love (the Ten Commandments), He promises He will reveal Himself to you. Being lawless, you won’t see Him – a curse is upon you instead. Very simple, really.
Does this mean we advocate keeping the Law to have salvation? Not at all. We are saying that if you have salvation, you will keep the Law. Not keeping the Law is a clear indicator you don’t have salvation:
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6 MKJV).
James 1:22-25 MKJV
(22) But become doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
(23) For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man studying his natural face in a mirror.
(24) For he studied himself and went his way, and immediately he forgot what he was like.
(25) But whoever looks into the perfect Law of liberty and continues in it, he is not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work. This one shall be blessed in his doing.
James 2:8-12 MKJV
(8) If you fulfill the royal Law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well.
(9) But if you have respect to persons, you commit sin and are convicted by the Law as transgressors.
(10) For whoever shall keep the whole Law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
(11) For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” But if you do not commit adultery, yet if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the Law.
(12) So speak and do as those who shall be judged by the Law of liberty.
“Oh how I love Your Law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalms 119:97 MKJV).
“Great peace is to those who love Your Law, and there is no stumbling block for them” (Psalms 119:165 MKJV).
Ken’s train derailed and he stumbles because he doesn’t love God’s Law. How can he love God’s Law when he interprets and changes it to suit his own sensibilities? He is a law unto himself, putting himself in place of God.
The train of salvation runs on two rails, law and grace, work and rest, the letter and the Spirit of the Law. Remove one rail or even move it out of place, and there is no more travel; forget arriving at the destination – the knowledge and rest of God. Removing one rail shows you have neither. The track is one with two rails, bound by common ties and direction; the train is one, and the Engineer and Conductor, one.
The Law states very clearly that the Sabbath is the seventh, not the first, day of the week. God created the Sabbath for all men from the start. He rested on a certain day and didn’t change a jot or tittle of that Sabbath Law or any other. Imagine everyone deciding for himself which day he should keep – what a weird and chaotic world that would be!
“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25 KJV).
But when all men obey the Law of God, and observe the same day of rest, what agreement, unity, and harmony! What a paradise! What love! What blessedness! What rest!
There is only one Way this can happen, and it is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting Him to do what only He can do with and for us. Only He can reconcile us to Himself and His Law so we may walk in it.
Psalms 1:1-6 HNV
(1) Blessed is the man who doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers;
(2) but his delight is in the LORD’s Law. On His law he meditates day and night.
(3) He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also does not wither. Whatever he does shall prosper.
(4) The wicked are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
(5) Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
(6) For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish.
Click HERE to go to our section on the Sabbath.
If you follow the Fourth Commandment of God, you have life. What and whose commandment are you following by keeping Sunday? Shall you have life following the law of a pagan ruler threatening death if you don't obey him?
The Sabbath is a gift from God; it’s about receiving from Him. It’s not so much about what we do or don’t do, as about believing Him Who supplies us with every good and necessary thing by faith. Here are some guidelines and thoughts about keeping the Sabbath.
The Law is spiritual. So how do we keep it, and how do we keep the physical Sabbath in particular? That question is answered here.