Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What Did Jesus Say In Relation to the Sabbath?

Wm. Hohmann

The Sabbath: What did Jesus Say?
There has been of late a popular Christian practice of asking, in relation to one's Christian walk and behavior, "What Would Jesus Do". Bracelets with the initials WWJD were quite the fad for awhile in this regard. So then, in relation to the Sabbath I ask the logical question, "What did Jesus Say"
When it comes to important doctrinal issues, we should consider the teachings and commands of Christ above all else. We should not assume that Jesus will automatically concur with Moses and the prophets, thereby defaulting to those authors, with the potential of overlooking something important said by Jesus the Christ.
Sabbatarians are quick to claim their Jesus kept the ten commandments, with an emphasis on keeping the Sabbath. They further claim that if He had indeed broken any of ten commandment laws, He would have sinned as a result, and would have disqualified Himself as our Savior. With this rationale, the Sabbath is kept intact and inviolate for all, for Christ is, after all, our example, and we can't have a Christ who sinned. If He kept the Sabbath, we should keep the Sabbath; goes the rationale. If John wrote in John 5:18 that Jesus "broke" the Sabbath, John must have meant something else other than Jesus actually "breaking" the Sabbath.
But this begs the question, "Can God sin"? Or, to word this another way, can God sin against Himself? If God could sin, then how could He be God? God is perfect. It is man who is imperfect and subject to sin, and not God. This creates a dilemma of sorts for the Sabbatarian. If Jesus is God, and cannot sin, yet He broke the Sabbath, then there is a problem with understanding the Sabbath law, and not God. The solution grasped by the Sabbatarians was therefore to deny the divinity of Christ as God. Your first reaction may well be one of incredulity that I would make such a statement, but upon careful examination of the beliefs and teachings of Sabbatarian groups, that is exactly what they have done, albeit surreptitiously. Read on.
I would point out here that in all "Christian" cults, Jesus/God is diminished in some fashion in order to emphasize their distinctive, whatever that might be. With Sabbatarian organizations, it is, obviously, the Sabbath.
When it came to the Sabbath, Jesus went out of His way to heal people on the Sabbath. One of His greatest miracles was that of healing a man born blind on a Sabbath. It was a miracle that would be extremely difficult to deny, perhaps even more-so than raising one from the dead, for it would be a relatively easy thing to claim the dead person was not really dead after all to begin with, through a variety or circumstances and/or trickery. But a man born blind, known to untold numbers people over time, would be nearly impossible to fake.
The religious leaders of the time were faced with what seemed like an impossible dilemma. They agreed and understood that only one who was not a sinner could have performed such a miracle, yet they held Jesus to be a sinner. What possible "work around" was available to them? The modern Sabbatarian work around is to claim Jesus did not really break the Sabbath. They claim that He broke or transgressed the added prohibitions; the "fence around the Law" that the Jewish religious leaders had created in order to further prevent one from actually breaking the Sabbath, having given their added restrictions the weight of Scripture so as to conclude the transgression of their Sabbath prohibitions was to also transgress the Sabbath itself.
This indeed sounds reasonable and plausible. The problem with it though is that it is not true. The Law was quite specific regarding the Sabbath in that no one was to do "any" work. The modern day Sabbatarian Pharisees resort to Clintonian semantics in order to circumvent the plain wording of Scripture. "Any" does not really mean "any". As evidence, they cite Jesus' statement regarding pulling a sheep out of a ditch on a Sabbath, with no foul or sin being inferred, but it was still a case of breaking the Sabbath. There were times when a justification existed for breaking the Sabbath, even as David was deemed guiltless when he and those with him ate the consecrated show-bead which was not lawful for him to eat.
The problem is further compounded by Jesus' declaration that His healing people on the Sabbath was indeed "work" and that in relation to the Sabbath, even the (His) Father in Heaven, works.
Sabbatarians today insist we follow the example of Jesus in keeping the Sabbath. Jesus was following the example of the Father by working on the Sabbath.
There was tacit agreement that the Father in Heaven did work, always, but they had to turn all this back on Jesus in order to discredit Him, seeing as they already perceived of Him as being a sinner, and His attempt here at associating Himself with the Father in Heaven was the claim and distraction they needed to take the emphasis off of the Father and on to Jesus working on the Sabbath, and now associating Himself as equal to God: Blasphemy.
The Sabbath was not greater than the Father, but it had to be demonstrated that the Law; the Sabbath, was greater than the Son, and His association with the Father was blasphemous, despite His explanation cited from the Law.
So a miracle, that could only be attributed to God, was denied in favor of the Sabbath law. The Sabbath became greater than the Lord of the Sabbath. The Law, and the Sabbath, were their true "god". They served the Law. You are the servant of the one you serve. The Law and Sabbath were held in the highest regard and esteemed above all else. The Law and Sabbath were their idol, and "God" backed them up in all this, for it was, after all, "God's Law and God's Sabbath".
Our modern Sabbatarians are quick to point out that Jesus is the "Lord of the Sabbath" and that it would be incongruous for the Lord of the Sabbath to "do away" with the Sabbath. Contextually though, Jesus referred to Himself as being Lord "also" of the Sabbath. Nothing is outside His perview. With this understanding, that there is nothing Jesus is not Lord of, it is interesting that the modern day Sabbatarian argument is that Jesus is not "Lord of the first day of the week" aka "Sunday". It is claimed by many Sabbatarians, especially the Seventh-day Adventists, that this day was stolen from God by pagans for pagan sun worship, thereby forever spoiling it for any godly purpose, so much so that anyone today worshiping on this day is perceived as having received the mark of the beast of Revelation upon themselves as a result.
God is diminished in order to proffer a particular belief system. God was too weak to protect one of His days He is the Creator of and Lord of. The almighty Pagans stole that day from God, thereby forever spoiling it for any godly purpose, such as corporate worship of God.
Seeing as Jesus is the "Lord of the Sabbath" we should study the Scriptures to see what Jesus actually had to say and teach in regards to the Sabbath.
Two things of note are discussed by Jesus in relation to the Sabbath.
Judging righteous judgment:
Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? 20The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? 21Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. 22Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. 23If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? 24Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. John 7:19-24
Note if you will that Jesus referred to healing a man as "work". What is implied is that the act of performing a circumcision was also "work"; a work that took precedence over the Sabbath requirement to abstain from work.
Understand also that if righteous judgment is being contrasted to judging according to appearance, then to judge according to appearance is to judge unrighteous judgment. Defining this as such is avoided by Sabbatarians, for it exposes their belief and practice as unrighteousness. A man is judged by them as guilty of sin should a man be found working on the sabbath; the same work that on another day would not be sin. This is an enormous departure from the old covenant laws, especially the Sabbath law. It is no longer the action that follows intent one judges, but the intent only, for God, ultimately, judges the heart and intent of heart, and this holds true for God even under the old covenant. This is covered in greater detail below.
It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath:
And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. 11And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? 12How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Matthew 12:10-12
And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. 24And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? 25And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? 26How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? 27And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. Mark 2:23-28
And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. 2And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. 3And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. 4And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. Mark 3:1-4
If this declaration were not in Scripture, and asked by any critic of Sabbatarianism today, that person would quickly be accused of asking a loaded question. But it is not so easily dismissed, seeing as it was asked by Jesus of His antagonists.
Just as there was a conflict between circumcision and the Sabbath, we now have a conflict between the instructions of Moses, not to do "any" work and the declaration by Jesus that is is lawful to do good works on the Sabbath, as contrasted to evil works. The implications to Sabbatarianism are devastating. Is it any surprise that the modern day Sabbatarian leans towards Moses and their own contrived list of what is permissible and what is not in an attempt to make it look like they are accommodating and incorporating Jesus' instructions?
Here then is where the Sabbatarian dares not tread. If it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath, and not lawful to do evil, and seeing as the Hebrews were prohibited from working on that day, then the conclusion is obvious; their works were evil. Being faithless, stiff-necked and rebellious were their hallmarks.
Do we have Scriptural backing for this conclusion? Yes, we do.
For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the LORD. – Jeremiah 32:30
We also have this relevant Scripture:
And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5
According to this, those people were destroyed in the flood because of their evil hearts and the resultant thoughts and imaginations of their hearts. This is a departure from the Sabbatarian paradigm where it is the transgression of that "Ten Commandment" Law as cited in the flawed translation found in I John 3:4 in the KJV that results in sin and the resultant condemnation. A Sabbatarian reads the following, and opts for the flawed definition of sin in I John 3:4, ignoring what Jesus actually said regarding sin:
And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. Mark 7:20-23
By opting for I John 3:4, evil thoughts as sin are side-stepped by the Sabbatarian. They want sin to be a person's actions, for by "keeping" the sabbath, they can cloak their hearts and appear righteous.
What is too often overlooked in this context is how God judges mankind. It is what Jesus referred to as "righteous judgment" which he contrasted to judging according to appearance. Sabbatarians look to the law of the Sabbath and judge according to appearance. The religious leaders of Jesus' time did exactly the same. When a Sabbatarian claims one sins by "breaking" the Sabbath, unrighteous judgment results. The emphasis is placed on the action and the intent of heart is ignored. You are denied a justification for your actions solely by the whim of those who administer the Sabbath law. If you were the typical Sabbatarian legalist, judging according to appearance allows you to ignore your own heart and intent of heart. It allows you to use the Sabbath law as a means of persecuting your enemies, all the while cloaking your own evil heart of hatred. An evil motive is hidden, not by the one breaking the Sabbath, but by the one upholding the Sabbath law.
Understand; Jesus went out of His way to work on the Sabbath. And being God, His works could only be good works. He "broke" the Sabbath, not due to evil motive as the Pharisees and other religious leaders inferred, but through a godly motive of love and compassion, not unlike pulling a sheep out of a pit on the sabbath.
Are we not called to emulate Him?
What then of the work of employment? Sabbatarians desperately want to draw the line here when confronted with this good versus evil argument. They claim the end result is that no Sabbath is kept as a result. Well, that is the logical end point! Even our works of employment, being a Christian, are good works in the eyes of God. Otherwise, what do you have? God judging according to appearance, and not righteous judgment. This is what is untenable. The Sabbath letter of the law gives way to the spirit of the law; good works, performed every day for the furtherance of a Christian life. The reality here is that adherence to the Sabbath letter of the law is completely incompatible with real Christianity.
Sabbatarians are fond of citing James chapter 2 where it says, "faith without works is dead". What then of faith and works on the Sabbath? If there are no works of faith; good works on the Sabbath, then it can hardly be claimed by the Sabbatarian that their faith is "alive". Their faith is dead faith one day a week. Keeping the Sabbath in the old covenant letter of the Law results in a faithless state of being on that day. Small wonder Paul wrote that the Law is not of faith; a statement of fact incomprehensible to a Sabbatarian.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:17
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Titus 2:14
One of the nearly innumerable claims/accusations of Sabbatarians in regards to the Sabbath is that the devil will stop at nothing in order to get people to transgress the Law, especially the Sabbath. It is one of those claims designed to psychologically instill both fear and pride in the Sabbatarian. Fear of transgressing the Sabbath; pride in believing they alone "figured it out with God's help" so as to avoid sinning against "God's Sabbath".
But what is it that the devil really wants? He wants people under condemnation, and the Law serves that purpose quite nicely. It is, after all, what the apostle Paul called the ministration of death and condemnation. All who lived by the Law were condemned by the Law. All who lived by the Law broke the Law. The Law was, and is, a "dead end".
Sabbatarians believe they have thwarted the wiles of the devil by embracing and keeping the Sabbath. All they have accomplished is to develop a harder heart of stone that works against good works. Any good works they perform on the Sabbath are those on their "approved list". There is no personal decision and by extension, no personal responsibility for making said decision, in an attempt to remain safe in the never ending quest against sin; a vain pursuit that takes one's focus and goal off of Christian development and growth. One "buries" their talent/pound in a vain pursuit. How does one grow spiritually by doing essentially nothing?
The devil desires Christians, who are not under the Law, hence not under the Sabbath, to abandon good works. The Sabbath now serves his purpose in this regard also. If a Sabbatarian does a "good work" from the approved list, then that work is not motivated by the Spirit, but a list. "I can do this because it it approved by my church. I cannot do this other thing because it is not approved by my church." There is no true moral agency involved. Motive of heart is supplanted by motive through permission or restriction. If they were truly motivated by the Spirit, there would be absolutely no need for a list of what is permissible and what is not.
Everything done by Christ is undone by Sabbatarianism. The Sabbatarian theological model creates a God of contradiction, removing righteous judgment from the equation. Through redefinition of sin and how God judges, the gospel itself is the real casualty of the Sabbatarian belief system. A Christian, called to do good works always, who is seen as being dead to that Law, is resurrected back to some of it for the sole purpose of putting him or her back under the Sabbath and the resultant restrictions against "work" unless specifically addressed by the Pharisaical Sabbatarian leadership; a yardstick religion of do's and don'ts where one comes under their control and influence; the hallmark of a cult. The works of a Christian, wrought in God (John 3:21), are declared sin if wrought on a Sabbath. The Sabbatarian declares, through the use of deceptive reasoning and manipulation, that evil is good, and good is evil.
Woe unto them.
Everything is backwards in the Sabbatarian theological worldview. The Hebrews sinned by working on the Sabbath because their works were evil. Only by not working were they able to refrain from violating the sanctity of the Sabbath. If they happened to do an act of mercy or compassion, such as pulling an animal out of a ditch or pit, it was a work justifiable with no sin being associated with the action. God judged the heart and intent of heart even then as He does now. The Sabbath was "broken" but the transgressor was not deemed guilty, simply because of the situation of the heart. GOD DOES NOT CONDEMN ONE FOR DOING GOOD, EVER. To do so would be for God to violate His own nature. What then does this say about the "God" that the Sabbatarians perceive? It is a twisted, distorted, perception that produces an evil "God" who maintains a double standard and judges according to appearance and whim, just like people, or more precisely, just like Sabbatarians. Their "God" is an anthropomorphic creation of their own perversions. They make God over into their own image.
In II Corinthians chapter 3, the apostle Paul makes an observation that Sabbatarians reject out of hand, simply because they believe it impossible to be true, yet there it is, written for all to see. Those who remain in the writings and teachings of Moses have a veil before their eyes, blinding them from seeing the true Jesus. Their Jesus kept the Law. Their Jesus kept the Sabbath. Their Jesus judges according to appearance, for that is what the law of Moses is about, for the most part. Jesus brought out that there were more weighty matters of the Law; judgment, mercy, and faith. Somehow, these things get overlooked when the focus is on the letter of the Law.
Did Moses write down and teach the Ten Commandments? Yes, but to the Sabbatarian, this can't possibly be what Paul was writing about. The Sabbatarian is under a strong delusion, even a curse, for the end result of the Sabbatarian theology is ultimately a false gospel. They say they believe and teach the gospel; salvation as a matter of faith only, yet disguise their true beliefs through semantics. You have heard the arguments and rationalizations in order to justify keeping the Sabbath, as though all the Law were embodied in the Sabbath. One need only ask a simple question in order to verify their true belief regarding salvation, being works oriented and a false gospel.
What happens to your salvation should you quit keeping the Sabbath?
If one is condemned for "keeping" Sunday; worshiping God on that day, how can there not be condemnation for abandoning the "right" day?
The most often heard response is that one would not be permitted entry into paradise should they abandon the Law and begin a life of murder, adultery, theft, etc. and that the Sabbath is no different. Thus they admit to their false gospel through this back door rationalization of their true belief.
Murder is an act of hatred. Hatred is the spirit of murder. Violating any of those other laws is a reflection of a godless spirit. Violating the Sabbath and being guilty was done by being of the same spirit. Having God place His "Law" within the believer; His Holy Spirit; that "new heart of flesh", changes the dynamics. The believer's motivation is from the Spirit, and not the flesh. One's motivation is to good works. The Sabbatarian insists one is still motivated by the flesh. Why? Because this is all they truly know.
Are your works good, or evil?

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11


Anonymous said...

There are 613 OT laws. To obey one might mean disobeying a second. Such as circumcision on the 8th day of life if the day falls on the Sabbath. How do you decide which law is most important? Jews considered some laws heavier than others. For instance, can you lie to save a life? When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, he said to love God and love others. Jews recognize this as meaning, do the most loving thing. What is the most loving thing, do nothing to help someone on the Sabbath or to ease suffering when you can? Jesus did the most loving thing when he healed on the Sabbath.

Anonymous said...

The best article I've ever read on the Sabbath debate. Thank you.