If So, To Whom
Seldom do I speak about Sabbath observance in the Church age. But today, for reasons soon to be shared, I have chosen to focus on one of the relevant points for weekly Sabbath celebration. In the General Conference Church of God (Seventh Day), GC COG7, there is a doctrine on this topic in the Statement of Faith and a fuller explanation in the book “This We Believe”. When writing the post focusing on SWD Marriage Ministry with marriage being symbolic of the more important unity of Jesus Christ and his Church, I introduced the idea of the symbolic significance of Sabbath. I would like to pick that topic up now and make a short statement about that. We will begin with the excerpt from the previous post.
When a man and a woman unite in holy wedlock as believers in Jesus Christ, it is the greatest opportunity for a person, two people united so long as they both shall live, to glorify God in his design for humanity. Yes, it is symbolic. To God, symbolic things matter. Almost all those professing Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, the Christ, readily acknowledge the symbolic holiness of the ordinance of baptism and the holy supper in the communion of the body and individuals within the body with Jesus Christ, symbolically partaking of his body and blood through the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine, as often as they take it. The symbolic significance of the marriage of a man and a woman representing the holy ordinance of unity in matrimony between Jesus Christ and his Church represents a greater truth than the matrimony itself, except as it follows the ordinance of God.
It is significantly like the ordinance of the weekly Sabbath. It seems Christianity either makes it a legalistic obligation with the weighty burdens imposed through the Jews, particularly the Pharisees, or they totally disregard the Sabbath as a law that ended at the cross. It seems people would choose to debate fine points and semantics instead of discovering and doing that which is pleasing to God. Jesus declared man was not created for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man. Its great significance in today’s world relies on the reality of our True Sabbath in Jesus Christ. He is our Sabbath.
If you are a Sunday worshiper, a disregarder of Sabbath, or a legalistic Sabbath observer, I doubt that my words will impact you. But I will know I have shared the truth with you and God knows, also. Except for the Catholic Church and perhaps a few others, no one pretends that baptism saves a person. Almost everyone teaches the true death, burial, and resurrection is the new nature found in Christ when the Holy Spirit enters into a person making them a new spiritual being presently and a glorified total being, body and spirit, at the return of our Lord. Likewise, only the same group who profess baptism saves a person contend the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine literally transubstantiate into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ providing meritorious benefit from its consumption. The rest of Christianity recognize it as an ordinance of Jesus Christ in the symbolic nature of the emblems of the holy supper representing his body and blood with the meritorious benefit being found in the intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
For some reason, the greater part of Christianity either chooses to make the weekly Sabbath a legalistic burden or to ignore it. Which, if we think about it, is ludicrous. Why would God 1) insist upon all humanity having a weekly day of rest from creation until the birth of the nation of Israel, 2) make it part of the laws for the nation through whom he chose to enter this world as a babe born of a virgin, 3) declare himself to be Lord of the Sabbath in setting up the administration of his heavenly Kingdom governance on this earth at his first advent, teaching the people they had misconstrued his intentions of Sabbath rest, condemning them because they had made something he created to be a delight to be a burdensome ordinance no one was able to completely fulfill, 4) provide as a prophecy through Isaiah the value of the Sabbath in the eternal age of the Kingdom, and 5) then disregard it in the age of grace from the cross to the second advent of King Jesus?
Please be careful in teaching about Sabbath. Yes, it is important. But it is not THE Sign or identity of God’s people. This past Sabbath I was blessed with an hour and a half phone call with a couple who had found the GC COG7 website and Statement of Faith online and were shopping for a potential place to have fellowship and corporate worship. One of their questions was about whether I believed the mark of the true people of God was the Sabbath. To which I could confidently respond, “Absolutely not.” I wish I had said more about it than “Belief in Jesus Christ is the mark of the true people of God.” I wish I had gone on to illustrate that the Sabbath is an important doctrine of the GC COG7, but it could no more be the “mark of the true people of God” than any other statement of doctrine. Yes, abstaining from adultery is an especially important doctrine. But it is not the “mark of the true people of God”. Believers and non-believers abstain from adultery, thankfully. The same is true with the Sabbath. Regrettably, those who practice true Judaism observe the Sabbath, but reject the person of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Jesus condemned them in his day and it isn’t any different today regarding whom are the people of God. The only work whereby one can be saved is the work to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
The identity of God’s people is found in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. But for those who want to please God, remembering there is a judgment (2 Corinthians 5:9-10; 1-21), great delight is found in celebrating his holy Sabbath which symbolizes our rest in him (Hebrews 4). It is illogical to think God does not value the Sabbath he made to give weekly rest to humanity and more importantly to illustrate his eternal rest in himself as King of kings and Lord of lords. Did man no longer need a weekly rest because Christ came the first time? If that is true, why would God insist upon observing the Sabbath even in eternity? It is a little like the holy communion ordinance, when Jesus Christ told his disciples, “I will not take this with you again until I take it with you in the Kingdom”, making reference to his return. It hearkens to the symbolic nature of the holy supper and baptism.
For all those who choose to make Sabbath a legalistic obligation or an abomination to observe, whether in observing it by some letter of a law or by ignoring it because they believe the law is abandoned by God, they choose to miss an opportunity to please God and to be experience the blessing of his Sabbath every week. Perhaps you have simply been reading over the prophecy that speaks of the eternal nature of Sabbath, but I invite you to look at how God values this symbolic weekly Sabbath throughout eternity. While he assures the Israelites there will be a nation of Israel, he declares all humanity will observe his Sabbath in eternity. Then, for those of us who are believers living in the earthly age of the Kingdom of heaven presently, consider whether it has significance for us today.
Isa 66:20-24, NIV
- And they will bring all your people, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the LORD–on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels,” says the LORD. “They will bring them, as the Israelites bring their grain offerings, to the temple of the LORD in ceremonially clean vessels.
- And I will select some of them also to be priests and Levites,” says the LORD.
- “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure.
- From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the LORD.
- “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
I promised you a brief word on this topic, so I will quit here without pretending to address it in detail. There is more to the Sabbath than its symbolic representation. It is a commandment you know. You may like to read the section on Sabbath in the book “This We Believe”.
I like observing the weekly Sabbath, even from a symbolic perspective, because it pleases my Lord.