The Sabbath in Light of the Cross
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“The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption–the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers.”–Gospel Workers, p. 315.

With this thought in mind, I would like to share a study from the “In Light Of The Cross Bible Study Guides,” which I prepared so that people can see our sacred truths in the light of God’s love as opposed to the legalistic view we are often accused of.

The Sabbath

Brief overview: The seventh day of the week, Saturday, is God’s holy Sabbath on which we are to rest from all secular work and activity. God sanctified the Sabbath day and made it holy. See Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus, 20:8-11, Exodus 31:13, John 14:15, Revelation 14:12

Why it is important to understand the truth about the Sabbath:

The Sabbath is the only commandment that begins with “remember” while it is also the one commandment man has forgotten. While many agnostics believe that God created us and then left us on our own, the Sabbath tells us that our Creator wants to have a relationship with us. The Sabbath also tells us who our God is. You can keep the other nine commandments and worship any god you choose. You can have no other gods before you besides television and not bow to any other god than television and so forth. The Sabbath commandment is the only commandment that tells us who the Lord is. He is the Creator. This is why Satan wants us to forget this commandment. He wants us to forget God. He wants to be our god instead!

The Sabbath is a sign that we belong to the true God, the one who created us and died for us.

Why it is important to understand the Sabbath in light of the cross:

Satan does not want us to forget the Sabbath in order for us to forget the law. Satan knows we are not saved by the works of the law but by grace. The Sabbath is a sign of God’s grace. We do no work on that day, demonstrating that it is not our works that sustain or save us but rather God’s work, both at creation and the cross, that sustain and save us. We rest on the Sabbath, showing that we are resting our faith in the only One who can save us, Jesus Christ. I can imagine God walking with Adam and Eve through the garden, as He showed them all He had made for them, and the wonders of not their works but His works. Adam and Eve realized that day with God, “it is] He [that] hath made us, and not we ourselves.” (Psalms 100:3) Before and after the cross, the Sabbath is a sign that it is God’s work that creates and sustains us.

The Sabbath commandment reminds us that God is our Creator and we refrain from work and worldly activities on the Sabbath day as we rest our faith in God’s power to save and provide for us, instead of our own works and ability to do business and make money.

The same principle is seen in the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4 we read about Abel worshiping the way God had commanded in bringing a lamb as a sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice because the lamb God instructed him to bring pointed to Jesus – the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for our sins. Abel, beyond just worshiping as God had instructed, was saying he trusted in Jesus to save him, rather than his own works. He was looking to the cross. Cain’s sacrifice was refused because he did not worship the way God had instructed, and he brought his own fruit, the work of his own hands. God cannot accept our works and could not accept Cain’s works either. Only the Christ can save us.

Today, many people like Cain, try to be saved by worshiping their own way. Jesus says about them, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Our own works and man-made ways of worship will never save us.

There’s a story of a little boy years ago who had built his own wooden sailboat. After tying it to a string he set the boat out to sail in a nearby creek, and then would use the string to reel it back in. One day the string broke and the little boat fell victim to the rapids and sailed away. Several days later the boy was window shopping downtown when he saw his boat in a toy store window. He went inside told the owner, “That’s my boat in the window.” The owner of the store, not sure if he should believe the young lad, told the boy he would have to purchase the boat if he wants it back.

The boy did chores around the home and neighborhood to earn the few dollars the boat cost. He returned to the store and purchased his own boat. Walking home, holding his boat close to his chest he was overheard saying, “Little boat, you are twice mine. First I made you, and then I bought you.” That is what Jesus is telling us through the Sabbath today. As we rest from our works on the Sabbath and put our faith in Him, He tells us, “You are twice mine. First, at creation I made you, and then at the cross I bought you.”

Further study on the Sabbath:

Which day is the Sabbath?

But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates:

For [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.  Exodus 20:10, 11

How can we know which day is the seventh day?

Some reject the seventh-day Sabbath over the belief that we cannot know which day it falls on today, so picking any day should be okay. But this is fallacy.

According to Scripture, Christ died on Friday and rose on Sunday, the first day of the week. Practically all churches acknowledge this by observing Easter Sunday and Good Friday.

“This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. The women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment” (Luke 23:52–56).

This is clear evidence that Jesus died the day before the Sabbath. The day of His death was a “preparation day” because it was the time to get ready for the Sabbath. Notice, then, that the women rested over the Sabbath “according to the commandment.” The commandment says, “The seventh day is the Sabbath,” so we know they were resting on Saturday. The very next verse says, “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared. … And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre” (Luke 24:1, 2).

Hasn’t the calendar been changed since the time of Christ?

The calendar has not been changed so as to confuse the days of the week. Just as we know that Jesus and His followers observed the same day as Moses, we can be positive that our seventh day is the same day Jesus observed.

Pope Gregory XIII did make a calendar change in 1582, but it did not interfere with the weekly cycle. What did Gregory do to the calendar? He changed Friday, October 5, 1582, to be Friday, October 15, 1582. He did not affect the weekly cycle of days.

The Jews have observed the seventh day from the time of Abraham, and they still keep it today. An entire nation of people, all around the world, continue to observe a Sabbath they have known for more than 4,000 years.

Over 100 languages on earth use the word “Sabbath” for Saturday. For example, the Spanish word for Saturday is “Sabado,” meaning Sabbath. What does this prove? It proves that when those languages originated long ago, Saturday was recognized as the Sabbath day and was incorporated into the very name of the day.” -Joe Crews, Seven Facts About the 7th Day.

Who was the Sabbath made for?

And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:  Mark 2:27

Whose day is the Sabbath?

Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.  Mark 2:28

What does God call the Sabbath?

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:  Isaiah 58:13

When is the Sabbath to be observed?

From even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.   Leviticus 23:32

What marks the beginning of a day?

And the evening and the morning were the first day.  Genesis 1:5

What did Jesus do on the Sabbath?

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.  Luke 4:16

What else should be done 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.

And 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?

How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Matthew 12:10-12

What are we to “remember” to do?

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Exodus 20:8

What are we to refrain from on the Sabbath?

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates:

For [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.  Exodus 20:9-11

 Why were the Jews carried into captivity?

In those days saw I in Judah [some] treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all [manner of] burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified [against them] in the day wherein they sold victuals.

There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.

Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing [is] this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?

Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.  Nehemiah 13:15-18

What are we to learn from this?

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God [did] from his.

Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.  Hebrews 4:9-11

 What does God want us to be?

And [they that shall be] of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.  Isaiah 58:12

 How only is this possible?

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:  Isaiah 58:13

 What is God’s promise?

Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it].  Isaiah 58:14

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The Sabbath in Light of the Cross — 3 Comments

  1. Dear William,

    Thank you for this reminder:

    The Sabbath is a sign of God’s grace. We do no work on that day, demonstrating that it is not our works that sustain or save us but rather God’s work, both at creation and the cross, that sustain and save us. We rest on the Sabbath, showing that we are resting our faith in the only One who can save us, Jesus Christ.

    In the arguments over the “correct” day, it is altogether too easy to forget the correct reason and the correct way.

    If we view the Sabbath as a means to secure our salvation, the correct day will be of utmost importance to us, and it can lead us to treat each other in a most un-Christlike way. The Pharisees were very particular to keep the Law of God so they wouldn’t miss out on heaven. But they crucified the Son of God Himself!

    The same thing could happen to us if we focus on the “correct day” and miss spending time with the Lord of the Sabbath.

    If the Sabbath is a sign of God’s grace, then, in order to keep the Sabbath truly, we must be fully surrendered to the Lord of the Sabbath, knowing that our Sabbath keeping doesn’t save us and other people’s Sunday keeping doesn’t condemn them – unless they are resisting the voice of the Spirit in their lives. And, since we have no way of knowing how God is speaking to them, we have no way of judging whether they are truly serving God. In fact, uttering words of condemnation demonstrates our own law breaking in that we claim the prerogative of judging that God has reserved for Himself.

    I appreciate your reference to the fact that over 100 languages of the earth use or used to use a word analogous to “Sabbath” for Saturday. Many nations have now changed over to a different name, but it does tell us something that ancient languages correctly identified the seventh day as the Sabbath.

    Of course, in this respect the South Pacific Islands are an exception. The indigenous people had forgotten the seven-day week until the missionaries from Britain arrived there. And, when they did, they re-introduced the 7-day week and named the days to harmonize with their beliefs. Since they were Sunday keepers and believed that Sunday was rightly kept in fulfillment of the fourth commandment, they named the first day of the week “Sabbath,” just as they had referred to it in Great Britain and as it was also named in the New England states of America that had been established by the Puritans. So in these island nations, Sunday is now known as “Sabbath” even though it is the first day of the week. In fact Tonga’s stringent Sunday laws are known as “Sabbath laws” in their legislation.

    So we have a bit of a mixed history regarding the naming of the days.

    It is Satan’s work to create confusion, and he has surely been successful in the South Pacific islands. By joining the rest of the world in Sunday keeping, some of our fellow Seventh-day Adventists in the South Pacific have allowed their banner of truth to be dragged in the mud. God understands their hearts, and He will judge them accordingly. But as this world’s history draws to a close, it is time for His truth to shine clearly even in places like Tonga where the people have never been exposed to the seventh-day Sabbath truth, because Sunday was misidentified as the seventh-day Sabbath by the first Seventh-day Adventist missionaries. Now that we know better, it is indeed puzzling that the South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists should work to broaden the scope of the misindentification. It just serves to demonstrate that, as long as human beings are in positions of leadership, they are capable of being misled and making mistakes. And it points up the importance of each of us having our own relationship with God and asking His Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, according to Christ’s promise in John 16:13.

    As we try to shed light on the darkness of confusion so that truth may prevail, I pray that we will be guided by the Lord of the Sabbath who Himself is the Truth, the Way and the Light. And may we always remember that we are saved only by His grace and not by keeping the correct day.

  2. Amen to Inge, and amen to you, William! What a powerful and timely message! There was however one statement in your article, William, which has compelled me to question it.

    Satan does not want us to forget the Sabbath in order for us to forget the law.

    I believe the difference between truth and error is actually more subtle than that. Please correct me, if you believe I am mistaken, William. My understanding is that the great controversy between Christ and Satan is all about God’s law. Lucifer thought that obedience to law was unnecessary for the angels, who were naturally perfect. God’s law, of course, defines sin and righteousness, which are therefore at the very heart of the cosmic conflict.

    Where we mess up is when we start to think (consciously or unconsciously) that we as fallen beings have some natural goodness or virtue of our own by which to win God’s favour, and by which to form a righteous character through obedience to God’s law. The truth of the matter is that we are entirely helpless and dependent on the grace and righteousness of Christ to make up our deficiencies, both for pardon and for purity of heart and character.

    Oh yes, we do have free will, and God needs our consent at every step of the way. Jesus never said it would be easy or popular to be saved. Nevertheless, by utter reliance on Jesus and by a living connection with Him, we can be saved by His love — indebted to Him for absolutely everything. He is our peace of mind and our ability to stand tall without conscious guilt. He is the source of any goodness or righteousness that may appear in our lives, and He is our entrance into God’s kingdom of glory at last.

    Does all of this fit with your views, William? As you have pointed out, the Sabbath symbolizes the way that we rest confidently in His ability to save! It’s all about our relationship with Jesus.

    I see the subtle nature of the distinction between legalism and true obedience illustrated in the crisis over the Sabbath in the South Pacific.

    God bless!

  3. Thank you Inge and R.G. for you comments. R.G. I agree. Where you quoted me, it was more of a figure of speach, meaning it was more than just the law satan wants us to forget about. He wants us even more so to forget God’s grace. But yes, in the process he must make us forget the law.

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