While the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, they did all the work so Pharaoh could rest. God delivered them from their works and gave them the Sabbath commandment, telling the Hebrews “I will do all the work now, so you can rest.” 1
Over time, Sabbath keepers have been accused of keeping the Sabbath in order to be saved by their works. But the Sabbath is a rest day not a works day, so the exact opposite is true. We rest on the Sabbath, to demonstrate that we have faith in Jesus and not in our works. We rest our faith in the merits, righteousness and works of Jesus and not in our own works.
By contrast, Sunday observance is a man-made day of worship in a worship system worked out by man and not God. It is similar to the worship of Cain who, by bringing the fruits of his field from where he had been working, was presenting his own works as an act of worship. God refused the works of Cain as well as all the works of men. Abel brought the lamb as a sign that he was trusting the Lamb of God Who was to come. By bringing the lamb Abel was showing that he did not trust his works to save him, but would be saved by the Lamb.
When we keep (cherish, preserve or treasure) the seventh-day Sabbath we are acknowledging the fact that only Jesus can save us. Our salvation is found in Jesus alone, so we follow His example by worshiping on the day that kept holy. “He [Jesus] went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.” Luke 4:16 NIV. Notice that the Bible does not say that it was the Jewish custom; it was His custom.
“Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” Exodus 31:13 NIV.
God makes it clear. The Sabbath is not a sign that we are made holy by our works. It is a sign that He makes us holy by His grace and not our works.
Think about it. Satan knows we are not saved by our works. Satan knows we are saved by grace. Satan wants us to forget the Sabbath and thus forget the God who saves us by His grace. It is not so much the Sabbath or the law that Satan is at war with. He is at war with God’s grace, and he works to destroy any sign of God’s grace. Thus Satan has worked for years to make people forget the Sabbath, which is a sign that God makes us holy by His own grace and not by our works or any man-made system of worship, which is legalism.
When God sanctifies us He separates us from the world. When He sanctified the Sabbath He separated it from all other days. Just knowing which day is holy does not save us. That would be salvation by the works of the mind, which is the same as the works of the flesh. We are saved by faith, and we show faith in God’s sanctifying power, by keeping the day holy. Years ago, Sabbath keepers would notice that while Sunday keepers went to church on Sunday, calling it holy, that they still did not observe it as the Sabbath once they got out of church, but went about their daily secular activities. Well the time has come now, when many Sunday keepers can say the same about Sabbath keepers. Keeping the Sabbath holy is more than going to church on Sabbath. It is a 24 hour period from even to even. See Leviticus 23:32 By faith, God has separated the whole day from the rest of the world.
“On Friday let the preparation for the Sabbath be completed. See that all the clothing is in readiness and that all the cooking is done. Let the boots be blacked and the baths be taken. It is possible to do this. If you make it a rule you can do it. The Sabbath is not to be given to the repairing of garments, to the cooking of food, to pleasure seeking, or to any other worldly employment. Before the setting of the sun let all secular work be laid aside and all secular papers be put out of sight. Parents, explain your work and its purpose to your children, and let them share in your preparation to keep the Sabbath according to the commandment.
We should jealously guard the edges of the Sabbath. Remember that every moment is consecrated, holy time. Whenever it is possible, employers should give their workers the hours from Friday noon until the beginning of the Sabbath. Give them time for preparation, that they may welcome the Lord’s day with quietness of mind. By such a course you will suffer no loss even in temporal things.
There is another work that should receive attention on the preparation day. On this day all differences between brethren, whether in the family or in the church, should be put away. Let all bitterness and wrath and malice be expelled from the soul. In a humble spirit, “confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.” James 5:16. 472
Nothing which will in the sight of Heaven be regarded as a violation of the holy Sabbath should be left unsaid or undone, to be said or done upon the Sabbath. God requires not only that we refrain from physical labor upon the Sabbath, but that the mind be disciplined to dwell upon sacred themes. The fourth commandment is virtually transgressed by conversing upon worldly things or by engaging in light and trifling conversation. Talking upon anything or everything which may come into the mind is speaking our own words. Every deviation from right brings us into bondage and condemnation.” –Ellen White, Counsels to the Church, Page 263
Instead of working this Sabbath (Saturday) to provide for you and your family, would you like to show your faith in God’s amazing grace, by resting on this day instead, and letting the whole world know, as Abel did, that you believe God’s grace will provide for your every need and not your works?
“To all who receive the Sabbath as a sign of Christ’s creative and redeeming power, it will be a delight. Seeing Christ in it, they delight themselves in Him. The Sabbath points them to the works of creation as an evidence of His mighty power in redemption. While it calls to mind the lost peace of Eden, it tells of peace restored through the Saviour. And every object in nature repeats His invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” –The Faith I Live By, p. 33.
1 Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God