The Sabbath in Light of The Cross

Williams picture

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“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.”- Ellen White, Gospel Workers, 315 (1915).

With this passage from Gospel Workers in mind, I have created a supplemental set of Bible study guides, called In Light of The Cross Bible Study Guides. I would like to share with you here, the lesson on the Sabbath. Many people have erroneous ideas about the Sabbath and its relation to salvation. We do not keep the Sabbath because we are saved by works. People have accused me of keeping the Sabbath in order to be saved by my works. I ask them how I can be trusting my works while I am resting?

Even some Seventh-day Adventists look at the third angel’s message in the light of legalism instead of righteousness by faith. Yet God’s messenger writes:

“Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel’s message, and I have answered, “It is the third angel’s message, in verity.”—Ellen White, The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.

The third angel’s message warns us against trusting in our works to save us. Those who trust their own works, take the mark of the beast so they can conduct business, buy and sell, and thus provide and save themselves by their own works. Instead of trusting in works, those who take the seal of God rest on the Sabbath, showing their faith is in God and not their own works.

Please take a look with me, at the Sabbath in light of the cross.

The Sabbath 

Brief overview: The Seventh-day Saturday is God’s holy Sabbath where 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. 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 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 because he wants 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 as the lamb God instructed him to bring pointed to Jesus: the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for our sins. Abel, more than just worshiping as God had instructed was saying he trusted in Jesus to save him and not 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 Cross 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 manmade ways of worship will never save us.

There is a story of a little boy years ago who had built his own wooden sailboat. Tied 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 is window shopping downtown when he sees his boat in a toy store window. He goes inside and tells the owner, “That’s my boat in the window.” The owner of the store not sure if he should believe the young lad tells the boy he will have to purchase the boat if he wants it back.

The boy does several chores around the home and neighborhood to get the few dollars the boat costs. He returns to the store and purchases 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

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

Click here for more Bible Studies on the law, Sabbath, and love and obedience.

Click here to study this week’s Sabbath School lesson about the Sabbath.

The Fruit of The Spirit, Lesson 6

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Here are my thoughts on this Week’s SS lesson.

It must have been ten years ago. I was supervising the package car loaders at UPS. Occasionally one of the loaders would fail to show up and I would have to load their trucks for them. When this happened I would get an ice cold drink and granola bar from the break room to give me energy while I was working. One morning though we were short handed and I had to jump into a load area right away with no chance to get my usual snacks from the break room first. I was working away loading the trucks when before I even had a chance to ask, my boss came by with my usual drink and snack and placed it one of the trucks for me where I could get it. Wow! I did not even have a chance to tell my boss what was going on and she saw what was happening, and that I did not have my usual snack and took it upon herself to get it for me. So you just read this and thought to yourself, that’s nice, but it’s not that big of a deal why is William writing a blog about this simple little story? You’re right. What my boss did was no big deal. The big deal is, I remember it ten years later! Meanwhile I am sure my boss does not even remember it. Simple acts of kindness are not soon forgotten.

A few years later I was training a new package car loader and had laid my cell phone in the back of the brown package car while we were working. I forgot about it and the package car driver drove off for his route with my cell phone in his little brown truck. I asked his dispatcher to call the driver and ask him where I could meet him to get my phone. I drove to the meeting place and got my phone. A few minutes later, as I was driving on to my next job the dispatcher calls me to make sure I got my phone. This really impressed me because it was not the dispatcher’s responsibility. He was not even directly in my department and he was so busy with his own responsibilities I did not expect him to give me another thought that day. Again, years later it has still made a lasting impression on me, that simple act of kindness, a UPS dispatcher showing concern for someone they were not even responsible for.

Years later these two stories have impressed me. It was not what they said, it was how they made me feel that I remember. They made me feel special. People will not always remember what we said but they will always remember how we made them feel.

While we often think kind words and deeds are cute, we sometimes underestimate them in the grand scheme of the Great Controversy but consider this, we as Seventh-day Adventists realize that the law plays a pivotal role in the Great Controversy. Too often we just think of the Sabbath or Ten Commandments, but read what The Desire of Ages has to say about a good Samaritan who may not have had his theology straight. “The Samaritan had obeyed the dictates of a kind and loving heart, and in this had proved himself a doer of the law.” –Desire of Ages, p. 504. So being a doer of the law is so much more than just knowing the letter of the law. This Samaritan may have been ignorant of the written law but the spirit of the law was written, no, sealed in his heart. The good Samaritan bound up the wounds of the hurt man just as Jesus binds our wounds. The Samaritan gave him oil just as Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit which the oil in Zachariah represents. The Samaritan told the innkeeper he would pay for and be completely responsible for the man’s full recovery. Jesus made Himself responsible for our full recovery, out sanctification as well as justification. So while this good Samaritan may not have known as much about theology and the written law as the priest and Levite did, he was just like Jesus! Isn’t that the end of the law anyway?

In Matthew 25 Jesus tells about when the sheep and goats will be separated. He says to the sheep on His right, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” –Matthew 25:34-36  Again, those Jesus welcomes into His kingdom may not have been the most educated theologians but while Jesus does not welcome them because they kept the Sabbath or tithed, or did not eat pork look at how Christ like they were. They fed the hungry just like Jesus did to the multitude both temporal as well as spiritual. They gave water to a thirsty soul just as Jesus gave the living water to the woman at the well. They welcomed strangers just as Jesus’ love embraced the gentile world as much as His own people. They clothed the naked just as Jesus clothes us with His robe of righteousness. They visited the sick just like Jesus. They cared for those who were bound in prison just as Jesus came to set the captives free. These people are welcomed into the kingdom not just by justification but by sanctification as well. They are sanctified and fitted for the kingdom because they are like Jesus!

Many of them are asking Jesus when did we do these things? What are You talking about Jesus? They did not even know what they were doing, but they were sanctified and sealed with the law of God which is love. Consider the following passage from The Desire of Ages, page 608. “Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives. Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God.” 

Heaven will be filled with people who have muddled minds and theology, but none with bitter hearts.

Being sanctified and having the seal of God in our foreheads means so much more than knowing which day is the Sabbath or that we are not suppose to eat pork. Those who are sanctified and have the law sealed in their hearts and written on their foreheads are kind.

You may find more studies and devotionals on my website In Light of The Cross.