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by Rosco Brong

The Christian Sabbbath
Matthew 12:1-13; Exodus 20:8-11


Just as the term "Trinity" is not in the Bible, though the true doctrine of the Trinity is Scriptural; and just as the term "millennium" is not in the Bible (at least in the KJ version), though the doctrine of a thousand-year reign of Christ is Scriptural (Revelation 20:2-7); so the term "Christian sabbath" is not in the Bible, though the doctrine of a Christian sabbath is Scriptural.

After our Lord's resurrection on the first day of the week [Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1; John 20:1], His churches customarily met on the first day of the week [John 20:19, 26; Acts 20:7; I Corinthains 16:2; etc.]. This does not mean that we are to apply Jewish traditions, or even Old Testament sabbath regulations, to the Lord's day. But nevertheless, as pointed out previously, we do have in the Lord's day the perpetuation of the general principle of a weekly day of rest, or "sabbatism."

Let us beware of Pharisaism in our observance of the Christian sabbath. But we are certainly on sound Scriptural ground in celebrating on the first day of every week the historical resurrection of our glorified Lord. Outline of lesson:

1. Hunger, Matthew 12: 1-8.
a. Easy eating, 1.
b. Captious critics, 2.
c. David's discretion, 3-4.
d. Sanctified service, 5-6.
e. Proper priority, 7-8.
2. Healing, Matthew 12:9-13.
a. Anxious to accuse, 9-10.
b. Righteous to rescue, 11-12.
c. Helpful to heal, 13. 3. Hallowing, Exodus 20:8-11.
a. Continued command, 8.
b. Working week, 9.
c. Separated seventh, 10.
d. Hallowed history, 11.

HUNGER, Matthew 12:1-8.
Even under Old Testament law, the Jews were not required to fast on the sabbath day. Before the ten commandments were given, when God was sending manna from heaven for the Israelites to eat, they gathered double portions on the sixth day to have enough to last over the seventh [Exodus 16:22-30]. In other words, the labor necessary to satisfy their hunger on the sabbath day was held to a minimum, but nevertheless they did eat on the sabbath.

Easy Eating, 1.
"Corn" in British English means any kind of grain. "Ears of corn" means, in American English, heads of grain -- probably barley or wheat. Rubbing out a few kernels on the hand involves about as little work as any preparation to eat that can be imagined.

Captious Critics, 2.
When the Pharisees spoke of what was lawful or not lawful they generally referred not to the command of God but to their own interpretations and traditions. So here evidently they considered the plucking of a few heads of grain to be reaping, and the rubbing out of the grain to eat they considered to be threshing. By thus maginifying the disciples' actions they managed to distort the simple act of eating a little grain into an unlawful breach of the sabbath.

David's Discretion, 3-4.
It is characteristic of religious formalism to exaggerate the importance of ceremony and cere-monial law at the expense of common sense and common morality. As Jesus put it, some people strain at gnats and swallow camels [Matthew 23:24]. But David was no Pharisee, and neither was Ahimelech [I Samuel 21:1-6]. David's discretion, approved by his greater Son, illustrates the principle that ordinary rules of propriety must give way in cases of human necessity.

Sanctified Service, 5-6.
Another principle of common sense in religion is that some commandments and some duties are more important than others. So the necessary services of the priests in the temple must be carried on regardless of the general rule of sabbath rest. The command to rest from our own works could not apply to sanctified service in the temple.

Proper Priority, 7-8.
"I desired mercy, and not sacrifice" [Hosea 6:6] is only one of many Scriptures indicating a proper priority of moral law over ceremonial law. The Pharisees had no spiritual understanding of the Scriptures, and so they condemned the guiltless disciples. Furthermore. the lordship of Jesus includes lordship over the sabbath.

HEALING, Matthew 12:9-13.
Surely if it is pernlissible to satisfy nornlal hunger on the sabbath day, a healing ministry to the sick and afflicted must also be legitimate. Of course it would not seem so to fornlalists having no sympathy for the afflicted.

Anxious to Accuse, 9-10.
Nitpickers that they were, these false teachers were not seeking ins1ruction; they were anxious to accuse this great Teacher Who rejected their false traditions and Who was attracting large crowds to His ministry.

Righteous to Rescue, 11-12.
No doubt when these religionists rescued a sheep on the sabbath day it was not because they were sorry for the sheep but because of their financial interest in the matter. Nevertheless it remained true that according to their own customs and traditions it was a righteous act to rescue a sheep that fell into a pit on the sabbath day.

Helpful to Heal, 13.
With this simple comparison Jesus, if He did not convince, at least for the moment silenced His critics. It is good to know that Jesus is as ready and helpful to heal, physically or spiritually, on the sabbath day as on any other day of the week.

HALLOWING, Exodus 20:8-11.
Turning now to the fourth commandment, we note the commemorative value of the weekly sabbath. In principle it would seem to make little difference what day of the week is observed, except that God has appointed one of the seven. Assuming that no one has miscounted or miscal- culated for some thousands of years, it seems that the Jewish sabbath was on what we now call Saturday and the Christian sabbath on what we call Sunday.

Continued Command, 8.
As noted in Genesis 2:1-3, the first sabbath day was blessed and sanctified at the end of the creation week. It was observed by Israel before the ten commandments were given [Exodus 16:22-30]. The fourth commandment was not something new, but simply commanded the Israelites to remember the sabbath day which God had sanctified long before, and to keep it holy.
When we commemorate the resurrection of Christ in celebration of God's new creation, we must not forget to celebrate also the completion of the creation as recorded in Genesis 1 and 2.

Working Week, 9.
Labor unions may strike for five-day, four-day, or three-day weeks; but it seems that the more men try to shorten their working hours the more they end up trying to fill two or three jobs at once, or perhaps running themselves to distraction in attempts at "recreation" during the hours and days when they are free from work requirements. The sad fact is that shorter work weeks have not resulted in additional time devoted to the worship and service of God. Perhaps six days of honest work are needed to prepare us for a day of honest rest.

Separated Seventh, 10.
Quite clearly one day out of seven has been separated from the other six. In the language of the commandments, six days are for "thy work"; the seventh is "the sabbath of the Lord thy God." In a special sense the day belongs to Him, and is to be used as He directs.

Hallowed History, 11.
Devout observance of the sabbath should help us to remember the inspired history of creation and save us from the follies of evolutionary theories. God hallowed the day; the hallowed day reminds us of hallowed history.

CONFUSION [Hebrews 4:9]
It remains. Some people who call themselves God's people may forget it, but the sabbatism or sabbath-keeping remains to the people of God, and we rob ourselves of much precious truth when we neglect it.

[From the Ashland Avenue Baptist newspaper, November 10, 1978, pp. 2-3. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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