Does Sabbath Matter?
By Jim Huskins
For more than thirty years, Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church in California, has exerted phenomenal influence on American culture and politics. Many believers turn to him for insight on controversial, Biblical topics such as Sabbath.
Warren’s YouTube video entitled “Learn How to Slow Down” includes the following quotes: “Rest and relaxation are so important in your life that God put them in the big ten right up there with don’t murder.” “He says, ‘Every week, you take a day off.’” “That’s called the Sabbath, it means a day of rest.” Nothing wrong so far, but then Pastor Warren departs from scripture, “It doesn’t matter which day you take off as long as it is weekly.” Most Christians share this unScriptural opinion. The Bible challenges Rick Warren’s Sabbath teaching on at least two points.
First is the timing of the Sabbath. Sabbath is the Seventh Day of the week. Genesis 2:3 says, “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” Exodus 20:10 says, “But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.” Every believer should conduct a word search on “Sabbath” and “Sabbaths.” Not a single verse of Scripture claims that Sabbath was moved or altered or revoked. The alteration of the Sabbath was orchestrated by Roman political and religious leaders in the Fourth Century. God’s Word says that Sabbath has always been and always will be the Seventh Day of the week.
Second, and more importantly, the Bible challenges Pastor Warren’s teaching on the purpose of the Sabbath. Rick Warren says we need to take a day off each week to rest our bodies. Rest is one of the reasons that God made the Sabbath, but it is a secondary purpose. Replacement Theologians quote Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Their spin is that Jesus’ statement diminishes the significance of the Sabbath. The implication is that Sabbath is something akin to a toy given to a child. The child then owns the toy and can choose to play with it or not. This is not what the Bible says. To better understand the purpose of the Sabbath, we need to consider part of Exodus Chapter 31. My exposition is indebted to the work of Hebrew scholar, Tom Bradford.
The context is Israel’s charge to build the Wilderness Tabernacle. This is some of the most significant work in history, and God knew they would be tempted to work constantly. Exodus 31:13 is a potent teaching. Most English translations say something like “however,” or “nevertheless,” or “you shall” keep my Sabbaths. The Hebrew word is “akh.” The ESV translates it accurately: “Above all, you shall keep my Sabbaths.” Above all is not a phrase one chooses to convey the concept of “insignificant” or “optional.” Nothing is more important to God than us keeping Sabbath. His rationale for this insistence has two components.
First, Sabbath is necessary because it is an essential component of Creation. Sabbath honors the conclusion of God’s creative work. God ordained a day to celebrate the completion of His creation. He blessed us by allowing us to partake in that same celebration by ceasing our own creative activity and observing a day of rest.
Second, again, more importantly, Sabbath is necessary because it makes us holy. At Sinai, God told Israel to observe Sabbath because they were set apart for Him. They were to rest from the normal activity so that other people would see their example and do the same. God commanded Moses to put Sabbath above everything. He said this observance would be a covenant forever. We live in a time when most believers claim that Paul overrode God and declared Sabbath to be an obsolete and worthless observance. The Bible says that Sabbath was made to impart God’s holiness to us.
The last words of Exodus 31:13 are powerful. Most translations say I, the LORD “sanctify” or “consecrate” you. The most literal translation is, “I YHVH make you holy.” The Hebrew word is kadash. It means to be sanctified or set apart. God says that when we keep Sabbath we become fit for His purpose. The significance of this concept cannot be overstated.
The beginning of verse 14 works in conjunction with the end of verse 13. Most English translations say, “You shall keep Sabbath because it is holy for you.” This word translated “holy” is kodesh. Not the same as the word translated “holy” in verse 13. Kodesh means “holiness.” The Hebrew text does not say, “I want you to keep Sabbath because it is a holy day.” It says, “Keeping the Sabbath clothes you in a state of holiness before me.” When we keep Sabbath, the holiness of the Sabbath is transmitted to us. We are made holy.
Scripture teaches that we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless we are righteous according to God’s standards. We also learn that we can’t attain that state of righteousness through our own efforts. Through faith in Jesus, we are clothed in His righteousness. The concept of transferred righteousness is powerfully foreshadowed in Exodus 31:13-14.
The same passage gives us marvelous insight into understanding what Jesus said about Sabbath in Mark 2:27. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Sabbath would be holy even if man had never been created. On the other hand, Sabbath had to be created to convey holiness to man. Sabbath was not created to give us a nice option should we choose to observe it. Sabbath was made for man because man desperately needs holiness.
Sabbath is the seventh day of each week. It is more about our holiness than our rest. We do not have the option of ignoring Sabbath or observing it whenever we want. We can no more redefine Sabbath than we can choose our own definition of Messiah.
Jim & Beverly Huskins are members of Obedient Heart Fellowship in McDowell County. Beginning July 2, 2022 Obedient Heart Fellowship will meet at 10:00 Each Sabbath (Seventh Day) in space graciously shared by New Covenant Church in Christ. 2460 US 221 Business N. In Marion, NC. Call for info. 828-460-7913. You can read more good Christian news from Jim HERE.