What is the significance of keeping the Sabbath day for God's chosen people?
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Salvation is by Grace Received through Faith - Keeping the Sabbath Day
Over the past few months, we have covered the following topics pertaining to this theme:
Believing that Jesus Christ is God
Believing that He is the Saviour
Believing that His death on the cross was for the redemption of our sins
Believing that His blood has the power to forgive sins
Believing that Jesus Christ has ascended to Heaven and He will come down to judge the world on the last day
How do we receive this grace? We receive this grace by faith.
After we believe in Christ and have repented, we must be baptised into His name for the forgiveness of our sins. Baptism is a sacrament whereby His blood washes away the sins of man.
Faith is shown by works. Though faith is from the heart, it must be manifested in our life. We should work out our salvation with fear and trembling. This is the works of faith. If we believe that Jesus is the Saviour and that there is salvation and eternal life in the kingdom of heaven, then we must obey the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and keep the commandments of God.
Works of faith mean putting into practise God’s words into our life. Whatever the Lord commands us, whether it is within or outside of our comfort zone, even to the extent of laying down our lives or suffering loss, we must carry out His commandments. Our obedience and devotion of our hearts to Him is a display of our faith.
Keeping the Sabbath is related to receiving this grace of salvation as the Sabbath is one of the commandments of the Lord.
The Sabbath Day is the fourth commandment of the Lord
The Lord gave Moses the Ten Commandments for the Israelites to keep. Keeping the Sabbath Day holy was the fourth commandment. Sabbath Day, also known as the seventh day of the week, is from Friday evening to Saturday evening.
Although Sabbath Day is listed as one of the commandments, the establishment of Sabbath Day began much earlier at the beginning of creation. The Lord completed the creation of the world within six days and on the seventh day, He rested. He hallowed this day thus the origins of the Sabbath.
When Jesus Christ was preaching on Earth, He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Why was this day established by the Lord as a holy day? Because it is for man to remember the grace of God. Every seventh day in the week is a day of rest. It is a holy day of the Lord. Believers of Christ must keep the Sabbath by remembering the grace of God, ceasing all work and devoting their hearts to the Lord.
The Sabbath Day is a perpetual covenant
During the time whereby the law was given to Moses, keeping the Sabbath was a perpetual covenant established between God and His people.
Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’
Man must remember that we have a Creator and all things were created by God. Everything we see in the world came through the creation from God. We must have this type of Faith. We may find it hard to understand but we must hold onto our belief. The first verse in the Bible begins with ‘In the beginning, God created the world’ without explaining the details of the creation. God wants us to first believe that He created the world and He is the creator.
This is a perpetual covenant between God and us, whom He has created. We must keep Sabbath Day as a covenant throughout all generations. Christians must keep this covenant today just as the Israelites kept the covenant because the God who created man in the Old Testament, is the same God who created us today. He is not just the God of the Israelites, He is also the God of all people today.
Everyone should keep the Sabbath Day as it is a day to honour our Lord. To remember his creation and to bring into remembrance once again the grace He has given to us.
Gain salvation through keeping the Sabbath Day commandment
This has to do with salvation because it is a commandment. Jesus Christ said “if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He said to Him, “Which ones?”
Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”
Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
The rich young ruler consulted Jesus Christ on the way to gain eternal life as he believed in the existence of the soul, of Heaven and of God. Jesus Christ replied the rich young ruler to keep the commandments of God. Even though only five commandments were quoted, it is generally understood that one must keep all the Ten Commandments and no less. The five commandments which Jesus Christ quoted were pertaining to the moral behaviour of rich people.
People who are rich and powerful may not be careful to observe these commandments. Committing murder or taking lives is not something beyond them as they will go all out to kill their enemies who oppose them. Committing adultery is also very common among powerful and rich people. These are perhaps some of the sins which the rich people were committing those days hence Jesus quoted the five commandments to the rich young ruler as a reflection for him.
Let us not forget that the other five commandments are equally important if not more important that the five commandments quoted by Jesus. These other five commandments are:
There is only one true God
You should not worship idols
You should not take the name of the Lord in vain
You must keep the Sabbath Day holy
Honour your father and your mother
These are very important commandments up to today.
Jesus Christ told the rich young ruler that keeping the commandments is related to receiving of eternal life. In other words, keeping the Sabbath which is the fourth commandment is essential in receiving of eternal life.
For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
The rich young ruler, who was a Jew, told Jesus that he had kept all the commandments of God (including the Sabbath Day). He worshipped one True God. But had he committed adultery, he would have been guilty of all commandments because one who stumbles at one point in keeping the whole law, is guilty of all.
Keeping the commandments relate to receiving eternal life. For us, keeping the Sabbath is receiving eternal life and receiving the grace from Jesus Christ. We believe that keeping the Sabbath is a commandment from the Lord.
Keeping the Sabbath is a covenant
A covenant is more than just an agreement.
The seriousness of a covenant is much greater than the consequences of a broken agreement. This can be seen from the covenant which God established with Abraham.
Genesis 15:9-10, 17-18
So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.
And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—
The covenant which the Lord made with Abraham was more than a verbal agreement as it was accompanied/performed with procedures-the cutting up of animals and placing it under the sun. What was the significance of the procedures? It was to demonstrate the seriousness of the covenant. Two parties must keep the covenant that was made. If one party fails to honour the covenant, that party’s outcome would be liken to that of the turtledove, cut into two and he will die.
And I will give the men who have transgressed My covenant, who have not performed the words of the covenant which they made before Me, when they cut the calf in two and passed between the parts of it— the princes of Judah, the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf—
This passage talks about how the leaders of Judah did not keep the covenant which was made when they cut the calf into two and passed between the parts of it. If one party did not keep the covenant, that party will/must die. Hence, both parties must keep the covenant. If it is God who establish the covenant, He will definitely keep the covenant. And if He establish the covenant with man, man must keep the covenant. Therefore, the seriousness of keeping the Sabbath Day can be seen throughout the Bible.
Why were the Jews taken captive to Babylon? They ended up in such a state because they sinned against God by worshipping idols and not keeping the Sabbath Day.
“But if you will not heed Me to hallow the Sabbath day, such as not carrying a burden when entering the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.”
Jeremiah conveyed God’s warning to the people. If they do not heed the Lord’s instructions to hallow the Sabbath Day and yet continue to carry the burden of trading in the city on the Sabbath Day, the Lord will kindle a fire in its gates and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem. This event took place when the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem in the year 586 BC and one of the reasons that led to their captivity was due to the failure in keeping the Sabbath Day holy.
Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” So, as the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died.
This passage records a man who did not honour the Sabbath Day and went about gathering sticks. The children of Israel found him gathering sticks and brought this matter to Moses and Aaron’s attention. Moses and Aaron kept the man under guard as they were uncertain of how to handle the situation. Then the Lord told Moses to put this man to death because he failed to keep the Sabbath Day thus breaking the covenant with the Lord. All the Israelites were to carry out the execution of stoning the man using stones outside the camp. Once again, the seriousness of keeping the Sabbath Day can be seen from the punishment in breaking the covenant with God.
Keeping the Sabbath is not like keeping any other day. For instance, most churches keep their Sabbath on Sundays instead of Saturdays thus replacing the seventh day of the week with the first day of the week. They do not esteem the importance of the seventh day as they are contented with just having a day in the week to remember the Lord. Little did they know, their act of worship has broken the covenant with God and replacing the commandment of Lord with their own understanding is a sin in the eyes of God. They have yet to realize the seriousness of keeping the Sabbath Day.
Keeping the Sabbath is not just an Old Testament practice meant for Jews
There are many Christians today who claim that keeping of the Sabbath was meant for the Jews only as it was an Old Testament practice. They say that Christ resurrected on a Sunday, which is the third day after he died on a Friday. The Day of Pentecost falls on a Sunday as it is the fiftieth day after the resurrection. Because of these events, they keep the Lord’s Day on a Sunday and even quote the Bible to prove that the Apostles kept the Lord’s Day.
Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.
Their interpretation of the above passage is that the disciples came together to break bread on the first day of the week because Paul had changed the Sabbath Day from the seventh day of the week to the first day of the week.
However, when we look at the background of this passage, Paul had finished his third missionary journey and was passing by Troas on his way back from Europe to Judea (Troas was a place which Paul visited earlier). Upon his stopover at Troas, he gathered the people there and spoke a very long sermon until midnight before leaving for Judea on the following day. A certain young man named Eutychus, who sat at the window listening to Paul’s message, sunk into a deep sleep and fell down from the third story. Paul performed a miracle and raised him up from the dead. This service was not a Lord’s Day’s service and neither did Paul change the Sabbath to Sunday. Had he changed the Sabbath to Sunday, there would be an upheaval in the whole Jewish World.
On one occasion, the Jewish believers strongly opposed Paul when he said that the Gentiles needn’t be circumcised when they believe in Christ and can still be saved. They insisted that the Gentiles undergo Circumcision. Even though it was Paul who taught the Jewish believers that they can be saved as long as they undergo Baptism, the Jewish teachers continued to oppose Paul to the extent that they had to hold a conference in Jerusalem to make on decision on whether the gentiles needed to be circumcised to be saved when they believe in Christ. Had Paul changed the Sabbath Day keeping to the first day of the week, surely there would have been a turmoil. However, there is no such recording in the Bible and we can see that the Sabbath keeping continued to be kept right until AD 70.
And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.
Jesus Christ was prophesizing that around AD 70 the Romans shall destroy the City of Jerusalem. Jesus died around AD 30 and the destruction of Jerusalem took place forty years later.
Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!
Woe to those who are pregnant as the Roman soldiers take no pity on them. Verse 20 talks about how one’s flight should not take place in winter as winter in Jerusalem can be quite cold and accompanied with snow thus making it inconvenient to flee. It was also hoped that one’s flight do not take place on a Sabbath Day as the Pharisees added a law that the people are not allowed to travel more than 1 kilometre from their place. Hence, the people were still keeping the Sabbath in AD 70.
Our keeping of the Sabbath today, is a continuation from the keeping of the Sabbath in the Apostolic times.
Who kept the Sabbath? Both the Jews and the Gentiles.
Now when Paul and his party set sail from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem. But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and sat down. And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.”
Paul kept the Sabbath in Antioch in Pisidia. One Sabbath later in Verse 44, Paul went to the synagogue again and this time round, the gentiles gathered there with the Jews to listen to Paul’s words. During those days, there were two categories of Gentiles who would go to the synagogue during the Sabbath Day.
1. Uncircumcised Gentiles otherwise known as those who fear God
An example would be Cornelius who is a God-fearing man and kept to a prayer schedule three times a day just like the Jews
2. Circumcised Gentiles who convert to Judaism
In the second Sabbath that Paul went to Antioch to preach to them, the Jews were very angry. However, the Gentiles were very happy.
Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
The Gentiles were very happy when they heard the words of Paul. Only those who are ordained to eternal life, believed. Even amongst these Gentiles, only those whom the Lord has chosen can receive this Salvation grace. Therefore, it is not only the Jews who kept the Sabbath in the Old Testament, the Gentiles too kept the Sabbath in the New Testament.
For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant, Even to them I will give in My house And within My walls a place and a name Better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name That shall not be cut off.
Also the sons of the foreigner Who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, And to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants— Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And holds fast My covenant— Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
Verse 6 says that the sons of the Gentiles/foreigners draw themselves to the Lord to serve Him. During the time of Isaiah, there were still Gentiles who embrace Judaism, kept the Sabbath and also receive blessings. Sabbath is not just meant for the Jews but also for the Gentiles who keep the Sabbath in both Old and New Testaments. The Apostles and the Jews in the Bible (who believed in Christ) kept the Sabbath as well.
Therefore, keeping the Sabbath is a covenant which the people did not break as the consequence would be death.
Sabbath is a sign that we are the elect of God
Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them.
Sabbath is a sign of the elect. God called His people a holy people. What do you mean by holy people? Does it mean that only their conduct is holy? We must understand that holiness can also mean being separated, being called out from the world, being a chosen people just like how the Israelites were chosen out from the face of the whole Earth.
God gave them His laws, statues and ordinances to keep so as to continue being the chosen people separated for God. This was very important to God. Sabbath is a sign of being chosen by God. If we are not chosen, we will not receive this sign. On the contrary, we know we are chosen if we have this sign. The chosen ones are holy unto the Lord.
Ezekiel 22:8, 26
You have despised My holy things and profaned My Sabbaths.
Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.
Sabbath is part of the holy things that the Lord demands of us. If we keep them, then we are holy unto the Lord. If we have a holy conduct but do not keep the Sabbath, we will be deemed as unholy unto the Lord. Sabbath is part of this holiness of God’s people hence it is a sign. This teaching is also repeated in Ezekiel 44:23-24.
“And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. In controversy they shall stand as judges, and judge it according to My judgments. They shall keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed meetings, and they shall hallow My Sabbaths.
Keep the commandment and hallow the Sabbath. This is part of discerning between holy and unholy, clean and unclean. If we don’t keep the Sabbath, we are seen as unholy in the sight of God. We don’t have a right to the saving grace of the Lord.
It is not just turning up for a Sabbath service but more importantly, keeping it with all our heart and soul to serve our Lord. If we come with this kind of heart to keep the Sabbath, then it is part of working out our salvation with fear and trembling.
In the True Jesus Church, we must keep the Sabbath with all our heart and all our faith, with holiness from within us to honour and glorify our God. We must obey the commandment of God when we keep the Sabbath. It is not just turning up for a Sabbath service but more importantly, keeping it with all our heart and soul to serve our Lord. If we come with this kind of heart to keep the Sabbath, then it is part of working out our salvation with fear and trembling.
We must tell people to keep the Sabbath. Especially our own church members who are already baptized and part of this covenant. Tell them to be holy and keep the Sabbath. Remembering the Sabbath itself is not fulfilling the covenant. If we don’t have the works of faith, how can we receive the grace of salvation?
To keep the Sabbath 52 weeks in a year is not easy. However, those who have faith will never miss a Sabbath day. There was a group of Taiwan church members who went to visit Shanghai in China. As there wasn’t any church established back then in Shanghai, the members kept the Sabbath on the tourist bus while they were travelling. They sang hymns, had worship service and even bore testimonies on the bus. The conductress who was a non-True Jesus Church member was touched by the word and eventually she came to believe. She migrated to one of the countries in Europe and was baptized into True Jesus Church. How did she came to know about the True Church? From the testimonies of those who kept the Sabbath on the bus.
This sharing doesn’t mean that we should/can get onto the bus every Sabbath to pray and keep the Sabbath. Where there is a church, a synagogue, we should gather for Sabbath service. This is an example of working out our Salvation and receiving the grace of the Lord. This is eternal life.
We must not relax in the keeping of the Sabbath especially when we are in the last days and all the more so where Covid restrictions are enforced. We have to be diligent in keeping this commandment of the Lord and the Lord will be diligent to send His blessings upon you.