Don't let anybody hold you to the Sabbath. It was part of the system that included the temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices. It's gone.
It was only the shadow, not the substance. For many Christians, Sunday is the new Sabbath. The day is reserved for worship at church and little else.
No work, no travel, no recreational activities. Other people say that Jesus overruled Old Testament law, which means Sabbath regulations don't apply. Sunday is just like any other day. And then there are those who believe that every Old Testament law still applies, so Saturday is still the Sabbath.
How do you know what's right? John MacArthur helps you understand the Sabbath, why God created it, how you're supposed to view it as John continues his study here on Grace To You titled, The Sabbath and Why We Worship On Sunday. So with a lesson now, here is John. How are we to understand the place that the Sabbath plays, if any, in the life of the people of God? Turn in your Bible for a moment to Exodus chapter 20. This is the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. And near the middle of the Ten Commandments is the Fourth Commandment. We begin to read about it in verse 8. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall not do any work, you are your son or your daughter, your male or your female servants or your cattle or your sojourner or stranger who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. When Jesus came, He didn't just want to eliminate the bad priests and keep the good priests, He eliminated the priesthood. He didn't just want to clean up the people's attitudes as they gave their sacrifices, He obliterated the sacrificial system because He brought an end to Judaism. With all its ceremonies, all its rituals, all its sacrifices, all of its external trappings, the temple, the holy of holies, all of it, including the Sabbath...including the Sabbath.
Sabbath observance went away with all the rest that belonged to Judaism. We begin to understand this by watching Jesus and how He treated the Sabbath. How did Jesus treat the Sabbath?
I've said this before, any way He wanted...absolutely any way He wanted. He is the mediator, we know, of a new covenant, a better covenant. It's important to notice that just as He obliterated the sacrificial system, He obliterated the Sabbath system. Look at Matthew 12...Matthew chapter 12, verse 1, Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath, His disciples became hungry, began to pick the heads of grain and eat. By the way, there was actually no Old Testament law forbidding them to do that. In fact, it was allowed, but the Jews had added endless restrictions to the Old Testament. So when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath. He said to them, Have you not read what David did? You think this is bad? When he became hungry, he and his companions entered the house of God and ate the consecrated showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those with him but for the priests alone?
I'll even give you something worse. David and his men ate the showbread. Or have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? You all make a big issue out of not working on the Sabbath.
Guess what? While you're not working, all the priests are working, carrying out all the offerings and all the sacrifices, which reminds us that this law is not moral. It's symbolic. So Jesus, rather than acquiescing to their concern over a violation of the Sabbath, points to other violations of the Sabbath. In verse 8 He says, The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. He can do anything He wants with the Sabbath. He can institute it. He can make commands for restrictions. He can require death for violation of those commands, as in the Mosaic Law, or He can set it aside totally. He can abrogate it.
He can nullify it. And there is the transition that is taking place in the New Testament. As Jesus arrives, everything that is part of the system of Judaism is coming to its end. Look in Luke chapter 14...Luke chapter 14. Again it's in verse 1, it happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely and there in front of them was a man suffering from dropsy. And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?
But they kept silent. He took hold of Him, healed Him, sent Him away. And He said to them, Which of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?
And they could make no reply to this. They thought healing someone was a violation of the Sabbath. Jesus appears to have chosen the Sabbath day for His healing purposely because it struck a blow at this symbol. Jesus is announcing the end of the Sabbath. By the way, healing was no violation of Sabbath law. The Old Testament doesn't indicate that.
But then again, healing didn't happen. In Mark chapter 2, let's go back to that chapter where He is passing through the grain fields on a Sabbath. His disciples begin to make their way while picking the heads of grain, the same account as in Matthew. The Pharisees say to Him, Look, why are they doing this? It's not lawful on the Sabbath.
Then He goes through the illustration of David and etc. It comes down in verse 27, to the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath. God designed the Sabbath to be a blessing, to bring rest, to bring a day in the week when you could thank God for the glory of His creation and also be made aware that paradise had been lost. It was a day to show gratitude for the creation and a day to repent and seek forgiveness.
It was right in the middle of the law because they lived in violation of that law, if not actively in their hearts. As Jesus said, if you do these things in your heart, it's as if you've committed these sins in the Sermon on the Mount. So our Lord has given the Sabbath to be a blessing to man, to give him rest from his work, a taste of Eden where all was rest before the Fall, to give him an opportunity to thank God for the creation and then to examine his life against the Law and seeing the sin there, seek for forgiveness and mercy and the result in joy and peace and salvation. And He is Lord of the Sabbath. He is greater than the Sabbath. The Sabbath will be whatever He desires it to be, whatever He designs it to be, nothing more and nothing less.
Turn to John 5. Opposition to Jesus is smoldering under the surface at this time, but this particular healing brought it out in the open. There's a feast of the Jews.
We're not sure exactly which, but we could call it a festival or a Sabbath feast. There is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticos. And then it says, in these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, withered, waiting for the moving of the waters, some dispute over the authenticity of this particular portion there. An angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and so forth. Part of verse 3 and 4 may have been added later, that's why they have little brackets there.
But in verse 5, this picks up the original text. A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, he knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, he said to him, do you wish to get well? A sick man answered him, sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water has stirred up, a while I am coming another steps down before me.
This was probably some kind of a superstitious idea that the first one in the water when the ripples came got healed. And Jesus said to him, get up, pick up your pallet and walk. A very light straw mat could be rolled up under his shoulder. Immediately the man became well in verse 9, picked up his pallet, began to walk, here's the rub, now it was the Sabbath that day. Old Testament law didn't forbid walking, didn't forbid carrying your pallet from one place to another.
But rabbinic tradition had formulated, I don't know, some say nearly forty different forbidden activities, you see them in the Mishnah, one of which was carrying your mat. So Jesus had him violate the Sabbath. He didn't have to heal the man on the Sabbath. He didn't have to command the man to do something that violated their Sabbath sensibilities, but he did it and he did it purposely.
Verse 15 says, the man went away, told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this reason, the Jews were persecuting Jesus because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. Jesus would never violate the Ten Commandments. Jesus would never violate the Law of God.
He is wholly harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. But Jesus did anything He wanted on the Sabbath and incited the leaders in the doing of it because it was part of bringing down that whole system. Verse 17, He goes even beyond that and defends what He did by saying this, My Father is working until now and I Myself am working.
Wow! This is a claim to be deity. My Father and I are doing our work before your eyes.
We are working. For this reason, therefore, verse 18, the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. He was calling Himself...He was calling, I should say, God His Father and continually involved in activities that violated Sabbath Law. Pharisees charged Jesus with breaking the Sabbath Law, making Himself equal with God and this led them to kill Him eventually.
Jesus never attempted to fit His activities into the Sabbath Law of the Old Covenant. He established His own authority as one with God and as Lord over the Sabbath. Pharisees were strict Sabbath keepers.
They followed the Old Covenant and embellishments to the letter. And yet they missed the whole point of the Sabbath. They found no rest from their endless works, efforts at salvation.
They found no real honest repentance. But Sabbath Laws were mere shadows of hope, a weekly reminder that there was a paradise to be regained and it was through the means of righteousness there could be a rest from the endless struggle and the horrible burden of trying to earn your salvation. When Jesus came, He brought the rest, the true rest. The child of God is now a new person. Under the New Covenant we are healed and washed and found and accepted. We have entered into rest with none other than the Creator Himself. We have been given righteousness.
We rejoice in that gift. We cease all effort to earn our salvation. Jesus literally did away with the Sabbath. What about the rest of the New Testament? What does the New Testament say to the church regarding the Sabbath?
Let's look at Hebrews 3, verse 7, probably a good place to start. The Holy Spirit says, today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me as in the day of trial in the wilderness where your fathers tried Me by testing Me and saw My works for 40 years, therefore I was angry with this generation and said they always go astray in their heart and they do not know My ways and I swore in My wrath they shall not enter into My rest. God's true rest didn't come through Joshua. God's true rest didn't come through Moses. God's true rest comes only through Jesus Christ. Joshua led the nation of Israel into the land of their promised rest and that it was nothing more than a temporary earthly rest, merely a shadow of the final ultimate heavenly rest, My rest. This is the promise of salvation that God gives to those who put their trust in Him. Verse 12, take care, brethren, that there be not in any of you an evil unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God, but encourage one another day after day as long as it's still called today so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. While it is said today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, for who provoked Him when they had heard indeed did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? The whole generation died in the wilderness. And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest but to those who were disobedient?
So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. The kind of rest that is important for us is the salvation rest that comes by faith...by faith in God. Unbelief forfeits rest. The rest that the New Testament writers are concerned about, even the emphasis in the book of Hebrews which is a very Jewish epistle, is not upon a sabbath observance, but upon a spiritual salvation rest. Look at chapter 4 verse 1, let us fear if while a promise remains of entering His rest, any of you might seem to have come short of it. The rest that the New Testament concerns itself with is not a day of the week, it is salvation. For indeed we have had good news preached to us just as they also, but the word they heard did not profit them cause it was not united by faith in those who heard.
For we have believed, enter that rest. There is never a command in the New Testament to keep the sabbath. All ten commandments are repeated in the New Testament, some numerous times except the fourth command, it is never repeated in the New Testament, not one single time. It was in the midst of the moral law a sign and a symbol to lead the people to rest and repentance. But when you come to the New Testament, there's never a repeat of that command. The rest that the New Testament is concerned about is the rest that comes to the soul from hearing and believing the good news preached. That's the rest the New Testament offers. Verse 9 says, there is a sabbath rest for the people of God, for the one who has entered his rest has himself rested also from his works as God did from his. That's so remarkable.
What does that mean? There's only two possible concepts about getting to heaven. You work your way in or it's a gift, right? For the Jews, they were working. But when you enter the rest of grace and the rest of faith, works cease. The day you came to Jesus Christ, you cease trying to earn your salvation, right?
You entered into permanent rest. This is just a magnificent New Testament emphasis. The Mosaic Sabbath, the symbol, the sign was a dim reflection of the true rest. Look at Romans for a moment, chapter 14. Since this is true that the rest the New Testament calls for is a spiritual rest, salvation rest from the works approach to righteousness, you can no longer make anything out of the Sabbath. Listen to Romans 14.5, one person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike.
Each person is fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day observes it for the Lord. There were Jews who had come to faith in Christ and had a hard time letting go of the Sabbath.
It was pretty much ingrained in them. They thought they were still obeying the Lord by maintaining Old Covenant Sabbath Law. They observed it for the Lord. He who observes the day observes it for the Lord. He who eats following the dietary laws does it for the Lord. He who gives thanks to God, he who eats not for the Lord, he doesn't eat and gives thanks to God. In other words, as verse 5 says, each person fully convinced in his own mind does what he thinks is right.
It really doesn't matter. Verse 8 says, if we live, we live for the Lord. If we die, we die for the Lord.
Therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. Don't make an issue out of the Sabbath. As he says back in verse 2, some people are concerned about dietary laws. Some people are concerned about Sabbath observance.
Those things are part of a passing scheme. And there's instruction in the New Testament elsewhere to let these people develop their understanding of their freedom from these prescriptions. Don't force them against their conscience.
Jewish believers still felt compelled to observe Sabbath law, dietary law. Let them do that until they've come to the fullness of their freedom. What is remarkable about this is there's no command here to do that. This would be a perfect place to say, and those of you who aren't doing it, shape up.
It doesn't happen. In Galatians chapter 4 and verse 9, but now that you have come to know God, or rather be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years.
I fear for you, perhaps I have labored over you for nothing. You have no obligation to go back to the calendar prescriptions of the festivals and the Sabbaths of the Mosaic economy. Turn to Colossians chapter 2. This is perhaps the most definitive because it pulls two signs together, the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant circumcision and the sign of the Mosaic Covenant Sabbath. And in Colossians chapter 2, of course we know that circumcision has been completely abolished in the New Covenant, totally abolished. Galatians 5, 2 says, if you receive circumcision, Christ is of no benefit to you. If you receive circumcision, Christ is no benefit to you.
It doesn't matter. In Christ neither circumcision or uncircumcision means anything. It's faith working through love. And so here in Colossians chapter 2 verse 11, in Christ you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands. In the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, you had a far more dramatic surgery and it was internal.
You were buried with Him in baptism and you were raised with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead. You who were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you made alive together with Him having forgiven us all our transgressions. Set aside circumcision. If you hang on to circumcision, you make Christ of no effect. The sign of the Abrahamic Covenant is gone, that covenant passes away because that covenant cannot save. And then in verse 16, therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day, things which are a mere shadow of what is to come but the substance belongs to Christ. Don't let anybody hold you to a Sabbath. And that's referring to the weekly Sabbath because the other festival Sabbaths are covered under the term festival and new moon. Don't let anybody hold you to the Sabbath. It was part of the system that included the temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices.
It's gone. It was only the shadow, not the substance. It only pointed to the fact that God was the Creator, that paradise had been lost, that you had come under the terrifying judgment of the Law and needed to repent and come to God and seek righteousness and mercy and grace at His hand.
But it didn't provide that. That is provided in Jesus Christ. Paul is saying, you no longer need the shadow, you have the substance. You have the rest, the true rest. That's Grace To You with John MacArthur.
Thanks for being with us. John is a pastor. He's the Bible teacher here on Grace To You. He's also chancellor of the Master's University and Seminary. And his current focus is the Sabbath and why we worship on Sunday.
Well, friend, today you heard a lot about life in first century Israel in a lesson that sort of bridged a 2,000 year culture gap. And John, I know you'd say that when it comes to unpacking a Bible passage and filling in those gaps, that's something everyone can do. It's not just for the seminary trained. No, I think the Lord expects all of His children to understand the Bible.
And I don't think it's that difficult. I mean, there's this kind of a traditional approach to the Bible. A group of people sit down and read something and say, wow, what does this mean to you? Well, that is not the interpretation of the Bible. You don't start with what does it mean to you. You start with what did it mean when it was written?
What did God mean when He said this? Then after you find out what God meant by what He said, then you can talk about how it applies to you. There is a right way to study the Bible. There is a way to close the 2,000 year gap. There's a cultural gap, a language gap, a geographical gap between life today and life in Bible times. And those gaps can be closed by understanding something of the biblical world, the biblical language, biblical history, cultural customs, and things like that. That's the real fun of Bible study is to reconstruct the scene. People say we've got to bring the Bible into modern times.
No, just the opposite. We have to take the modern reader into Bible times to understand it. I'd love to send you a free copy of my book, How to Study the Bible. Beautiful little book, paperback.
It's a great read. It's title again, How to Study the Bible. It'll give you all the tools you need to make sense out of the Bible so you know what it means by what it says. Then you can apply it free, by the way, to first timers for sale to everybody else. Just ask for the book, How to Study the Bible.
That's right. This book will help you approach Scripture with a plan, a clear strategy that can help you understand what you read and how to apply what you've learned. Pick up John's book, How to Study the Bible. It's free if it's your first time contacting us.
Just get in touch with us today. Call now at 800-55-GRACE or you can go to our website, gty.org. If you're afraid you're studying Scripture incorrectly or you just want to get better at doing it, be sure to request How to Study the Bible. It's filled with practical instruction for rightly dividing the truth. And we'll send you How to Study the Bible for free if you've never contacted us before. All you have to do is call us at 800-55-GRACE or go to gty.org. Also, while you're at the website, don't forget about the Study Bible app. It's preloaded with the English Standard, New American Standard, and King James versions of the Bible. Plus, for a reasonable price you can unlock the footnotes from the MacArthur Study Bible. That's 25,000 footnotes that will help you understand every passage of Scripture that might confuse you. Just go to gty.org and download the app. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for making this broadcast part of your day and be back tomorrow as John continues his series titled The Sabbath and Why We Worship on Sunday with another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
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