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Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath (Part 3 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
October 1, 2022 4:00 am

Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath (Part 3 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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October 1, 2022 4:00 am

When Jesus declared Himself Lord of the Sabbath, was He dismissing the fourth commandment? Are we being legalistic when we set the day aside as a holy day? Hear the answers to these questions when you join us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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Was Jesus somehow doing away with the Sabbath? Jesus has now brought him into the very center of the synagogue, and the gentlemen have been standing there, presumably with sinews and nerve endings and everything, completely atrophied and useless. He took him center stage. He said, I want you to stretch out your hand. And what he was clearly unable to do, he did. If you can't sleep tonight, lie awake thinking about that, that Jesus asked him to do what he was clearly unable to do, and he did it, in the same way that he asks sinners to repent of their sins, to believe in him, something they are clearly unable to do, and they do it. It wasn't that he was able to do it, and so Jesus just said, Do what you can do.

He clearly couldn't do it. So that the word of Jesus was not only a life-changing word, but it was a life-giving word, as it is to us this morning, because the shriveled hand is only an indication of the shriveled hearts of men and women. And he comes to us, and he says, Now stretch out and lay hold.

And we say, But I can't. But his word is life-giving. You can imagine the man putting his hand in his pocket, shaking hands with himself, waving to people, walking down the road, clapping people on the back, and look at the Pharisees. Furious!

Furious! You see, Pharisees can never share such joy, and they begin to discuss with one another what they might do with Jesus. Now, that is essentially it. There are two ways that we can go at this point. The first is this way—to say, once again, the words and works of Jesus demand a response, and neutrality is not an option. Confronted this morning by the works and the wonders and the words of the Lord Jesus, he comes to people and he addresses us with such clarity, and we cannot remain neutral. Saul of Tarsus, who was embedded in this kind of Phariseeism, emerges from an experience of an encounter with the Lord Jesus to be able to say, as we thought of the funeral service this Thursday evening, To me to live is Christ and to die is gain. This was the radical change that had been brought about in his life. Up until that point, to him to live was regulation, to him to live was formalism, to him to live was Judaism, it was Phariseeism, it was all of these things.

What was it brought about the change? Well, he met Christ, he heard his voice, he bowed before him, and his life was radically changed. And this, of course, you see, is the great impact of what Luke is saying. Therefore, some of us this morning need to think in those terms. The second route down which these verses take us is the route of asking the larger question concerning the observance of the Sabbath principle by each of us today. In other words, forces us to ask the question, Is there any abiding significance to the fourth commandment?

And let me take a moment or two on this, and I will come back to it at a later time. The Pharisees clearly had added to the law of God their own extensive list of accretions. And there were many of these.

If you read old books, you can find. For example, a Pharisee laid down that you could walk five steps on the Sabbath, but you had to have a rest before you took the sixth step. That was the kind of stuff. Women were not allowed to wear ribbons in their hair on the Sabbath, because that would have been to carry a burden. You could not drag a stick on the ground on the Sabbath, because that would be akin to plowing. You could not pluck out a gray hair on the Sabbath if you saw it in the mirror, because that would be akin to reaping. And some of you have done a little reaping this morning, and some of you wish you could.

So this was what the Pharisee did. I would imagine that very few of us have any appreciation for that kind of mentality. Some of us, by dint of our background, may know something of it.

I certainly do. But I think that this congregation this morning is largely on the other side of the fence. The majority of you this morning have probably given very little thought to the notion of the perpetuity of the Sabbath—in other words, that there is any abiding influence and impact from the fourth commandment in the law of God. And indeed, so much so that we may be inclined to regard any attempts at maintaining the sanctity of the Sabbath, of keeping it holy, as nothing more than a form of the contemporary Phariseeism which Jesus here was setting aside.

And that's what people say. If anybody says, Well, you know, we have to wrestle with this issue of remembering the Sabbath day and keeping it holy, some say, But that is just Phariseeism! Don't you realize that in the Gospels Jesus dealt with that? He said the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, and they interpret that as meaning you can do what you like. And thirdly, Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, and he decided that he would just blow it apart, and that's why he dealt with the Pharisees as he did. Well, clearly, we're not reading our Bibles, because he was dealing with the abuse that was the additions and accretions of the Pharisees. He was not dealing with the use of that which God had formed and established from the very beginning of creation.

Now, the foundational question with which we need to wrestle, and I give it to you as part of your homework assignment, is this question, is then the fourth commandment a divine ordinance in the same way that the other nine commandments are divine ordinances? Now, some argue that it isn't. And they want me to argue in defense that it is. But the onus is on those who argue that it isn't to prove why it isn't, because I can show you why so clearly it is. It's simply in between number three and number five, and no one took it out.

So if you want to explain that it's out, then come and explain to me why it's out. But it is so clearly there. And if it is there, then adherence to it is not legalism. Because if adherence to the fourth commandment is legalism, then adherence to the fifth commandment is legalism. Indeed, any adherence to the commands is ipso facto legalism, which it clearly isn't. Is fidelity marital fidelity legalism? No. Is total honesty legalism? No. Is the honoring of my father and mother legalism?

No. Then is the keeping of the Sabbath legalism? The kind of change that we want to create here—and I find it in my heart as well—is born of the charge that any attempt to deal with the Sabbath in this way is a form of legalism, and the reason that you and I are tempted to regard it as legalism is because our consciences, in large measure, have become totally insensitive to the very sanctity for which the commandment calls.

In other words, we are so far removed from the very notion that for anybody to raise it as a matter of consideration is regarded as a form of Pharisaism immediately. Because after all, all of our ballgames are on Sundays. All of our golf tournaments end on Sundays. All of our Wimbledon is on Sundays.

All of our stores are open on Sundays. All of our everything is on Sundays. I mean, we couldn't reverse that. We couldn't deal with that. Therefore, if anybody's going to stand up and say, There is any abiding place to this issue of the Sabbath principle, nah, they've got it completely wrong.

And what has happened? Well, I think it's worthy for us to consider the possibility that theology has been replaced with expediency. In other words, we make decisions on the basis of expediency, not on the basis of theology. And when that happens, my conscience, then, is no longer captive to the law of God, but it is rather captive to the fluctuating fancies, ideas, and moods of the contemporary genre, so that we are moved not by an abiding principle of the law of God, but we are moved by the kind of ebb and flow of the culture around us and of the immediate culture of our own contemporary evangelicalism.

So if everybody has largely given up on it and we are caught in that flow, then we say to ourselves, Well, that's exactly what we're supposed to be doing. But we're being driven now by the expediency of the moment rather than by the theology. And of course, I recognize that such a statement is founded upon the notion that I do believe that there is a abiding place for the fourth commandment. If we determine that it is not an ordinance of God, and somehow or another there are only nine commandments left, then clearly my argument falls on the ground.

I understand that, and so do those of you who are thinking. And where the sanctity of the Sabbath principle is observed simply as a matter of custom and is not the product of conviction, then it will only be a matter of time before it becomes obsolete. In other words, you take Joseph. And Joseph knew that the demands of God demanded absolute purity for him. He had a conviction about absolute purity. If his commitment to purity was simply on the basis of custom—in other words, I only have to be pure if I'm in this situation and amongst my own people and everything else—but when I'm gone from there, when I'm in Egypt, I don't have to do those things, because they don't relate.

They don't cross territorial boundaries. And therefore, on the basis of expediency, I will determine what to do in the advances of Potiphar's wife. Where would Joseph have been?

In bed with Potiphar's wife. What was it that prevented him from doing so? Not custom—conviction. If he was driven simply by custom, then custom would have been blown away with the smell of her perfume. And if you or I have been brought up to some kind of legalistic observance of a structure of life, and it has never come to the level of conviction, then we will be moved anytime, any day, by any passing fancy. It will immediately become obsolete. Because after all, it was a custom, it was an accretion, it was an idea of man.

Somebody told us he had a bit of a bee in his ear, and he was concerned about this, and that's why we did it, and we don't do it anymore, and who cares? And two factors more than any other contribute to this loss of the application of the Sabbath principle. First—and this is your homework—the idea that Romans 14.5 and Colossians 2.16, which have to do with Sabbath days and special feasts, etc.—the idea and the teaching that there in those two passages, in Romans 14 and Colossians 2, Paul is dispensing with the moral law of God.

I ask you to think about that in all honesty. Do you really believe that Paul is setting aside the decalogue in Romans 14 after he has explained the abiding place of the law? You have to argue that he does, in order to get it out of there. He is obviously dealing with the ceremonial dimensions of man-made days, accretions, and alternative Sabbaths. I do not believe for a moment that he is setting aside the Sabbath principle.

And the second element that contributes to the notion that Sunday is whatever we want it to be is this whole matter of how did we get from the Sabbath on the seventh day to Sunday on the first day. And no one writes to me more than Seventh-day Adventists. I think I have more mail from Seventh-day Adventists who hear me addressing the issue of the Sabbath, and they heard it in the Ten Commandments series, and they listened, they listened, they listened. They said, This is one of our boys.

And all of a sudden I turned left on them, and they were furious. And so they write to me frequently to tell me that, Alistair Begg, you cannot be a Christian unless you follow a Saturday Sabbath rule. If they're right, of course, I am not a Christian, and neither are you.

So it's quite an allegation, isn't it, on the basis of this? Now, let me give you just a very brief sketch, and I'll wrap this up. How do we establish a change, then, from the seventh day to the first day? Is there a verse in the Bible you go to, and it says, Now change from the seventh to the first day? No.

Absolutely not. Therefore, we come to it as we come to many understandings in the Bible—for example, our understanding of the Trinity—not by turning to a verse which explains the Trinity but by taking the enveloping, unfolding pattern of God's revelation and saying, This is how we come to one God in three persons, coequal and coeternal. It's there in Scripture. When you read your Bible, you will discover that apart from Paul's use of Jewish synagogue worship and his evangelistic use of Jewish synagogue worship, Luke chapter 23 and verse 56 is the last reference to the followers of Christ keeping the Jewish Sabbath. Luke chapter 23 and verse 56, Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes, talking about the woman, but they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment. And that is the last reference that you find to the followers of Jesus maintaining the Jewish Sabbath. You then turn the pages, and you discover that the first Christians very quickly chose the first day of the week as the special day when they would meet to worship God.

You find this throughout the letters and also in Acts, Acts chapter 20, verse 7, 1 Corinthians 16, verse 2. And by the time that John is writing from the island of Patmos the Revelation, which is our closing book of the Bible, he is referring to the first day of the week as the Lord's Day, and he is doing so in a way that he understands everybody would be able to fasten on to. Why, then, would there be a change in the day? Because the early Christians wanted to separate themselves from the Jewish way of worship. Now, this raises another side note, which I will not get into, that has to do with the whole idea of professing messianic Jewish believers reintroducing the Sabbath on the seventh day.

I'm not going to touch that. But when you read the New Testament, you see very clearly that there was no attempt on the part of the apostles or of the immediate followers of Jesus to try and create some kind of quasi-Jewish Christian interface. But no, Jesus came and revolutionized their lives. Paul had been a Pharisee par excellence. Paul was now enjoying the liberty that was his in the Lord Jesus Christ.

He had no interest in trying to marry the two things. And the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 speaks to that. They had great things to celebrate on that day. Christ had risen on that day.

The Holy Spirit had been poured out on that day. And the early Christians celebrated the resurrection of the Lord Jesus without forgetting the original purpose of the Sabbath. But the question comes frequently to me, can we be sure that the New Testament Christians intended to replace Saturday with Sunday? Isn't it true to say that the first Sunday legislation wasn't brought in until the time of Constantine in the fourth century? And that's what the seventh-day Adventists always write to me about. They say, You don't have a leg to stand on, because you have to go to the fourth century and to Constantine before you can show that this was introduced.

I understand that that was the first official dimension of it. This is what Constantine said in AD 321. On the venerable day of the sun, S-U-N, let the magistrates and people residing in the city rest, and let all workshops be closed. So the seventh-day Adventist says, You see, the principle of the first day of the week is actually a pagan thing, and the true people are still on the seventh day of the week.

Well, no, you don't understand. The reason that Constantine was able to legislate in this way is because there was three hundred years of developing principle whereby the people of God were worshiping, celebrating, on this first day of the week. They had been using it as their Sabbath day. They recognized that there were differences between the Sabbath and the Lord's day, just as there were differences between the celebration of the Passover and the celebration of the Lord's Supper. But the early church leaders confirm what the apostles displayed, and that is that the Christian Sunday had taken the place of the Jewish Sabbath.

Now, I don't want to bore you with a lot of information, but you will discover if you read history that this is true. Preaching in the fourth century, a bishop by the name of Melita, the bishop of Sardis—I beg your pardon, preaching in the second century—he made clear these things. Tertullian, Oregon, Eusebius, all the church fathers would have concurred with Eusebius' word, Christ has changed and transferred the feast of the Sabbath to the rising of the light of a true rest, the Lord's day. And so the question remains, how, then, are we to think about our use of the Lord's day? I daren't go on, because I'll never finish.

Sorry to run out of time. Dreadful planning on my part, but enough, I think, to get some furious and to stir questions of faith in others. Oh God, our heavenly Father, we bless you this morning for your Word, the Bible. What a wonderful book. What an immense privilege to be able to study it as we do. How impoverished we are before its wisdom. How greatly in need of your insight and the teaching of your Spirit. How we see ourselves aligned with the Pharisees, and we repent of that. In the joyful freedom of the disciples, and we joy in that. In the immense need of the man with the shriveled hand, and we identify with that.

And we bless you this morning that to be confronted with the claims of Jesus Christ demands a yes or a no, demands faith or fury, but certainly neutrality is not an option. Hear us, O God, as we offer into your custody and care those who are on our minds in need of your grace and your help. As we pray for our culture. As we pray for the troubled spots of our world. As we pray for a fresh understanding of what it means to love your law and to delight in it. And to rejoice in the freedom that is found not in doing what we want, but in being able to do what we want. Receive then our lives, and thank you for the example of Christ whom we desire to follow, and in whose name we pray.

Amen. A powerful argument about why as believers in Christ we should obey the fourth commandment and keep the Sabbath day holy. We're listening to Truth for Life weekend.

Alistair Begg returns in just a minute. The month of October is Pastor Appreciation Month. If you are a pastor, we want to recommend to you an assortment of books, series, and articles to help you grow in your preaching and in the way you lead your congregation. There are also resources available that address the importance of personal devotion to God and theological challenges. You can visit truthforlife.org slash pastor to browse our list of recommended books. Find audio series or articles that are specifically prepared for you as you serve in ministry. We know that when a man is called into ministry, it often involves years of study, internships, seminary. But how is his wife prepared for service in the local church?

Well, usually her training is less formal, primarily through mentors or books. And today we want to recommend to you a book called Partners in the Gospel that can help guide both new and seasoned pastor's wives through the joys and challenges of ministry work. Find out more about the book Partners in the Gospel when you visit our website today.

That is truthforlife.org. Now, here's Alistair with a preview of the message we'll hear next weekend. In the late nineteenth century, a southern theologian here in the States, a man by the name of Dabney, expressed in quite graphic terms what he saw as the implications of failing to take seriously the fact that God does not intend for us to be like the energizer bunny. And when men and women engage their lives in that cycle, then there are inevitable implications. Now, it's almost humorous the way in which Dabney describes it, but perhaps he isn't as far from the mark as his somewhat archaic language may tend us to believe. This is what he says, if you try and work seven days straight, or if you try and please yourself seven days straight, or if you try a combination of working like a crazy person and pleasing yourself like a daft person all the time and lay aside the notion of the priority of the Lord's Day, then he says, attempting to do so brings upon the body lassitude.

It brings upon the body fatigue, nervous excitability, disease, premature old age, and often sudden death, and on the mind morbid excitement, impatience, rashness, blindness of judgment, and not seldom lunacy. Now, what he's saying is this. If you ignore what God has laid down as a fundamental aspect of humanity and as a gift to his creation and as a privilege to his redeemed, then you may actually go nuts. That's a contemporary explanation.

And you don't have to look very far around to find people living on the edge of craziness. I'm Bob Lapine. Is honoring the Sabbath a duty, or is it a gift from God? The way you answer that question will impact the way you approach the day and the way you begin each week. We'll hear more next weekend. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-29 03:24:38 / 2022-12-29 03:33:38 / 9

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