What biblical evidence do we have that the Sabbath commandment is written on every human heart?
- Genesis 2.1-3: after God created Adam and Eve (on day six), “he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” From the beginning of time, Adam and Eve knew the seventh day of the week was holy. They were there. What does “made it holy” mean except that the first man and woman would have set it apart? Does anyone really think that God set it apart but kept that a secret from Adam and Eve? From the very beginning, human beings have known the seventh day was for rest from regular work. It was not an Old Covenant distinctive. It was a creation distinctive.
- Exodus 16: God commanded the Israelites to gather manna for themselves six days a week, and on the sixth day, to gather twice as much, because the seventh day was a day of rest. Some disobeyed God and went out on the seventh day to gather bread and found none, and the LORD rebuked them: “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath” (28-29). And so the people rested on the seventh day after that. The key here is that this is before the covenant at Mt. Sinai in chapter 19-20, and the giving of the 10 Commandments! The Sabbath is not an Old Covenant ordinance. It is a creation ordinance.
- Exodus 20.8: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The Fourth Commandment is a call to remember. You cannot remember something you never knew. God calls Israel to remember the God-ordained day of rest; He does not tell them He is starting something new in the Law of Moses. He is codifying a Law on stone tablets that is morally written upon the human heart to begin with.
- Mark 2.23-28: in a passage that many non-Sabbatarians might use to show that we were never meant to obey the Sabbath to the “letter of the Law”, Jesus actually makes abundantly clear that the Sabbath is a law written on every human heart. His point is that we are to do good on the Sabbath, and that He is Lord over the Sabbath; the Sabbath is not authoritative over Him. And in saying this he says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” In other words, the Sabbath was to be a gift to man; man is not subservient to the Sabbath. But notice the truth that escaped me for so long: Sabbath was made for man. When was the Sabbath made for man? On the seventh day of creation. And every human being ever since was intended to benefit from it.
Of course we have all failed in this. Thank God for the God-man who came into the world to show us exactly how to observe it, and observed it in our place.
But what did faithful observance for ancient Israel look like? And how does that inform how the Christian church should observe it? Stay tuned for the fourth and final post.
The Sabbath Commandment is binding on the Christian. I used to object, “but we are not under the Law of Moses! We are under the Law of Christ!”
A few responses:
- check out my brother’s blog. He basically has come to the same conclusion as me. And my conversation with him as he was working on his seminary paper was the final straw for me that brought me into the Sabbatarian position. You can read his reflections on his paper here
- Whenever we say “we are not under the Law” we rightly utilize biblical language (Romans 6.15) but do not think deeply enough about what we mean by “under.” Amen, we are not “under” the Law of Moses, but in what way? To simply say “we are not under the Law” therefore, we are not obligated to obey the Sabbath is the same exact line of thinking that liberals use to say “we are not under the Law of Moses, therefore we do not need to obey the homosexuality laws.” And it actually should be the same thing we say about “do not murder” and “do not steal.” We are not “under” the Law as a way to get right with God, or as a way to remain in His favor, or in His promised Land, etc. That is not why we choose not to murder. We’re Christians! We are not obeying the Law out of covenantal obligation, but rather out of Spirit-wrought, faith-filled, Christ-centered love of God.
- When Paul says “we are not under the Law” he means “we are not under the Old Covenant”
- But Paul would also say “we are under moral obligation before holy God.”
- To say “we are under the Law of Christ” is also good, biblical language (Gal 6.2). But what exactly is the “Law of Christ”? Did the Eternal Son not have ownership over the Law of Moses? Was the Law for the Old Covenant people not in some sense Messiah’s Law? If God’s Law given to God’s Covenant people in the Torah does not help God’s Covenant people today know what we are called to do as His Covenant people, what in the world can we trust?
- Many today would say the Law of Christ is all and only what is revealed in the New Covenant; many would say we obey 9 of the 10 Commandments because those are the ones repeated in the New Testament
- Does that hermeneutic stand up to careful scrutiny? Would the Sabbath Commandment apply to Christians if it had simply been repeated in the New (and of course we Sabbatarians would say it is repeated in places like Matthew 23.23)?
- Would a Christian in AD 35 not know that “Do not murder” applied to them until they read it in the Bible or heard it from an Apostle?
- This whole issue is about trying to figure out how a human being is supposed to know what God requires of them. The bible says even the most biblically illiterate unbeliever still knows of a Moral Law that is given by their Creator (Romans 1.32 and Romans 2.15)
So what is the Biblical evidence that the Sabbath Commandment is written on the heart of every human being? And how did ancient Israel understand that specific Commandment should shape their lives? That is the next two posts