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Lesson 7: Lord of the Sabbath *

Introduction: Last week we discussed that God's law is intended to be a blessing to humans, not something to trip us up. One great blessing of the law is the Sabbath. When I was in law school, the competition was fierce. Not only was law school inherently a lot of hard work, but students knew that the quality of the job they would secure after law school depended upon their class rank. After my first year, my school reacted to the pressure by not releasing our class rank! I had my own safe harbor, the Sabbath. On it I would not do any school work - and I was able to take a break without feeling guilty! It was wonderful. God blessed my faithfulness and gave me excellent grades. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more about the Sabbath.

  1. Sabbath Markers

    1. Read Genesis 2:1-3. We previously discussed these verses in our lesson about the holiness of God. What was it we said about the Sabbath being holy? (Being holy meant that it was set apart from the rest of the days. It was blessed. Its holiness came from something that God did, not anything that we did.)

    2. Read Mark 2:27. Why do you think that God made the Sabbath? (It was made for us. At a minimum, it was made as a day of rest for us.)

    3. Read Exodus 20:8-11. What other reason do we find for God making the Sabbath holy? (To commemorate God's creation of "the heavens and the earth.")

    4. Read Deuteronomy 5:12-15. What reason do we find here for keeping the Sabbath? (God rescued His people from unfair treatment. Therefore we should treat those under our control fairly by giving them a Sabbath rest.)

      1. Is that a reason to believe that the Sabbath was made only for the Jews? (No. It was simply a "rescue" example. God intervened to bring justice. Today God rescues us from being slaves to sin and death.)

  2. Superbowl Sabbath

    1. Read Mark 15:33-34, Mark 15:37-39 and Mark 15:42-43. On what day was Jesus crucified? (Friday, before the Sabbath.)

    2. Read Mark 16:1-3 and Mark 16:5-9. When did Jesus arise from the grave? (Sunday.)

      1. Why the delay? Put yourself in the place of God the Father. Your Son has just been tortured to death. Just before your Son died He said to You, "Why have you forsaken Me?" In addition, your Son just won the "Superbowl" of the universe - He defeated sin and brought victory to the Kingdom. How long would You wait to put your arms around your Son? How long would You wait to say, "I've not forsaken You!" (I would not wait! Absolutely, I would not wait.)

        1. So, why did God do what none of us would have done? (God waited for the very same reason why He celebrated the creation of the world on Sabbath. He waited for the very same reason why He celebrated the liberation of His people from Egypt on the Sabbath. Jesus rested on the Sabbath in celebration of what He had accomplished!)

  3. Sabbath and the Early Church

    1. An early church father, Ignatius of Antioch, in his letter to the Magnesians 9-10 says, "If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death.... It is absurd to profess Christ Jesus, and to Judaize. For Christianity did not embrace Judaism, but Judaism Christianity."

      1. What reason(s) does Ignatius give for worshiping on Sunday? (Jesus' resurrection on Sunday. Antagonism towards Judaism.)

        1. How popular were the Jews when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D.?

        2. Is Judaism in conflict with Christianity? (This gives us a very clear insight into the reasons for early Sunday keeping. It is based on a "logical" argument that is no better than the logic of Jesus resting on Sabbath after His crucifixion. In addition, it has this dark side of popular hatred of the Jews. It was not until I engaged in serious theological discussions with one of my Jewish friends that I was educated to the close historical connection between animosity towards Jews and the rejection of the Biblical Sabbath. Animosity towards Jews (think Moses, Peter, Paul) has no theological basis, and no proper place in our thinking. Jesus came to fulfill, not destroy, the prophecies and practices of the Old Testament. Matthew 5:17.)

    2. Roman Emperor Constantine in A.D. 321 officially declared Sunday the new day of rest for the Empire. I'm reading a currently popular book on the history of Jerusalem. It says that Constantine had two great interests, the power of the sun and Christianity. He struck some coins with the image of the cross and others with the image of the sun. What does this suggest about his motive for Sunday worship? (He wanted Christians to incorporate the worship the sun in their religious practices.)

      1. Some Christians run around saying that they pay no attention to Christmas or Easter because they have "pagan" roots. I reject these arguments because of the importance of these religious holidays to Christians today. Should we also have the same attitude about weekly worship on a Sunday Sabbath? (That would be my attitude if it were not for the very clear, consistent, Biblical command that the seventh day alone was made holy by God. Christmas and Easter were never designated as holy in the Bible, therefore I am free to claim their current importance in Christendom.)

  4. Our Lord's Day

    1. A common term for Sunday is to call it the Lord's day. Did Jesus worship on Sunday or give any indication that He rejected the Sabbath? Let's read Matthew 12:1-2. If Jesus wanted to signal a change worship from Sabbath to another day, would this be an excellent opportunity to do so?

    2. Read Matthew 12:3-5. What is the underlying assumption about the holiness of the Sabbath in these verses? (He compares eating the consecrated bread to His disciples eating on Sabbath - neither one is lawful. He compares the priests working on Sabbath to his disciples "working" on Sabbath. He says they are "innocent," but not because of any problem with the Sabbath.)

    3. Read Matthew 12:6-8. Why was David innocent, the priests in the temple innocent, and Jesus' disciples innocent of Sabbath-breaking? (A higher purpose. David apparently had a right to do this because he was God's anointed. The priests were laboring for God. Jesus was God and His disciples were with Him in advancing the Kingdom of God.)

      1. What does Jesus mean when He says, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice?" (Read Hosea 6:6. The point of our walk with God is not sacrificing animals (confessing sin), it is to love and obey God. The accusers of the disciples were in the presence of God, yet they had their eyes on a minor matter. Jesus was not undercutting the importance of the Sabbath, He was directing His followers to focus on the important thing in any matter.)

        1. How would Sabbath-keepers apply this lesson today?

    4. Read John 9:10-11 and John 9:13-16. (I once had a class member strongly condemn Billy Graham for not keeping the Sabbath. This is the charge leveled by some of the Pharisees.)

    5. Read John 9:35-41. What does Jesus mean when He says that He has come so that the blind will see? (Jesus again is talking about keeping a proper perspective on the Sabbath and the nature of its importance. Graham converted hundreds of thousands in his life. Perhaps more than any one else, he was face of Protestant Christianity for decades. My class member, who probably never converted anyone, was not focused on the Kingdom of God. Jesus calls on us to focus on promoting the Kingdom of God.)

    6. Read Matthew 12:9-12. Is Jesus rejecting the holiness of the Sabbath? (No.)

      1. What is Jesus saying about the Sabbath? (Again, He is saying that we have to view it properly - a tool to advance the Kingdom of God. Healing and helping others are consistent with the Sabbath.)

    7. Read Matthew 12:13-14. Would it have mattered to the man if Jesus waited until sundown to heal him? (No.)

      1. Why did Jesus heal him on Sabbath? (To make His point about how the Sabbath should be understood.)

      2. If Jesus were about to abolish the Sabbath, why would He make this kind of effort to clarify how the Sabbath fit in the fight for the Kingdom of God?

    8. Friend, the Sabbath is a memorial of what Jesus has done for us - He created us, He rescued us from sin, He died for us and He rose for us. We must never stop celebrating that on the holy day He designated and never changed. But, we must also keep a proper perspective on the Sabbath in advancing the Kingdom of God. Will you commit to the Sabbath today as part of your work to advance God's Kingdom?

  5. Next week: Creation Care.
* Copr. 2012, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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