Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

The Sabbath and the Lord's Day

In Exodus 20: 8 we are admonished to remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. It’s the Fourth Commandment. Note that God did not say to remember a sabbath day. He said quite plainly, "Remember the Sabbath day, ...." Nowhere did He say, "Pick a Sabbath, any Sabbath."

And the Sabbath day is, and has always been, Saturday, not Sunday. In Spanish the name of Saturday is Sabado, deriving from Sabbath. Actually, in keeping with the creation account in Genesis, where God said that "the evening and the morning" were whichever day He was discussing at the time, the Jews recognize the Sabbath as beginning at sunset on Friday and concluding at sunset on Saturday. In any case, Christians generally go to church, not on the Sabbath, but on Sunday instead.

Why is that you ask? Because Sunday is the day of the week on which Jesus rose from the dead. Sunday is the Lord’s Day, not the Sabbath. Some Christian churches do meet on the Sabbath. The Catholic Church holds mass on the Sabbath, and most Messianic synagogues meet on the Sabbath. On the other hand, most protestant churches have their principle services on Sunday morning.

So that’s the difference between the Sabbath Day and the Lord’s Day. But now I would like us to consider how they are both alike. How is the Sabbath Day like the Lord’s Day? To find out, let’s look at a few events from Jesus’ ministry.

In Luke 14, verses 1 through 6, we read that Jesus was eating at the house of one of the chief Pharisees on the Sabbath, when they were confronted with a man who was infirm. Jesus questioned the Pharisees about healing this man on the Sabbath, but they would not answer Him. So Jesus healed the man and made the point that any one of the Pharisees there would have done far more work on the Sabbath to save their own ox, and they were not able to answer Him. But don’t think this means they didn’t object to Jesus’ Sabbath activities.

Just one chapter earlier, in Luke 13, we read where Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath when He saw a woman who was crippled. He healed her right then and there, and brought out the wrath of the ruler of the synagogue. Jesus rebuked him, bringing His adversaries shame and the people great joy. Still, that’s far from a complete picture of the Scribes’ and the Pharisees’ attitude toward Jesus and His Sabbath activities.

In John chapter 5 we read about the crippled man at the pool Bethesda. Jesus took pity on him, ostensibly because he wasn’t able to compete for the healing waters of the pool, and healed him. Note in verse 16 that once the Scribes and Pharisees learned that it was Jesus who healed this man, they sought to kill Him for having done so on the Sabbath.

Do not let this point pass unnoticed. The Scribes and Pharisees sought to kill Jesus, not because He healed a lame man (an act which to them indicated divinity), but because He did so on the Sabbath. The Scribes, the Pharisees and the Temple Priests, all had strong ideas about the Sabbath.

But what did Jesus teach us about the Sabbath? In Mark 2 we read about an incident where Jesus and His disciples were passing through a corn field on the Sabbath and his disciples, quite literally in passing, plucked some ears of corn to eat. And of course the Pharisees immediately took them to task on the matter. It was then that Jesus taught us, most succinctly, the truth about the Sabbath. He told the Pharisees, His followers, and by extension us, that the Sabbath is made for us, that we were not made for the Sabbath.

He could not have made it any plainer than this. God did not create man to observe the Sabbath. He wasn’t in Heaven one day, pondering what He might do for this new holy day He’d just come up with, and then decided to create men so the Sabbath would have someone to observe it. No, He created us so that we could worship Him, not some holy day. Instead He ordained the Sabbath for us, for our benefit. He ordained the Sabbath to be a blessing to us, not a burden.

But the Scribes and the Pharisees and the Temple priests had made the Sabbath a burden for all men to bear. Jesus said, "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light," (Matthew 11: 30), but the Jewish leaders made a burden of a blessing by "... teaching for doctrines the commandments of men," (Matthew 15: 9; Mark 7: 7).

Before we start feeling too smug, comparing ourselves to those hypocritical old Pharisees and the like, I would ask that we consider what we’ve made of the Lord’s Day.

Consider how David felt about going to God’s House. David wrote "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD," (Psalms 122: 1; emphasis added). How many of our children are glad when we wake them on Sunday morning for church? How many of us wake up on Sunday morning, happy and anxious and excited to go to church?

How many of us wake up on Sunday morning and go about with "the voice of joy, and the voice of gladness," as we prepare to "bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD," (Jeremiah 33: 11). How many of us speak to ourselves and each other in "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing ... in [our] hearts to the Lord," (Ephesians 5: 19; Colossians 3: 16)?

To be sure, we’ve turned the Lord’s Day into as much a burden and chore as the Pharisees did the Sabbath. The question is why, and more importantly how, did we do this?

Rest assured that men who spend there evenings in a dank bar room do not drag themselves onto the bar stool like it was a chore, and they don’t sit there darting their glance between their wristwatch and the barkeep anxiously waiting until the time that they can leave. People don’t sit around their living rooms on Saturday afternoon, waiting until the last possible minute before forcing themselves to get dressed so they can go down to the nearest casino, only to get there and start counting the minutes before they can leave. When friends go down to the local coffee shop to sit and visit, they do so because they want to, not because they think they should. And that’s how going to church should be.

Much the way the Scribes and Pharisees and Priests made the Sabbath a burden to men, we have made going to church a duty, an obligation, a burden. But it was not intended to be. We are admonished not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, not because it is our obligation to God, but because it is a benefit to us (Hebrews 10: 24, 25). The world hates us, as surely as it hated Jesus first (John 15: 18, 19; John 17: 14; I John 3: 13). But among each other we can find strength, and unity, and fellowship and edification (Ephesians 5: 19; Colossians 3: 16).

As surely as birds of a feather flock together, Christians too will want to come together in fellowship. We should want to, and we will want to, not because it is our obligation to God but because it is where we will be the most comfortable. And that leaves two questions remaining to be asked.

First, if you’re more comfortable in the world than in Church, what does that say about you? Are you certain that you are indeed born again? And if so are you so backsliden that the hateful acceptance of the world is less troubling to you that the conviction of the Holy Spirit? Make no mistake. If you are a Christian then the world, those in it, do hate you. How can you be more comfortable there than with others like yourself, if not because the conviction of the Holy Spirit is more troubling? Where, after your home and your work, do you spend most of your time? If the answer is not with your fellow Christians, then think about how, and more importantly why, that can be?

But the second and final question is for the rest of us. This question is not for those of us who skip church more often than they attend, or for those who only come on Sunday mornings (when they can). This question is for those of us who are here every time the doors are open. What have we done to make church such a burden that our brothers would rather meet at the coffee shop than here? We, you and I, we’re the ones who need to solve this problem. We should seek to make coming to church the first choice of our brothers and sisters. We should make it so that instead of wondering when they could get out of the sanctuary on Sunday morning, our brothers and sisters would be asking why they can’t get into the fellowship hall on Monday through Saturday.

Exodus 20: 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Luke 14: 1 - 6 And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? And they could not answer him again to these things.

Luke 13: 10 - 17 And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.

John 5: 2 - 10, 16 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. ... And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

Mark 2: 23 - 27 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:

Matthew 11: 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 15: 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Mark 7: 7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Psalm 122: 1 I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.

Jeremiah 33:11 The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD.

Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Hebrews 10: 24, 25 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

John 15: 18, 19 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you

John 17:14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

1 John 3:13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.