Luke 6:1-11 For purposes of this blog, a Sabbatarian is defined as a person who obstinately holds to the 7th day Sabbath command so much as to define who a true Christian is. Jesus was no Sabbatarian.
In my experience as I have watched xCG’s they always have within their organizational walls those people who watch carefully to see who is breaking the Sabbath. The Sabbath in Jesus’ time was the core religious belief, the identifying sign. For the Pharisees the Sabbath was a complex set of rules. Those extra Biblical laws they created resulted in the Sabbath becoming the worst day of the week. In the Bible the 4th commandment, the Sabbath, was simple: Keep it holy by no work. That’s it. Simple.
The 4th commandment is silent about attending worship service. Does that not imply 7th day worship service was a tradition or ceremonial? And does that not imply worship should be a 7-day-a-week practice? There is no command in the 10 commandments to go to synagogue or church on the 7th day, although that was certainly done by Jesus, and it was commanded in Leviticus 23. Paul went to synagogue until Acts 18:6 when the Jews opposed him and blasphemed. Paul shakes his garments and he says, “Your blood be upon your own heads…from now on I will go to the Gentiles.” From this point forward Luke no longer records the Christian leaders going to synagogue on the 7th day Sabbath.
One thing that bugged me when I was in Worldwide Church of God (WCG) was that I knew I was a Christian because I went to church on the 7th day. The 4th commandment is rest, not church attendance. Yet my ticket to salvation was 7th day church attendance and rest. That was my security. That was my salvation – my obedience. The other six days, I needed to live a moral life and be a good person.
Now read carefully, after Jesus heals another man on the Sabbath in John 5, Jesus says in John 5:39 to the Jews who sought to kill Him, “You search the Scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life.” Stop right there. I thought my security for eternal life was in Sabbath observance – that identified me as a child of God similar to how the Jews thought their eternal life was in the Scripture. What does Jesus say? And these (the Scripture) are they which testify of Me.” The purpose of Scripture and Sabbath is pointing to the reality, the One who possesses and gives eternal life. The purpose of the Scripture and Sabbath is to point to Jesus. When we elevate either to eternal life security, we fail and miss the fulfillment; the Savior and the relationship with Him.
Jesus comes along, and He doesn’t just crush the extra-Biblical laws the Pharisees created, He uncovers their deceit by actually fulfilling the shadow of 7th day Sabbath observance and presents Himself as the reality and fulfillment of the shadow – the Lord of the Sabbath who says, “Come to Me all who labor and I will give you rest.” This was prophesied in Isaiah 30:15. You want true rest? “Follow Me,” Jesus says. Then your salvation will be a delight. “The one who comes to Me, I will by no means cast out.” “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:37, 47)
But Sabbatarians ask, doesn’t following Jesus require observance of the 7th day Sabbath? Herein lies the crux of the issue: if you didn’t keep the 7th day Sabbath, you were not a true follower of God. In the new covenant there is no problem resting or worshipping on the 7th day Sabbath. If the Holy Spirit leads you to do that, you should obey the lead. The problem exists in denying the work of the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ in the lives of other people whose lives and work evidence fruits of repentance. That problem was the same problem the Pharisees had – they could not, would not, let Jesus work in their hearts and minds because they myopically limited the very work of God. They stubbornly and obstinately refused the work and life of Jesus Christ. They held to their 7th day framework. Jesus said, “you will know false teachers by their fruits.” To deny Jesus and the Holy Spirit working in lives of sinners outside the 7th day observance, that is borderline blasphemy. It is denying the work of God through Jesus. It is the same sin the Pharisees had.
The Pharisees missed both the Savior (God) and God healing the man with the withered hand! They overlooked God and the miraculous healing. Why? In order to differentiate and reject Jesus from themselves and their religion. They denied the work of God in Jesus in order to protect themselves, their positions and their religion. They had control and they were not about to humble themselves and lose it for God’s glory. After all they were God’s people. They followed Moses. They were children of Abraham. Yet, Jesus came and messed all that up and they would kill Him because they hated what He brought – God’s fulfillment. They didn’t need Jesus’ salvation, theirs was secure in their religious framework, heritage, obedience and Scriptures as opposed to being secure in Christ.
What about you? Have you missed the healing today – I’m referring to the spiritual healing of sinners outside the walls of 7th day Sabbath observance? Is it because you refuse to acknowledge that Jesus heals spiritually outside of the 7th day religious framework? Sinners lives are being dramatically changed. If you deny Jesus works outside of 7th day observance, it’s not a simple mistake. You are denying the very work of God Himself to draw people to Himself. That’s dangerous ground. The Pharisees did the very same thing – denying that God would even work in a sinners life. Those sinners never measured up. The Jews could not answer the healings, but in turn they refused to believe Jesus’ work and miracles in other peoples lives so as to stubbornly hold to their history, heritage and framework.
Think about it. When the early church received news of the salvation of Gentiles, the true believers rejoiced. The problem came from those hypocrites and Pharisees who wanted to burden the new converts with requirements of circumcision, Moses laws, eating clean meats, and 7th day Sabbath observance (Acts 15). Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for man to point man to the true salvation rest found in its Maker, Jesus. Jesus is the true, pinnacle fulfillment of the 7th day. It’s Jesus who calls the shots on the Sabbath, not religious leaders or churches. It’s Jesus who decides who is saved and He secures sinners. Did He not say, “I will lose nothing” (John 6:39) and “neither shall anyone snatch them from My hand” (John 10:28)?
Don’t miss the symbolism in Luke 6:6-11. This man’s right hand was withered, probably from paralysis. The right hand represents the strength of a man, work. It was withered. The Pharisees watched carefully to see if Jesus would heal this man on the Sabbath. They knew He could heal. Was the paralysis healed on the Sabbath so the man could do Kingdom work? It’s an interesting thought, but the text reveals Jesus did this healing defiantly, right in front of them as a witness and testimony of who He is. The result was rage! It got them mad enough to kill Him!
xCG’s always have within their walls those people who watch carefully to see who is breaking the Sabbath. Why? They don’t want to lose that identifying sign. That sign is their security, while Jesus is minimized; secondary. They cannot and some will not, see Jesus as their salvational security. They essentially don’t trust Him. “If I mess up, make a mistake, God is so harsh He may kick me out,” they reason.
Isn’t that the idea of the man who received one talent, who did nothing with it because he knew Jesus to be a hard man? Matthew 25:26 Jesus says of this man, “you wicked and lazy servant.” This man didn’t work, he physically rested. His hand of work you might say was withered because he was paralyzed with fear of God as opposed to joy; obstinately holding to what Jesus had given him, hiding the gift and ultimately denying the Lord and Savior, the true Jesus.
Turn to Jesus, our true rest. Leave your salvation in His capable hands. He will cause you to rest, but also do His work. If you are convicted by the Holy Spirit to observe the 7th day rest and gathering for worship, do so. Just do not commit divisions, disunity and borderline blasphemy by rejecting the work of God amongst other Christians who follow Jesus within the Body and have fruits of righteousness and lives that glorify God. This is what true atonement means – being at one with God because of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus will never disappoint. If Jesus were to ask you, “Why are you saved?” and you answer, “Because of my obedience,” you’ve got the cart before the horse and you’re resting in failure, for He is the power to repent, love and obey.
Some of the thoughts and ideas from this blog and it’s title come from John MacArthur’s sermon on this piece, as well as my own research and experience. See http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/42-70/