When Sermons Become Snares: The Sabbath
What do you get when you mix Old Covenant law and commandments with New Covenant grace? The Apostle Paul had some choice words for this, which varies by Bible translation. He referred to it as fruitless discussion— empty words—meaningless conversation (see 1 Timothy 1:5-7). He was addressing those who had swerved and turned aside from a pure heart of love and a sincere faith, while desiring to become teachers of the Mosaic law … “even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.”
Unfortunately, this is the basis for most church sermons today. Mix in a little Jesus and a few New Testament verses out of context and people won’t even realize the pieces don’t fit the picture puzzle they are trying to create. There are many examples on the broad road of sermons that erroneously try mixing various Jewish commandments into the message of the gospel, but let’s look at just one sample as we take a rest stop on the subject of the Sabbath.
The weekly Sabbath was always from 6 p.m. Friday evening until 6 p.m. Saturday evening (it has never been on Sunday). The Sabbath was considered as a day of rest to be set aside (sanctified) and treated as holy. It was a commandment given to the Jewish people within the law which came through Moses. It wasn’t given to Gentiles born outside of the Jewish race, and (thankfully) it was never meant to be applied or followed in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ—we aren’t called to keep any of that law which could only result in death, increased sin, and condemnation—in other words, falling short of the requirement.
Today’s proponents of a Sabbath observance will encourage some sort of recognition of this day in our lives but they will vastly vary on how it should be applied. Why is this? Because they are making it up as they go. As with any old covenant law, the rules and guidelines are hand-picked and constantly changing. These “covenant clashers” are clueless as to why the sabbaths were given to Israel under the law. Yes, I said sabbaths (plural). If you think this was simply a weekly observance, you’d better dig deeper into the Mosaic law … and don’t forget to integrate the new moon into it. An Internet search on that topic alone will make your head spin.
The Sabbath sermons will entice and lure you into something that looks and sounds like rest, and you may find yourself saying, “Oh, how I needed to hear this message!” But when you decide to take a bite to see what it tastes like, you’ll discover a hook that is nothing more than a modernized version of an impossible, obsolete covenant which originated from a law that was weak and useless, unable to provide the rest or life that a person is seeking (Galatians 3:21 & Hebrews 7:18). The list of rules found within this type of dubious, doctrinal mixture of the old and new covenants always fluctuates from one brand of religion to the next. Oh sure, they’ll quote the Bible verses to fit their theology until the cows come home (including “red letter” verses), but they miss the context of the gospel and the power of the finished work of the cross of Jesus.
“Remember the Sabbath day, keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Religion loves to spew out the headlines when it comes to the articles of law and commandments. But your sermon forgot to tell you there were something like 39 other commandments, rules and statutes attached to that one. The specifics from the law they are advocating for you to follow are mainly left to your imagination. They’ll tell you to “surrender” every area of your life … but you’ll spend years in misery trying to figure out what that means and how to do it … without ever achieving that plateau.
The Jews couldn’t find rest by trying to abide by any of that law … including the Sabbath … which had requirements leading to the exact opposite of what was advertised. The preparation for the sabbaths alone was exhausting … not to mention the pressure of making sure they didn’t cross a line on that special day which could end up getting them stoned to death for something as simple as picking-up sticks (Numbers 15:32-36). The true sabbath commandments were as hard as stone, they didn’t bend with graceful flexibility.
Here’s where we should be:
“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).
The entire law was a shadow, Christ is the substance! Come out from among the shadows and into the light. Your rest is found in Jesus Christ, not through observing a day that is set apart here and there with your own made-up rules. You (you!) have been set apart—sanctified—in Him! He did it for you!
“So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his (Hebrews 4:9-10).
This isn’t a billboard for advertising a specific Sabbath day, it’s a revelation of entering true, spiritual rest by faith for those Jewish people (Hebrews) who had formerly been under a system of works. They could now rest from trying to attain righteousness by the works of the law.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Jesus was speaking to Jewish people burdened by a religious system unable to provide them with rest. There is no spiritual or emotional rest in abiding by the Jewish Sabbath or a modernized version of it. That commandment (like all the others from that law) was meant to point those people to something new and better—Jesus Christ and the glorious ministry of his Spirit. It results in pure love, a good conscience and a sincere faith. Hey, we can all use some regular intervals of physical downtime and recreation, but our true peace and rest is eternally found in the Person of Jesus Christ—every minute of each day, regardless of what we’re doing. Jesus Christ is your life and He has become your Sabbath.
Take a permanent breather.
For more on avoiding the trap of religious bondage inside of a new and better covenant, and also gaining a better understanding of the teachings of Jesus, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee.
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