In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth … these are the first words of the Bible and they describe what God did on the first day of creation week. On the sixth day, God ended his creation by creating man, and it says that God was pleased, yes it even says that God says it was very good. Then follows in Genesis 2,2-3, where we read: And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
This tells us something about what God thinks is important to him. Already the day after man was created, the Lord set aside a day to be a day of rest and worship, and God blessed this day, the seventh day, and sanctified it. God did not do this because this day was to be a torment for mankind, but because God wanted us to set aside a special day where we could be with Him, rest in His presence and receive His rich blessings, which also applies to this day.
The first thing God did for Adam and Eve was to give them a day to be set aside for rest, a day when man would give up his work, a day they could meet their Creator in a special way, in the way He wants us to meet Him. It was not just any day that God gave to mankind, but God chose the day God Himself rested after creation, the day He blessed and sanctified. It must therefore be important, and it must mean a lot that God blessed and sanctified a special day. Therefore, I believe that it must be important for us to follow what God did and rest on the seventh day of the week.
We can assume that Adam and Eve kept the Sabbath day holy in communion with God, and even after Adam and Eve were chased out of the Garden of Eden, we can be sure they kept the seventh day of the week holy. We can also assume that the first descendants of Adam and Eve kept the seventh day of the week holy. It is said of Abraham that he was a friend of God so we can take it for granted that he and all his house kept the seventh day holy. Later, when Jacob brought his entire family to Egypt during the great drought, we can assume that Abraham’s descendants also kept God’s Sabbath, the seventh day. Thanks to Joseph, the Hebrews held a special position in Egyptian society, at least as long as Joseph lived. But eventually the Jewish people became slaves in the Egyptian empire and for that reason lost the opportunity to keep the Sabbath holy as God’s holy day of rest. Partly because they had to work all the days the Egyptian rulers ruled, and partly because the Egyptians did not tolerate the God of the Hebrews taking the place of their own gods.
After many long years in captivity, God says enough is enough and sets his people free. After the liberation, they have not been many days in the desert before the people began to murmur because they had no food. It is in this connection that we can read about the first correction of the Jews’ way of living when God tells them to keep the seventh day Sabbath holy: And it came to pass, [that] on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one [man]: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, This [is that] which the LORD hath said, Tomorrow [is] the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake [that] which ye will bake [today], and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that today; for today [is] a sabbath unto the LORD: today ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, [which is] the sabbath, in it there shall be none. And it came to pass, [that] there went out [some] of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day. Exodus 16,22-30
Shortly after God rebuked the people for not keeping His commandments and laws, the Jewish people came to Sinai and there the Ten Commandments were given to the children of Israel, and in the fourth commandment we can read the following: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: For [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20,8-11
It is clear from the texts in Exodus that the Jewish people already knew the Sabbath as their day of rest. Why should God begin the Sabbath commandment with the word remember if they did not know the commandment before? God expresses his disappointment at the people’s choice in Exodus 16,28, and it is on this basis that God confirms his commandment for the day of rest and sets down the day of rest among the ten commandments. Later, prophets throughout history have repeated over and over again that God’s days of rest should be kept holy, that the Sabbath should not be desecrated. In Ezekiel 20,20 says Lord: And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I [am] the LORD your God … in the book of Nehemiah 13,17-18 the prophet says: I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, What is this wicked thing you are doing – desecrating the Sabbath day? Didn’t your forefathers do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity upon us and upon this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath. (NIV 1984)
In Jeremiah 17,27, God tells us what punishment awaits them if they break the Sabbath commandment: But if you do not obey me to keep the Sabbath day holy by not carrying any load as you come through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem that will consume her fortresses.
But it is not just punishment God tells us about. Also the blessings He will pour down upon His people if we keep His Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, holy, He tells us: If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, [from] doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking [thine own] words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it]. Isaiah 58,13-14 Contrary to what God himself says about the Sabbath in Isaiah 58, where it says that the Sabbath, Saturday – the seventh day of the week – is the Lord’s holy and venerable day, so claim both the Catholic Church and the fallen Reformed Church that it is the first day of the week, Sunday, which is the Sabbath.
Is it really that important?
The starting point for the headline is a question I once received from a co-worker: The question is: what I ask myself of is why you do think it is so important which day you keep holy for God. I can very well see and understand why someone wants to keep the day of rest on a Saturday, but I do not think it is crucial for salvation … Do you really mean that? This started a thought process, and I had to go to the source to find the answer. The way to the answer can be both short and long. It is not certain that the shortest way is the way to go that gives the right answer. The long way is more complicated but will hopefully give us a more comprehensive and correct answer. Let us then look it up in the Bible.
How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?
n Exodus we find the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. After only a few days in the wilderness, God gave them manna to eat. For this manna was only one small prohibition, namely, that the people should not gather manna on the Sabbath, which is Saturday, the seventh day of the week. Despite the fact that God had exhorted the people, there were still some who went out to look for manna on the Sabbath. They did not find anything. God, on the other hand, asked Moses a question in this regard: And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? Exodus 16,28
This question clearly shows that the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, was something God has asked people to keep holy for a long, long time. Why else would God ask how long they would refuse to keep His commandments and laws? Breaking God’s law is defined as sin, and even now I want to remind you of Romans 6,23 which says that the wages of sin is death.
About 800 years later, God reminds the people of this event when he through the prophet Ezekiel 20,13 says: But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which [if] a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.
It was not only the Sabbath commandment they broke, but they broke every conceivable commandment and law God had given them. They had also been given these 40 years in the wilderness so they could come to the recognition that they were dependent on the Lord and surrender their lives to him. They did not do this, but as it says, they rebelled against God. They even caused Moses to sin against God by smiting the rock so that the water came out. In other words, Israel did not learn anything in the wilderness. And like the Jews, most of us have not learned anything from history at all.
God gave Adam and Eve their free will, and they were allowed to eat of every tree in the garden, except this one tree. In other words, they were allowed to do as they pleased, as long as they kept God’s commandments. As such, man has not changed at all over the years since Adam and Eve rebelled against God. Yes, because they were rebelling, as man still does to this day. Even though God had imposed death penalty for breaking the commandments, they thus broke God’s law.
If we then go to Exodus chapter 16, we find a story that unfolded before the people of Israel had come to Sinai and received the Ten Commandments. Here we see in verse 26 that Israel had been commanded not to go out to gather manna on the Sabbath. Yet there were some who did this, and God rebuked the people and asked in verse 28: How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?
The people of Israel show us that they had not learned anything from Adam and Eve. The story of the 40 years in the wilderness is a clear parallel to the fall, and the echo of the fall still resounds today from the Garden of Eden and the day when Adam and Eve fell into sin. When God created man, he set him to cultivate and care for the garden. They had free hands to do what they wanted, but God set one, only one, condition for their freedom, and to test their loyalty. A ban they received, and they could choose between being loyal to God and keeping God’s commandments or being disloyal and breaking God’s commandments. This is what Genesis 2,15-17 says: And the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
The reason for this injunction is probably that God would test man if they with their free will of heart wanted to follow his will when the free will of men was put to the test so that they had to choose. The choice came in the form of the serpent that tempted the woman, and she fell into sin: Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? Genesis 3,1
Eva probably tried as best she could to resist, she even said that they were allowed to eat of all the trees in the garden except this one tree in the middle of the garden, and that they would die if they ate of that tree: And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: Genesis 3,4
Despite the fact that God said that man should die, the woman was tempted, Adam and Eve broke God’s command, and were chased out of the Garden of Eden, and they died – spiritually in the first place and finally also physically. Why did God impose such a severe punishment for violating the commandment not to eat from the tree that gives knowledge of good and evil?
Is it because God is a brutal and barbaric God who uses force and coercion to force his creatures into obedience and submission?
This is not how I got to know God. My God is a God who allows me, like Adam and Eve, to choose what I want to do. My God, like what he did for Adam and Eve and Israel in the wilderness, also gave me a set of rules, the Ten Commandments, which he asks me to keep as he asked them in former times to keep the commandments they received. Of course, I stumble and fall into what the commandments command me to do and forbid me to do, but I no longer do it intentionally. This is also how God met Adam and Eve, the people of Israel, and how he meets all other people throughout the world through all time.
1 John 5,3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
1 King 9,6 [But] if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments [and] my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them:
Leviticus 26,34 Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye [be] in your enemies’ land; [even] then shall the land rest and enjoy her sabbaths.
After the people of Israel had taken possession of the promised land, it was not long before the apostasy began, and soon they broke almost all the laws and commandments God had given them. The Lord raised up judges and prophets, but the decline only continued. About 800 years after they took possession of the land, Nebuchadnezzar came and destroyed Jerusalem and exiled the people to Babylon. There is a reason why God allowed this to happen to His people. Jeremiah was the last of the prophets to warn the king and the people against the impending judgment in the form of the conquest of Nebuchadnezzar. God said, among other things, this:
Jeremiah 3,12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; [and] I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I [am] merciful, saith the LORD, [and] I will not keep [anger] for ever.
Jeremiah 3,14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:
Jeremiah 4,1 If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove.
Jeremiah 18,11 Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now everyone from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.
So what happened to Israel? Did they repent? No, not even when Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers stood outside the gates of Jerusalem, they repented and thus pronounced their own judgment. Nebuchadnezzar conquered the land and eventually destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, leading the people to Babylon. The reason this happened is because they did not keep God’s commandments and laws. It appears in Jeremiah 3,6 where it says that she, Israel, played the harlot which in biblical sense is to worship false gods. Here the people of Israel broke both the first and second commandments of God’s law because they worshiped other gods and they had made statues such as the bull at Sinai and many other statues of false gods and worshiped them. The first and second commandments sound like this
1) Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Exodus 20,3
2) Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness [of anything] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation] of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Exodus 20,4-6
They also broke the law of the Sabbath year, which says that the earth should rest and lie still every seven years, and the jubilee year, which says that every fifty years is a jubilee year in which the slaves were to be set free and their property returned. (See Leviticus 25,1-17.)
The consequence of these violations was catastrophic. Despite the fact that God promises mercy if we keep his commandments, all the tribes of Israel fell. First, Israel, also called the Northern Kingdom and the Ten-Tribe Kingdom, was conquered by the Assyrian king Sennacherib in the years 722-721 BC. and he brought in captivity as good as all the survivors to a place beyond the river Euphrates. Then about 100 years later, God sent the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar to punish the rebellious Jews, by taking them into captive.
The same consequences are for those who break one or more of the other eight commandments as well. A penalty awaits. Sodom, Gomorrah, and their sister cities were destroyed by God because, among other things, they did not keep the seventh commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery. Here the commandment was so violated that to this day we use a word that covers the sexual perversities that unfolded in these cities, sodomy, and one that describes the person who does this, sodomite. No matter what regulations, laws or commandments are in question, it is always a judgement for those who knowingly and wilfully break God’s word.
The Bible is full of examples that God is not late in fulfilling his word to judge the sinner, yet God is patient with the sinner and gives him many opportunities to turn to God and repent before the punishment comes. When Israel was in the wilderness, they had 40 years to repent. When Nebuchadnezzar stood outside Jerusalem, God let Jeremiah prophesy and preach until the walls were torn down and they had plenty of time to repent. Time and time again throughout the history of Gods peoples, God’s prophets have prophesied of a coming judgment if they did not turn from their evil ways and cried out to God. But on the other hand, God also keeps his word when he says he will bless us if we keep his precepts, laws and commandments: But [if] ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, [yet] will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there. Nehemiah 1,9
God’s precepts, laws, and commandments are full of His wisdom, and Solomon knew how to put this wisdom higher than anything else, which is also expressed in Proverbs: Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. For I was my father’s son, tender and only [beloved] in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. Proverbs 4,1-4
God is the God of love. God is love.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. John writes this in his first letter chapter 5 verse 3. In other words, you do not love God unconditionally if you do not keep all the commandments. Many claim that the double commandment of love, in Matthew 22,36-40, which Jesus gave us, repeals the law and the prophets, but this is not the case. Jesus did give us the double commandment of love, but he added that this is the foundation of the law, on which the whole Bible and the gospel are based, and on which my salvation depends. The double commandment of love is like this: Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
If we then break one of the commandments, we are actually breaking the whole law. So it does not matter if we just break a commandment, we are just as guilty of judgment and punishment for this one offense as if we should have broken all of God’s commandments, as Jacob says: For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all, (Jacob 2,10) and if we break the law without repenting of our sins so that we do not live by the double commandment of love, then a judgment awaits. What the judgment means to us, Paul tells about in Romans 6,23: the wages of sin is death … … So it is the same judgment that awaits us today as it awaited Adam and Eve when they fell into sin. But, maybe someone is saying, the law cannot save me, and can even refer to Galatians 3,11 where it says: But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, [it is] evident: for, The just shall live by faith. It is quite right that one is not saved by the law, but there is no contradiction in this. For those who do not keep the law and do what it imposes on us, do not love God. For as Jesus himself says in John 14,21: He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. The sum of this verses tells us that if we keep the law and the commandments, we love Christ, and if we love Christ, God will love us. In 2 John 1,6 John says the following: And this is love that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
Will it have consequences for us if we do as the law requires us to do? If so, what is the consequence of loving God and keeping His commandments? Paul has the answer to this in Romans 2,13: For not the hearers of the law [are] just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
Keep my commandments.
We find the law in the Old Testament, and this is what this law says we must do – keep Gods commandments. If I choose to break the first commandment to make my own private god then I will not be considered just. Nor will I be if I do not keep God’s fourth commandment but choose to keep Sunday holy instead of Saturday. According to Jacob, I can just as easily kill, steal, commit adultery, lust, etc., as break the Sabbath commandment. If I keep Sunday holy, I will not be considered righteous by God, even though I have both heard and read the law about the Sabbath, because I do not do what the law says. If, on the other hand, I keep the Sabbath commandment as it is written in Exodus 20,8-11, and keep the seventh day of the week holy, Saturday as my Sabbath day in addition to keeping the other nine commandments, then God will count me righteous: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: For [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Now there are probably many who will protest and say that we do not have to do deeds to achieve salvation, but let us look at what Jacob 2,15-26 says about this: If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be [ye] warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what [doth it] profit? Even so faith if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent [them] out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
The works in question here are to fulfil what God’s law requires of us: thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Giving people in need what they need for a living is the fulfilment of the double commandment of love, and then we keep the law. And, as it is said in the Bible, a faith without works is a dead faith, but if we live out our faith, by showing the love of Jesus and keeping the double commandment of love then we have a living faith, and at the same time we keep all the commandments of God . That is what it takes to win the right to eternal life.
Yes, it is only faith, and faith in Christ alone, that can save me, but if I do not keep the double commandment of love on which the whole law and the prophets rest, well, then I break the law and I will not be considered righteous.
Can anyone who has not been saved by the grace of Christ love God? Can someone who does not live by the commandments and the law love God? The Bible itself says no to these questions because the Bible says that those who love God are those who keep His commandments. Time and time again God repeats His words, as if to hammer them into our hearts and minds with a sledgehammer, saying: Keep my commandments. Could it be a coincidence that God repeats and repeats, and repeats Keep my commandments, or does God simply know best, here too?
Just read what it says in the following places: Exodus 16,28; 20,6; Leviticus 22,31; 26,3; 26,15; Deuteronomy 5,10; 5,29; 1 Kings 3,14; 6,12; 9,4; 11,33; 11,34; 11,38; 14,8; 2 Kings 17,13; 2 Chronicles 7,17; Nehemiah 1,9; Psalms 119,168; Proverbs 4,4; Ezekiel 44,24; Luke 15,29; John 14,15; 14,21; 15,10. In addition, there are all the times keep my commandments have been exchanged for keep His commandments and the like.
But what commandments do God wants us to keep? God himself says keep my commandments, and then it is clear that we should not relate to commandments that have been changed or given to us by humans. There are over 600 different laws, commandments and rules in Judaism that will help the Jews regulate what is legal and illegal to do on the Sabbath. An Orthodox Jew cannot light a candle on the Sabbath because it is defined as work in these 600 laws. They cannot carry a stone over a certain weight, but they are allowed to carry a child no matter how much this child weighs. Then they can circumvent the law by carrying a child holding this stone. We do not need to keep these additional Jewish laws because this is not God’s commandment, something Jesus clearly showed us several times in his dealings with the Pharisees. Nor do we have to deal with all the rarities that have come from Rome over the years, and then I think first and foremost of the changed commandments, the pope’s ten commandments, for which the Roman Catholic Church itself has taken responsibility. An equally important question is this: How can we love God?
How can we love God?
Of course, we find the answer to that question in the Bible. We show that we love God by keeping his commandments, all his commandments, and we can do that by fulfilling the double commandment of love. Let us draw a comparison between God’s ten commandments and the double commandment of love. The double commandment of love reads: … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
If we look at the first four commandments, these four commandments apply to our relationship with God and draw a vertical axis (from us to heaven). In other words, if we love God, we keep these four commandments as they are, without reservation, without change and without adaptations. The other six commandments concern our relationship with our fellow human beings and draw a horizontal line (from us to our fellow human beings), and we fail to keep the last six commandments if we break one of the first four commandments because I cannot love my brother if I do not love God, as little as I can love God if I do not love my neighbour as myself. I cannot love one without loving the other. That is impossibility.
Has anyone thought about what we get if we put the vertical axis and the horizontal axis together? We get a cross.
In other words, if I choose to keep the first day of the week holy as the Lord’s Sabbath, I might as well at the same time make myself guilty of breaking the other nine commandments as well, for God Himself instituted the Sabbath on the last day of the week, and He bids me keeping this day as a holy Sabbath. Another important point is how important God thinks the Sabbath is. There is probably no one who disagrees that the Sabbath in the Old Testament is the seventh day of the week, the Saturday. I cannot believe at all that it is another day that the writers of the New Testament mean when they write about the Sabbath. But for the sake of order, let us look at what the Bible says about this day, the Sabbath – the seventh day of the week – Saturday.
The Sabbath was instituted during creation when the Lord blessed and sanctified the seventh day. No other day has been blessed and sanctified by the Lord. Here are some of the ways in which the Sabbath is spoken of by God:
— the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: (Genesis 16,23)
— Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep for it [is] a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that [ye] may know that I [am] the LORD that doth sanctify you. (Genesis 31,13)
— And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I [am] the LORD your God. (Ezekiel 20,20)
— And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Genesis 2,3)
— For [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it. (Genesis 20,11)
— Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I [am] the LORD that sanctify them.. (Ezekiel 20,12)
It is always implicit in the verses that we should keep this special day holy, which God already during the week of creation both blessed and sanctified because God himself rested on this day. But we must be careful not to become formalists and slaves of the law, so we keep the seventh-day Sabbath holy for the wrong reason. We must keep the Sabbath holy because we recognize God’s sovereignty, and because we want to obey God’s commandments and law, not because we are saved by keeping the Sabbath, but because we are saved. But most of all to meet God on the day He blessed and sanctified because He wants to meet us on this day.
We are still allowed to eat of all the trees in the garden, but not of the tree that gives knowledge of good and evil, but it does not save me if I do not eat of the tree I am not allowed to eat of. To be saved, I can do nothing but believe that Jesus Christ died for me on the cross. To remain saved, or to keep salvation, then it is no longer enough just to believe. Then I must change my life and conform to what God bids me to do in one and all. I cannot choose which commandments I will keep and which commandments I will not keep, for God gives us one choice; For or against – light or dark – white or black, not both. For either I choose to keep God’s commandments, and then all of God’s commandments as they came from God’s hand, or I do not. I cannot choose to keep nine out of ten commandments, and I cannot choose to partly keep one commandment. Then it will be Bible shopping, glory theology, buffet supper theology or liberalism, or whatever you want to call it. I simply cannot listen to people no matter how well they mean what they say and no matter what it is. Whether it is my wife, my pastor, the pope or anyone else who says something to me, it is my duty to myself to check this in the Bible. To see if a statement holds true in relation to what the Bible says, I have to read the Bible without being biased, or think something about something before I have studied it carefully and have looked for what the word, the verse or the section really means. If I do this, I will not find a single place that indicates that the Sabbath has been changed. If I read the Bible in the light of the teachings of any denomination, then I lay down guidelines for how I experience and should interpret the text. I was an atheist before God saved me, and therefore I had no preferences in relation to Scripture. It has helped me so far in my Christian life to read and study the scriptures without being prejudiced, and I take pride in doing so even now that I am a Seventh-day Adventist, and I think I will be able to do that only with the help of Jesus. I must read the text as it stands and then see if I find a command from the Lord that He has changed the Sabbath day from Saturday to Sunday, because God does nothing without telling his servants.
Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. Amos 3,7
Then we must ask ourselves when we come to a place we do not understand what is the meaning of this verse or this text. If we come across words that have several interpretations, we must look in the Bible to find out what it says about this word there. We must look for similar expressions and put it into the historical framework in which this was written, perhaps we will then get a different experience of the text. Just look at orthodox Jews. They still keep the seventh day holy as a Sabbath because they have been doing this since the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when they became Gods special people. But the Sabbath as an institution and holiday goes all the way back to creation because that was when God blessed and sanctified this special day, the seventh day of the week – Saturday – which stands as a memorial to God as the Creator. This day is also God’s mark on his covenant with men, an eternal covenant, an unchangeable covenant, just as God himself is unchangeable.
The answer to the question: Is it really that important? must then be as follows: Yes, it is so important. It is about eternity and where we are going to spend it. The choices we make in this life will have consequences for eternity. I do not keep the Sabbath of God, the Saturday, holy because I believe it saves me, but I keep this day holy by obeying God my Creator and Saviour because He has already saved me.
What exactly are God’s memorials? In the order in which they were instituted is the Sabbath, the Lord’s Supper, and the baptism.
Most people know that Christianity operates with two different days of rest, this is the seventh day of the week which is the Sabbath of God, and which is our Saturday, and then it is the first day of the week which is Sunday. But not everyone knows why it is so. Some people erroneously claim that the seventh day Sabbath is for Jews only and that they believe that the Sabbath is a Jewish invention, and that only a few other marginal groups follow this Jewish tradition. Others claim that the Sabbath is no longer valid, and that it was nailed to the cross with Jesus. What is certain, however, is that not everyone knows when the Sabbath was instituted or when Sunday came into the picture, and why there is theological disagreement about which day according to the Bible is the right one. Still others believe that it is insignificant to be concerned with right and wrong in this context since they claim that the day we keep holy and worship does not matter to God, as all days are equal. Then we can just as easily take all the ten commandments and throw them away. If it does not matter which day we keep holy, which is truly enshrined in God’s ten commandments, more specifically in the fourth commandment, then we can say the same about the other nine the commandments – it does not matter to God. Or does it matter anyway?
No matter what attitude the individual may have to this question, I allow myself to point out that God himself has something very significant to say about the mentioned issue. If God Himself says that it is important which day we keep holy, we should at least set aside some time to find out what God has to say about this and why. This has something to do with God’s memorials, and these are the Sabbath, the Lord’s Supper, and baptism. Let us start by looking at these three memorials, but in reverse order.
1) The Baptism.
Regarding baptism as a memorial, the Bible says:
The like figure whereunto [even] baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 1 Peter 3,21
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28,18-20
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6,3-4
It is no problem at all for all denominations that practice full immersion to accept this order. This happens every time someone is baptized in a Christian church that practices baptism with full immersion. Even those who practice infant baptism do so for the same reason. Why? In remembrance that Jesus died for our sins and that He rose from the dead.
Baptism, however, has a much older history, and the Essenes, a Jewish sect, which was active between 100 BC. to 100 AD practiced daily immersion – ritual baths – a form of baptism in which the individual walked daily through a pool completely covered with water to remember that they crossed the Red Sea after leaving Egypt. Later John came baptizing with water in the river Jordan, and finally we received the following command from Jesus. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 28,19
The baptism of John, the baptism John practiced in Jordan with full immersion in water forms the pattern for our baptism – the baptism of the believer, and this memorial to Jesus’ death and resurrection is not difficult to keep as it is not tied unto a special day. We can baptize people on any day of the week we want. The only criterion is to baptize or to be baptized, and all who are baptized, no matter in which way they are baptized – adult baptism or infant baptism – this is done as a fulfilment of Jesus’ commandment, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, as a memorial erected over the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2) The Lord´s Supper.
About the Lords supper as a memorial it says: For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the [same] night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake [it], and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also [he took] the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink [it], in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 1 Corinthians 11,23-26
There is no doubt that this is done in all Christian denominations around the world, both in the Catholic Church and in the Reformed Church. In some denominations this is done every single week, in other denominations it is not quite as often, but it is done, and it is done regularly just to take care of this memorial to fulfil Jesus’ words. Do this in remembrance of me.
The Lord’s Supper was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ on Maundy Thursday just hours before he was betrayed and arrested by the Roman soldiers. Do this in remembrance of me, says Jesus, and we have no difficulty in doing this because this memorial is not attached to any particular day, nor is it enshrined in any of the Ten Commandments. There are those who claim that the apostles had already moved the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday just after Jesus’ death and resurrection because they had once gathered on a Sunday in Troad (Acts 20,7-12) to take farewell with Paul.
The point of this passage is hardly that Sunday had become the Lord’s Sabbath, but there is no doubt that Paul was going on one of his missions and was giving a kind of farewell sermon to his friends. Then it can also be discussed whether it was the Lord’s Supper, or a regular evening meal Paul held, (Acts 20,7). It really does not matter if it was the Lord’s Supper or not, because communion can be held on any day of the week. But to take a stand on whether it was communion or a regular meal, the following can be said about this. I mean it was a pretty simple meal they kept and this is based on the fact that the two Greek words, klasai and arton which are translated here as breaking the bread simply mean; (klasai) break into pieces, and (arton) food or bread, and that this was a common term for eating a meal. But by all means, it may have been the Lord´s Supper they shared, but to firmly claim that it was the Lord´s Supper, and then to use this verse to defend Sunday observance is simply unreasonable, and this is to read something into the text that does not is there.
But back to the Lord´s Supper. The only criterion attached to the Lord’s Supper is that we should do this in memory of Him who gave His life for us for our salvation, and by sharing the Lord’s Supper we fulfil Jesus’ words to make this in remembrance of Him. I do not know if there are so many who know why this is done, but we will do this to remember his death until he comes again.
It is worth noting that what the Lord´s Supper and the baptism have in common is that none of them are enshrined in God’s ten commandments or associated with a particular day of the week.
3) The Sabbath
About the Sabbath as a memorial it is said: And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. Genesis 2,2-3
When it comes to this memorial of creation, which the Sabbath is primarily, well then for most people it is suddenly not so important anymore! By making the average Christian churchgoer believe that it does not matter what day the Lord’s Sabbath is, Satan has already won a great victory. As we will see later, the Sabbath is not a Jewish tradition, and as we have already seen, we find it in Genesis chapters 2, verses 2 and 3 (see above), when God instituted the Sabbath by blessing the seventh day of the week and sanctified it. The Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, therefore, has eternal validity, and the Lord has not in any way changed this that He blessed and sanctified this day.
Kenneth Bergland, a Norwegian Adventist pastor, once asked the following questions: The Sabbath: religious formality or the queen of life?
So, what exactly is the Sabbath? Is it a religious formality … ……? To me, the Sabbath is not a religious formality, to me it is not just an outer shell, or a cloak, that I wear every Saturday. The Sabbath has a much deeper content than that. It is as K. Bergland says the Queen of Life.
Unlike baptism and the Lord´s Supper, the Sabbath is enshrined in the Ten Commandments. That may be precisely why it is so difficult to accept that the Sabbath was, is, and always will be Saturday, and it is just as difficult to keep the fourth commandment and to keep the seventh day as the Lord’s holy Sabbath.