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Sabbath Sept. 6th – Sabbath
Matthew 12:1-5 is listed as one of the reference passages to read for today’s lesson. This is interesting, because here Jesus specifically shows that the temple laws were broken by David and his men, when they ate the showbread, breaking the Law, and how the priests “profaned” the Sabbath yet remained guiltless.
The primary point that Christ is putting forth here is that the breaking of the Law does not always bring the consequences that are called for by Scripture.
Here, the lesson goes into a discussion of the Sabbath vs. Sunday observance.
Today we are confronted not only with the challenge of “correct observance” of the Sabbath but also with the popular belief that Sunday, not Sabbath, is the day of rest.
It is not a popular belief that Sunday is “the day of rest.” In some Reformed circles within Christianity, they believe that Sabbath sacredness has been transferred to Sunday, but by far the most popular belief is that Sunday is simply another day of the week; a day on which the believer may perform manual labor, go to work, go shopping or any number of things that are prohibited under the old covenant Law.
It is a false dichotomy to state that “Sunday keepers” are pushing for the keeping of Sunday in the same manner or degree to which Adventists push for the keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath. This is only taught in Adventism; it is not taught by those attending church on Sunday.
The lesson author continues:
Those pushing for Sunday, however, have nothing in their favor in the Gospels. The Sabbath controversies in the Gospels dealt only with how the Sabbath was to be kept, never with when. Jesus’ life and teachings leave no doubt that the seventh-day Sabbath would continue as God’s day of rest, even after His death and resurrection.
Since believers are the priests of God’s kingdom, we may profane the seventh-day Sabbath and yet remain guiltless, just as the priests under the old covenant profaned, yet were guiltless.
Matthew 12:3-8 reads:
"Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath."
Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath; he came under the Law to save those who are under the Law from the condemnation of the Law.
The Sabbath controversies in the Gospels dealt only with how the Sabbath was to be kept[.]
Actually, the Sabbath controversies were about breaking the Sabbath, not only with how the Sabbath was to be kept. The disciples who “harvested” and ate grain on the Sabbath day were guiltless, not because they were keeping the Sabbath correctly, but because Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath: in other words, Jesus is above the Sabbath law and is not condemned when breaking the Sabbath.
John 5:17-18 read,
But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." 18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Here we have a specific example of Jesus breaking the Sabbath, and it is stated as such by John. Jesus didn’t just break the Pharisaical laws, but the actual 4th commandment. Jesus was not only doing good on the Sabbath day, but working without being guilty of profaning the Sabbath.
Within Adventism there is much speculation about “Sunday-keepers” without any foundation. The vast majority of “Sunday-keepers” do not “keep” Sunday, nor treat it like the seventh-day Sabbath as it is kept in Adventism.
If the Sabbath is to be kept as the “seal of God” by end-time believers, why is the New Testament silent about any commandments regarding Sabbath observance? The 1st through 3rd and the 5th through 10th commandments are found in the New Testament, but not the 4th. If it is such an important part of Christian practice, one of the New Testament writers should have at least mentioned it, but it is not listed anywhere in the New Testament as a day to be kept.
Sunday Sept. 7th – Christ, the Creator of the Sabbath
The author begins today’s study with a question and three Scripture references.
Why is this [Jesus’ role in creation] so important, especially when considering the origin of the Sabbath? See John 1:1–3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:1, 2.
None of the Scriptures referred to indicate anything “considering the origin of the Sabbath.” Yes, the Sabbath was part of the creation of all things, but nowhere do we find in Scripture that God kept the first Sabbath as “an example for us.”
After finishing Creation, He Himself rested on the seventh day, not because of tiredness but in order to bless and sanctify the Sabbath and give us an example to follow. And He also rested on Sabbath when He finished our Redemption on the cross, not because He needed it but in order to (among other things) confirm the perpetual value of the Sabbath.
Nowhere does Scripture state that God gave us an example to follow in keeping the Sabbath; God was not providing an example, he was “ceasing” from his work of creation. Also, Jesus did not “rest on the Sabbath” to “confirm the perpetual value of the Sabbath.” This is total speculation. Jesus died on the cross and entrusted his spirit to the care of his Father. Jesus’ body lay in the tomb, but he himself was present with the Father in “paradise” as was the repentant sinner on the cross next to Christ’s. Luke 23:43 tells us:
And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
This is not a case of a misplaced comma. There was no such punctuation in the Greek; it literally read, “Truly I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise” (no commas).
At the bottom of the page for today’s lesson, the following statement is made:
Sabbath keeping ties us to the beginning of earth’s creation, to the very foundation of our existence.
Sabbath keeping was given for Israel as a reminder of how God had delivered them from Egypt, a place where no special day was kept. Sabbath is not a tie to the creation week. Sabbath was first given in Exodus 16 for the Hebrew slaves to have rest, something they did not have during their entire 400 year existence in Egypt. It helped distinguish them as a nation with an identity and a constitution (the Law.)
Deuteronomy 5:15 tells us:
You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
The keeping of the Sabbath was to be a reminder to the Jews that they were once slaves in Egypt, but were delivered by God.
The Sabbath of creation was not a day, as the first six days of the week were. There was no “morning and evening, the seventh day.” God ceased from his creative work, and continues to have ceased from his creation.
Monday Sept. 8th – Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath
In today’s lesson, the author states:
… because their lives were in danger, their actions should be considered a permissible violation of a ceremonial rule. (Pg. 120 of Teachers Quarterly)
Although the distinction between civil, ceremonial and moral laws helps us in determining the proper use for the Law, the fact that David and his men ate the showbread does not mean it was permissible violation of a “ceremonial” rule. In the New Testament, whenever Law is mentioned, the author is referring to the entire Mosaic law, including the ten commandments. They still broke the Law, and we know that if you break one law, you are guilty of breaking the entire Law.
James 2:10 tells us,
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
Here, in James, there is no distinction between one type of law or another, but the entire Law is being referred to in this verse.
Later, we read,
Christ ratified His status as Creator and Legislator of the Sabbath. Therefore, He alone had the authority to free the Sabbath from these man-made laws.
He also has the authority to lay aside the Law, and free mankind from the burden of Law keeping.
…the Sabbath was created to benefit human beings and continues as a God-given gift at the service of humanity, instead of humanity at the service of the Sabbath.
The way Sabbath is practiced in Adventism indicates that man was created for the Sabbath. The Sabbath is taught as an eternal truth; believers will keep the Sabbath forward to eternity. The Sabbath is a burden, preparations for the Sabbath are a burden, keeping your children from breaking the Sabbath is a burden. The Law was given to Israel as a burdensome system that pointed forward to the coming of the Messiah, and the freedom he would bring from the burden of the Law.
In Adventism, the entire heavenly host keep the Sabbath every week. This is taught, but the reality is one must be on Earth to experience the evening and morning of any day. One cannot experience the Sabbath from any other vantage point; one must be on the Earth to experience it. In eternity future, the Lamb of God is the light that lights the heavenly Jerusalem, there will be no need of sun or moon to determine the proper time for Sabbath-keeping. Revelation 21:23 states,
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
Todays lesson ends with the following question,
What message should we all take from this about the dangers of spiritual blindness among those who should know better?
Spiritual blindness is a direct result of reading and teaching the Mosaic Law as righteous behavior. The keeping of the Law should do one thing: lead you to the Messiah in whom the entire Law has been set aside, and who can redeem you from the curse of the Law.
II Corinthians 3:14-15 states,
But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.
It is spiritual blindness to continue on with works of the Law. It is a Law of condemnation and death. II Cor. 3:7, 9 tells us,
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end … 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.
Christians live under the New Covenant, the Old Covenant has passed away and has been put out of the way of the believer coming boldly before God.
Tuesday Sept. 9th – The Example of Jesus
Today’s lesson begins with a question and provides a few Scriptural references. None of the Scripture references relate to us what Jesus’ “attitude” was toward the Sabbath. We only know that it was his custom to attend synagogue. And of course, Jesus would meet in a synagogue on the Sabbath day because he had been sent to the house of Israel. The lesson author asks these two questions,
What does Luke 4:16 tell us about Jesus’ attitude toward the Sabbath? Why is this so important for us today? See John 14:15, 1·Pet. 2:21.
None of these Scriptures tell us about Jesus’ attitude, Luke 4:16 simply confirms that it was his custom to attend synagogue on the Sabbath day. Scripture only gives us two references that show us what Jesus’ attitude about the Sabbath was. When Jesus declared that the Sabbath was made for man, and when Jesus defended his disciples from the accusations of the Pharisees for “reaping” on the Sabbath do we find any indication of Jesus’ attitude toward the Sabbath day.
Nowhere in the New Testament do we find any command to keep the Sabbath day holy. There is no record of Jesus teaching this to his disciples. Jesus often did works of healing on the Sabbath day. The lesson author then states,
His example as an observer of the Sabbath is a model for Christians to follow, in both time and manner of observance.
Nowhere do we find Jesus suggesting that his Sabbath-keeping was a “model for Christians to follow”. In fact, we have time and time again run into Jesus’ breaking of the Sabbath by performing work on that day. Why did Jesus choose to perform many of his miracles on the Sabbath day? It was specifically to point out that he is “working” just as his Heavenly Father is
We also have the example of Jesus “fasting” yet fasting is not presented to us as an example to follow; certainly not a doctrine to proclaim as a part of the Gospel message.
In response to Luke 4:16-21, the lesson author states,
Appropriately, Jesus chose the day of rest, the Sabbath, to announce His ministry of redemption, liberation, and healing. Truly, we find rest in Jesus, a rest expressed in a tangible way every Sabbath day.
Being a synagogue-attending Jew, Jesus wouldn’t have been able to choose another day to declare before the people his ministry of redemption. Of course he would declare such a thing on the Sabbath, since he was the one reading from Isaiah, while attending synagogue on the Sabbath day. The people congregated on the Sabbath so it only makes sense that Jesus would make this declaration on a Sabbath.
Truly, we find rest in Jesus, a rest expressed in a tangible way every Sabbath day.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I shall give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28) We are to find our eternal rest in Jesus every moment of every day; it isn’t something that we experience once a week as prescribed by the Adventist Church. The rest we experience is that of having our spiritual burdens lifted from our backs and enjoying the freedom that we have received through Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is true rest, resting in Jesus’ accomplished work on the cross and in his resurrection. A once-a-week experience is not what Jesus came to uphold as an example to the people. It is a lifetime of rest that begins the moment we are saved and continues throughout our lives; the rest we have in Christ never ceases and doesn’t just come on a specific day of the week.
Wednesday Sept. 10th – Miracles on the Sabbath
The lesson author begins today’s lesson with the following statement:
The Gospels mention numerous miraculous healings that Jesus carried out on the Sabbath day. It is interesting to note that, in most cases, the healing came by Jesus’ initiative, as if He purposely wanted to heal on the Sabbath, though He could have done it any other day. Jesus was trying to make a point: healing on the Sabbath was not unlawful. On the contrary, it was more lawful than what many of the Pharisees and religious leaders were accustomed to doing on the Sabbath.
The fascinating point made in this paragraph is that healing was “more lawful than what many of the Pharisees and religious leaders were accustomed to doing on the Sabbath.”
When it comes to the law, there are no gray areas. You are either keeping the Law or you are breaking it, something cannot be “more lawful” than another on the Sabbath day; either something is lawful or it is not.
Jesus chose the Sabbath to do many of his miracles because it would greatly disturb the religious leaders of the day. Jesus is preparing to lay down his life, and he accelerated the process some by working on the Sabbath days.
The lesson author goes on to state,
Jesus also stated: “ ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working’ ” (John 5:17, NKJV), referring to God’s work in favor of His creatures. Even on the Sabbath day He continues giving life and sustaining the universe (Heb. 1:2, 3).
With God there is no Sabbath day; he is working, doing the same kind and amount of work that he does on any other day, giving life and sustaining the universe. Jesus heals on the Sabbath to not only show what is lawful on the Sabbath, but the fact that he has become our Sabbath rest.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Mt. 11:28.)
This rest is offered to all people at all times, not just the Jews on the Sabbath day. Keeping the Sabbath day is legalism, regardless of how well one keeps the day. It is an old covenant law that only finds its parallel in the new covenant salvation offered by Christ, through his shed blood on the cross.
Finally the lesson author states,
To keep it means to “rest” from our own works (Heb. 4:10) and, even more important, to stop trying to work our way to salvation—which is impossible anyway.
This is not what is taught in Adventism. In Adventism, the Sabbath becomes the point on which all humanity divides. To keep it is to have the seal of God on the forehead, to break it and “keep Sunday” in its place is to have the mark of the beast on the right hand or on the forehead. The lesson author here is guilty of speaking one way about the Sabbath, yet remaining an Adventist which teaches the Law must be kept by the final generation of Christians to vindicate God and his government.
Today’s lesson finishes with the following statement:
Though it’s easy to be legalistic about the Sabbath, others can be very lax in keeping it. How do we strike the right balance? Also, why must we be careful in our response to how others keep the Sabbath (don’t forget how the Pharisees viewed Christ’s Sabbath keeping)?
We must “strike the right balance” for ourselves, and not condemn others for how they observe the Sabbath. Basically, the lesson author is stating, “Just do it.” Keep the Sabbath yourself and do not concern yourself with others’ Sabbath-keeping. How does one strike the right balance? What are the prohibitions for the Sabbath day, and how are we to understand those prohibitions today with our modern conveniences? We expect our lights to work on the Sabbath, requiring someone to be working in a secular job on the Sabbath day. (Many more examples could be mentioned; think of which products and services we could not do without on the Sabbath day.)
In essence, we need the Pharisees today to help us interpret the prohibitions for the proper keeping of the Sabbath. Otherwise, without the help of the Holy Spirit (who can suggest proper Sabbath keeping in different ways for different people), we have no guide for proper Sabbath observance.
Thursday Sept. 11th – The Sabbath After the Resurrection
The lesson states:
Christ’s words in Matthew 24:20 show us that in a.d. 70, about forty years after His death, the Sabbath was to be considered as sacred as it had always been. The commotion, excitement, fear, and travel necessary to flee from Jerusalem would be inappropriate on the Sabbath day.
Actually, the statement by Christ in Mt. 24:20 is an indication that there would be Messianic Jews living in Jerusalem at the time. Messianic Jews would be keeping the Sabbath, while the Gentile believers would not be keeping a day separate from the others. If fleeing Jerusalem is the way to keep one’s life, doing so on a Sabbath day would be a “more” lawful practice than not fleeing. (See yesterday’s lesson regarding “more lawful”.)
The lesson author goes on to say:
For the disciples, going to the synagogue was what church attendance should be for us today: one of the best ways to observe the Sabbath. This is especially noticeable with the apostle Paul, who was present at the synagogue services on Sabbath when no Christian church was there.
Going to the synagogue is not what church attendance should be for us today. The Jewish leaders and those who followed their teaching would attend synagogue, but the disciples of Christ would begin meeting in house churches. Paul went into the synagogue to preach Christ for as long as he could before being kicked out. Paul preached every day that he could find an audience, as stated in Acts 19:9-10, “But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.” (Italics mine.) Paul and those following his teachings stopped going to synagogue on Sabbath once the Jews became stubborn. The next verse tells us how long Paul preached daily in the hall of Tyrannus. Acts 19:10 states,
This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
The lesson author goes on to state, in regards to several texts about attendance at the synagogue on the Sabbath,
These texts provide powerful evidence that the early church knew nothing of the first day of the week as a replacement for the seventh.
Only a very few Christians keep Sunday as the Sabbath. These are generally those of the Reformed churches. Most Christians do not keep Sunday as a replacement for Sabbath, we simply state that the legal requirement of keeping the Sabbath has been fulfilled in Christ. Now, any day can be a day of rest, resting in the completed work of Christ on the cross. If the Sabbath is so important, why is there no commandment found in the New Testament requiring Christians to keep the Sabbath? Other laws are repeated in the New Testament, yet the Sabbath lacks such support. Why is the keeping of the Sabbath of no consequence to the Gentile believers in the new Church?
Today’s lesson ends with this thought,
How, though, can our Sabbath keeping make us Christians who are more compassionate, loving, and caring? (Pg. 130 of the Teacher’s Quarterly)
The keeping of the Sabbath cannot make Christians more “compassionate, loving, and caring.” This would be equivalent to saying that not committing murder, or not committing adultery makes Christians more compassionate, loving, and caring. The keeping of a law does not do that in the life of a Christian. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon conversion that softens a man’s heart making him more compassionate, loving, and caring.
Friday Sept. 12th – Further Study
Today’s lesson, as is so often the case, a reading from the writings of Ellen White. The following is found in the quote on lesson page 131 of the Teachers quarterly:
Then the Sabbath is a sign of Christ’s power to make us holy. And it is given to all whom Christ makes holy. As a sign of His sanctifying power, the Sabbath is given to all who through Christ become a part of the Israel of God.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 288, 289.
The keeping of a law does not make one holy, nor is it a “sign” of Christ’s sanctifying power. The Law was given to point out sin. It is the righteousness of Christ that makes one holy before God, and this is given as a free gift to whosoever would partake of it. The Law is a ministry of death and condemnation (See 2 Cor. 3) and as such has no way to make the keeper of the Law righteous.
Also, from this statement, one does not become a part of the “Israel of God.” Israel still exists as a separate people on the face of the Earth and Gentiles do not become a part of that. God’s promises to Israel that are yet to be fulfilled will happen. Most Christians are Gentiles who are grafted into the vine, which is Christ, not Israel. Some of Israel is cut off from the vine, pruned because of the failure to come to Christ for salvation.
Rather than read the suggestions from the Spirit of Prophecy, read 2 Cor. chapter 3 for a correct view of the Law and its purpose.
Third Quarter 2014 (July–September)
COMMENTARY ON THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS
Week 11: September 6–12
COMMENTARY ON THE SABBATH
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.