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Sunday School: Christian Ethics (Pt.7: Sabbath)

October 27, 2019 Speaker: John Bell Series: Sunday School: Christian Ethics

Exodus 16:23–29 He said to them, “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’” 24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. 26 Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.” 27 Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. 28 Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? 29 Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."

Deut. 5:12–15 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. (Back in Exodus 20). 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day."

1. A Day of Rest Was a Gift from God.
2. Later Jewish Tradition Added Many Oppressive Rules.


This was the position, for example, of the English Puritans, and it found expression in the Westminster Confession of Faith:
By a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, [God] hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, (AD LIB) to be kept holy unto Him; which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath. (WCF, 21.7)

How was this day to be observed? The confession said:
[People are to] observe an holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employment and recreations, … [and be] taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy. (WCF, 21.8)

The arguments in favour of Sabbatarianism are:
1. God established a pattern of Sabbath keeping at creation.
2. The fourth commandment is part of the Ten Commandments, and all of the Ten Commandments represent moral requirements from God that apply to all human life on earth for all periods of history. Therefore, we should not disregard the fourth commandment.
3. There is nothing in the New Testament that convincingly indicates the abrogation of the Old Testament Sabbath commandment. Therefore, it is still morally binding on people today.

1. The Mosaic Covenant Has Been Terminated. New Testament writers affirm clearly that the Mosaic covenant has been terminated and is no longer binding on people today, since we live in the age of the new covenant (see Luke 22:20; Rom. 7:4, 6; 8:2; 10:4; 1 Cor. 9:20; 2 Cor. 3:6; Gal. 3:24–25; Eph. 2:15; Heb. 7:18–19; 8:6–13)

2. Unlike the Other Nine Commandments, This One Is Never Reaffirmed for Christians in the New Covenant.

3. The New Testament Explicitly Says That Christians No Longer Must Observe Sabbath Days.

4. The Argument of Hebrews 3 and 4 (which I will preach at a later date)

BIG PICTURE: The Sabbath commandment looked forward to the coming of Christ and was fulfilled by his life and ministry.

The Sabbath promised physical rest to labourers, but Jesus offered a deeper, spiritual rest - a rest from our struggling to make ourselves right before God. Because Jesus fulfilled the Law, and thus fulfilled the Sabbath commands, he, not some day of the week, is what offers the believers rest. We obey the Sabbath commandment as we spiritually rest in Christ, letting him bear our heavy burdens, trusting him for salvation, and committing our lives to him in service, then remaining faithful in lifelong loyalty to him rather than committing apostasy – which then leads to eternal life in the new heavens and new earth. No special day each week for rest or worship could ever come close to fulfilling this grander and far more enriching and exciting vision of life to the full!


1. It Is Wise to Observe Regular Times of Prayer, Worship, Learning, and Fellowship with Other Believers.
2. On Which Day Should Christians Worship Together?
        a. Any Day Is Acceptable because the Fourth Commandment Is No Longer Binding.
        b. The Most Frequent Pattern in the History of the Christian Church Has Been to Meet on Sunday. In the New Testament era, early Christians started a pattern of meeting on Sunday

3. It Is Wise to Have Regular Days of Rest from Our Ordinary Work.


1. Should Christians Support Sunday Closing Laws?