Keeping the Sabbath

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Keeping the Sabbath

James R. Aist

“For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” – Jesus

There seems to be some confusion within the modern Christian community concerning the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). We cannot just ignore this commandment, since it is the Fourth of the Ten Commandments, but do we have to follow it, like the Old Testament Jews did? Let’s see if the New Testament provides clear instructions concerning this question.

Jesus’ Teachings

In Matthew 12:8, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” The clear implication here is that whatever Jesus said about the Sabbath is true and allowable for all, regardless of prevailing Jewish tradition. Jesus also said that “…it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:12).” It would seem to follow, then, that “doing good” would include enjoying the blessings and favor of God on the Sabbath and giving Him praise and glory for them. And, in Mark 2:27, Jesus declared that “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” In other words, the Sabbath was given to benefit man, not to rule over him. Thus, healing the sick, tending livestock, and harvesting grain (to use some of the examples used against Jesus to charge him with breaking the Law), as well as doing any “good” thing, such as teaching in the synagogue (Luke 13:10 and Acts 18:4), are allowed on the Sabbath.

Paul’s Teachings

In Colossians 2:14-21, Paul wrote: “He blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us and contrary to us, and He took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed authorities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them by the cross. Therefore let no one judge you regarding food, or drink, or in respect of a holy day or new moon or Sabbath days. These are shadows of things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone cheat you of your reward by delighting in false humility and the worship of angels, dwelling on those things which he has not seen, vainly arrogant due to his unspiritual mind,  and not supporting the head, from which the entire body, nourished and knit together by joints and sinews, grows as God gives the increase. Therefore, if you died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you subject yourself to legalistic rules?  “Do not touch! Do not taste! Do not handle!” These all are to perish with use and are aligned with the commandments and doctrines of men (Italics mine).” Read carefully and you will see three key and telling points made here: 1) Jesus nailed to the cross the traditional, Jewish requirements re. the Sabbath; 2) the traditional, Jewish requirements re. the Sabbath were mere shadows of things to come, so they perished after they had served their purpose among the Old Testament Jews (i.e., when Jesus, who is the substance of these requirements, appeared); and 3) the Sabbath requirements are no longer in effect for those who are in Christ Jesus, including both Jews and Gentiles; they have expired.

Conclusions

So, are we required to follow the practices of the Old Testament Jews concerning the Sabbath? The biblical answer is, emphatically, “No!” [For the record, this is why the New Testament church felt free to change the “worship day” of the Christian church from Saturday to Sunday (Acts 20:7)]. But, does this mean that we should ignore the Sabbath entirely? I don’t think so. God established the seventh day as a day of rest for mankind (Exodus 20:9-10 and 23:12), and as such, a weekly Sabbath would certainly serve us well, in accord with Mark 2:27, and it would be exercising wisdom. Moreover, the Judaic and Christian practice of gathering for worship on the day of rest is a way of obeying Hebrews 10:25 which says, “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but let us exhort one another, especially as you see the Day approaching.” So, let us remember the Sabbath by observing a weekly day of much-needed rest and by assembling together regularly to give God all the glory that is due Him. As Christians, these two practices should be our custom.

(To read more of my biblically based articles, click HERE.)

A Day to Remember

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A Day to Remember

 James R. Aist

We all have our “good days” and our “bad days.” Most days it seems to be a mixture of the two. And so it is with me, as well. However, there is one particular day in my life that stands out far above all the other good days I have had. This day came together for me in the Spring of 1971, while I was a Ph.D. student in Plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

As I was soon to graduate with a Ph.D., I had been busy preparing for the next logical steps in my career and my family. Applications for a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, had been sent in. Job applications had been made to a couple of prestigious institutions with strong programs in Plant Pathology. My wife and I were trying for our first baby, as I was soon to be earning a suitable salary to support a family. Of course, I didn’t know either if or when any of these aspirations would be realized, but I did my best to make them all happen in the near future. I was optimistic, as is my nature.

After several months of anxious waiting, the unbelievable became reality, all in one morning: first, I got a letter in the mail from the National Institutes of Health, and they offered me a full-ride Postdoctoral Fellowship for Switzerland; next, I got a phone call from the Chairman of the Department of Plant Pathology at Cornell University offering me a tenure-track faculty position that was literally tailor-made for me (I kid you not!) at a starting salary of $11,000 per year; and finally, my wife walked into my cubicle and announced that she was pregnant with our first child!

Well, needless to say, I was truly amazed, overwhelmed and rendered mentally useless for productive work the remainder of the day, so I shared the good news with my Major Professor and went home to bask in the avalanche of good news that God had blessed me with that morning. It was hard to believe, but it really was true.

However, there was still one potential “fly in the ointment” that had to be resolved before I could benefit fully from all these blessings: my job offer and my Postdoctoral Fellowship were both scheduled to begin in September of that year. So, I called the Department Chairman at Cornell and asked if I could go ahead and accept the Postdoctoral Fellowship and start my job at Cornell in September of 1972 instead of 1971. “Sure”, he said, “Go ahead and get your postdoctoral training in Zurich first, and we’ll hold your job for you in the meantime.” Wow, I was delighted that it was all going to work out just as I had hoped! But, this fairytale-like adventure didn’t end there. When I returned to the U.S. to assume my faculty position at Cornell, there was a letter in my mailbox from the Department Chairman stating that he was including me in the salary-increase program for the year I was in Zurich, and my new starting salary would be increased from $11,000 to $12,000 per year; I got a salary increase before I even started work at Cornell!

I truly am a blessed man, and I give God all of the praise and all of the glory for the favor that had to come my way in order for all this to happen as it did. And His timing is impeccable!

(To enjoy more of my short stories, click HERE)