Since I discontinued association with my former COG on August 23rd, 2008, I have heard much ado about the Sabbath. It is THE sacred cow of Armstrongism. Well, I need to talk frankly about the Sabbath.
I see that "Sabbath" means "do nothing" to some groups... in exact opposition of what God wants.
(MATT. 11: 28-29) 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 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.
'Rest', as you can see here, is for the soul in the NT, not the rear-end. Working or not working is not what the Christian concentrates on. Being laden isn't with a physical burden.
(HEB. 3: 18-19) 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
The rest is not physical rest, but something to be 'entered into' by those who follow Christ. It requires faith! Almost no faith whatsoever is required to rest from physical work. It is plain to see, physical work and obedience through physical rest are not being spoken of here.
(HEB. 4: 1) Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.
The rest is a promise from God. Do we need a promise from God to sit? (Some do. But I mean in general?) The answer is no.
For instance, and of great importance, the rest being spoken of can be fallen short of. How do you 'fall short' of physical rest? By not resting fully enough? Hardly! I once "rested" from physical work in a pool on the weekly Sabbath at the Feast of Tabernacles in Tucson Arizona. The heat was unbearable. My friends and I decided we would sit in the cool water and rest. Everyone else sat in the heat with all their fine clothes on because they were too afraid it might be too close to "work", and by extension, a sin. (The looks I got must have been similar to those Jesus got when He and his disciples went through the fields.) My friends and I weren't swimming, or even horse playing, we were sitting and talking. We were doing the same thing hundreds of other people were doing, only we were in a pool in the heat of the day. When the sun went down, everyone else got in too. Now, what Spiritual benefit do you suppose those people had by exposing themselves to the hot desert sun and sweating for hours? Not one bit!
We are talking about physical matters when we talk about physical rest. Sin is spiritual. Some would say, "It is because people aren't keeping the Sabbath in their heart. They secretly desire to break it and only keep it grudgingly." So let me get this straight. It's not only warming a chair on the 7th day of the week that counts, but HOW you warm that chair? I disagree. Although, this answer does start down the road to understanding! (It just fails to continue thereon.)
The problem IS with the heart! That much is absolutely correct. Only, the fork in the road presented is physical rest from work vs. spiritual rest from sin, and the COGs take the path of physical rest. With the physically-oriented mind, that is the logical path, I'll admit. But it neglects to take into account the verses I've just presented which clearly and plainly show the rest is not physical after all. Therefore the true path is not to physical rest, but spiritual rest. It begins in the heart, and it ends in the heart, not with the rump.
How very often did I hear, and parrot, "Have a relaxing Sabbath!" Think about this for a moment. Of what benefit to the world is inactivity? Whom have you benefited? Have you not several hours of rest each day? Does not the Biblical day begin at evening, and therefore is not physical rest one of the very first things you do each day? Whom, besides yourself, does this truly benefit? Can you share Christ while you lie still and silent? Can you inspire others through your relaxing? Can you preach the gospel in snoring? What good comes of it?
(PRO. 6: 6-11) 6 Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, 7 Which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, 8 provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. 9 How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep— 11 so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.
Consider the ant, you sluggard! While you rest on your laurels in slothful inactivity every 7th day, what good have you done? Whom have you fed? Whom have you lifted up? When Christ asks you why you didn't do as He asked but chose to spend every 7th day holding still, will you tell Him "I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground" (MATT. 25: 25)?
(PRO. 24: 30-34) 30 I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; 31 and there it was, all overgrown with thorns; its surface was covered with nettles; its stone wall was broken down. 32 When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction: 33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; 34 so shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.
So, those who rest their backsides every 7th day in idle uselessness, thinking you keep the law, consider the ant you sluggard, because it clearly states unless you keep every last stitch of the law you have only managed to estrange yourself from Christ. Physical rest won't heal that breach. But those who rest your souls in Christ, enjoy your peace every day, while it is called "today". The Lord will come to His temple, which you are, and your soul will have true rest --- daily.
Why do you keep the Sabbath?
The number one explanation I've heard is "It's the 4th Commandment." Let's briefly look at that, starting by asking "Is the Old Covenant still in force?" Of course your answer would be "no", or at least I hope it would be. So, let's clarify with, "What was the Old Covenant?"
(DEU. 4: 13) So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.
The 10 Commandments were the Old Covenant! So when you say "The Old Covenant is gone", you must include the 10 Commandments which framed it! So when Christ says "If you love Me, keep My Commandments" (JOHN 14: 15) it is not speaking of the 10 Commandments at all (not according to the old physical, shadowy keeping of law anyhow).
Too much for you to bear? Let me also give you this which Paul had given us.
Romans 7: 1-4 and I COR. 7: 39 both spell it out quite clearly through an example of marriage. When a spouse dies, the covenant that bound them is nullified. Christ, being the first party to the Old Covenant, died, thus nullifying that agreement - and the 10 Commandments that framed it! There is no reasoning around this fact. There are but two options: ignore Bible truth to blaze on in your opinion anyhow, or accept this.
And don't think to haul out yet another saying of Mr. Armstrong's, "The only Commandment anyone has a problem with is the 4th!" Because I guarantee you that very saying, which ensnared me and many others in the past, in fact works completely against you. I would ask you the same question; what problem do you have with the 4th Commandment? What I mean is, why do you see the other 9 have been magnified, but not this one? Murder is in the heart long before the act thus it is spiritual, adultery is in the heart long before the act thus it is spiritual, covetousness is in the heart long before any outward show appears therefore it is spiritual, circumcision is of the heart, sacrifices are of the heart, etc, etc -- but we, in our misunderstanding and legalism, clung to the idea that only the 4th Commandment has made it into the New Covenant absolutely unchanged and unmagnified. We patted ourselves on the back so very often saying the rest of the world does not understand. The joke was on us, because it was we who did not understand. It would appear the only Commandment the COGs have a problem with is the 4th!
(GAL. 4: 21-25) 21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—
And what happened on Mt. Sinai? The giving of the 10 Commandments. This fully applies to the Sabbath!! And the point is of utmost importance. Taking the wrong stance and trusting in your own keeping of the law could very well cost you everything!
(GAL. 5: 4) You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
But closely note the very next thing Paul writes. What does he emphasize?
(GAL. 5: 5) For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith
The number two explanation I've heard is, "God rested on the 7th day of creation; the Sabbath was from the beginning." Review the entirety of Hebrews 4. God rested when the works were finished - not just 'on the seventh day', but when the work was finished. This was symbolic. God offered rest to those in the Exodus, who every last one learned to physically rest every 7th day or they were removed, but yet they were not allowed to enter "that rest". Joshua took them into the Promised Land, but even those ones, who were idle every 7th day, still did not enter "the rest". Therefore, as the author of Hebrews rightly concludes, there remains a rest to be entered into. This is not a 7th day sluggishness, or certainly "that rest" would have been attained by those people. God spoke of another day. As in the beginning, Christ said "it is finished" (JOHN 19: 30), and now He rests from that work. He came to save all mankind, and the work of opening salvation is complete. Right now there is a rest, attainable in faith. We can enter this rest when we cease our works... carnal works. It is a spiritual rest --- a rest for the soul.
When was the last time you asked "Why do I keep the Sabbath?" It's not so simple as "It's the 4th Commandment" or "God rested on the 7th day of creation." The Bible tells us specifically why the Sabbath was instituted:
(DEU. 5: 15) And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
Maybe the correct question is "When was the last time you were enslaved in Egypt and brought out from there?" If you see yourself as being Spiritual Israel, and Christ brought you out from the Egypt of sin, then why do you insist on a physical Sabbath? It is contrary to the very theology you espouse. Our rest is in Christ. Our rest is Christ. "For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath" (MATT. 12: 8). And what is that rest?
(MATT. 12: 12) Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath
But, do we do good only one day each week? No! There is the carnality of mind coming through again. Not one day a week, but each day! When we enter the rest, through faith, which is to do good and put away evil, we do it at all times. There is no special day of the week when it is better to do good or worse to do evil. The rest of Christ is entered in to. When we enter, we are there! Just as we are the temple of God's Spirit and Christ enters into it. It's not a rest for the body. Consider the ant! No, it is a rest for the soul, just as Matthew 11: 29 says it is!
Therefore Paul says:
(COL. 2: 11-17) 11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
Don't let anyone judge you that you aren't keeping the Sabbath correctly when you keep it in Spirit and truth, as it was intended. They will come after you with their words and condemn you in that you aren't sitting and being useless like they are. But be bold, knowing the work of salvation is complete, and knowing the rest is open to you.
If you take nothing else away from this, then take this one point: make your keeping of the 4th commandment about spending time following Christ as opposed to wasting time resting the flesh. Work on the Sabbath, work your butt off! But work to do good. Do as much good as you can! Don't sit there uselessly wondering if you've been inactive enough to please God. God is not the God of the dead, who are all inactive, but of the living! Do as much good as you possibly can.
If you read I John 2: 3-4 and see "[Old Covenant] 10 Commandments", this is a mistake. Do a word study on "commandments", you'll see just what I mean. It does not refer to the 10 Commandments at all, but rather all that Jesus commands. You could say that includes the 10 Commandments... if you conveniently set asside all I've said here. Let me show you from John's hand what commandment John was referring to:
(I JOHN 4: 21) And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
John spoke a great deal about love. Love! This is the fulfillment of the whole law (ROM. 13: 8).