Sabbath Rest :: By Grant Phillips

Sabbath Rest 

In Hebrews chapters three and four our Lord tells us about the children of Israel who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years because they refused to enter His rest, and then He advises us to not follow their example. His desire is for all of us to enter His rest.

The unbeliever refuses to rest by faith in Christ and be saved, and so he never experiences a new birth in Jesus Christ. Even the believer often refuses to rest by faith in their Savior and Lord on a daily basis and because of this fails to mature spiritually.

In writing about God’s Sabbath rest, I am not saying we should worship on Saturday as opposed to Sunday. Every believer in Christ should worship every day of the week, not just on Sunday. Right up front, this article has nothing to do with worshipping God on any particular day of the week. It is referring to what God means by “Sabbath rest.”

God told Israel the Sabbath day (Saturday, the 7th day) is holy because it commemorates their resting in His works. Genesis 2:2-3 says,

“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.”

These two verses are not saying that God got tired and had to rest. That would be our definition today of the word “rest.” The Hebrew word (shabath) for “rest” actually means, “Cease from labor, or desist from work.” He stopped working in other words. He finished creating. He was done.

So what was God’s message to Israel in “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy?” He was telling them to cease from their own work and depend on Him. His example to them, and us, is in Genesis 2:2-3.

Anyone who has read the Gospels will immediately recall how the Pharisees hounded Jesus about the Sabbath. By the time Jesus began His ministry, this commandment had been distorted beyond recognition. Here are three examples.

  1. It was unlawful to wear any jewelry or ornaments on the Sabbath, since this might be construed as carrying a burden.
  2. An egg could not be boiled on the Sabbath, either by normal means or by putting it near a hot kettle or by wrapping it in a hot cloth or by putting it in the hot sand outside.
  3. It was fine to spit on a rock on the Sabbath, but you could not spit on the ground, because that made mud and mud was mortar, and that was work.

Ridiculous! Right? Of course it was! These silly add-ons had nothing to do with honoring the Sabbath day and keeping it holy. That had nothing to do with God’s message to them about resting from their own works and depending on Him.

Remembering the Sabbath is a message to both the unbeliever and the believer today.

The unbeliever must put their faith in Jesus Christ instead of their own works if they desire to be saved. They must cease trying to save themselves and instead depend totally on Jesus Christ by faith. Yet, most will rely on their own works to save them, and go into eternity lost.

The believer must live their life in faith toward Jesus, the same faith they used to become a Christian. This is what it means to live daily for Christ and is equivalent to walking in the Spirit. We must cease from depending on ourselves, our works, for spiritual maturity and depend totally on Him.

Those who rest in their own works will never please God. They just spin their tires like a car stuck in the mud. The only works that will ever come from these folks are the works of the flesh. A sampling of these fleshly works can be found in Galatians 5:19-20.

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;

idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”

And then the warning is found in verse 21, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

The fruit of the Holy Spirit that can only come from a true Christian are found in Galatians 5:22-23.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Now let us not stop here but include the remaining verses in chapter 5 of Galatians, verses 23-26.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

How does the Christian do this? We live by faith in Jesus daily, resting from our own works. We depend on Him throughout the day, every day … by faith.

John Calvin said, “Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone.” That very accurately states what the Bible says to us all.

“Faith alone saves” – For the unbeliever, if you desire to know Jesus as your personal Savior, you must come to Him … in faith only.

“Faith that saves is not alone” – For the believer to have fruit of the Spirit in your life, you must trust Him daily for everything … in faith only. This is the same faith you used when you trusted Jesus to save you. Now use it every day and enter His rest.

Grant Phillips


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