A Blessing for all Mankind
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." Genesis 2:2, 3. He rested, not as one weary, but as one well pleased with the fruits of His wisdom and goodness.
After resting upon the seventh day, God sanctified it, or set it apart, as a day of rest for man. Following the example of the Creator, man was to rest upon this sacred day, that as he should look upon the heavens and the earth, he might reflect upon Godís great work of creation, and that as he should behold the evidences of Godís wisdom and goodness, his heart might be filled with love and reverence for his Maker.
In Eden, God set up the memorial of His work of creation, placing His blessing upon the seventh day. The Sabbath was committed to Adam, the father and representative of the whole human family. Its observance was to be an act of grateful acknowledgment, on the part of all who should dwell upon the earth, that God was their Creator and their rightful Sovereign. They were the work of His hands and the subjects of His authority. Thus the institution was wholly commemorative, and given to all mankind. There was nothing in it shadowy or of restricted application to any people.
The Sabbath was kept by Adam in his innocence in holy Eden, by Adam, fallen yet repentant, when he was driven from his happy estate. It was kept by all the patriarchs, from Abel to righteous Noah, to Abraham, to Jacob. When the chosen people were in bondage in Egypt, many, in the midst of prevailing idolatry, lost their knowledge of Godís law; but when the Lord delivered Israel, He proclaimed His law in awful grandeur to the assembled multitude, that they might know His will and obey Him. It was to be held as a sacred trust for the whole world.
When the law was proclaimed at Sinai the very first words of the fourth commandment were, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy," showing that the Sabbath was not then instituted; we are pointed back to creation for its origin.
From Sabbath to Sunday
In the first centuries the true Sabbath had been kept by all Christians. They were jealous for the honor of God, and, believing that His law is immutable, they zealously guarded the sacredness of its precepts. But Sunday was made a festival in honor of the resurrection of Christ. Religious services were held upon it; yet it was regarded as a day of recreation, the Sabbath being still sacredly observed.
Satan had led the Jews to load down the Sabbath with the most rigorous exactions, making its observance a burden. While Christians generally continued to observe Sunday as a joyous festival, he led them to make the Sabbath a fast, a day of sadness and gloom.
In the early part of the fourth century the emperor Constantine issued a decree making Sunday a public festival throughout the Roman Empire. The day of the sun was reverenced by his pagan subjects and was honored by Christians.
The Nine Commandments
Some Christian teachers argue that the ten commandments here done away with at the cross and now we are under grace. But when you question them about specific commandments. you find that they actually believe that God commands them to have no other gods before Him, and to refrain from idol worship. blasphemy, disrespect for parents, murder adultery, stealing, deception and covetousness. The only one of the ten commandments which they truly wish to reject is the fourth commandment, which asks men to set aside the seventh day of the week as holy to God.
When this is pointed out, these teachers state that Christ gave instruction in the New Testament for the keeping of the other nine commandments. They would have people believe that Christ did away with the Ten Commandments and then reissued nine of them for the sole purpose of doing away with the Sabbath.
The reasoning behind all the other commandments can be rationally understood: man derives benefit from respect for God, from others not trying to murder him, steal his spouse and possessions, etc. This one law, the fourth commandment is different. Man cannot see any benefit to himself from exalting this specific day of the neck above the rest. Accordingly, the only reason one ,would choose to keep the seventh day holy instead of another day of the week is because God said to keep it.
Just as in the beginning God arbitrarily chose one tree and forbade Adam and Eve to eat of it to test their obedience, so God has arbitrarily chosen one day to test the obedience of their descendants. Thus those who willfully choose to disobey this one law show that they are not being obedient to any of Godís commands: they are guilty of disobeying all.
While many God-fearing Christians were gradually led to regard Sunday as possessing a degree of sacredness, they still held the true Sabbath as the holy of the Lord and observed it in obedience to the fourth commandment.
From time to time, vast councils were held, in which the dignitaries of the church were convened from all the world. In nearly every council the Sabbath which God had instituted was pressed down a little lower, while Sunday was correspondingly exalted.
Thus Sunday came finally to be honored as a divine institution, while the Bible Sabbath was pronounced a relic of Judaism, and its observers were declared to be accursed. The law of God was trampled in the dust, while the traditions and customs of men were exalted.
Christians of past generations observed Sunday, supposing that in so doing they were keeping the Bible Sabbath and there are now true Christians in every church who honestly believe that Sunday is the Sabbath of divine appointment. God has accepted their sincerity of purpose and their integrity before him. "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now is the day of reformation." Acts 17:30.
Note: In lands beyond the jurisdiction of Rome there existed for many centuries bodies of Christians who continued to regard the Bible as the only rule of faith and adhered to many of its truths. These Christians believed in the perpetuity of the law of God and observed the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. Churches that held to this faith and practice existed in Central Africa and among the Armenians of Asia.
The Lord of the Sabbath
"Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?" John 9:16.
Those who hold at Christ abolished the law teach that He broke the Sabbath and justified His disciples in doing the same Thus they are really taking the same ground as did the Pharisees In this they contradict the testimony of Christ Himself who declared, "I have kept My Fatherís commandments, and abide in His love." John 15:10. Neither the Saviour nor His followers broke the law of the Sabbath.
"And his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?" Mark 2:23, 24. When accused of Sabbathbreaking at Bethesda Jesus had defended Himself by affirming His Sonship to God, and declaring that He worked in harmony with the Father. Now that the disciples are attacked, He refers His accusers to examples from the Old Testament, acts performed on the Sabbath by those who were in the service of God. See Matthew 12:5, 6. The disciples, in doing the work of Christ, were engaged in Godís service, and that which was necessary for the accomplishment of this work it was right to do on the Sabbath day. The same labor in secular business would be sinful Christ would teach His disciples that the service of God is first of all. The object of Godís work in this world is the redemption of man; therefore that which is necessary to be done on the Sabbath in the accomplishment of this work is in accord with the Sabbath law. "It is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days," He declared.
The Path to Happiness
It is not the greatness of the act of disobedience that constitutes sin, but the fact of variance from God's expressed will in the least particular, for this shows that there is yet communion between the soul and sin. We cannot disregard one word, however trifling it may seem to us, and be safe. There is not a commandment of the law that is not for the good and happiness of man, both in this life and in the life to come. In obedience to God's law, man is surrounded as with a hedge and kept from evil.
"For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day." Matthew 12:8. He made the Sabbath. By Him it was set apart as a memorial of the work of creation. It points to Him as both the Creator and the Sanctifier. The Sabbath is a sign of .Christís 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.
In the beginning the Father and the Son had rested upon the Sabbath after Their work of creation. Then through the sacred hours of the Sabbath day Jesus rested from the work of redemption. The creation Sabbath, the day on which Jesus lay at rest in Josephís tomb, will still be a day of rest and rejoicing when Eden shall bloom on earth again. Heaven and earth will unite in praise, as "from one Sabbath to another" (Isaiah 66:23) the nations of the saved shall bow in joyful worship to God and the Lamb.
The law of God will stand fast forever, and exist in the new earth to all eternity. The Sabbath will never be abolished; but the redeemed saints, and all the angelic host will observe it in honor of the great Creator to all eternity. So long as the heavens and the earth endure, the Sabbath will continue as a sign of the Creatorís power.