ADAM, in Edens garden, observed every day,
for he had no need to labor and toil and sweat for his living. But the entrance of sin
changed all that. His own vitality was impaired by the operation of death, and the
fertility of the cursed ground decreased so that it demanded a life of work and weariness,
(Gen. 3:17-19). Yet sin is not eternal, nor are its effects final. It is only a temporary
intruder. Indeed, through it, mankind will be brought to a place and position of felicity
far beyond that enjoyed by Adam and his wife in Eden. Along with the abolition of death
and dying (1 Cor.15:26) will come surcease from sorrow and slavery to the soil. Then,
again, every day will be dedicated to the Deity.
In that glorious future the
very thought of toil and travail will vanish from our minds, for we will be endued with a
vigor which will find no task too tiring and no work too wearisome. We will not need a
period of rest for recuperation. In effect it will be a continual sabbath, not of
cessation merely, but of freedom from everything that would impair our overflowing
vitality. To put it another way, we will set aside no day for a sabbath, because we are at
ease at all times. Enforced cessation would only irk us and be an intolerable hindrance to
our tireless activities.
This is what all who have
made Pauls evangel theirs by faith already have in spirit. We look forward to
the new creation, and attain it now by faith insofar as our flesh will allow. But the
sabbath is only a shadow of things to come, in the regeneration, when Israel will cease
their own works and rest in Jehovahs salvation. It is limited to this creation. it
will find its fulfillment in the millennium, when Israel, the nation to whom it was given,
will cease to strive in their own strength for the blessings of God, after their week of
weary work, seeking to earn their living by law-keeping and dead works.
It was exceedingly
important that Israel keep the sabbath holy, because of the great necessity of enforcing
the lesson it was designed to teach. Israel was confident that they could do all
that Jehovah demanded, so had to be taught their own impotence. Hence Jehovah insisted on
one day in which they should cease their doing. But, alas! they often did not even
do this! Their utter failure in grasping the spirit of the
sabbath-cessation was their undoing. Even today many imagine that it is only a wise and
beneficial arrangement to give men a day of rest for recreation and recuperation in order
to continue working. But sabbath, in Hebrew, does not mean rest, but cease.
It does not foreshadow a period in which Israel will rest up for further effort, but a
final cessation of all working for Gods favor.
Living in Jerusalem, one is
impressed with the zeal with which the various religions keep their weekly holy day. The
Mohammedans observe Friday, the Jews Saturday and the Christians Sunday. It is bewildering
to those who consider such things seriously. Yet it is hardly less confusing to the infirm
in faith in Christian lands, where the churches observe Sunday, the first day of
the week, instead of Saturday, the last. To the intelligent student this is
incongruous, for the sabbath (as Sunday is called) does not come before, but after
Israel has done its work. A cessation in working cannot come before work has
begun. It must come after. Sunday cannot foreshadow the future sabbatism (Heb.4:9).
Work cannot stop before it has begun. Sunday is a heathen holy day dedicated to the
worship of the sun, and has no claim on Bible believers.
Although I have not done so
for the most of my life, I imagine that a rest of one day in seven is beneficial. But that
could be any day, whereas the law calls for the seventh, and not any other.
From this it is evident that the sabbath is not a mere humanitarian arrangement to
mitigate the severities of the curse, but is definitely incorporated into Gods great
curriculum to teach the blessedness of entire dependence on God for salvation apart
from works, and to foreshadow the era when this will first find its fulfillment. It
was a vital part of Israels religion, and had to be enforced, if the lesson it was
to teach was to be learned.
WE OBSERVE EVERY DAY
the reverse is true in our case, if we are confirmed in the truth, and not infirm.
If the epistle to the Romans has been believed, then our works have no place in our
salvation. Our justification is by faith, apart from works. What need is there of a
sabbath to teach us this? Especially when the experience of Israel for thousands of years
failed to do so. Already, so far as salvation is concerned, we do not work on any day.
We ceased work when we believed, and do not expect to resume. We have the reality, of
which the sabbath is only a shadow. We cannot keep on ceasing each week, because we do not
work on other days either. For us every day, is Sunday already.
Consequently, outwardly we
need not observe any day, but inwardly, in spirit, in reality, we must keep every
day! And this corresponds to the blessed future for us, when, clothed with life and
power, we will set aside every day to the Deity. In the midst of ceaseless activity we can
observe unceasing cessation, utter idleness, as far as our salvation is concerned. Hardly
a day passes in which I do not approach exhaustion of my physical strength, and yet I
never move my finger in order to win salvation. Only on Sundays I reserve what strength I
have for a talk to the saints, and relax as much as possible thereafter, lest I deplete my
vitality to such a degree that I can do no work at all.
Those who strive to keep
the law for salvation are really breaking the sabbath on seven days even while
observing the sabbath or Sunday on one of them. That which was intended to teach cessation
from dead works altogether, is itself made a lifeless effort. But it is not given to many
to see the true spiritual import of the sabbath in the light of Gods ultimate, as
shown in Pauls writings, so it is not possible for them to act in accordance
therewith. Judging will not help them now, in their ignorance and mortality. They need
sympathetic nurture, that they may no longer be minors, but attain the maturity that is
theirs in Christ. Then they will gladly, in spirit, devote every day to God, and, even on
the sabbath or Sunday, worship Him with liberty and love, not in bondage and fear.
LIGHT WILL COME AT THE DAIS
illumination and manifestation which will take place at the dais will play an important
part in transforming us all. None of us will remain infirm in faith, because it will be
replaced by sight. We will no longer be mortal minors, but become immortal and mature. It
may be then that we will lose a measure of reward because of our failure to observe every
day by resting in God, but our overwhelming joy in our immortality and future will be so
great that no forfeit will be able to make any great diminution in our felicity.
Many of us would be glad if
such a glorious condition were already the portion of the saints. But this is not the
proper time. Now we play a part which is vital, not so much for us and our happiness,
but for the whole creation. Gods grace is glorious when it saves sinners who have no
deserts, but it is even more brilliant when it operates among saints who have some
knowledge of God, and yet fail to live up to His gracious gratuities.
inward sabbatism leaves us much liberty. We may labor or loaf on any day, except when
our conduct might injure others. In the darkness of our times one who works on Sunday
might stumble infirm saints, especially church-goers, and keep them from even considering
the treasures we may wish to share with them. So it may be wisest to dedicate our efforts
on that day to definite work in disseminating His Word, or other work of this kind, to
which the religious have no objection, and a part of it to physical relaxation if our
frames have need of it. Judging our brethren might offend them. Such a course may help
We should always consider
our brethren, lest our liberties become liabilities. We should pursue peace and avoid
strife. We should seek to build up, not to tear down. Preceding the dais, the saints are
mortal and infirm, and easily stumbled and snared, even by that which is right and proper.
We should never force conduct beyond the realm of faith. It has no value in Gods
sight and is dangerous for mortals. In Pauls epistles conduct is not inculcated
until after the basis for it has been set forth. The first half of Ephesians is concerned
with doctrine to be believed, and the latter part with precepts to be obeyed.
Let us not push any saint beyond the pace of his faith. Let us wait, if need be, until the
dais, when he will be immortal.
The faith which we have in
Gods sight is the rule for our own behavior, not for others whose faith is infirm.
Even correct conduct is a mistake if it is not rooted in faith. It is like the dead works
of the Circumcision, the upright behavior of the religionist, who seeks to save himself by
his flawless deportment. Only contact with God through His Word can give our actions that
quality which is acceptable to God. For ourselves, may we enjoy the happiness of those who
do not judge themselves in that which they do, and so keep our conscience clear; but for
others we must leave the judging to One Who is more competent to discern the heart and so
deal with sympathy and appreciation.
This is especially
incumbent on those who consider themselves among the able, and others as belonging to the
infirm. What the weak need is strength, not criticism. They need help, not hindrance. They
need edification, not destruction. To this end those who are able are to consider the
infirm rather than themselves, and to behave with a view to their edification, rather than
their own pleasure. They observe every day as a sabbath in their spirits before God, even
if they keep Sunday, a heathen holy day, outwardly, in view of religious Christendom.
A. E. Knoch