Most of us go to church on Sunday because …that is what Sundays are for? God instructed Israel to set aside the Sabbath – or Saturday, the seventh day – as a holy day. The Sabbath was to be their day of rest and worship. Many Bible believing Christians also worship on Saturday, and honour the day because God rested on the seventh day in creation as per Exodus 20:4.
When it comes to Christian traditions, and what we believe, we must know what we do, and why. Tradition puts you on autopilot and makes you do things without thinking, but ignorance has never been a good thing. Most questions have a short and a long answer. The question above deserves a long answer.
First, let’s look at rest. God rested on the seventh day after He spent six days speaking creation into being. One of the arguments made by those who adhere to the Sabbath is that if God rested, we should too. However, there is a deeper prophetic message here, as is often the case in the Old Testament record. Paul refers to these as types, shadows and symbols – New Testament truths hidden in Old Testament events, laws and rituals. St. Augustine explained it well when he said, “The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed.” This glorious revelation makes the Bible come alive, and proves its authenticity as the original, inerrant, unfailing word of God.
The omnipotent God does not live in a body of flesh like we do, does not get tired, and, frankly, does not need to rest like we do.
He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. Psalm 121:3-4
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. Isaiah 40:28
When God talks about taking a rest, we need to dig deeper and look at the New Testament where the shadow becomes substance. The New Testament has some interesting things to say about rest, and it applies to us who put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is generally known that the law that God gave to the Israelites was a burden that was too hard to bear because it depended on strength of sinful man’s fragile will. The law was a program of works that the Israelites had to do to earn God’s blessing, but, in the end, it failed to accomplish anything for them.
Religious leaders of Jesus’ time taught the law and made life hard for the people, until Jesus arrived on the scene and extended a stunning invitation:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus came to lift the burden of the law; He fulfilled the law by taking the penalty for our disobedience and failures upon Himself:
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4
Since Jesus fulfilled the law and brought it to completion, it ceased to be a burden. The author of Hebrews explains further that Jesus is our rest: we rest in Him because He did all the work and earned our salvation on the cross. We deserve nothing with God because Jesus did everything that had to be done for us to be reconciled with God.
For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Hebrews 4:10
We rest in confidence that Jesus did it all on our behalf. We don’t have to earn our salvation because it has been given to us as a gift from God.
Secondly, let’s say something about the law. Considering the law, we find that Scripture never says that Gentiles should keep it; the law was never given to the Gentiles. Jesus fulfilled the law and then gave us a new commandment:
Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:35-40
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Romans 13:9
These two commandments that Jesus gave us are greater and more powerful than the ten commandments of the law, because its power lies in a heart made alive in Christ, as opposed to the works of the law by a carnal man. You cannot break the ten commandments if you live by the two new commandments given to us by the Lord Jesus.
Jesus Himself often violated the Sabbath by healing the sick, even allowing the disciples to do so:
Now it happened that He went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” But He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat, except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?” And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:23-28
The law consisted of works that were far too much to fulfil, and a burden too heavy to bear. The rules, regulations and endless sacrifices bound sinful men to their sin with no hope of rest – until Jesus came. The only reason why Jesus could make His offer of rest is because He was about to do the work that we couldn’t do; He was going to bring the final sacrifice that would satisfy the requirements of the law once and for all, and became our rest. Without Him there is no rest!
Don’t you find it interesting that people wish the dead to rest in peace? You cannot rest in peace in your death if you didn’t enter into His peace while alive!
God rested on the seventh day after He completed the work of creation. This means that creation started on a Sunday, the first day of the week. Here is a beautiful shadow of things to come in Christ: Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:20-22
The new creation began on a Sunday when Jesus rose from the dead, opening the door for man to be born again into newness of life in Christ. It was on a Sunday that Jesus breathed on the apostles with the words “Receive the Holy Spirit,” also receiving the new birth when He came to dwell in them. (John 20:19-22)
After Jesus rose from the dead we no longer see the apostles gathering on the Sabbath; they always came together on the first day of the week – the Lord’s day. They met to celebrate His resurrection – and their own. It had nothing to do with the law at all, but everything with the glorious truth of their new lives in Christ. The Sabbath then became a day of evangelism as they went into the synagogues to preach the gospel to those who met there.
Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. Acts 20:7
On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. 1 Corinthians 16:2
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last…” Revelation 1:10,11
Is our gathering on a Sunday to worship together a new law? No; it is a time that the early saints set aside to celebrate the wonder of the new creation and the end of the law of works. We rest in Christ who did what we could not do, and rejoice in our newfound freedom from the burden of sin. But it has nothing to do with the law – you can meet and fellowship and worship on any day of the week.
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Colossians 2:16,17
One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. Romans 14:5,6
Worshipping together on a Sunday connects us with the wonder of creation, the day that God looked down on the chaotic void on earth and changed it into order and beauty, already seeing the new creation on another Sunday down the centuries, when all things would become new for everyone who felt trapped in a life of darkness and confusion. Sunday is a day of celebration!
To all our students everywhere: Summer is coming to an end, and we are grateful for the relaxation, time with family and friends, and the many good things it brought us. Let us get back into the Word and continue to invest in a solid foundation for our lives. Nothing can replace the Word where Good communicates, teaches and corrects us!
WordWise South Africa
Andre Coetzee is the pastor of Wordwise Family Church in South Africa. Andre and his wife Lizelda, both WordWise graduates, started their full time ministry in 2006. They established a Word school in affiliation with WordWise Word School Inc. Canada. Their passion to spread the gospel also burns in the hearts of their two daughters.
During a recent outreach where pastor Andre preached and taught “The righteousness of God” in Soshanguve South Africa, was so glorious. He was led to have a conference at Pastor Zandile’s church. She graduated from WordWise Word School in 2014, and was praying for God to help them grow the church. Pastors Farai and John, both WordWise graduates, also spoke at the conference. Both these pastors planted churches years ago.
The presence of God’s Spirit was tangible at the end of the week-long conference. God worked in people’s lives and transformed them. Tears and laughter of joy lasted for an hour because the Word of God became a living thing in them. This is when you realize that God has done a work that no man can do. One of the bishops was so touched by the word of Righteousness; she said that she didn’t know what she was preaching all her life. Another pastor said that when he heard about the theme for the conference, he thought to himself, “What will they do the whole week; you can only say so much about righteousness.”
Three weeks after the conference pastor Andre established a Word School at Past. Zandile’s church with 32 students (below). Many of these students are Pastors from other Churches that attended the conference. much about righteousness.” Now he can’t stop talking about what God has done.