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FIRST-PERSON: The Christian life as Sabbath rest

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OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) – “Why haven’t I heard this before? Is this some new doctrine you have created?” That’s the reaction I got from a friend the other day while talking about Hebrews chapter four.

As we were reading the chapter together, I made the assertion that the life we live as Christians is marked by resting from working to earn God’s favor and trusting in the completed work of Christ on the cross to fulfill God’s requirements for salvation. I said that Christ’s work of gaining salvation for us though His death and resurrection is the fulfillment of what God intended from the foundation of the world (Hebrews 4:3). The Sabbath day of rest in the Old Testament was a foreshadowing of Christ’s completed work on our behalf. Christ said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) on the cross, after all. Thus, the entire Christian life can be considered as a Sabbath rest.

“Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people. For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:9-10).

My friend wasn’t accusing me of heresy. Instead, he was wanting to be careful not to give in to something that wasn’t entirely biblical, because he found the concept of the life of the Christian as Sabbath so appealing and liberating. And he’s right. If you really understand the implications of the Gospel, it is liberating – not to mention spiritually restful. There is a Sabbath rest for Christians. It is Jesus. It is the life we have in Him.

Indeed the Christian day to worship traditionally is Sunday – but, we all should be clear on the truth that Sunday is not the Christian version of the Sabbath. The people who regard Sunday as holy have every right biblically to do so. As the apostle Paul said, “One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:4-5).

However, we need to be clear that Sunday is not mandated as a holy day for Christians in the Bible. As the Paul also said, “Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day” (Colossians 2:16).

Technically speaking, the reason there is no Christian Sabbath is because Jesus is our Sabbath rest, and our life becomes a Sabbath rest from our spiritual works as we walk in Him.

We need to be careful not to imply that Christians have a legalistic obligation to obey a Sabbath on Sunday. Such legalism is foreign to the Gospel which states, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

I am not saying I think Christians don’t need to go to church on Sunday because they want to stay home and watch a football game or go fishing. I love church, and I believe Christians need to have at least one day per week that is fully focused on Christ. Christians need to be with other Christians. The author of Hebrews also encourages believers:

“And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

I am making this point because Bible teachers sometimes can lead people to believe that if they don’t treat Sunday like the Sabbath, they are sinning. We heap guilt on people intentionally and unintentionally. And this is why my friend felt a sigh of relief when I told him that his entire life in Christ is like a Sabbath rest.

Does the idea of the Christian life as Sabbath rest because of the life Jesus gives us in Him seem radical to you? I hope so. I hope it leads you to treat your whole life as holy and set apart for Christ. I pray that when you teach people about the Gospel, you spare them from the false impression that they are somehow earning God’s favor by going to church on Sunday. I pray they see Sunday in the proper perspective. It’s a special day when we choose to be thankful to and worship God for His salvation that is paid for entirely by Jesus. As He has said:

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

It’s OK. Go ahead and rest in Christ. He is our Sabbath!

    About the Author

  • Chris Forbes
    Chris Forbes is staff writer for the Baptist Messenger and branding & marketing partner for Oklahoma Baptists.Read All by Chris Forbes ›