GOD'S LAW AND THE SABBATH DAY
I was recently present at a Sabbath school outing within the denomination of which I have been a member for the last 19 years. When everyone was gathered together for food, a minister of the denomination rose to his feet to make a short speech. His speech basically consisted of this: 'Now remember children, the Sabbath day is very fragile, it is very easily broken. So be very careful that you don't break the Sabbath day.'
I think it is not so much what preachers say that we are to be aware of, but what they don't say.
In my opinion the minister's statement about Sabbath keeping is legalistic. It is legalistic by its wording but more so by the omission of vital information. The missing part is the fundamental Christian doctrine of total depravity, or in other words, our total inability to keep even the smallest part of God's law. The fourth commandment being part of the Decalogue, this also means that our attempts at keeping this commandment are in reality, futile. God does of course recognise our desire to keep it out of love to him and his law. But only out of love.
If we imagine for one moment that we are actually able to keep it we deceive ourselves. It is vital that we have this understanding clear in our minds.
A relevant text here is Romans 3:20: 'THEREFORE BY THE DEEDS OF THE LAW THERE SHALL NO FLESH BE JUSTIFIED IN HIS SIGHT: FOR BY THE LAW IS THE KNOWLEDGE OF SIN.'
This text makes the use of the law clear: to prove to us that we cannot keep it. This is the proper use of the law. To utterly condemn and punish us (our awakened conscience will do this) and so to drive us to Christ.
Galatians 3:24: 'WHEREFORE THE LAW WAS OUR SCHOOLMASTER TO BRING US UNTO CHRIST, THAT WE MIGHT BE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH.'
And so, I believe the proper use of the Sabbath day is the same as the rest of God's law: to show us that we cannot keep it.
We are also flesh. Our minds are sinful. It does not come naturally to us to delight in the Sabbath. I believe we are to recognise this in ourselves and look to Christ to mortify it.
We can only keep the Sabbath in our true desire and that only as far as the Holy Spirit gives us the 'power'.
So, to my point.
I think many people who seek to keep the Sabbath believe that because they do this, that and the next thing on the Lord's day that it equals 'keeping the Sabbath' and are content with this. They feel a sense of 'achievement', that they have 'kept' the Lord's day, and feel good about it. What folly.
This is raw legalism - God is not in it.
Legalism is the religious business of clearing our conscience by doing this and that.
It would have been bad enough teaching this to the converted, but when I heard the minister teaching it to unconverted kids I was horrified.
Perhaps I am to be criticized for not standing up and publicly rebuking him.
Our desire ought to be to keep the Sabbath but we must always be aware that of ourselves, we can only break it.
Luke 17:9-10: 'DOTH HE THANK THAT SERVANT BECAUSE HE DID THE THINGS THAT WERE COMMANDED HIM? I TROW NOT. SO LIKEWISE YE, WHEN YE SHALL HAVE DONE ALL THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE COMMANDED YOU, SAY, WE ARE UNPROFITABLE SERVANTS: WE HAVE DONE THAT WHICH WAS OUR DUTY TO DO.'
We must never entertain the Satanic delusion that we do well.
There is no place in the gospel of Jesus Christ for patting ourselves on the back.