God has given us the weekly Sabbath because we still need that regular time; time that is not ours, but time for God.
…But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit…
“It is true enough that we have no record of a commandment of our Lord’s requiring a change in the day of the observance of the Sabbath. Neither has any of the apostles to whom he committed the task of founding his Church given us such a commandment.” We hear B. B. Warfield say it. But then he says, “By their actions, nevertheless, both our Lord and his apostles appear to commend the first day of the week to us as the Christian Sabbath.” This is pure conjecture, not taught in Scripture, malarkey, and the imposition of traditions of men.
What does “appear” mean? Is it apparent? Not in the least.
Sabbath keeping is indeed not reiterated in the NT, period. No NT scholar will agree that there is a positive commandment to change the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. Yet, what we find in the modern era is that it was changed and remains a permitted change even though there is no reasonable inference, nor direct command of regulation. It is made up. And so, Sunday Sabbatarianism at once violates Sabbath by changing it without warrant, and violates the regulative principle. As Calvin said, the Sabbath was either abrogated as a moral commandment, or it is an insult to the Jew to keep the Sabbath regulation while abrogating the day and reconstituting it on another. How, pray tell, is their justification of the violation of the Sabbath while at the same time insisting that it remains, but only on another day? That is a absurdity. He considered the keeping of Sabbaths as a superstitious practice. He himself, though insisting that there is a continuing need for a day set aside for instruction due to the weakness of our flesh, rejected a strict one in seven schema.
In the quote above from Scripture, no one would begin to say that there is a sense in which it is true that we live by the Spirit, but that it is not a current reality fulfilled waiting for a future fulness. Even though, Paul is clear that it takes striving to keep pace with the Spirit. There is “hence” a certainty that there remains the promise of the Spirit for the children of God, now, but no one would say that it is eschatological in its view. No, instead we have already entered in to the promised land of the Spirit, and there remains an eschatological fulfillment of the currency of the Spirit’s work. The requirement is a daily dying to self which Calvin remarks is the eternal Sabbath now which is marked by the believers continuance in the rest given.
The author says about, “there yet remains a Sabbath rest” that it is a future reality. However, the context doesn’t support that. Let’s read:
…Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need…
What does the passage say? Today, whoever has faith has entered. Not tomorrow, not in some future eschaton, but today. How is it anchored? It is anchored in the fact that we have a high priest who has accomplished all things so as to grant the rest that remains for children of God. Are they unable to enjoy it now? No. But we have confidence to draw near the throne of grace, now. It is also anchored in the fact that the Hebrews who were destroyed had the same Christ preached to them but refused to enter the rest that was finished from the beginning. It must not go unnoticed that the very people who the author of Hebrews is concerned for are those who might be defrauded from entering that rest. There remains the rest, so there is fear that some might think it is not Today. There may be those who are waiting in unbelief. Indeed, what is being warned against are those who say there is some futurity to the fulfillment that the writer says has been accomplished by Christ. In short, to insist that there is still a need for Sabbath keeping is to deny that Christ has come and has done what the promise confers – a rest for those who have not hardened their hearts against the idea that Christ has come in the flesh.
The assurance of the faith that is offered in Hebrews is utterly destroyed when it is portrayed as a future event. Let no one defraud you of a rest that is offered by setting the yoke once again to your neck. The contrast that is being made is between those of us believers who have entered and will continue, and those who do not believe the rest has been granted.
..And we may hence easily learn the difference between us and them; for though the same end is designed for both, yet they had, as added to them, external types to guide them; not so have we, nor have we indeed any need of them, for the naked truth itself is set before our eyes. Though our salvation is as yet in hope, yet as to the truth, it leads directly to heaven; nor does Christ extend his hand to us, that he may conduct us by the circuitous course of types and figures, but that he may withdraw us from the world and raise us up to heaven. Now that the Apostle separates the shadow from the substance, he did so for this reason, — because he had to do with the Jews, who were too much attached to external things…
He draws the conclusion, that there is a sabbathizing reserved for Gods people, that is, a spiritual rest; to which God daily invites us.
…For he that is entered into his rest, or, For he who has rested, etc. This is a definition of that perpetual Sabbath in which there is the highest felicity, when there will be a likeness between men and God, to whom they will be united. For whatever the philosophers may have ever said of the chief good, it was nothing but cold and vain, for they confined man to himself, while it is necessary for us to go out of ourselves to find happiness. The chief good of man is nothing else but union with God; this is attained when we are formed according to him as our exemplar.
Now this conformation the Apostle teaches us takes place when we rest from our works (my emphasis). It hence at length follows, that man becomes happy by self-denial. For what else is to cease from our works, but to mortify our flesh, when a man renounces himself that he may live to God? For here we must always begin, when we speak of a godly and holy life, that man being in a manner dead to himself, should allow God to live in him, that he should abstain from his own works, so as to give place to God to work. We must indeed confess, that then only is our life rightly formed when it becomes subject to God. But through inbred corruption this is never the case, until we rest from our own works; nay, such is the opposition between God’s government and our corrupt affections, that he cannot work in us until we rest. But though the completion of this rest cannot be attained in this life, yet we ought ever to strive for it. Thus believers enter it but on this condition, — that by running they may continually go forward.
But I doubt not but that the Apostle designedly alluded to the Sabbath in order to reclaim the Jews from its external observances; for in no other way could its abrogation be understood, except by the knowledge of its spiritual design. He then treats of two things together; for by extolling the excellency of grace, he stimulates us to receive it by faith, and in the meantime he shows us in passing what is the true design of the Sabbath, lest the Jews should be foolishly attached to the outward rite. Of its abrogation indeed he does expressly speak, for this is not his subject, but by teaching them that the rite had a reference to something else, he gradually withdraws them from their superstitious notions. For he who understands that the main object of the precept was not external rest or earthly worship, immediately perceives, by looking on Christ, that the external rite was abolished by his coming; for when the body appears, the shadows immediately vanish away. Then our first business always is, to teach that Christ is the end of the Law…
See Calvin’s claim. The sabbath has been abrogated, fulfilled in the coming of Christ. He speaks of the perpetual rest which is future is also one the believer has entered, now, and must be sustained daily. Elsewhere Calvin speaks of the perpetuity of daily rest. He does not suppose that man isn’t at rest once he enters in, only that it cannot be completed in this life because of indwelling corruption. What he does say is that rest is not attained to by external rest or earthly worship. He is, also elsewhere quick to point out that one day out of seven should be wholly dedicated to seeking it, though he himself was a not a sabbatist (his word). And, as he is always wont to do, he is admonishing that believers continue in it and not be drug again under the practice of superstitious rite to obtain it since the substance of the types are now the possession of believers. This he says is our confidence if we enter now, for if we wait for a futurity, we will enter into darkness:
…Let us therefore come boldly, or, with confidence, etc. He draws this conclusion, — that an access to God is open to all who come to him relying on Christ the Mediator; nay, he exhorts the faithful to venture without any hesitation to present themselves before God. And the chief benefit of divine teaching is a sure confidence in calling on God, as, on the other hand, the whole of religion falls to the ground, and is lost when this certainty is taken away from consciences.
It is hence obvious to conclude, that under the Papacy the light of the Gospel is extinct, for miserable men are bidden to doubt whether God is propitious to them or is angry with them. They indeed say that God is to be sought; but the way by which it is possible to come to him is not pointed out, and the gate is barred by which alone men can enter. They confess in words that Christ is a Mediator, but in reality they make the power of his priesthood of none effect, and deprive him of his honor.
For we must hold this principle, — that Christ is not really known as a Mediator except all doubt as to our access to God is removed; otherwise the conclusion here drawn would not stand, “We have a high priest Who is willing to help us; therefore we may come bold and without any hesitation to the throne of grace.” And were we indeed fully persuaded that Christ is of his own accord stretching forth his hand to us, who of us would not come in perfect confidence? It is then true what I said, that its power is taken away from Christ’s priesthood whenever men have doubts, and are anxiously seeking for mediators, as though that one were not sufficient, in whose patronage all they who really trust, as the Apostle here directs them, have the assurance that their prayers are heard.
The ground of this assurance is, that the throne of God is not arrayed in naked majesty to confound us, but is adorned with a new name, even that of grace, which ought ever to be remembered whenever we shun the presence of God. For the glory of God, when we contemplate it alone, can produce no other effect than to fill us with despair; so awful is his throne. The Apostle, then, that he might remedy our diffidence, and free our minds from all fear and trembling, adorns it with “grace,” and gives it a name which can allure us by its sweetness, as though he had said, “Since God has affirmed to his throne as it were the banner of ‘grace’ and of his paternal love towards us, there are no reasons why his majesty should drive us away.”
The import of the whole is, that we are to call upon God without fear, since we know that he is propitious to us, and that this may be done is owing to the benefit conferred on us by Christ, as we find from Ephesians 3:12; for when Christ receives us under his protection and patronage, he covers with his goodness the majesty of God, which would otherwise be terrible to us, so that nothing appears there but grace and paternal favor.
That we may obtain mercy, etc. This is not added without great reason; it is for the purpose of encouraging as it were by name those who feel the need of mercy, lest any one should be cast down by the sense of his misery, and close up his way by his own diffidence. This expression, “that we may obtain mercy”, contains especially this most delightful truth, that all who, relying on the advocacy of Christ, pray to God, are certain to obtain mercy; yet on the other hand the Apostle indirectly, or by implication, holds out a threatening to all who take not this way, and intimates that God will be inexorable to them, because they disregard the only true way of being reconciled to him.
He adds, To help in time of need, or, for a seasonable help; that is, if we desire to obtain all things necessary for our salvation.
Now, this seasonableness refers to the time of calling, according to those words of Isaiah, which Paul accommodates to the preaching of the Gospel, “Behold, now is the accepted time,” etc., (Isaiah 49:8; 2 Corinthians 6:2;) for the Apostle refers to that “today,” during which God speaks to us. If we defer hearing until tomorrow, when God is speaking to us today, the unseasonable night will come, when what now may be done can no longer be done; and we shall in vain knock when the door is closed…
Are we conformed to Christ in his death, burial and resurrection, having entered with him into his rest? Is now the acceptable time which is called today. The writer of Hebrews is imploring his hearers not to delay, but Today, to enter that rest which Christ has accomplished. At the same time, both the writer and Calvin are acknowledging the future state. The irony is that those who are sabbatists are working to be at rest.
…Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
This is the grace in which we now stand, the rest of God, being reconciled by Christ through faith. It is through faith we entered the rest, perpetually, which some day will be reveled in truth. It is, though where we live, now. Therefore:
…See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
Assurance, peace, standing, reconciliation, faith, boldness, they speak metonymically of rest just as “from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” It is not as if rest is some estranged member of the whole. Instead, as to substance, to die with Christ and to be raised with him is the same thing. We have entered into his rest.
Those of us who have entered his rest are to be warned, then, about those who would use deceit to burden once again those who have been granted it. Paul speaks of the appearance of asceticism as if those keepings and doings of elemental things can accomplish what Christ has already done. To place again the yoke of the Sabbath around the necks of believers is exactly what Paul and the writer of Hebrews is warning against. The Sabbath has been abrogated, as Calvin said. It is finished. We who have believed have entered the eternal Sabbath, no longer condemned with and though the things which perish, which have no means to offer what Christ died to obtain. If the rest is but one day a week, and not every day, Calvin might observe, the meaning of what Christ has done has failed to gain the hearing ear calling it to look to things above.
Later the writer of Hebrews will give a stronger word that those who deny Christ’s final rest and look for another trample under foot his blood by which he purchased that rest.
…Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries… that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief… For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.
You see, the writer of Hebrews did not say anything different in Ten than he had in Three and Four.
The Hebrew children rejected the offer of Christ and returned to their sins, and were destroyed. If one only goes so far as their making of a golden image, or their debauchery, he has missed the point or returning to sin. Why they did is layered beneath, and that which the writer of Hebrews intends. So then, if we go on sinning, that is rejecting Christ, we too will fail to enter and be condemned with them, for once having been made partakers of the knowledge of the deliverance of Christ, once having been enlightened by his mighty works revealed in his word, if we look elsewhere, the only thing which remains is wrath, for there is no other Christ than he who has been offered once for all. And, therefore, no other rest in him than that which he has accomplished. There remains a rest for those in Christ, but for those who are not, a future expectation of judgment. We hear the evangel in the writer’s words and the call to repent, therefore. That is why it is vitally important that the rest given be truly given and not withheld though the imposition of a day or days which are not Today.
It is true that we must strive in that rest, for faith is filled with many troubled days, and by all appearance there is no rest. However, we enjoy a peace which the world does not understand and cannot receive. By faith we are in full possession of the promise while we still wait for the redemption which is to come. But it does not mean that Chapter Four is saying we haven’t entered it. In fact it says just the opposite. For faith is the substance of the thing hoped for, the very evidence of that which is yet unseen, Chapter 11:1. The Greek summarily says that faith is the very possession of the thing which is the object of faith’s hope. And so the faith chapter speaks to the fact that even though the promise had been received by the ancients and they had rested from their works, they suffered many ills and yet were waiting through endurance and longsuffering to receive. It is no mystery to those who are pregnant that the child they carry is the same child that they birth. And while the throes of gestation are long and sometimes miserably painful, in the end, the same that is formed is what is delivered. It doesn’t become a child when it is birthed as if it is something other than when it was conceived. The substance is the same. And the joy first cherished when the conception was known is only shown for what it always was when the child is held in the arms rather than the womb. It was granted that Christ was yet to come, ergo, “there remains a rest for God’s people.” It does not mean that it is somehow not now what it will be.
…Before she was in labor she gave birth; before her pain came upon her she delivered a son. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor she brought forth her children, says the LORD.”
What was the possession of Abraham and the rest of the heroes of the faith, did not become something else because it was a future. It had always been the same Christ slain from the beginning, just as the writer of Hebrews says. Joshua couldn’t give it, no earthly priest could. It was for Christ alone to do, and is Today that which he alone has done for those who have the faith of Abraham. Now that Christ has come, the waiting is over. But what has changed? What will change? The magnitude, assuredly. However, that very Christ, Hebrews 4 states, was preached to the ancients and those who refused it in that day, it being Today perpetually for the people of God, were destroyed. But for the people of God, who mixed the message with faith, they entered, for the same Christ slain from the foundations of the world was the same Christ they beheld at the crossing of the sea, with whom they walk, from whom they drank, and to who to looked for in a country not their own.
The disturbing of the saints by imposing again the yoke of do and do not, observe and refrain, keeping of shadows and types, is soundly condemned by Scripture, and as Calvin said, it is a sign of the Papacy which speaks of the grace of God which Christ has obtained, but then refuses to grant that grace except upon the merit of certain performance, such as keeping the Sabbath. We are not to judge concerning the keeping of days, or of the Sabbath, nor are we to be defrauded by some who say we must. To do so, is, strictly speaking, to deny Christ has come. Or in the words of Paul, to deny the substance and not behold the head.