The Sabbath: An Introduction

Sabbath Study, Part 1

Several months ago I began a study of the Ten Commandments with the idea that I would grow in my understanding of both God’s holiness and my sinfulness, thus bringing about a deeper appreciation for the gospel. It wasn’t long, however, before my study was hijacked. I arrived at the fourth commandment and quickly realized that I didn’t know what to do with it:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

How exactly had I violated the Sabbath? Was this commandment even active, or had it passed away? After all, the Western Christianity I’d grown up in seemed not to take much notice of the fourth commandment. Sure, church was always on Sunday, but that seemed to be about it. Was there more to a Sabbath rest? What did this commandment have to say to me today?

In an effort to find Biblical answers to my questions, I started researching online to see what other Christians—past and present—have said about the Sabbath rest. During my search, I came across an online sermon by Tim Keller. Entitled “Work and Rest,” it sought to answer three questions about the Sabbath:

1. Why do we need it?
2. Where do we get it?
3. How do we do it?

Dr. Keller’s message radically affected my view of the Sabbath. I started experiencing a conviction that I had been missing out on something special. This conviction wasn’t leading to a feeling of condemnation (which I had felt before when faced with my neglect of the fourth commandment), but to a sense of excitement; it was as if a special treasure was starting to be unearthed, and I was going to partake of the spoils.

I soon discovered that both the Old and New Testaments had a lot more to say about the Sabbath than I had realized. On numerous occasions, I would come to what I believed was the end of my search, only to find yet another Sabbath reference. During my study, I utilized my wonderful Online Bible* software, which gave me access to over 16 different Bible commentaries, helping my effort to better understand each text. Now, more than five months after starting this study, I have become convinced that the Sabbath is an astounding blessing given for both God’s glory and our good.

This is the beginning of a blog series that will detail what I have learned since beginning this study. Over the next forty days or so (I’m not quite sure how long it will take), we will look at specific Bible passages that deal with the Sabbath. While I will provide my own commentary on numerous verses, I will also rely heavily on the Bible commentaries I used during my initial study.

Here is a brief outline of what this series will look like. Things may change as we move along, but I won’t deviate much from the following path. After a couple more introductory posts, we will look at three New Testament passages commonly used to argue that the weekly Sabbath has ceased. Once we have addressed those, we will examine the fourth commandment in its entirety (as given in Exodus 20). Then we will go back to the book of Genesis and systematically work our way through the Old and New Testaments in order to come to a proper understanding of the doctrine of the Sabbath. After that, we will begin to wrap up our study by looking at a few New Testament passages that explain the ultimate rest a believer looks to (and the ultimate rest foreshadowed by the Sabbath): Heaven itself. Finally, we will spend a short time summarizing what we have read.

My wife and I are only beginning to explore how these truths should play out in our own lives, and while we have much to learn about the function and practical application of the Sabbath, I believe we have experienced God’s grace in the process. I hope this blog series is a means of grace for you as well.

UPDATE: Just so everyone knows, I will not be posting blog entries on Sunday. (I know, go figure.)

* Hall, Kay. Online Bible. Beersheba Springs: Ken Hamel, 2000. CD-ROM.