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Bible verses about Sanctification of Sabbath
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 2:1-3

The Hebrew word translated here as "rested" is the verb shabath, from which comes the noun form that is rendered in English as "Sabbath." Interestingly, the primary meaning of this word is not "rest," in terms of relaxing or rejuvenating, but "to desist from exertion" or "to cease." This makes perfect sense considering that God does not get tired (Isaiah 40:28)!

Genesis 2 states that at the end of Creation Week, God stopped His physical labors, not because He was tired, but because He was setting an example for us. Furthermore, God blessed this specific day of the week and sanctified it—He set it apart for a specific purpose. Just as God deliberately sets apart or sanctifies those people with whom He is working, He purposefully made the seventh day different from the other six.

Thus, not only did God create the Sabbath day—and thus it belongs to Him; Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28)—but He also made it separate and distinct from the other six days. So how can we think that this day belongs to us? There is not a single second of this sanctified time that we have authority over! This day is not our day—not for our work, our sports, or our entertainment. It still belongs fully to God, and only He can dictate its right and proper usage.

It is not that we have no part in this day. On the contrary, the Sabbath day is the most important day of the week for us as Christians, because it enhances our relationship with God the most.

When we tithe, we decide whether we are going to tithe by choosing whether or not we will submit to God and follow His way. Once we make the decision to follow God, we give up all claims to the money God requires of us. If we start "deciding" that money is ours to use, we also choose not to submit to God. Similarly, once we decide to follow God, we give up all prior claims to the 24-hour period of the Sabbath, to the extent that God requires us to monitor our speech and even our thoughts (Isaiah 58:13-14)!

We recognize that God has given us a stewardship responsibility in using the money and material possessions He has provided us, and correspondingly, we have a stewardship responsibility over His holy time and its proper use. The Sabbath is not our time. It may belong to God, but He entrusts us with the responsibility to keep it righteously. We had better handle it with care!

David C. Grabbe
It's Not Our Time


 

Genesis 2:2-3

Genesis 2:2-3 sets the tone and establishes the first reason for Sabbath-keeping: we are to follow His example. Because He specifically rested on the seventh day of creation, the Sabbath has universal validity. It is an example from creation, not from one of the Patriarchs, nor from Moses, nor from any Jews—because there were no Jews then.

The Scripture clearly states that this was the seventh day, not a seventh day. Though Genesis 2 is not the theological beginning of the Sabbath, yet without doubt, Exodus 20:11 shows that the keeping of it as a religious day of worship has its foundation firmly anchored in Genesis 1 and 2.

Sabbath does not literally mean "to rest." Instead, it means "to stop" or "to cease." Resting is the result of stopping what one does on the other six days. God could have rested at any time, or He need not have rested at all. He could have ended the creative cycle at the end of the sixth day, but He did not. The Sabbath is, in fact, His final creative act of that week. He created by resting.

The writer draws attention to what God did on that day even as it is drawn to what He did on the other six days. In reality, the Sabbath is the very crown of the creation week. He topped His creative activities off by creating a specific period of time sanctified for rest. It was as specifically created as what He did on the other six days. On the Sabbath, the creating continued, but took on a different form than it had on the other days, a form not outwardly visible.

As a believer gradually learns, the Sabbath symbolizes to God's children the fact that God is still creating (John 5:16-17). The Sabbath is an integral part of the process of creation. The physical part was finished at the end of the sixth day, but the spiritual aspect began with the creation of the Sabbath and continues to this day, even as the effects of creation on the other six days continue to this day.

At the end of the creation sequence, God created and sanctified an environment to play a major role in producing eternal and everlasting life. Through the creation of the Sabbath, God shows that the life-producing process is not complete with just the physical environment. The Sabbath plays an important role in producing spiritual life, a quality of life having a dimension that the physical alone cannot supply. Toward this end, no other day can be employed with the Sabbath's quality of effectiveness.

There is a valid reason for this. The Sabbath is not a mere afterthought of a tremendous creation, but a deliberate memorializing of the most enduring thing man knows: time. Sabbath time plays an especially important role in God's spiritual creation. Through the Sabbath, it is as if God says, "Look at what I have made, and consider that I am not yet finished creating. I am reproducing Myself, and you can be a part of My spiritual creation."

God created the Sabbath by ceasing from His physical exertion, setting the example for man also to cease from the normal activities of the other six workdays. He also specifically blessed and sanctified it. He did this to no other day, yet men argue against keeping it—even though Jesus, like His Father, kept it. It is truly the least of the commandments to men.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment


 

Exodus 20:8-11

We live in a grubby, grasping, material world. Every day challenges us with its built-in bias toward material things. With human nature ever-present within us, it is not hard to overlook spiritual things in the pressured rush to accomplish each day's work.

The Sabbath, though, almost forces us to think about the spiritual—about God and His ongoing spiritual creation in us. It presents us with the opportunity to consider the whys of life, to orient ourselves properly so that we can best use our time during the other six days. The Sabbath is the kernel, the nucleus, from which proper worship—our response to God—grows.

Existentialist philosophers say that life is absurd, that it is but a prelude to death. All of life, they proclaim, is virtually empty of value because it has no ultimate goal better than what one already has. Life is going nowhere. Yet, keeping the Sabbath is in fact a celebration of just the opposite: It is all about life and its great goal as planned by the very Creator! It concerns His ongoing creative process toward our being made into the spiritual image of His Son.

Life may indeed be stressful, tiring, and sometimes even frightening, but life is not absurd. It is a prelude to life on an infinitely greater and higher level. As we proceed through the time given to us, the more we become like Him, the more sanctified we become from the world. In this mentally refreshing and elevating experience, we have a tiny foretaste of what is to come.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment


 

Exodus 31:13

The Hebrew word translated sign means "mark" or "evidence." The Sabbath day is the mark God gave His people to identify them as His own. By it, the folk of Israel would know the Source of their sanctification.

To sanctify is "to set apart for holy service," or more basically, "to make holy." God's purpose for Israel from the start was to set it apart from other peoples by giving it His laws and His statutes. God has a special relationship with Israel. Speaking through the prophet Amos to "the whole family [i.e., all the tribes] which I brought up from the land of Egypt" (Amos 3:1), God reminds the people that, "you only have I known of all the families of the earth" (verse 2). God revealed His law only to Israel. When He did so, He made it clear that Israel would "be a special treasure to Me above all people, . . . a holy [sanctified, set apart] nation" (Exodus 19:5-6), if the people "obey My voice and keep My covenant" (verse 5). The theme is repeated in Deuteronomy 7:6: "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, . . . [who] has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth." (See also Deuteronomy 14:2.)

God prefaces the "Holiness Code" of Leviticus 18 and 19 by commanding Israel to be separate from other nations. This meant acting in a way different from that of the Gentiles, not walking "in their ordinances." Leviticus 18:3-4:

According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances. . . .

In Leviticus 19:2, He makes His purpose clear: "You shall be holy [set apart], for I the LORD your God am holy." God's purpose, the intent behind all His laws, is to create a people like Himself (Genesis 1:26), a people sharing and reflecting His most salient attribute: holiness.

Sanctification is also the purpose behind God's often-denigrated physical laws. Consider, for example, the reason why God imposed the dietary law, as stated in Leviticus 11. God does not cite the maintenance of health as a reason to obey the dietary laws; the Scriptures do not specify that obedience of these laws will cause good health or prevent disease (though this is a secondary, albeit unmentioned, benefit). Rather, God concludes His dietary laws with a statement of His holiness and a command for His people to be like Him. Leviticus 11:44-45:

For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

Obedience to God's law plays a crucial role in bringing about this sanctification. It is not that a people become sanctified (somehow, by God's grace) and, as a result, start obeying God's law. God's Word does not support the Protestant concept that sanctification imputed by God's grace mysteriously empowers one to obey His commandments. They have it backwards.

Rather, obedience to the law causes sanctification. Law-keeping and sanctification become intrinsically connected: To obey God's law is to be sanctified. By its nature, law-keeping brings about sanctification.

In a national context, God states that obeying His laws creates a people unlike others on the earth, a people set apart from others, a holy nation. National sanctification produces what Balaam saw in Israel: "A people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations" (Numbers 23:9).

If commandment-keeping separates people from the nations while connecting them to God, disobedience of God's law has exactly the opposite effect. Commandment-breaking separates a people from God, and connects them to the ways of the nations. Individuals who disobey God's law become like the "world," the kosmos of the New Testament (I John 2:15).

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Twelve): The Sign


 

Exodus 31:13

An interesting and significant term is used in Exodus 31:13, 17: The Sabbath is a sign, not a mark. Bible usage shows that a sign is something voluntarily accepted, whereas a mark is placed on a person against his will. The Sabbath is a special sign of a special covenant between God and His people. In the wilderness, His people were the Israelites; today, it is the Israel of God, the church of God (Galatians 6:16).

A sign can identify a person's occupation or an individual's or group's purpose. Signs can give directions (like traffic signs), or they can bring people together with shared interests and a common purpose (like flags). A sign can be the pledge of mutual fidelity and commitment (as in putting a hand over one's heart). Organizations use signs to designate membership so that members can recognize each other (as with secret handshakes).

In the church's case, the Sabbath serves as an external and visible bond that simultaneously unites and sanctifies us from everyone else. Almost everybody else keeps Sunday or nothing. Through the Sabbath, the Christian knows that God is sanctifying him. Everyone who has kept both Sabbath and Sunday knows this. Sunday sets no one apart from this world because so many in this world observe it.

God has a purpose He is working out. If the only reason He created the Sabbath were because we need physical rest, any old time would do. Ultimately, however, the real sign appears in how and why one keeps the Sabbath. Thus, God made a specific period of time special so that He could meet with His people during that sanctified period to help them become even more different for their benefit.

What is His major goal in doing this? He educates His people in His way of life. In part, He prepares His people to witness for Him by this means. As an analogy, suppose a basketball coach told his players, "Come to the gym at 8 AM Monday, and I will teach you how my team plays ball." Yet, what if some players went to a different gym at a different time with a different coach?

Players on a team who take the game seriously begin to take on the qualities and philosophy of their coach. People who involve themselves deeply in athletics say they can often tell by a player's characteristics that he has trained under a certain coach. They remark that he has the John Wooden or John Thompson "way" about him. What has happened is that the player has taken on the "sign" of his coach, and it has "sanctified" him from other players who were not trained by that particular coach.

The Sabbath was created because it both enhances and protects a Christian's relationship with God. It also provides a witness to God, to the person keeping it, and to the world. It exists to help keep a Christian pointed in the right direction and in a proper frame of mind, and it provides him with the right knowledge and understanding to negotiate the way to God's Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment


 

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Notice how we are commanded to sanctify the day. The emphasis here is on being free. God says, "Remember [on this day] that you were a slave." The implication is obvious. When the Israelites were slaves, they had no freedom to make choices. Therefore, if we keep this day properly, we can remain free. If properly used, the Sabbath compels us to remember the past as well as to look forward to where our lives are headed.

We do this through Bible study and hearing sound, inspired messages combined with meditation and conversation in fellowship. In church services we hear a great deal about the Kingdom of God and the world today. Most messages involve sin in some way. Sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4), but the Ten Commandments are the law of liberty (James 1:25). By keeping them, we remain free of enslavement by Satan, this world, and death. On the Sabbath, God instructs His people through His Word on how to keep His commandments and thus remain free. Exodus 16:4, 25-30 explains further:

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not." . . . Then Moses said, "Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none." Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. And the LORD said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? See! For the LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." So the people rested on the seventh day.

The first commandment that God specifically revealed after He freed Israel from slavery was the one intended to keep them free, the Sabbath. God gave them this witness of a double portion of manna on the sixth day and none on the seventh for forty years! Contrary to those who assert the Sabbath has been done away or replaced, the Sabbath is a wonderful gift of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment


 

Ezekiel 20:12-13

Verses 23-24 go on to indicate the consequence of Israel's refusal to become sanctified by obeying God's laws: God says He "lifted [His] hand in an oath, . . . that I would scatter them among the Gentiles and disperse them throughout the countries, because they had not executed My judgments, but had despised My statutes, profaned My Sabbaths. . . ." If Israel insisted on acting like the nations of the world, God says He would physically place them among those nations; Israel would become separated from God and the land He promised them. They would become "sifted" (see Amos 9:9) among the Gentile nations.

Leviticus 18:24-30 outlines the inevitable separation that a nation (or an individual) will undergo as a result of commandment-breaking: "The land vomits out its inhabitants" (verse 25). This is the national consequence of breaking the commandments. God states the result to individuals in verse 29: "Whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people." Vomiting and cutting-off are both metaphors for separation.

Nationally and individually, commandment-breaking always yields the same ultimate punishment: separation from God. That separation may come slowly, as Ecclesiastes 8:11 points out, but always surely.

The history of the children of Israel proves the point. God wanted Israel to be a special, sanctified nation; a holy one. He promised to bestow incredible blessings on it if it acted to separate itself from the social and religious practices of other nations. Israel failed as a nation because it failed to be holy!

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Twelve): The Sign


 

 




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