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Bible verses about Sabbath as Spiritual Creation
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 2:2-3

The Sabbath is not the afterthought of a majestic Creation, but it is the very climax of the Creation Week. It seems as if God intends us to conclude this as it is the last thing in the Creation Week that He draws our attention to. He specifically does this by resting on the seventh day - by ceasing from His labor. Is there an example there? Certainly! Keeping the Sabbath is an example set by the Creator - not one of His servants but the very Boss Himself! It is worthy of note.

Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). It was made to ensure that man has the right kind of life - both physically and spiritually. The body needs a rest, but even more than that, the mind needs to be energized. It needs to be filled with the Word of God and to be energized by fellowship with God.

So that we have no excuse, God says, "I don't want you to do any work on that day. I don't want you to turn your attention to your own things." Nobody will be able to come to God and say, "I never had the time to spend time with You."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

Genesis 2:2-3

Because God rested after six days of labor, the Sabbath is also our day of rest and a memorial of Creation. He wants us to remember, not only what He did in the physical creation, but also that His spiritual creation continues in us now. When God blessed and sanctified the seventh day, He made it holy, set apart for God's use! Only God can make a day holy, and He does this by putting Himself, through His Spirit, into it.

We are then instructed to "keep" it holy. Various scriptures give examples of things God prohibits on His Sabbath: working, cooking, carrying burdens. God does not make a comprehensive list of "dos and don'ts" for us to follow. Instead, He gives us principles of what is proper and improper Sabbath behavior, and we then must use God's Spirit to decide our actions.

Martin G. Collins
The Fourth Commandment


 

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


 

Genesis 2:3

Genesis 2:3 says that God blessed the Sabbath day, something He did to no other day. This blessing falls on the heels of the obviously physical blessings God pronounced on animals (Genesis 1:22) and man (Genesis 1:28). The Bible shows a blessing to be something given or conferred to produce a fuller, more abundant life. The Sabbath blessing, conferred upon the whole creation, acts as the capstone of Creation week.

By blessing a recurring period of time, God promises to be man's benefactor through the whole course of human history! The blessing invokes God's favor, and its primary intent is that God will be our spiritual benefactor. It does, however, include the physical as well. Thus, Jesus clearly ties His ministry to the Sabbath concepts of blessing, deliverance, liberty, and redemption.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Genesis 2:3

"Sanctified" in Genesis 2:3 and "holy" in Exodus 20:8 are the same word in Hebrew though in different tenses. In Genesis 2, God makes the seventh day holy; in Exodus 20, He commands us to keep holy what He has already made holy. A holy God is required to make holy time, and He made no time holy other than His Sabbaths. God can make man holy, but man cannot confer holiness to the degree God does. Any other day of worship has a mere manmade holiness and is not holy as God's Sabbaths are holy. The Sabbath, then, is worthy of respect, deference, even devotion not given to other periods of time. It is set apart for sacred use because it derives from God.

The underlying implication of the usage of "holy" is difference. The verbal root literally means "to cut," "to cut out," "to separate from," or it can imply "to make a cut above," thus "to make special." A holy thing is an object that is different from that to which it is compared. In this case, the other six days are common and are given to the use and pursuit of the common, ordinary activities of life. Practically, it means that when the Sabbath arrives, we should stop doing and avoid the mundane things that make or promote turning the Sabbath into an ordinary day.

Exodus 3:1-5 provides a clear illustration of what the word "holy" implies:

Now Moses . . . came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn." So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground."

The principle shown here is what makes the Sabbath holy, different. Because God was present, Moses had to treat the ground differently, with a respect or a deference that he would not give to ordinary ground. For the called of God, this difference, this holiness, is a spiritual thing; it is not physically discerned.

Notice that, even though Moses was aware that there was something unusual about what He was observing, God had to tell him that he stood on holy ground. It is a spiritual state that cannot be physically discerned. As for the Sabbath, God puts His presence into the day for the sake of His people and His spiritual creation.

Consider the scenario Amos 3:3 presents: "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" If we want to be in God's presence in this special way and in agreement with Him, no other day will do. God has an appointment with us to meet with Him on a specific day, on Sabbath time. It is time, different from other time, just as an appointment time with a dentist is different from other time in one's life, as well as from another person's scheduled time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment


 

Exodus 3:2-5

Exodus 3:2-5 shows a principle regarding the making of something holy. Because God was present, the ground itself was holy and could not be approached in the ordinary fashion. God commanded Moses to treat it with a respect, a deference, that he would not give to something common. Interestingly, even though Moses knew there was something unusual about what he was observing, God had to tell him that he was on holy ground. Its holiness was something spiritual; it was not physically discernable.

The same presence of God makes the Sabbath holy, a cut above, transcendent, as compared to the other days not declared holy by God. God puts His presence into the Sabbath day for the sake of His people and His spiritual creation. The other six days are common and given to the pursuit of the mundane activities of life. Since God commands us to keep the Sabbath holy, we must strive to avoid those mundane things that make the Sabbath—or promote making it—into an ordinary day.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

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 20:11

We honor men and women who have made significant contributions to mankind by setting apart a day as a memorial to them so others will remember their deeds and strive to emulate them. Hence, men celebrate the birthdays of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Sabbath memorializes God. Compared to any man, God's contributions are beyond compare, but one stands out above all: He is Creator.

What an awesome contribution to consider! Everything in this fantastic floating greenhouse we call Earth is a tribute to His genius, power, and love. Mankind has yet to develop his first flea! Men can impart life only within the narrow parameters God has created. Yet if a man did develop even one flea, how much publicity would he seek? What would he demand as remuneration?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Exodus 31:12-17

Several points stand out in this passage:

1) The Sabbath is a sign of who the true God is. The true God is the Creator.
2) The Sabbath is a sign of God's people.
3) The Sabbath(s) belongs to God (verse 13). He designed the time as holy, not Moses or any other man.
4) The Sabbath sanctifies. It sets apart the man who keeps it by showing him to be distinct from the rest of the culture.
5) Sabbath-breaking incurs the death penalty.
6) The Sabbath is a perpetual covenant. The Old Covenant was not a perpetual covenant; it has been replaced by the New.
7) The Sabbath covenant is separate and distinct from the Old Covenant given at Mt. Sinai. Not only did the events in this passage take place 40 days after the proposal and acceptance of the Old Covenant, but God re-revealed the Sabbath to the children of Israel (because they were in Egypt for so long they had forgotten it) right after they left Egypt and days before they arrived at Mt. Sinai. The lesson of the manna, which demonstrated the difference in the days of the week (Exodus 16), happened before the rest of the law was given via the Old Covenant. Even though the Old Covenant - that specific agreement - has passed away, that does not mean that the eternal code of conduct on which the agreement was based has passed away. Notice that idolatry and adultery are both still sin (and nobody considers those laws to be "Jewish").
8) This was spoken to the people that God was working with at the time - Israel. Part of Jesus Christ's earthly ministry was to "fulfill" the law, and not to destroy it (Matthew 5:17-18)! The rest of Matthew 5 shows Him magnifying various points of law to reveal the true intent behind them. Jesus Christ says in Mark 2:27 that the Sabbath was made for mankind, not just for physical Israel! Galatians 6:16 shows that the designation of "Israel" under the New Covenant is now a designation of the church. And the Bible shows the New Testament church, Christ included, observing the Sabbath and not the first day of the week.

David C. Grabbe


 

Deuteronomy 5:12-15

This occurrence of the fourth commandment reveals another way that the Sabbath sanctifies. The emphasis here is that it be kept so that we will remain free: "Remember on this day that you were a slave." The implication is obvious. The Sabbath draws one to a remembrance of the past, of our spiritual slavery in Egypt, and where we are headed: toward the Promised Land.

The Sabbath looks back and forward, but with a somewhat different perspective than in Exodus 20. Before it was tied merely to the Creation, yet God still has a creative process going on. Now we find that His creative process is designed to produce freedom and to continue providing liberty from sin, Satan, and this world that God accomplished through the redemptive death of Jesus Christ.

This is done through the messages, the sermons, given in Sabbath services. Almost all messages involve sin and our enslavement to it to some degree. On the other hand, the Ten Commandments are the law of liberty (James 2:12), and by keeping them, we remain free of enslavement by Satan and this world. It is on the Sabbath that God instructs His people, through His Word, about how to keep the commandments and remain free.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

Amos 3:3

Applying this principle to the Sabbath, if we want to be in God's presence in this special way, no other day will do. God has set a weekly appointment with His people to meet with Him for purposes pertaining to His spiritual creation. It is largely on this day that we are blessed, empowered by Him with His Spirit to promote our success in His way. The keeping of the Sabbath also functions to identify the two parties involved in the covenant.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Mark 2:27-28

A number of important aspects are of note here. The first is that the Sabbath was not made for its own sake, as with the other days of the week, but with the specific purpose of being a service to mankind. An alternate translation is that it was made "on account of man."

The Sabbath, then, is a specific, thoughtful gift of the Creator to serve His creation. If it were to be used by mankind merely for physical rest, any one of the seven days of the week would be acceptable. Yet, God set apart the seventh day specifically and linked it to creation (Genesis 2:1-3). Therefore, God's purpose in establishing the Sabbath is primarily to support man's part in God's spiritual creation. Such use goes far beyond mere bodily rest.

A second item is that God made the Sabbath for humanity, not just for the Jews. As God created it, its intention is universal. He made it to ensure mankind's physical and spiritual well-being.

A third point is that Jesus claims the authority as its Lord to teach us how to keep it, not whether to keep it. Both the immediate context and the gospels as a whole show that Jesus expected it to be kept and offered no alternatives.

Nations routinely honor citizens they believe have made significant contributions to the well-being of their people, and they often do this by setting apart a day as a memorial to them so that others will remember their contributions. For example, in this nation George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King have been so honored. God says in Exodus 31:13: "Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you."

By God's own words, He is memorialized and therefore honored by our observance of the Sabbath (the day we call Saturday). Compared to any man, God's contributions to the well-being of every living thing are beyond counting, but one stands out as witness to all: He is Creator. What an awesome statement to consider. Everything in and on this fantastic, floating greenhouse we call Earth is a tribute to and witnesses of His genius, power, and loving providence.

Mankind, on the other hand, has yet to create its first flea! Yet, if a man did create one, how much publicity would he want? What honors might he demand?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment


 

John 5:17

What work is the Father doing? He is "working salvation in the midst of the earth" (Psalm 74:12). God is always working toward the completion of His purpose - the salvation of mankind. Jesus works within the same process and pointedly makes an issue of this on the Sabbath days. God's work is creating sons in His image. Thus, healing, forgiving sin, and doing good are part of Christ's work as Savior and High Priest that He might be "firstborn among many brethren."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

John 5:17

We do not use "hitherto" much anymore. It means that the Father began working at some unexpressed time in the past, and He is working still. He began working and has never stopped. His audience understood this because they say that God was working on the Sabbath.

If God has never stopped working, He works seven days a week, 365 day a year, decade after decade, century after century. He is working and has never stopped for the Sabbath. Then Jesus adds, ". . . and I work." The Jews did not like this at all because Jesus associated Himself with God, and He was declaring, "I work on the Sabbath too," basically throwing their accusation right back at them. But the very fact He said it incensed them because they knew immediately that, in order for this to be true, He had to be equated with God.

The Father and the Son began working on a project in the indefinite past. Once that project began, They worked without stopping - "hitherto" - even now. Remember, God is our model, and He works on the Sabbath. But the key is the type of work that He and His Son do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)


 

 




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