“I’m Reformed, but I don’t believe in the Christian Sabbath because every day is a sabbath in Christ.”
No, you’re not really Reformed if you don’t hold to the Christian Sabbath. The Christian Sabbath is a key confessional commitment of Reformedom.
I know some of you will now claim the “Continental Sabbath” position and claim Calvin’s view of the subject. The trouble is, I very rarely find people who truly understand Calvin’s understanding of the sabbath (more on that in a future post).
Getting back to the idea that “every day is now the sabbath in Christ”. This is falsely derived from Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 so I will hone in on a few, very revealing verses.
For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
“Do enter rest” is in the present tense in the original just as we read it in English. This is something we have and are experiencing, but have not yet experienced in its fulness. What we have is one of those “already, not yet” tensions of the New Covenant. That is, in one sense we are already in Christ and at rest from our own works, and in another we are waiting and laboring (all in grace) towards the fulness of this rest which happens at Christ’s second coming. This is why, throughout the text, we are encouraged to press on in Christ.
This is precisely why once we get to verses 9 and 10 we have the following explanation…
There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
The word “rest” in verse 9 is a different word in the original than the word “rest” we see throughout chapters 3 and 4. In all the other places we have κατάπαυσις (katapausis) which simply means…you guessed it, “rest”.
However, in verse 9 the word is σαββατισμός (sabbatismos). This is a derivative of σάββατον (sabbaton) which is unambiguously the Jewish sabbath.
Hebrews 9:10 is the only place in the entire Greek New Testament that we encounter the word sabbatismos. I think it is because, while the author of Hebrews is saying there remains a “keeping of a sabbath” (sabbatismos), he is also using a distinct word to set it apart from the Jewish sabbath (sabbaton). The sabbatismos is therefore our “Christian Sabbath”.
But wait we are not done yet. Lest one think those who understand the text thusly are guilty of a creative flourish on the language, let’s look at the very next verse…
“For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.”
This verse is set forth as an explanation for why there remains a sabbatismos for the people of God and oh what a mangled mess many expositors make of it.
For many, “he that is entered into his rest” and “ceased from his own works” is a reference to the believer who has rested in Christ having abandoned an attempt at works righteousness. While this is certainly true of every Christian (Romans 1:17), it is not what this verse is teaching.
Note…whoever it is that has entered into his rest has done so just “as God did from his”. We must then ask, what work did God do and then rest from? Creation of course! God made everything in 6 days and declared it “good” and then rested on the 7th day. Just as God rested from his perfect work of Creation on the 7th day, whoever the “he” is in this verse has entered into his rest in the same way. That is, having completed a perfect work, he is at rest.
Now what sinner has completed a perfect work from which he may now rest as God did from his?
Verse 10 is a reference to the work and rest of JESUS!
Verse 10 explains why there remains a keeping of a sabbath for the people of God. Not the Jewish sabbaton but a sabbatismos. Jesus, having completed his perfect work of redemption, is now at rest from that labor. He sits enthroned at the right hand of the father.
He did not do this on the 7th day, but on the 1st day when he rose from the dead and was thereby “declared to be the son of God with power” (Romans 1:4). Here then we see why it was on the first day the apostolic church gathered for worship and why John called it “The Lord’s Day”. The first day of the week is the Christian Sabbath. The sabbath now commemorates redemption, not creation. Consider that! The redemptive work of Christ is more glorious than the creation of the entire cosmos!
The author of Hebrews is using this weekly observance that the reader was already aware of by practice, the sabbatismos, to illustrate the doctrine that he is setting forth earlier in the text. Every time we gather on the Lord’s Day for worship, this teaching should come to mind to encourage us to press on in the faith.
The Christian Sabbath is a treasure of the New Covenant!