Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: law

The Sabbath

God instituted a day of rest per week, because, after six days of toil the human body and brain need rest. That’s makes good sense, doesn’t it? Except that the Bible says nothing like that.

What we find in the Bible is that God completed all the work of creation in six days and then rested on the seventh day. There is no hint that on the first day of the following week God picked up his lunch bucket, punched the time clock, and began another week of work. His work was finished from the foundation of the world (Hebrews 4:3).

The seventh day was the beginning of a never ending rest for God and the promise to us is that we can enter into that rest. The once a week Sabbath was commanded as a memorial and as a foretaste of the spiritual rest that would become available through the Messiah.

Unfortunately, the human mind finds it much easier to grasp the idea of physical rest than of spiritual rest. We have been aided in this by the reasoning of Greek philosophers and their followers in the churches.

The fourth commandment decrees that all labour cease on the Sabbath, but it gives no hint that this was because of the need of our bodies for physical and mental rest. The purpose of the Sabbath was to separate people from earthly cares so they could contemplate eternal realities. The New Testament makes it clear that the labour that must cease is our futile attempts to earn salvation.

In Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus invites us to cease our labours, lay down our burdens and He will give us rest for our souls. Hebrews 11:1-10 is an invitation to cease from our labours and enter into God’s rest, the Sabbath. “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:10).

We enter into that rest when we are born again. We know God as our Father and we are assured that He knows us as His child. He fills us with love, joy, peace and all the fruit of the spirit. He guides us, comforts us and helps us in all the troubles we face in life.

We are no longer anxious about food, clothing, or the health of our body. Our Father knows what we need and He will provide (Matthew 6:25-34). We should not take that as meaning we are now exempt from physical labour, that is still necessary and good for us. But we need no longer be burdened by worry and care as to how it will all turn out.

We have entered into the Sabbath, not a day on our earthly calendars, but a time that will continue to the end of time and into eternity. Spiritual realities now take priority over material realities. We need not worry about our status in the eyes of other people, what matters is that we are a child of God, surrounded by His love.

Living in the Sabbath also requires us to forgive others, hold no grudges, not to favour one person above another, but to see others as God sees them. Some are God’s children, God wants them all to be His children and so should we.

God gave the prophet Isaiah a beautiful picture of the right way to fast and to observe the Sabbath. Does any of this sound like something that one ought to do on certain occasions only, or one day a week? Doesn’t it rather portray the New Testament kingdom of God when God’s children will live the Sabbath every day?

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: and the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in. If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. (Isaiah 58:6-14).

The fourth commandment does not give any instruction for gathering for worship one day a week. In the Old Testament era there were only three annual festivals when all adult males should assemble for worship in Jerusalem.

Neither is there instruction in the Old Testament for establishing synagogues and holding one day a week worship services. It was a tradition that appears to have begun during the Babylonian captivity, and it was a good tradition. Christians have adopted that tradition and the weekly worship has become the primary source of sustaining our spiritual life. It is not a law written on tablets of stone, but it should be a law written on our hearts that we would want to gather where and when spiritual nourishment is being served.

The weakness of the law – any kind of law

The confederate flag is disappearing all over the US South. That should make black folks feel more like they belong, shouldn’t it?

At least it’s a symbolic act, one that shows that racism should not have any part in a society that calls itself civilized. Yet I fear that Mr. Roof is symbolic of a deep-rooted attitude in many people that will not so easily be changed. The laws have already been changed and black people should have all the rights and privileges of other citizens, yet  —

He who is convinced against his will
Remains of the same opinion still.

A long time ago, the apostle Paul wrote: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). He is even more emphatic in Galatians 2: 20-21 — “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

The law, and this applies to any kind of law, cannot make people good. Laws, teaching, indoctrination, law enforcement, all have their place in maintaining order in society. But it is only the transforming power of the blood of Jesus Christ that can erase jealousy, hated, bitterness and replace them by love.

The very idea of racism is contrary to Christian faith — there is only one human race, we are all descended from a common ancestor, we are all made in the image of God. The idea of there being different races of mankind originates with Charles Darwin, who taught that the white race was the most-favoured race and would prevail and eventually replace the other races in the struggle for survival. Not many people like to remember that, but he did teach it quite explicitly.

God makes no distinctions between people, why should we? Christians should be a model of how all the world should live. Can we follow the model of the world in making a difference between people without compromising the faith?

The law of liberty

From time to time, there are folks who propose that in order to achieve true liberty and happiness we need to do away with all laws and governments.  This belief is called anarchy and a little more than 100 years ago it was quite popular.  After anarchists assassinated King Umberto of Italy, King Carlos of Portugal and President McKinley of the USA, most people were able to see the dangers inherent in anarchy.

Nevertheless, I suspect that many people’s dream of an ideal world would be one in which all other people were governed by the law, but they were free to do as they pleased.  This fails to account for what can be called natural laws.  If we throw a ball in the air, it will come down again, on our head if we happen to be standing in its path.  If a man drives his car down the left side of the road when oncoming traffic is driving on the right side, someone is going to be hurt.  If a man is known to tell lies, he will probably not be believed when he tells the truth.  If parents feel that their children are a nuisance when they are small, the children are apt to feel their parents are a nuisance when they become old.  If men and women change partners frequently, have children that they never take the responsibility to raise, they may never know the joys of having grandchildren crawl up on their laps.  The purpose of civil and moral laws is to protect us from the consequences of transgressing the natural laws.

Businesses make rules for the same reason.  Years ago I worked in an auto parts factory.  Production continued round the clock, requiring three crews and three foremen.  Two of the foremen were easy-going, likeable men who allowed their crew members more freedom than was good for them.  The third foreman, Lawrence by name, ran a very tight operation which was not appreciated by all who worked for him.  Some called him Larry, some called him Law.  Since the company had an incentive pay plan based on production numbers, the workers on two of the shifts would often tinker with the settings on their equipment to try to increase production.  If their tinkering didn’t turn out as expected, their foremen didn’t really have the expertise to make the proper corrections.  At the beginning of his shift, Law would go from machine to machine and set them to the optimum settings.  Production figures showed that his shift consistently outproduced the others.

All the foremen were required to have regular safety meetings.  This tended to consist of a five minute reading from the safety manual and 25 minutes of telling jokes.  But not with Law.  I remember one safety meeting after there had been some practical joking happening on the factory floor.  “Do you know how long this horseplay is fun?” Law asked, then answered his own question, “It’s only fun until somebody gets hurt.”  The workers knew he was right, but resented being told.

At one point there was a problem with one of the products being made, requiring the sorting of all production of that part and the scrapping of quantities of defective parts.  At first we suspected a problem with the raw material, or a malfunction of the equipment.  When we found that none of the defective parts were produced on Law’s shift, using the same material and the same equipment, it was obvious we had a problem with careless operators.  Even then, it wasn’t all that easy to correct the problem as those workers had grown accustomed to not taking their foremen very seriously.  It took the suggestion that their jobs could be at stake to remedy the situation.  During all of this time, Law was a protection to his workers, their performance was not in question.

If the law is good, why do we resent it?  Is it a lack of understanding, a lack of experience, our emotions, wrong priorities, or some other flaw in our character?  Beneath all of these reasons, or excuses, is the fact of our self-willed heart.  With our minds we acknowledge that the law is good and right, but deep within us there is a hatred of the authority of the law.  There is in fact a war within our very being.

The prophet Ezekiel revealed 2500 years ago that God would provide a solution to this problem.  “ A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.  And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).  It’s really very simple, the problem never was with the law, it has always been in the heart of man.

We can define liberty as being able to do as we please without suffering any undesirable consequences.  The natural man can never experience such liberty because his desires will always bring him into conflict with the natural laws which govern our existence.  “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1:25).  “ For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).  When our heart is changed and God’s good pleasure becomes our good pleasure, we are completely liberated.  Whatever we do, we can do it with all our might “ heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23), with enthusiasm and without fear.

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