The Sabbath Day
January 10th, 1965 @ 7:30 PM
THE SABBATH DAY
DR. W. A. CRISWELL
1-10-65 7:30 p.m.
On the radio, on WRR the radio of the city of Dallas, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in this queenly and glorious city. And the title of the sermon is The Sabbath Day. Every Sunday night the pastor brings a message on the life of Christ. And following through the story of the life of our Lord, we have come to the Sabbath controversy; the controversy that precipitated the determination of the elders, and the scribes, and the rulers of Israel to destroy Jesus. At the close of the passage that we shall read together tonight it says in the next verse, "Then the Pharisees went out and held a council against Jesus how they might destroy Him." [Matthew 12:14] And that was precipitated by this Sabbath controversy.
Now let us read it together Matthew chapter 12, the first thirteen verses. Matthew, the first gospel, chapter 12, the first thirteen verses and share your Bible with your neighbor. And you who listen on the radio, read it out loud with us; it will bless you heart, every Word of God was written to be read aloud. The first thirteenverses of the twelfth chapter of Matthew, all of us reading together:
At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.
But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto Him, Behold, Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day. But He said unto them, Have ye not read what David did when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;
How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?
But I say unto you, That in this place is One greater than the temple.
But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.
And when He was departed thence, He went into their synagogue; and, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked Him, saying, is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days? that they may accuse him.
And He said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days.
Then saith He to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.
Then the verse that immediately follows: "Then the Pharisees went out and held a council against Him, how they might slay Him." The Sabbath Day.
There were three tremendous institutions that were venerated by the ancient Jew. They were a part of their national pride and their national religion: one, the institution of the temple; second, the institution of the Sabbath day; and third, the institution of the distinction between clean and unclean. And of those three institutions, the one that set apart the Jew the most and the most emphatically from all the other races, and nations, and peoples of the earth was the Sabbath day. It was a unique Jewish institution.
There were other religions who had temples. There were other religions that practiced circumcision. There were other religions who had rites, and ablutions, and all kinds of distinctions between profane and holy. But there was only one people and one religion in the whole earth who had the institution of a Sabbath day; one holy day out of seven, and that belonged to the nation of Israel. These archaeologists, and these entomologists, and these men who study semantics, and ancient literature, and ancient history, they have probed back into the Sumerian civilization, and the Babylonian, and the Assyrian, and the Chaldean, and the ancient Egyptian. But they have never able to establish yet any connection between the institution of the Sabbath day that belonged to Israel and anything that was ever practiced by any culture or any civilization in the centuries before. It is uniquely, it is alone an institution that belongs to the Jewish faith and the Jewish people.
So distinct was that what the Jew did, observing a Sabbath day, that in the Maccabean War, the Jew refused to defend himself at first. And the Syrians came into the city, or the Syrians would attack the Jewish army and annihilate them because on the Sabbath day, at the first of the Maccabean War, the Jew refused to defend himself, to use a sword or a shield. And so tenacious were those Jewish people in observing that day that the Roman army could not use them. They refused to march on the Sabbath day. They refused to fight on the Sabbath day. So the Jew in the Roman Empire was exempted from military service. All over the earth, wherever he went he carried that national institution on a Saturday. On the seventh day, the day was sacred and set apart for holy and religious purposes.
Now there are three things in the Word of God that the Sabbath meant to the Jewish people, and they are very plainly said, and very lucidly presented. First, the Sabbath day was a sign of the finished creative workmanship of God. That is the first meaning of the Jewish Sabbath.
And on the seventh day God ended the work which He had made, and He rested on the Sabbath day from all His work which He had made.
And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because that in it He had rested from all His work, which God created and made.
[Genesis 2:2, 3]
So the meaning of the Jewish Sabbath first, it was a memorial, it was an honor to God who had finished all of the creative works of His hands in six days; and the seventh day God ceased from His creation. And we’re in that Sabbath today. God has made nothing since first He created this earth. And there is not a scientist in this earth that is cognizant of that fact. There is nothing added to, there is nothing taken away from what God created in the beginning. And the sign and the memorial of that finished work was the Sabbath day. That is the first meaning.
The second meaning of the Sabbath day is this: it is a sign, it is a token between God and Israel that these are His children, His people, and His elected purpose through their families and nation. In the thirty-first chapter of the Book of Exodus: "Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations for a perpetual covenant, forever. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever." [Exodus 31:16, 17] The prophets emphasized that. For example Ezekiel says twice here, and I read it once in the twentieth chapter of his prophecy, "Moreover, also, I the Lord gave them My Sabbath to be a sign between Me and them that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctifies them. [Ezekiel 20:12] The meaning of the Sabbath secondly; it is a sign, an outward visible token of the covenant relationship between the Jew and Jehovah God.
The third meaning of the Sabbath is given in the Decalogue in the fifth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy. The Ten Commandments are listed twice in the Bible; one in the twentieth chapter of the Book of Exodus, and second in the fifth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy. And in the listing of the Decalogue in the fifth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, God tells the reason why. Here, God tells the reason why Israel is bound by the Sabbath day:
Thou shalt keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; and remember,
– Now this is the third meaning of the Sabbath –
And remember that thou was a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence with a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm; therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath day.
[Deuteronomy 5:12, 15]
It was a memorial of Israel’s redemption out of Egypt. When they sprinkled the blood on the lentils and on the door posts and God delivered Israel out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with a strong arm, the memorial of that redemption and that deliverance was the Sabbath day.
Now in the days of the captivity when Jerusalem was destroyed, and when the temple was destroyed, and when the sacrifices ceased, in those days they could no longer bow before Jehovah God in that marvelous edifice on Mount Moriah. Nor could they offer sacrifices unto the Lord. So in the captivity and as they were scattered over the earth, unable to carry with them their temple and their sacrifices, they kept those national institutions that were observable in foreign lands and in other countries. And as I said a moment ago, the most unique and the most distinctive of all of those national institutions was the Sabbath. When he was carried away into Syria, when he was carried away into Babylonia, as he was scattered among the nations of the earth, he carried with him that institution of observing one day out of seven, the Sabbath day on Saturday.
In those days of the captivity and in those days of the inter-biblical period between Malachi and the coming of John the Baptist, in those days they developed minutiae concerning the observance of the Sabbath that were unbelievably refined. The Babylonian Talmud is made up of the Mishnah and a Babylonian Gemara, a commentary on the Halakha and the Haggadah of the Mishnah. The Jerusalem Talmud – and these are endlessly writings – the Jerusalem Talmud is made up of the Mishnah and the Gemara; on the Mishnah written by the rabbis and the scholars in Jerusalem. There are those two Talmud’s. In the Talmud of Babylon there are two tractates of the Mishnah with their Gemaras. And in the Jerusalem Talmud there are two tremendous tractates on the Sabbath with their Gemaras. And the refinements of what a man could do and what a man could not do on the Sabbath day were endlessly promulgated, endlessly. We haven’t time to mention them tonight because we have so much else to say but it was refined down to an unbelievably ridiculous point.
It was into that that the Lord Jesus stumbled, or the Lord Jesus came when He announced Himself as the great prophetic answer to all of the marvelous and glorious things God had planned and in His sovereign grace had chosen for Israel. When the Lord came to preach the gospel of the kingdom of heaven and to present Himself as the coming King, there He found Himself in a maze, literally buried alive under a thousand, thousand, thousand Halakha and Haggadah – to do this, and to do that, and not to do this, and not to do the other – and a thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand little old minutiae, and insignificances, and inconsequential’s. They were a burden beyond what anybody could bear. So when the Lord appeared, the Lord had about Him, the Lord had about Him a manner and a way that immediately struck fire in the mind, and in the observation; and finally in bitterness of soul, struck fire among the leaders of the Jewish nation. For example when He came into the temple, He walked around the temple as though He owned it, as though it belonged to Him, as though it was His Father’s house. And He made a cord, made a whip, and He drove out the cattle, and the beasts, and all of the moneychangers, and cleansed the temple as though it belonged to Him [John 2:13-22].
And when He spake of the Sabbath day He presented Himself as the Lord of the Sabbath as though it belonged to Him. Did you get the significance of a little word here in the passage that you read? "And He said unto them," Jesus said unto them about that Sabbath day, "What man of you shall there be that shall see a sheep fall in a ditch," no, "What man of you shall there be that shall have a sheep," he owns the sheep, "and the sheep fall in a pit, and he lays hold on it on the Sabbath day and raises it out; wherefore it is lawful, kalos poien, it is lawful to do appropriately with what belongs to you on the Sabbath day." Do you see kalos poien? This man owned that sheep. And on the Sabbath day when he lifted out, he was just acting appropriately. He was acting dutifully. He was acting well. I don’t know a better word than appropriately. He was acting in character. That sheep belonged to him; and when he raised it out of the pit he was acting appropriately with what belonged to him. Now the significance there, and the Pharisees got it, the Sabbath day belongs to Jesus. And what Jesus is doing on the Sabbath day, He is doing appropriately, poien kalos, He is doing it beautifully and well, fittingly. He’s the Lord of the Sabbath.
That’s why Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and said, "Lord there are things about You we don’t understand; and there are attitudes about You that bother us. And I want to know, and I want You to tell me" [John 3]; the whole Jewish nation was like that when Jesus came. And this controversy on the Sabbath day precipitated into these Pharisees a very clear picture of what Jesus came to do and what He purposed for them. The Lord came as though He possessed the whole thing of Israel. The people were His. Like the sheep would belong to an owner, the people were His. And this man who had a withered hand, he belonged to Jesus; he was a fellow Israelite. And all of these things of temple, and worship, and sacred ablutions, all of it belonged to Jesus. And the Lord was acting that way – – and that precipitated in these Jewish leaders a violent reaction. And the Lord is just that. He came to fulfill every jot and every tittle of the Law. He came to be the answer to every prophetic promise. And the Sabbath day was one of the things that the Lord came to fulfill, to fill up. Its meaning is found in the Lord Jesus.
And I haven’t time to read it and to expatiate upon it, but the fourth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the fourth chapter of the Book of Hebrews – – and if you have time for a devotional, when you go home read the fourth chapter of the Book of Hebrews – – the fourth chapter of the Book of Hebrews says that the Lord Jesus is our redemptive rest, He is our Sabbath. And we find our ultimate rest and our final redemption and the meaning of that holy day in the blessed, blessed Jesus. And in the second chapter of the Book of Colossians, we are interdicted against observing a Sabbath day any longer. "Let no man, therefore," says Paul, "judge you in meat, eat anything," you can get by with it; "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, eat anything; or in drink, drink anything." The reason I don’t drink liquor is because it makes my brother stumble. You think I’d be damned and go to hell if I drank a glass of wine? Think I’d be damned and go to hell if I drank a glass of bourbon? I might think I was on fire and down there in that place because I’m not accustomed to drinking the stuff; but it has nothing to do with salvation at all. The only reason we don’t drink anything, alcoholic beverages, is because of the influence. One out of every nine becomes an alcoholic, and it’s not worth the destruction of that one out of nine for me to engage in it. But I am free. I could were it not for the sake of my brother who’d stumble at my example. Or in respect of an holy day, no, none; or of a new moon, no; or of a Sabbath day, no, no, no.
All of those old Haggadah’s and all of those old Halacha’s, and all of those Mishna’s, and all of those Gemara’s, and all of those Talmud’s, and a thousand things of the weight and burden that made religious life miserable, they’re all gone. All of it fulfilled in the Lord Jesus who is our Sabbath, and who is our rest, and who is our redemption, and who is the sign of the covenant of a New Testament. All of it is in the Lord Jesus.
From the beginning, therefore, from the beginning, from the beginning and all through the centuries since, the disciples of the Lord, the Christian people, the followers of Jesus, they carefully observed a different way, and a different day, and a different kind from the Jewish people. The Sabbath is Jewish. It is a sign that they are God’s covenant people forever, in perpetuity forever and ever. And the Jew worships Jehovah on the Sabbath day and as long as he is a Jew that is his day of worship. It belongs to the Jew.
But from the beginning – from the beginning and never a deviation from it – from the beginning and through all of the centuries, the Christian people, even though some of them were Jewish back there and observed the Sabbath day, from the beginning the Christian people met together in honor of, and in praise of, and in worship of, and in love of the blessed Lord Jesus on the first day of the week. And they did it in the beginning.
It was no longer a day of commandment. It was no longer a day of burden. It was no longer a day that was endlessly delineated and defined by a thousand, thousand, thousand commandments. But it was a day of supernal gladness, and joy, and glory. It was a great, golden day; the Lord’s day. It was a day of resurrection. It was a day of new life. It was a day of psalm singing and rejoicing. It was a day of testimony and gladness. It was a day when God’s people came together to avow their love for the Savior. It was a day that began in the morning with a vision of angels, and with a vision of resurrection, and with a vision of heaven, and with a vision of the glory of a life that was yet to come. It was a day filled with heavenly goodness and it was a day filled with music, and psalms, and singing, and rejoicing. That was the Lord ‘s Day from the beginning. And the Christian people observed it and the disciples of Jesus observed it out of the fullness of their hearts, out of the love of God, under no commandment, under no compulsion, under no threat, and under no judgment. "Do this and thou shalt live. Don’t do this and thou shalt be damned!" Nothing of it, nothing at all, just out of the love of their souls and out of thanksgiving to God; God’s people in Christ gathered on the first day of the week to rejoice in the blessed Lord Jesus.
He appeared to His disciples the first day of the week. On Sunday night, on Sunday night He appeared to His disciples, ten of them; Thomas being absent. On the eighth day later – the way they counted time, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday – the eighth day later, Sunday, the eighth day later, Sunday night again, the Lord appeared to His disciples, Thomas also being present. And the disciples met together every Lord’s Day, every first day of the week, to rejoice in their salvation and to avow their love to the blessed, blessed Savior. And when they gathered together on the Lord’s Day they broke bread, they observed the memorial of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. And they were under the commandment of the apostle on the first day of the week to dedicate to the Lord the tithe and the offering by which they avowed their love to Him. And the sainted apostle John, on the isle of Patmos, suffering for the Word and the testimony of Jesus, was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. And from those early beginnings through all of the centuries and to this present hour, God’s children in Christ have always met on the first day of the week.
It’s a day of gladness. It’s a day of rejoicing. It’s a day of singing. It’s a day filled with all of the brightness of the presence and the glory of God. And as the ancient disciples, the primitive disciples loved to dedicate the day to Jesus, this is His day. This is our Lord’s Day. This belongs to Him. As they loved to dedicate the day to the blessed Savior, so that same spirit will live in any child of God this present hour. It’s His day and it’s a happy day. It’s a triumphant day. It’s a victorious day. It’s a soul-saving day. It’s a day filled with all of the brightness of the presence of God. This is His day. And for us to dedicate it to the Lord is a high and supernal privilege, and opportunity, and gladness on our part.
Don’t get up in the morning like a slave sent to his galley seat there to labor in toil and ruin. Why this is the happiest day of the week and every Christian home ought to instill that into the lives of their children. This is a happy day. This is a glorious day. Even the Sabbath day was a feast day, not a fast day. Isn’t any one commandment in the Talmud to make it that for the family. So it is to be for us; to get up Sunday morning. This is God’s day and with happy faces and radiant hearts to come down to the church and there to be with God’s people and to bring your family with you. And to keep the whole day sacred for rest of body, or for devotion in reading and prayer, or for visiting the sick and the lost, or for being together in the fellowship of the precious Savior and as they did in the New Testament, to come to meet together at night.
The Lord appeared to His disciples at night and Paul preached to the church at Troas at night; and they observed the Lord’s Supper. Supper in any language in the world – there’s no exception to it – in every language in the world supper is a meal eaten at night; never any exception to it in any language in the world. And they met together and observed the Lord’s Supper at night. And they rejoiced in the Savior who appeared to them alive, raised from the dead, appeared to them at night.
Oh, I rejoice in this blessed church and I rejoice every Lord’s Day in this congregation! All the people here – – and there are throngs clear to the back part of that topmost balcony – – all the people could be as others out in the world: drinking, and entertaining, and partying, and ballroom dancing, and bridge playing, and carrying on in entertainments, and in the theatres, and out on the highways, and a thousand other things – – every one of which dishonor God on His day, every one of which dishonor God on His day. This is the Lord’s Day. This day belongs to Jesus. This is a day for refreshment of spirit and rejuvenation of body and soul. This is a day of gladness and rejoicing. This is the day that we have dedicated out of the love of our hearts to Jesus and here we are.
O, God bless us and the Lord sanctify us. And the Lord make this precious one day, the first day out of the seven, the Lord make it meaningful to us as we learn to love Him more, and to say it better, and the more completely to offer everything we have and possess to His blessed name.
Now in keeping with the spirit of this message somebody you, to come down this aisle tonight, "Preacher, tonight I give my heart to the Lord and with the people of God I’d like to be numbered to praise His name forever." Come. Come. A family you, to put your life in the fellowship of the church, come. A couple you, one somebody you, "Pastor, I know what it means to be out there in the world. I have felt in my heart the wooing of the Spirit of God to come to the Lord and to join my life with the people of Christ, and here I am, and here I come." It ought to be easy for you, who tonight have kept this hour sacred for Jesus. It ought to be easy for you to make a decision for the Savior. Come all the way. It’s a glad way. It’s a happy way. It’s a glorious way. It’s a triumphant way. The Lord, and His presence, and His promise, the Lord’s in this way; and it leads to glory. It leads to Heaven. And there’s no brown aftertaste, and there’s no dark and heavy hangover. Not in this way. There’s nothing in this way but ultimate triumph, and victory, and gladness, and rejoicing. Come and share it with us. The religion of Jesus is a victorious thing. Man you haven’t lived until you live in the presence of God. And you don’t know what true happiness is until you can settle the faith and the destiny of your soul in Jesus for any tomorrow, for any providence, for any exigency, "I have settled that thing with God." There is no life like that.
May I say one thing before we sing? On the streets of one of our cities a man was struck down by an automobile which can happen to any one of us. And there happened to be kneeling by his side, as the crowd gathered around him, there happened to be kneeling by his side a Christian man, a stranger. And as he looked into the face of that man so broken by that automobile that had run over him, the Christian man asked him, hurt so seriously, he said, "Sir, is it all right between you and God? Are you saved? Are you saved?" And that man, who died just a few minutes later, looked up into the face of the stranger, a brother in Christ, and answered, "Sir, I settled that years and years ago, when I was but a boy." Man, isn’t that the best way? "I settled that years and years ago." And if a plane were to fall, or if a car were to run over us, or if a disease were to attack us and waste us, or if anything, "I’ve settled that between me and God. I’ve settled that." Oh do it, do it, do it! As the Spirit of Jesus shall make appeal to your heart, come tonight, come tonight, make it now, a triumphant now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE SABBATH DAY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Sabbath controversy precipitated determination of rulers of Israel to destroy Jesus (Matthew 12:14)
B. The passage (Matthew 12:1-13)
II. The Sabbath is a Jewish institution
A. Three national Jewish institutions
3. Ceremonial distinction between clean and unclean
B. Origin of the Sabbath
1. Unique to the Jewish faith and people
C. Meaning of the Sabbath
1. Memorial, sign of the finished creative work of God(Genesis 2:2-3)
2. Visible token of the covenant relationship between Jew and Jehovah God (Exodus 31:16-17, Ezekiel 20:12)
3. Memorial of Israel’s redemption out of Egypt(Deuteronomy 5:12-15)
III. Jesus and the Jewish Sabbath
A. National pride grew during the captivity
1. After Ezra, the spirit of Jewish legalism flourished
B. The way and spirit of Jesus(John 2:13-22, 3)
IV. The Christian and the Jewish Sabbath
A. Meaning of Sabbath fulfilled in Jesus
1. Our ultimate rest, redemption (Hebrews 4:1-11, Colossians 2:16-17)
B. From the beginning, Christians never confused the Sabbath with the first day of the week