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The Sabbath

By Mark Mayberry
4/23/2017

The Sabbath was a unique and important part of the Jewish religion. The Mosaic Code, given at Mt. Sinai, required that both man and beast cease from labor on the Sabbath (Exod. 20:8-11). In addition to being a day of physical rest and renewal, the Sabbath was also a day of spiritual devotion and worship (Lev. 23:1-3).

For the people of God, the Sabbath was a day of spiritual significance—looking back to the creation when God rested on the seventh day (Exod. 20:11); looking to the present, signifying God’s covenant with the nation of Israel (Exod. 31:12-18); looking to the future, anticipating the realization of His ultimate purpose (Heb. 4:1-11).

The command to properly observe the Sabbath was no trivial responsibility. Anyone who violated the Sabbath was subject to the severest of penalties (Exod. 31:14-15). For example, the Old Testament tells of a man who broke God’s law by gathering sticks on the Sabbath. The Lord commanded that the offender be stoned to death for his infraction (Num. 15:32-36).

Unfortunately, with the passing years, many Jews did not heed this lesson. The prophets repeatedly condemned the ancient Israelites for neglecting the Sabbath (Jer. 17:21-27; etc.). The length of the Babylonian captivity was determined by the extent of Israel’s greedy abuse of the sabbatical year (Lev. 25:1-7; 26:34-35; 2 Chron. 36:21).

Since the Law of Moses has been removed (Eph. 2:14-15), regulations regarding the Sabbath are no longer binding: “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:13-14).

Now in the Christian age, Sunday has deep spiritual significance. Jesus Christ arose from the grave on the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1). The Lord’s church was established on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1ff), the day when New Testament disciples regularly assembled (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2). Thus, it is not surprising that Sunday is called “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10).

While the first day of the week (Sunday) is not the “Christian Sabbath,” and the New Testament clearly indicates that we are not obligated to keep regulations regarding the cessation of work, or any other stipulation specific to the Law of Moses, we still recognize the necessity of honoring God in ways consistent with the New Covenant.

Today, we continue to emphasize the need for rest and renewal, reflection and remembrance, and a complete reliance upon the Word of God, but in ways that reflect our submission to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Action, Accusation, and Answer

Action, Accusation, and Answer

By Mark Mayberry
4/23/2017

Introduction

Examining various negative encounters that certain individuals had with Jesus, let us reflect upon the recurring charge by the Pharisees that Jesus violated the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-21; Luke 6:1-11). If this charge had been true, He could not have been the perfect sacrifice for sins. However, the Bible repeatedly affirms that Jesus lived a sinless life and that He manifested perfect obedience to the Father (2 Cor. 5:20-21; 1 Pet. 1:17-21; 2:21-25; 1 John 3:5).

Therefore, we conclude that the charge was false. This is a reminder not to accept baseless accusations, or the modern mantra, “perception equals reality,” which is rooted in relativism (1 Tim. 5:19-20). The Lord’s admonition, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment,” was offered in response to this very accusation, i.e., “He violated the Sabbath” (John 7:19-24).

Action

Note the actions of Jesus (or His disciples) that provoked a negative response: “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat” (Matt. 12:1).

Accusation

Consider the accusation: “But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, ‘Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath’” (Matt. 12:2).

Answer

The Example of David

Jesus said, reflect upon the example of David, who in fleeing from the wrath of King Saul, committed numerous infractions of the law. Jesus’ implication is this: You revere him, despite his wrongs, but criticize Me, despite my innocence (Matt. 12:3-4; cf. 1 Sam. 21:1ff).

The Example of the Priests

Next, Jesus said, ponder the example of the priests, who (technically) break the Sabbath in performing their various duties, but are innocent (Matt. 12:5-6).

The Need for Compassion

Finally, the Lord reminded His audience of the need for compassion (heartfelt devotion): “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent’” (Matt. 12:7). To better understand the original statement, compare and contrast various translations of the Old Testament passage quoted by Jesus (Hos. 6:4-6).

The Hebrew word chesed, used twice in this passage, often translated “goodness, kindness, faithfulness,” etc. actually refers to covenantal love and loyalty. The NASB reads, “your loyalty is like a morning cloud… I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice.” The KJV reads, “your goodness is as a morning cloud… I desired mercy, and not sacrifice. The NKJV reads, “your faithfulness is like a morning cloud… I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” The ESV reads, “Your love is like a morning cloud… I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice.”

Jesus also cited this passage on an earlier occasion, when the Pharisees reproached Him for eating with tax collectors and sinners, saying, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:10-13).

Authority

Offering the ultimate defense for His actions, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:8). As a member of the Godhead, and as One on whom absolute authority is bestowed, Jesus is the Christ/Messiah, and also our Lord and Master (Matt. 28:18-20).

Conclusion

A careful study of these passages leads to several inescapable conclusions.  Despite accusations to the contrary, Jesus did no wrong and committed no sin (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:21-25). He did not pursue a path of situational ethics, but through His perfect life, and sacrificial death, fulfilled the demands of the Law (Matt. 5:17-18; Heb. 10:5-14). Therefore, we reject the accusation that Jesus violated the Sabbath, recognizing His actions were consistent with divine revelation, divine compassion, and His position as “Lord of the Sabbath.”

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Goals

By Mark Mayberry 4/2/2017

Introduction

The word “goal” often carries sports connotations. Webster defines it as “(1) the terminal point of a race; an area to be reached safely in children’s games; (2) the end toward which effort is directed: aim; (3) an area or object toward which players in various games attempt to advance a ball or puck and usually through or into which it must go to score points.”

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary says this noun means “(1) (in soccer, rugby, etc.) a pair of posts linked by a crossbar and forming a space into or over which the ball has to be sent in order to score; (2) an instance of sending the ball into or over a goal; (3) an aim or desired result; the destination of a journey.”

The word “goal” occurs 4x in the New American Standard Bible (Hab. 2:3; Luke 13:32; Phil. 3:14; 1 Tim. 1:5). Considering each is instructive.

Inspired Prophecy

Prophecy is given for a purpose: By revealing the mind of God, and spiritually significant future events, prophecy provides spiritual guidance and understanding, demonstrates God’s divine foreknowledge, and strengthens the faith of disciples (Hab. 2:2-3; cf. 2 Pet. 1:19-21).

Incarnate Christ

The Son of God became flesh for the purpose of fulfilling the demands of the Law, paying the price for our sins, offering Himself as a perfect sacrifice for sin, destroying the power of Satan, and offering lost humanity the promise of reconciliation and redemption (Luke 13:31-33). “I (will) reach My goal” is an affirmation that Jesus came to accomplish God’s eternal purpose (John 4:34; 17:1-5).

Inspired Message

While many miss the point of preaching, and thus turn aside from “the faith” to fruitless discussion, Paul affirms, “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” In other words, the gospel message is not one option among many, but singular and soul-saving. It is not aimless and speculative, but designed to change hearts and lives. Truth must be internalized, resulting in submission to God’s rule and implementation of God’s love (1 Tim. 1:3-7, esp. v. 5).

Individual Disciples

Speaking his personal commitment to Christ, Paul said, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Commending this approach, the apostle adds, “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude…” (Phil. 3:12-16, esp. v. 14).

Goals for Our Children

We should have goals for our children. We want them to grow up healthy and whole, spiritually and emotionally balanced, with a value system that is based upon the Word of God. Godly parents desire that their children develop in a similar manner to young Jesus, who grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).

Therefore, let us walk in the steps of faithful Abraham, who commanded his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19). Recall the admonition given to ancient Israel: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons…” (Deut. 6:4-9). Heed the injunction of the inspired apostle: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

Goals for Our Congregation

We should have goals for our congregation. The church should grow up in Christ, enjoying peace and spiritual prosperity, where each member is active, doing his or her part. Following God’s perfect pattern, Christians are fitted together, and grow into a holy temple in the Lord, a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:19-22).

God has provided a framework in which we can mature and prosper, having provided offices of revelation, offices of proclamation, offices of oversight, and service; “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies” (Eph. 4:11-16).

Jealous rivalry has no place in a fully-functional body. As the foot, hand, ear and eye serve different purposes, so we have different abilities and talents, which serve the overall body. Selfishness must yield to service (1 Cor. 12:14-31). By walking in truth, we enjoy spiritual well-being and prosperity (3 John 2-4).

 Goals for Ourselves

We should have goals for ourselves. Instead of living in the past, focus on the present (Phil. 3:12-16). Forgetting those things that are behind includes both success and failure. Some rest on their laurels, living in the glory days of the past; others are handicapped by earlier disappointments. We must not allow events in the past, good or bad, to keep us from faithfully serving God in the present.

Don’t look back. It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday—what are you going to do today? “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”(Luke 9:61-62).

Be competitive and disciplined (1 Cor. 9:24-27). Stay focused, keeping your eyes on the goal (Phi. 3:14). Running with patience and purpose, constantly look to Jesus, don’t become discouraged; never give up (Heb. 12:1-3).

Conclusion

What if past failures are holding you back? Change bad habits into good ones. Internalize truth. God’s word is powerfully transformative, assuming that we submit to its message. Therefore, may the prayer of every disciple be, “Prove me by Your word. Purify me by Your word. Perfect me by Your word.”

Grow in knowledge and devotion. Be given to prayer. Be filled with praise. Be empowered by His precepts. Make regular progress.

Invest time in your spiritual rehabilitation. Take responsibility. When you stumble, engage in honest self-examination, and make needed course corrections. Adjust to present circumstances, starting over if necessary, but press ever onward and upward.

Sources

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 1996.

Soanes, Catherine and Angus Stevenson, eds. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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