Study of the Book of Hebrews
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Christ, the True Sabbath Rest

(Hebrews 4:1-13, Conclusion)

This is our concluding study on the Sabbath.  It has to do with the Sabbath in relationship to the law.  I have here a document written by a Christian. It says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”  Here’s the question, “Are Christians under the law of the Sabbath?”  In other words, “Are Christians required by God to obey the fourth commandment?” I will give you the official answer of the church, i.e.  the Adventist Church. I will take my answer from the Church Manual under the heading of: Baptismal Vow and Baptism: “In the presence of the church the following questions should be answered in the affirmative by candidates at the time of baptism, or those received on profession of faith.”  Here is number six:

Do you accept the ten commandments as still binding upon Christians and is it your purpose by the power of the indwelling Christ to keep this law including the fourth commandment which requires the observance of the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath of the Lord?

So our answer to the question posed by this man is “Yes.”  Of course their [Sunday-keepers] answer is “No.”  They have two main arguments with which you need to be familiar.  They are both presented by the Evangelical Christians, by Sunday-keeping Christians.  They are both sincere answers.  We need to address ourselves to both these arguments.  One is as old as the Reformation.  The argument came from [Martin] Luther himself. The other is also a very common argument and is the argument of this manuscript. Before we look at the arguments, let’s hear his conclusion.  What does he say about Christians who still keep the Sabbath?  He says:

  1. They have bound themselves to the law which did not impart the indwelling Spirit of God.

  2. They have bound themselves to the covenant which made nothing perfect and could not produce righteousness.

  3. They have frustrated the grace of God by trying to combine the covenant of bondage and death with the covenant of liberty and life.

Then he makes this appeal, “Friend, if your soul is bowed down under a humanly devised system of doctrine and commandments may God give you the grace and the courage of conviction to break the shackles and walk as a free man in Christ.”

Now we have to address this because this is coming from a sincere Christian.  What is the argument of this manuscript?  The argument is that the Ten Commandments, that is the law, belongs to the Old Covenant and not the New.  If you ask them, “What do you do with the commandments in the New Covenant?  You mean it is okay to kill or to steal?”

The say, “No, but nine of the ten commandments have been restored in the New Covenant, but not the fourth commandment.”  The fourth commandment is not part of the New Covenant.

Well, I was discussing this with a minister of the Church of Christ in Idaho, and he gave me the this very argument.  Of course I was aware of it, so I turned around to him and said, “Okay, please start with commandment number one and go all through and give me every commandment that you claim has been restored in the New Covenant.”

He said “Okay.”  He took his Bible and turned to Acts fourteen which is the experience of Paul and Barnabas in Lystra.  They had performed a miracle by healing a crippled man and the people around said, “This must be Gods in human flesh.”  So they bowed down to worship Paul and Barnabas who were horrified that such a thing should happen.  Listen to what Paul says in verse fifteen:

Sirs, why do ye these things?  We also are men of like passions with you, [we are sinners like you] and preach unto you that you should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all the things that are therein.

And I said to this Pastor, “That is a quotation from the fourth commandment and not the first.”  And he was horrified.  I turned to Exodus twenty and asked, “Please show me what commandment Paul is quoting from, the first or the fourth?”  I turned to Ex. 20:11 and read,

For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is and rested the seventh day, wherefore the Lord blessed the seventh day and hallowed it.

So I said, “You are quoting the fourth commandment.  Therefore, by your own argument, the fourth commandment has been restored in the New Covenant.” He had a hard time.  We stopped the argument there.  He didn’t even go to the second commandment.

He said, “I didn’t realize.”

I said, “I know you didn’t realize it, but here it is, brother.  I will give you some other statements, for example, the Three Angels Message: ‘And give Him glory who made heaven, and earth and all that in them is.’  And that’s in the context of the everlasting gospel.  That happens to be the everlasting covenant — The New Covenant.”

If they bring up this argument simply ask them to show you where the nine commandments were restored in the New Covenant.  When they begin with Acts fourteen you have an answer.

Here is the second argument.  It’s an argument that originated with [Martin] Luther so I’m going to read Luther himself.  The title of the article is, “Against Saxon Radicals,” which happens to be the Anabaptists under the leadership of Carlstadt.  This was written in February, 1525.  Carlstadt, the Anabaptist, was demanding that we restore the Ten Commandments to the Christian Church.

Luther said this, and this is a common argument among Evangelicals today. This is the exact quotation, translated from the German: “Only that portion of the ten commandments is now binding which enshrines the natural law.”  So he divides the ten commandments into natural and ceremonial laws.  Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, etc., but not the injunction as to the Sabbath.  Luther rejected the Sabbath. “If Carlstadt keeps on he will have us observing Sunday on Saturday.” So Luther admitted that the fourth commandment had to do with Saturday. But he said that it was not binding on the Christian because it did not belong to the natural law.  In other words, the New Covenant only restored the natural law.

Now what does he mean by “natural law”?  He meant the law in which human beings by nature know right and wrong.  They don’t have to be Christians.  Their conscience tells them that it is wrong.  Like killing, stealing and like adultery.

What do you do with that argument?  Turn to Romans seven.  What Luther has done is to strike at the very foundation of Christian ethics by that argument.  We human beings look at sin only as an act.  God looks at sin as a motive.  This is what Jesus brought out in the sermon on the mount.  The Pharisees said, “We have never committed murder.”

Jesus said, “If you have hate for somebody without a cause you have committed murder already.  Or If you look at a woman to lust after her even though you have not done the act you have committed adultery.”  It is in the this context I want you to turn to Rom. 7:7:

What shall we say then?  Is the law sin?  God forbid.  I had not known sin but by the law for I had not known lust except the law said, Thou shalt not shalt not covet.

Is that an act?  Or is that a desire that is cherished?  So Paul is saying, “I did not know by nature that it is wrong to desire somebody else’s property, except the law has said it.”

In other words, if you were to walk the streets of Walla Walla [Washington] and you passed an 1988 Porsch sports car (now I’m talking to the young people, because the old people will not think much of that car) and you say to yourself, “Boy, I wish I had that car,” and you covet that car, can a policeman arrest you?  No.  But had you broken the law of God?  Yes.  So coveting is not a natural law.  It is a law that was given by God which hits at the heart of sin.

In James 1:14, James traces the process from temptation to sin.  There are three things:

  1. Temptation.  [Is temptation a sin?  No.]
  2. Conception of that Temptation.
  3. The Act.

The result of the act is death.

When does temptation become sin?  When it is conceived in the mind or when you do the act?  The Jew said, “When you do the act.”  God says, “When it is conceived.”  And that is not natural.  If you say that only the natural law is sin then you are destroying the foundation of what God calls sin which is a desire that is in the mind.  Luther does not touch the law, Thou shalt not covet.  He doesn’t say it is natural because he knows that it is not natural for a man to take coveting as an act of sin.  To them sin is only when you do something wrong.

Giving them answers or objections to their opposition is not sufficient. We have to present the Sabbath in a way that is convincing.  There are two ways to look at the law.  The first thing I would say is this.  The law of God, the Ten Commandments, is God’s measuring stick of righteousness. Whether you talk of it in terms of the Old Covenant or the New Covenant the measuring stick of righteousness is the same.  The only difference is that in the Old Covenant man is saved by his own works; that is, by promising God to be good, to keep the commandments and be saved by his own works, and in the New Covenant we are saved by the righteousness of Christ.

Paul tells us in Rom. 10:4 that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to all who believe.  By “end,” the Greek means the completion, the fulfilment.  Now there are two ways to look at the law.  One is in the letter and one is in the spirit.  In the Old Covenant, the law was written on tables of stone.  That is the letter.  In the Old Covenant, the law was rules, do’s and don’ts, with the resulting punishment if you don’t. A good example of the letter of the law is Gal. 3:10.  That is an example of what I mean by the letter.  Rules written on a piece of stone, they were permanent, that’s why they are on stone.  That is how it was in the Old Covenant.

In Gal. 3:10, we are told:

For as many as are of the works of the law [i.e., the Old Covenant] are under the curse: for it is written, ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.’

In the New Covenant, the law is not written on tables of stone but on the heart.  If a Christian has died and you have an autopsy will you find the law written in the heart?  No.  Then what does the New Testament mean when it says, “God will write the law in your heart?”  It is not talking about rules.  It is talking about the spirit of the law.

Now what is the spirit of the law?  First go to Romans seven, which is really a passage dealing with the deliverance from the Old Covenant into the New Covenant.  This is what he says in verse six:

But now we are delivered from the law...  [that means we are delivered from legalism, that’s the context] ...that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

Now what is the spirit of the law?  Let Jesus answer that question.

According to Jesus, the law of God is established on the principle of agape love.  In Matt. 22:36-40, a young man — in fact, he was an expert on the law, trying to trap Him — came to Jesus and said, “What is the greatest commandment in the book of the law [i.e., the Torah, the five books that the Jews described as the book of the law]?”

Jesus said unto him:

Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind.

Remember, the question is, “What is the greatest commandment in the book of the law?”  So Jesus is not inventing a new commandment. He’s simply quoting from the book of the law and the quotation is from Deut.6:5.

Jesus says,

This is the first and great commandment.

Then, in the next verse, He says,

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

How many commandments?  Two.  The reason I’m emphasizing two is that there are some Christian psychologists who have taken this passage and made it into three commandments.  They say:

  1. Love God.
  2. To love your neighbour you must first love yourself.
  3. Love your neighbour like yourself.
Jesus did not say, “Upon these three commandments.”  This idea of loving self is called “narcissism.”  It comes from a young man from Greek mythology called Narcissus.  He had low self-esteem and one day he was walking downcast along the path and he came across a pond.  In those days they had no mirrors.  He looked down and for the first time he saw himself and he realized that he was quite a handsome fellow.  He fell in love with himself.

So these Christian psychologists say that we must first love ourselves before we can love our neighbours.  No, Jesus did not say “You must love yourself in order that you may love your neighbours.”  He said, “You must love your neighbour in the same way that you love yourself.”

Going back to our study on “agape” and “eros.”  God placed into the heart of Adam agape love because Adam was created in God’s own image.  “God is Agape” (1 John 4:8,16).  That means that he had a love that went towards others and not towards himself because agape does not have self in it.  1 Cor. 13:5: “Agape seeketh not her own.” There is no self in agape.  So this is Adam before his fall.

Now what happened when Adam sinned?  If you read Steps to Christ, we are told that love disappeared and selfishness took its place.  That is a correct description.  Adam’s agape love became bent toward self.  Therefore it became eros.  That’s what happened at the fall.  Human love was the agape bent toward self.  In the Hebrew language this word of bending is called iniquity.  The Hebrew word for iniquity means to be bent.

All we like sheep have gone astray.  We have all bent to our own way.

Every human being is born with self-love.  We don’t have to try to love ourselves.  The day you do not love yourself you are a sick person. You would need to go to the hospital.

Even the person who commits suicide loves himself or herself.  They can’t face the issues of life.  They don’t care about how much it hurts their loved ones.  They want to get rid of their problem and the only way is suicide. So self-love is spontaneous.  Eros is a U-turn agape.  How many of you have ever prayed, “Dear Jesus, please help me to love myself.”  Have you ever prayed that?  No.

Tell me, when you have been travelling on the highway and you broke the speed limit, and don’t tell me you haven’t.  I haven’t had any ticket as yet but my last car was a diesel and it couldn’t break the speed limit, but now I have a Subaru and I’m always in danger of doing that.  But let’s say you break the speed limit and a policeman stops you.  You plead with him.  You say, “Officer, I was in a hurry.  I have an appointment.”  Are you sorry because you love the policeman?  Are you sorry because you love the law of the country or are you sorry because you love your pocket?  Why are you pleading for mercy?

You love yourself also when you are bad.  Am I correct?  That is why when you preach the gospel to the world you have to show them.  You have to come to them at the level they are.  As the book Evangelism says, “You have to show them that there is a heaven to win and a hell to lose.” What are you appealing to?  Their egocentric love.  That’s all they have. When the young man came to Jesus and said, “What good thing must I do to be saved?”  he had missed the gospel.

Jesus said, “Keep the commandments.”

He said, “I have been keeping it since I was in Primary Sabbath School.”

Jesus said, “Alright, let me test you.  If you love your neighbour as yourself, then give your wealth to your neighbour and follow me and I will give you my wealth.”

Did he do it?  No.  Why?  Because he loved himself.  If you read further in the passage, you will come to Peter.  He was a wonderful fellow.  He spoke before he thought and he said, “Jesus, we have given up everything for you.  What is our reward?”  The great Peter! Jesus knew that he still had not been fully converted.

Jesus said, “Peter you have not given up anything without receiving one hundred fold from me.”  He did not rebuke Peter; He met him on his level.  But later on Peter understood the gospel and he was now ready to die for Christ.  That was afterwards.

Agape is the ingredient by which the law is kept.  Without agape you cannot keep the law.  Now here’s the problem.  Men do not have agape, they have only eros, which is self-love.  Self-love only knows how to sin.

By the way, if I keep the Sabbath because I want to go to heaven, am I keeping the law?  Or am I keeping sin?  While sin is the transgression of the law and love is the fulfilment of the law, please, love can also be the fulfilment of sin.  Self-love is the fulfilment of sin.  Agape is the fulfilment of the law.

Our problem is that we do not have agape.  We have only self-love.  That is why the Bible teaches that by the works of the law no flesh can be justified because we don’t have the ingredient for justification.  Have you ever tried cooking spaghetti when you have no water?  You won’t get spaghetti, at least you won’t get the kind that I like.  So remember that it is impossible for us to keep the law without the ingredient of agape.

We human beings do not have agape.  Can we generate it by trying?  Agape is a gift from God to the believer.  It is the supreme gift.  Sinful man cannot generate this agape love and, therefore, in and of himself he cannot fulfill the law of God.  A good example is Rom. 7:22-24.  Paul, in talking of the corporate man says, “I delight in the law.  I want to keep the law but how to keep it I find not.  I cannot do it.  Oh, wretched man that I am!” Why? Because we do not have the ingredients.

God’s agape love is the supreme gift of the Holy Spirit to the believer. 1 Cor. 12 and 13 is in the context of spiritual gifts.  Please turn to 1 Cor. 13 and begin with the last verse of Chapter twelve to get the context of the thirteenth chapter.  Paul has been talking in chapter twelve about spiritual gifts.  In verse thirty-one he says, “But covet earnestly the best gifts and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.  Here I will show you the supreme gift of the Holy Spirit.”  And what is it?  The gift of agape.

Here is a believer.  God gives him agape.  This is what the New Covenant is.  “I will write the law into his heart,” simply means “I will put my love into his heart.”  Now here comes the problem.  If God gives me agape and I use this agape to love Him back, to return it back to Him, you have a problem.  You make God Eros.  That’s the problem. Because you can’t generate agape.  It is a gift of God.  Has He given you this gift so that you may love Him back?  The answer is “No.”  So what do you do with the problem?

Well, I want to show you something that you may not have noticed.  The New Testament speaks very little about the first four commandments.  Almost nothing.  All it talks about is the last six.  For example let me turn to Gal. 5:14:

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

There is no mention of God here.  Or look at Romans thirteen where Paul talks about Christian ethics and you will find verses eight to ten discuss Christian living.  We should not owe any man any money and we should love one another.  He quotes not the first four commandments but the last six. Beginning with verse nine, ”For this thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill etc.”  In verse ten, “Love worketh no evil to his neighbour, therefore, love is the fulfilment of the law.”

So what do we do with the first four commandments, since we don’t have agape?  If we look at the New Testament very carefully the first four commandments are kept in the context of faith.  In other words, God gives us the gospel and we in return believe in God.  Faith is the fulfilment of the first four commandments.  In other words, if I accept the gospel I will have no other gods before [God the Creator].  If I accept God as my Saviour and Creator I will not have any images.

Please notice that if you read Rom.  1:18 and onward where Paul is talking about people who have turned their backs to God, what do they do when they reject God?  They make their own gods.  Faith demands that you have only one God, that you have no idols, that you do not take His name in vain and that you rest in God alone.  So the keeping of the Sabbath must be understood in the context of faith.

Turn to 1 John 3:23, “And this is his commandment, [under the New Covenant] (1) that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ [some translations add, “Whom God hath sent”] and (2) love one another, as he gave us commandment.”  In other words, our faith is our response to the first four commandments.  What does God do to those who believe? He in turn brings agape into your heart so agape comes vertically down into your heart — not to go back to Him but that it may go horizontally to others.  And when the world sees agape coming out of us toward them, then Jesus said,

By this shall all men know that you are my disciples.

So the first four commandments must always be understood in the context of faith.

Go now to Matthew six:

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

How do we seek the kingdom of God?  By pilgrimage?  No.  By paying money? No.  How?  By faith alone.  So faith is our obedience to the first four commandments. That is why in the New Testament faith is equated with obedience.

Now for a passage that has to do with the Jews, who kept the day but did not obey the gospel.  They kept the Sabbath.  In Rom.10:16:

But they have not all obeyed the gospel.

Then he proves it by quoting from Isaiah:

Lord, who hath believed our report?

So with Paul believing is synonymous with obeying.  So the first four commandments are obeyed by faith.  Now when you have got this then what do we do with the Sabbath commandment?  In this context Sabbath keeping becomes the seal of righteousness by faith.  Those who enter into God’s rest will not try to produce their own righteousness.  Why?  Because they are resting in the righteousness of Christ.  They are obeying the law of God — the first four commandments.  They have no other gods before them, not including themselves, not including materialism.  They do not have idols.  They do not take His name in vain and they rest in the righteousness of Christ.

That is why when we present the Sabbath in the light of this, then the Sabbath becomes the seal of righteousness by faith.  Why?  Because the Sabbath demands that we have no other gods.  Our confidence is in God who created us, who redeemed us and who will restore us.  And that is exactly what Paul is saying to the people in Lystra.  Don’t worship us.  Worship the true God who created heaven and earth and the sea.

The Three Angels Message is saying, “Give glory to God because He is our Creator, He is our Redeemer and He is our Restorer.”  Our confidence is in nobody else.  The issue is where will your stand be?  Will you be resting in Christ alone of which the Sabbath is the outward sign, or will you be resting in your government or in your bank account or in that plastic card or in your ability?

In the Time of Trouble we are to live by faith alone.  If you are depending even a little bit on yourself and in your ability and in your knowledge you are not resting one hundred percent in God.  You are breaking the fourth commandment.  That is why the Sabbath will be the fundamental issue in the time of trouble.  Because the issue is between two concepts, faith and unbelief. There will be only two camps, those who totally put their faith in God and those who totally put their faith in themselves.  There will be no in-between. There will be no mixture in the end of time.

That is why we have to have the faith of Abraham who is the father of us all.  Abraham had a faith that was unshakable.  But Abraham was only a type.  I want to go to the reality, Jesus Christ.  He hung on the cross.  As far as His feelings were concerned He was forsaken of God but by faith He was victorious.

I want to give you the real issue in the time of trouble.  We are told from Dan. 12:1 and Jer. 7:13 that the time of trouble will be something that has never been experienced by any human being or any generation in the past. Jeremiah says that it is Jacob’s trouble.  What was the issue in Jacob’s struggle?  All of his life Jacob had been trying to fulfil God’s promise by his own scheming.  His schemings had failed.  Now he was wrestling between himself and his faith.  He held on even though he was crippled.  He said,

I will not let you go until you bless me.

That is the kind of faith that God wants in His people.  He wants a people that will not let go of God even though the heavens fall.

Here is the issue in Isa. 54:5-6:

For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; [the word “Maker” is synonymous with the word “Creator,” so here is Christ the Creator] and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.  For the Lord hath called thee [the church] as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.

Now look at verse seven,

For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.

The issue in the great controversy is very simple.  Satan will say to God, “Yes, these people are loyal to you because you have built a hedge around them.  You are protecting them.  Remove that hedge and give them into my hands and I will show you that they will turn their backs to you.”

God says, “O.K.  I’ll forsake them.  You can do anything you like.  You can persecute them.  You can starve them.  You can harm them.  You can do anything you like but you can’t kill them.  That you can’t do.”

God will remove His protection from us and we will feel...He will not forsake us...but we will feel forsaken like Christ felt forsaken.  The devil will play on our feelings.  That’s why we should never equate feelings with faith.  He will say to us, “Do you know why God has forsaken you?  Because you are lost.”  He will say to other Christians, “Do you know why you are not raptured?  It is because you are lost.”  He will not say that to us because we do not believe in the secret rapture.  He will say to us, “You are lost because you are a sinner.”  And you will feel a sinner.  Even though you may not be sinning, you will feel a sinner. Your only hope is to have the faith of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was victorious by faith.  Satan will get so mad when we refuse to let go of our hold on God he will pass a decree that we should be killed. That’s when God will step in.  God will say, “No, I did not give you that permission.”

During that time we will be hiding in the caves and in the rocks from these worldly people, those who have rejected God.  Then we will hear and feel that earthquake and we will look up and see the sign of the Son of Man.  Those people who came to kill us will take the vacant holes and the caves that we leave because they will not be able to bear the coming of the Saviour.

That is why the Sabbath is the crucial issue since it is the commandment which points to a people who are resting totally and completely and fully in their Creator and their Redeemer.  That’s why the Sabbath will become the seal of righteousness by faith.  It is only as we look at the first four commandments in the context of faith that we can present the Sabbath in the light of the New Covenant.  May God help us.

Now I’ve given you some heavy stuff to chew on.  Can you see why it is an important study?  And please remember that all through the book of Hebrews the message is, “Do not give up your confidence in God.” And Jesus said in Matthew 10:

Only he who endures unto the end will be saved.

Now it’s okay to endure to the end today, but in the Time of Trouble you will have to have the faith of Jesus Christ to endure to the end, because God is going to allow that generation of Christians to go through a Time of Trouble that has never been experienced even by the martyrs of the second century or even by the martyrs of communism today.  We will actually feel forsaken of God.  And I thank God for this promise:

For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.  In a little wrath, [please remember on the cross Jesus suffered the wrath of God] I hid my face from thee for a moment.

Now please don’t ask me, “How long is a moment?”  I don’t know.  You know, Jonah was in the belly in the whale three days and three nights.  Read his book.  He says, “I was in the belly of the whale forever.” It looked to him as though it were eternity, and it may look to us as though it were eternity.  I don’t know.

In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment.  But with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.  For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee....

Folks, do you have a faith in God that He will never forsake you?  That’s the question.  And the Sabbath is a sign, because when we keep the Sabbath in the last days, it will be in deliberate violation to the commandment [of men].

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