‘Sabbath: a token of eternity’ by Bernard Bell

The Garden of Eden from Wikimedia

The Garden of Eden by Thomas Cole (1801-1848).

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2.1-3).

Bernard Bell explores the theology of the Sabbath from Genesis to Revelation – in the creation account; in the Old Testament era; for Jesus, during His earthly ministry; for us as God’s New Testament people; and in the new creation. He writes: “On this seventh day [of creation], four verbs are predicated of God: he completed, he rested, he blessed, and he sanctified.”

Bell comments, “The climax of creation is the consecration of time.” God called His people Israel to observe the sabbath. Bell writes, “The Sabbath was given to Israel as a picture of the seventh day. On the Sabbath, Israel was to fall into the pattern established by God when he completed his work and rested. This established a rhythm to the week: for six days the Israelites labored, then for one day they rested. Each week, the Israelites took a journey through time. The Sabbath was the goal of the week, the day that gave meaning to other six days. But after each Sabbath they had to start the journey over again. This rhythm that Israel observed each week was itself contained within two larger rhythms. Every seventh year, Israel was to give her land a sabbatical year, a year of rest from being cultivated (Leviticus 25.1-7). After every seventh sabbatical year, i.e., every fiftieth year, Israel was to celebrate a Jubilee Year in which slaves were set free and land restored to its rightful owner (Leviticus 25.8-55). These cycles of a week, of seven years, and of fifty years, were powerful reminders that there lay something beyond the mundane life of the daily routine. Beyond the common lay the sacred, the holy. Beyond the six days lay the seventh. Beyond the six years lay the seventh. Beyond the forty-nine years lay the fiftieth.”

He asks, “Why did Jesus choose the Sabbath for so many of his healing miracles, such as the one in Mark 2.23-3.6? . . . . The seventh day was the goal toward which God moved his Creation, the day in which God brought creation into completion. The Sabbath was his gift to Israel, the goal towards which both creation and redemption moved. Surely then, Sabbath is the most appropriate day for Jesus to heal people, . . . . Sabbath was the day for being made whole, made complete so that one could enter into rest.”

But what does the Sabbath mean for us now? Should we observe it – and, if so, how? Bell writes, “The first Christians recognized that with the death and resurrection of Jesus, something dramatic had happened to Sabbath. These Jewish Christians quickly moved their assemblies to the first day of the week. Paul, formerly the most fanatical of Pharisees, and therefore punctilious about Sabbath observance, came to realize that Sabbath was just a shadow of a reality that had now arrived.” He concludes, “Today [Sunday] is not Sabbath; it is what Sabbath pointed to. In turn, both Sabbath and Today point towards the Seventh Day that will fill all of time. Both are tokens of eternity. Sabbath was one day in seven. Today is seven days in seven. Go out today and live it as a token of eternity, but then carry on living that way on Monday and on through the week. Improvise however you see fit, but do so within the framework established by the rest of the plot. Then it will be a day of completion, of rest, of blessing, and of holiness. Sabbath is not the place we’re not allowed to play football, but the place where we enter God’s teleological rest through Christ, and live a foretaste of eternity. ”

The sermon is available as an audio file and a PDF HERE.

CREDITS Scripture citations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Friday Briefing 18 (4 January 2019)

The priority that isn’t Tony Payne wrote “Over the past couple of months, pastors and church leadership teams in many parts of the world have been reviewing the year just past, and dreaming and scheming about the year to come. . . . . Perhaps you and your team have been be considering some of the following plans . . . .” He then lists 8 areas of church life and ministry. He comments, “The problem, of course, is that you simply can’t do all this. . . . . So which items are you going to prioritize?”

If you preach like Whitefield, think like Wesley Eric Geiger writes, “In his highly popular book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell contrasted the ministry of George Whitefield and John Wesley. . . . . . . . Wesley’s impact was more far-reaching . . . . ” Geiger explains why, and how we can, in his words, “think like Wesley”.

‘Broken,’ ‘authentic,’ ‘surrender’: the problem of Christian jargon Dan Doriani throws a spotlight on a number of terms often used in Christian circles. He comments, ”The need to get our language right applies to all sorts of theological and ethical discussions. Approaching them, we remember Paul forbids quarrels about words and encourages a peaceable approach (2 Timothy 2.14, 24–26). Yet we also know that precise language is a servant of good theology. . . . . So let us strive to use the right words in the right way, for the sake of Christ and his church.”

Say it in a sentence Justin Buzzard writes, “When I was 21, I started preaching once a month at The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. . . . . One Thursday afternoon I went for a walk with my pastor. He asked me what my sermon was about for later that night. Four minutes into trying to explain what my sermon was about, my pastor interrupted me and said: “SAY IT IN A SENTENCE!” . . . . That piece of advice transformed my preaching . . . .”

Four lessons I’ve learned from the Puritans Dave Arnold writes, “Although I was exposed to a few of the Puritans when I was in college – namely, in my preaching classes – it wasn’t until 2014 that God, by His grace, opened my eyes to these spiritual giants of the seventeenth century and forever changed my life.”

He will hold me fast Ada R. Habershon wrote the hymn When I fear my faith will fail in 1906; the chorus begins He will hold me fast. Matt Merker adapted the words and wrote a new tune for it. This is a wonderful hymn; in Keith and Kristyn Getty’s words, “a unique jewel that would be a comfort and encouragement to God’s people as we live out faith in these difficult times, whether in suffering, persecution or death.”

The priority that isn’t

Tony Payne, of Matthias Media, wrote (in January 2014): “Over the past couple of months, pastors and church leadership teams in many parts of the world have been reviewing the year just past, and dreaming and scheming about the year to come. . . . . Perhaps you and your team have been be considering some of the following plans . . . .” He then lists 8 areas of church life and ministry. He comments, “The problem, of course, is that you simply can’t do all this. You have limited time and resources. So which items are you going to prioritize? . . . . . . . I continue to be surprised at how widely one of the most important of these bullet points is neglected. It just gets overlooked, or put in the too-hard basket, or falls off the end of the priority list in the face of all the other competing pressures and possibilities. It is one of the most important because it is the bullet-point that in many respects drives and enables all the others.” What is that priority? Find out HERE.

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If you preach like Whitefield, think like Wesley.

Eric Geiger writes, “In his highly popular book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell contrasted the ministry of George Whitefield and John Wesley. Gladwell articulated that Whitefield was the better communicator, a more powerful preacher than Wesley. Whitefield was also known as a more capable theologian than Wesley, more likely to be compared to Luther or Calvin than Wesley would have been. Yet Wesley’s impact was more far-reaching . . . .” Geiger explains why. He then briefly considers what it means, in his words, “to think like Wesley”. Read the whole article HERE.

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‘Broken,’ ‘authentic,’ ‘surrender’: the problem of Christian jargon.

Dan Doriani writes, “It’s easy, perhaps even necessary, to mock Christian jargon from time to time. . . . . . . . however, we must make distinctions. Some jargon comes directly from Scripture. For example, “saved” appears many times in God’s Word, and it generally has the sense we give it in church circles. “Saved” is an important biblical term, and the danger is not that it’s misleading, but that we use it thoughtlessly, so the term loses its heft. But more often, our jargon has a light connection to Scripture. One thinks of prayer language like “hedge of protection” and “open door.” . . . . “Broken” is an interesting case. In my circles (perhaps not yours), certain pastors and teachers often tell their people they are broken or need to face their brokenness. . . . . There are three difficulties with the jargonish use of “broken.” . . . . There is a third category of jargon—terms that have no biblical basis whatsoever and come from secular culture. “Surrender,” “transparency,” and “authenticity” all belong in this category.”

In his conclusion, Dr. Doriani comments, “The need to get our language right applies to all sorts of theological and ethical discussions. Approaching them, we remember Paul forbids quarrels about words and encourages a peaceable approach (2 Timothy 2.14, 24–26). Yet we also know that precise language is a servant of good theology. . . . . So let us strive to use the right words in the right way, for the sake of Christ and his church.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Say it in a sentence.

Justin Buzzard writes, “When I was 21, I started preaching once a month at The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. I didn’t know how to preach and I wanted to learn . . . . . . . . I used spare time to work on my sermons for the Rescue Mission. I didn’t have a method. I generally picked a text or two, studied the text, then wrote down a bunch of stuff to say. One Thursday afternoon I went for a walk with my pastor. He asked me what my sermon was about for later that night. Four minutes into trying to explain what my sermon was about, my pastor interrupted me and said: “SAY IT IN A SENTENCE!” He said I wasn’t ready to preach until I could state what my sermon was about in one, clear sentence. That piece of advice transformed my preaching . . . .” [Please note: a link to an interview follows, but this link is broken.] Read the whole article HERE.

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Four lessons I’ve learned from the Puritans.

Dave Arnold writes, “Although I was exposed to a few of the Puritans when I was in college – namely, in my preaching classes – it wasn’t until 2014 that God, by His grace, opened my eyes to these spiritual giants of the seventeenth century and forever changed my life. I remember the morning clearly. It was early and my daughter (who was only a few months old), was sitting on my lap contently. I reached over to grab my Kindle and scrolled through the ‘free books’ section. It was then my eyes fell upon a title Samuel Rutherford and Some of His Correspondents by Alexander Whyte. I knew of Whyte and had read some of his sermons, so I thought I’d download it. And I’m so glad I did! Whyte had me at the introduction, as he beautifully portrayed the life of Rutherford, the great Scottish divine of Anwoth, his exile in Aberdeen, his involvement in the Westminster Assembly, and most importantly, his ardent love for Christ. Not only did I read Whyte’s classic work on Rutherford’s letters, but then went on to read the Letters myself, which drastically impacted the trajectory of my life. Moreover, through Whyte, and then incidentally, Rutherford, their writing opened my eyes to other Puritans; and thus, my journey to understand the Puritans began. With that said, I’d like to share with you four lessons on how the Puritans have impacted me personally.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Ada R. Habershon (1861–1918) wrote the hymn When I fear my faith will fail in 1906. Matt Merker has adapted the words and written a new tune for it, which was introduced to Merker’s church, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC, in 2013. Keith and Kristyn Getty write, “From the first time we heard this song written by Matt Merker, we felt it was a unique jewel that would be a comfort and encouragement to God’s people as we live out faith in these difficult times, whether in suffering, persecution or death.” Kristyn Getty sings it as a solo in the YouTube video above. Below you can hear it sung by the congregation of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

You can find more information, including the lyrics and Matt Merker’s story of how he came to write this new version of Ada Habershon’s hymn, HERE.

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