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Sabbath Rest

July 27, 2007

I was listening to a Sermon on the way home from work the other day on Matthew 12 where it says:

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. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? “Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? “But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here.”But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”


As I was listening I remembered a post I made some time ago on Sabbath rest so I thought I would post it here for thought.


Below is an email response to a friend that asked me about the fourth chapter of Hebrews. (All names and items of personal nature were removed)Your email was laced with too many questions for me to address them all in one email; therefore, I will attempt to address the first and we’ll see what happens from there. If I remember your question correctly your question found its focus on the target. We must understand the right stating of “rest” as it is the foundation of the discourse “and the hinge on which it turns.” Chapter 4 begins with a “therefore” and therefore, we must see what comes next as a conclusion to Hebrews 3 and more specifically verse 19. It seems that the author is telling the reader that we should fear unbelief, that we should “fear not trusting God.” The thought is continued in 4:2 with preaching for both groups; however, the latter now has something to learn from the former. The word communicated to the former group was no profit to them, why? Because it was not united by faith (4:2). Piper says this, “In other words, Israel fell from the promised joy of God because of the disobedience of unbelief. ”Not only did the former group not profit from the word they also perished as a result of unbelief. This serves as a good reason for fear: if what I hear is not united by faith (vs.2) then I will too likewise perish. From verse 3 we see that faith is the means by which we enter God’s rest, “for we who believed enter that rest” (4:3). There is so much more to say about 4:4-10, but I will spare you from my ramblings for now and try to hit the nail on the head. I have heard “rest” to mean two things: eternal rest and spiritual rest (in the sense that we enter this rest after regeneration/conversion and it ultimately leads to eternal rest. Therefore, we see that the full process of salvation, the ‘already, not yet’ is all apart of the ’spiritual rest’) The issues at hand is what is the definition of rest? The “rest” as John Owen would say is, “Firstly and principally,” a spiritual rest “which believers obtain an entrance into by Jesus Christ, in the faith and worship of the gospel, and is not to be restrained unto their eternal rest in heaven.” Owen argues the unrestrained rest is clear in three major points: 1) The grammatical structure the author uses, 2) The author is not suggesting/exhorting perseverance, 3) The use of Canaan as a type and typology of Christ (I think you used the term “picture”). After the unrestrained rest is “proved” Owen suggests that what remains is an inquiry into the nature of the unrestrained rest that he calls Gospel-state, or Gospel-rest, what the rest is, and “wherein is doth consist.”

 If you’ve ever read anything by Owen you probably know that he never handles anything in a simplistic fashion (perhaps you are beginning to feel the same way about me, so to avoid confusion let me wrap this up). In short I agree with Owen that the “rest” is unrestricted (or spiritual rest as defined above), that we as believers can enter that rest now. And even better, the “rest” is still available for people to enter (vs. 9). What is the rest? I think I would say the rest is joy in God (Ps.16:11) that is only possible through faith. I think with many more words and time I could better develop this precious rest/joy that is ours in Christ and why faith is a driving factor of that rest; however, I think I will leave it at that for now. Let me know what you think.


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