In a recent BA and quarterly, I’ve seen Sabbath described as a gift. Does this mean that Sabbathkeeping is optional?
Let’s begin with the first part of the question. Are we justified in calling the Sabbath a gift?
New covenant Christians consider not only God’s commandment but also His intent for the Sabbath. Similarly, we respond not just out of obligation, but in delight from the heart. The Church of God (Seventh Day) is a Sabbath-celebrating church because we find in Scripture everywhere that Sabbath comes to us, fundamentally, as a gift. Here’s how.
All creation is a gift of God. He was not obligated to create, but did so for His pleasure. Sabbath is a sanctified and blessed part of His good creation. Like work and marriage, Sabbath was made for our pleasure and benefit (origin of gift: Genesis 1:31—2:3).
The Ten Commandments, far from being just arbitrary and grievous rules, were given for our good (Deuteronomy 10:12, 13). The fourth commandment, specifically, was intended as a day of remembrance, reflection, and refreshment (intent of gift: Exodus 20:8; 23:12).
Psalm 92 is a festive song for the Sabbath in which we are taught to give thanks to the Lord for His great works (vv. 1-5). Likewise, more than an order to follow, Isaiah declares Sabbath and its Lord causes for delight (response to gift: 58:13, 14).
Coming full circle, Jesus taught us that Sabbath was made for us, and not the other way around (Mark 2:27, 28). Because Jesus was Lord of the Sabbath, His ministry demonstrated the gift of Sabbath as a time of worship, teaching, and restoration (living the gift: Luke 4).
These passages emphasize Sabbath as a gift of God for us. In it we imitate our Father in His work, and rest and anticipate eternity with Him. But does this mean the commandment is optional? Does our Sabbath-celebrating annul our Sabbathkeeping? No. It may point to a truer observance from a new nature, but God’s gifts always require personal responsibility.
Every good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17). Whether these gifts are material or spiritual, we owe the Father our gratitude and obedience in response. Work and rest are gifts from God: “every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor — it is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:13). While we rejoice in both God’s gifts of productivity and refreshment, we are not free to neglect either (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).
How much more is this true regarding our spiritual gifts: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 9:15). God’s grace in Christ and the Holy Spirit is the greatest gift of all. While we celebrate His free salvation, we dare not neglect the gift or the faith by which it’s received (Hebrews 2:1-4).
Sabbath is similar. We can’t enter into God’s rest, weekly or eternally, if His good news is not mixed with faith (4:1-10). Sabbath observance, then, is not an elective God leaves for us to decide; His will has been made known from creation to Christ. All that remains is for us to trust and obey, celebrating from the heart — not as a good work toward salvation, but as a joyful response of discipleship in Christ.
For a Sabbath-celebrating people, the gift of Sabbath remains a privilege of grace and a requirement of truth.
— Editor Jason Overman
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