A Study of Hebrews 4:3
“We which have believed do enter into rest.”
Sabbath keeping is not a matter of indifference. It is not one of those areas about which the Scriptures give no specific instructions. In fact, the instructions given in the Word of God about sabbath keeping are very specific and clear.
– Like circumcision, the passover, and all other aspects of legal, ceremonial worship during the Old Testament, the legal sabbath day was established by our God to be a sign, picture, and type of grace and salvation in Christ. This is not a matter of speculation and guesswork. This is exactly what God says about the matter in Exodus 31:13.
– Because sabbath keeping was a legal type of our salvation in Christ during the age of carnal ordinances, like the passover and circumcision, once Christ came and fulfilled the type, the carnal ordinance ceased.
Legal Ordinances Forbidden
– In the New Testament, we are strictly and directly forbidden to keep any of those carnal ordinances. In fact, we are plainly told that those who attempt to worship God on the grounds of legal ordinances are yet under the curse of the law. They have not yet learned the gospel.
– Circumcision is forbidden as an ordinance of divine worship (Galatians 5:2-4). Those who have their babies sprinkled to bring them into the church and kingdom of God, to seal them into the covenant of grace, attempting to retain the carnal ordinance of circumcision, whether they realize it or not, by their act of sprinkling that child, deny the gospel of salvation by grace alone. They deny the necessity of heart circumcision by the Spirit of God.
– Passover observance is forbidden since Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7). Those who continue to offer up sacrifices to God, either for atonement or penance, to gain a higher degree of divine favor or to prevent his anger, by their sacrifices, deny that Christ’s death at Calvary was an effectual satisfaction for the sins of his people. If something must be added to his blood and his righteousness by us, then his blood and his righteousness are totally useless.
– In exactly the same way, those who attempt to sanctify themselves by keeping a carnal sabbath, deny that Christ is enough to give us perfect acceptance with the thrice holy God. As Paul puts it in Colossians 2:23, they make an outward show of spirituality and wisdom; but it is all will-worship. Such pretenses of humility are nothing but the satisfying of the flesh.
– Not only that, the whole matter of sabbath keeping is strictly forbidden by the Holy Spirit in Colossians 2:16-17. Since the Lord Jesus Christ has, by his death at Calvary, blotted out the handwriting of the ordinances that was against us, since he nailed God’s broken law to the cross and put away our sins, he alone is our Sabbath. We rest in him (Colossians 2:16-17).
– We do not keep a legal, ceremonial sabbath of any kind, because it is specifically forbidden. All carnal sabbath keeping, any form of it, is strictly forbidden on the basis of the fact that in Christ all true believers are totally free from the law (Romans 7:4; Romans 10:4).
The Gospel Sabbath
– Yet, the New Testament does speak of a sabbath keeping that remains for the people of God (Hebrews 4:9-11). It is written, “We which have believed do enter into rest.” Believers keep the sabbath by faith, only by faith, finding rest in Christ.
– Christ is our Sabbath. He is the One of whom the Old Testament sabbath was a type and picture. Believers keep the sabbath by trusting Christ. As those of the Old Testament ceremonially ceased from their works on the sabbath day, so the believing sinner, as he comes to Christ, ceases from his own works.
– The Son of God calls weary, heavy laden sinners to come to him, encouraging us to do so with a great promise. – “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden,” he says, “and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
– Fallen man, in his proud self-righteousness, vainly imagines that he can do something to commend himself to God. Therefore, like the Jews of old, he goes about to establish his own righteousness. But he can never atone for past sins, cease from sin in the present, or perform any perfectly good work. Therefore, his conscience is never satisfied. Only when we cease to work and trust Christ alone for all righteousness and redemption do we find rest. This is the blessed rest of faith, a rest which the Son of God alone can give, the rest he promises to give to all who come to him. Come to Christ, and rest. We can never find rest for our souls until we rest in him alone.