During the Conference I was asked by the brethren to deliver a discourse on the subject of the Sabbath Day for the guidance of the workers.
It is not my purpose to deal with the subject in an argumentative manner, but rather in the form of a pronouncement of the position of the Church.
The Word of God is sufficiently clear. It has already defined the position for the Christian in the most emphatic way. The second chapter of Colossians is perhaps as clear a portion of Scripture on this particular issue as any portion of the Word. It seems most difficult for Christians to understand and realize, in our entrance into Christ Jesus by the reception of the Spirit of God who abides within, our Christian experience has been moved into a different place from that in which we lived before.
I have tried at different times to define the operation of the Spirit of God in the different dispensations that we may get a clear basis on which to rest. I will review that this morning in a word.
In the Patriarchal Dispensation, God seems to have been approaching man from this standpoint, as if man was far removed from God, and as if God was endeavoring to reveal Himself to man. Abraham perhaps furnishes the best example in the Word, and to him God appeared twice, twenty years apart. There was a lapse of twenty years, in which Abraham heard nothing from God. Then God spoke to him again. Now, that is the best revelation from God to man that is given to us in the Patriarchal dispensation. And it seems as if the position was, “God revealing Himself to man.”
The Mosaic Dispensation was different. It was a fuller revelation. It did not destroy any of the revelation of God that the Patriarchs had known. So God was present with the Jewish people in the Pillar of Cloud and the Pillar of Fire, and the Shekinah over the Mercy Seat, an ever-present God.
When the temple was built, the Lord abode in the Holy of Holies. In it there was no artificial light. The holy place was lit by candles, but in the Holy of Holies there was neither window nor door, nor artificial light of any kind. The presence of God illuminated the Holy of Holies, the continuous presence of God with man.
Patriarchal revelation was “God to man,” and the Mosaic revelation was “God with man,” but the Christian revelation was greater than all. Jesus said in His own words, “He dwelleth with, and shall be IN you.” And the revelation of God to the Christian is “Christ within you” by the Holy Ghost, not “to” man nor “with” man but “in” man. Man becoming the embodiment of God.
It will be readily seen, then, that our conception and standard must be in accordance with the revelation that God gave to us, and the Christian can not base his standard of life upon the Mosaic law in any way. Jesus lifted us up above that standard; as high as the heavens are above the earth.
When the Christian, then, endeavors to go back and live under Christ Jesus and the communion of the control of the law, he has descended from the standard of the Spirit of God abiding within, and has placed himself in the same position where the Mosaic people were.
Over and over again Paul warns us about this thing, and to the Galatians particularly he gives this wonderful warning “that having begun in the Spirit they were now going to return to the flesh.” And that is the danger with many Christians these days, that having begun in the Holy Ghost, they might return to obedience to Commandments.
Then someone says, “What about the commandments?” We can see what Jesus says of them in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5. Jesus said, “It was said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’” But Jesus lifted that standard miles above where Moses placed it and said, “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause is in danger of the judgment.” That is to say, he is a murderer. (1 John 3:15)
Under the Mosaic law they had to commit an act in order to be guilty. Under the law of Christ the presence in the heart of the desire is sufficient to condemn. So in every instance the Lord raised the standard.
The commandment says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Jesus says, “That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Jesus took it out of the regime of commandments into the regime of the heart experience, and, “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
The greatest debate that has come through these fifty years, between those who contend for the observance of the Sabbath Day (the Seventh), and we who accept the Christian Sabbath, has ever been on that one point. Are we still bound by the law or has Christ made the Christian free from the force of the commandment? And it seems to me what the Word of God makes this clear as daylight, that the Word places our feet emphatically on this ground that to us, in the Holy Ghost, the law has become a dead thing.
The first chapter of Colossians deals with the history of the fact of the indwelling of Christ, and after establishing this fact Paul goes on to review the subject of our to the law. Commencing with the 13th verse of the 2nd chapter, we have the declaration of the expulsion of the law; “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath Days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”
Thus far the interpretation is given of the destruction by Christ of the ordinances and laws that were contrary to us, by having established within us by the Holy Ghost of His own indwelling, He having been the Lord of the Sabbath, and we, as sons of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, will also enter into that place of dominion, where we, too, in Him, become lords also of the Sabbath and every other commandment. Blessed be God!
The 16th verse: On Thursday last, among the questions that were asked, was this; “Do we advocate the partaking of a meal in connection with the Lord’s Supper?” And in this thing once again we see the Christian’s failure to separate between the Old and New Dispensations. For, when Jesus partook officially of the last Passover Supper that was ever given to mankind, and by that act forever closed the Jewish Dispensation, there was nothing further to do but make the sacrifice on the Cross; and the instant after the closing of that Supper the Lord instituted a new ceremony, the one we observe today, the communion of the Lord’s Supper. No longer the Passover feast and Passover Lamb, but the Christ of God, Who now pledges Himself to shed His own blood for the salvation of the world.
Between these two acts there is as great a distance as between East and West. The one was the mark and stamp of that which was old and ready to decay (Hebrews 8:13), and the other was the birth of mankind through the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ.
And so, beloved, when the Christian undertakes that his life shall be governed by commandments, he is going back again into this old life, into the old realm, forgetting his state with Jesus Christ.
It does not mean we shall turn Anarchists and that to us there is no law, but rather that we are now obedient unto the higher law by the Son of God.
On the subject of the Sabbath itself; all the other Commandments are spoken of in the New Testament and reiterated, but the Sabbath Commandment not; and that no doubt for this reason, that the prophecies all along had pointed to the Son of God, who was Himself the fulfillment of the law. “I came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it” (Matthew 5:17). “For the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.” When we got to Christ, beloved, we were beyond the sphere of the law. The law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Blessed be His Name.
So with Sabbath. Christ Himself, the Eternal Rest into which the Christian enters, not to abide on the Sabbath Day, but to abide always, every day, and forever. He is our Sabbath alone.
When we live in the Son of God we have come beyond the sphere of commandment, for the law was made for the unlawful and unholy, for murderers of fathers and mothers, for whoremongers, and so on (1 Timothy 1:9-10). Upon our statute books today there are no doubt a thousand laws that you and I know nothing about, and we care less. Why? They are of no interest to us. We hardly pay any attention to the law of murder, nor can we tell the details because of the fact that being sons of God we are living in love and are not interested in what the law says of murder. There is no murder in our hearts. Blessed be God! We have passed on.
And so the Christian who has entered into Christ Jesus and is abiding in Him and is a possessor of the Holy Ghost, has moved beyond the regime of the law and commandments. They are of no value to him. He lives in obedience to one law and one commandment, the Eleventh. This includes all the rest in one; “That ye love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Blessed be His Name.
Henry Drummond, I believe it is, in his “Greatest Thing in the World” gives an illustration that is so fitting. He says that he visits at a friend’s home. He finds that he and his wife have lived together in the most beautiful unity for many years. But a friend of his is still anxious that he shall be a strict observer of the law, and he sits down and writes a code of rules for the government of this man and wife who have always lived together in unity. He says, “Thou shalt not kill her. Thou shalt not bear false witness against her. Thou shalt not steal from her” and so on through the other commandments. He takes it up and laughs. Of what value is such a code to him? Has he not for all the years past been giving to his wife his heart’s affection that makes it impossible for such things to enter his soul? And there is just that much difference between the Christian standard and the standard of the law. May God help us that we shall not take backward steps but realize our positions as sons of God. We shall live in Him and abide in the Holy Ghost and realize the freedom of sons, not the bondage of servants. Blessed be His Name. Nevertheless, to the man outside Christ the commandment still stands. As on our statute books today the law of murder applies to the man who commits murder, but the man in Christ has passed beyond that sphere. “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” Blessed be His Name! Blessed be His Name!
Now, we will never get the force of the 2nd chapter of Colossians where the Word portrays the exaltation of the Son of God, even to the sitting down at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly places far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named (Ephesians 1:19-23), and the second chapter of Ephesians portraying our lifting up out of the regime of death and sin into the same exaltation of the Son of God, until we realize our high privileges in Christ Jesus.
Indeed, I have this in my heart that the low state of Christian experience that is common among men is mostly accounted for by this one fact; that Christians have failed to grasp the exalted place into which Jesus Christ puts us when we have been made sons of God. May God write that deep in our soul, that we may not keep the Seventh Day (which was a shadow of good things to come, but the BODY IS OF MUST), not the commandments, but by holy Christian privilege keep one day sacred to God, and that without any commandment at all, but out of the gladness of the Christian heart. Blessed be His Name! One day is set aside in commemoration of His resurrection; but with the Christian, and in the life in Christ Jesus, every day is as holy as every other day, and there is no distinction of days whatever, for the life is in the Son of God, and He is the same every day. Blessed be His Name.
But, beloved, have we not cause to rejoice that in Christianity there has been established a day of commemoration of His resurrection, and that altogether the Christian world unites in exalting the Son of God by keeping that day holy? We may not let down on our reverence for the First Day of the week; but may we as Christians exalt the day, not by obedience to commandments, but, as Jesus Himself did, by making it a day when His life was given forth for the benefit of others; and I know God will bless us.
Now, I hope that forever this question is settled in our hearts. That, so far as our Church is concerned, God has helped us to come together to recognize the fact that every man has the privilege to be led by the Spirit, not to observe all the law, but to be led by His Spirit.
“The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord’s doings; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice in it and be glad” (Psalm 118:22-24).
When did the rejected stone become the head of the corner? When Jesus rose from the dead on that wonderful resurrection morning. This is the day the Lord hath made; we will rejoice in it and be glad. This is one reason we worship on the day of His resurrection. It is the Sabbath of the New Covenant.