The Lord Of The Sabbath
There is a great depth of spiritual truth in these two verses, truths that simply must be understood and remembered by us. They are set before us in three, crystal clear, simple statements. I do not doubt that neither the Pharisees nor the Lord’s disciples understood them at the time. But there is no reason for confusion in these matters today. The Holy Spirit has now taken the things of Christ and shown their meaning in the Apostolic Epistles. Let’s look at these three statements, one by one.
“The sabbath was made for man.” Theologians, commentators, and preachers labor, and dig, and study, and work real hard to make that statement seem confusing. It is not confusing at all. When God established the sabbath day, he established it for the benefit of man. It was made to help, not to hurt, man. God instituted the sabbath observance of the Old Testament for exactly the same reason he instituted the temple, the priesthood, and the sacrifices of that typical age. He did it to portray to man the way of salvation and life by faith in Christ. Just as a man, in keeping the sabbath, ceased from his own works, trusting God to provide everything he needed, so we come to Christ, ceasing from our own works, trusting him alone for everything. Resting in him, we keep the sabbath of faith (Matt. 11:28-30; Heb. 4:7-10).
Yet, when our Lord says the sabbath was made for man, we must never imagine that it was made for all men. The Scriptures are explicitly clear in telling us that the sabbath was made for the Jews of the Mosaic dispensation. It was never given to or required of Gentiles (Ex. 31:16-17). Not only did the ancient Jews never require Gentiles to keep the sabbath, they positively forbade sabbath day observance by Gentiles.
Man was not made for the sabbath. Though the Lord God himself kept a sabbath of rest after creating the heavens and the earth, he never required it of anyone until the law was given to Moses and the children of Israel at Sinai. Understand the meaning of this. Men and women worshipped and served God for hundreds, even thousands of years, without being under laws of sabbath keeping, or any other form of law for that matter. Enoch walked with God; but he never kept a sabbath day. Noah was a righteous man; but he never observed a sabbath. Abraham was the friend of God; but he never kept a sabbath day.
Christ is the Lord of the sabbath (v. 28). The simple, clear, and obvious meaning of this last sentence is that he who is the Christ of God, instituted the sabbath, fulfilled the sabbath, dispensed with the sabbath, and abrogated the sabbath, in exactly the same way and to exactly the same degree as he did all the other carnal ordinances, rituals, and ceremonies of the legal dispensation. Therefore sabbath day observance is expressly and positively forbidden in the New Testament, just as much so as Passover observance (Gal 4:10-11; Col. 2:16-17).