One Touchstone Points To the Other
Through several articles, I have identified Sabbath observance as a religious “touchstone” – a belief or practice which (for Jews and most Sabbatarian Christians) forms a doctrinal hub, a test of truth, and a theological reference point. It is a lens whereby they view the world, and a measuring stick by which other believers are evaluated.
1. The Sabbath: Touchstone of Spiritual Reality?
2. The Sabbath and the Touchstone of Christianity
3. The Spiritual Touchstone of Adventism
4. The Spiritual Touchstone of Sabbatarianism
5. The Sabbath: Touchstone Fulfilled
There is a necessary separation of the fundamental ritual observances of Judaism and Christianity, a difference in the emphasis of remembrance and celebration. For one, the objective of their observance looks back to the natural creation and freedom from Egypt, the other appeals to the new creation in Christ and spiritual redemption from sin.
Not only is this a difference between these two great systems of thought, but a necessary point of departure; for the cross is the body or substance which the Sabbath pointed towards – a fulfillment that is undermined by efforts to keep the type as a relevant and necessary central theme.
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in [the cross].
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance [or, body] is of Christ. (Colossians 2:13-17, NKJV)
The Sabbath points toward the rest that Christians have, of not labouring for acceptance with God through works of righteousness, but obtaining this rest through faith in Christ’s finished work. The Sabbath represents faithfulness to the Mosaic Covenant, and obtaining God’s favour through obedience to ritual commandments. The Christian who seeks to be pleasing to God through Sabbath observance is attempting to merit the grace of God.
The Sabbath is a shadow, a ritual foretelling of the triumph of the cross and the forgiveness and freedom that followers of Christ have through it. Every shadow is cast by a body, and the shadow of the Sabbath is cast by Christ and the victory gained through his perfect sacrifice on the cross.
Remembrance Signs of the Covenants
When a Jew “remembers the Sabbath day”, it represents his faithful continuance in the Mosaic covenant. When a Christian “remembers the Lord’s death till he comes” by partaking of the Lord’s Supper, he signifies his commitment to the new covenant in Christ’s shed blood and broken body.
Christian Communion (the breaking of bread) is analogous to the Sabbath keeping of the Jew.
Israel in the old covenant did not enter into the rest that God intended for them, despite their Sabbath keeping. The Sabbath was not the true spiritual rest of God, but a type:
For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said:
“So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest,’” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. (Hebrews 4:3, NKJV)
Hebrew teaches that it is “we who have believed” who enter into that rest which the Sabbath pointed towards. It is through faith, in the completed work of our Saviour (the theme of the book of Hebrews) in which we “find rest unto [our] souls.”
Access to God in the New Covenant
The act of Christ dying on the cross was the pinnacle of the salvation of mankind. What it accomplished could not be done any other way, and this one act is what most of the old covenant typical services pointed towards.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18, NKJV)
For what purpose did the innocent Christ suffer for the sins of guilty mankind on the cross? Peter says that it was to bring us to God – He was put to death so that we could be reunited with our Heavenly Father.
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. (Hebrews 10:19-22a, NKJV)
The blood of Jesus is the only thing that enables sinful humanity to approach a holy God. His flesh represents the veil, or curtain, in the temple, that separated man from God. When his body was broken on the cross, that veil of our sinfulness which severed the relationship between man from God was torn from top to bottom (this even happened to the type, see Matthew 27:51)
To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. (Ephesians 1:6, 7, NKJV)
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13, NKJV)
And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— (Colossians 1:21-22 NKJV)
There Stands a Cross
We have been accepted, redeemed, forgiven, brought near and reconciled through the body that was broken, and the blood that was shed.
The cross is the touchstone of the Christian faith. It is the reality by which all other things are tested, the fundamental feature, the genuine thing. It is only through Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary – an act that we did not do, could not do – that any person can have access to God.
The Sabbath does not fulfill that role in the new covenant – it only pointed toward the reality. It can not serve as the touchstone of the Christianity, or even as a theological reference point, only the cross can fill this role. If the Sabbath is held as being an obligation which is the primary event and distinguishing characteristic of true Christian worship (as insisted by Seventh-day Adventists) it will inevitably lead to undervaluing the place of the cross in the lives and beliefs of its adherents.
The Sabbath can not serve as the common point of Christians within Christianity, or as a tool to open access to the Almighty, or as a ceremony to gain his favour.
God has graciously called us into relationship with him through the death of his Son. By placing our trust in the perfect person and sacrifice of God’s Son we are offered salvation from the penalty, power, and presence of sin, and receive the free gift of eternal life.