Sabbath Rest, a Choice, or a Command?

Sabbath Rest, a Choice, or a Command?

An older human influence in my Spiritual journey died recently.  His name is Robert Collins and he was an associate minister in the old Worldwide Church of God, the first minister in that church I ever met, although I had associations with some of its members firstly.  I well remember the time I met him at a Shoney’s restaurant in the West End of Birmingham, AL probably in about 1968 while I was attending Samford University.  The Worldwide Church of God in those days was classified as a cult, but they were Sabbitarian, (observing the 7th Day Sabbath, Saturday) and also were a pacifist roots church.  Both Sabbitarianism and their Peace roots were inherited from the Church of God, 7th, Day which had split off from 7th Day Adventism in the late 1800s in disagreement over the inspired writings of Ellen G. White.  In the time of the Vietnam war, I was forming my beliefs about Peace and Nonviolence.

In those days the Radio was kind of like the Internet today, and I as a formative teenager had developed some of my beliefs listening to the religious programming of the day, including the broadcasts of Herbert W. Armstrong, the authoritarian and charismatic leader of that group.  After chance connections with some of the young Worldwide Church of God (now Grace Communion International) members in those days I felt I was being called to believe in observing the Sabbath, and changing my life from the selfish, deceitful, arrogant, and sinful way of life I had generally kept hidden from others views….  So I thought….

My personal history is not what I want to talk about right now, nor my conversion experiences which have lasted many years and still continue.

At the same time I heard of the recent death of Robert Collins, I have been reading “The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate”, by John H. Walton.

Although only a single point of this book, Mr. Walton thinks the Sabbath would be a useful reinstatement in the Christian Church, one that we would do well to choose.  He believes the Creation story reflects that the Sabbath, or 7th Day of Genesis was a day when God entered His Temple to rest and to rule the Universe.  He believes Genesis is written to the culture it addressed in functional terms, not material terms…  When God says It is Good, it means basically it works as intended…  In various parts of this book are references to the Sabbath, understandably, because the 7th Day is a part of Creation week and our origins…..  I am not writing this to discuss the book, although it is a good read, especially for those who are new earth people and read the Bible in literalist terms and would like to examine another viewpoint…..

In view of the above, and my life journey to this point, I want to ask……

Is the Sabbath a choice?  Many think it is a command, not a choice…  After all, it is one of the Ten Commandments……  So, it is a command, right?  However, we will just ignore it because it is not convenient to observe it on Saturday, in conflict with our culture….

I had been reared in the Roman Catholic Church and understood a high view of the 10 commandments.  My relatives chose not to work on Sunday because that was the Sabbath…  Actually, they worked anyway, since they had farm animals and had to take care of them, but it was their practice not to actually do farming on Sunday.  Much to my surprise I found the Sabbath is actually on Saturday, not Sunday….  In my desire to obey God, I wrestled with this matter for quite a while…  I had met with Robert Collins and Paul Liverman, who accompanied him when I would meet with him…  I would ask my religion professors at Samford about it…  I would read obvious references in the book of Romans and other New Testament books about the observance of days, times, and seasons….  Neither Robert Collins, nor my Samford religion professors, nor anyone, for that matter, could solve this Cognitive Dissonance I carried around for a while.  In the end I chose to obey the 10 Commandments….  Right choice, obviously… Correct?

Not so fast……

In fact it was from the years of 1969 until 1994, 25 years, that I observed the Sabbath, mostly, as a matter of personal conscience…..  Not very fast, one could say…. 25 years… I value those years as my less than perfect attempt to please God…  I will support anyone who makes that choice…

What happened?

Actually, I now believe that the Sabbath is a choice….   I came to an understanding of Grace AND Peace that I just wrote about recently….  I understand that we are not under the law, (10 commandments, etc.) given only to Israel, and NOT anyone else, nor under the law and the prophets, for that matter, but under Grace…..  Adam and Eve were not under the law either, since the Law was given by Moses, many years later.  New Testament Christians are not under the law either, but under Faith.  After all, wasn’t the law given 438 years after Faith, exhibited by Abraham?

Maybe that is why we see Jesus breaking the Sabbath and doing other things not approved by the law….  It makes me think…. Jesus says, Come to me, all you who are weary, and I will give you rest…  (referencing the original Sabbath, resting with God in His temple)….  It is a command?  Is it a choice?

I believe God wants us willingly to come to the point we really, really want to rest in Him, to worship Him, not just because we think we have to, but because we really, really want to….  He beacons us to do this…  He draws us to himself….. I believe this is why Sabbath is mentioned in the Genesis Garden…..  God wants to walk with us in our Garden…  He wants to rest with mankind, live in Peace with mankind, and wanted to so badly that He sent Jesus to die for us that we might come to Him and enter into His rest……

A good choice….  If you think it is a command, then do it, and continue to do it 25 years, or all your life, or however long it takes to realize the Cosmological Origins how much God really loves us and how much He is for us, not against us, and has a hope and a future in mind for ALL mankind….

If you think it is a choice, then choose it…. Maybe not literally every Saturday, but some Saturdays, maybe for just half a day on Saturday, or half a day on Sunday, or Friday, for that matter, or every day, if possible….  Let us Rest with God, accept His Peace, walk in His Garden….  I should also mention that He rests in us also, as we are the temple of His Spirit….

As for Robert Collins, there is no choice now, but, may he rest in Peace, as we all will one day will do….  Concerning the point that God rested in His Temple, on the 7th Day…. Now He rests in us, dwells in us, rules the Universe partially through us, the original intention of the original origins, that we would dress and keep the earth, and all creatures in it, including human beings, might I add…  Do not Kill them, but is that also a command, or a choice?  Which is it?  Where is our brother, Abel?  Origins… A lot to think about, cosmologically….

Rest and Peace,

John Cooper

About jcooperforpeace
Spiritual Director, Spirituality of Inner Peace

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