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Pure Thoughts - Our Wedding Garments
     
Matthew 5:6: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Matthew 5:8: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Matthew 5:27-30: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.

Matthew 6:22-23:
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Matthew 22:37-40: Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Mark 4:18-19: Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

Luke 2:37:  . . . this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

Luke 12:2: For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.

Luke 16:15: And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

John 3:20-21: For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.

John 4:23: But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.

John 8:34: Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

John 14:1: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me."

John 17:17-19: Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

Acts 8:21-22: You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.

Romans 1:21:  . . . although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

(O God, increase the wisdom and enlightenment of my heart.)

Romans 1:24-25: Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Romans 2:6-9: God “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness —indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek;

Romans 2:16:  . . . in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

Romans 6:12-13: Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Romans 6:19-22: I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

Romans 8:5-13:  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Romans 12:1-2: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:9: Let love be without hypocrisy. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good.

Romans 13:8-9: 
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Romans 13:14: But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17: Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

1 Corinthians 4:5: Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10: Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:20: For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

1 Corinthians 9:24: Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.

1 Corinthians 10:6, 8, 9, 11-13: Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. . . . Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents. . . Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

2 Corinthians 4:2: But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

2 Corinthians 6:3-10: We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

2 Corinthians 6:14: Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

2 Corinthians 7:1: Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

2 Corinthians 10:3-6: For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

2 Corinthians 11:3: But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Galatians 5:16-25: I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:1-3:  And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Ephesians 2:10: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 4:17-24: This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 5:3,11-12: But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; . . . And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.

Ephesians 6:10-20: Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

Philippians 4:8: Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Colossians 3:1-5: If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Colossians 4:12: Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

1 Thessalonians 4:2-7:  . . . you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12: Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 1:5: Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith.

1 Timothy 5:1-2: Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.

2 Timothy 2:22: Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

1 Timothy 3:9: holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.

1 Timothy 4:12-15: Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.

1 Timothy 5:22: Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.

2 Timothy 1:3: I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day,

2 Timothy 2:20-22: But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Titus 1:15-16: To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.

Titus 2:11-13: For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

Philippians 1:6: being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 10:22: Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 13:4: Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

James 1:14: But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.

James 1:21-22: Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

James 1:27: Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

James 3:17: But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

James 4:4-8: Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:    "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

James 4:17: Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

1 Peter 1:6: In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,

1 Peter 1:13-16: Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;  but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:22: Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.

1 Peter 2:11: Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,

1 Peter 5:8-9: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

2 Peter 1:3-10:  . . . His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,
to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.

2 Peter 2:9:  . . . the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,

2 Peter 2:19-22: While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.  For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

2 Peter 3:1-2: Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior.

2 Peter 3:14: Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;

1 John 2:6: He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

1 John 2:16-17: For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 3:1-3: Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

1 John 3:21-22: Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

3 John 1:11: Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.

Jude 20-27: But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.

Revelation 3:10: Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

Revelation 2:7: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’

Revelation 2:11: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”’

Revelation 2:26: And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—

Revelation 3:5: He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

Revelation 3:12: He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

Revelation 3:21-22: To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Revelation 19:6-8: And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Revelation 22:12: “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to what he has done."

Pure thoughts are the bridal garments of those who have made themselves ready for the return of the Bridegroom!

AND THEREFORE OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE:

Matthew 21:22: And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.

Matthew 26:41: Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Mark 11:24: Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

Mark 13:33: Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.

Mark 14:38: Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Luke 22:46: Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.

Words of the LORD Jesus Christ, John 16:23-24:

“And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."

Romans 12:10-12: Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;

Philippians 4:6: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

Colossians 4:2: Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;

Colossians 4:12: Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

1 Thessalonians 3:9-10: For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God, night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?

James 4:7:  . . . submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

James 5:16: Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

1 John 5:14: Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

 The True Faith

One of my friends sent  me a CD is entitled "15 Things to Do in the Midst of Suffering" by Jeff Cavins. The CD was produced by LightHouseCatholicMedia.org, a Catholic CD of the Month Club. At one point on this CD, Jeff states that Catholic Doctrine teaches that no sin can enter into Heaven. Only those who are free from sin can enter Heaven. Thus the Catholic Saints, being free from sin, can enter Heaven but ordinary believers must spend sufficient time in Purgatory to be made pure enough to enter Heaven. Now that really got me thinking, and after much thought, I found the difference between the Catholic and Protestant teachings about salvation. The difference basically is as follows:

Catholic doctrine maintains that to enter Heaven, one must be baptized, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and be free from mortal sin. One must try to live holy and do good works. But only those without sin can enter Heaven. Only the Catholic saints are without sin; the rest of believers must spend sufficient time in Purgatory to make them pure enough to enter Heaven. When the fires of Purgatory have purified the believer, then he can enter Heaven. Thus the Catholic believer is trusting in the fires of Purgatory to make him pure enough to enter Heaven.

Protestant doctrine maintains that to enter Heaven one must repent of one's sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. When one so savingly believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, God sees this new believer as clothed in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the believer is trusting not in his own righteousness but in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ which is perfect. And thus the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ enters Heaven not because he is completely righteous but because the one he is trusting in, the Lord Jesus Christ, is completely righteous. And it is that trust in the righteousness of Christ that assures the believer's salvation.

Here are some of the relevant Bible verses:

Galatians 2:16: Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Romans 3:26: To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus.

Romans 4:3: For what says the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Romans 4:5: But to him that works not, but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

Romans 4:6: Even as David also describes the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputes righteousness without works,

Romans 4:9: Comes this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

Romans 4:11: And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

Romans 4:20-22: Abraham staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

Romans 9:30-31: What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.

Romans 10:3: For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

Romans 10:4: For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

Romans 10:10: For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

1 Corinthians 1:30: But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

2 Corinthians 5:21: For he has made him to be sin for us, he who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Galatians 2:21: I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ has died in vain.

Galatians 3:6: Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

Galatians 3:21: Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.

Galatians 5:5: For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

Ephesians 4:24: And that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Philippians 3:8-9: Yes doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but rubbish, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

2 Timothy 4:8: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Titus 3:5: Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

 The Sabbath Question


(The following is a brief summation of the first appendix of "Scripture and the Authority of God" by N.T. Wright. "Scripture and the Authority of God" was published by HarperCollins in 2011. )

In the Old Testament, the Sabbath command is solid and mandatory. This command is rooted in the two greatest narratives of ancient Israel: Creation and Exodus. Sabbath observance was appropriate because God rested on the seventh day after completing His creative work. Bad things happened when the Sabbath command was ignored or overridden. Fresh Sabbath observance would bring Israel to a new place of favor with God (Isaiah 56:4–7). Loyal Jews in the last few centuries BC made Sabbath keeping one of their major distinctives.

But in the New Testament, all that has changed. The Apostle Paul is remarkable in that he says very little about the Sabbath. The two other major issues for Jews are there in his letters: Do Christians need to be circumcised, and are Christians obliged to keep the Jewish food laws? Paul answers both questions with a firm no; indeed, to insist on circumcision for Gentile converts is to make Christ of no benefit to them, estrange them from Christ, and cause them to fall from grace. (Galatians 5:2-4). That indeed is the warning that the book of Galatians delivers to the Galatian Christians and their leaders. Likewise, any attempt to restrict fellowship on the basis of what one eats or of who one eats it with is firmly ruled out. Let us examine what the Apostle Paul say about Sabbath Observance.

There are several passages where Paul might be referring to the Sabbath. In Romans 14:5-6, Paul says that some Christians observe special days, and others do not. Paul further states that those who observe special days should not judge those who do not, and that that those who do not observe special days should not judge those who do. In Galatians 4:10, Paul shows his deep concern for those who are observing “days, and months, and seasons, and years.” This is a reference to Jewish festivals and goes a lot wider than just the Sabbath. But it isn’t clear from this what Paul would have said about the Sabbath itself.

This important question about something so central in Jewish life, which Paul, who was raised in the strictest sect of Judaism, does not even deal with in passing, is sharpened further when we look at those times when Paul quotes from the Ten Commandments, in which the Sabbath commandment plays a prominent role. At the very points where Paul is saying that believers in Jesus are obligated to keep the commandments, he manages to omit the Sabbath from the list (e.g., Romans 13:9). Murder, theft, adultery, and coveting are strictly forbidden; one must honor their father and mother; and behind all this is the worship and honoring of the one true God and the sanctifying of His name. But a discussion of Sabbath observance is surprisingly absent.

When we come to Jesus and the gospels, however, the Sabbath is frequently highlighted, and Jesus is often accused of acting in violation of it. To look into this matter deeper, we will examine how the Sabbath commandment is dealt with in the two testaments. Some might think that this is a case where the Old Testament commands something which the New Testament abolishes, or perhaps that the New Testament has replaced the legalism of the Old Testament with a new religion of grace. To explore these issues, the place to begin is the Old Testament.

The Sabbath in the Old Testament

The basic principle of the Sabbath is stated clearly in Genesis 2:3. God finished His work of creating the heavens and the earth on the sixth day, and then rested on the seventh day. God creates the world, declares that it is very good, and then, He takes control of it, not being bound by the relentless need to always be working and creating. Creation has a destination. The Genesis Sabbath institution has to do with the Creator’s enjoyment of His world and His celebration of heaven and earth as a dwelling place for Himself. Here in Genesis, Adam and Eve are the mode and means of the Creator’s presence in His newly made world, and the ones through whom the rest of creation is brought into fruitful order. And the image-bearing pair themselves are called to share in the Creator’s enjoyment of His world, by themselves keeping the Sabbath. What the Creator does, His image bearers also will do, and they will take their rest together.

The idea of God the Creator taking His rest after completing His work implies that God will continue to work and continue to take His great project forward. The Creator has made plants and animals that produce seed and so reproduce themselves, and humans are appointed as the Creator’s agents to bring order and fruitfulness into the world.

The Sabbath plays no apparent role throughout the rest of Genesis, but it returns to play a big role in the book of Exodus. The Sabbath commandment is linked to creation in Exodus 20:8-11, and then to the Exodus itself in Deuteronomy 5:12-15, where the point being made is that Israel, having experienced the transition from slavery to freedom, should give slaves themselves their own time of freedom every Sabbath. The Sabbath thereafter does not occur as a major theme for much of the rest of the Old Testament. It emerges however in the exilic and post exilic periods as a sign of God’s call for renewed loyalty from His people. And where it does occur the only question is whether they will keep it or not (Nehemiah 13:15-22; Isaiah 56:2-7; 58:13-14; Jeremiah 17:19-23).

The Sabbath therefore is a commandment which is important as much for what it points to as for its actual observance. The Sabbath is a sign that the created order has a destination. Sabbath is the sign of the Creator’s interaction with His creation, as the Temple becomes the geographical sign. “To profane the Sabbath” (e.g., Ezekiel 20:13; 22:8, 26; 23:38) is analogous to profaning the Temple itself. As the Temple is sacred space, so the Sabbath is sacred time.

Israel’s great festivals often incorporated “great Sabbaths” The obvious example, Passover, is the moment when the Israelites not only remember the time when God liberated them from Egypt, but also actually recapitulate it: “This is the night.” Creation points forward, beyond itself, to the time when the Creator’s purposes for His creation are complete.

Within this, a major theme emerges in which the Sabbath principle and command find a new focus. The Sabbath becomes the sign of God’s justice and care for the poor. Thus, in Exodus 23:11, the Sabbath is the opportunity for the poor to rest. This principle blossoms, importantly, into a theme which is very closely associated with the Sabbath: the Jubilee.

The Jubilee is the remission of debts in the seventh year, and the great Jubilee is the large-scale version of that after every forty-ninth year (seven times seven). This principle is stated in Leviticus 25. There is to be a sabbatical year every seven years (Leviticus 25:1–7), in which the land itself is to enjoy rest. But then, after forty-nine years (referred to as “seven weeks of years”), the blast of a trumpet will announce “liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.” Ancestral property is to be restored, thus creating a special law about buying and selling land (one buys or sells a certain number of harvests running up to the next Jubilee).

But the greatest statement of Jubilee is found in Isaiah 61. There, following on from the insistence on Sabbath observance in Isaiah 56 and 58, we come to the announcement of liberty to the captives, sight to the blind, etc. The point of the Jubilee is basically to restore God’s creation and God’s people, to put things right in human society, human lives, and the land which they cultivate. The Sabbath principle is thus intimately related to the large principle of God’s justice in the sense of God’s intention, which itself is part of a theology of creation, to put all things right at last. The Jubilee is a moment of “sacred time” when humans share in God’s time and God’s redemptive purposes. It is the gift of the Creator to His people, particularly to the poor and the enslaved: the gift of justice itself. We thus have a sabbath principle woven into larger history—a sense that God will work in patterns which have “new creation” inscribed on them. Justice for Israel and the world, for humans and creation, are not merely a repeated symbolic pattern. God will eventually give them, and give them completely, as a one-off event.

The Sabbath in the Old Testament is thus far more complex as an institution and symbol than might at first appear (and that has appeared when people have read the Scriptures merely to search for “commands to obey”). It is about much more than merely the command to abstain from work on the seventh day of the week. The Sabbath was about the hope that God would keep His promises, that He would bring about the ultimate “rest,” the equivalent of His own “enjoyment” of creation at the beginning and of Israel’s “rest” in the land after the conquest. (The Land, and within it the Temple, are then to be seen as foretastes of God’s claim on, and desire to dwell within, the whole world.) This principle of looking ahead to the time of redemption was to be brought into Israel’s national life through the fifty-year cycles, which were signposts to the larger redemption of all creation, and which were themselves anticipated by the weekly rest.

If we are to understand what happens to the Sabbath in the New Testament, it is vital to keep this picture in mind. To shrink the ancient biblical picture of the Sabbath into merely a rule to be rigorously imposed and blindly obeyed is to trivialize, misunderstand, and ignore the real significance of the sabbath principle, first in ancient Israel, and then in the great renewal which Jesus began and Paul and the other Apostles continued. In our examination of the Sabbath in New Testament we will see that, in Jesus Christ, God has brought the entire subject of Sabbath to a grand completion.

The Sabbath in the New Testament

As we saw earlier, the strangest thing about the Sabbath in the New Testament is its near absence. The other nine commandments are, in their various ways, reaffirmed; but not this one. Further, Jesus and Paul both appear to challenge the Sabbath observance of first-century Jews head-on. The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath; the Sabbath was made for doing good, not harm. For these challenges and their accompanying actions, plots are made to kill Jesus. In John, the initial healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-18) causes anger and threats, which are reemphasized after the healing of the man born blind (John 9:1-17).

So why would Jesus so pointedly enter into conflict with this great and God-given institution? The explanation is that Jesus was inaugurating the new age toward which the entire Sabbath institution had been pointing. He had come to announce and enact the Sabbath of Sabbaths and the Jubilee of Jubilees, the time when God’s purposes and human life would come together at last. His actions in relation to the Sabbath are thus the exact analogue of His actions in relation to the Temple. Jesus acted as if He were the Temple in person, offering people forgiveness on His own authority; thus, when He came to Jerusalem, a clash was inevitable as He confronted the existing Temple and its authorities with the reality to which they were supposed to be pointing, but from which they had in fact deviated. This analogy suggests that, with the Sabbath as well, Jesus may well have had a sharp critique of the actual interpretation and enforcement of the Sabbath by some of the Pharisees. But the underlying point is the claim that Jesus was making: “The time is fulfilled; God’s kingdom is at hand!” The fulfillment of time indicates that the project which God the Creator began in creation, and the redemptive project launched in the exodus, had reached their destination. Israel’s destiny, humankind’s destiny, and creation’s destiny were being realized in Jesus. His bodily presence was the reality to which the Temple pointed. That, at least, was the implicit claim—which seemed absurd and scandalous to many at the time. Jesus’ followers insisted that the claim had been made good in His resurrection. Especially in John’s treatment, “the first day of the week” symbolizes the launch of the new creation.

The most explicit statement of the long-awaited fulfillment of time is found in Luke 4:16-30. Here Jesus evokes Isaiah 61, which as we saw itself looked back to the Jubilee legislation in Leviticus: He was the one who would usher in the time of good news to the poor and liberty to captives, and this was the time when it would happen. “Today,” He said, “this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). This meant that the whole of Israel’s history, and with it the whole of history itself, had reached its ultimate Jubilee—a time of freedom and peace not only for Israel but also for the whole world.

Right away there was a clash of expectations and meanings. Jesus was clearly not fulfilling the aspirations of many of His contemporaries who wanted a straightforward act of political liberation. But, through actions and explanatory parables, Jesus declared this message: Now is fulfilled the time for which Israel has so fervently longed.

But if this was the time of fulfillment, then it was inappropriate to go on emphasizing the advance signposts, the weekly Sabbaths, in a way which suggested that the time of fulfillment had not yet arrived. “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath”: One does not put up a sign pointing toward New York City at Pennsylvania Station or the Empire State Building (both of which are in the heart of New York City). Jesus seems to have chosen, quite deliberately, to speak and act in such a way as to communicate the message that God’s time of liberation had finally arrived. This was the moment when God’s saving power would mightily impact broken human lives. “Come unto Me,” He said, “and I will give you rest.” For people to refuse to see this, and to insist on continuing as before with regular Sabbath observance, would be like someone insisting on continuing to plow the field at the very moment when the crop was beginning to come up. The Sabbath was not an unnecessary, or trivial institution. Like manyother things in ancient Judaism, the Sabbath was a forward-looking sign. When the reality arrived, not only was the sign no longer needed, it had the potential to become a dangerous distraction from the new Reality. To go on looking at the alarm clock to see whether it is morning yet when the risen sun is flooding the bedroom with golden light is to be foolish and unenlightened. The entire early Christian movement was predicated upon the belief that in Jesus the new Reality had arrived at last, and that the advance signposts, though properly God-given up to that point, were no longer needed. This explains, quite straightforwardly, the absence of a Sabbath commandment in the epistles of the New Testament. “When the time had fully come,” Paul writes, “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those under the Law” (Galatians 4:4). Those who receive this redemption are “God’s children,” and upon them God sends “the Spirit of His Son.” They have, by this means, “come to know God—or rather, to be known by God,” and as a result must no longer be bound by the days, months, seasons, and years which marked out ancient Jewish time. Thus “the fullness of time” in Galatians 4:4 rules out the careful observance of time markers in Galatians 4:10. The same logic underlies the dismissal of Sabbath observance and other Jewish festivals in Colossians 2:14-16. Equally, when faced with the challenge of drawing together Christian groups from different backgrounds, Paul treated the Sabbath as merely indifferent

This latter point (treating the Sabbath observance as something which is merely indifferent) can be allowed only when the basic principle has been massively affirmed: that in Jesus the Messiah, God’s new day, the New Reality, has dawned. “Now is the acceptable time,” writes Paul elsewhere; “now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1–2, quoting Isaiah 49:8). The “but now” of Romans 3:21, and the strong note of fulfillment all through Romans Chapters 3 through 8, creates a context in which one can then relax and allow for variation in practice. But inside this principle a further theme emerges from an unexpected angle. Paul insists that now, in this new day that has dawned, “works” are not the way by which God’s people are marked out. Justification by faith is, as it were, also a new Reality.

This connection is made explicitly in the letter to the Hebrews, which envisages the entire new age inaugurated by Jesus as the great “Sabbath rest,” and speaks of those who “enter God’s rest” as ceasing from their “works.” The whole sequence of Hebrews 3:7—4:11, especially the final verses of that sequence, provides an exegesis of Psalm 95:7–11, in which the story of the wilderness wanderings, and of Joshua leading the people into the promised land, is evoked in terms of a promised “rest,” which Joshua clearly had not provided and which the Psalm holds out as something still future.

When we reach Romans 8, where creation itself is set free from its bondage to decay to share the freedom which comes when God’s children are revealed, we realize that all along, the great biblical narrative, with the regular Sabbaths as way markers, has been about the project of Genesis 1 and 2 reaching its final intended conclusion, having overcome on the way the destructive consequences of sin. This is the goal to which the Sabbaths had pointed. This goal, the renewal of all things, is already given in principle in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. God’s sovereign rule over the world and God’s “righteousness” as His faithfulness both to creation and covenant come together in the fulfillment of Sabbath and Jubilee alike. This is the ultimate freedom moment, the completion of the new temple in which God and humans alike will rest and will be at home.

John’s gospel presents the same theme in a quite different manner. The well-known sequence of “signs” that runs through this gospel reaches its seventh and climactic moment when Jesus dies on the cross. The old creation and the old covenant are complete. We are now to await the dawning of the new creation. This is symbolized by John’s emphasis on the “first day of the week” in John 20:1. This sends us back to the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, the sixth day of the week, on which God created humans in His own image, the day on which Pilate declares “behold the man” (19:5). That is when Jesus dies, with the declaration “it is completed,” echoing the statement of completion at the end of the first creation account (John 19:30; Genesis 2:3). After that comes the rest of the seventh day, the Sabbath, when Jesus is in the tomb. Then comes the first day of the week, the day of resurrection, which John takes care that we should not miss, repeating the point morning and evening (John 20:1, 19). Once we factor into this the way in which Jesus in John explains that “My Father is working still, and I am working” (5:17), we reinforce the sense that Jesus Himself is the fulfillment of the Sabbath, as He is (in John) of the Temple.

The book of Revelation likewise structures itself in a complex series of sevens. But when the new heavens and new earth are unveiled in chapter 21, we discover that all the signposts that pointed forward to this moment fall away, and the new Reality itself is now there. Not only is there no Temple, there is no sun, no moon, no night, no sundown, and thus, no weekly Sabbath. Endless day is the result—in the light of “God and the Lamb.” Not only is this the place which, by the personal presence of God and the Lamb, is the reality to which the Temple pointed. This is also the time toward which the repeated Sabbaths had pointed. When the new and perfect has come, the old is done away.

With all this in mind, we should not be surprised that the early church celebrated the first day of the week as “the Lord’s day.” Jesus had inaugurated the new creation, and the start of every week now made this point in a way which any adherence to the Jewish Sabbath could not. Paul expects the Corinthian Christians to meet together on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2); this pattern appears again in Acts (20:7), and the first day of the week is referred to in Revelation 1:10 as “the Lord’s day”. We should remind ourselves that the first day of the week was an ordinary working day for everyone in the ancient world, pagan and Jew alike. The Christians, by meeting on the first day (usually very early, before work began), were symbolically enacting Jesus’ victory over death itself. The reminder that “the first day of the week” was, and remained, a normal working day in all parts of the ancient world tells us something else too: the early Christians show no signs whatever of trying to transfer the basic principle of Sabbath observance, namely, the cessation of normal work, to this new day. It would in any case have been totally impractical, since many of the early Christians were slaves with unchristian masters. But the Christians did do various things which would previously have seemed impractical, and there is no hint of them trying to force their point of view on this one. The ordinary business of life had to go on, and we do not find early Christians campaigning to be allowed to keep their new day in the way in which the Jews kept their old one.

The Sabbath and Christian Hope

Acts speaks of the day of Pentecost “having fully come,” and in Leviticus (23:5–21), Pentecost itself is a form of Jubilee, a moment when God’s gift of Himself in the Torah is celebrated. As shown above, for the early Christians, Jesus was the new Temple. For them, too, Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection were the new Jubilee—the time in which God’s liberating purposes mightily impacted human life, generating a permanent state of Jubilee. In addition, Jesus in His physical body, crucified and risen, turns out to be the One in Whom, as Paul puts it, “all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Him” (Colossians 2:9). Here is something much bigger than simply the question of whether Sunday is “the Christian Sabbath”. There is no way back from here into old-style Sabbatarianism, however much various Christian legalists have wanted to bring this about. That would be a distraction from the much more important task of exploring and implementing the good news that with Jesus, a new way of being, a new mode of creation, and a new Reality has been launched upon the world.

The picture of the new creation we find in Revelation 21 and 22 tells us that in the new heaven and new earth, we have a picture of a new creation which contains a new project. “The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2), and the whole scene seems to be a place of vibrant life, celebration, and fruitful work. What happens in the end is not rest, but reign: the rule of God’s people over God’s world, while being the adoring subjects of God Himself and the Lamb.

Creation was made to be the dwelling place of God Himself, and of ourselves as God’s image-bearing creatures. Creation was made to be filled with the knowledge and glory of God as the waters cover the sea, and is capable of telling this story, even in advance, as Psalm 19 suggests. The Sabbath was a true signpost, a pointing forward to a time not only of rest but also of glory, a time when God would be at home in His creation and the creation at home with God. Again, the picture of God’s ultimate future in Revelation 21 and 22 offers rich insights. Just as there will be no Temple in the city, so there will be no sun or moon or sundown, and thus, no weekly Sabbath.

The central point of this section, then, is that the Sabbath command of the Old Testament was a true and necessary signpost, pointing forward to God’s purposes for His creation and to the place of Israel in relation to those purposes. But it was always, from the perspective of Genesis 2:3, a sign which spoke of God coming to live in His heaven-and-earth creation, taking up residence, dwelling in the midst of His people. In the gospels, the actions of Jesus on the Sabbath thus speak powerfully of His belief that “My Father is working still, and I am working.” Sabbath is a sign of the full coming of the new Reality; the New Testament speaks of Jesus acting as if He were this new Reality in person, sacred time come to life. This is what lies behind the wholesale disappearance of the Sabbath command in early Christianity. And this is the clue to the way in which the surprisingly complex scriptural material about the Sabbath can be powerfully authoritative for the Christian in our own day, or in any day.

Further, now that heaven and earth have come together in Jesus Christ, and now that the new day has dawned, we live in a perpetual Sabbath. “The time has fully come,” and we should not try to downplay the note of realization, of a new sort of time already launched. Therefore, the proper way to celebrate any kind of a“Christian Sabbath” would be just that—a celebration: a way of recognizing the fact that heaven and earth have indeed come together in a new way in Jesus, and that the “rest” of the old Sabbath has been replaced by the “grand celebration” of the new Reality.

Time is yet to be redeemed fully. That is why we are commanded to “redeem” it even in the present. In terms of the five-act play, the Old Testament Sabbath law is a vital part of Act 3, rooted indeed in Act 1 itself. But when Act 4 brings in a new day, Act 3 is seen, not as a sidetrack or backwater, but as the necessary but time-limited step by which the ground is prepared for that fresh fulfillment. And we who live in Act 5 must go on telling the story of all five acts in order to understand the abiding significance of Sabbath, albeit translated into the life-giving “now” of the gospel. Merely to treat the Old Testament Sabbath command as an ancient and restrictive rule now happily abolished would be to ignore the entire principle which Jesus massively affirmed in Luke 4 and elsewhere: God intended to come in person to live within His creation, and when He did so, His prime task would be to bring liberty to captives and release from debt.

Thus there is a great transition marked by Jesus Himself and His death and resurrection, and we must read the whole Bible in the light of that and not assume that we can ignore it and draw general principles at will from either testament without relation to Him. We understand what the New Testament means only by reference to the Old, to the narrative and symbol which were the God-given pointers to what was to come. The Scriptures tell the story whose climax is Jesus Christ, the open-ended story into which we ourselves are enfolded, the story of heaven and earth made one, of God and humankind made one, of time past and time future enfolded into the single present of Jesus Christ, so that now all time is transformed by His presence. We are called to live in the endless Sabbath of God’s new creation, even while the old creation continues to groan in labor awaiting its full redemption. But if we don’t recognize the already-inaugurated endless Sabbath of God’s kingdom, we are like the confused Galatians, wanting to go back to the apparent security of rules designed for the period “before faith came”. That is both the explanation for Jesus’ otherwise strange actions and sayings. The nighttime candles are made redundant by the rising sun. Thus Scripture points beyond itself to the real-time, real-world story of creation and covenant which reached its climax in Jesus himself and which now reaches out into the world with the message of freedom and rest, the Sabbath message the world is still hungry to hear.


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