Recently I was sent this question:
“What does the Bible say about Sabbath? We’ve been researching in the Bible and online and find nothing that requires that we should still be required to observe it. Online, scholars say that Sabbath is an Old Testament thing. A day of rest is good, but is it required now?”
I find it both amusing and perplexing that the online scholars mentioned in the above question make reference to “an Old Testament thing,” as if that automatically discounts its validity simply because it comes in the part of the Bible before the book of Matthew. That is a claim I have heard many times before.
It is true that some of the specific Levitical laws given to the people of Israel in the Old Testament such as their dietary laws, seasonal/festival laws, and sacrificial laws are not required for us to keep. As Jesus Himself said: Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. (Matthew 5:17)
But does that mean that the entire Old Testament is now null and void, merely a history book to give us a record of God’s dealings with man, and His chosen people, Israel, with maybe a few good faith lessons to look to and admire? I think not.
The subject in question, the keeping of the Sabbath comes directly from God’s Ten Commandments; specifically number four:
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)
If the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath” is simply “an Old Testament thing,” then would that also be true for the other nine commandments? Is “You shall not murder” just “an Old Testament thing?” How about “You shall not commit adultery,” or “You shall not steal?” Those commandments are also found in the Old Testament. Are we no longer expected to keep those?
Obviously, God expects us to keep all of those, and we should want to keep them. Every culture or civilization that has practiced keeping God’s laws is better off for it. So, if we are to keep all of the Ten Commandments, then what do we do with this commandment to “Remember the Sabbath?” Perhaps the better question to be asking is, what does remembering the Sabbath mean for us?
The religious leaders of Israel added all kinds of rules and regulations to God’s original law, and turned it into something God never intended it to be. It became a drudgery where the people couldn’t do anything, and they lived in fear of accidentally breaking one of the rules.
Read the commandment again. It becomes clear that the law was originally intended for the good of man and the glory of God. We need rest, both physically and mentally. And, we need to remember that God is the One who created all that we see, and He was able to do it in six days. (God rested, or ceased, on the seventh day because He was finished, not because He was tired.)
Again, the intent of all of God’s laws is our good. That’s why Jesus said: The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27) Jesus seems to be saying, it’s not about the rule. It’s about the relationship we have with God. I shouldn’t want to murder, not simply because it is a rule, but because I am a child of God. The same holds true for all of God’s commandments, including the commandment to keep the Sabbath.
Observing a Sabbath rest is a good thing. Does it have to be on the seventh day of the week, Saturday? No, I don’t think so. Does it mean we shouldn’t do anything at all? Again, I don’t think so. That’s making “man for the Sabbath,” and Jesus said that was not what it was for.
Remembering the Sabbath means recognizing my need to rest, and recognizing God’s greatness in His creation. Taking a day off from work acknowledges that God is more important than making money, and we can trust Him for our provision.
Early in Church history the first day of the week, Sunday, the day of the resurrection, became the Christian Sabbath. It doesn’t mean you can’t work on Sunday. Police and fire personnel, and others, often have to work on Sunday, and we are grateful they are there. Some people would argue that pastors work the hardest all week on Sunday. (I don’t happen to agree with that by the way. For me, Sunday is anything but work!)
The bottom line is this, honor God by taking time off from work, and putting the focus on Him. Your bank account may not have as much in it, but your physical and spiritual life will be much richer for it.
A while back I received this Q&A from someone. Since this past Sunday was Sanctity of Human Life Day, I thought I would take the time to try to respond to this thought provoking question.
“Something in the NEWS right now is of the lady that will end her life on November 1 because of her terminal brain tumor. She is and will be in constant pain until her death. What does the Bible state about ending your life when she knows it will come sooner rather than later especially since they haven’t given her long to live? Also she is 29 years old and she doesn’t want to endure the pain also because to her she will be no good here on earth. Would love your thoughts on this and what the bible says about it.”
The woman mentioned in the question above was 29 year-old Brittany Maynard, who ended her life November 1, 2014 at her Portland, Oregon home by taking a fatal dose of barbiturates prescribed to her by her doctor, which is legal under Oregon state law. Brittany and her husband moved to Oregon in order to have access to that state’s legal suicide assistance law.
Certainly no one would downplay the pain and suffering that Brittany was going to have to endure. Doctors had given Brittany just six-months to live when she was diagnosed with a likely stage 4 glioblastoma. In an interview published in People Magazine in October Brittany stated: “I’ve discussed with many experts how I would die from it and it’s a terrible, terrible way to die. So being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying.”
Did you catch that? It is “less terrifying.” In other words, fear, fear of pain and suffering was the motivation for Brittany’s decision to end her life. The question then must be asked: Should fear hold that kind of power over our lives? Does fear have the right to determine the value of my life, and at what point it is not worth living? The truth is that fear drove Brittany to conclude that a healthy life is worth trying to hold on to, but an unhealthy life is not.
Right to die advocates hold Brittany up as a model of courage, because she chose to end her life on her terms. While I mean no disrespect, I think just the opposite is true. I think it was Brittany’s fear of pain and suffering that motivated her decision to not fight for every second of life.
Again, I mean no disrespect to Brittany, but if you want a model of courage to hold up to the world might I make another suggestion? Louis Zamperini, the subject of the best selling book and the motion picture ‘Unbroken,’ should have his picture beside the word “courage” in the dictionary. An Olympic athlete as a teenager, Louis was a bombardier on a B-24 that crashed in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. He spent 46 grueling days floating in a life raft, enduring starvation and dehydration before finally making landfall in the Marshall Islands, only to be immediately captured by the Japanese and interned in a prisoner of war camp for more than two years.
Because the Japanese knew that Zamperini was an American Olympian, the commander of the camp seemed determined to inflict as much pain, suffering, and humiliation on Louis as possible. If you’ve read the book or seen the movie you know that if pain and suffering are the factors for determining whether a life is worth living, then Zamperini should have taken his own life multiple times along the way. Instead, Louis’ love of life, the value he placed on life, enabled him to endure more pain and suffering than most of us can even imagine. And it caused him to triumph, not only over his Japanese nemesis, but also over the vey pain and suffering that had been designed to break his will to live.
While pain and suffering are certainly nothing to be trivialized, it should be remembered that they are part of the human experience. The sin curse brought pain and suffering into our world, and pain and suffering will be here until the end.
Throughout human history mankind has worked to eliminate pain and suffering, wherever possible, for the betterment of life for all. To advocate eliminating pain and suffering by eliminating life itself flies in the face of what we have always considered most precious, the opportunity to live.
Of course, the argument that is heralded by those who favor the right to end life is the same argument that is shouted from the highest rooftops of our postmodern culture, where the rights of the individual take precedence over all else. In Brittany Maynard’s case it would sound like this: “It was Brittany’s life! She is the one who should have the right to determine how and when her life should end.”
At least part of the problem with that argument is that it ignores its affect on a society or culture as a whole. When every person’s personal privilege, and their valuing of life, takes precedence over societal standards that have been established for the good of that society, the result must almost certainly end in chaos.
More importantly, Brittany’s man-centric philosophy denies God’s authority over all of His creation.
Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. (Psalm 100:3)
God has a plan for each of our lives. It will not be a life free from all pain and suffering. But it is a life worth living. It is a life worth fighting for. And for those who belong to Christ, in His timing, the best is yet to come.
What does the bible say about: libations, or the consumption of alcohol. Noah was accused of being a drunk. Jesus turned water into wine, and wine flowed freely at the Last Supper. But why do Christians refuse to drink alcohol/wine?”
In dealing with this question it should be stated first that within the larger Christian community there are varying opinions and positions on the consumption of alcohol. It’s hard to determine whether this is due more to cultural influences or to genuine biblical convictions. As a pastor, I would like to believe that all followers of Jesus carefully and prayerfully approach such subjects, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead them to what is right. However, as a pastor, I’ve had to deal with enough carnage in people’s lives to know that many times men and women make decisions with little or no thought to what God wants or what His word teaches.
The one position that does seem to be universally agreed upon in the Christian community is that we shouldn’t get “drunk.” Whenever someone makes that statement they almost immediately follow it up with a partial quote of Ephesians 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine.” Never mind that in the context of Ephesians 5 the author, the Apostle Paul, isn’t even dealing with alcohol, but is instead building a case for a complete surrender to the Spirit of God.
But that does raise a point that followers of Jesus need to consider in their decision of whether to consume alcohol or not, and that is this, what is the definition of drunk? In other words is “drunk” falling down, passing out, hugging your commode? Please excuse my crudeness, but is that drunk? Most of us would say, “Sure, that’s drunk. But which drink got them to that point, the third, or maybe the eighth? It’s probably hard to know for sure. And do you have to get to that point to be “drunk?”
All 50 states agree that .08 BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) makes you too impaired to operate a motor vehicle, but is that what drunk is? And by the way, would you feel comfortable if you or a loved one were riding with someone that would blow a .07 BAC?
What about your thought processes being only slightly clouded or your reflexes only slightly slowed, is that “under the influence?” I’ve known plenty of people who probably wouldn’t have considered themselves “drunk,” but they made a decision under the influence of alcohol that they regretted in the morning.
My point is that “drunk” is very hard to define, and if we all agree that as followers of Jesus we shouldn’t get “drunk,” then we would do well to give serious consideration as to what that means.
Now, in dealing with the specific question above that was asked by someone regarding the consumption of alcohol I should point out a couple of things. To begin with, the person that submitted the question states that, “Noah was accused of being a drunk.” The implication of that statement seems to be that Noah was a godly man, but he would drink, so it must not be okay.
First, Noah wasn’t “accused of being a drunk.” Genesis 9:20-21 states that he planted a vineyard, drank of the wine and became drunk. There is no indication that this was an ongoing practice for Noah. The event in question took place after the flood, sometime after they came out of the ark. In reading the account of what happened, you get the impression that what happened was unusual.
Second, the Bible doesn’t hide the imperfections of its heroes. All men and women are sinners. The fact that God didn’t “zap” Noah on the spot for getting drunk doesn’t mean that God was pleased with Noah’s actions.
The person who submitted the question also states that, “Jesus turned water into wine, and wine flowed freely at the Last Supper.” Again, the implication of those statements is that this is proof that consuming alcohol is okay.
It is true that at the wedding in Cana Jesus turned water into wine, (John 2) and wine was served at the Last Supper, (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 23) but what needs to be kept in mind however is that in the Bible the word “wine” doesn’t always mean that it was alcoholic. The Old Testament uses three different Hebrew words and the New Testament uses two different Greek words that are all translated with the word “wine,” but some of them refer to alcoholic wine, some to non-alcoholic wine, and some to fresh grape juice. (Isaiah 65:8 even refers to wine while the grapes are still on the vine!)
In our culture today the word “wine” automatically means alcoholic wine, but that hasn’t always been the case. And so when we read about wine in the Bible we can’t just assume it’s talking about alcoholic wine. Certainly at times it is, but only the context can tell you for sure, and even then, at times it can be hard to know with absolute certainty if it was alcoholic.
The point is, if we’re going to try to use the Bible as justification for consuming alcohol we need to be sure that we know the context of the passage before we use it to support our position. And I’ll add this, as far as I can tell anywhere in the Bible where wine is mentioned, and the context clearly and obviously reveals that it is referring to alcohol, it does so in a negative or derisive way. That may not “prove” that drinking alcohol is wrong, but it is certainly worth noting, and should give all of us reason to pause before invoking the Bible as justification for consuming alcohol.
Finally, in dealing with the heart of the question submitted, “Why do Christians refuse to drink alcohol/wine?” As stated above, many Christians do consume alcohol, but perhaps at least part of the reason many followers of Jesus have chosen to abstain is because in light of the amount of pain, suffering, violence, death, and loss that has been experienced in this world due to the use of alcohol, many followers of Jesus have decided that, even if they don’t think the Bible clearly condemns it’s use, it’s just better to steer clear. Besides, for me, Coke Zero tastes better anyways.