Celebrating the Sabbath – 7 New Testament Principles

Its Sunday! Perhaps you have skipped out on church so you could read my highly awaited blog. Maybe you were up all night waiting… waiting ever so patientily for the 7 principles for Sabbath from the New Testament. But you probably weren’t

Today we are doing part 2 of our Sabbath series. This time we will look at 7 principles about Sabbath that emerge from the New Testament which can help us formulate a robust theology of the Sabbath. Again thses principles come out of the work that Aida Beacon Spencer has done for us in her paper Seven Principles for the Seventh Day.

7 Principles

In the Gospels we have 6 different incidents revolving around the Sabbath, wrestling with OT teachings about the Sabbath. As you know Jesus and the Pharisees & Scribes were working with the same texts, but they had varying interpretations. Here are 7 principles that emerge out of Jesus’ teachings:

  1. Have Mercy (Matthew 12:7) – When the pharisees accused Jesus of harvesting on the Sabbath Jesus responds with a story from the Old Testament showing that mercy or steadfast love is the highest of all laws.
  2. Serve (Mark 2:27) –  Jesus says that Sabbath was made for mankind and not vice versa. In other words the goal of the Sabbath was to bless and serve humans. God does this for us so why wouldn’t we do it for others?
  3. Do Good (Luke 6:9) – Healing is never called a work in the Old Testament, but it is in the Mishnah. When confronted about healing Jesus turns the table on the putting them in a bind. They can’t deny the fact that Sabbath is for doing god and giving life.
  4. Liberate (Luke 13:11-16) ­– Only Luke records this incident, liberation is a form of giving rest. Jesus liberates this woman from the bondage of Satan. Thus this healing is an act of liberation.
  5. Heal (Luke 14:3-5) – In this incident the Pharisees are keeping a close eye on Jesus before he even does anything. Here Jesus heals a man and compares it to “emergency work,” if you could help an animal in the case of an emergency why not a human?
  6. God Works (John 5:17) – Healing comes from the Lord. The Lord heals on the Sabbath too… enough said.
  7. Worship Jesus (John 9:4-37) – Jesus highlights the Sabbath as a day of faith, but people put their faith in Jesus when he heals on the Sabbath.  In turn this shows that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath.

So this Sunday live knowing that our true rest has been found in Jesus and that because of him we can have mercy, serve, do good, liberate the oppressed, heal the broken, and worship Jesus.


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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