“For by grace you have been ____________ through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, ____________ in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).
As we turn to John’s Gospel, we see that Jesus employs Sabbath language from Genesis: “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4). Back in Genesis we read about the finished work of creation. Now Jesus is speaking about the finished work of salvation. Then, when Jesus was crucified, He cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Jesus then died, having “finished” the “work” of redemption. And He died on the latter half of the sixth day, Friday. Then He rested in the tomb on the seventh day, Saturday, and rose to life again on the first day of the week, Sunday (Luke 23:54 through 24:3). By His death on the cross Jesus confirmed that the Sabbath is an eternal memorial of His “finished” “work” of salvation.
We see then that the Sabbath is God’s weekly reminder to us that our salvation is 100% the free gift of His grace, totally His accomplishment and not ours, to be received into our hearts by faith. As such the Sabbath guards us against legalism and self-dependence and secures all our hope and trust in Jesus, who is both our Creator and our Savior. The Sabbath tells us that good works contribute absolutely nothing to our salvation, while at the same time they do reveal God’s mighty creative work in us, which brings forth obedience of the right quality, from the inside out, which brings us to the relationship between the Sabbath and the new covenant.
The Sabbath and the New Covenant
Because the Sabbath is a memorial of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone, it also signifies the new covenant, which teaches that true obedience to God’s law springs forth from the inside motivated by love. Isaiah 56:1-7 is a prophecy of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, and the formation of the New Testament church. Read this prophecy and discuss what it says about New Testament believers, both Jews and non-Jews, regarding the Sabbath. Notice each usage of the words salvation, covenant, Sabbath, and each reference to non-Jewish believers.
Now turn to the New Testament book of Acts. In chapter 13 we read that the apostle Paul came into the city of Antioch, “and went into the synagogue on the _________________ day and sat down” (verse 14). The leaders invited Paul to speak, which he did. After delivering his message, we read these words:
“So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the ______________ begged that these words might be preached to them the next _______________” (verse 42). Paul agreed to the appointment, and “on the next __________________ almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God” (verse 44).
Just as Isaiah 56 foretold, we see here that New Testament believers, Jews and Gentiles alike, were Sabbath keepers. This makes total sense in light of the fact that the Sabbath is a memorial of both the finished work of creation and the finished work of salvation.