The Fourth Commandment:Part – 6

May 27, 2015

 The Sabbath is given as a sign

The Sabbath was a sign as the Lord said, "Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you." (Ex. 31:13).

So, the Sabbatherians say: As long as the Sabbath is a sign, it should not be changed or replaced! But we reply to them "Circumcision was also a sign, and it is replaced by baptism." Circumcision was certainly a sign as it is written, "This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you." (Gen.17:10-11).

These two signs then; the circumcision and the Sabbath were distinguished but were also symbols replaced in Christianity by the things symbolized for.

Circumcision was the removal of a part of the body to make it die, which symbolized mortifying the body and its lusts. This was a symbol of baptism which is death with Christ (Rom. 6:3,4) and so was replaced by it. The Sabbath was a sign for rest, bodily rest, and it was replaced by the rest of the spirit when we rested from sin and death. Thus, it was replaced by Sunday on which the Lord took real rest as we explained before. What is the Sabbath but the Lord’s Day which we should keep holy? In its essence it is not abolished; for we still honor the Lord’s day, but in a more powerful way.

The Sabbath was a sign. But of what? The Lord says, "A sign between Me and you… that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you." On Sunday we feel this actually; for we remember how the Lord sanctified us with His Holy Blood, putting an end to sin and death. But on the old Sabbath, I wonder how they felt the Lord had sanctified them!

When we keep the Lord’s Day holy, we remember that He sanctified us with His death and resurrection. You may ask: We know that the Lord sanctified us when He exterminated sin by His death. But how did He sanctify us when He overcame death by His resurrection?

Death in the Old Testament was a punishment, the wages of sin, and whoever touched a dead body was defiled because the dead died with his sin. But now, as the Lord Christ died for us and paid off the wages of our sins, He sanctified our dead. Thus, death became just departure and whoever touches a dead body is not defiled any more since the Lord exterminated the power and sting of death by His death.

They say also that the Sabbath was a sign of delivery from servitude as the Scriptures say, "And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD   your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day." (Deut.5:15).

This servitude was a symbol of the servitude of sin, while coming out of the servitude of Pharaoh was a symbol of coming out of the servitude of Satan which has been realized when the Lord Christ overcame death on Sunday.

 To be continued …

Source: H.H. Pope Shenouda III, 1997.Contemplations on the Ten Commandments: The fourth Commandment, Volume I.