Here we get a glimpse into the continued practice of Christ’s followers to keep the Sabbath after the cross. Paul and His associates are in a Gentile city and yet still gathered for worship on the Sabbath. Sabbath rest has deeper meaning for them now, since they now experience Sabbath in light of the rest they have in Jesus through the gospel. As they sit to worship with the Jews and Gentiles gathered on this Sabbath, they’re given the opportunity to preach Jesus, which leads to the whole city coming to here about Jesus on the next Sabbath. This type of experience repeats on Paul’s missionary journey and then we hear him say the following about God to a crowd of pagan worshippers in Lystra in Acts 14:16-17, “who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness…” Acts 14:16-17a. What Paul is saying here is profound! He is saying that God, in every nation throughout time, has left a witness to Himself about His character. And as we’ve just scene, through the mission of the early church to the nations, this is especially true about His gift of rest through the gospel and the Sabbath. You see, His rest remains because…
GOD PRESERVES IT’S WITNESS.
We see this all around the world, even in languages. Did you know that the word for the seventh day or Saturday in both ancient and modern languages of over 100 countries is Sabbath? How is this possible since so many around the world have forgotten Yahweh and His Sabbath rest? If you go back in the story of humanity to after the tower of Babel incident, when the diversity of languages where originally formed and the descendants of Noah spread throughout the world forming nations, they carried with them the truth of God’s weekly Sabbath rest and it has continued on into the languages of the nations to this day! God has always had a people to preserve the witness of the gospel and the Sabbath, like the followers of Jesus during the middle ages called the Waldenses and Hugenuts, who preserved it under intense persecution. Even in nature the witness to His rest has been preserved. The research of modern science has discovered that plants, animals and humans have a 7 day weekly rhythm called biorhythms. One of the leading pioneers of this research, Anthony Aveni, says in his book “The Empire of Times” says, “…modern chronobiology discovered that the seven day biorhythm is designed into our very own nature.” This has led several to conclude that this is why our bodies naturally crave rest at the end of the week on the seventh day. Even nature is testifying that God has preserved the gift of rest from the beginning!
As the 1st century church continued to rapidly multiply, the gospel began to spread into Greece, where Paul has the following encounter in Acts 16:13… “And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there.” Acts 16:13. These Greek women were not Jews or followers of Jesus yet, however they worshipped God to the light that they knew. And apparently from the text, it was the custom or regular practice for people to pray out in nature by the riverside on the Sabbath day in this Greek city. God had preserved the witness to His weekly rest. Then the movement continues to spread to the Greek city of Thessanolica, where Paul is again described, in Acts 17:2, as practicing the same custom of Jesus recorded in Luke 4:16… “Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,” Acts 17:2. Paul, as a follower of Jesus, was simply following Jesus’ custom every seventh day Sabbath, and that was to go to the Synagogue to worship, which often turned into opportunities to preach the gospel. Thus when Paul, in Acts 18:4, goes to the Greek city of Corinth, we see the same pattern… “And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.” Acts 18:4. You see, what we’re seeing develop here in the mission movement of the 1st century church is the direct fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 56! As the gospel of Jesus Christ is received among the nations, both Jew and Gentile enter into the rest of the weekly Sabbath, giving continued witness to the gospel and the preservation of the Sabbath rest within the church.
Friends, this same rest, that has been preserved by God through the centuries as a witness, is available to you. You see the gospel and the Sabbath go hand in hand. The weekly rhythm of the Sabbath rest points to the daily rest in Christ available to you through the gospel. Enter in to this rest, for God has preserved it just for you!
As we come to the end of the 1st century, the Apostle John is exiled on the Isle of Patmos for his witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As he is about to receive the vision of the Revelation of Jesus Christ in the last days, listen to how he begins to describe his experience in Revelation 1:10…
Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Pastor, Author.