“And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27).
The true principle by which all questions about the observance of the Sabbath ought to be decided. ‘The Sabbath’, says our Lord ‘was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath…’
There is a mine of deep wisdom in those words. They deserve close attention, and the more so because they are not recorded in any Gospel but that of St. Mark. Let us see what they contain.
‘The Sabbath was made for man…’ God made it for Adam in paradise, and renewed it to Israel on Mt. Sinai. It was made for all mankind; not for the Jew only, but for the whole family of Adam. It was made for man’s benefit and happiness. It was for the good of his body, the good of his mind and the good of his soul. It was given to him as a boon and a blessing, and not as a burden. This was the original institution.
But ‘man was not made for the Sabbath’. The observance of the day of God was never meant to be so enforced as to be an injury to his health, to to interfere with his necessary wants. The original command to ‘keep holy the Sabbath Day’, was not intended to be so interpreted as to do harm to his body, or prevent acts of mercy to his fellow creatures. This was the point the Pharisees had forgotten, or buried under their traditions. There is nothing in all this to warrant the rash assertion of some, that our Lord has done away with the fourth commandment. On the contrary, He manifestly speaks of the Sabbath Day as a privilege and a gift, and only regulates the extent to which its observance should be enforced. He shows that works of necessity and mercy may be done on the Sabbath Day; but He says not a word to justify the notion that Christians need not ‘remember the day to keep it holy’.
Let us be jealous over our own conduct in the matter of observing the Sabbath. Let us contend earnestly for the preservation among us all in its integrity. We may rest assured that national prosperity and personal growth in grace are intimately bound up in the maintenance of a holy Sabbath.
Bishop JC Ryle
“Day by Day with J.C. Ryle”
Copyright Christian Focus Publications 2004