The Sabbath and Sanctification

In the companion document, "The Sabbath and Creation," we discuss the three-dimensional significance of the Sabbath: Creation, Deliverance and Sanctification. Let’s take a closer look at that, starting with the Creation of the Sabbath itself.*


Notice the three things God did on the seventh day of Creation week:

And by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made (Genesis 2:2, 3).


Here is how Moses introduced the second dimension of the Sabbath’s significance:

And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:15).

In this chapter Moses repeats the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel. Here he teaches them—and us—that the Sabbath stands not only for something God did long ago. It also has relevance to the work of God in their/our own lives. Notice the two key points he makes:

It’s important to note that the Sabbath commemorated God’s finished work of creation and His finished work of redemption for the children of Israel. Both aspects of His work left nothing undone. The Creator made a complete work of creating our world, and He made Israel completely free from Egyptian bondage.

Today we share in the benefits of God’s completed work of both creation and redemption. We observe the Sabbath in honor of our Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice at Calvary was more than sufficient to purchase our salvation.


By His divine power our God has made us and redeemed us; now His work on our behalf continues in the transforming ministry of sanctification.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you’" (Exodus 31:12, 13).

The message of these verses is repeated in Ezekiel 20:12, 20.

Sabbath observance goes beyond abstaining from work in recognition of God’s rest at the end of Creation week. To truly keep the Sabbath is also to:

* Genesis 2:2, 3 is our primary source for the origin of the Sabbath, even though the word "Sabbath" does not occur there. There is broad scholarly support for interpreting this account as an explicit reference to the origin of the Sabbath. For example, The Interpreter’s Bible, in its commentary on these verses, states, "Here the priestly writer lifts the ordinances of Judaism to a universal validity when he records the Sabbath as part of the primal constitution of nature as it comes from the hands of God." The exegesis on the last part of verse 3 says, "It invests the Sabbath with all the reality of creation itself, and represents its observance as a fundamental law of the world order." (The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. I (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1952), pp. 488, 489.)