I have seen some Adventists characterize Bishop T. D. Jakes’ sermon as an attack on both Adventism and the Sabbath.I have heard other Adventists who saw the sermon as Jakes promoting the Sabbath in some way. I conclude that it is paradoxically both a notable attempt to find relevance in the Sabbath commandment and an attack specifically on the Seventh-day Sabbath. The title of the sermon is RSVP and can be found at this link.
Jakes Initial look at the Sabbath
Jakes quotes an Old Testament passage that states that we are to â€œbear no burden on the Sabbath day.â€ Jakes, in an insightful move, applies this to our own contemporary context. Specifically, the Sabbath is about freedom. We should let all of our burdens go. Jakes here sees in the Sabbath a symbol of Godâ€™s desire to free us of all of our burdens. This helpful idea is pervasive in the sermon. I think that we Seventh Day Sabbatarians aught to look, as Jakes as done, for ways to tie the Sabbath to the basic Gospel and help us gain a glimpse of what God has done and is doing for and in us. Jakes should be commended at attempting to marshal the doctrine of the Sabbath in support of the goal of helping people live Christ-centered lives. However, Jakes undercuts his support of the Sabbath by attacking the same Sabbath.
Sabbath is Saturday
I do appreciate that Jakes correctly identifies the Sabbath as Saturday. Although he does briefly talk about the New Testament supposedly pointing to the Sabbath as Sunday. Presumably because of the resurrection. He does not provide any substantiation.
Later, Jakes talks about keeping all the days as a Sabbath. However one cannot keep all the days, at least not as a Sabbath. The Sabbath requires a total disengagement from the world and participation in the coming kingdom. You cannot do that on every day of the week. Now Jakes would argue that we can if the â€œrestâ€ is a â€œrestâ€ in Jesus for salvation and not a 24 hour time period. We shall return to this later.
Sabbath past and future
Jakes has some gems that are very helpful to Sabbatarians. He looks at the fourth commandment and sees it both as a pointer to the past and the future. The word â€œrememberâ€ refers to a past event and the â€œkeep it holyâ€ refers to a present reality. Here Jakes sees in the Sabbath a past and a present reality. In addition, I would add to Jakes helpful insight that there is a future dimension as well. In any case, Jakes correctly notes that the Sabbath is more than just the 24 hour day where we go to church, however none of this precludes a 24 hour day to celebrate what Jakes has told us is the real meaning of the Sabbath. I would argue that one needs a 24 hour day to fully experience the present reality of God’s future unencumbered by daily necessities like work.
The Rest of God
Jakes sees that in the Genesis account that God created everything and then rested. Humanity was simply to enter into that rest for all was done. However when sin entered into the world, it was then that Godâ€™s rest was broken. Thus, the commandment is telling us to â€œremember that sin broke rest.â€
It is here that Jakes makes an interesting connection. In the beginning God created and and said it was all good. Then God rested. Then sin entered and broke Godâ€™s rest. God gave the Sabbath to the Jews to help them remember that sin broke the rest. Then Jesus came and died on the cross. Jesus once again says, â€œIt is finishedâ€ and goes to set on the right hand of God. Now the Sabbath is fulfilled in Jesusâ€™ rest.
Jakes then asks, “Why care about a shadow that simply pointed to the rest of Jesus when you have the reality?”
Then Jakes gives an illustration. Jakes spoke of a shadow being cast at his wedding as the light from the candles hit his body. He then asks, â€œWhy would someone take the shadow when someone could have the man?â€ Thus, Jakes sees Sabbatarians holding on to the shadow and not the reality which is Jesus Christ.
There are a few problems with this argument. First, Jakes assumes that the Sabbath cannot be a symbol of the rest that Jesus gives. Why canâ€™t our keeping of the Sabbath today symbolize our rest in Jesus? Why does he assume that one can only have the shadow (Sabbath) (I do not think that the Sabbath is a shadow, I am just using Jakes’ terminology) or Jesus? Canâ€™t one have both the Sabbath and Jesus?
Why does Jakes argue that the Sabbath goes back to creation and yet it is a Jewish ordinance? It is either a creational ordinance or a Jewish one, but it cannot be both. And finally, why does Jakes seem to assume that the celebration of a 24 hour Sabbath is at odds with the belief that the day also points to rest in Jesus?
Finally, I think that his wedding illustration is helpful. How would Jakesâ€™ wife respond if his wife told him to remember the day of their wedding and he either chose to forget it or said that â€œevery day was his anniversary?â€ The simple fact is, as Jakes stated, the Sabbath is â€œtechnicallyâ€™ Saturday.
Very Helpful exposition of the Sabbath
Jakes then continues his helpful discussion of the Sabbath as a symbol of our rest in Jesus. He argues that we are to fight to enter into the rest of God. We are to rest from our efforts to be saved, rest from our efforts to become children of God. Rest in the fact that we are children of God. The labor is to enter the rest. And then he moves back to the first issue of how we must let go of our baggage that separates us from God and others. Jesus is calling us to enter into the rest. The Sabbath is a symbol of that rest.
I think taking everything into consideration, T. D. Jakes presents a good sermon on the Sabbath. I certainly have issues with his seeking to do away with the Seventh-day Sabbath, but his exposition of the meaning of the Sabbath for modern day Christians can be helpful to all Sabbatarians as we seek to explain the importance of the doctrine. I think that many of us need to do some contemplation of the importance of the principle of Sabbath as Jakes has done here. However, I only wish that Jakes would begin to fully keep the day that God has set aside to contemplate all that Jakes has so eloquently described.