Theology of Work - Lesson 10


This lesson explores Sabbath rest, emphasizing its biblical and theological significance. Rest is portrayed not as inactivity but as a deeper trust in God and satisfaction in His work. It covers various Christian views on Sabbath observance and highlights Jesus' teachings on finding rest through a relationship with Him. Hebrews 4 illustrates the Israelites' failure to trust God, emphasizing faith and obedience in entering God's rest, redefining work and rest in our lives.

Gerry Breshears
Theology of Work
Lesson 10
Watching Now

I. Introduction

A. Importance of Rest in Understanding Work

B. Biblical Foundation of Rest

1. Genesis 1 and 2

2. Fifth Commandment

II. Diverse Views on Sabbath Observance

A. Seventh Day Observance

B. First Day Observance

C. Sabbath as Part of Mosaic Covenant

III. Jesus’ Teachings on Rest

A. Matthew Chapter 11

1. Concept of Rest in Jesus’ Words

2. Misunderstanding of Rest as Inactivity

B. Matthew Chapter 12

1. Jesus and the Grain Fields

2. Healing on the Sabbath

C. Hebrews Chapter 4

1. Historical Context of Rest

2. Different Types of Rest

IV. Theological Insights on Rest

A. Rest in Genesis Chapter 2

1. God’s Rest as Satisfaction

2. Job Well Done

B. Rest in Hebrews Chapter 4

1. Entering God’s Promised Land

2. Satisfaction in Accomplishment

3. Relationship with God

4. Rest from Work

V. Practical Application of Rest

A. Trusting in God

B. Ordering Life According to Divine Priorities

C. Fig Leaf Metaphor

D. Identity in Jesus Christ

E. Effort to Enter Rest

VI. Rhythms of Rest

A. Daily Rhythms

B. Weekly Rhythms

C. Monthly Rhythms

D. Annual Rhythms

E. Lifetime Rhythms

VII. Conclusion

A. Rest as Celebration of God's Centrality

B. Rest as Security in Relationship with God

C. Continuous Learning and Study of Scriptures

  • The theology of work involves every Christian’s vocation as a ministry, focusing on God’s creative energy expressed in service to others to create shalom, with insights into gifts, priesthood, justice, and the universal priesthood concept from the Reformation.
  • Understand God is a relational, self-giving being within the Trinity, inviting humans into a covenant partnership, unlike other religious views that see God as remote or pantheistic, and explore His intimate involvement in creation and loving nature through scripture.
  • Humans, created in God's image, make Him visible through physical embodiment, relational partnerships, and functional work, maintaining dignity and moral responsibility, even post-fall, while progressively transforming into Christ's likeness.
  • Learn how the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, physical, volitional, vocational, familial, and social dimensions of personhood contribute to human flourishing and how integrating these aspects can help address personal issues and enhance work life.
  • Learn that spiritual gifts, both traditional and practical, are divinely assigned and essential for ministry, emphasizing that any ability can become a spiritual gift when empowered by the Holy Spirit and used for God's mission.
  • Calling encompasses more than church ministry. The lesson highlights that every believer has a vocation to reflect God's presence in all aspects of life, using examples from Romans and Corinthians and insights from historical figures like Martin Luther and Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan.
  • Salvation involves immediate transformation through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, requiring conviction, repentance, faith, and baptism, and grants forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, a new community, a mission in God's work, and the hope of eternal life.
  • Learn that work is a divine partnership with God, starting from Genesis, emphasizing relational collaboration to cultivate the earth and create shalom, contrasting with modern views of work as a means to earn money, and highlighting business as a platform for meaningful work aimed at human flourishing.
  • Biblical justice involves active righteousness through selfless acts like giving to the needy and defending the oppressed, challenging traditional views and emphasizing community well-being in alignment with God's character.
  • Explore the concept of Sabbath rest, understanding it as a spiritual practice rooted in trust, satisfaction, and relationship with God, and learn its implications for balancing work and rest in alignment with biblical teachings.

We are created in God's image and God invites us to be co-workers with him. By developing and using the spiritual gifts God has given us, the tasks we perform when we work have eternal significance in themselves. We also have opportunities to interact with our co-workers, promote justice and enjoy times of rest.

So what is God calling you to do? Is his calling only for pastors and “professional ministers” or is it something that applies to all of his people? Dr. Gerry Breshears, professor of systematic theology at Western Seminary, explores key questions such as who God is, what he has created people to be, how being the image of God affects the way we approach work, and what is the role of spiritual gifts in our job. This course will expand your vision of what work is all about, as you come to see yourself as God’s co-worker and representative.

Theology of Work 
Dr. Gerry Breshears 
Lesson Transcript


Well, we've talked a lot about work, and if you've been listening to the series up to here, you heard a lot about that. I'm not going to recount that. But what I want to do is look at one piece that is essential to understanding of work and that what about Sabbath? What about rest? It's there in Genesis chapter one and two picture of God resting in in the Fifth Commandment in the Ten Commandments. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy? Six days. Shall you work? But the seventh day you shall rest from all your work. It's a it's one of the Mosaic Commandments. And what do we do about that? Well, some people would say some 10/7 day folks, and they had been a seven day Baptist said we should keep the Sabbath. Others, Christians, libertarians, would say, well, Saturday, the seventh day the Jewish Sabbath has become Sunday, the first day Sabbath, and we should do that way. Others, including me, would say that the Sabbath observance on the seventh day is something that is a part of the Mosaic Covenant, and that's done. So when I think and Colossians chapter two, where it talks about odd days, it says specifically not to honor one day above another, Colossians chapter two. Oh, and he reminds us that every day is a godly day, so don't let anybody judge you cautions to 17 by what you eat or drink or regard to religious festival, a new moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of things to come. Well, now, if that's true, how in the world do we deal with the fact that one of the Ten Commandments is keep the Sabbath day? Well, couple of things that are helpful to me to understand in the theology of Sabbath is to go back and look at what Jesus had to say.


This is in a number of passages. One of them is in Matthew chapter 11. When he finishes up his discourse there, he talks here at the end of Chapter 11, and he says this pretty amazingly. He says, Come to me all, you are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. There's the concept of the Sabbath. His heart is rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me from gentle hum of heart. And you will find rest for your souls, for my organs, eating my burdens, lights and much love passages. A great picture. The two pieces there is Come to me, which is in connection with Jesus Christ. And B, take my yoke upon you and yoke as a work relationship and learn from me because he is gentle and humble. And as we work together with him, we will find rest for our souls. Now, come to me. Work with me. How does that relate to rest? I thought Rest was doing nothing. And see, that's our misunderstanding of rest. Our terrible misunderstanding of rest is that rest means doing nothing. It means sitting on the couch, kicking back and doing nothing. And that's not the biblical picture. Rest at all. That's a misunderstanding of rest. And he picks us up in chapter 12. Matthew puts these two stories together where he's going through the grain fields and he takes some grain and he harvests it. And the Pharisees have a fit. You are resting. You're not resting on the Sabbath, you're doing work on the Sabbath. And they're places that he heals in the Sabbath. And they have they go apoplectic. Couldn't you wait until tomorrow to do this? And Jesus answers Haven't you read? And he gives examples of people who violate, quote unquote, the law of God.


And he says, I desire mercy, not sacrifice for the son. A man is Lord of the Sabbath, and he claims himself to be author of Sabbath. Now, how in the world do we put those together? Gosh. Okay. Skip over to another passage where this is unpacked. Hebrews Chapter four. Yeah, Bible study. It's important. Hebrews Chapter four. We get another unpacking of this, and it's it's at first blush, it's pretty confusing. But understanding how this relates to the Old Testament context is helpful. The Sabbath rest begins with the story of Kadish Barnea back in chapter three and Kadish. Part of you Remember that story of numbers? The people come from Mount Sinai where they get the Ten Commandments. They immediately head up the south end of the the promised land, Israel and in the south end. And that's Matthew chapter 13 and 14. They spend they send the spies in the land, 12 of them. And the spies go in and they wander around the land and they come back with their report. Man is beautiful Land flowing with milk and honey is magnificent. But ten them say they're big guys, they're in big cities. And if we go up there, we're going to get killed. And the other two, Caleb and Joshua, say the same thing, same facts. But their interpretation is God's going to give us a great victory while they listen to the ten and in numbers, Chapter 14, when they listen to the ten, they accused Moses and Joshua and Caleb on Aaron of leading them to death. They refuse to trust God. They want to head back to Egypt. At least we had an identity. We're bricklayers and we have a way we can live as we're building beautiful cities to be sure we're slaves, all that kind of stuff.


Let's get out of here. And God says, That's it. They have. Can they have blown me off ten times now? Another guy that blew them off ten times, of course, is Pharaoh. Remember what happened to Pharaoh after he blew off God ten times back in Exodus? God killed him. What does God do to the people of Israel? Does he kill them? No. He gets really upset. He says, I'm going to kill him. He's really angry at their refusal to trust him, their refusal to follow him into the land. And Moses and John Moses and God talk this through in covenant partnership. And Moses says to God, forgive the people. And God says, okay, yeah, I'm going to forgive him. What does it mean? I'm not going to kill them. They deserve it, but I'm not going to kill them. Different than Pharaoh, because God has made an unalterable promise to his people. He will not wipe them out. But he says, I swear they will not enter the land. And that generation, that generation irretrievably lost the blessing of entering the land. How come they refused to trust Yahweh? They refuse to trust that God is good, that He has their best interest in mind. And that's the story that's behind what happened in chapter four, Hebrews Chapter four. And he's talking there about rest in three different ways. One way is the historical rest that the people would have had had they gone into the land, they would have had the rest of dwelling in that land. Now, of course, is not rest in the sense of doing nothing because they don't have to conquer the Canaanites, but they do it in partnership with Yahweh and they lose that rest. And Hebrews six, of course, unpacks this further and is talking about the losing a blessing irretrievably, because the people, after they realize what's happened, they quote unquote repent and they head into the land and they get stomped because God had now told him, you don't get to go in.


And they again weren't trusting Yahweh. And that's what Hebrews six is talking about, is after there's a time when we blow after the calling of God that God unalterably irretrievably withdraws by. Thing from us. I don't think that means we go to hell, but we lose. Plus in the bussing line, because the people wanted the land. They wanted the land for 40 years. They had manna and they had quail and they had water and their shoes didn't wear out and had protection from enemies, but they died. The only difference was they died in the desert and not of land. They lost that blessing irretrievably. So the first idea of rest is entering into God's promised land, which they didn't do. There's a second picture of rest here in Hebrews chapter four. Yeah, I've got a point here. Behind all the theology, I'm a theology. Bear with me. I'll get there. I And that second is what God does in Genesis chapter two. Genesis Chapter one. My understanding is He is shaping Eden, the Promised land, Israel for human habitation, for him to dwell with Adam and Eve and their progeny, their descendants, their children are going to dwell in partnership with him in the land Arts, Eden, Israel, the Promised Land. And they're going to do work with God where that means. And when God finishes six days of shaping the land, what He does is he rests. Now, what in the world is like God, tired, like he's been sweating too much. I took almost £800 of yard debris to the dump this past weekend. Who? And it was for Portland, Anyway, it was hot this weekend. Gosh. And I was tired and I sat down on the couch and I just veg for a while and I went to sleep and I slept really well.


Is that what God did? Like he's who you just tired from? No. No, God is not fatigue. God does not sweat. So what does that mean? I think and this is what the commentators agree, what happens is God is not saying I'm tired when he says God is saying it's good, it's very good. I'm satisfied with what's happened. And that satisfaction in accomplishment is a key part of rest. That satisfaction in accomplishment, the satisfaction job well done, satisfaction, purpose, accomplish, mission completed is what the rest of Yahweh is about. So the first rest is entering in the promised Land, trusting God. The second is being like God in job well done, work completed, satisfaction taken. And then the third rest is our rest. And I think those two sides, you're right there. A big piece of rest is trusting you for a big piece of rest. Is that relationship with him that says I'm a child of God? I'm a child of the most high God. I am related to the Trinity through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Is a rest there that comes in proper relationship. But then there's also a rest from work. And this work gets a little more complicated. This third rest that he calls us to, he calls us to enter into that rest, and he calls us very powerfully to enter into that rest. In fact, he used some very strong language about people who will not enter into rest and set this up in a pretty amazing kind of way. And he says, God is there for me. This is verse 11, Matthew Hebrews, Chapter four. Let us therefore make every effort to enter the rest so that no one will fall. By following the example of disobedience.


Hebrews 411 make every effort to enter into rest. Now, that's ironic. We have to work really hard to enter into rest, but see what he's saying there. I think and and most agree is that there is an effort to entering into a relationship with God. We have to trust him as opposed to other things we trust in. And then what is that work that we do? Or we join in partnership with joy and doing righteousness? All the work stuff we've been talking about. What is it that we're doing there? Do that. The rest that if we miss it, we could fall as a people fell in the wilderness? Well, I think the simple thing of using work as our identity to use work as our meaningfulness, to use work as our who will actually what work is, is a fig leaf. What work is is a covering that doesn't give us that rest. Sort of relationship that doesn't give us the rest of satisfaction. In fact, what our rest really is that we enter into the idea that we believe that Jesus has accomplished the work that makes us children of the most high God. And when we try to relate to our own identity, our own work as our means of accomplishment, and for many of us, that's exactly the case, is we are putting on fig leaves and it isn't going to work. It isn't going to work. It isn't going to work. Again, I think the author of Hebrews here has Genesis three open in front of him when he's thinking about this. And what he's saying here is that as God rested, we should rest. And when we don't rest by trusting him, trusting Jesus as our point, our basic point of identity is that we will almost inevitably make some sort of work, our fig leaf, our base of meaningfulness.


And as he goes on here in chapter four, verse 12, again, very well known, but not usually read in context for the Word of God is living and sharper than any living act, a sharper than a two edged sword, penetrating to the dividing of soul and spirit joint in mirror, it judges the thoughts and tenths of the heart. Nothing in all of creation will be hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare. Now what is saying here is the Word of God. And this isn't just the Bible. This is the Word of God. That the Bible of Bible is Word of God. But it's more than Bible is going to penetrate past our fig leaf and go to our core. The uncovered here in 413 is the word naked from Genesis two and three. He's going to take away our fig leaves are going to take away our covering and go right to the heart of thing. Every thought, every intent, everything laid bare. And if there's anything other there at the core of who we are other than that relationship with Jesus Christ, the first picture of a rest, anything that's there other than the finished work of Jesus Christ at the cross in his resurrection, anything there that's at the heart of our identity other than Jesus, it's going to be exposed for a fig leaf if we're doing our work to prove our identity, to prove our worth, it's going to be shown to be a fig leaf. It's going to be laid bare, it's can be uncovered, it can be naked. And so it's really important what we put there at the core of our identity. And the other word there, Hebrews 413, is that it is laid bare and uncovered and laid bare, and that laid bare the picture of this word.


One of the pictures of this word, one of the uses word is when you take a sacrifice. And you take the the lamb at Passover or wherever you do the sacrifice and you take this lamb and you pull his head up, you expose its neck where you're going to slice its neck open to do the the blood sacrifice. And that's the picture. What is the sacrifice? This can be laid bare. Well, if we're in relation with Jesus Christ, there's the sacrifice. The lamb of God who takes was in the world and we say it is finished, it's done, it's complete because we're identifying Jesus. Anything other than that is can be shame. And we have to do the sacrifice ourselves, not a good thing. So that relationship with Jesus Christ is the heart of rest. And again, that goes back to Matthew Chapter 11. Come to me for him, gentle and humble of heart and take my yoke upon me, be joined with him. And there's a tremendous rest that comes of having our identity, our core meaning for our life tied to joining together with Jesus. But it's not a doing nothing. It's a joining in the mission of Jesus. It's ordering my life according to the divine ordering. Now, that's a little strange. What do you mean, ordering my life according to divine ordering, putting my priorities in line with Jesus's priorities or his priorities? Well, first of all, I. Genesis 15 six is to trust God that He is faithful to us, that his way of defining things is the right way. What he says is the best way to do things is in fact, the best way to do things. I just spent some time yesterday with a neat young couple.


They're engaged. They're looking to be married. And when I talk to them, as I do this sort of thing in initial conversation, I ask them what their view of sexuality. I mean, it's a piece of marriage. Of course, the four foundations of marriage are great family. First of all, great mission. Genesis 129, then great Friendship 218 and great passion. Two 2425. So I ask him your view of sexuality, and I see Jesus has a picture that what is sexuality looks like? Sexuality is expression of joining together through physical union, spiritual union, whole person union, but in the context, the committed ness of marriage. And there's no other place for expressing that other than one man. One woman joined together for life in the bond of Jesus Christ. So I'm asking what your picture in the whole world gives us a different picture of what sex is about. Will I order my life according to divine ordering? If so, there's a huge rest. And in that joining together in marriage, there's work to be done, as I reminded them last night. But it's a restful work. We are ordering our life according to the divine ordering and there's a rest there. But it's not a do nothing rest, not a passive rest. It's an active rest joining with Jacqui. And when we order our lives in God's way, there's a time for hard work and there's a time for just celebrating the goodness of God. And that's what the Sabbath is about in the Old Testament. It's really not doing nothing, as our picture often is. It's about reordering my life and making Jesus and the activities of Jesus front and center among all the other activities in my life. So what is rest look like? I think, first of all, it's in that relationship with with God, trusting that He is indeed the God that I can join together with.


It's ordering my life according to his priorities. Genesis 1819 is one of the many places it talks about doing justice, doing righteousness, auditing my life. So to all of my relationships, God, human self land is ordered together for flourishing. The thing we've been talking about in this whole theology of work and joining with him, it means supporting my life in all its different seasons so that the celebration of Yahweh becomes front and center for what I do. So the rhythms of my life think about who's setting the rhythm for my life. Am I setting it? More likely? Is my job setting. It is my culture, setting it. Who's setting the rhythm? My life. If we do rest properly, God is setting the roads of my life. So think of the daily rhythms. Cause the place where we celebrate the working and the calling of Jesus in my life. There should be a time. There should be a time. The biblical pictures morning, noon and night. Do we order our life? So there's times in our day, regularly through our day, where we stop our other activities and celebrate, preferably in community. But it can be self as well. The central city of Jesus. Daily rhythms. Weekly rhythms. The church's celebrated first day as the weekly rhythm to begin my week with the celebration of Yahweh. That's why the church traditionally has met either Saturday night or Sunday morning, the first day in the Jewish calendar. Do you have that time every week where you order your life by coming together in community to celebrate and to be edified and make the celebration of Jesus center? That's rest. It's not a do nothing. It's a celebrate the goodness of your individual and corporately. Are there monthly rhythms? Are there times there where you set aside a monthly rhythm and annual rhythm and those rhythms of life, those seasons of life? And at a bigger level, my whole life, through the different seasons of life, there's infancy, there's childhood, there's adolescence, there's young adulthood, there's married, married with children, married without children.


The elder season, which is where I'm at. There's a time when I put down retirement. I put down from the kind of normal work of life, the income generating side to go into the the retirement season, not inactivity, but change of activity. And that seasons of my life are those times when I take time out to reflect and celebrate the centrality of Jesus my life. See, that's the that's the genesis to picture. When I look at what I've done and say it's good and I look to the next season and think of God's purpose and I order my life according to the Ring of Yahweh. I think that's the heart of rest. I don't think it's do nothing. Sometimes people say, Well, that's the time to to stop everything. I mean, what I grew up with was that you had to do nothing. You couldn't go out to a restaurant, you couldn't cut your grass. Those maybe renewing kinds of things that may be, I don't know. But there should be a time. Daily, Weekly, monthly. Annually. Lifetime where I have a stop and celebrate sensuality of the parkway. A place where I can rest secure in my relationship with God. Celebrate that and make that central to everything I do so that my identity is flowing out of that relationship, that yoking together, coming to me, your heavy laden take my yoke upon you. Join with me in working for my work as a delight, he says. And then we can look with satisfaction and move in the next season of what do we do our work in? Celebrate the unity of the Lord. That's what I think rest is, but getting a lot to learn. Let's do it together and study scriptures. We do that.


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