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Home Special Topics Theology of Work Kan Chan: Finding Rest in Everyday Restlessness: A Biblical Theology of Rest
Kan Chan: Finding Rest in Everyday Restlessness: A Biblical Theology of Rest PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 29 June 2010 21:39

Finding Rest in Everyday Restlessness: A Biblical Theology of Rest

Referee: Prof. Benedict Kowk
Author: Kan Chan

I. INTRODUCTION

Rest is a common occurrence. Its ubiquity is attested through the rhythmic cycles in the nature as well as human experiences – it may manifest in sleep, connote a dormant bud or even a period in this sentence. On the other hand, rest is an elusive concept. While the term may be defined plainly as the state of physical inactivity, repose does not necessarily nourish a tranquil mind. Naturally, rest resonates as the recurring motif in the OT literatures, becomes the promise of the Lord of Sabbath, and plays the prominent role in Hebrews 3-4. What is rest according to the Scriptures? Is rest equivalent to inactivity? How does the theological meaning of rest affect the attitude towards work and rest of the contemporary Christians? Before answering these questions, it is propitious to first surveying the scope and methodology of this investigation.

The foremost goal of this paper is to examine the Scriptural evidences on rest, along with insights from theologians, and develop its Biblical theology. As the concept of rest is primarily tied to the Sabbath in the OT, it is inevitable to probe into this topic as well. However, this study is neither one of the Sabbath theology nor engagement in the related controversies.1 Hence, we will immerge in unveiling the significance of rest, but not the history or formality of the Sabbath or the Lord’s Day observance. With its numerous references spanning the whole Bible, the idea of rest is both extensive and diverse. It is necessary to restrict its discussion concentrically on the key themes, rather than adopting an overall approach. Finally, this paper will endeavor to bridge the gap between theology and ethics – in hope of providing an answer to the last aforesaid question and a sound suggestion to the pressing problem of everyday stress and restlessness.

II. A BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION

  1. The Old Testament Rest Theology

(1) Divine Rest and the Creation Sabbath

In the OT, although the rest motif mainly revolves around the Sabbath institution, i.e. the fourth commandment of the Decalogue, it is first expressed as Yahweh’s “activity.” Genesis 2:2-3 concludes the creation narrative by relating God’s rest on the seventh day and His blessing and sanctifying of that day. Notice that no explicit command had yet issued for man – this creation Sabbath belongs solely to the Creator.2 Additionally, the actual term “Sabbath day” is omitted though the Hebrew verb šābat is used, which means “to cease or desist” as opposed to the general definition of “to refresh oneself after exertion.” 3 This implies that God did not need a day of rest following six working days as if He were exhausted; He simply ceased from His work of creation thus delimited Himself and His creative activity. As a consequence, the seventh day was blessed and hallowed not because it refreshed God, but because through His rest in it creation was completed.4 In fact, this divine rest is the climax and ultimate purpose of creation – the rest of joyous fellowship between God and man.5 As Moltmann further expounds, it is through repose that God allows His finite, temporal creation to co-exist and commune with His infinite, eternal Being; and the seventh day is blessed through the grace of His immanence in creation 6 – the creation Sabbath, therefore, is the day of God’s total presence with His creation.

Another nuance can also be derived from the creation account – man’s participation in the first Sabbath is purely God’s gift of grace. Interestingly, the seventh day is in reality man’s first day, thus he began his life immediately in rest.7 Unlike God, man had not labored in the previous six days, yet rest was bestowed upon him utterly underserved. In other words, God’s work preceded man’s, His endowment of rest preceded His entrustment of work. Hence human history springs from the freedom to rest, i.e. to exist before God and to live with God; it is “the history of the covenant grace,” one “begins with the Gospel and not with the Law.” 8 However, this gift was not a free pass for man to squander time away – for the seventh day, the first sacred “object” in the history of the world,9 was set apart not as man’s property but His own. It is an invitation to join in God’s exultation over His glory and His work. God is the host of His feast,10 man a mere guest; God presents Himself to creation, man simply receives and embraces the benevolent Creator. The creation Sabbath is then the day of grace: In it the Creator comes to His glory, delights in His creation, and celebrates alongside man – as he is given the freedom to rejoice in his existence, encounter the Creator of the world, immerse in His divine presence, and enjoy the communion with his gracious God. Hence emerges the foundation of the rest theology.

(2) The Sabbath, Work, and Rest

The Sabbath is by far the most dominant theme regarding the OT rest theology. When inspecting the Sabbath texts in the Pentateuch, 11 it is apparent that they all share a common thread – the prohibition of work, worded with variations as six days do your work, but on the seventh do not work. Even before the Mosaic Sabbath institution, this specific work-rest pattern was required of the nomadic Israelites.12 Exodus 16 recounts the divine schedule of manna distribution and “initiation” of the Sabbath observance. Here the Sabbath is described as “a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord” (v. 23) and similar phrasings are reiterated later in other OT passages,13 thus raises a critical question concerning the significance of the Sabbath rest: Does a day of bodily rest or cessation of work warrant the consecration of the Sabbath? To this issue the manna story provides one valuable clue – the assertion that the work-rest command is a test of obedience (v. 4). By gathering manna in six days and resting in the seventh, Israel is to know the Lord as her Savior (v. 6), her Provider (v. 8), and her God (v. 12). In other words, by obeying the Sabbath instructions and laying down one’s work, he is essentially admitting his subordination to God’s lordship over his life14 – he is to acknowledge that man lives not by his own strength but by the grace of God, not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deut. 5:3), he is not to trust in his work but to have absolute faith in Him. The underlying meaning of Sabbath rest, then, is not inactivity or mere restoration, but renouncing one’s autonomy and relying exclusively on God’s provisions.15 By God’s grace a day of rest is given to Israel, with gratitude she is to dedicate herself to God, to be wholly present in the presence of God – without this act of setting apart, “a day of rest” in no sense can be called “a holy Sabbath to the Lord.”

Bearing in mind that the Sabbath is about God’s lordship and grace, the significance of physical rest will now come to the light. Duly noted by scholars, the Sabbath commandment in Exodus 20:8-11 is grounded on God’s creation but the one in Deuteronomy 5:12-15 is based on His redemption.16 Specifically, in Exodus Israel is to follow God’s model of rest on the seventh day, whereas in Deuteronomy she is to imitate His example of deliverance to extend rest to others.17 Nonetheless, these two texts are not contradictory, for both are memorials of the gracious God – the former emphasizes on experiencing God’s grace of rest or presence, the latter God’s grace of liberation. Oddly enough, in both passages the same Hebrew word nāhāh (“to rest from exhaustion”) is used to depict both God’s and man’s rest. Again in Exodus 23:12 and 31:17, the word nāpaš (“be refreshed” or “breathe freely”) is employed dually.18 How could the omnipotent God ever get exhausted and need refreshment? Certainly, not God but man gets tired from exertion and needs restoration; thus this commandment is instituted purely for the sake of man as a token of His loving empathy, i.e. God’s condescension to identify with man.19 While the physical wellness of man does indeed concern God and man is granted time for renewal, does rest equate total inactivity? Curiously, besides “to observe or take care” the Sabbath, the Hebrew verb shāmôr can also be rendered as “to celebrate” (Exod. 31:16; NIV).20 Moreover, according to Leviticus 23:3, the Sabbath is called “a day of sacred assembly” and required an extra burnt offering on this day (Num. 28:9-10) – a practice associated with feast. Also later in Isaiah 1:12-13, the Sabbath is portrayed as a day of worship and temple festival. Drawing from all these indications, evidently a day of rest is conferred – not out of legalism but of grace, not for idleness but for worship and celebration. Freely Israel is given grace, and with thanksgiving gracious Israel should be; that is what the Sabbath rest both symbolizes and actualizes – God’s liberation from bondage of slavery and from toil and care, for individuals and for all people.

Since affirming God’s lordship and fulfilling His liberation are two important elements of the Sabbath, naturally they are deemed fundamental to its sister institutions21 – the Sabbath year and the year of Jubilee. One purpose of the Sabbath year is to consecrate the land to have rest, which entails the earth to lie fallow every seventh year and let their untended produce to become provender for all. Also, in this year all willing servants are emancipated, and debts annulled. Likewise, in the year of Jubilee (fiftieth year), land is to have rest, purchased land and properties are restored to their rightful owners, and slaves are released.22 What are the implications of these institutions? Apparently on the humane level both underscore the liberation of man from poverty and oppression; but on a deeper level one deed of faith is demanded23 – relinquishing all claims to the Lord thus professing the sovereignty of God. Yahweh Himself declares that “the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants” (Lev. 25:3). Ultimately, no matter it is land or possessions, work or provisions, self or other human life, they all belong to the Lord – thus it is imperative that man does not exploit incessantly God’s land, people, and their possessions.24 By mercy Israel is liberated from restless servitude and by grace she is chosen to receive His abundant blessings. Therefore, with gratitude God’s people are to pledge complete allegiance and dependence to their Lord, and to be a blessing, to have compassion and grace for others in bondage as well. So from resting in the Lord outflows the proclamation “liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants” – the utmost jubilee for all.

(3) The Sign of Covenant and the Gift of Rest

In the OT, the covenant relationship between God and Israel is in large established by the Decalogue. Within the ten the fourth is the longest and esteemed as superior.25 Contextually indeed the Sabbath is destined as “a sign” of the Mosaic covenant (Exod. 31:13) – a sign of God’s consecration of His chosen people. Not only so, the Sabbath itself is called “a lasting covenant” (Exod. 31:16) and “a sign forever” (Exod. 31:17). As a covenant, two parties must willingly accept the terms specified and carry out the necessitated responsibilities.26 For the Israelites, they observe the Sabbath in practice by abstaining from mundane routine labor. This is enforced with utter austerity even in unfavorable circumstances;27 desecration of the day will result in the sanction of death penalty (Exod. 31:14, 15). However, as previously discussed, the veritable Sabbath rest is not meant for superficial idleness but for refreshment and worship, not celebrating alone but with the entire community. The Sabbath belongs to God; it is set apart thus “holy to the Lord” (Exod. 31:15). It is about renouncing one’s life and avowing God’s dominion over him with absolute trust, dependence, and loyalty; and in gratitude he is to become a blessing to God’s creation. It is in this sense that the Sabbath serves as a sign of the whole covenant.

Unfathomable is the idea that the almighty God offers to enter into fellowship with the lowly man. As a sign of this covenant of grace, God makes the Sabbath holy – “holy to [Israel]” (Exod. 31:14) – definitely not by virtue of man’s rest but solely by His own.28 In Exodus 31:17 it is explicitly expressed that the sign between God and the Israelites is fixed upon His divine rest in creation. Recalling the fact that divine rest signifies His immanence, so the Sabbath is the day filled with His presence – in it the covenant is realized when man encounters the gracious God and rejoices. To keep the Sabbath holy, then, involves the mutual fellowship and communion between God and His people. Conversely, this sign of covenant is not to be taken lightly. By keeping the Sabbath, Israel is in effect affirming God and she will be blessed with peace and prosperity (Jer. 17:24-26; Isa. 58:13-14); on the other hand, she is rejecting God and the consequences are dire (Jer. 17:27). Similarly, by observing the Sabbath year by letting the land rest, Israel is guaranteed her habitation in the land and bountiful harvest for the succeeding six years; otherwise, her labor will be futile and her people expelled from their land (Lev. 26:14-20).29 The meaning of the Sabbath rest is profound – it is indeed the essence of the covenant between God and man, for it “explains all the other commandments, or all the other forms of the one commandment. It is thus to be placed at their head.”30

Interestingly, outside the framework of the Mosaic covenant existed another strand regarding the covenant relationship and also regarding rest. This theme is embedded in the concept of the Promised Land. From “the land of slavery” (Exod. 20:2) the Israelites are brought out “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deut. 5:15). They are given the promise to inherit a land of abundance, and to enjoy God’s gift of rest – particularly, from wandering and enemies (Deut. 25:19; Josh. 21:43-44). Indeed, Canaan is fittingly called “the resting place” (Deut. 12:9).31 Yet this gift of rest is conditional, i.e. covenantal, granted only when Israel is faithful and obedient to her Lord. Even after the nomadic Israelites settled in their new home, Israel had not experienced complete rest until the time of King Solomon, whose name simply means “a man of peace and rest,” (1 Chron. 22:9). During his reign, he was given “rest from all his enemies on every side” and Israel was finally granted the rest of “peace and quiet.” This gift of rest reaches its culmination with the dedication of the temple as depicted in 1 Kings 8: God Himself also rests among His people by filling the holy temple – His “resting place” (2 Chron. 6:41) – with “the glory of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:10-11).32 It is His presence that makes it the surpassing rest – the prefect intimacy between the two covenant parties. Sadly, this rest was flitting. According to the testimonies in the Chronicles,33 when kings and people “seek Yahweh” – in the sense that they are subject to His authority and that they are merciful towards one another – then they were given rest. In this way, the rest that the Israelites had experienced was piteously brief and intermittent. More often than not they were confronted by the loss of rest – the symbol of God’s wrath and judgment – so much so that rest has become the promise that not yet fulfilled and the ultimate hope of all Israelites.34 They are longing to enter His rest “today” (Ps. 95), wherein “his place of rest will be glorious” (Isa. 11:10); it is the rest of eternal šālôm, which can only be bought by the Messiah – Jesus the Lord of the new and everlasting covenant.

  1. The New Testament Rest Theology

(1) Rest in the Lord of the Sabbath

With the arrival of the Messiah, the idea of the Sabbath and rest is finally consummated. According to the Gospel writers, the Sabbath sets the stage where several controversies arise, generally between two parties – Jesus and the disciples, and the Pharisees and scribes.35 The issues involve disciples’ or Jesus’ “working” on the Sabbath – specifically, disciples’ grain picking and Jesus’ healing of various prolonged illnesses.36 Before advancing any further, it is worthy to note that by now the Sabbath had betrayed God’s original purpose of rest and fellowship, and degenerated into sheer legalism and onerous yoke. Its observance is no longer of the Mosaic Sabbath commandment but the rabbinic Sabbath Halakah – a whopping detailed collection of over one thousand legislation dictating every conceivable aspect of life on the Sabbath.37 It is on this grounds that set off the disputations and accusations of Jesus’ breaking the “law.” By examining Jesus’ responses to these controversies, all evidences converge at one crucial truth: Jesus is the Messiah, who fulfills the true meaning of the Sabbath.

The implication of Jesus’ announcement “the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:8) is actually twofold. First, Jesus declares his authority over the Sabbath; not only so, He declares lordship over man.38 In reality His claim is about His person or identity thus it is a legitimate, messianic claim.39 This is confirmed by Luke’s account of the Sabbath incident in Nazareth, where Jesus publicly proclaims to fulfill Isaiah’s promise of the imminent kingdom of God (Luke 4:16-30).40 Also, in John 5:1-18 Jesus’ supremacy is attested with His assertion – “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” – this is in effect a claim to be “Son of God” and equality with God by doing His redemptive work.41 As in the OT, the foundation of the Sabbath lies upon acknowledging God’s lordship; here in the NT, it lies upon affirming the Lord and His sovereignty. Second, since Jesus is both Son of man and God, He is the incarnate God, i.e. Immanuel. Just like man is given the grace of God’s presence in His Sabbath, in the messianic era man is granted the grace of the presence of Immanuel. The Sabbath rest, then, is the rest of encountering and uniting with Jesus the Lord of the Sabbath.

Another declaration made by Jesus – “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27) – connotes that the Sabbath is intended to serve man as a blessing, not for man to serve it by restlessly “watching over”42 all imposed regulations. This meaning is reinforced when Jesus pronounces that the Sabbath is about saving life and “doing good” (Mark 3:4; Matt. 12:12), and in Matt. 12:7 attaches the Sabbath with the saying “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” In fact, Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messianic Sabbath (Isa. 61:1-4), which Jesus proclaims to fulfill, depicts the liberation in End-time events and the Year of Jubilee.43 Indisputably His claim is validated through His healing testimonies wherein “the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Matt. 11:5). Therefore, the Sabbath also serves as a witness to the Good News44 – it is a day for receiving God’s grace and restoration, and to proffer this grace to fellow man by acts of mercy, kindness, and liberation. Ultimately, the meaning of the Sabbath rest manifests in the ceaseless redemptive activities of Jesus Christ – as the Lord of the Sabbath, it is in Him alone and through His salvation alone can people truly find rest.

(2) An Invitation: ‘Come to Me and Rest’

In the Gospels the theology of rest is most explicitly articulated in Jesus’ summons to rest (Matthew 11:28-30). As recalled, rest is an unfulfilled OT promise of Yahweh. By renewing this promise of rest, Jesus is actually standing at God’s place and claiming the realization of His total salvation.45 This invitation is open to “all”;46 however, in the larger context of Jesus’ discourse (v. 25-30), not “the wise and learned” but “the little children” choose thus are chosen to learn of God. Therefore, in order to find rest, one must recognize his “weary and burdened” condition, choose to respond to His invitation by going to Him, and have the willingness to accept His yoke and learn from Him. What is the culprit of causing weariness? Some suggest the “heavy loads” of the Halakah imposed on people’s shoulders by the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23:4);47 others argue it is the general problems and stress in everyday life.48 Considering the universal nature of this invitation, the latter is more probable.

At first glance, taking upon a “yoke” and finding “rest” seems paradoxical, for a yoke is normally associated not with rest but with burden. However, Jesus’ yoke is one of discipleship, i.e. learning to live a righteous life that pleases God.49 What makes His yoke easy which in turns makes His burdens light? There are two main reasons: First, a disciple of Jesus is not learning by following rules legalistically; he is to come to Jesus and learn from Him. In other words, discipleship is based upon the close relationship between Jesus and His disciple; it is easy because God Himself empowers him with wisdom, strength, and guidance. Second, the master who offers the yoke is “gentle and humble in heart.” In Matthew 11 a clear picture of Jesus’ meekness is painted preceding His rest invitation: When Jesus was rejected by the people in many cities wherein He had ministered, it was “at that time” He offered a prayer to God – “I praise you, Father … Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure” (vv. 20-26). How did Jesus keep a restful mindset regardless of His circumstances? It lies upon His total submission to the sovereign will of God; He is God yet He is a humble servant who subjects to Father’s lordship. By learning from Him – to be meek, to ask for God’s will be done (Matt. 6:10) – disciples are blessed with rest and the promise to inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5). Nonetheless, following Jesus is not “easy” but extremely costly and life demanding (Luke 14:26-27).50 The easiness of His yoke is completely dependent on His gracious character, 51 for He is not an arrogant slave driver but the trustworthy and compassionate Lord (Matt. 12:18-21).52 Disciples can rely on Him at ease, because His will for them is always benevolent and His help is always available.

For twice rest is promised to those who come to Him and follow Him, but what is this rest? Obviously it is not physical rest; it is rest “for their souls” (v. 29). The Greek word for “soul” (psychē) can either represent one’s life, or one’s mind and feelings.53 This is the deepest rest and peace one can experience, which streams from a harmonious relation with God and through trusting obedience to the Lord – bought by Jesus’ redemption so it is justly called the “salvation rest.” 54 Nevertheless, since the future tense is employed in the periscope and the common NT words for rest (anapauo: v. 28; anapausis: v. 29) are cognate to katapausis, which consists an eschatological sense,55 a crucial question arises: Is Jesus’ promise of rest for this world or for the future one? Or phrased soteriologically: By coming to Jesus now, is salvation rest already consummated? Due to the complexity of the issue, and the fact that the concept here is closely linked with the Sabbath-rest in Hebrews 3-4, the answer will await in the next section. Here it is suffice to assert: Rest is immediately accessible; it is both for now and for the future.

(3) A Promise of Rest Remains

In order to construct a substantial NT rest theology, a thorough study must be made to Hebrews 3:7-4:11. It is through the understanding of this passage that the rest promised by the Lord of Sabbath will finally make sense. Basically, the periscope is written in the context of warning against apostasy, i.e. the total desertion of the Christian belief, and exhortation to obey God with perseverance and faith.56 There are three essential logical links in its argument: (1) the exodus generation was not able to enter God’s rest because of their unbelief (3:19), (2) there still remains a Sabbath-rest for the people of God (4:9), and (3) the readers must strive to enter that rest (4:11).57 Correspondingly, the following discussion is divided into three thematic subunits.

To establish the framework of his argument, the writer of the epistle relies heavily on Psalm 95:7-11 (Psalm 94 in LXX)58 and the narrative of Numbers 14, wherein recorded the rebellion of the Israelites at Kadesh and consequently the whole generation was denied entry to God’s rest (3:7-11). Note that the word for “rest” is katapausis, which may mean either the state of rest or a resting place59 – here in the context it clearly denotes the latter, i.e. the Promised Land. Then, an analogy between the readers’ generation and the exodus one is drawn (3:12-19): “today” they must hold firmly their confidence in Christ and not harden their hearts in unbelief and rebellion, lest they too like the wilderness generation, turn away from the living God; they must “encourage each other daily as long as it is called Today.” Though there is a fresh “today” everyday, it is still temporal – in forty years “bodies fell in the desert.” It is urgent for readers to take heed this warning and exhortation,60 for they have “today” so long only “till the end” (3:14).

Next, in Heb. 4:1-10, the writer begins by offering a new hope: With the gospel preached to the readers, His rest is again available to those who believe. The promise of entering rest still stands because His rest was not received by the generation who was led by Joshua into the land, for David in Psalm 95 used the word “today” so long after the settlement in Canaan. If God’s rest is no longer the Promised Land, is it some other spatial resting place? Interestingly, in the course of the OT and the intertestamental period, the concept of katapausis has undergone some major developments – the resting place of people has become at the same time the dwelling place of God,61 also it has taken on an eschatological connotation as the heavenly place of rest.62 Apparently the author has adopted these changes as part of his rest theology, for in the epistle the idea of heaven often recurs.63 So, God has appointed a future time for His rest – it still remains, but it is now called “a Sabbath-rest” (sabbatismos) or “Sabbath keeping or celebration”64; whoever enters it will rest from his work just like God rested after completing His work at creation. Hence Hebrews’ writer further expands the meaning of God’s rest – the heavenly resting place is now directly connected to God’s creation rest, i.e. the divine rest on the seventh day of creation. More importantly, this rest has always been ready ever since – it is His purpose for the creation, and was His intention to bestow this rest upon man.65 What is this sabbatismos that is prepared in the Beginning? As previously concluded in the OT discussion, it refers to the total presence of the Creator – the rest of the perfect intimate fellowship between God and man. It connotes the perfection of one’s spirit, “the end of the struggle against the flesh, the world, and the devil,” and seemingly ironic, rest is “work” – the ceaseless worship and praise to the Lamb.66

The promise of Sabbath-rest still remains for His people, but how does it get fulfilled? Since restlessness is the consequence of sin,67 it is only through redemption that man can enter into the heavenly resting place. And as “the great high priest who has gone through the heavens” (4:14), it was through Jesus’ death and resurrection that salvation rest is accomplished.68 In other words, God’s purpose in creation is achieved in redemption; God’s rest is ultimately the redemptive rest – the reality of the shadow of the OT Sabbath rest (Col. 2:16-17).69 Therefore, man must enter it by believing in Christ (3:14; 4:2), and by cessation from reliance on his own works (4:10) that “lead to death” (6:1; 9:14). Moreover, the day for entry into rest is “today.” While the consummation of rest remains future, by faith this rest has become a reality to the believers “today” (4:3; 11:1).70 “Today” is between the period of “already” and “not yet”; 71 so, to ensure that none of his readers would fall short by disobedience, the author of Hebrews issues a final exhortation: “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest” (4:11).

  1. The Biblical Theology of Rest: A Summary

By now it is clear that this investigation has come full circle – from divine rest in creation to the Sabbath rest, through redemption and back to creation rest again. As a gracious God, He has always meant to share His rest with man since the creation Sabbath. When the Creator ceased on the seventh day thus completed His work in creation, He blessed and sanctified the day with His holy presence. It is through His immanence that man had the freedom to encounter his Creator and to enjoy the blissful communion with Him. After the Fall, God immediately set to work again – this time, not the work of creation but the work of redemption.

By grace God had set apart Israel as His people and given them Sabbath as a sign of covenant. Trustingly and faithfully Israelites were to sanctify the day, to obey God in refraining from work every seventh day – an act in effect acknowledging His providence and lordship over their lives. They were to enjoy a day of rest, not for idleness but for refreshment and worship. As Israel was delivered from bondage of slavery, her people must remember God’s grace and sovereignty – not only on the Sabbath but also in the Sabbath year and the year of Jubilee – when they liberate those who were in poverty and oppression, and to be a blessing to land, to properties, and to all people. Not only God’s people were given Sabbath rest, they were given a resting place – an inheritance of land whereupon to build a holy nation in His name. It was God’s grace that they relished peace and quiet from enemies, and it was by the same grace that they experienced His indwelling presence at the holy temple His resting place. However, oftentimes in history Israel fell short of the glory of God – she hardened her heart in unbelief, disobedience, and rebellion against God. In His wrath and judgment, peace and rest Israel enjoyed no more – it had become a hope, a dream, and a promise that never fulfilled.

The promise of rest remains. Though it is also renewed. It has become available by the Good News of Christ – One by His mighty works of deliverance, liberation, and forgiveness proved that He indeed is the Messiah. Through His redemption man is offered the prefect rest. Now man is to confront Immanuel, renounce his works and life, and profess lordship of the Lord of Sabbath. This Lord is full of mercy and grace; He set man free from the bondage of legalism and of sin. He is gentle and humble in heart; by learning from him thus submitting to the sovereign will of God, His yoke is always easy and His burden light. When one comes to Him in faith and follows Him, he can immediately find rest for his soul. This rest is not the literal physical rest of the OT Sabbath, for Jesus’ work accomplishes the intent of the Sabbath and the Sabbath rest. It supersedes the sign of the covenant; in fact, under this rest all OT rests are merely types and shadows, obscured until hearing His voice “today.” Not only so, this rest is the fulfillment of the divine rest thus the sole purpose of creation, prepared for man since the beginning of time. It is the salvation rest – the heavenly reality already fulfilled and not yet completed – the rest of the ultimate intimacy between the Creator and the created man.

To summarize, then: Rest is God’s gift of grace. To rest in Him means to trust and depend wholly on God the almighty Creator, the generous Provider, the merciful Redeemer, and the sovereign Lord. Man is to rest from his own works, renounce his autonomy, and surrender his life. Through the grace of salvation he anticipates and secures the rest that is yet to be – the overflowing of peace and joy for his deepest soul. In gratitude everyday is set apart to live righteously to please the Lord. With good will and compassion he joins in the fellowship with other disciples; they are to encourage each other daily, and together in faith and devotion they are to worship, to embrace, to praise – the Son of God and Son of Man, the Prince of Peace and Lord of Lords, the one and only Jehovah-Shalom – “today.”

III. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF WORK AND REST TO NOWADAYS CHRISTIANS

This study will now attempt to apply the theology of rest to the Christians of the 21st century. In the U.S. alone, this is a time when “work hard and play hard” becomes the motto of the majority. Even within the Christian community, believers are not immune from the mad rush. How do Christians find rest in their busy work? How do they maintain a restful mindset in work even in trying circumstances? These practical questions emerge and demand our attention, but before solving the how, we must first find the answers to the more fundamental why and what: Why do contemporary Christians need rest from work? What constitutes the key to rest?

  1. RSVP: The Prerequisite for Rest

Today many are called workaholic because of their succumbing to work addiction. It is fatal when such Christians only find fulfillment in work – as profession or “ministry.” It is still dangerous when one only values productivity and effectiveness – they fill up their schedule with work, play, and church “activities” to satisfy their needs and “worth their while.” Yet it is a pity for those who labor assiduously to earn their livings and barely make ends meet. Especially in this economic recession, they cannot afford to lose their jobs or dare to relax their weary minds, not even in “leisure” time. Many are “good” Christians who sincerely care – about relationships and family, about duties of work and of community, about serving God and others – so, they are forever stretching their limits and spreading themselves thin. Can contemporary believers ever find rest in busyness? Or the more pressing question: In this postmodern era of quick-pace and efficiency, why do Christians still need rest from work?

Obviously no one can survive without bodily rest. This innate need is simply part of the Creator’s design. Although today the Sabbath commandment is no longer binding, the physical wellness of man does concern God. It is not His will for one to unlimitedly exploit his strength and body – the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). Also, without regular interruption from work, man could easily fall into self-reliance thus self-glorification, and deny or doubt God’s providence or even existence. As a consequence, work (and its effects) could potentially become one’s self-affirmation measure,72 the idol he worships, and eventually his enslaving master. In short, without resting from work one is in risk of giving the Devil a foothold. More importantly, believers need to spend quality time with God in communion and adoration, in thanksgiving and in praise; in fact, this is the sole purpose of the creation and redemption of man. Without proper worship and devotion, can one truly revere and love God? Without ever stopping to meet Him, dwell in His presence, hear and meditate His Words, and follow His will, can one know God and still call Him “Lord”? These are basically core questions of the Christian faith, and ones that must be reflected upon solemnly. When one has no time for rest, he has no room for God – he jeopardizes not only his health but also his faith.

One of the prevalent problems for nowadays Christians, then, is not that they do not know God’s abundant promises of rest but their reluctance to experience rest – they are too busy in multitasking and pursuing their goals; too preoccupied to aware that they are straining their spirit, if not also their body and their mind; too rush to stop and hear His still small voice. Even worship attendance and Bible study are reduced to mere items on their to-do list – their hearts are impure, they cannot see God (Matt. 5:8). So, can the oblivious workaholic, the self-centered consumer, and the struggling worrier find rest? They can, but only if they desire God and rest 73 – not mere idleness or empty play, but the rest in God and before God. Indeed, His salvation rest is free but covenantal – one must acknowledge his absolute need for God, willing to cease from his own works and ways, and wholeheartedly respond “Yes” to Jesus’ invitation: Come and rest.

  1. Avowing His Lordship: The Ultimate Key to Rest

Genuine rest flows from the intimate presence of God, therefore, man rests when he is at peace with Him. As our rest theology concludes, ultimately the key to rest is tied to Jesus – to find rest is to enunciate His lordship over one’s life. One must realize and admit that he is indeed weary and burdened, humbly come to Jesus, and call on Him: It must be a heart cry to surrender his all – time, work, achievements, recreation, interests, talents, cares, and basically his autonomy – to the sovereign Lord. By His grace man is redeemed, so by faith and trust in Him he must respond – to Jesus’ invitation to rest and also to discipleship; one must willingly take upon Jesus’ yoke and burden thus to learn to live a life that is pleasing to God. How? He must not merely know about Jesus but to learn from Him; not neglect the Lord but spend time with Him; not turn a deaf ear but listen to Him. To rest in Jesus or to follow Him, then, is to stay close with this living and personal Lord, and to remain open to His sovereign will. One must consecrate himself and time daily to encounter Him – to hear His Word and to answer by calling upon His name – “It is in this hearing and answering that the real rest of man from his labor consists.”74 Man is created to rest prior to work; without resting in Christ the Lord thus confirming His Lordship, one cannot find true rest in work or in any aspect of his life.

To learn from Jesus is to grow in the likeness of Christ; to find rest is to learn to be gentle and humble in heart like Him (Matt. 11:29): Jesus is God yet He made Himself a lowly servant and obedient to Father to the point of death (Phil. 2:5-11); though He faced rejection in carrying out God’s plan, He still praised Father for His sovereign will (Matt. 11:25-26). How, then, do Christians find rest in their busy work? Jesus has once declared that His food, i.e. His life, is to do the will of God (John 4:34); hence disciples too must rest by meekly pursuing and submitting to God’s will in their work. It is crucial that man humbles himself, seeks God’s direction in life, and follows His will by walking close with the Lord. All three of these elements are equally vital, fail to do any one will result in fruitless work and restless soul: Without a humble heart, all seeking would be futile because God plainly would not reveal His will. Without seeking God’s direction, one would subject to purposeless, unrestrained desires, and “imaginary impulses.”75 Even with good intentions, diligence, and “love” for God, he could not distinguish meaningful tasks from the meaningless.76 He would “run like a man running aimlessly” and “fight like a man beating the air” (1 Cor. 9:26) – surly he would busily work or “serve God,” but all his time and efforts would be spent in vain. If one seeks and obeys God’s will but in busyness breaks apart from Him, still “he can do nothing” (John 15:5). When one neglects to replenish with His presence and His Word, he would soon run out of strength and burnout would ensue. In fact, he would no longer be a humble servant of the Lord – because in his forgetfulness of God, he would be doing his own work and bringing glory to himself. Evidently, one can rest in work only when he continuously submits to the Lord – to humbly seek and follow God’s will each and every day.

To rest in work, however, does not mean being careless, indolent, or irresponsible.77 It simply implies that by seeking first the will of God and by relying on God alone, it is essentially His work that he is doing and it is for His glory that he is living. Since God is his sovereign Lord, he may be busy working, but work will never enslave him. Undoubtedly work can be overpowering, but he will not doubt the help of the omnipotent God. Instead he will relax in his work, knowing well that he is faithfully using God’s given talent to accomplish the tasks that He assigns. He does not strife for success to prove his worth, but to perform his best to testify his faith. Certainly in this way work is his vocation and service, for he only aims to please the Lord. Hence he is set free – to rejoice over work, to enjoy the effects of work, and to rest in his work.

  1. Trusting in His Providence: The Constant Source of Rest

In today’s economic crisis, unemployment and financial hardships become believers’ constant threat. How do Christians maintain a restful mindset in their already demanding work at these stressful times? Recalled from our rest theology that resting is actually an act of faith, Christians can uphold their peace only if they constantly and completely trust in God and His providence. Trusting in God means submitting to His sovereign Lordship, therefore, instead of fretting – by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving – Christians are to present their requests to God (Phil. 4:6) and rest assured that He is in absolute control. However, this is not merely blind faith or a naïve or optimistic attitude, for believers must first know Him and continue to know Him – “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Of course it does not mean that one can obtain rest by mere knowledge of God; rather, it means resting in the closeness of God and the confidence of His divine characters and abundant promises – especially of His omnipotence and grace, His unfailing care and providence.78

The creation account tells that the existence and subsistence of the whole creation depend on His mighty power; it is under His constant rule and care – the God who takes care of “the birds of the air” and “the grass of the field” (Matt. 6:25-34) is also the Shepherd who watches over man’s needs (Psalm 23). In addition, Deut. 8 manifests that God is the faithful, generous Provider – for forty years in the wilderness and barrens, the Israelites did not lack manna for food, wear out their clothes, or even swell their feet (vv. 3-4). Ultimately God’s manna provision establishes an important truth about work – it is not man’s own work to earn his manna (i.e. living) but man’s reception of God’s grace to live by gathering (i.e. working). Therefore, both resting and working are in effect two sides of the same coin – receiving God’s grace of providence. In verses 17-18, Israelites were warned not to rely on one’s own power and strength in work, “but remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” Today, by praying the Lord’s Prayer, a Christian is putting his trust in his Heavenly Father alone – not himself or his work – as the true source of “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). Only then can he be at rest and stays restful even when his work or livelihood is being threatened.

Anxiety belongs to the ones “of little faith”; to worry is to doubt God of His power and or His benevolence – it is equivalent of saying God cannot or does not care enough to provide for His children. That is why in Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus repeatedly exhorts believers not to worry about their needs – it is useless, it cannot “add a single hour to his life” (v. 27). Besides, God knows their needs – one is to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all his needs will be provided (v. 33). In other words, His Words and His will – not “bread” or income or job security – is what Christians should focus on and what their life is about. Surly it is not easy to face everyday stress and uncertainties, but Jesus’ invitation of rest is always open to His disciples – anytime one can come, call on the Lord, and lay down his weary yoke and heavy burden. He has sympathy for believers’ struggles and understands that “each day has enough trouble of its own” (v. 34). But His salvation rest is divine and overcomes all human restlessness. By humbly submitting to His sovereign will and relying on Him, one can find rest for his soul – his yoke will get easy and his burden light; and he will have the assurance that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard his heart and his mind in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7).

God is man’s constant source of rest, by trusting in Him, His will, and His providence, Christians will always find rest, peace, and joy in all kinds of circumstances – not only so, each will live his life to the fullest and most pleasing to God, and become a living testimony and manifestation of the glory of the Lord.

IV. CONCLUSION

Due to the limitation of this paper, some topics of the rest theology are omitted from the discussion. For example: Of all the Sabbath and the Lord’s Day related controversies,79 “worship” and “fellowship” are two important concepts of the Sabbath that deserved more in-depth examinations.80 Additionally, besides “work and rest,” the true meaning of “recreation” can also be explored. The topics on “heavenly rest” 81 and “rest and ecology” 82 are ones that spark interests as well. If further studies and discussions can be devoted to these subjects, it will be beneficial to the contemporary Christians and their church communities.

Now to conclude: Essentially rest is both a divine gift and a covenant of grace. In order to obtain it, one must first desire it; but it cannot be possessed, only granted when he renounces himself, acknowledges God’s lordship, dwells in His presence, and obeys His Words. This rest is not total inactivity but the harmonious intimacy between God and man. As one rests from his work and come to the Lord, he will find rest for his soul; and when he humbly seeks and submits to God’s sovereign will, he will find meaning and rest in his work. Work and stress cannot overcome him, but he will work faithfully just to please the Lord. Even in trying times – as long as he keeps trusting God, relying on His providence, and doing right – he will continue to have peace in his deepest soul. He will remain steadfast in his faith, and become a witness to God’s salvation rest and ultimately His salvation grace. With perseverance and with faith, it is his only hope that one day – when he rests from all the works of this world, he will everlastingly “work” thus worship the Lord in His resting place – he will meet his Creator face in face and hear the words: Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness! 83

Bibliography

Andreasen, Niels-Erik, Rest and Redemption (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1978).

Bacchiocchi, Samuele, Divine Rest for Human Restlessness: A Theological Study of the Good News of the Sabbath for Today (Berrien Springs: Biblical Perspectives, 1988).

Barth, Karl, Church Dogmatics, Vol. III, 4 (ed. G. W. Bromiley & T. F. Torrance; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1961).

Bromiley, G. W., Theogical Dictionary of the NT – Abridged (ed. G. Kittel and G. Friedrich; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985).

Bruce, F. F., The Epistle to the Hebrews (Rev. ed.; NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990).

Carson, D. A. (ed.), From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Investigation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982).

Craigie, Peter C., The Book of Deuteronomy (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976).

Ellingworth, Paul, Commentary on Hebrews (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993).

Elwell, Walter A. (ed.), Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996).

Erickson, Millard J., Introducing Christian Doctrine (ed. L. Arnold Hustad; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992).

France, R. T., The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007).

Hagner, Donald A., Matthew 1-13 (WBC, 33A; Waco: Word Books, 1993).

Hamilton, Victor P., The Book of Genesis (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990).

Heschel, Abraham Joshua, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979).

Jewett, Paul K., The Lord’s Day: A Theological Guide to the Christian Day of Worship (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971).

Lannsma, Jon, ‘I Will Give You Rest’: The Rest Motif in the NT with Special Reference to Mt 11 and Heb 3-4 (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997).

Moltmann, Jurgen, God in Creation (trans. Magaret Kohl, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985).

Rosner, Brain S. & Alexander, T. Desmond (ed.), New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000).

Tate, M. E., Psalms 51-100 (WBC, 20; Waco: Word Books, 1990).

陸蘇河。《解經有路: 從釋經學到生活應用》。(East Brunswick: 更新傳道會, 2007)

1 Major controversies include: (1) the historical origin of the Sabbath institution, (2) whether or not the Sabbath is a creation ordinance or perpetual covenant, and (3) the validity of the transference of the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day. This paper remains noncommittal on issue (1); for discussion see D. A. Carson (ed.), From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Investigation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982). For issues (2) & (3), this paper concedes with Carson and holds the opposing position. For different view and argument, see Samuele Bacchiocchi, Divine Rest for Human Restlessness: A Theological Study of the Good News of the Sabbath for Today (Berrien Springs: Biblical Perspectives, 1988).

2 In this section of discussion, the terms “creation Sabbath” and “the seventh day” are used interchangeably.

3 Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 142.

4 Most theologians agree; e.g. Andreasen, Rest and Redemption (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1978), 72; Jurgen Moltmann, God in Creation (trans. Magaret Kohl, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 278; Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, Vol. III, 4 (ed. G. W. Bromiley & T. F. Torrance; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1961), 51.

5 Paul K. Jewett, The Lord’s Day: A Theological Guide to the Christian Day of Worship (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 157.

6 See Moltmann, op. cit., 276-281.

7 See Moltmann, op. cit., 295.

8 See Barth, op. cit., 52.

9 Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979), 9.

10 Moltmann calls it the “Feast of Creation,” op. cit., 5.

11 E.g. Exod. 16:4-5, 22-30; 20:8-11; 23:12; 31:12-17; 34:21; 35:2; Lev. 19:3, 30; 23:3; Deut. 5:12-15 – here and henceforth, all references of text are from NIV unless specified otherwise.

12 Most scholars (e.g. Carson) agree that the manna narrative is a later interpolation (literarily it contains both Deuteronomic and Priestly traditions); hence it cannot be treated as a reliable historical Sabbath testimony. Nevertheless, it does not hinder our theological study, for the meaning of the Sabbath rest remains intact.

13 E.g. Exod. 20:10; Deut. 5:14

14 See Andreasen, op. cit., 62.

15 Ibid. 40-41.

16 For example, see Jewett, op. cit., 18.

17 E.g. Deut. 5:14 listed offspring, servants, ox, donkey, animals, and aliens; Exod. 23:12 also included slaves.

18 See Andreasen, op. cit., 74-76.

19 Ibid.

20 See Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 156.

21 “Sabbath year”: Exod. 23:1-6; 23:10-11; Deut. 5:1-11; 15:12-18; Lev. 25:2-7; “year of Jubilee”: Deut. 5:8-55.

22 In this section the descriptions of these institutions are generalized, detailed exempt conditions are omitted.

23 See Jewett, op. cit., 25.

24 See Andreasen, op. cit., 42.

25 See Barth, op. cit., 53.

26 See Andreasen, op. cit., 82-83.

27 “Even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.” (Exod. 34:21)

28 See Andreasen, op. cit., 85.

29 See Andreasen, op. cit., 85.

30 See Barth, op. cit., 53.

31 W.A. Elwell (ed.), Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 625.

32 Rosner & Alexander (ed.), New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 730.

33 E.g. 1 Chron. 22:9; 2 Chron. 15:15; 20:30

34 See Rosner & Alexander, op. cit., 730.

35 Sometimes more people are included. For details, see Andreasen, op. cit., 95.

36 References: “picking grain” (Matt. 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5); “healing” (Matt. 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11; 13:10-17; 14:1-6; John 5:1-18; 9:14-16).

37 See Carson, op. cit., 359.

38 “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:28)

39 See Carson, op. cit., 362.

40 See Moltmann, op. cit., 291.

41 See Carson, op. cit., 363.

42 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: “observe” originated from Latin “ob” (over) + “servare” (to watch).

43 See Carson, op. cit., 362-363; also see Jewett, op. cit., 42.

44 See Andreasen, op. cit., 103.

45 See Rosner & Alexander, op. cit., 731.

46 Some commentators, e.g. Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1-13 (WBC, 33A; Waco: Word Books, 1993), 323, argue that this is an invitation to follow Jesus thus it is for non-believers. However, since discipleship is a lifelong process – disciple must “take up his cross daily” (Luke 9:23) – believers may still be weary and burdened when they neglect to learn from Him. In this broader sense, all people are invited to find rest in Him. For non-believers, it is an invitation to become Jesus’ followers; for believers, it is an invitation to renew their commitment to Him.

47 Ibid.

48 R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 448.

49 See France, op. cit., 449.

50 “If anyone … does not hate his father … his own life … carry his cross … cannot be my disciple.”

51 See France, op. cit., 450.

52 “He will not quarrel or cry out,” “a bruised reed he will not break,” “a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”

53 Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Theogical Dictionary of the NT – Abridged (ed. G. Kittel and G. Friedrich; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 1494-1495.

54 Most scholars agree. E.g. see Elwell, op. cit., 627; Hagner, op. cit., 324; France, op. cit., 449.

55 See Carson, op. cit., 202.

56 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Rev. ed.; NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 99.

57 Paul Ellingworth, Commentary on Hebrews (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 215.

58 For textual variations, see M. E. Tate, Psalms 51-100 (WBC, 20; Waco: Word Books, 1990), 496-498.

59 katapauo & katapausis are used many times in passage (3:11, 18; 4:1, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11). See Elwell, op. cit., 629.

60 See Bruce, op. cit., 99.

61 E.g. Deut. 12:9, 11; 1 Chron. 23:25; 2 Chron. 6:41

62 See Carson, op. cit., 208-209.

63 Ibid. 209. For example: “the heavenly sanctuary” (6:19-20; 8:2; 9:11, 23-24; 10:19); “the heavenly Jerusalem” (11:10, 16; 12:22; 13:14); and “the heavenly promised land” (11:14-16).

64 Jon Lannsma, ‘I Will Give You Rest’: The Rest Motif in the NT with Special Reference to Mt 11 and Heb 3-4 (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 295.

65 See Carson, op. cit., 209.

66 See Millard J. Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine (ed. L. Arnold Hustad; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992), 397-398.

67 Ibid. 193.

68 See Bruce, op. cit., 109.

69 See 陸蘇河。《解經有路: 從釋經學到生活應用》。(East Brunswick: 更新傳道會, 2007), 178-179.

70 Many concede, e.g. Carson, op. cit., 202; France, op. cit., 450; Elwell, op. cit., 625.

71 See Carson, op. cit., 215.

72 See Barth, op. cit., 550-552.

73 Ibid. 563.

74 See Barth, op. cit., 563.

75 See Barth, op. cit., 553.

76 Ibid.

77 Ibid.

78 This does not mean that under God’s care one would never lose his job or possessions, or suffer from lack of needs. The topic of suffering is not within the scope of our discussion. It is suffice to state that God is sovereign and His will is always best. The focus here is Christians’ attitude towards God and His providence.

79 See footnote # 1.

80 For detailed discussion, see Barth, op. cit., 47-72; also Jewett, op. cit., 165-169.

81 Carson, op. cit., 214-217, and also Andreasen, op. cit., 103, offer some helpful information.

82 See Moltmann, op. cit., 276-296, for possible insights.

83 Matthew 25:23

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