Andreas Bodenstein: 1486-1541

Translated and edited by E. J. Furcha - 1995


Speaker Audio Carlstadt & The Sabbath - August 16, 2003
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1. The Meaning of the Term Sabbath

Sabbath is a Hebrew or Jewish word which means the cessation of labor, or to rest and be idle. Therefore, the Sabbath or holy day derives its name and comes from rest and idleness and simply means a day of rest during which all creatures are to rest. Note that God created and worked for six days, but rested on the seventh. In like manner, we are to work for six days and rest and be idle on the seventh [Gen 1-2:2]. It follows from this that we are not to celebrate created spirits such as angels and saints. For the feast day is a day of rest of God our glory. The Lord alone, and no angel or saint, is our Lord and God.

2. Why God Commanded the Sabbath

God laid out before us all commandments and prohibitions to make us aware of our inner image and likeness, and to understand how God created us in his image to become as God is, i.e., holy, tranquil, good, just, wise, strong, truthful, kind, merciful, etc. All commandments of God demand of us to be godlike; in fact, they have been given us so that we might be conformed to God. As it is written, "You are to become and be holy, for I, your God and Lord, am holy," says God, "keep my commandments and do them," [Lev 20:26]. From this we are to learn that God has given us his commandments and counsels that we might become holy and conformed to God, which is to be like God and as he is. Thus the Sabbath has been instituted by God that we might desire to become holy as God is holy and rest like him, letting go of our works as [23] he did and yet perform God's work in a passive manner for eternity, so that God may do our work [wircklichkeyt] without ceasing.

This is a spiritual reason for the Sabbath which was commanded to honor God and to benefit us. For God is honored when his children become like him who is our Father. We should regard this foundation alone and not our own benefit. Just as God is concerned about our benefit and holiness, so we, too, are to be concerned about and seek God's glory, honor, and the benefit of the neighbor, not of ourselves.

When we have eyes only for our benefit, we defile ourselves and make ourselves unholy, neglecting the reason for the Sabbath. Isaiah understood and declared all this when he said [Isa l:13f.], "I cannot suffer or tolerate your Sabbaths and holy days. Your deeds are impure and wicked. Remove from before your eyes your evil thoughts and cease to do evil." According to this, the finding of our soul must cease and our eyes must directly behold and focus on God and not on what is ours.

When the soul does not become aware of its clarity and inwardness and does not surrender darkness, impurity, wickedness, and unholiness, it is far from and alienated from the reason for the instituted Sabbath. God then hates its Sabbaths and rejects its holy days [Amos 6:4f.]. For in all commandments, the reason and spirit must be sought and nothing else; that means God alone, who commands and whose will is to be sought and known in the commandment, is to be taken seriously. Whoever loves something else fails the commandment and deceives the self.

Above-mentioned reason is eternal and unchanging. No person must change it, and no creature can alter the honor of God and slander God without harm. This reason is spiritual, invisible, and eternal. Thus understood, no person is lord of the Sabbath, but a servant of God or a servant of this Sabbath. Therefore, we may not, without notable diminishment, stray even by a hair's breadth from the reason for the Sabbath.

Faith and the love of God focus on this reason. And just as little as we are able to shorten faith or ignore God's love without bringing about our perdition, so little can we ignore God's Sabbath without condemnation. [24]

A Second Reason for the Institution of the Sabbath

There is yet another reason why God has commanded the Sabbath, namely, love of the neighbor which the masters of the house are to have for their servants and laborers. It flows from the love of God which is to be understood as follows: God loves his people and is gracious and benevolent toward them. He knows full well what benefits and helps his own and serves to strengthen them and make them whole. He also knows what robs their strength and weakens them and that no work can last very long and endure without rest. Therefore, God ordered the seventh day to be celebrated for the well-being of humankind. Employers of laborers and owners of beasts of burden are to leave the seventh day free for their rest and leisure, that they may renew their strength and be refreshed.

This is a physical reason for the Sabbath over which human beings are masters, as much as in them lies, as I shall note subsequently. And this reason must conform to the spirit, i.e., it is to be turned into spiritual rest and must be subject to and serve the first reason, [mar: Note this, for I know it to be true] We must also remember that too much work, done too fast, tires the mind and causes it to be slow and slothful and rather reluctant to stretch and to desire the work of God, so as to suffer and taste it while at rest. I know, of course, that rest and leisure are just as useless as having to put up with unrest and work, when we fail to comprehend what purpose putting up with unrest and work may have.

In this reason for the Sabbath, changes occur in that a person may effect some change in line with God's counsel, as we shall show. But that which external things signify must remain unchanged. External forms are merely signs between God and humankind. They indicate that God alone, not our works, sanctifies humankind. And whatever is thus indicated through externals is true for angels and human beings alike.

3. For Whom the Sabbath Has Been Commanded

The Sabbath has been imposed upon the whole people of God, which means all the citizens of the divine city, both human and angelic [25] spirits alike. Since it is true, as Paul says, that we are able to judge the angels through divine words, proclaimed through Moses, the prophets, Christ, and the apostles, therefore the angels must bend their knees before God's word and confess that they, like we, are subject to the divine word. They have to concede further that it has been said to them no less than to us human beings, "You shall celebrate Sabbath, you shall not commit adultery. You shall not desire another's goods. You shall not kill"1—all of which the fall of Satan points to. I stress therefore that the intended meaning and spirit of the Sabbath must be observed by angels and human beings alike, as I shall show, despite the fact that angels are above the law and the commandments.

Therefore, the commandment "You shall celebrate Sabbath" applies to angels and human beings. You may see this from the fact that angels are freer from external work and unrest than we are and that God sanctifies and blesses the Sabbath when he ceases his work of the first Creation. In short, just as God will judge all creatures through one word and one law, so all commandments of the short law2 apply to all members of the people of God. All who desire to be saved have been given and commanded the Sabbath. To them the word of Paul also applies, when he says [Gal 2:16f.], "You are no longer under the law, but under grace," for the law soon turns into an external testimony and does not remain a commandment.

4. How the Sabbath Is to Be Celebrated

What we must do or leave undone on the Sabbath and how we must act toward God and our brothers can be said firmly, for Scripture is clear. But it is more difficult to experience and test than it is to understand, because it exceeds any natural powers. In our relationship with God we must have rest and peace and pray and wait for all holiness from God. That the Sabbath is a day of rest is given by his word and voice, as was stated above. Moses likewise calls it "a Sabbath of rest to the Lord" [Ex 35:2; Deut 5:12; 16:8; 23]. This rest consists of knowing that one cannot attain to any holiness save through Christ and that one ought to be holy as God is holy—[26] which we are incapable of. Therefore, we are without peace, restless and full of labor and toil and cannot have peace, rest, or leisure until we yield to God irrevocably. When we know truly that God sanctifies through Christ alone, without any work or merit, and when we know and understand that God sanctifies without cost, we are at peace with God and enter into the rest of God.

Accordingly, the form of the Sabbath and everything about how we ought to "sabbatize" God and be at leisure is contained in the reason for the Sabbath. It indicates that creaturely spirits rest in God aright and laudably when they understand and know, through a highly valued, intense, and strong grace and knowledge, that God sanctified them through Christ. Those who know this with a creative wisdom know the manner, customs, and traditions of the Sabbath which has been commanded. They do what ought to be done, are still, and wait for how and when God deigns to sanctify them in conformity to himself, for all that is external is merely a figure and sign of the internal holiness, as Ezekiel prophesies [Ezek 20].

It should also be noted that the Sabbath prepares us for the first commandment as spiritual circumcision prepares us for all works.

Leisure has or is rest and removes the rough skin and the block­age from the heart when we understand that. Hence, leisure is the knife of circumcision.

The most direct way of celebrating the Sabbath is to understand in a loving manner the abundant glory of Christ, the firstborn of all creatures, [Col 1:15]. Anyone who enters through another door, or even more directly, in observing the Sabbath, is a thief and murderer. Christ is the perfection of the Sabbath. Angels and souls must learn from him how to celebrate and they must sabbatize through and after him.

[mar: Gelassenheyt] To celebrate the Sabbath of God blamelessly we must not have our own will, but must let go of our will, and accept and do God's will. That's the right and proper way to celebrate and to sabbatize, as has often been stated. If we desire to celebrate a delightful and God-pleasing Sabbath day [27], we must abandon our delight, will, desires, ways, and our own soul and mind and everything that delights us. Instead, we must take on the delight, will, desire, ways, and thoughts of God. Only then do we celebrate well. In other words, we must unite ourselves with Christ who is the perfection of the Sabbath, as God says through Isaiah [Isa 58:13], "If you turn your foot from the Sabbath on which you pursue your own desires or will on the holy day, and if you call or accept a happy Sabbath on which to praise a gracious God by not doing your will or desire and by not finding your way or speaking your word, you will then delight in God and be carried or led through to every height on earth."

Similarly, if you keep my Sabbaths and choose what I will, you celebrate aright; as if God were to say that if you choose what pleases me and not you, you keep my Sabbaths. Thus, the Sabbath must break self-will.

The holy day means an illumined and bright spirit which is enlightened by the light that illumines all people Jn 1:9; Isa 58:8]. Such a spirit is lifted above all the highest hills of the earth and does not delight in created things. Its delight is solely in God and goes where the reflection of the lofty sun leads it, for conversion enters in God through light, as Christ says, "Where I am, there my disciple is also" Jn 12:45ff]. The delight and light are not at all absorbed by what delights the self. Rather, it is a firm and earnest desire in God who abhors anything that is not God or that leads away from God.

This is what had to be said about how and why the Sabbath day was commanded, and of the appropriate and most diverse [uberbuntigen] meaning of the Sabbath which celebrates God.                                 

...For it is [28] written, "This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice in it" [Ps 118:24]. God must always be praised in spirit only Jn 3:6] .

I must now consider briefly how the Sabbath is to be celebrated in relation to the neighbor and our brothers, whom we must grant their leisure. Hence, on every Sabbath day we must allow our menservants and maidservants, horses, oxen, donkeys, and all other beasts of labor who worked through the week to be idle and to celebrate. This is the other reason for the Sabbath, namely, for your laborers and beasts of labor to refresh themselves and to cool the heat of their labor and to refresh their bones and restore their strength. This has been clearly stated by Moses. Six days you shall work and on the seventh day you shall cease to work, so that your ox and donkey might rest and the son of your maidservant and the foreigner might relax [Ex 23:12].

What God says for the benefit of oxen and donkeys, Moses applies to all other animals who help us complete our work, be they buffaloes, elephants, etc. Moses says that God demanded that all working animals are not to work on the Sabbath. Why? The reason is that they might rest. When Moses speaks of the son of a maidservant, he means all workers. Your children, too, should be idle and refrain from all work on the Sabbath, says God. Why? To be refreshed and to relax by resting [Deut 5:12].

Male and female cooks must have this freedom, too. On the seventh day, they are not obligated to kindle your fire. The same is true for stokers and others. For God says, "You shall not kindle a fire on the Sabbath," which has been said for the benefit of laborers [Ex 35:3].

In short, God bound all householders to let their workers go idle and free on the Sabbath. Even more are poor people to be freed from all bonded labor. And their masters must not prod them to do anything or serve on the Sabbath day, be it with horse and Buggy, on foot, or whatever. To force their subjects to work or serve is to act against the will of God and to violate and tyrannize their neighbor, thus giving sufficient cause to their subjects to oppose their authority. [29]

5. The Desecration of the Sabbath

This leads us to note the desecration of the Sabbath which is rather common among today's Christians, seeing that they carry out on the feast day all the things they would avoid at other times. Neither cattle nor manservants nor maids are safe from them—in that I am as guilty as they.

On feast days they use their horses which all week long pulled plows or vehicles. Then on the seventh day, the Sabbath, they ride cross-country to visit their friends, seek out merry company, or they collect their debts and do things which are openly against God who gave us work horses to let them work for six days for our food. On the seventh day, however, we must let them rest because the One who gave them to us, granted them leisure, that they might regain their strength and be able to do the work that is to come. Disregard of this leads to contempt, not only for the will of God who desires that we give the working animals a chance to celebrate, but also for the gift of God, which we ought to accept and use with thanksgiving.

Yet, we are neglectful and stubborn to do what God demands. From this comes the horrible vice of disrespect for God when people neither seek nor respect God. God often punishes this vice on the cattle through whom we sin, when our animals are stricken and allowed to die or perish. Yet, we refuse to acknowledge responsibility or sin and we blame warlocks and witches instead. But our resentment toward God we do not take to heart, deeming our inattention a small sin. Therefore, God, too, considers us as nothing, which is why things happen, as we can see.

Similarly, it is an abuse when we force our servants or children to work on a feast day by tearing them away from their rest. I speak here of the rest of God and not of play, drinking, high living, and swearing. Those who rest in this manner celebrate with backgammon, dice, cards, chessboards, drinking bouts, high living, and bad company; they work against God and [30] the neighbor. Such rabble should be prevented from having their devilish rest, and be enticed or forced to do something better. It is better for them to till the field than to throw dice, curse, blaspheme, get drunk, fornicate, gossip, ridicule, fight, steal, and murder. Such devilish feast days I do not commend—they provide no rest. This is readily apparent in drunken servants who cannot lift head or limb the day after, because of the heavy work they did on the feast day, tapping beer kegs or in wine cellars.

But when servants or maids wish to relax or refresh their weary limbs or rest in God, the head of the house owes it to God to let them rest. How Christians observe this, however, I need not tell you. It is obvious that the masters of the house, because of their gluttony, force their male and female cooks to greater work and less rest on a feast day than on a work day.

And they aggravate their children and servants ten times more than on work days, forgetting their obligation to God which they accepted in their baptism. They contravene God's commandment and voice and show themselves at odds with their faith, for the leisure which a householder must grant his employees on the Sabbath is a work of faith for all who understand God's mercy and hold vividly in mind what goodness God has shown. We should ever be mindful of God's gracious deeds and that God has freed our forebears from the laborious and unbearable service which oppressed them in Egypt and led them to rest and leisure [Ex 13:6]. Therefore, we in turn should respond with works of mercy and willingly allow our employees to rest and be idle on the seventh day. For this reason God says, "You shall not work on the seventh day, etc., so that your servants and la­borers might rest" [Ex 20:10f.]. You must recall how you served in Egypt and how God brought you out of the furnace of servitude and that therefore God commanded you to keep the Sabbath [Deut 5:12-15].

[mar: What faith can do] Faith is a strong wisdom which truly tastes God's goodness and knows how God has liberated from servitude in Egypt; it empties itself toward the neighbor [31] who serves us, and makes us want to afford him rest and freedom also, because we know that this pleases God.

Therefore, those who force their servants and employees to work on the Sabbath are not believers at all. For this reason the spirit of God says, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice" [Hos 6:6]. Speaking of external works and practices, it is better for you to allow your employees to rest than for you alone to refrain firmly from works of necessity. This must be stressed and means that you must be merciful just as God was merciful toward you. Therefore, it is against God, their own faith and Christian obligation, and a terrible abuse, indeed, when the masters of the household coerce their servants.

It is especially abusive and contrary to the nature of the Sabbath when debtors are made to pay their debts on feast days, [mar: Note this, you rich usurers] For a debtor becomes even more agitated (when he is reprimanded on the Sabbath because of his debt and is unable to repay) than if he is warned on a weekday when he works.

Those who would gladly pay up but cannot, are most aware of how this saddens and wearies them. How can I rest in God when I cause my brother unrest and upset him with my restless work? If we would rest in God we must forgive our debtors, not only their transgressions, but also their monetary debts, which they are unable to repay, as the gospel story indicates which tells of the servant who op­pressed a fellow servant because of a debt [Mt 18:24-34]. The reason is that we must be of one mind with God who wants us to forgive. Thus we should wish to be sanctified by God on the Sabbath also and to forgive sins, just as we want our sin to be forgiven by God and to be sanctified [Mt 5:20]. That is what we call keeping the Sabbath holy externally, when we are united with God inwardly and desire to receive forgiveness of sin and holiness from God…

It is a terrible abuse among Christians to demand repayment of monetary debts on the Sabbath [Isa 1:13; 56:2], but it is just as offensive to hold hearings on legal matters which involve penalties or payments. The exception might be hearings that lead to peace or avert unrest and involve no greed. For the commandment of brotherly love and unity is greater and higher than the external Sabbath. Therefore, we need not heed the Sabbath when peace can be achieved and nothing but peace is sought.

To sum up, I would like to see ungracious householders and raging or unbelieving Christians to be persuaded as they are told, "Look, you want to rob me of my rest and harass me today on the Sabbath. But for God's sake I am not obligated to serve you today." In a similar way a debtor might speak out against the lender, "Look today I should rest in God, but you are out to torment me, contrary to the rest and freedom granted by God. Therefore, I refuse to answer you today."

But servants should not turn this freedom into carnal disobedience, as they are wont to do. When it is said, "You are free on the seventh day and not obligated to work," they forget that they ought to work six days. They then seek to have a good Monday as well and in addition work unfaithfully on the other days, too, while still wanting to enjoy the freedom of the Sabbath. This is just as much against God as when they are forced by their masters to work on the seventh day.

For six days servants are to work faithfully—not for the sake of appearance, but wholeheartedly [Col 3:22]. None of the six days is free or given to leisure. Lazy servants should accept this as much as that on the seventh day the servant must rest or be idle. Both householders and servants must heed God's commandments and honor them to the best of their ability. Then everything will be well and no one will harm the other. [33]

6. Whether We Have the Right to Break Sabbath Observance

The external Sabbath has been instituted for the benefit of those who work, that they might renew or restore their strength and that people and livestock—and not only they but the housefather—might be refreshed, as we said earlier. However, God does not care much for external behavior and customs, but merely that no one disadvantage or harm another. Therefore, the external celebration has not been commanded so rashly and seriously that work which might benefit another could not be done on the Sabbath, or that we should suffer loss or disaster rather than do an external work and so forfeit celebration. For God does not look to external things and sacrifices, but to the internal ones. When these are upright, what follows externally is right, too, and everything a person does or leaves undone is right as well. Similarly, God prefers a broken heart—where that is found it matters little whether we fast or eat, drink or suffer thirst, sacrifice or not, celebrate or work, as long as we do not come to God while we are empty within [Ps 51:17]. Although we might come empty-handed externally, it does not endanger us before God.

Thus, I may kindle a fire, cook, and eat in God's name, as long as I am in God's rest uprightly. For God has no need of my external leisure which does not add to, or take anything away from God. But my internal leisure God can praise or scold, despise or magnify. He can consider me merciful or cruel and call me truthful or deceitful. Therefore, God gives attention to the inner rest and leisure…Thus Christ defended his disciples for gathering and eating grain on the Sabbath [Mt 12:3ff.] when the Pharisees complained about it.

7. The Son of Man Is Lord of the Sabbath

In response to this Christ said, "The Son of man is lord of the Sabbath and the Sabbath has been commanded on account of people," [Mt 12:8] i.e., we have the freedom to [34] work on the Sabbath …[when] …welfare calls for it. This the disciples did when on the Sabbath they plucked and ate the grain because they were hungry…

Moses and Christ concur. Moses says, "You shall not do any external works so that your servants and maid servants, your children and you might rest and restore your strength." And Christ says, "The Sabbath was instituted for humankind" [Deut 14; Ex 20; Mt 12].

For your need or benefit, you may work on the Sabbath and do a good deed for yourself as much as you might do one for someone else—kindle a fire, cook, eat, drink. But see to it that you do not forget God in all of that. Know that God loves mercy more than a burnt offering [Hos 6:6]. Celebrate and enjoy your leisure, but in such a way that you do not neglect a better or greater thing.

If hunger prevents you from experiencing God's grace, then pluck ears of corn on the Sabbath and eat them in God's name [Lk 6:1-5]. The Sabbath has been instituted for your benefit and betterment. …[Christ is Lord]... of the Sabbath, and the Sabbath exists for you and not you for the Sabbath [Mk 2:23-28]. Hence, you may give herbs to another and prepare them for medicine on the Sabbath, and you must help the neighbor and show mercy, which is more and better than to sabbatize and celebrate externally. In this way servants should help meet the immediate need of their master and prevent future damage by foregoing their freedom and ignoring the Sabbath. One owes it to another out of Christian brotherly love to help up livestock that has fallen down [Ex 23:5].

When I said that one may do on the Sabbath on account of need what apart from need ought not to be done—in other words, that in an emergency we may ignore and break the Sabbath—I did not endorse the breaking of the Sabbath with works of mercy and brotherly love which I call works of necessity. For I spoke of breaking the Sabbath in the sense which Christ used against the Pharisees who [35] thought it unseemly and detrimental to the Sabbath to have a sick person made well on the Sabbath. Christ countered them, saying, "Look, if it is not fitting for me to do good, why then do your priests kill the sacrificial [animals] on the Sabbath and break the Sabbath with their killing and butchering?" Likewise I respond to those who think that a person might defile Sunday through a work of brotherly love: It is right to break the Sabbath to help another person in his need, even though such works of mercy might break the Sabbath. However, it is impossible for a work of love to break the Sabbath, for God has put an order in his commandments. Some command great and highly valued things; some command lesser things. Those that command works of love, faith, mercy, and the like enjoin the very best and highest works. Those that speak of sacrifices and Sabbaths and similar ceremonies, enjoin what is of lesser value.

…Thus we know that servants must not allow their landlord's hay to spoil because of the Sabbath, for the donkey and other animals would perish without hay, and human beings—who are more important than animals—would die without grain; and God's commandment would be for nought.

You masters of the house owe more to your servants, and you menservants and maidservants owe more service [1 Pet 2:13-18; Eph 5:21] to the masters of the house [37] than to anyone else. Therefore, you must protect their cattle and goods ahead of anything else.

…I had to make this known to the dishonest servants and maids lest this booklet cause them to yield to the freedom of the flesh or to be ensnared by the devil by being disobedient and by breaking off their covenanted duties. For the master has the power to force his servants to work on the Sabbath (if necessity demands)…

8. One Sabbath Is Another's Slave or Servant

Truth says that the Sabbath is the rest of the Lord. It follows from this that one Sabbath has been instituted on account of another and that human beings are both slave and lord of the Sabbath [Gen 1]. If a person is to rest in God and is to ask of and expect holiness from God, then the Son of Man is a servant of the Sabbath, just as he is a servant of God. And just as God is lord of humankind and not we lords over God, so the Sabbath is lord over humankind and not vice versa. These words refer to the inner and spiritual Sabbath which is celebrated to the honor, glory, and praise of God.

As the soul is greater and better than the body, so God is immeasurably greater than the soul. Similarly, God's honor and glory are greater than the soul and the Sabbath greater than the created spirits. As the one who sanctifies is greater than the one who is being blessed, so also is the sanctified Sabbath greater than the sanctified soul. Therefore, the Sabbath is lord over us and we are servants of the Sabbath—this is true only of the Sabbath which includes God, i.e., which contains the spirit of rest.

The external Sabbath, however, on which human beings rest from their work and refrain from physical labor, has according to God been commanded because of humankind. Hence, the external Sabbath is lower than the inner and serves the inner when needed. It is merely a sign of inner leisure and is there because of humankind. We stand between both Sabbaths under the spiritual [39] and invisible and above the physical and perceptible—servant of the higher and lord of the lower.

The external Sabbath (which the Pharisees imposed on Christ and his disciples), exists on account of humankind and the spiritual Sabbath. Thus one Sabbath is higher than and lord of the other, while the other is a servant. Just as the inner being is master of the external, and the spirit [master] over the flesh, so also the soul or spirit is above all lower creatures. The external human being is perishable, relates to perishable things only, and will pass away with them [1 Cor 3]. But the inner person can deal with and handle eternal things, and is above all things temporal and perishable…

9. What We Must Do on the Sabbath or Holy Day

Someone might now ask what a person is to do on the Sabbath to pass the long time or [overcome] boredom. Answer: We ought to be idle, do nothing, and endure the long time. The Sabbath has been instituted for the spirit to reach a point of boredom and learn something during the idle time.

For idleness and getting bored is a spiritual circumcision and preparation to receive God's work, since boredom and ennui drive out human desires.

It would be good if on a Sabbath we were to put our head in our hands, bow down, and acknowledge our misfortune and weakness with great sorrow; thus we should rush more quickly to the One (who alone cleanses and sanctifies).

God forbade human beings to work on the Sabbath [Ex 20:10]. And everything we, our children, and our cattle might do, God has canceled; everything is to be at rest on the day on which we pray God for holiness. This undoubtedly indicates that we must remain surren­dered [in der Gelassenheyt bleyben] and that we must add nothing of our own to God's works, [40] lest we defile God's work through our own works. God's prohibition moreover indicates that our works impede God's work. Therefore, God demands that we cast off all our works whenever we desire his work; the visible ennui serves that purpose, as is said, "You shall chastise yourselves, keep yourselves down, and humble yourselves on the Sabbath day, if you desire to be cleansed and sanctified by God or to receive the gifts of God" [Lev 16:30f.]. The burdens that are in our house we must bear [Jer 17:21ff], but other burdens we must not pick up or load upon ourselves. As Christ says, "Take up your cross and follow me" [Mt 10:39]…

…To speak generally, all evil works are prohibited, for anyone who does an evil deed defiles the Sabbath of God and does not celebrate.

10. Which Day of the Week Must Be Celebrated

If servants have worked for six days, they are to have the seventh day off. God says without distinction, "Remember to celebrate the seventh day."…But this is clear that you must celebrate on the seventh day and allow your servants to celebrate whenever they have worked for six days…

11.On the Diversity of the Sabbath

The Sabbath means nothing other than a time of rest, and the Sabbath of God is to rest in God. Although in our mortal body we do not rest in God with all our strength—nor are we able to—yet we ought to rest in God with all our heart and might. Then perfection is bound to follow on imperfection and the whole to come after the parts and that which impedes the whole will perish. The soul will be emptied and the vine, provided it has been well tended, will bring forth a perfect work. The spirit of fear will be replaced by the spirit of rest [Jn 15]. The small and low spirit will become so big as to be able to enter the kingdom of God in order to experience a perfect Sabbath [Heb 8:11; 9:11-14] with all the angels. Everything we do on the tabernacle of God, we must gauge and do by the highest [42] model and example. There­fore, there must be a variety of Sabbaths, as God's mouth indicates when he calls the Sabbath under heaven a day of reconciliation and purification, tribulation and discipline [Lev 16; 23]. The spirit of fear works all this and this is signified by the external appearance of the Sabbath. Our Sabbath contains fear and work. Since we must be careful and guard against clinging to or becoming attached to anything which may hinder our readiness for salvation, but instead flee all that could work against holiness—but fleeing evil involves its own work—therefore, we must know fear and bitter resignation [Gelassenheyt] of all that clings to us temporally. We then do not mistake creatures for God, by seeking comfort, joy, help, or counsel in creatures and so rob God of his honor [Jn 12]…

Now this temporal work must pass away, and anguish and fear must cease; resignation [Gelassenheyt] must enter our unresigned state and we must become unconcerned about anything that might prevent us from receiving sanctification from God. Future rest, therefore, will be a bright and meaningful day of rest without work—like light without darkness. For the higher Sabbath has its roots in the period of greatest rejoicing when there will be total love, complete rest, and nothing but inexpressible, heavenly, eternal joy and freedom. Then we shall forever recall all the pain and evil we suffered (in this life), namely, all that prevented us from experiencing God's grace; and we will be assured, henceforth, that during the highest Sabbath no obstacle shall hinder or bother us. We know this through the spirit which fills us with peace; for the spirit of fear which taxed and stretched the created spirit to the limit has been brought to an end [Isa 11].

Here we experience the first interval and beginning of the Sabbath and we are servants. There we experience—everyone according to his measure—awholly joyous perfection of the Sabbath [Ex 35]. [43]

Not in vain does God say that the seventh day is the Sabbath of Sabbaths, according to the tenor of the Hebrew language. If ever there should be a Sabbath of Sabbaths, it is one which is higher, more noble, purer, holier, and better than all other Sabbaths. By it we are cleansed and sanctified so that we can no longer approve of and persist in what is unholy, for we have been placed beyond occasional temptations. For that reason I suppose that God used two different words when he commanded the Sabbath [Deut 5]. For he says, "You shall keep the Sabbath," or "preserve" and "take heed to keep it." This is indicated by the word schama which includes notions of worry, anxiety, and labor. This indicates that our Sabbath here is kept and celebrated with labor and anxiety.

[mar: Labor and anxiety on the Sabbath] The other word is "Remember and be mindful of the Sabbath to keep it." In Hebrew this is zachar, which does not imply pain and labor to the same degree as the previous word. It is merely the remembrance of former troubles, but not that which can actually happen. At that point we experience eternal rest, and we labor no longer as we did earlier. We merely recall our labors and the struggle between spirit and flesh and all carnal experiences [Jer 23]. We have entered God's high Sabbath and enjoy the inheritance of Jacob which is secure. In our Sabbath [here below] this was merely promised and indicated from a distance. [Above] the small spark of the Sabbath has become a major fire. There is then only one bright shining day and an eternal Sabbath. May God help us to attain it. Amen.

12. On Designated Feast Days for Saints and Angels

[mar: The pope is the devil's first begotten son] The reasons and names for the Sabbath which I narrated above make it more than obvious how the devil or the son of the devil invented feast days, contrary to the honor, will, and commandments of God, and how they thoroughly deceived us to establish sabbaths for saints and angels. Sabbaths are to serve to the honor and praise of God alone and the external Sabbath is a simple figure to indicate that God sanctifies and that by celebrating the feast day aright, we shall [44] be sanctified by God. Now a figure that points to holiness when the will to become holy is not found there must be a lie and deception. Just as the sign pointing to wine being sold is a lie and deception when the inn keeper has no wine or cannot serve any, so also the Sabbath is false, deceptive, and a lie whenever it is celebrated or attributed to one who cannot sanctify us, which happens every time we celebrate the saints.

On judgment day the saints will sit on the twelve chairs of judgment and render the verdict of unbelief and condemnation against those who help create celebrations for the saints. They will rightly charge them for having slandered their God when they courted him with their customs and solemn observances which they themselves fled and detested.  

…Those who celebrate saints interfere in God's creation and pervert the works of creation, since no saint is capable of creating a single hour. Those who attribute a single day to a creature rob the Lord of his created work and place it with one who did not and could not create it. This then is a sin against God's power and works directly against God's omnipotence.

I shall not even mention the damage suffered by householders who, because of priestly abuses [pfeffische tyranney]are robbed of their authority and of the services which their servants are obligated to render their masters for six days. These duties and obligations are broken by the feast days of the priests who give masterful reasons in place of obedience for such diverse vices as slander, drunkenness, swearing, theft, murder, and every sort of evil, all of which could be detailed in many more words. [45]

13. How the Commandment of the Sabbath Leads to the Recognition of God's Mercy, Drawing and Bringing Us to Christ

We ought to note especially that God has shown us great mercy in relieving us from the serious and strict command to work daily. For God ordered Adam and through him all of mankind to earn their livelihood and the bread they eat from the earth, as punishment and atonement for disobedience [Gen 3:14-19]. This commandment also means that we must earn our daily bread by daily work and that we must not eat our bread on any given day unless on that day we obtained it through new work. For it is said there, "In the sweat of your brow you shall eat your bread."

Now if we are to eat our bread in the sweat of our brow, we have to work every day and make up for Adam's desire by our disinclination and labor which would be rather too hard and unbearable. For not only is Adam's disobedience atoned by us, but the constant labor also means that in the long run we must die, for Scripture says that unbearable work ages us and leads to our death. It would not be unreasonable for God to do away with us and kill us through work. God is fully in the right to strangle us with work and reduce us to ashes. But God our Lord has shown paternal love and unmerited mercy toward us. He does not remain angry forever nor does he want to exterminate us. Therefore, God issued the commandment of the Sabbath by which we are to work for six days only. The seventh day he set aside for a Sabbath and a day of leisure for our benefit, so that we might revive and strengthen ourselves and restore our exhausted strength [Deut 26:11]. For this we cannot sufficiently thank the merciful God. Blessed are they who experience the spirit of mercy and rejoice in God's praise, name, and glory.

Again we must consider diligently that leisure brings forth boredom and was commanded that we experience tedium and ennui when we rest in God and experience leisure like God. Through leisure, among other things, God commanded those who are tougher and stronger and well able to work (and who greatly delight [46] in their work), to break their delight and fall into listlessness and dread of life and on a feast day think on how evil, fragile, foolish, weak, loveless, and without faith in God they are; how they pursue greed and are full of anxiety and do not seek God's honor uprightly nor take God's commandments to heart or do them when they work. Such reflection of their evil will is caused by idle ennui or boring idleness.

Therefore, we must observe the Sabbath diligently and learn how ennui or listlessness is useful and why God urges us to be idle. But we must be careful not to turn leisure into pleasure for the simple reason that it is better to enter a house of mourning than to enter a house of pleasure [Sir 7:2], for God has imposed idleness on us to make the Sabbath also a day of renunciation, sadness, and tribulation.

Never forget that the Sabbath includes forgiveness of sins, for we cannot be sanctified and enter into God's forgiveness before we obtain forgiveness of sins…

May God enlighten all pastors of his poor little sheep and with them lead all of us graciously to a true knowledge of his divine holiness, which we so greatly need, and may he enlighten us eternally. Amen. 1524


Andreas Bodenstein: 1486-1541

Translated and edited by E. J. Furcha - 1995

Herald Press

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Scottdale, Pennsylvania, USA

ISBN 0-8361-3116-9

Excerpts from the book: pp. 319-338