TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Intermediate Edition

II. Other Significant Practices

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Chapter 29  Part II

Other Significant Practices

It is important for Christians to understand all significant church practices. Confessing Jesus Christ is one such practice that we need to understand – and be prepared to do. The Sabbath is largely ignored by some Christians, who see it as not relevant in the new covenant – but a number of theologians would disagree. Reasons for and against are included here. Fasting is a practice that is a very valuable supplement to such things as prayer and worship. The laying on of hands is a further common practice, and so we should also be familiar with its significance and use in the Bible.

Confession of Jesus Christ

Confessing Jesus Christ is an expression of allegiance to him, as Lord, and involves stating what one believes about him. It is often done formally at one’s baptism and corporately in church with the recital of creeds or “confessions”. In addition, many Christians will experience times in which they should acknowledge Jesus Christ and their faith in him before unbelievers – often at the cost or risk of being persecuted.

Confess Jesus Christ, before others

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, partners in a heavenly calling, take note of Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess, …   Hebrews 3:1  NET

[Jesus:] I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before God’s angels.   Luke 12:8  NET

Things to confess about Jesus Christ

The  Jews had already agreed to put anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ out of the synagogue.   John 9:22b  GW

And everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and bring glory to God the Father.   Philippians 2:11  NCV™

If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God.   1 John 4:15  NET

Keeping the Sabbath Holy

Observe the Sabbath as holy by resting on it

[God, to the Israelites:] “Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. 9You have six days in which to do your work, 10but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me. On that day no one is to work—neither you, your children, your slaves, your animals, nor the foreigners who live in your country. 11In six days I, the Lord, made the earth, the sky, the sea, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That is why I, the Lord, blessed the Sabbath and made it holy.   Exodus 20:8-11  GNT

Israel was to observe the Sabbath as a sign of being God’s people, identifying themselves with him by resting on the seventh day has he did. The necessity for Christians to observe the Sabbath has been the subject of debate.

Observing the Sabbath enables people to be refreshed

For six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you must cease, in order that your ox and your donkey may rest and that your female servant’s son and any hired help may refresh themselves.   Exodus 23:12  NET

It is permissible to do good and necessary things on the Sabbath

A man was there who had a withered hand. And they asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” so that they could accuse him. 11He said to them, “Would not any one of you, if he had one sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, take hold of it and lift it out? 12How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and it was restored, as healthy as the other.   Matthew 12:10-13  NET

Verses that might suggest we do not need to keep the Sabbath

[Paul, to believers:] Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days – 17these are only the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ!   Colossians 2:16-17  NET

Fasting

Fasting can be done regularly, with worship and prayer

She [Anna] had lived as a widow since then for eighty-four years. She never left the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.   Luke 2:37  NET

Fasting implies and promotes earnestness in worship and prayer. When fasting, the ache and craving of hunger brings an earnestness and intensity to our worship and prayers. Fasting also promotes clarity of thought. Furthermore, our hunger serves as a reminder to worship and/or pray throughout the fasting period.

Fasting can be done on particular occasions, in petitioning God

[Ezra:] So we fasted and asked our God for a safe journey, and he answered our prayer.   Ezra 8:23  GW

The Laying on of Hands

In conveying the gift of the Holy Spirit

Then Peter and John placed their hands on the Samaritans, and they received the Holy Spirit.   Acts 8:17  NET

Note that the laying on of hands to convey the gift of the Holy Spirit is generally done in conjunction with the recipients coming to faith – rather than at a time chosen by those performing the act. Also, it is not essential for a person to have hands laid on them for them to receive the Holy Spirit.

In conveying blessing

After he [Jesus] took the children in his arms, he placed his hands on them and blessed them.   Mark 10:16  NET

In commissioning for ministry

While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3Then, after they had fasted and prayed and placed their hands on them, they sent them off.   Acts 13:2-3  NET

Pray for persecuted Christians