Sunday, April 3, 2011

The gracious divine Gift of freedom, rest, and joy

Two months ago I posted Freedom, rest, and joy on the Sabbath about Karl Barth's exposition of Genesis 2:2,3. This morning I read more of Barth's wonderful discussion of the theological significance of Genesis 2:3
So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
Barth discusses how this first Sabbath is the beginning of God's covenant of grace with man.
It cannot be emphasised too strongly that this invitation comes at a time when creation, and particularly man, had nothing behind it except its creation by God, so that there can be no question whatever of a relationship between this Sabbath observance and any work completed by himself. Before and apart from all work and conflict, irrespective of any merits of his own, he is invited to cease from his own works, to rest, and therefore to enter into the freedom, rest and joy of God Himself. In his case, therefore, the Sabbath as the sign of the given promise does not stand at the end but at the beginning, i.e., at the beginning of his working week. 
And the promise itself, whose sign is the Sabbath, cannot be tied to his own volition, achievement or merit. What precedes it when it first occurs is wholly the work of God and not of man. God has taken it upon Himself to do and accomplish what can now be for man as well as for Himself an occasion for freedom, rest and joy. As far as man is concerned, he has simply to recognise that God has really done all that is necessary, that He has invited him to participate in His rest, and that he may accept this invitation. In other words, he is left wholly and utterly with the grace of God. When this is addressed to him, there begins the history of man with God. Hence this really begins on Sunday and not on a weekday. It begins with the Gospel and not with the Law. It begins with the freedom of man and not his commitment; with a holiday and not an imposed task; with joy and not with toil and trouble. The latter will follow soon enough, but only in succession to the former. 
That God rested on the seventh day, and blessed and sanctified it, is the first divine action which man is privileged to witness; and that he himself may keep the Sabbath with God, completely free from work, is the first Word spoken to him, the first obligation laid on him. It is thus decided once and for all that the history of the covenant which begins here is to be the history of the divine covenant of grace. And with this decision creation is completed as the revelation of the will of God with regard to the existence and being of His creation. With it creation itself is also completed: "The heavens and the earth … and all the host of them." Creation took place in order that man's history might commence and take place as the history of the covenant of grace established between God and himself. According to the first biblical witness it took place because God's love for man willed to be incomparably strong in the fact that man and his whole world and therefore the object of God's love should become God's creation and therefore belong from the very outset to God. Creatureliness, and therefore creation, is the external basis of the covenant of grace in which the love of God for man moves towards its fulfilment. It is in this teleology that it is presented in the first creation narrative of the Bible.
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 3.1: The Doctrine of Creation, pp. 218-9.

The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, Rembrandt (1637)

1 comment:

  1. Ah, yes! The stuff on the Sabbath is fabulous, is it not? I love volume 3. It may not get as much attention as 1, 2, and 4, but it's great. Thanks for sharing this.