Should Christians Keep The Sabbath Today?
Transcript Of A Debate With Philip Bartlett
Written debate on good-news e-mail discussion forum
Against the necessity of keeping the sabbath: Mr. Duncan Heaster
For the necessity of keeping the sabbath: Mr. Philip Bartlett (Conservative Presbyterian- Calvinist)
Part 1: Opening Statements of 3000 words
9-1-1 The Sabbath And The Law Of Moses
9-1-2 The Sabbath In The Early Church
9-1-3 No Difference Between Torah And The Ten Commandments
9-2-1 Ceremonial And Moral Law
9-2-2 The Sabbath And Sunday
9-2-3 Colossians 2 Explained
Part 2: Rebuttals of 3000 words
9-3-1 Law, Commandment, Statutes And Covenant
9-3-2 The Sabbath And Salvation
Part 3: Question And Answer: 5 questions of 100 words from each participant, with answers of 200 words by the other
9-4-1 The Weekly Sabbaths
9-4-2 The Sabbath And Israel
9-4-3 The First Day Of The Week
9-4-4 The Sabbath Fulfilled
9-4-5 The Sabbath And Conscience
Part 4: Summary / Final statements of 1000 words
9-5-1 The Sabbath Is Not Binding Today
9-5-2 Our Obligation To Observe The Sabbath
9-6 Moses' Law " Done away"
Note: Mr. Bartlett exceeded his total word count but this was accepted by Mr. Heaster.
9-1-1 The Sabbath And The Law Of Moses
Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for sin and the ideal High Priest who could truly gain forgiveness for us. Therefore the old system of animal sacrifices and high priests was done away with after his death (Heb. 10:5-14). “The priesthood being changed (from the Levites to Christ), there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (Heb. 7:12). Therefore, “there is verily a disannulling of the former regulation (i.e. the law of Moses) because it was weak and useless. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope (through Christ) did” (Heb. 7:18,19 A.V. with N.I.V.). This means that it is irrelevant to argue that any command system of God cannot be changed and is eternal- for clearly there was a change made.
To trust in Sabbath keeping for justification means that we do not accept the fullness of Christ’s victory. Such beliefs mean that we do not accept Christ’s sacrifice as completely successful, and that we feel that works are necessary to bring about our justification, rather than faith in Christ alone. “No man is justified by the law in the sight of God...for, The just(ified) shall live by faith” (Gal. 3:11 cf. Hab. 2:4). Our own effort to be obedient to the letter of God’s laws, however determined, will fail and will not bring us justification; surely every reader of these words knows this already.
If we observe the Law of Moses, we must attempt to keep all of it. Disobedience to just one part of it means that those who are under it are condemned. “As many as are of (i.e. rely on) the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10). What the Law says, it says to those under the Law; but if we are under grace, as the NT says that we are, then the Law doesn’t speak to us in the sense of commanding us (Rom. 3:19 cp. 6:14,15). If we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the Law (Gal. 5:18).
The weakness of our human condition means that we find it impossible fully to keep the Law of Moses, but due to Christ’s complete obedience to it, we are freed from any obligation to keep it. Our salvation is due to God’s gift through Christ, rather than our personal works of obedience. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Thus “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). Because of this, we are no longer required to keep any of the ordinances of the Law of Moses. The New Covenant in Christ replaced the Old Covenant of Moses’ law (Heb. 8:13). By his death, Christ blotted out “the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us (by our inability to fully keep the law), and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross...Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink (offerings), or in respect of a religious festival, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the reality is Christ” (Col. 2:14-17 A.V. with N.I.V.). This is quite clear - because of Christ’s death on the cross, the law was taken “out of the way” so that we should resist any pressure put on us to keep parts of it, e.g. the feasts and the Sabbath. Like the rest of the law, the purpose of these things was to point forward to Christ. After his death, their typical significance was fulfilled, and there was therefore no further need to observe them. If we are going to keep the Sabbath, then why not keep the other Jewish festivals? For Paul lumps them all together. He made no difference between the 10 commandments and the rest of the Torah.
Warnings against keeping any part of the Law of Moses in order to gain salvation are dotted throughout the New Testament. Some taught that Christians should be circumcised according to the Mosaic Law, “and keep the law”. James flatly condemned this idea on behalf of the true believers: “we gave no such commandment” (Acts 15:24). Peter described those who taught the need for obedience to the law as putting “a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear. But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (as opposed to their works of obedience to the law) we shall be saved” (Acts 15:10,11). Paul is equally outspoken: “A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ...that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified...no man is justified by the law...by (Christ) all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Gal. 2:16; 3:11; Acts 13:39).
“All the titles given by the Jews to the Torah: bread, water of life, light of the world, shepherd, the way, the truth and the life, all these John applies to Christ. The opening of John's gospel is taken from a pre-Christian Jewish hymn of praise to the Torah, in the Jewish hymn it is the Torah that is " in the beginning" , " the Word" , " with God" , " the world was made" , " light" , " life" , " the true light that enlightens every man" , " grace and truth" , " in the bosom of the Father" , but John applies all these to Christ. All that Judaism had claimed for the law, John applies to Jesus Christ, he, rather than the Torah, is the final revelation of God's will” (J. Mann) (1). The 5 books of Moses are seen to be matched in the 5 segments of Matthew’s Gospel, and the way the Lord Jesus in imitation of Moses declared His Law from a mountain. Indeed, the Lord Jesus parallels His words with those of the Torah. In first century Judaism it was often said: ‘The person who hears the words of the Torah…builds on firm ground’ [see Joachim Jeremias, New Testament Theology p. 254]. The Lord Jesus purposefully alluded to that when He spoke about ‘The person who hears my words’ as building on firm ground (Mt. 7:24-27). He saw His words as a new Torah.
The Sabbath was the last day of the week, when God rested after the six days of creation (Ex. 20:10,11). As Sunday is the first day of the week, it would be incorrect to observe this day as the Sabbath. The Sabbath was specifically “a sign between me (God) and them (Israel), that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them” (Ez. 20:12). As such, it has never been intended to be binding on Gentiles (non-Jews). “The Lord hath given you [not all mankind] the Sabbath (Ex. 16:29); “thou [God] madest known unto them [Israel] thy holy Sabbath” (Neh. 9:14).
Jesus once commented on a theological problem: a baby boy had to be circumcised on the eighth day of his life. If this day fell on a Sabbath, then work would have to be done. So which law should be kept, circumcision, or the Sabbath? Jesus replied that circumcision had to be honoured, because this came from Abraham, whereas the Sabbath law was later, from Moses: “Moses gave you circumcision [not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers - i.e. Abraham]…”. If the law of circumcision took precedence over that of the Sabbath, how can it be argued by some that the Sabbath law is binding but that of circumcision isn’t? And how can it be argued that a Sabbath law was in force from Eden onwards? Circumcision was the token of the covenant with Abraham, whereas the Sabbath was the token of the law of Moses (Ex. 31:17), and Jesus judged that the covenant with Abraham was more important. Paul uses the same kind of argument, when he reasons that the new covenant given to Abraham [which included no command about the Sabbath] is something which cannot be added to or disannulled. He asks, therefore, why it was that “the law…was added” (Gal. 3:15,19)? He replies that the law was added, by implication temporarily, seeing that the new covenant cannot really be added to, in order to teach men about sin and lead them to an understanding of Christ, the promised seed of Abraham. Now that Christ has come, we are not under the law.
Therefore through Christ’s death on the cross, the Law of Moses was done away, so that there is now no necessity to observe the Sabbath or, indeed, any festival, e.g. the day of Christ’s death (Col. 2:14-17). The early Christians who returned to keeping parts of the Mosaic law, e.g. the Sabbath, are described by Paul as returning “to the weak and miserable principles (N.I.V.), whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage. Ye observe days (e.g. the Sabbath), and months, and times, and years (i.e. the Jewish festivals). I am afraid of (for) you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Gal. 4:9-11). This is the seriousness of attempting to keep the Sabbath as a means to salvation. It is clear that observing the Sabbath is irrelevant to salvation: “One man esteemeth one day above another (i.e. in spiritual significance): another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that observeth (A.V. mg.) the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that observeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it” (Rom. 14:5,6).
(1) This is all especially apparent in John's Gospel. John was "unlearned and ignorant" (Acts 4:13)- according to C.H. Dodd, "two technical terms for those who were ignorant of Torah" (C.H. Dodd, The Interpretation Of The Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: C.U.P., 1960) p. 82). If indeed keeping the Law is required of Christians, we wonder why John is presented in these terms, and didn't go out of his way to show himself Torah observant? Significantly, through his Gospel John uses terms which were well known in Rabbinic Judaism as referring to the Torah, and applies them instead to Christ. "Grace and truth" was a common Jewish description for the Torah, and yet John says that this came by Jesus, and not through the law given to Moses (Jn. 1:17). Jesus, and not the Torah as the Rabbis believed, is the way to life (Jn. 6:63); "truth" was now not Torah as the Jews said, but the person of Jesus. Well known symbols for the Torah such as wine, bread and water are used by John to describe Jesus. And John purposefully alludes to Rabbinic passages about the greatness of Israel and applies them instead to Christians. Thus the Jewish writing Pirqe Aboth 3.19 claimed: "Beloved are Israel, that they are called sons of God. Greater love was it that it was known to them that they were called sons of God...". Yet these very words are applied exclusively to the Christian believers by John in 1 Jn. 3:1,2. He seems to be going out of his way to show that the Lord Jesus is the new Torah for all those in Him, and it is the community of Christ who are God's true people now, and not Israel. Why would John do this, if indeed Christians are required to be Torah observant?
Because of this, it is understandable that we do not read of the early believers keeping the Sabbath. Indeed, it is recorded that they met on “the first day of the week”, i.e. Sunday: “Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread...” (Acts 20:7). That this was a widespread practice is indicated by Paul advising the believers at Corinth to take up a collection “upon the first day of the week” (1 Cor. 16:2), i.e. at their regular meetings on that day.
There is ample historical evidence that the early church didn’t keep Saturday. If some say ‘We keep the Sabbath but it’s now Sunday’ then they admit God’s law was changed- therefore their arguments about the unchangeable nature of God’s commands are nullified.
Ignatius (110 AD):" no longer observing the Sabbath but fashioning their lives after the Lord's day" ; " If then they who walked in ancient customs came to a new hope, no longer living for the Sabbath... how then shall we be able to live without Jesus…”
Justin Martyr (100-165): " Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly"
Epistle of Barnabas (120-150): " we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, a day also in which Jesus rose from the dead"
Irenaeus (178): " the mystery of the Lord's resurrection may not be celebrated on any day other than the Lord's day"
Bardasian (b. 154): " the first day of the week we assemble ourselves together"
The Didache (70 AD): " on the Lord's own day gather yourselves together and break bread"
And therefore " Unquestionably the first law, either ecclesiastical or civil, by which the sabbatical observance of that day is known to have been ordained, is the edict of Constantine 321 AD." (Chambers Encyclopaedia art. " Sabbath" ). Both history and Scripture show that the practice of the early believers was to meet together on Sundays- not Saturday. Either the early church was disobedient, or one has to conclude that Saturday observance was changed to Sunday. And there is no evidence for this.
It is often argued that keeping of the Sabbath was one of the Ten Commandments given to Moses, and that, whilst the rest of the Law of Moses was done away, the obligation remains to keep all of the Ten Commandments. Some make a distinction between a ‘moral law’ of the Ten Commandments, “the law of God”, and a so-called ‘ceremonial law’, the “law of Moses”, which they believe was done away by Christ. This distinction is not taught in Scripture. The Bible uses the terms “law of Moses” and “law of God” interchangeably (Num. 31:21; Josh. 23:6; 2 Chron. 31:3). The Old Covenant refers to the Law of Moses, which was replaced on the cross by the New Covenant. - God “declared unto you (Israel) his covenant, which he commanded you (Israel) to perform, even Ten Commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone” (Deut. 4:13). Again it should be noted that this covenant, based upon the Ten Commandments, was made between God and Israel, not Gentiles of the present day.
§ Moses ascended Mount Horeb to receive the stone tables upon which God had written the Ten Commandments. Moses later commented concerning this, “The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb” (Deut. 5:2), i.e. through those Ten Commandments.
§ At this time, God “wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments” (Ex. 34:28). This same covenant included details of the so-called ‘ceremonial law’ (Ex. 34:27). If we argue that keeping the covenant made in the ten commandments is necessary, we must also observe every detail of the entire law, seeing that this is all part of the same covenant. It is evidently impossible to do this.
§ “There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb…the ark, wherein is the covenant of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:9,21). Those tables, on which were the Ten Commandments, were the covenant.
§ Heb. 9:4 speaks of “the tables of the covenant”. The Ten Commandments were written on the tables of stone, which comprised “the (old) covenant”.
§ Paul refers to this covenant as “written and engraven in stones”, i.e. on the tables of stone. He calls it “the ministration of death...the ministration of condemnation...that which is done away” (2 Cor. 3:7‑ 11). The covenant associated with the Ten Commandments can certainly not give any hope of salvation.
§ Leviticus 19 gives a good example of how varied the laws are: " Do not steal [one of the 10 commandments). Do not lie. Do not deceive one another... Do not hold back the wages ...Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two different kinds of seed" (Lev 19:11,13,19,27) -there is no implication that there are different categories of law.
§ Christ blotted out “the handwriting of ordinances that was against us” (Col. 2:14) on the cross. This alludes to God’s handwriting of the Ten Commandments on the tables of stone. Likewise Paul speaks of “the law...being dead...the oldness of the letter” (Rom. 7:6), probably referring to the letters of the Ten Commandments which were written on the tables of stone.
§ Just one of the Ten Commandments is styled “the law” in Rom. 7:8: “The law...said, Thou shalt not covet”. The preceding verses in Rom. 7:1-7 stress how “the law” has been done away by Christ’s death; “the law” therefore includes the Ten Commandments.
All this makes it clear that the Old Covenant and “the law” included the Ten Commandments. As the New Covenant has done the Old Covenant away, the Ten Commandments have therefore been removed. The Lord Jesus invites those who follow Him to accept the “rest” which He gives (Mt. 11:28). He uses a Greek word which is used in the Septuagint for the Sabbath rest. Jesus was offering a life of Sabbath, of rest from trust in our own works (cf. Heb. 4:3,10). We shouldn’t, therefore, keep a Sabbath one day per week, but rather live our whole lives in the spirit of the Sabbath.
The Ten Commandments are referred to in Revelation 19:10 when the term " testimony" is used. In the Law the " Testimony" was another term for the Ten Commandments: " then put in the ark the Testimony" (Ex 25:16, 21; 30:6), " when the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God" (Ex 31:18). So we can see that the " Testimony of Moses" was the Ten Commandments. Now what does Revelation say the " Testimony of Jesus" is? " The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev 19:10). The " testimony" of the old covenant is replaced by those New Testament prophets who spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
- All the believers are described as being priests (1 Pet. 2:9) - who were exempt from keeping the Sabbath (Mt. 12:5).
- Paul lists many sins in the New Testament, both those practised by the " world" as well as those practised in the churches: (Rom 1:28-32, 2 Cor 12:20-21, Gal 5:19-21, Eph 4:25-29, 5:3-18, 2 Tim 3:1-9, 2 Pet 2,3:3-7) but nowhere mentions Sabbath-breakers.
- If we are to keep the Sabbath, we must do so properly; we have earlier shown that it is fatal to keep the Mosaic Law partially, because this will result in our condemnation (Gal. 3:10; James 2:10). Israel were not allowed to do any work on the Sabbath: “Whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death”. They were also commanded: “Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the Sabbath day”, and therefore they were forbidden to prepare food on that day (Ex. 35:2,3; 16:23). A man who gathered sticks on the Sabbath, presumably in order to kindle a fire, was punished with death for doing so (Num. 15:32-36). Those denominations which teach that Sabbath-keeping is binding upon their members should therefore punish those members with death when they break the Sabbath like this.
The most common argument used by Sabbath-keepers is that the Law of God can’t change, and it is described as an ‘eternal’ law. Here are some bullet points against that view.
- The Law changed in accordance with circumstance. Thus in Ex. 12, the Passover was to be eaten in individual homes; but in Dt. 16, spoken at the end of Moses’ life, when Israel were about to enter their land, this was forbidden. Passover had to be eaten at the sanctuary.
- Many parts of the ‘eternal law’ were only relevant to the period of time when Israel were in the wilderness. As an example, consider the ‘eternal law’ of Lev. 17:5-7, stating that animals could only be slaughtered at the tabernacle. This would’ve meant that those who lived a distance from the sanctuary would have had to be vegetarians. Later, Moses amended this law. Dt. 12:20 ff. permitted Israel to slaughter their animals without going through the procedures of Lev. 17. Only the regulations about blood were preserved (Lev. 17:10 cp. Dt. 12:23).
-The commandments about carrying the ark obviously were only addressed to a tempporary situation. It was placed in the temple and "it shall no more be a burden upon your shoulders" (2 Chron. 35:3). Clearly Mosaic commands weren't "eternal" in the sense of being unchangeable. Indeed many of the laws were impossible for Israel to obey when they were outside of their land in captivity; yet geographical distance from the land didn't make them therefore automatically not God's children just because they couldn't keep all His laws. Indeed Dt. 4:10 could be read as implying that the Law was to kept "all the days that they shall live upon the eretz / land" of Israel.
- Ex. 21:30 implies penalties could be met by a fine instead of the actual punishment- the Law was evidently flexible, and the priests were empowered to use it that way. But this feature means that we are mistaken to see Moses' Law as a set of statements which were 'eternally' set in stone. The fact some of the commands were broken by men like David and yet he isn't condemned for it, but rather commended, is further illustration.
- The plans for the temple were given to David by God; but they replaced parts of the law God gave to Moses about the tabernacle. The laws given about the temple replaced those given about the dimensions and construction of the tabernacle.
- The laws about following the cloud, camping around the tabernacle, eating the manna, etc. were obviously annulled once Israel entered the land and settled there. The specific monetary amounts of the fines [e.g. shekels] would’ve had to change too, over time.
- I would even suggest that Moses’ ‘law’ about God visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children was annulled and changed by His later statement through Ezekiel that He would not operate like that, but instead, the person who sinned would die for his own sin (Ez. 18:4).
From a practical point of view, it's apparent that much of the law of Moses could only ever have been relevant to Israel in the wilderness [e.g. the commandments about the manna, carrying the tabernacle etc.] or to when Israel were settled in the land of Canaan. Indeed, the closer one looks at the law, the more evident it is that it applies to Israelite people in Canaan and not to God's Gentile people worldwide, existing as they do without a Levitical priesthood. Thus Lev. 13:37 speaks of how the plague of leprosy was to examined and a sore pronounced clean if "black hair" grows up within the sore. Clearly the people in view were Israelites with dark body hair, and not blond Scandinavians.
The Hebrew word ‘olahm’, translated ‘for ever’ clearly doesn’t always mean literal future infinity- although in some places it can have that sense. It’s actually used in places to describe the past; events of a long time ago, but not events that happened an ‘infinitely long time’ ago. It describes the time of a previous generation (Dt. 32:7; Job 22:15); to the time just before the exile of Judah (Is. 58:12; 61:4; Mic. 7:14; Mal. 3:4); to the time of the Exodus (1 Sam. 27:8; Is. 51:9; 63:9); to the time just before the flood (Gen. 6:4)(1).
- A servant was to serve his master ‘for ever’ [olahm]- i.e. for the limited period of the slave’s life, not literally ‘until infinite time in the future’ (Dt. 5:7; 1 Sam. 27:12; Job 40:28).
- Jeremiah’s enemies were “always” [olahm] at ease (cp. Ps. 73:12)
- The temple would eternally bear God’s Name- but the temple was destroyed.
- Hannah promised to give Samuel to the Lord for olahm(1 Sam. 1:22), but this is defined as “all the days of his life…as long as he lives” (1 Sam. 1:11,28).
- Jerusalem would be an eternal ruin (Jer. 25:9); and yet the same prophet predicts that one day in the future, it would be rebuilt, and be no longer a ruin (Jer. 31:4).
- God told the family of Eli that He had once promised that family that they would be “‘before me forever (olahm)’; but now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me; for those who honour me I will honour, and those who despise me shall be treated with contempt” (1 Sam. 2:30). God can say that something will be ‘forever’ but then change it.
(1) Consider this discussion of the meaning of olahm in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, edited by G. Johannes Botterwick and Helmer Ringgren (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980): “…Jenni holds that its basic meaning “ most distant times ” can refer to either the remote past or to the future or to both as due to the fact that it does not occur independently (as a subject or as an object) but only in connection with prepositions indicating direction ( min “ since, ” ad “ until, ” lĕ “ up to ”) or as an adverbial accusative of direction or finally as the modifying genitive in the construct relationship. In the latter instance ō lā m can express by itself the whole range of meanings denoted by all the prepositions “ since, until, to the most distant time ”; i.e. it assumes the meaning “ (unlimited, incalculable) continuance, eternity. ” (THAT II, p. 230) …But … it is sometimes used of a not-so-remote past. For the meaning of the word in its attributive use we should note the designation of the lord as el ō lā m , “ The Eternal God ” ( Gen 21:33 )…The LXX generally translates ō lā m by aiō n which has essentially the same range of meaning. That neither the Hebrew nor the Greek word in itself contains the idea of endlessness is shown both by the fact that they sometimes refer to events or conditions that occurred at a definite point in the past, and also by the fact that sometimes it is thought desirable to repeat the word, not merely saying “ forever,” but “ forever and ever.”.. Both words came to be used to refer to a long age or period—an idea that is sometimes expressed in English by “ world. ” Postbiblical Jewish writings refer to the present world of toil as hā ō lā m hazzeh and to the world to come as hā ō lā m habbā " ”.
9-2-1 Ceremonial And Moral Law
The position I have been called to defend is that Christians are bound by the law of God to observe the Sabbath on Sunday. I will attempt to prove this through an appeal to the whole counsel of God, not simply to scattered verses that appear to say something on their own. The way heresies have historically been formed in the church of God is to appeal to one scripture and deny what the whole and entire counsel of God has to say upon a certain matter. One of us is sinning in presenting his position. If my brother is right, then I am sinning by binding you to a yoke greater than Christ has given to us. If I am right, then my opponent is sinning by telling you it is alright to disobey a command that God has instituted for us.
In order to present clearly the issue of whether it is fit and proper to observe the Sabbath, we must first determine precisely what God has stated concerning His law and how we are to apply it to ourselves today. It is my firm opinion, and the firm opinion of many Reformed Christians (Calvinists), that the reason why the church has such little impact on the broader society today is because we have moved away from obedience to God’s commandments as they must be properly instituted in our lives. God promises not only spiritual blessing, but material blessing and earthly dominion if we are faithful to obey the commandments of the covenant (Deuteronomy 28, and yes this applies to the church today since Christ informs us that the kingdom of Israel has been passed to the church in Matthew 21:43, and Paul tells us that the Gentiles have been grafted onto single vine while the Jews have been torn off in Romans 11; Psalm 2 also commands all governments to submit to the law of the Bible). If we are not faithful to obey the commandments of the covenant, God promises judgments as 1 Peter 4:17 states, judgment begins with the house of God. Most Protestants and Christian groups today have essentially committed that old heresy where the Old Testament law is thrown out and all we pay attention to are the sayings of Jesus Christ in the gospels. The scripture vehemently rejects this position. For this reason God has made the Protestant church weak and the heresy of Romanism powerful, and it is presently now swallowing up many of the liberal and even those that are seen as evangelical protestant denominations. Gone are the days of Protestant influence on the earth due to these Arminian influences.
If we are to understand the New Testament properly we must first understand what the Bible says about the application of the law of God. The Bible tells us that there are two kinds of law: that law that is binding upon all people of the earth, and that there is also law that is only binding upon ethnic Jewry. Most who hold to my opponent’s position contend that every law in the Old Testament given by Moses is only binding upon ethnic Jewry. But is this the case? Not according to the scriptures!
The scriptures tell us that all are under judgment due to sin, and that we know what sin is by the Mosaic Law. Paul states: “When Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their heats, their consciences also bearing witness” (Romans 2:14-15). So Paul clearly states here that the requirements of the law of God, as revealed in the Old Testament, are written upon the hearts of every single man. This is no law meant only for the Jews! Paul states early in verse 13 “it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous” (Romans 2:13). Paul is saying here that even though the Jews “have the law” and will be judged by the law, even the Gentiles have that law written on their hearts, and therefore all who obey this one law will be declared righteous. Paul is clearly advocating here one law for Jew and Gentile that is to be obeyed and by which all men are judged.
The Old Testament also binds the Gentiles to the law of God when it states in Deuteronomy 9:5 “It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you…” So we see here that God is judging these nations for their wickedness and sin. The Bible clearly tells us that sin is defined as a violation of the law of God in 1 John 3:4 “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness” (or as the KJV renders it ‘sin is the transgression of the law’). These Canaanite Gentiles were wicked because they were breaking God’s law, the same law that Israel was bound to obey. God is saying in this verse: I am not bringing Israel into the land because it is lawkeeping, but I am kicking the Canaanites out because they are lawbreaking. The same law for both is implied here. This is even more abundantly proven in the fact that Jew and Gentile could both be executed by the civil law of Israel for breaking one of the Ten Commandments. Both the Jew and the stranger (Gentile) were not allowed to commit adultery, murder, kidnapping, Sabbath-breaking, and if either did both were to be put to death. After God lists the death penalties for violating the ten commandments in Leviticus 24, He states in Leviticus 24:22 “You are to have the same law for the alien and the nativeborn, I am the LORD your God”. God is not talking about the entire law of the Torah here, but just the laws of death penalty for violating the Ten Commandments, which He has just listed (this also proves by the way that when a Gentile nation covenants with King Jesus the nation should pass the civil law of God as expressed in the Bible, because all are bound to the same justice).
In Deuteronomy 18, God lists a whole bunch of moral laws concerning witchcraft and idolatry in the first verses (tied to the first two commandments of the Decalogue) and then states in verse 12 “ANYONE who does these things is detestable to the LORD, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you.” As we can see, God is punishing the Gentiles for breaking the moral law of God as summarized by the Ten Commandments.
So what we have established here is that all men are bound to obey the law, and will be judged according to their obedience to the law. What is this “law” that Paul speaks of in Romans 1 and God refers to as binding on the Gentiles in the Old Testament? It is the moral law of God as expressed in the Ten Commandments. The Jewish rabbis themselves understood this distinction, and they divided the law into that law which was binding upon both stranger and Jew, and that law which was only binding upon the Jew (namely the ceremonial and sacrificial systems and circumcision). Not only have many rabbis made this distinction throughout their history, but the Bible itself makes this distinction, and even clearly relates that one law is superior to the other law. Brian Schwertley writes
“A number of passages indicate that both God and Israel clearly recognized the distinction between moral laws and those which were ceremonial. In fact, several passages would be incomprehensible without such a distinction. “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?” (1 Sam 15:22) “To obey is better than sacrifice,” because obedience to God is a moral duty, constantly and indispensably necessary; but sacrifice is but a ceremonial institution, sometimes unnecessary, as it was in the wilderness; and sometimes sinful, when it is offered by a polluted hand, or in an irregular manner; therefore their gross disobedience to God’s express command is not to be compensated with sacrifice.”
The ceremonial rituals apart from faith and repentance accomplished nothing except arousing the anger of a holy God.
“A category distinction is unmistakable in God’s declaration, ‘I desire faithful love, not sacrifice’ (Hos. 6:6). That statement would have made no sense whatsoever if Israel could not have told the difference between the laws demanding sacrifice (which we call ceremonial) and the laws demanding faithful love (which we call moral and civil). Are we to believe that the ancient Israelites lacked the mental acumen to catch the contrast between laws which bound Jews and Gentiles alike (e.g., the death penalty for murder, Lev. 24:21-22) and those which bound Jews but not Gentiles (e.g., the prohibition of eating animals that died of themselves, Deut. 14:21)? Whether they used the verbal labels of ‘moral’ (civil) and ‘ceremonial’ (as we do) is beside the point.”7
The New Testament also recognizes the ceremonial distinction. In fact, the book of Hebrews is incomprehensible without such a distinction (cf. Heb. 7:11-12, 18-19). Although violating a ceremonial law under the Old covenant would be immoral (i.e., a sin), because any violation of God’s revealed will is sinful, nevertheless the distinction between moral and ceremonial is biblical and must be maintained.”
Paul refers to the ceremonial law as the “weak and beggarly elements” and the “commandments contained in ordinances” that no longer need to be obeyed since the death of Christ on the cross to provide the more perfect sacrifice and end the ceremonies. This is what the apostles were fighting against when in Acts 15 the apostles had to fight against certain Pharisees who wanted to circumcise everyone and command them to keep the ceremonial laws. What does the New Testament say about the law of God and how we are to approach it today? Christ’s words are clear in Matthew 5:17-19 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
We see from this verse that Christ wishes to make it ABUNDANTLY CLEAR that His law remains in FULL FORCE. In fact, we have the opportunity to obey it better than ancient Israel ever did, because we now no longer have to use the ceremonial sacrificial laws, since we can cling to Christ and acknowledge the sacrificial law in that way! In this way, we still obey the entire law. There are many who will attempt to pull statements of Paul of context that appear to state that we no longer have to obey the Old Testament law, or as Paul expresses it, “we are no longer under the law”. This does not mean that we are no longer to strive to obey the law, it simply means that the law no longer has the power to condemn us if we disobey it, because we have been justified by faith alone in Christ alone. Brian Schwertley writes concerning this “believers are not under the curse of the law. ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’), that the blessings of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith’ (Gal. 3:13-14). Paul says that by Christ’s death on the cross, believers are set free from the curse or penalty of the law.
Anyone who commits sin is under a curse. God said, ‘The soul who sins shall die’ (Ezek. 18:4). John the Baptist declared that ‘he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him’ (Jn. 3:36). Paul said that the ‘law brings about wrath’ (Rom. 4:15). ‘Having shown the absolute demand of God upon a man’s life, having defined what sin is, having convicted man of sin and shown him the nature of sinful rebellion, the law pronounces the just condemnation of God upon the sinner. The law shuts up all men under sin and seals off any escape to life for them in their own strength (Gal. 3:22). The sinner finds himself lost and sold under sin; the magnitude of his dilemma is revealed in the words, ‘It stands written that accursed is everyone who does not continue in all things having been written in the law-book to do them’ (Gal. 3:10).’ Jesus Christ bore the guilt and the penalty for the sins of His people on the cross at Calvary.
The wrath of God that we deserved for our sins was placed upon Christ.
But the fact that Christ bore the judgment that we deserved does not mean that believers are no longer under law as a guide for daily living and sanctification. Such a view ‘is antinomianism, and alien to St. Paul. St. Paul attacked man-made laws, and man-made interpretations of the law, as the way of justification; the law can never justify; it does sanctify, and there is no sanctification by lawlessness.’”
Clearly then, the WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD must be considered if we wish for Israel, or the church of Jesus Christ to be strong again. The ethnic Jews in Palestine are no longer the Israel of God. We must put on ourselves the entire word of God and obey the entire law of God as revealed in the Old and New Testament. Bestiality is an example of a clear moral law that is only mentioned in the Old Testament, but must still be obeyed today. Tithing is another example where the church has gone wrong. Because we no longer consider tithing to be a requirement of God’s moral law of giving related to the eighth commandment, giving in churches is at an all time low.
So how does this all relate to the fourth commandment? Well it is clear, as Jesus states in Matthew 5, that the fourth commandment continues for today. First of all, the fourth commandment was originally binding not only on just the Jews, but also the Gentile strangers as the verse states in Exodus 20:10 “but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, NOR THE ALIEN WITHIN YOUR GATES”. As we can see, the Gentiles were bound to obey this law under penalty of death since, as is stated elsewhere, Sabbath violators were to be executed. This is far different from the Passover for example, were an alien stranger was not bound to observe it unless he became circumcised and expressed an interest in becoming a full Jew. We see here that this Sabbath commandment is binding upon Jews and Gentiles, and not only this, but we see that God sanctifies the Sabbath day ALL THE WAY BACK IN GENESIS when God rested.
The Sabbath was not sanctified when God covenanted with the Jews, but when God created the heavens and the earth. The Sabbath is a creation ordinance, and an eternally binding principle that is a reflection of God’s essential nature of work and rest. Does Jesus ever repudiate the Sabbath? Absolutely not! In fact, what we find is Jesus giving us specific information on exactly what we are to do on the Sabbath day! Jesus worships in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. Jesus specifically tells us it is proper to perform works of mercy and healing on the Sabbath day. Jesus specifically tells us it is right to nourish ourselves on the Sabbath day like David did and like He did when he was picking grain with His disciples. Why would Jesus go into all this detail on the Sabbath in the gospels if He was only going to abolish it a few years later?
Hebrews also tells us in 4:9 “there remains then a Sabbath-rest for the people of God”. Some will argue that this is referring back to the earlier verses that refer to the rest we have in Christ. However, this is the ONLY instance where the word Sabbatismos is used in the Greek. All of the other times the author mentions rest another word is being used. This should clue us in that the author in this verse is talking about a different kind of Sabbath. The only other time this word is used, which is in the Greek Septuagint Old Testament, is when it is being used in reference to the earthly Sabbath day. This then tells us that Hebrews is here commanding a Sabbath rest for us in the New Testament. John in Revelation 1:10 states that there is such a thing as a “Lord’s Day”. This is an echo of Isaiah 58, which also refers to a “Lord’s Day” or a day that is the Lord’s possession, and God refers to it as the Sabbath day. If John were using the term to describe the very final day of judgment as some contend, then we would not be sitting here arguing this because the judgment would have already come!
Isaiah 58 (KJV) states “ If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” So we see here the word “Sabbath” and “Lord’s day” (or “My holy day”) are synonyms. This is further accentuated by the fact that many of the visions of Revelation deal with the worship of God by the elders, as well as the elements of Old Testament temple worship like the temple and alter and incense. Worship is of course especially to be done on the Sabbath day.
Finally, we know that the day has been changed from the seventh day of the calendar week, to the first day of the calendar week through apostolic example as well as the information that Christ rested from His work of salvation the first day. Brian Schwertley writes concerning apostolic example: “The universal practice of the apostolic church was to observe the first day of the week. The apostles met together on the first two Sundays after the resurrection (Jn. 20:19-26). The disciples also met together for public worship on Pentecost Sunday: “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Ac. 2:1). “Just as the disciples had been ‘gathered together’ (probably in the upper room) on the first Resurrection Sunday, the next or second Sunday (John 20:26), and very probably every following Sunday as well, so too were they ‘with one accord in one place’—probably also in the same ‘place,’ the upper room—on the eighth Sunday of Pentecost...that eighth Sunday, the Lord’s day, when the Lord’s Spirit suddenly came to His temple (His church in the upper room) and burned like an oven with tongues of fire—that too was the new Day which God would create, the Day of the Lord, the Day of the Lord God the Holy Spirit.” It is clear that the apostles and the very first churches founded by them sanctified the first day of the week.
The abiding nature of the new covenant first-day observance is demonstrated by Acts 20:7: “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.” Note that several years after the resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost the practice of the New Testament church was still public worship on the first day of the week, the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10). The disciples came together to hear the preaching of the Apostle Paul and to celebrate the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, which in the early church was taken together with a meal. They broke bread as a memorial to Christ’s death on the cross, and they met on the first day of the week to study, celebrate and remember Christ’s work of redemption and His glorious resurrection victory. “It should be observed that the disciples did not come together on the first day of the week simply so that Paul could preach to them before his departure, as some claim. If the sole purpose of the gathering was to hear the Apostle preach his farewell sermon to the congregation, this was something that could have been done at any time during his previous week’s sojourn there. From the Seventh-day Adventist point of view, one would expect such a sermon to have been preached to the congregation on the previous day, Saturday, and for the hastening Paul to have sailed from Troas at sunset on Saturday or dawn on Sunday. Yet there is no trace of this, nor indeed of any Saturday meeting whatsoever. Rather does the whole context teach that Paul simply and incidentally availed himself of the opportunity to preach to the congregation ‘upon the first day of the week when the disciples (as usual) came together to break bread’—and not specially to hear Paul.”
 Schwertley, Brian “God’s Law for Modern Man” located at www.reformed.com/pub/law.htm
9-2-2 The Sabbath And Sunday
Another passage which proves that the apostolic church held public worship on the first day of the week is 1 Corinthians 16:1-2: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” The first thing to note regarding this passage is that Paul, speaking by the Holy Spirit, insists that the charitable donations for the poor brethren in Jerusalem be collected on the first day and no other. The fact that the Holy Spirit chose the first day of the week and no other day presupposes that for the Christian church there was something unique—of abiding religious significance—regarding that day. Otherwise, why would the Holy Spirit insist upon only the first day and not the seventh, or third, or fourth, etc.? Second, note that this was not just the practice of the church at Corinth but of all the churches in Galatia: “as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also.” Collecting tithes for the poor on Sunday was the universal practice of the Christian church in the days of the apostles. “The only explanation for this ‘catholic’ [i.e., universal] injunction to all Christians everywhere to lay by for the poor saints in Jerusalem specifically on Sunday, is that all Christians everywhere were in the habit of laying by for their own local poor brethren too.” It is not an accident that Paul’s injunction to give to the poor brethren on the Lord’s day immediately follows chapter 15, which focuses on the significance of Christ’s resurrection. Giving is an aspect of Lord’s-day public worship. We give unto God because He first gave Himself for us. “Elsewhere Paul speaks of this collection in terms that are full of theological content: ‘fellowship,’ ‘service,’ ‘grace,’ ‘blessing,’ and ‘divine service.’ All this together suggests that the ‘collection’ was not some mere matter of money, but was for Paul an active response to the grace of God that not only ministered to the needs of God’s people but also became a kind of ministry to God Himself.” Thus, this passage not only proves that the apostolic churches conducted their public worship services on the first day of the week, but also shows that giving to God is part of Christian worship. This is to be expected, for it was also the universal practice in the Jewish synagogues to receive tithes and offerings during their public worship services on Saturday. The New Testament church was patterned to a large extent after the Jewish synagogue.
Seventh-day Adventist apologists have attempted to circumvent the obvious implication of this passage by arguing that collections were made on Sunday, rather than on Saturday, because it would have been a violation of the Saturday sabbath to do bookkeeping, etc., on that day. Such reasoning is fallacious for three reasons: First, as already noted, the Jews collected tithes on Saturday and engaged in “bookkeeping” procedures related to charity on the Sabbath for centuries without divine disapproval. Second, Jesus Christ clearly taught that works of mercy were permissible—yes, even required—on the Sabbath (Mt. 12:12; Mk. 3:4). Third, works of mercy on the Sabbath are permitted and commended in the Old Testament as well (1 Sam. 21:6; 2 Kgs. 4:23). “If, as Seventh-day Adventists maintain, the post-resurrectional Christian Church held its weekly meetings and its sabbath on Saturday, it is more than probable that the entire collection would have been handed over to Paul on such an occasion, rather than ‘on the first day of the week.’”
So we see here a clear statement that the Sabbath was observed on consecutive Sundays. Some will argue from this that the law then has changed, because the day has changed from the seventh to the first. They forget, however, that the commandment is not for what day of the week the seventh day of rest would fall on, but that there would simply be a pattern of six days of work and one seventh day of rest. The particular day on which that seventh day of rest falls might very well indeed depend upon the dispensation and is not a part of God’s eternal moral commandment.
Finally, some dispensationalists and others who believe only the NT law is truly applicable to us will argue that Jesus denies the Sabbath throughout the gospels by consistently breaking it. This is simply not true. Jesus never claims to break the Sabbath, but is simply correcting the foul interpretation that the Pharisees have given to the Sabbath. People will claim that Matthew 12:1-8 demonstrates that we no longer need to observe the Sabbath. What Jesus is doing here is informing the Pharisees of the proper application of the Sabbath not only today, but also under the old covenant, which the interpretation of the Pharisees had perverted. Christ is stating here that if David could violate the true ceremonial law of God, then certainly Christ and His disciples could disobey the traditions of mere men without guilt. The Pharisees classified taking grain as threshing and therefore unlawful work on the Sabbath day. This was, however, the Pharisees twisted interpretation, and nowhere does the Word of God ever state we cannot nourish ourselves on the Sabbath day (works of necessity). If Christ were disobeying a ceremonial law before His crucifixion, then Christ would have sinned in God’s sight and not been able to accomplish our perfect redemption.
When Christ informs the Pharisees that He is “Lord of the Sabbath” it is not stated in order to allow Him to break the Sabbath, but rather to define what the Sabbath always was, since God Himself is the best interpreter of His own Word. If Christ had used this excuse to break the Sabbath, then the people would have had something to say when Christ stood on trial and asked them “Which of you accuses me of sinning?” No one could answer Him a word of course, because He had not broken the Sabbath law according to the scriptures. While He has broken the tradition of the Pharisees, Christ did not break the scriptures, and to claim He did is entirely against the whole tenor of the word of God. Christ is informing us in Matthew 12 that works of necessity on the Sabbath day, like nourishing yourself on the Sabbath day when you are hungry, are not sins.
Some might argue that Christ is disobeying the Sabbath because it is only a ceremonial law. Nowhere does Christ argue that the Sabbath is a mere ceremonial law. Christ in no place argues that He is breaking the Sabbath to begin with, He is rather detailing what has always been lawfully and rightfully done on the Sabbath day. The oral tradition of the Pharisees held that threshing grain fell under a certain category of work, and they were effectively calling something unlawful work that God did not call unlawful work. Therefore, Christ set out in this passage to correct that errant tradition of the Pharisees and replace it with the true inspired interpretation. To thresh grain in order to nourish your body on the Sabbath day, Christ is clearly stating, is not a sin; no more than David getting the bread from the Temple. Christ also states in this passage that it is lawful for the priests or religious leaders to work on the Sabbath day, and therefore such are acquitted of any Sabbath violation when they work to preach and labour for God on that day. Christ is using examples of lawful work on the Sabbath day to justify the lawfulness of His activity with His disciples in Matthew 12. Christ is in no way advocating a violation of the law of God here. Brian Schwertley writes: “The Pharisees were the enemies of Christ; thus they were continually looking for a reason to accuse, condemn, and destroy Him. They seized the opportunity when they observed His disciples walking through a grain field, plucking the heads of grain and rubbing off the chaff between their palms to eat. Suddenly they confronted Christ, accusing Him of allowing His disciples to break the Sabbath. How were they breaking it? According to rabbinical tradition, their innocent activity was defined as reaping and threshing grain! “According to the Mishna that man is guilty of sabbath desecration who on that day ‘takes ears of grain equal to a lamb’s mouthful.’ “They based their whole case against the Lord and His disciples on the fact that He was allowing His disciples to transgress some of the merely traditional and anti-Scriptural thirty-nine ‘Azoth’ by ‘reaping’ (plucking the ears) and ‘threshing’ (rubbing them in their hands) on the sabbath day.”
In the face of this false accusation based on the false legalism of the Pharisaical oral traditions, Christ set forth the true meaning of the Sabbath. His explanation of the Sabbath is an implicit condemnation of the Pharisees’ interpretation of the fourth commandment and an explicit justification of His disciples’ behavior. “Over against their restrictive traditions, He posited the perfect freedom of the authoritative Word of God.” ”
 Schwertley, Brian “The Christian Sabbath: Examined, Approved, Applied” at www.reformed.com/pub/sabbath2.htm
9-2-3 Colossians 2 Explained
There are some who argue that Paul repudiates the Sabbath day in Colossians when he states in verse 2:16 “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration, or a Sabbath day.” On the surface it would seem that Paul clearly is advocating no longer following the fourth commandment here. But is this really the case? If we look at the context we find Paul is discussing the moon days of the ceremonial law. It is in this context that we find his use of Sabbath day. This is a clear reference to the special ceremonial Sabbaths of Leviticus 23 and elsewhere. This is by no means a reference to the moral Sabbath of the Ten Commandments, which we have already demonstrated the apostles were actively observing on the first day of the week, and which Christ upheld throughout His earthly ministry. Leviticus 23 speaks of these special Sabbaths. They are special memorials and holidays where trumpets were blown. Paul clearly tells us these holy days and ceremonial feast days have been fulfilled and abrogated in numerous places throughout his epistles. NOWHERE does he state that the moral Sabbath has been done away. Leviticus 23 states in part (KJV): “23 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 24 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. 25 Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. 26 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. 28 And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. 29 For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. 30 And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. 31 Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.”
What this document has clearly demonstrated is the continuation of the moral law of God, and its applicability in every area of life today. While it is beyond this scope of this paper, the Bible has things to say about every area of life, from politics, to economics, to education, to slavery, to science, and to innumerable other things. The law of God and the Word of God are pervasive and are to be applied to every aspect of civilization as a guide to all of life. When Christians observe the Sabbath again, God will bless His people once more. Therefore, like Nehemiah did, I appeal to you to put down your worldly activities this coming Sunday, and observe this Sunday and every Sunday as sanctified and holy to the Lord. We worship on the Lord’s Day, not the Lord’s hour.
“The covenant” cannot be just the 10 commandments. Dt. 28 follows after the re-affirmation of the covenant in chapter 27. There, the people had to assent that there would be curses for disobeying “his commandments and statutes, which I command thee this day”. These weren’t just the 10 commandments- e.g. “cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen” (:17). “Commandments and statutes” is obviously more than the Decalogue (which of the ten would be “statutes” and which “commandments”?). The blessings for obedience and cursings for disobedience of Dt. 28 follow straight on from this- relating to “all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day” (28:1,15). These weren’t just the Decalogue. Moses told them far more than this in his final speech to them. The blessings and curses were clearly not relevant to Gentiles- the curses are specific to Israel and include suffering “thine olive shall cast its fruit…all the diseases of Egypt…ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven…the Lord shall scatter thee among the peoples, from one end of the earth even unto the other…the Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I said unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again; and there ye shall be sold for bondmen”. This last curse identifies those being spoken to as those who came up out of Egypt. Clearly the chapter refers to Israel, not Gentiles. I have shown in my opening statement that the Sabbath was specifically for the Jews.
Mt. 21:43 says that the Kingdom of God would be taken from the Jews and given to others. But this doesn’t mean that the laws given to Israel are now binding on Gentiles.
This is going too far. The law recorded in the Bible includes all kinds of commands given by God at various times, but not all of these are binding on men of later times. Psalm 2 doesn’t say this anyway. It speaks of a time when the Lord’s Christ will be surrounded by His enemies but they must submit- and therefore “Lay hold of the son [of God], lest…ye perish” (:12 RVmg.). The appeal is to the Israel who crucified Jesus to repent and accept Him as Christ. It isn’t an appeal to keep the Law. It is applied in the NT to the sufferings of Jesus at the hands of the Jews. Jesus refers to it when He appeals to Israel to repent “except [lest] ye likewise perish” (Lk. 13:5).
But this passage says nothing of being judges for not obeying Old Testament laws.
This certainly isn’t the Biblical position. The fact one doesn’t keep the Sabbath doesn’t mean one pays no attention to the OT revelations.
6. For this reason God has made the Protestant church weak and the heresy of Romanism powerful, and it is presently now swallowing up many of the liberal and even those that are seen as evangelical protestant
This is false logic. I don’t keep the Sabbath. But it doesn’t mean I am on my way to Rome.
Where does the Bible tell us this? No evidence is provided. My opening statement pointed out that there is no such difference.
Philip’s reasoning from Romans seems to me to prove little. The law being spoken about there, he reasons, is the Decalogue. But Paul is talking about circumcision, which was not part of the Decalogue, but of what Philip thinks of as the ‘ceremonial law’ which has been done away. Paul is writing to the Jews and Gentiles in the church at Rome. The Jews were trying to make the Gentiles be circumcised (cp. Acts 15). Paul is proving the universal need of both Jew and Gentile in Christ; he does so by saying that the Jewish Christians who try to keep the law break it; and the Gentiles who don’t keep the Law also have a sense of right and wrong, a conscience, and will be judged by God for their sins against what they know to be right. And so Paul goes on to show the futility of keeping the Law: “Therefore by works of the law shall no flesh be justified…but now apart from the law a righteousness of God hath been manifested” in Christ (Rom. 3:20,22). The “law of faith” has replaced the law of obedient acts; “therefore we conclude [RV we reckon] that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (3:27,28). If a Gentile was perfectly obedient to the Law, then his uncircumcision would be “reckoned” as circumcision (2:26). But as Paul so often shows, nobody is perfectly obedient to the Law. And therefore we “reckon” that someone is justified by faith quite apart from deeds of the Law. Philip has told us that this section of Romans refers to the Decalogue when it speaks of “the law”. If this is so, then the works of obedience to that Law are not going to justify us. Our salvation comes from outside that Law.
I think this is missing the point. Paul’s point is that those who totally obey the Law would be righteous, but none of us do or can…so our being declared or reckoned righteous must be by another means- by faith in Christ. So “the law of faith” replaces the Mosaic Law.
Again logic seems to me to be faulty here. The Mosaic Law was given on Sinai as Israel were on their way to dispossess those peoples. Those nations were wicked before that- this is why their land was given to Israel. So their sin was before the Mosaic Law was given. Their sin therefore wasn’t because they were not keeping Mosaic Laws such as the Sabbath. God did not make known to the people in Egypt anything about the Sabbath, but after He brought them out of Egypt and into the wilderness he gave them the Sabbath law (Ez. 20:10-12; Neh. 9:13, 14). There is no evidence that even Abraham kept the Sabbath law, for Moses, while speaking of the covenant that contained the Sabbath commandment, said: " The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even who are all of us here alive this day" (Deut. 5:3).
But God didn’t say that the entire Gentile world had to keep the Decalogue. Only the Gentile who chose to live in the Israelite community. I showed in my first statement that the Sabbath was a sign between God and Israel, not the Gentiles. So who was the “stranger within your gates” who had to keep Sabbath? It can’t be merely a Gentile, because the Sabbath was a sign between God and Israel. Therefore these people must refer to proselytes, those who had chosen to enter into the community of Israel and share as far as they could a covenant relationship with God. And this is why Is. 56:3,6 speaks of “the stranger that hath joined himself [Heb. implies, in covenant] unto the Lord…to minister unto him, and to love the name of the Lord…that keepeth the Sabbath” (RV). These were Gentiles [“strangers”] who had chosen to enter into covenant relationship with Yahweh and therefore they came under His laws. This is why “the stranger” also participated in confirming the blessings and cursings attendant upon having covenant relationship with God (Josh. 8:33). It is why the stranger kept the Passover in later generations (Ex. 12:49)- to show that they felt solidarity with Israel’s God to the point of feeling that He had brought them too through the Red Sea. It’s why they could offer sacrifice (Lev. 17:8). But is false logic to say that because these Gentiles kept the Sabbath therefore all Gentiles now must do so. Those Gentiles kept the Passover and the laws governing sacrifices; it can’t mean that Gentiles now must therefore do those things.
But the Gentiles who lived among Israel also had to keep Passover and offer sacrifices etc. Neither of these is in the Decalogue.
This hardly proves such a distinction exists between moral and ceremonial law. God wants obedience to His principles from the heart, rather than mere obedience to the letter of a law. Surely Philip is missing the hyperbole- it wasn’t that God didn’t want any sacrifice, He wanted love more than He wanted sacrifice. For He elsewhere criticizes Israel for not following the sacrifice legislation as they ought to have done. All this was summated in the work of Jesus as foretold in Psalm 40- “sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not”, compared to the work and death of the Lord Jesus. He showed the “faithful love”, obedience to the voice of the Lord etc. which the OT passages had explained were what God wanted more than He wanted animal sacrifice.
These verses make no such distinction. Because Jesus was to be a priest after the order of Melchizedek [through Judah not Levi] it followed that “there is a disannulling of a foregoing commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness”- and this commandment is “the law” which has been replaced by “the word of the oath”, the new covenant in Christ (7:28). Nowhere is there the slightest suggestion that “the law” refers to only part of the Law. Hebrew 8 goes on to say that this “law” was the old covenant, which has been replaced by the new. But the old covenant was that which was epitomized in the Decalogue, written on table of stone. And the new covenant is not written “in tables of stone” as were the 10 commandments; we are ministers not of those written letters in the stone, but of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:3-11). What was “in letters, engraven on stones” (RVmg.) was undeniably the 10 commandments, including the Sabbath. And this is called “the ministration of death…of condemnation”, “which is done away”; it is to be contrasted with the ministration of the Spirit.
And He did. He fulfilled them in His life and death. He didn’t abolish them during His lifetime. He fulfilled them. When we read of the teachers of " the law" we understand it to mean the Law of Moses, not the Decalogue (Matt 5:20, 7:29).
No, there is no command to keep Sabbath until Moses. The fact God rested that one day doesn’t mean He commanded His creatures to rest. Because He made lights on the 4th day doesn’t mean we have to every 4th day.
The Israelites who left Egypt didn’t enter the “rest” of the promised land, nor was the full Kingdom of God established then. " If Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day" (Heb 4:8) and that day is Today " God again set a certain day, calling it Today" Heb 4:7, so " we who have believed enter that rest" (Heb 4:3). We don’t enter that rest once /week. It is a state we are in now, as we wait for the ultimate rest of the Kingdom at Christ’s coming. This entering God's rest through faith in Christ is alluding to Matthew 11:28-30: “I will give you rest”. Just before Matthew tells us of Jesus' dispute with the Jews concerning the Sabbath he records Jesus' words " I will give you rest" - from Sabbath keeping and legalistic righteousness.
This is “the day of the Lord” – a common phrase for events to come in the future, especially around the final coming of the Lord in the person of His Son. John was there “in spirit”- the “spirit of prophecy”. “My holy day” and “the Lord’s day” don’t seem synonyms to me. “The day of the Lord” and “the Lord’s day” certainly are.
If we don’t have to keep Sabbath, the argument about when it should be kept becomes irrelevant. If the disciples met on the 1st day of the week doesn’t prove they were doing so in an attempt to keep the Sabbath. My church meet on Sundays but not to keep Sabbath. The fact is there is no statement ever that Sabbath [Saturday] was changed to Sunday. Philip has argued that God rested on the 7th day and so should we. If this is really so, why does he say that we must now rest on the 1st day? It means that the argument based on what happened at creation is invalidated.
The meeting in Jn. 20 took place on the Sunday evening after the resurrection. The disciples were assembled, we are told, " for fear of the Jews." In fact, some of them didn't even believe the Master had risen. (Mark 16:11-14, Luke 24:36-38). They were hardly holding a worship meeting. The Sabbath is not even mentioned in this verse.
Regarding Acts 20:7, note that the meeting was held in the evening of the first day of the week and continued till midnight or a little later. That is, it began on Sunday evening and finished in the early hours of Monday morning. The " breaking of bread" took place after midnight (verse 11)- therefore on the Monday morning, not Sunday!
But Colossians 2:14 speaks of “handwriting” that was done away. This surely refers to the Old Covenant, the 10 commandments, which were “written on tables of stone” (2 Cor. 3). Col. 2:14RV has: “the bond written in ordinances”, of which “the sabbath days” of v. 16 were part. The bond that was done away by the cross was “the old covenant”, that written on stones, the 10 commandments, which included the Sabbath. If Paul intended us to keep the Sabbath, why did he not define in more detail that he was referring to the Sabbath days of the feasts? The Sabbaths were a shadow of Christ, fulfilled in Him- that’s why they are ended, Paul says. So, is the weekly Sabbath not a shadow of Christ? It surely is, for Jesus was clearly alluding to it when He offered us “rest”, and when Hebrews 3 says that “today” is the Sabbath. If the weekly Sabbath was a type of Christ, which it surely is, then according to Col. 2:17 it has been “taken out of the way” by the fact Christ fulfilled it. It would be hard for Philip to argue that the monthly “Sabbaths” were types of Christ, so [according to Col. 2] they were ended; but the weekly Sabbaths are not types of Christ. If they are, then according to Colossians, this is the very reason why they have been taken out of the way. And this is why v. 18 warns us to let no man tell us to keep Sabbaths or any legalistic righteousness- for it is a sign that in the end we will not hold fast to Christ, who has fulfilled these things, and opened a way for a real salvation, through faith rather than works of legal obedience.
9-3-2 The Sabbath And Salvation
Duncan Heaster’s argument for the discontinuance of the Sabbath day is typical of most people who adhere to his position. Let us examine it point by point and then add a few additional comments. His first argument is
He argues that the old system of animal sacrifices of priests was done away after the death of Jesus Christ. He then uses Hebrews 7:12 to support his position that the entire law as expressed in the Old Testament has been completely abrogated. Is this the case however? Christ states in Matthew 5 that whoever fails to teach the least of the Old Testament commandments will be called least in the kingdom. In addition, I have already proven from my previous paper that the law in the Old Testament, with the exception of the ceremonial regulations was binding not only upon the Jews, but all of the Gentile nations. It is of course fitting then to find that in the context of Hebrews 7:12 the author is only talking about the priesthood, temple, and sacrifices. These were things only peculiar to the Jews and not binding on Gentiles. The author is saying that with a change of the priesthood, there must also come a change in the ceremonial law, or that law which is only binding on the Jews. Read Hebrews 7 and you will see that the inspired writer is only talking about the ceremonial law, there is no mention of any of what I would define as moral laws in the entire chapter. In addition, to say that the moral law has changed is to say that God’s eternal moral character has changed. This presents incredible theological difficulties for Duncan.
Heaster then argues that because I urge you to keep the Sabbath I am promoting salvation by works. Not correct. Calvinism and Lutheranism are the origins of the doctrine of justification by faith alone during the Protestant Reformation. I believe that you are justified by faith alone. Nowhere have I claimed that we are justified by keeping the Sabbath day. Because we are in Christ, the law no longer has the power to condemn us. Do we nullify the law because we have been saved by faith alone? Is the moral law completely done away as our standard of conduct now that we have faith? Paul says by no means in Romans (Romans 3:31, 6:1-2)! Rather we uphold and follow the Old Testament law of Christ as He commands in Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. “
I too promote and endorse the victory of Jesus. Part of the victory of Jesus as world history progresses will be the eventually spread of His law-word to the ends of the earth, and the conformity of every nation to that Word. There will come a day when mankind will obey the law of God from cover to cover, before Jesus returns again as prophesied in numerous places including the Psalms. Duncan argues on the basis of Col 2:14-17 that we no longer have to regard the entire Old Testament law. However, if you look at the quote he provides you notice all the specific things Paul lists in verse 17 are ceremonial laws binding only upon the Jews! I have already explained that the word “Sabbath” in this verse must be understood as the ceremonial Sabbaths in Leviticus 23 and not as the moral Sabbath of the Ten Commandments which was also binding on Gentiles. You can find this reference in my first paper.
Duncan is right to say that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Torah law. Notice however that Jesus in Matthew 5:17-20 is absolutely adamant in stating that His fulfilling the Torah does not mean that we are free to disobey the Old Testament law!
In this section Duncan argues that because the Sabbath would now be the first day of the week according to my argument, it cannot be the fourth commandment since the fourth commandment mentions the seventh day. I have answered this already in my previous article. The commandment only commands six days of work followed by a seventh day of rest, it does not demand that it be on the seventh day of the roman calendar week.
In this section Duncan argues that since work had to be done in circumcising a baby on the Sabbath, then the law of circumcision took precedence of the Sabbath. Therefore, since it seems from this that circumcision is more important than Sabbath keeping, and that circumcision has been done away in the New Testament, how can we argue for retaining the Sabbath? First of all you will notice that God specifically makes an exception for religious work on the Sabbath. The priests and religious leaders were able to work on the Sabbath, and Christ affirms this into the New Testament. The Sabbath never means a day of idleness. Idleness is not the biblical definition of Sabbath. Christ commands us to perform works of worship (Christ worshipped in the synagogue on the Sabbath), teaching (Christ read in the synagogue on the Sabbath), mercy (Christ healed people on the Sabbath), and nourishment (Christ allowed people to glean and eat on the Sabbath). Therefore, circumcising a baby on the Sabbath is absolutely no problem, because religious work is not only required on the Sabbath, but it is commanded on the Sabbath! Proof that the Sabbath is more important than circumcision lies in the fact that the Gentiles and even the animals had to rest on the Sabbath (see the fourth commandment), but only the Jews were required to be circumcised.
Here Duncan continues to argue from verses that tell us we no longer need to observe special days. These passages are referring only to the ceremonial Sabbaths and feasts, not to the moral Sabbath which was even binding on the Gentiles and animals. The Gentiles did not have to keep the Jewish feast days in the Old Testament. He quotes: . “Ye observe days (e.g. the Sabbath), and months, and times, and years (i.e. the Jewish festivals). I am afraid of (for) you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain" (Gal. 4:9-11). This is the seriousness of attempting to keep the Sabbath as a means to salvation. It is clear that observing the Sabbath is irrelevant to salvation: " One man esteemeth one day above another (i.e. in spiritual significance): another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that observeth (A.V. mg.) the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that observeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it" (Rom. 14:5,6). Duncan readily admits that these verses refer to the Jewish festivals, yet for some reason he lumps the moral Sabbath in there which was binding not only on the Jews but also on the Gentiles as is clearly stated in the fourth commandment itself. The strangers were bound to observe the Sabbath as everyone else, even the animals were! It is a universal commandment. To prove that Paul is referring to Sabbaths other than the moral Sabbath in these verses all one has to do is look at Leviticus 23:23-32, where we see that there are ceremonial Sabbaths that have nothing to do with the moral Sabbath which is still binding for us and on all Gentiles.
Duncan then uses uninspired sources to prove that the church enforced a first day of the Roman calendar week observance. I agree with the conclusion of this section. I have already proven that the day was changed from Saturday to Sunday by example of Christ and the apostles, please refer to my opening statement for the proof of that.
In this section Duncan tries to prove that there is no distinction between the moral and ceremonial law. However it has already been proven by me in my opening statement that the Bible does make such a distinction. God says “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” thus saying that obedience to His moral commandments is preferable to having to make the sacrificial obligations of the ceremonial law to atone for your sin. There are two distinct law systems here. In addition, the Gentiles were bound to observe certain commandments (moral) and not others (ceremonial) proving that God also made the distinction in this way. Only circumcised Jews could observe the holidays and go to the temple and make sacrifices! Notice that it is these only that Paul lists as no longer necessary for NT Gentile Christians. The ceremonial law is “the law of commandments contained in ordinances” which is clear in Col 2:14-17. There is a clear biblical difference between moral and ceremonial law. Finally, Christ says clearly and emphatically in Matthew 5:17-21 that His moral law must continue to be followed in every way unless you want to be called LEAST in the kingdom!
Duncan then argues that the believers are priests and therefore exempt from the Sabbath. Not so, for Jesus never says the Sabbath is to be a day of idleness, but a day of works! Works of worship, teaching, mercy, and necessity as is demonstrated all throughout the gospels where the Pharisees wrongly accuse Christ of violating the sabbath are required on this day. Therefore the NT believers do work on the Sabbath just as OT priests did.
- The second objection that Paul nowhere mentions Sabbath breakers as a sin is an argument from silence. Simply because Paul does not mention it as a potential sin does not mean it cannot be one. Paul also did not mention bestiality as a potential sin, does that mean that bestiality is no longer sinful?
- As a Christian Reconstructionist who believes that the law of God must apply to every area of life, I do believe that a properly constituted civil government of God would indeed impose the death penalty for Sabbath violation on the testimony of two or three witnesses before a duly constituted civil court. This is no issue if one understands that God’s laws of civil justice remain in effect today as the eternal standard of His just nature. Nowhere does the New Testament do away with His civil laws and penalties. As nations eventually begin to covenant with God, they will model their government and civil system on God’s complete revelation. God punished the Gentile nations for not doing away with idolaters and other wicked people through the death penalty. Paul upholds the civil law in Romans 13, since the civil magistrate is to be the minister of God’s justice. God’s governmental justice is defined by the Old Testament civil statutes, one of which is the death penalty for Sabbath violation.
As you can see, Duncan’s arguments have failed to stand the test of biblical scrutiny. He fails to realize that countless laws of the Old Testament were binding not only on Jews but also on the Gentiles. Paul states in Romans 1 that the Old Testament law is written upon the heart of every Gentile. The Ten Commandments were not simply given to the Jews, but given to every nation and obedience is demanded of every nation. This is clearly proven in my opening statement where God punishes the Gentile nations for disobeying laws that Duncan argues are given only to the Jews. In addition, it is also clear that the temple, holidays, and laws of separation (clean and unclean foods, animals, seeds, clothes) were only needed to be obeyed by the Jews! The Gentiles were not forced to follow these laws when they visited Israel, nor does God ever mention punishing the Gentile nations for not visiting the temple and offering the yearly sacrifices. The Gentiles slaves and strangers were bound to obey the moral Sabbath, even the animals were (Exodus 20:8-11) Ancient and modern Rabbis confirm that there is such a legal distinction between laws only for Jews and laws also binding on Gentiles. The Bible clearly states that there are two systems of law running throughout Old and New Testaments. Part of the moral law, binding on both Jew and Gentile, is the weekly Sabbath day since it is stated in the Ten Commandments, the summary of the moral law. Ten is the number for completeness. The first four commandments are the summary of love to God, and the last six of love to neighbor. Christ binds us to all ten complete commandments when He tells us to “Love the LORD our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Christ warns us of doing away with any commandment that He does not in Matthew 5:17-20. Finally, Christ and the apostles are seen actively observing the first day of the roman calendar week as the Sabbath day, or Lord’s Day.
Questions By Mr. Philip Bartlett Answers By Mr. Duncan Heaster
Ephesians 2:14-15 states: “For He himself is our peace who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace”. This abolishing of the “law with its commandments and regulations” sound remarkably similar to Col 2:14 where it states “having cancelled the written code with its regulations, that was against us”. You contend that this refers to the complete law of God given in the Old Testament because handwriting must somehow refer to the Ten Commandments (even though you never prove this). Yet, Ephesians 2:14-15 says that these commandments are a “barrier” between Jew and Gentile. John Calvin writes concerning this: “Ceremonial observations were afterwards added, which, like walls, enclosed the inheritance of God, preventing it from being open to all or mixed with other possessions, and thus excluded the Gentiles from the kingdom of God…. What has been metaphorically understood by the word wall is now more plainly expressed. The ceremonies, by which the distinction was declared, have been abolished through Christ” (Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1981], pp. 236-237). In addition Theodoret, Calvin, Bucer, Grotius, Meier, Holzhausen, Olshausen, and Conybeare and countless other scholars hold these passages only to be referring to the ceremonial law. In light of all of this, and the fact that the Gentiles were judged in the Old Testament for disobeying laws based on the Decalogue, how can you say that these passages refer to the whole Old Testament law?
The quotation of “scholars” is hardly Biblical proof. A number of the scholars mentioned didn’t believe in Sabbath keeping- so in any case calling them as witnesses only serves to defeat the argument being postulated: that Christians should keep the Sabbath today. The “dividing wall” clearly alludes to the wall beyond which Gentiles could not pass in Herod’s temple. For those “in Christ” by baptism, all Jew / Gentile differences are ended because they all become the true children of Abraham (Gal. 3:27-29). Colossians 2 gives us one example of this- in that the Old Covenant has been ended. The handwriting of God is further defined in 2 Cor. 3 to mean that which was “engraven on stones”- clearly the 10 commandments, which were the epitome of the entire Mosaic Law. The link between Col. 2 and Eph. 2 doesn’t prove that Paul has in mind only the “ceremonial” law. Col. 2:14-17 defines the law as including the Sabbath. The reason this has been ended is because it was fulfilled in Christ. The weekly Sabbaths just as much as those of Lev. 23 were fulfilled in Christ. You would have to argue that the weekly Sabbath was not fulfilled in Christ but those of Lev. 23 were…and this is untenable. In addition to which it is pure supposition to say that “Sabbath” in Col. 2 must not refer to the weekly Sabbaths.
You claim that Gentiles could not be cursed by God for disobeying the law (ie sinning) in your previous statements. Yet God clearly states that He was driving the Canaanites out of their land because of their sins against laws that He binds Israel to obey: “9 When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, 11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. 12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. 13 Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God. 14 For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do.” How then can you say that the law and curses were not universal when God clearly is cursing Canaan for disobedience?
I said that the Gentiles could not have been driven out of the land because they disobeyed the Sabbath law, as you claimed, because that law had not then been given. You are arguing from silence. Scripture definitely says that the Sabbaths were given by God to Israel as a memorial between them and Him- not to the Gentile world. “I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness. And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments…moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them. But the house of Israel rebelled…my sabbaths they greatly polluted” (Ez. 20:10-13). “Thou camest down also upon Mount Sinai and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws…and madest known unto them thy holy sabbath…and a law, by the hand of Moses” (Neh. 9:13,14). The whole sabbath concept- and note that there is no difference made between weekly and ceremonial sabbaths- was “made known” to Israel by Moses. They didn’t know it before. So you can’t reasonably argue that the Gentiles knew about it before Israel did.
God states that Israel’s law is to be an example and model for all nations, not simply for Israel: Deuteronomy 4:5 “Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. 6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. 7 For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? 8 for what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” The statutes and judgments are righteous according to the Gentile nations, or in other words tell them how to keep from being wicked or sinful. How then can you say that this law is only for the Jews?
You have stated that the Decalogue was for Gentiles and Jews, but the rest of the Law of Moses was only for Jews. But now you are saying that Dt. 4:5-8 is speaking about the 10 commandments. But “statutes and judgments…that ye should do in the land whither ye go” are clearly not the ten commandments. They were to be obeyed a) by Israel b) in the land of Israel. Not by the Gentile world. Israel’s obedience to them would make their neighbours say “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people”. There is no statement in the above passage that the Gentiles had to be obedient to these “statutes and judgments”. The passage prophesies that the Gentiles would only come to know about God’s laws through seeing the example of those who had been obedient to them. This is proof positive that those nations didn’t know them beforehand- so it cannot be that they knew those laws before Israel did, and were expelled from the land for disobedience to them. The Queen of Sheba came to visit Solomon because she had heard of the wisdom and happiness of Israel as a result of their obedience to the law of their God- but she hadn’t been commanded by God to be obedient to the laws which Israel were obeying.
You claim that whenever the Bible uses the word stranger it refers only to those people who have latched onto Israel and have decided to covenant with Yahweh, and that only these special people had to keep the Sabbath day. Yet this is not how the Bible uses the word stranger at all. In fact, God distinguishes those strangers who DO latch on and covenant with Yahweh, from those strangers that do not. Exodus 12:48 says “An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the passover of YAHWEH must have all the males in his household circumcised.” Notice carefully that in order to partake of the Passover the alien or stranger first had to want to do this, and then also have his household circumcised! The Sabbath commandment however is binding upon all strangers without exception, and even the animals. The stranger, even if he did not want to observe the Sabbath, nevertheless had to do so, even if he was not circumcised. The commandment is universal. Therefore how can you say that the Sabbath is like circumcision when the Sabbath is universally binding upon all Gentile visitors and circumcision is binding only upon those who wished to enter the Jewish covenant (i.e. go onto the Jewish side of the ‘wall of partition’ mentioned in Ephesians 2:14-15)?
If the Sabbath is a moral commandment, how can animals have to be obedient to it? Surely they are a-moral? Are they really going to be resurrected and judged and condemned for their failure to sit down and rest on the 7th day? The Israelite owner of animals was not to use his animals for labour on the Sabbath because he had to observe the Sabbath- not them. What evidence is there that God specifically requested all animals, fish, birds etc. not to work on the Sabbath? Did He beam it into their brain cells? Scripture is totally silent about this. You give no evidence at all that Sabbath keeping was obligatory upon Gentile visitors. If as you claim it was a moral requirement for the whole planet, then why did God not instruct His prophets to tell the whole planet about their duty to keep it? Israel were never commanded to go and tell the Gentile world to keep Sabbath, and there is no record of such instruction being given to Gentile nations before the time of Moses. All these huge assumptions, which have not the slightest Biblical proof, are required simply because a wrong proposition has to be ‘proved’.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Christ here clearly states that not the least stroke will disappear from the law until all is fulfilled and heaven and earth itself disappear. Therefore, He says if you teach others to disobey the very least of the Old Testament law, you will be called least in the kingdom. If you claim that fulfill involves doing away with our need to obey His law (not for justification but for sanctification, we are justified by faith alone), then you cause Our Lord to contradict Himself by calling us to obey it! How do you respond to this statement of our Lord?
Nobody was free at the time Jesus spoke those words to disobey the Mosaic Law- because the Torah was in force right up until Jesus “took it out of the way” through His death on the cross. Then the “heavens and earth” of the Mosaic system ended. This phrase must be symbolic because the literal earth and heaven will not be destroyed- God will not destroy His own abode, and His eternal Kingdom is prophesied to come here on earth (Ecc. 1:4). If you say that the ceremonial law has been done away but the 10 commandments haven’t been, then by quoting Mt. 5:17 you are forced to assume that “the law” meant only the ten commandments. And yet it is clear from the usages of the phrase “the law” in the New Testament that it clearly refers to the entire law. You are forced to conclude that sometimes “the law” refers to the 10 commandments, sometimes to the rest of the Law. How can you decide which definition to apply? There is no Biblical warrant for this. And you went further in your second paper to introduce yet a third compartment of ‘law’: “Nowhere does the New Testament do away with [God’s] civil laws and penalties”. You seem to be saying that the “Law” was divided into: 1) the 10 commandments, 2) the “civil laws and penalties”, and 3) the “ceremonial law”, and that only the last category of “the law” was done away. These legalistic distinctions are purely artificial and man-made. They cannot be sustained from the Bible text.
9-4-3 The First Day Of The Week
They intended to break the bread on the first day as Acts 20:7 states “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” Clearly, however, there was an accident that occurred. In addition to this, Paul in the enthusiasm of his sermon, appeared to have spilled the message over until past midnight. What is important is that the time of their coming together in order to have a meeting and the Lord’s Supper, was on the first day of the week. Simply because the meeting spilled over past the Sabbath day does not negate that they met on the Sabbath day. It simply proves the incredible enthusiasm with which the apostles and disciples embraced the truth of the teaching of the Word of God and that they observed HOURS in instruction not a mere hour in the morning. Midnight is the demarcation time of the Christian Sabbath. Verse seven also states that because Paul intended to leave the next day, he kept talking until midnight. This implies that ordinarily he would have stopped and they would have had the Lord’s Supper before midnight.
No direct commandment is necessary since it has already been commanded in the Old Testament. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:17-20 that not the least jot or tittle will be removed till heaven and earth themselves disappear. Jesus is speaking about being called least “in the kingdom” if one does not teach all of these commandments proving that this extends far beyond the cross of Jesus Christ. We even obey the sacrificial laws and the Passover and circumcision, only that we obey it in a superior way because Christ has become our Passover and has been “cut off” for us (in the way of circumcision). We no longer need to make the sacrifices in the old way since Jesus has become our sacrifice and we obey the sacrificial laws through Jesus. However, with this in mind all of the law of Moses is to be taught and obeyed today. While it is not necessary to keep the law of Moses FOR SALVATION (Acts 15), it is still necessary to obey the law of Moses for sanctification. Nowhere does the scripture ever say that the Ten Commandments have been done away, no matter what my opponent tries to tell you. He always quotes verses out of context whenever trying to prove that.
9-4-4 The Sabbath Fulfilled
As far as the Sabbath being fulfilled in Christ, the ceremonial part of it was yes. This includes especially the feast Sabbaths in Leviticus 23 and other places. But the moral part of the Sabbath, where God morally commands that men be given a time to rest and worship Him as God, has always been effect for all men everywhere. When God states in the scripture that He “made known to them My Sabbath” this does not prove that God first instituted the Sabbath then, but rather is a statement that He caused them to remember His Sabbath after the knowledge of it had been lost in human history. God didn’t sanctify the Sabbath day when He gave it to the Jews, He sanctified it all the way back in Genesis as a holy and special day. Genesis 2:4 “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that He had done”. The day was holy to the Gentiles long before it was holy to the Jews.
The ministration of death written and engraven on stones was not the commandments themselves, but the power of those written commandments to kill you because you were not saved by Jesus Christ. That ministration has been done away now that Christ has come, but Paul asks in Romans 3: 30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. And again in Romans 7: 7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. 9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. 12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
9-4-5 The Sabbath And Conscience
You are ripping this chapter out of its context like you usually do with passages like this. The context of Romans 14 refers only to the feast days and ceremonial days of the Jewish ceremonial law. Also mentioned in this verse are the ceremonial food laws. Clearly Paul is dealing only with those things specific to the Jews. In Isaiah 56:1-2 God binds the Sabbath on Jew and Gentile : “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for my salvation is about to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who lays hold on it; who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil” Christ chose to appear repeatedly to His disciples on the first day of the week (Mt. 28:9; Lk. 24:15-31, 36; Jn. 20:19, 26). This pattern of appearance is carefully noted in the Scriptures and is obviously not arbitrary. Jesus chose the first day of the week to strengthen the apostles’ faith, instruct them in doctrine, issue commands, engage in fellowship, and partake in the breaking of bread.
9-5-1 The Sabbath Is Not Binding Today
If there is no difference between the ceremonial and moral laws, how can you say that the ceremonial law was binding on the Jews only, but the moral laws on the Gentiles? If Sabbath keeping is a moral issue, then how could the priests by God’s command “profane the Sabbath” law, as Jesus said they did (Mt. 12:5)? Presumably according to Philip’s definitions they were being “immoral”, and so Jesus and the Mosaic Law would have commended them for immorality. If the Sabbath is an unchangeable moral issue, then it cannot be that morality is broken in this way. You can’t be immoral in order to be moral.
I don’t see that Philip has Biblically proved his contention that the Ten Commandments were and are binding on the Gentile world, but the other Mosaic commands were binding on the Jews alone. He wrote: “Only circumcised Jews could observe the holidays and go to the temple and make sacrifices!”. But this just wasn’t so. There is specific legislation, even encouragement, for the “stranger within thy gates” to keep Passover and offer the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:48; Num. 9:14). And they could definitely make other sacrifices too: “And if a stranger sojourn with you, or whosoever be among you in your generations, and will offer an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD; as ye do, so he shall do. One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you” (Num. 15:14-16). The stranger could also offer a sacrifice to atone for committing a sin of ignorance (Num. 15:26-29).
The argument from Romans 14 hasn’t been satisfactorily answered. Paul says that if someone wants to keep any day as especially holy, they are welcome, but it must be understood it is merely a matter of conscience. So it is not good enough to say that Paul is only speaking of some ceremonial Sabbaths. He is speaking of observing any day. And there is no evidence that Scripture makes any distinction between “moral” and “ceremonial” Sabbaths. Philip is forced to this conclusion because preconceived ideas demand it; but it is nowhere in Scripture.
I several times in my papers referred to Paul’s argument in 2 Cor. 3, where he described that which was “engraven on stones” as the Old Covenant which was being done away. And it was the Decalogue which was “engraven on stones”. The ministry of the Spirit has replaced that of those “letters”. And yet Philip makes no comment upon this. I leave readers to re-read the comments made about this in my earlier papers.
Philip has stated two things which seem to me contradictory:
1) The commands about killing Sabbath breakers should ideally be implemented today- even though these are not part of the Decalogue. They are therefore part of what Philip calls the “ceremonial law”
2) The “ceremonial law” has been done away and is no longer binding upon us.
I leave readers to reflect upon this. If all outside the Decalogue has been ended, then why insist that parts of it must still be kept? Philip says that the whole has been fulfilled in Jesus; and yet this is the very reason, according to Col. 2:14-17, that we do not need to keep the Law! Philip says that the ceremonial law doesn’t have to be kept because it was fulfilled in Jesus, and yet he says the entire Law was fulfilled in Him. Therefore logically he ought to accept that the rest of the Law likewise has been done away.
One could even argue from the Lord's teaching about new wine needing new bottles that it is potentially destructive to a person to mix the old and new covenants. A Christian trying to keep the Mosaic law is likened to trying to tack old cloth onto new, or putting old wine in new bottles. The result will be damage, because faith in Christ and salvation by pure grace requires us to shed all ideas of salvation by the works of law-keeping (Lk. 5:36-39). The fact Paul and the Lord Jesus both quote the Old Testament extensively, advocating the upholding of some of the principles and laws found there, is significant- because their lack of command to keep the Sabbath is a glaring omission. If indeed they intended us to do so, why don't they even once make the point?
Summing up, it seems to me that we humans shy away from the purity and reality of God’s grace. We would all rather “do” something in order to earn our salvation. Yet as Romans 6:23 points out, this would mean that salvation would be a wage earned, rather than gift given quite undeservedly. “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:4,5). Most ‘Christian’ groups include some elements of seeking salvation by works, and have therefore in some form included some of the Mosaic system in their belief structure: be it tithing, priests dressing up in robes, places of worship which are treated as if God dwells in them, observing some special days… whereas the reality is that we have sinned and deserve death, eternal death, and only a salvation by pure grace can save us. The Lord Jesus, as one of our nature, our representative, Son of God and yet with human nature, tempted as we are yet without sin (Heb. 4:15)…lived, died and rose again as our representative sacrifice. We can appropriate that great salvation to ourselves through immersion (baptism) into Him, as adults gratefully grasping with both hands the gift of grace which is in Him. And we cannot be passive to that grace, to the Hope of resurrection at the second coming, to eternal life in God’s Kingdom on earth… which has been enabled for those who accept the true Gospel in baptism. We must live the life of response to grace, not in terms of fulfilling Mosaic commands, but in seeking to simply reflect our experience of grace in all spheres of human life. For this is, in its barest essence, “the law of Christ”.
I appeal to all readers to give themselves no rest until they have learnt the true Gospel, believed it, and been baptized. I would be delighted to discuss any questions you may have and to send you a free copy of Bible Basics, a study manual enabling you to systematically analyze the message of the Gospel for yourself, in your own home. Or you can view it at www.biblebasicsonline.com.
May God bless us all towards His Kingdom.
Duncan Heaster, email@example.com
9-5-2 Our Obligation To Observe The Sabbath
In conclusion I would like to briefly repeat the clear scriptural proofs which make it absolutely certain that the Sabbath must be kept today. First of all it is commanded in the law of God (Exodus 20:8-11). Second of all Jesus Christ said that we are to observe even the least of the commandments of the law of God in the New Covenant just as in the Old (Matthew 5:17-20). It is sure that the Sabbath commandment was not a least commandment but was written by the finger of God Himself and was a day sanctified long before the Ten Commandments were given (Genesis 2:4). Given that Christ is our more perfect sacrifice, circumcision, feast day, and ceremonial Sabbaths of rest (Leviticus 23) we now observe these particular things in a superior way and are no longer under the wall of partition and the commandments contained in ordinances but we obey these particular things in a new and more fulfilled way (Ephesians 2:11-18, Colossians 2:13-17, Romans 14, Matthew 5:17). We also know that we do not observe the entire law of Moses for salvation (Acts 15:1) which is by faith alone, but rather we observe it for sanctification as the evidential mark of being God’s spiritual people (Matthew 5:17-20, 1 John 5:3, Romans 3:31, Matthew 7:21-23, Romans 12:9-21, Rev 22:15, Rev 22:14, Rev 14:12).
As stated earlier, the Sabbath is one of these commandments of God that mark the saints. It is called by God in the Old Testament “My Holy Day” or the “Lord’s Day” (Isaiah 58:13). On this day God’s pleasure was to be done only. In other words it is the day that belongs to the Lord (Isaiah 58:13-14). The Sabbath was to be a day of holy convocation (gathering together), worship, reading of the law, and rest (Isaiah 66:23, Exodus 20:8-11). The fact that John is observing this “Lord’s day” in Revelation is proof that this day is continuing to be observed (Revelation 1:10) by the church. In addition this is demonstrated to be the first day of the week in the new covenant by evidence that the apostles are gathering together to break bread with Jesus or with the Holy Spirit (ie with God) over consecutive Sundays and worshipping (John 20:19-26, Acts 2:1, Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). In addition Christ states that the Sabbath is made for mankind, not simply for ethnic Jews (Mk 2:27). Christ tells us specific things that can and cannot be done on the Sabbath like healing/charity (Mt 12:11-12). Finally the scriptures tell us that we are commanded to meet together (Hebrews 10:25). All of this combined is proof that it is a perpetual and moral obligation to observe one day in seven (the first day of the week) as the Sabbath day.